Facebook will pay $550 million to Illinois users to settle allegations that its facial tagging feature violated their privacy rights.
The settlement — which could amount to a couple of hundred dollars for each user who is part of the class-action settlement — stems from a federal lawsuit filed in Illinois nearly five years ago that alleges the social media giant violated a state law protecting residents’ biometric information. Biometric information can include data from facial, fingerprint and iris scans.
Illinois has one of the strictest biometric privacy laws in the nation. The 2008 law mandates that companies collecting such information obtain prior consent from consumers, detail how they’ll use it and specify how long the information will be kept. The law also allows private citizens, rather than just governmental entities, to file lawsuits over the issue.
In 2018, a judge defined the class as Facebook users in Illinois from whom the Menlo Park, California-based company created a stored face template after June 7, 2011, the date Facebook said its tag suggestion feature was available in most countries. The feature uses facial recognition software to match users’ new photos with other photos they’re tagged in. It groups similar photos together and suggests the names of friends in the photos.
The settlement is a win for privacy advocates who say that protecting biometric information is critical because, unlike a credit card number, it can’t be changed if it’s stolen. “This pretty firmly establishes the fact that those harms are real and consumers deserve restitution when their rights have been violated,” said Abe Scarr, director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization.
I assume Facebook will find a way to weasel out of including everyone in Illinois from this class. I resided solely in Illinois during the time the class action covers, and was probably tagged in a photo, but am not sure. I also don’t have my proper residence listed (I’ve varied it a bit from Frostpocket, to Guam, to Upper Yurtistan, and elsewhere as the mood strikes), but Facebook of course knows where I’m logging into their servers from, down to the individual block group I imagine.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook has demanded a tough new US data protection law, in an unusual speech in Europe.
Referring to the misuse of “deeply personal” data, he said it was being “weaponised against us with military efficiency”.
“We shouldn’t sugar-coat the consequences,” he added. “This is surveillance.”
The strongly-worded speech presented a striking defence of user privacy rights from a tech firm’s chief executive.
Mr Cook also praised the EU’s new data protection regulation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The Apple boss described in some detail what he called the “data industrial complex”, noting that billions of dollars were traded on the basis of people’s “likes and dislikes”, “wishes and fears” or “hopes and dreams” – the kind of data points tracked by tech firms and advertisers.
He warned that the situation “should make us very uncomfortable, it should unsettle us”.
Brent Simmons writes about something I’ve been thinking about for the last few months:
My problem with Twitter remains the same: centralized social networking concentrates way too much power in one place.
Twitter is awful in other ways, sure, not just for that reason. (The issues with Nazis and harassment and abuse. The way it treats third-party Twitter developers.)
And Facebook, too, is awful in its own ways.
But, even if it were well-run, centralized social networking is still a deeply bad and unhealthy idea. Josh Marshall writes that we should be concerned about
…ceding so much of the public square to private platforms which really aren’t about free speech in any way and don’t have free speech in any way. They’re all ordered by algorithms designed to maintain time on site and service ad sales. In no sense are they open or free.
Twitter is not the public square. It just wants you to think it is. The web itself is the public square.
Ghosting all of my social media accounts is very, very tempting. Especially Facebook and Instagram which I care less about. I’ve already started the process of culling my interactions with both of those platforms. I only log in to Facebook using my Mac’s alternative browser, and since I have two-factor authentication turned on, it is even more time consuming to log on, thus I log on once or twice a month. I am considering removing most of the ephemeral contacts there as I have already done on Instagram. I deleted the Instagram app from my phone, and don’t miss it yet, and maybe never will.
Twitter is slightly different, as I mostly use my Twitter account as a microblog. I’d guess that 90% of my posts contain URLs linking to a news story, or to my own photographs. If there was a quick, painless way to delete every Twitter post that didn’t contain a URL, I’d do that right away, but I’m not sure if that is possible, or tbh, even really worth it. I’m low profile enough that I don’t interact much with strangers on Twitter, nor do I seek out heated political arguments with the mouth breathers; so I’ve yet to encounter that toxic part of Twitter.
I never found a good method to integrate Twitter with my blog, perhaps I should look for a solution to that. My tweets1 are archived in a Google Doc spreadsheet; if I use Buffer, my tweets are also posted to my Tumblr, yet I’d rather there was a place on my own domain which hosted this running link history.
I don’t miss the amount of fiddling Moveable Type required, Twitter’s main attraction for me is the ease with which I can create a link to something interesting I’ve encountered, Twitter is integrated into iOS and MacOS in a way that self-hosted WordPress blogs are not.
To the bigger question, I miss the character of the web before Facebook et al existed. I doubt we can return to those days. It sort of reminds me of the back-to-the land movement of the last century: folks like my parents eschewing the technologies of the day to go to farms and communes and try to exist with one foot in the future and one foot in the past.
Surveillance Society – Halsted and Division Edition
The Guardian reports:
Facebook used its apps to gather information about users and their friends, including some who had not signed up to the social network, reading their text messages, tracking their locations and accessing photos on their phones, a court case in California alleges.
The claims of what would amount to mass surveillance are part of a lawsuit brought against the company by the former startup Six4Three, listed in legal documents filed at the superior court in San Mateo as part of a court case that has been ongoing for more than two years.
A Facebook spokesperson said that Six4Three’s “claims have no merit, and we will continue to defend ourselves vigorously”.
The allegations about surveillance appear in a January filing, the fifth amended complaint made by Six4Three. It alleges that Facebook used a range of methods, some adapted to the different phones that users carried, to collect information it could use for commercial purposes.
“Facebook continued to explore and implement ways to track users’ location, to track and read their texts, to access and record their microphones on their phones, to track and monitor their usage of competitive apps on their phones, and to track and monitor their calls,” one court document says.
This is Facebook’s business model though, so what exactly are they going to argue? No, we don’t collect data on our users and then use this information to sell advertising to corporations?
The one detail that is the most disturbing1 is that Facebook did this for people who weren’t Facebook users. How did these people consent? How do they request their data? How do they update their privacy settings?
From the Department of Thoughts Slightly Too Long To Post on Twitter
In the context of my parenthetical aside in this post, Facebook Doesn’t Pay You Because That’s Not Their Model, I admitted I use Twitter much more than I ever used Facebook. For me, Twitter posts are links to go read ((or look at)) something posted somewhere else while Facebook posts are often, though not exclusively, self-contained. Twitter was initially only 144 characters, and despite this count being subsequently expanded, it retains that ethos. Facebook never had a length limit to what was posted.
This sucky blog has nearly always been more of a go read something ((or look at)) that is posted elsewhere, here’s a sample paragraph or two, here’s my reaction, but go read the source material kind of blog. A large percentage of the kind of posts that used to be created here are now created on my Twitter page.
In the context of describing yet another social network aimed at Facebook, albeit one that allegedly will pay you for your content1 Wired reports:
DURING MARK ZUCKERBERG’S over 10 hours of Congressional testimony last week, lawmakers repeatedly asked how Facebook makes money. The simple answer, which Zuckerberg dodged, is the contributions and online activities of its over two billion users, which allow marketers to target ads with razor precision. In which case, asked representative Paul Tonko (D – New York), “why doesn’t Facebook pay its users for their incredibly valuable data?”
Yeah, Facebook doesn’t want to really discuss this key aspect of their business in public: all their wealth is based on the mining and reselling of their users data. It was never a hidden fact, it was always known to anyone who bothered to ask, but Facebook doesn’t really like to explain it so that the majority realize they are the product being sold.
So let’s be clear, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter even2 only exist to collect data about their users, and use information gleaned from their users to sell to corporations, or governments, etc. That is the model. If everyone, including your grandmother, and my 14 year old nephew understands this basic fact, we’ll all benefit as a society.
Concern about Facebook Inc’s respect for data privacy is widening to include the information it collects about non-users, after Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the world’s largest social network tracks people whether they have accounts or not.
Privacy concerns have swamped Facebook since it acknowledged last month that information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, a firm that has counted U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral campaign among its clients.
Zuckerberg said on Wednesday under questioning by U.S. Representative Ben Luján that, for security reasons, Facebook also collects “data of people who have not signed up for Facebook.”
Wha? That seems problematic. How are these people consenting?
Of course, as this blog has discussed multiple times, there are hundreds or even thousands of digital advertising firms that track each and all of us, whether or not we’ve consented, or are even aware. Their model is to make money off of the data of others, and perhaps to share that data with NSA and other US intelligence agencies. Facebook is one of the higher profile firms, but they are not alone.
There is also the European Union’s new privacy law, the GDPR.1
GDPR extends the scope of EU data protection law to all foreign companies processing data of EU residents. It provides for a harmonization of the data protection regulations throughout the EU, thereby making it easier for non-European companies to comply with these regulations; however, this comes at the cost of a strict data protection compliance regime with severe penalties of up to 4% of worldwide turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher. The GDPR also brings a new set of “digital rights” for EU citizens in an age of an increase of the economic value of personal data in the digital economy.
From the Washington Post we learn that basically every piece of data Facebook collected about you has been shared with the digital marketing world, and the dark web whether you agreed to do that or not:
Facebook said Wednesday that “malicious actors” took advantage of search tools on its platform, making it possible for them to discover the identities and collect information on most of its 2 billion users worldwide.
…But the abuse of Facebook’s search tools — now disabled — happened far more broadly and over the course of several years, with few Facebook users likely escaping the scam, company officials acknowledged.
The scam started when hackers harvested email addresses and phone numbers on the “dark Web,” where criminals post information stolen in data breaches over the years. Then the hackers used automated computer programs to feed the numbers and addresses into Facebook’s “search” box, allowing them to discover the full names of people affiliated with the phone numbers or addresses, along with whatever Facebook profile information they chose to make public, often including their profile photos and hometowns.
Names, phone numbers, email addresses and other personal information amount to critical starter kits for identity theft and other malicious online activity, experts on Internet crime say. The Facebook hacks allowed bad actors to tie raw data to people’s real identities and build fuller profiles of them.
Developers who in the past could get access to people’s relationship status, calendar events, private Facebook posts and much more data will now be cut off from access or be required to endure a much stricter process for obtaining the information, Facebook said.
Until Wednesday, apps that let people input Facebook events into their calendars could also automatically import lists of all the people who attended the events, Facebook said. Administrators of private groups, some of which have tens of thousands of members, could also let apps scrape the Facebook posts and profiles of members of those groups. App developers who want this access will now have to prove that their activities benefit the group. Facebook will now need to approve tools that businesses use to operate Facebook pages. A business that uses an app to help it respond quickly to customer messages, for example, will not be able to do so automatically. Developers’ access to Instagram will also be severely restricted.
Facebook is banning apps from accessing users’ information about their religious or political views, relationship status, education, work history, fitness activity, book reading habits, music listening and news reading activity, video watching and games. Data brokers and businesses collect this type of information to build profiles of their customers’ tastes.
There is no way to put this information back into the bottle, the only thing left to do is protecting future information from being harvested, and perhaps punishing Facebook for its lackadaisical approach to protecting the world’s personal data. Shut them down!
Speaking for myself, I don’t feel too worried, I always was a bit leery with giving Facebook access to my actual information. They do have my birthday, and where I went to school, but nearly everything else I put in my profile was faux information, or things available elsewhere. For a long time, I’ve used the Facebook API and other tools1 to automatically post photos from Flickr, Instagram, blog entries, etc. But who knows, perhaps I wasn’t careful enough to always delete my Facebook cookies, and so they scraped more information about me than I know. I did use the Facebook app for a few months before deleting it off of my iOS devices, but all it takes is a moment of unguarded attention, and the freaks at Facebook will vacuum up everything not nailed down. So the dark web may know more about me than I know.
In Your Bubble Where Nothing Goes Wrong
Barbara Ortutay adds:
On Monday all Facebook users will receive a notice on their Facebook feeds with a link to see what apps they use and what information they have shared with those apps. They’ll have a chance to delete apps they no longer want. Users who might have had their data shared with Cambridge Analytica will be told of that. Facebook says most of the affected users are in the U.S.
As part of the steps it’s taking to address scrutiny about outsiders’ access to user data, Facebook outlined several changes to further tighten its policies. For one, it is restricting access that apps can have to data about users’ events, as well as information about groups such as member lists and content.
In addition, the company is also removing the option to search for users by entering a phone number or an email address. While this helped individuals find friends, Facebook says businesses that had phone or email information on customers were able to collect profile information this way. Facebook says it believes most of its 2.2 billion users had their public profile information scraped by businesses or various malicious actors through this technique at some point. Posts and other content set to be visible only to friends weren’t collected.
This comes on top of changes announced a few weeks ago. For example, Facebook has said it will remove developers’ access to people’s data if the person has not used the app in three months.
As frustrated as advertisers may be with Facebook these days, a bigger challenge may be finding a suitable alternative.
Whether many will actually try to do so remains the $55 billion question. That is what Wall Street currently expects Facebook to generate in advertising revenue this year. It is a big number that also happens to be 37% higher than what the company generated in ad sales last year. For comparison’s sake, Google’s ad business was growing about half as fast when it was the same size.
Perhaps most notable is that the majority of analysts haven’t brought down their projections for Facebook’s ad business even as controversy has engulfed the company over the last two weeks. Many instead are taking a wait-and-see approach. Questions over Facebook’s handling of user data has sparked an online campaign to #DeleteFacebook. But little is known now about whether that is having any effect. Facebook’s next quarterly report—likely about a month from now—will be the first real opportunity to see if users are fleeing or largely sticking around.
In the latter case, most advertisers likely will too. As controversial as Facebook may be right now, its scale and reach make the platform unique among advertising channels. The social network ranked highest in terms of return on investment among online advertising platforms in a survey by RBC Capital Markets. Interestingly, most of the survey took place in the latter half of March as the negative headlines about Facebook piled up. RBC analyst Mark Mahaney noted that Facebook even managed to edge out Alphabet Inc.’s Google for the top ranking for the first time.
Facebook plans on riding out this wave of bad PR, just as they have in the past. As long as people continue to use Facebook, and willingly be the product that is sold to advertisers, Facebook will continue profiting off your clicks.
As Vox writer Matthew Yglesias notes, Google collects as much or more information on us, yet they in return give something useful. Google search is the best search engine, usually, and Gmail is a good, free mail. What does Facebook offer in return for selling your data? A place to share photos of your children? A place to argue about politics? Why can’t that be done in the same way it was done before Facebook? The main selling point of Facebook is that it has a built-in audience for your content. But is it really worth it? Maybe because I’m a cynical Gen-Xer who wrote most of my college papers on a typewriter, but I wouldn’t miss Facebook if it vanished, especially if Twitter survived. I’m comfortable emailing people, if I needed to communicate with them. Maybe this sucky blog would start to get decent traffic again?
That Facebook’s relentless growth threatens the existence of news organizations is something that should make the architects of that relentless growth feel bad about themselves. They are helping to erode public officials’ accountability, foster public ignorance, and degrade the quality of American democracy.
Google, of course, poses similar threats to the journalism ecosystem through its own digital advertising industry. But Googlers can also make a strong case that Google makes valuable contributions to the information climate. I learn useful, real information via Google every day. And while web search is far from a perfect technology, Google really does usually surface accurate, reliable information on the topics you search for. Facebook’s imperative to maximize engagement, by contrast, lands it in an endless cycle of sensationalism and nonsense.
Facebook is actually bad for our media infrastructure, the media infrastructure which is an essential pillar to our democracy.
Meanwhile, Facebook is destroying the business model for outlets that make real news.
Facebook critics in the press are often accused of special pleading, of hatred of a company whose growing share of the digital advertising pie is a threat to our business model. This is, on some level, correct.
The answer to the objection, however, is that special pleaders on behalf of journalism are correct on the merits. Not all businesses are created equal. Cigarette companies poison their customers; journalism companies inform them.
And traditionally, American society has recognized that reality and tried to create a viable media ecosystem. The US Postal Service has long maintained a special discount rate for periodicals to facilitate the dissemination of journalism and the viability of journalism business models. Until last fall, the Federal Communications Commission maintained rules requiring licensed local broadcast stations to maintain local news studios.
The association between Facebook and fake news is by now well-known, but the stark facts are worth repeating — according to Craig Silverman’s path-breaking analysis for BuzzFeed, the 20 highest-performing fake news stories of the closing days of the 2016 campaign did better on Facebook than the 20 highest-performing real ones.
Rumors, misinformation, and bad reporting can and do exist in any medium. But Facebook created a medium that is optimized for fakeness, not as an algorithmic quirk but due to the core conception of the platform. By turning news consumption and news discovery into a performative social process, Facebook turns itself into a confirmation bias machine — a machine that can best be fed through deliberate engineering.
In reputable newsrooms, that’s engineering that focuses on graphic selection, headlines, and story angles while maintaining a commitment to accuracy and basic integrity. But relaxing the constraint that the story has to be accurate is a big leg up — it lets you generate stories that are well-designed to be psychologically pleasing, like telling Trump-friendly white Catholics that the pope endorsed their man, while also guaranteeing that your outlet gets a scoop.
For a better path forward, it’s worth looking at the actual life of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
He likes to do annual personal challenges, and they are normally sensible. One year, he set about to learn Mandarin. Another year, he challenged himself to run 365 miles. He visited all 50 states and met and spoke face to face with people in each state he visited. He committed to reading a book cover to cover every two weeks.
This year, his challenge is to try to fix Facebook. But he ought, instead, to think harder about those other challenges and what they say about what he finds valuable in life — sustained engagement with difficult topics and ideas, physical exercise, face-to-face interaction with human beings, travel. This suggests a healthy, commonsense value system that happens to be profoundly and fundamentally at odds with the Facebook business model.
To simply walk away from it, shut it down, salt the earth, and move on to doing something entirely new would be an impossibly difficult decision for almost anyone. Nobody walks away from the kind of wealth and power that Facebook has let Zuckerberg accumulate. But he’s spoken frequently about his desire to wield that wealth and power for good. And while there are a lot of philanthropists out there who could donate to charities, there’s only one person who can truly “fix” Facebook by doing away with it.
or for instance, read the instructions Abby Ohlheiser wrote in the WaPo:
In the Facebook settings for your account — right below the link to deactivate it — there’s an option to download a copy of all your Facebook data. The file can be a creepy wake-up call: All those years of browsing the News Feed, and sharing selfies, engagements and birthday wishes on Facebook have taught the company quite a lot about you. You, the user, are part of the reason that Facebook has become so good at targeting ads. You’re giving them everything they need to do it.
Here’s a link that will take you right to the settings page, if you’re logged in to your account. One there, click on the link to download your archive, and follow the prompts
I was curious what exactly Facebook knows, especially since I’ve always been somewhat cautious about what I post there. At least I thought I was careful. Turns out Facebook has a huge list of people from my address book, most of which are not actual friends on Facebook1 or several deceased people. I guess one time Facebook copied my phonebook? A lot of the data is old, and not up to date, but there it is anyway.
Then there is the Facebook advertising selects (listed below because it is a big freaking list)
Facebook Inc. has decided not to unveil new home products at its major developer conference in May, in part because the public is currently so outraged about the social network’s data-privacy practices, according to people familiar with the matter.
The company’s new hardware products, connected speakers with digital-assistant and video-chat capabilities, are undergoing a deeper review to ensure that they make the right trade-offs regarding user data, the people said. While the hardware wasn’t expected to be available until the fall, the company had hoped to preview the devices at the largest annual gathering of Facebook developers, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing internal plans.
The devices are part of Facebook’s plan to become more intimately involved with users’ everyday social lives, using artificial intelligence — following a path forged by Amazon.com Inc. and its Echo in-home smart speakers. As concerns escalate about Facebook’s collection and use of personal data, now may be the wrong time to ask consumers to trust it with even more information by placing a connected device in their homes. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.
Yes, what do consumers really want from Facebook right but a listening device right in their living rooms! No need to change your privacy settings now, Facebook won’t need to log your incoming/outgoing phone calls, they’ll just have the entire conversation instead! Whoo hoo!
Mark Zuckerberg is not a force for good in the world. I would not be sad if he got his comeuppance now, or in the near future.
Kaniela Ing writes:
Mark Zuckerberg is now working overtime to convince the American people to trust him with their personal data. Facebook knew tens of millions of Americans had their personal information stolen by Cambridge Analytica for the purposes of helping Steve Bannon and billionaire Robert Mercer elect Donald Trump, but only took responsibility for the breach after it became international news — two years after the fact.
Facebook’s lack of transparency is part of a broader pattern by its leadership. Mark Zuckerberg is an unelected, unregulated oligarch who controls industries and shapes the fate of our democracy without our consent. Congress must stop relying on his empty promise to self-regulate his monopoly, and take action to protect the American people.
Politicians shouldn’t be afraid to take on Zuckerberg — I’ve done it myself, and won. In 2014, he bought 700 acres of beachfront land in my home state of Hawaii. He built a wall around the property and then tried to force hundreds of Native Hawaiians to forfeit their gathering rights to the land by suing them. This same tactic was used by sugar barons in the Gilded Age to displace thousands of Native Hawaiian families from their ancestral lands.
Instead of letting a billionaire buy another vacation home and displace local families, I introduced a bill that would keep Hawaiian lands in Hawaiian hands. We organized thousands of Native Hawaiians and residents to fight back, and we won; Zuckerberg dropped the lawsuits.
In the middle of a mostly pointless article about how there is no worthy competitor to Facebook, so why bother leaving, Bryan X. Chen writes:
Remember Flickr? The Yahoo-owned site is the closest thing either [Instagram or Facebook] has to a competitor, and it’s like a graveyard of people’s digital memories before they abandoned it for Facebook and Instagram.
Hmm. That is not my experience. Perhaps there are less selfies and photos of one’s meal on Flickr1 but I still spend more quality time on Flickr than either Facebook or Instagram. I haven’t uploaded many photos to Flickr recently (I’ve been updating my curated photo gallery instead – check it out) but for an example, my Flickr photos were viewed 1,760 times yesterday. Not exactly burning up the internet, but much more active than my Instagram account. My complaint about Instagram is that it is intentionally too limiting – you are encouraged to see what is newly uploaded in a constant stream, but keeping up with what people share is futile. With Flickr, one can create thematic albums, limited only by imagination. For instance, I have an album of photos that I’m considering printing for my next gallery show2; an album of bridges; and album called, “Our Crumbling Infrastructure”. Or my “Least Interesting Photos”. Not an Instagram option.
Instagram 8 logo
Instagram also looks horrible on an iPad, you’d think by now they would have made an iPad version. Flickr looks good on any device. Don’t get me wrong, I have complaints with Flickr, and worry that Verizon3 is going to cut Flickr loose, but compared to Facebook or Instagram, I much prefer Flickr.
Anyway, if you are looking to reduce the amount of personal information Facebook has of yours that they can sell or give away to Robert Mercer’s psych-ops organizations like Cambridge Analytica, here are two articles which do a better job explaining your Facebook options than the NYT does. There are other articles, so not only was the NYT instructions second rate, they also were about a week too late.
Buzzfeed’s Nicole Nguyen wrote on Tuesday:
But Facebook and its network of apps, including Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, are important communication lines for a lot of people, so deleting your account might not be a realistic option. You can, however, dial back your use and reduce the amount of information you give the site. Here’s how.
Break your habit and limit your use of the platform.
Just by signing up for the service, you’ve agreed to let Facebook track your activity and constantly collect data about you. By reducing the time you spend on the site, interaction with posts, and content you upload, you are also reducing the amount of data Facebook is gathering from you. And remember, this data collection applies to Facebook — and everywhere you’ve signed in with Facebook, including Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as, to a lesser extent, third-party websites like Spotify.
Log out of Facebook before browsing the web.
Any page that has a Facebook Like button installed most likely uses a Facebook pixel. Even pages that don’t have a Like button can have a pixel. This means it’s possible that Facebook knows most of your web browsing history.
And the EFF4 has good instructions for disabling the Facebook API:
You shouldn’t have to do this. You shouldn’t have to wade through complicated privacy settings in order to ensure that the companies with which you’ve entrusted your personal information are making reasonable, legal efforts to protect it. But Facebook has allowed third parties to violate user privacy on an unprecedented scale, and, while legislators and regulators scramble to understand the implications and put limits in place, users are left with the responsibility to make sure their profiles are properly configured.
Of course, you could choose to leave Facebook entirely, but for many that is not a viable solution. For now, if you’d like keep your data from going through Facebook’s API, you can take control of your privacy settings. Keep in mind that this disables ALL platform apps (like Farmville, Twitter, or Instagram) and you will not be able to log into sites using your Facebook login.
From the same page, click “Edit” under “Apps Others Use.” Then uncheck the types of information that you don’t want others’ apps to be able to access. For most people reading this post, that will mean unchecking every category.
The Facebook exposé continues at The Guardian. Privacy enthusiasts have known or suspected this was Facebook’s business model all along, it is good to make Facebook’s practices more well known to the general public.
Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower.
Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012, told the Guardian he warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach.
“My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data,” he said.
Parakilas said Facebook had terms of service and settings that “people didn’t read or understand” and the company did not use its enforcement mechanisms, including audits of external developers, to ensure data was not being misused.
Asked what kind of control Facebook had over the data given to outside developers, he replied: “Zero. Absolutely none. Once the data left Facebook servers there was not any control, and there was no insight into what was going on.”
Parakilas said he “always assumed there was something of a black market” for Facebook data that had been passed to external developers. However, he said that when he told other executives the company should proactively “audit developers directly and see what’s going on with the data” he was discouraged from the approach.
He said one Facebook executive advised him against looking too deeply at how the data was being used, warning him: “Do you really want to see what you’ll find?” Parakilas said he interpreted the comment to mean that “Facebook was in a stronger legal position if it didn’t know about the abuse that was happening”.
He added: “They felt that it was better not to know. I found that utterly shocking and horrifying.”
The big news over the weekend was how Facebook, Trump and Cambridge Analytica worked together to weaponize people’s personal information against them to help Trump win the 2016 election, perhaps with the assistance of Russia. The truth is this harvesting and manipulation of data is Facebook’s model, and anyone who uses Facebook is participating. Facebook is “free”, how exactly do you think they make their billions?
American and British lawmakers demanded on Sunday that Facebook explain how a political data firm with links to President Trump’s 2016 campaign was able to harvest private information from more than 50 million Facebook profiles without the social network’s alerting users. The backlash forced Facebook to once again defend the way it protects user data.
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, went so far as to press for Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to appear before the panel to explain what the social network knew about the misuse of its data “to target political advertising and manipulate voters.”
The calls for greater scrutiny followed reports on Saturday in The New York Times and The Observer of London that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm founded by Stephen K. Bannon and Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, had used the Facebook data to develop methods that it claimed could identify the personalities of individual American voters and influence their behavior. The firm’s so-called psychographic modeling underpinned its work for the Trump campaign in 2016, though many have questioned the effectiveness of its techniques.
But Facebook did not inform users whose data had been harvested. The lack of disclosure could violate laws in Britain and in many American states.
Dr Kogan – who later changed his name to Dr Spectre, but has subsequently changed it back to Dr Kogan – is still a faculty member at Cambridge University, a senior research associate. But what his fellow academics didn’t know until Kogan revealed it in emails to the Observer (although Cambridge University says that Kogan told the head of the psychology department), is that he is also an associate professor at St Petersburg University. Further research revealed that he’s received grants from the Russian government to research “Stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks”. The opportunity came about on a trip to the city to visit friends and family, he said.
There are other dramatic documents in Wylie’s stash, including a pitch made by Cambridge Analytica to Lukoil, Russia’s second biggest oil producer. In an email dated 17 July 2014, about the US presidential primaries, Nix wrote to Wylie: “We have been asked to write a memo to Lukoil (the Russian oil and gas company) to explain to them how our services are going to apply to the petroleum business. Nix said that “they understand behavioural microtargeting in the context of elections” but that they were “failing to make the connection between voters and their consumers”. The work, he said, would be “shared with the CEO of the business”, a former Soviet oil minister and associate of Putin, Vagit Alekperov.
“It didn’t make any sense to me,” says Wylie. “I didn’t understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?”
Lukoil is a private company, but its CEO, Alekperov, answers to Putin, and it’s been used as a vehicle of Russian influence in Europe and elsewhere – including in the Czech Republic, where in 2016 it was revealed that an adviser to the strongly pro-Russian Czech president was being paid by the company.
When I asked Bill Browder – an Anglo-American businessman who is leading a global campaign for a Magnitsky Act to enforce sanctions against Russian individuals – what he made of it, he said: “Everyone in Russia is subordinate to Putin. One should be highly suspicious of any Russian company pitching anything outside its normal business activities.”
The attention led to Facebook suspending Mr. Wylie’s Facebook and Instagram accounts…
In the latest turn of the developing scandal around how Facebook’s user data wound up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica — for use in the in development in psychographic profiles that may or may not have played a part in the election victory of Donald Trump — the company has taken the unusual step of suspending the account of the whistleblower who helped expose the issues.
Academic researchers began publishing warnings that third-party Facebook apps represented a major possible source of privacy leakage in the early 2010s. Some noted that the privacy risks inherent in sharing data with apps were not at all clear to users. One group termed our new reality “interdependent privacy,” because your Facebook friends, in part, determine your own level of privacy.
For as long as apps have existed, they have asked for a lot of data and people have been prone to give it to them. Back in 2010, Penn State researchers systematically recorded what data the top 1,800 apps on Facebook were asking for. They presented their results in 2011 with the paper “Third-Party Apps on Facebook: Privacy and the Illusion of Control.” The table below shows that 148 apps were asking for permission to access friends’ information.
But The Guardian’s reporting suggests that the company’s efforts to restuff Pandora’s box have been lax. Wylie, the whistleblower, received a letter from Facebook asking him to delete any Facebook data nearly two years after the existence of the data was first reported. “That to me was the most astonishing thing,” Wylie told The Guardian. “They waited two years and did absolutely nothing to check that the data was deleted. All they asked me to do was tick a box on a form and post it back.”
But even if Facebook were maximally aggressive about policing this kind of situation, what’s done is done. It’s not just that the data escaped, but that Cambridge Analytica almost certainly learned everything they could from it. As stated in The Guardian, the contract between GSR and Strategic Communications Laboratories states, specifically, “The ultimate product of the training set is creating a ‘gold standard’ of understanding personality from Facebook profile information.”
It’s important to dwell on this. It’s not that this research was supposed to identify every U.S. voter just from this data, but rather to develop a method for sorting people based on Facebook’s profiles. Wylie believes that the data was crucial in building Cambridge Analytica’s models. It certainly seems possible that once the “training set” had been used to learn how to psychologically profile people, this specific data itself was no longer necessary. But the truth is that no one knows if the Kogan data had much use out in the real world of political campaigning. Psychological profiling sounds nefarious, but the way that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica first attempted to do it may well have proven, as the company maintains, “fruitless.”
The way I personally deal with Facebook is by seeding it with incorrect information whenever I can, and by being diligent about deleting Facebook cookies from my browsers. Of course, I’m sure they know way too much about me, but at least some of their information is wrong.