Facebook Research Broke the Rules. Now it Faces the Consequences

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Casey Newton wrote a defense of Facebook/attack of Apple, because of the Facebook Research app that got banned.

But for all the attention we’re paying to Facebook’s moves here, I hope we spare at least as much for Apple. If Tim Cook can wreak this much havoc on Facebook’s day, however justified, just imagine what power Apple holds over the rest of us.

That power is App Store rules, which Facebook willfully ignored. We should be glad that big companies have to follow the same rules as small companies. If you’re a Facebook employee unable to use internal apps, don’t be mad at Apple. Instead, be mad at your employer who was willing to throw it all away in order to take advantage of children.

This Weird Trick Will Make Five Eyes Countries Hate You

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Michael Grothaus argues that it’s the perfect time for Android iMessage thanks to Facebook’s plans to unify its messaging apps.

The iPhone maker’s messaging app is widely regarded as one of the best messaging apps ever, thanks to its clean, simple design, its ability to send and receive both encrypted iMessages and regular SMS text messages in the same interface, and its end-to-end encryption.

It’s not the first time this has been suggested, but I think Android iMessage would be great for users. We need an end-to-end encrypted messaging app from a company with a better track record than Facebook.

Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram to be Integrated

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zucerkberg plans to integrate Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and, Instagram. A detailed report in the New York Times said that the move could happen at the end of 2019 or 2020. Mr. Zuckerberg reportedly wants all the services to use end-to-end encryption. It would mean that a user with a Messenger account, could send an encrypted message to a user with just a WhatsApp account, for instance.

By stitching the apps’ infrastructure together, Mr. Zuckerberg wants to increase the utility of the social network, keeping its billions of users highly engaged inside its ecosystem. If people turn more regularly to Facebook-owned properties for texting, they may forgo rival messaging services, such as those from Apple and Google, said the people, who declined to be identified because the moves are confidential. If users interact more frequently with Facebook’s apps, the company may also be able to build up its advertising business or add new services to make money, they said.

Apple Outspent by Rivals in Record Year of Tech Lobbying

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U.S. Capitol Building

Tech firms spent a record amount lobbying the U.S. Government in 2018. Re/Code reported that Apple spent $6.6 million, slightly down from $7.2 million the year before. Although significant, Apple’s outlay was lower than that of the other major tech firms. For example, Google spent $21 million, while Amazon spent $14.2 million, and Facebook spent $12.6 million. Microsoft too outspent Apple, spending $9.5 million. In total, the firms invested $48 million in lobbying in 2018, up 13% from the year before.

Lobbying growth among the tech giants — especially companies that leverage user data for advertising revenue — comes as they are falling under increased government scrutiny. Facebook in particular faces a record Federal Trade Commission fine over apparent violations of data privacy practices in the Cambridge Analytica scandal that was revealed last year.

Mark Zuckerberg's Op-Ed is Tone Deaf

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Mark Zuckerberg has written an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, and it’s as tone deaf as ever.

Sometimes this means people assume we do things that we don’t do. For example, we don’t sell people’s data, even though it’s often reported that we do. In fact, selling people’s information to advertisers would be counter to our business interests, because it would reduce the unique value of our service to advertisers. We have a strong incentive to protect people’s information from being accessed by anyone else.

Any service that relies on ad money means the advertiser is the customer. I’d love to hear from an advertiser that would refuse access to peoples’ personal information. Facebook may not sell that data directly to advertisers but you can bet it sells access to the data. Two different words that point to the same destination.

The Facebook 10 Year Challenge Might not Just be a Harmless Meme

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iphone facial recognition

If you have been on Facebook or Instagram recently, you will have noticed the “10 Year Challenge”. Users post a profile picture of themselves from 10 years ago and another from now. It is meant to be a harmless meme that laughs at ourselves and late 2000s fashion. But could there be something more sinister to it? Katie O’Neil wondered in Wired if the “10 Year Challenge” is actually helping Facebook develop a facial recognition algorithm.

Imagine that you wanted to train a facial recognition algorithm on age-related characteristics and, more specifically, on age progression (e.g., how people are likely to look as they get older). Ideally, you’d want a broad and rigorous dataset with lots of people’s pictures. It would help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart—say, 10 years. Sure, you could mine Facebook for profile pictures and look at posting dates or EXIF data. But that whole set of profile pictures could end up generating a lot of useless noise…In other words, it would help if you had a clean, simple, helpfully labeled set of then-and-now photos.

Facebook to Introduce Stricter Rules in Countries Holding Elections This Year

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Facebook will introduce stricter rules on political advertising to a number of countries holding elections this year. The rules and tools aimed at curbing election interference will go live in India, Nigeria, Ukraine, and the European Union. The rollout will begin on Wednesday in Nigeria. Katie Harbath, Facebook’s Director of Global Politics and Outreach, told Reuters that only advertisers located in the country will be able to run electoral adverts there. Rob Leathern, a Director of Product Management at Facebook, also discussed the importance of storing electoral adverts in a searchable library.

We’re learning from every country,” Leathern said. “We know we’re not going to be perfect, but our goal is continuing, ongoing improvement.” Facebook believes that holding the ads in a library for seven years is a key part of fighting intereference, he added.. The library will resemble archives brought to the United States, Brazil and Britain last year.

Facebook to Invest $300 Million in Local News Initiatives

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Facebook announced that it will invest $300 million in local news organizations and initiatives over the next three years. It will put $20 of million of this towards its Facebook Accelerator program that helps publishers develop membership and subscription models. It will also invest $6 million for the UK based Community News Project, $5 million to the Pulitzer Center for its “Bringing Stories Home”  initiative, and $2 million for the Report in America initiative that aims to place journalists in local newsrooms. Techcrunch looked at what the money means both for Facebook and the media industry.

As for why Facebook is focusing on local news specifically, Vice President of Global News Partnerships Campbell Brown said in a blog post that after examining “what kind of news people want to see on Facebook” and talking to industry partners, “We heard one consistent answer: people want more local news, and local newsrooms are looking for more support.”

 

We do Not Know how to Talk About Online Privacy Violations

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Abstract image of data that has been locked down

The debate over user privacy online is getting ever more intense. Barely a week goes by without some new horror being revealed. On Buzzfeed News, Charlie Warzel laid out just how dire the privacy situation has got and how bad the general public is at understanding the problem. Whether its celeb-twinning apps or Facebook, users simply do not know enough about how their data is being used nor how to discuss the issue.

Opaque algorithms and operations allow executives to dismiss the concerns of journalists and activists as unfounded or ignorant. They argue that critics are casting normal, industry-standard practices and terms of service agreements as malicious. What does it say about us or the culture built atop the modern internet that Byzantine terms of service agreements that few understand or even bother reading govern so much of our lives online?