Tag Archives: Facebook’s
Dumpster diving. A huge trove of data spilled onto the web and has been helpfully uploaded to HaveIBeenPwned, a leaked password-checking database for consumers, by security researcher Troy Hunt, the site’s proprietor. The leak, dubbed “Collection #1,” contains nearly 773 million unique email addresses and more than 21 million unique passwords—making it Hunt’s largest-ever upload. It’s unclear where exactly the data originated, although the anonymous person(s) who posted them online claim they came from many different sources. Best use the opportunity to clean up your password hygiene.
Be yourself. Facebook is still combatting disinformation. Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said the media giant booted two Russian operations—including one involving Sputnik, a Moscow-based news agency—off Facebook and Instagram on Thursday. Facebook suspended hundreds of accounts and pages that he said engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” He noted that the fight against fakers is “an ongoing challenge.”
Chinese finger trap. Federal prosecutors are probing Huawei for allegedly stealing intellectual property from U.S. companies, including components from a T-Mobile phone-testing robot called “Tappy,” reports the Wall Street Journal. The investigation is “at an advanced stage and could lead to an indictment soon,” the Journal’s unnamed sources said. Add this development to the mess of controversies entangling the Chinese company.
Demand a recount. The Financial Times said it discovered evidence of “huge fraud” in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s December presidential election. The paper claims that its own independent tally of votes, based on data leaked by an unnamed source close to Martin Fayulu, the contest’s loser (but actual winner?), exposes the fraud. The report corroborates the view of the Catholic Church, which earlier denounced the election’s “results” after conducting its own audit.
Look; don’t touch. A California judge recently ruled that police officers are not authorized, even in possession of a search warrant, to force suspects to unlock their phones using biometrics, like a fingerprint or facial scan, Forbes reports. Judges had already ruled that passcodes were protected against such coercion, meaning people could refuse to supply them, thereby preventing self-incrimination. The judge, who called the original law enforcement request “overbroad,” wrote, “If a person cannot be compelled to provide a passcode because it is a testimonial communication, a person cannot be compelled to provide one’s finger, thumb, iris, face, or other biometric feature to unlock that same device.”
Just your friendly neighborhood NSA.
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said this week the company will create an oversight board to help with content moderation. The move is a belated acknowledgement Zuckerberg is out of its depth when it comes to ethics and policy, and comes six months after he first floated the idea of “a Supreme Court … made up of independent folks who don’t work for Facebook.”
The idea is a good one. If carried out properly, a “Supreme Court” could help Facebook begin fixing the toxic stew of propaganda, racism, and hate that is poisoning so much of our political and cultural discourse.
But how would a Facebook Supreme Court actually work? Zuckerberg has offered few details beyond saying it will function something like an appeals court, and may publish some of its decisions. Meanwhile, legal scholars in the New York Times have suggested it must be be open, independent and representative of society.
As for who should sit on it, it’s easy to imagine a few essential attributes for the job: The right person should be tech savvy, familiar with law and policy, and sensitive to diversity. Based on those attributes, here are five people that Facebook should select if it is serious about creating an independent Supreme Court.
A Turkish sociologist and computer programmer, Tufekci was one of the first to raise the alarm about the moral and political dangers of social media platforms. She is a public intellectual of the internet age, using forums like the New York Times and Harvard’s Berkman Center to denounce Silicon Valley’s failure to be accountable for the discord it’s fostered. Tufecki has also taken aim at Facebook’s repeated use of “the community“—a term that is meaningless to describe 2 billion users—to defend its policies.
An iconoclast who has built several public companies, Thiel is also a lawyer who started the venture capital firm Founders Fund. A gay conservative and a supporter of Donald Trump, Thiel is deeply unpopular with Silicon Valley’s liberal elites—which is why his appointment would ensure ideological diversity on Facebook’s Supreme Court. Thiel is an early investor in Facebook and a longtime board member, which gives him a deep knowledge of the company. He would have to give up these positions to preserve the body’s independence.
Judge Lucy Koh
Koh has presided over numerous high-profile technology trials and is highly regarded in Silicon Valley. Her work as a federal judge includes the long-running patent trial between Apple and Samsung, as well as a case involving an antitrust conspiracy between Google, Adobe, and other firms. Her work on the bench and inspiring personal biography made her the subject of a flattering 2015 Bloomberg profile. Koh’s familiarity with the political and legal strategies of tech giants would provide invaluable expertise for Facebook’s Supreme Court (provided federal ethics rules permitted her to do so).
Tim Berners Lee
Sir Berners Lee is a computer science professor at Oxford University and MIT, who is best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. Highly regarded in tech circles for his humility and vast knowledge, Berners Lee in recent years has become a vocal critic of the advertiser-based business models of the Silicon Valley tech giants. Appointing him to Facebook’s Supreme Court would show the company is serious about fixing its systemic problems with privacy.
Bozoma Saint John
Saint John, who was raised in Ghana, became a familiar name in tech circles when she became Apple’s head of music marketing after the company acquired her former employer Beats. She also worked at Uber before moving to the talent agency Endeavour. Saint John’s outspoken views on Silicon Valley’s white male culture would help inform Facebook’s Supreme Court in tackling hard issues of diversity.
Facebook’s recent hack that affected around 30 million people may have been caused by spammers, rather than entities tied to certain nation states.
That’s according to a report on Thursday by The Wall Street Journal citing anonymous sources familiar with the social networking giant’s investigation of the hack. The report said that the group responsible for the attack on Facebook’s software infrastructure was a collection of spammers that Facebook security members have been following for an unspecified amount of time.
The spammers posed as an unnamed digital marketing company, the report said.
Facebook declined to confirm if the hack was caused by spammers.
“We are cooperating with the FBI on this matter.” Facebook vice president of product management Guy Rosen said in a statement to Fortune. “The FBI is actively investigating and have asked us not to discuss who may be behind this attack.”
Facebook first revealed the hack, likely the company’s biggest in its history, in late September and originally said that around 50 million people may have been affected. A few weeks later, however, Facebook lowered the number of people it believed were impacted to 30 million, many of whom had sensitive data like email addresses, phone numbers, relationship status, and birth-dates compromised.
Executives at the company told reporters that the attackers were likely sophisticated because they were able to discover three separate bugs within Facebook’s large software infrastructure. After discovering how the software flaws were interrelated, the hackers were able to launch an attack.
Facebook said it discovered the attack on Sept. 14 and remedied the situation on Sept. 27.
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The major hack came just months after Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, which also compromised user data but was not technically a hack. That data blunder had to do with an academic who built a Facebook quiz app to collect user data, and then sold that information, against Facebook’s data policies, to the Cambridge Analytica political consulting firm.
Facebook’s security researchers typically say that much of the company’s work safeguarding its systems is intended to help reduce the prevalence of spam and related malicious activities on the social network. With the plague of fake news generated by bad actors allegedly trying to influence the U.S. and other world elections, Facebook has said that much of its security efforts are also being heavily directed at preventing propaganda from spreading on its various services.
Facebook’s problems have reached a boiling point. After months of questions and, often reluctant, disclosures about massive information leaks and about how it handles false information on its site seen by hundreds of millions of people, disappointing user growth caused the social network’s stock to plummet in after-hours trading on Wednesday, shedding over $ 145 billion in market cap.
Investors’ alarm was likely triggered by a failure in growth in its most important markets, the combined U.S. and Canada segment and Europe. U.S. and Canadian traffic was flat from the previous quarter, while Europe shed 3 million average daily users quarter over quarter, down to 279 million.
U.S. and Canadian Facebook visitors provided an average revenue per user (ARPU) in the latest quarter of $ 25.91, the vast majority from advertising, while the ARPU of Europeans was $ 8.76, according to figures provided by Facebook. Other markets offer much less value: Asia-Pacific users rack up just $ 2.61 in revenue, and the rest of the world lumped together, a mere $ 1.91.
The drop in European visitors was potentially due to the continuous revelations highlighted there about Facebook’s breaches and weaknesses, and the implementation of the European Union and related entities’ General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in late May. The GDPR requires more disclosure and opting in to many tracking and ad-related behaviors that aren’t related to the core function of a website.
While the company saw revenue up 42% year-over-year to $ 13.2 billion in its second quarter, that was short of what Wall Street expected. Net income was similarly up, to $ 5.1 billion from $ 3.9 billion the year-ago quarter, but that didn’t assuage investors and institutions. The after-hours plunge came despite Facebook also beating a consensus estimate of earnings per share of $ 1.72 by two cents.
This slowing growth in valuable markets may have provided the jitters that led investors to significant after-hours profit taking. The company had a nearly unbroken steady climb in its stock price since mid-2014, with a blip shedding 15% in a matter of days in March when revelations about alleged data misuse by Cambridge Analytica emerged. Facebook stock recovered gradually, and was up 29% in the last year and 21% in 2018 through the close of regular trading today, rising to a new high of 217.50, before the after-hours tumble. Nearly the last year’s gains have now been lost.
Facebook has no end in sight for scrutiny and oversight, with regulators, prosecutors, and other public and private parties in multiple countries examining the company’s actions, those of nation states allegedly manipulating news and advertising, and that of firms like Cambridge Analytica, which obtained massive amounts of information that many Facebook users likely considered private.
Yesterday, BuzzFeed published a memo by chief security officer Alex Stamos written to staff in March after the initial Cambridge Analytica stories broke in which he urged the company to pick sides on important issues. Stamos reportedly still plans to leave the company next month, following a reorganization that the New York Times said earlier this year took away 98% of the group he managed. Today, Facebook’s chief legal officer announced he’s departing at the end of this year for family reasons.
Facebook’s recently introduced Messenger Kids app is getting an upgrade that lets parents set “off times” that blocks their children from using the service.
The new Sleep Mode, which debuted on Friday, also lets parents set different times for the app to shut off depending on the day of the week. During “off times,” the app is inaccessible, meaning children will be unable to send or receive messages or video calls, use the creative camera to take or send photos or receive notifications.
All Sleep Mode settings are controlled from the parent’s Facebook account and can be changed at any time.
Messenger Kids, which is aimed at children from 6 to 12, launched in December. While some parents have said that they appreciate having control over their children’s social media access, it’s still been met with controversy. Facebook itself recently faced a number of questions from Congress over how user data it collects is handled, especially when those users are minors.
The founder and CEO of Facebook owns over 400 million shares of the company, meaning stock fluctuations hit him the hardest. The trick is figuring out exactly how hard — and that’s where things get a little difficult.
As of April 14, 2017, the company’s last proxy statement, Zuckerberg owned over 2.6 million shares of Class A stock and nearly 411 million Class B shares. In September, though, he announced plans to sell as many as 75 million shares over the following 18 months “to fund the philanthropic initiatives of [he] and his wife, Priscilla Chan,” according to a filing.
So, for argument’s sake, let’s say he’s halfway through that sales goal (unlikely, but it doesn’t hurt to be conservative) — bringing his total holdings to approximately 377 million shares.
Given the company’s 4.5% drop on Friday, that would mean Zuckerberg lost more than $ 3.1 billion, on paper at least. (If he hasn’t sold any of the 75 million shares he’s planning to, the loss escalates to nearly $ 3.5 billion.)
Of course, Facebook shares will almost certainly rebound. And analysts say they expect the changes will drive higher ad prices and could result in more money for Facebook, something that always cheers investors.
Ultimately, though, Zuckerberg’s likely not concerned. He’s already pledged to give away 99% of his net worth in his lifetime.