Sacha Baron Cohen on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook

Facebook breaches privacy and trust again

Facebook can be a useful way of keeping in touch – I have been involved in a group that has brought wider family together online after little communication previously – but another revelation  of breach of privacy adds concerns about using Facebook.

Guardian: Is 2019 the year you should finally quit Facebook?

Prepare yourself for an overwhelming sense of deja vu: another Facebookprivacy “scandal” is upon us.

A New York Times investigation has found that Facebook gave Netflix, Spotify and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) the ability to read, write and delete users’ private messages. The Times investigation, based on hundreds of pages of internal Facebook documents, also found that Facebook gave 150 partners more access to user data than previously disclosed. Microsoft, Sony and Amazon, for example, could obtain the contact information of their users’ friends.

Netflix, Spotify and RBC have all denied doing anything nefarious with your private messages. Netflix tweeted that it never asked for the ability to look at them; Spotify says it had no idea it had that sort of access; RBC disputes it even had the ability to see users’ messages. Whether they accessed your information or not, however, is not the point. The point is that Facebook should never have given them this ability without getting your explicit permission to do so.

In a tone-deaf response to the Times investigation, the tech giant explained: “None of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people’s permission, nor did they violate our 2012 settlement with the FTC.” Perhaps not, but they did violate public trust.

This just reinforces warnings about use of anything online – treat it as if anything you say or post could be public.

One of the problems with Facebook is that it is difficult if not impossible to know what others see of what we post. We simply don’t know what Facebook shows or makes available to others, and they have shown time and again that they can’t be trusted.

Facebook (and other websites) give us a lot, but take a lot from us collectively, and put their own commercial interests first.

The Times’ new report caps off a very bad year for Facebook when it comes to public trust. Let’s just recap a few of the bigger stories, shall we?

  • March: The Observer reveals that Cambridge Analytica harvested the dataof millions of Facebook users without their consent for political purposes. It is also revealed that Facebook had been keeping records of Android users’ phone calls and texts.
  • April: It was revealed that Facebook was in secret talks with hospitals to get them to share patients’ private medical data.
  • September: Hackers gained access to around 30m Facebook accounts.
  • November: Facebook acknowledges it didn’t do enough to stop its platform being as a tool to incite genocidal violence in Myanmar. A New York Times report reveals the company hired a PR firm to try and discredit critics by claiming they were agents of George Soros.
  • December: Facebook admitted it exposed private photos from 68 million users to apps that weren’t authorized to view your photos. (You can check if you were affected via this Facebook link.)

If you’re still on Facebook after everything has happened this year, you need to ask yourself why. Is the value you get from the platform really worth giving up all your data for? More broadly, are you comfortable being part of the reason that Facebook is becoming so dangerously powerful?

In March, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook put out print ads stating: “We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t deserve it.” I think they’ve proved by now that they don’t deserve it. Time and time again Facebook has made it abundantly clear that it is a morally bankrupt company that is never going to change unless it is forced to.

What’s more, Facebook has made it very clear that it thinks it can get away with anything because its users are idiots. Zuckerberg famously called the first Facebook users “dumb fucks” for handing their personal information over to him; his disdain for the people whose data he deals with doesn’t appear to have lessened over time.

I will keep using Facebook for what suits me, but I will continue to give them little in current or personal information. And I will continue to ignore advertising.

 

The Facebook fiasco

NY Times – Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis

Facebook has gone on the attack as one scandal after another — Russian meddling, data sharing, hate speech — has led to a congressional and consumer backlash.

This account of how Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg navigated Facebook’s cascading crises, much of which has not been previously reported, is based on interviews with more than 50 people. They include current and former Facebook executives and other employees, lawmakers and government officials, lobbyists and congressional staff members. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed confidentiality agreements, were not authorized to speak to reporters or feared retaliation.

Facebook declined to make Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg available for comment. In a statement, a spokesman acknowledged that Facebook had been slow to address its challenges but had since made progress fixing the platform.

Zuckerberg apologises ahead of hearings, NZ data breaches

Mark Zuckerberg has apologised ahead of hearings in Congress over Facebook data breaches and possible effects on the 2016 US election. In the meantime it has been revealed that about 64,000 New Zealanders may have been involved in the data breaches.

More talk from Zuckerberg over ongoing Facebook data revelations, but  Congress will be looking for more than apologies in two days of hearings.

Reuters: CEO Zuckerberg says Facebook could have done more to prevent misuse

Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told Congress on Monday that the social media network should have done more to prevent itself and its members’ data being misused and offered a broad apology to lawmakers.

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake,” he said in remarks released by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Monday. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

“It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.”

His conciliatory tone precedes two days of Congressional hearings where Zuckerberg is set to answer questions about Facebook user data being improperly appropriated by a political consultancy and the role the network played in the U.S. 2016 election.

Top of the agenda in the forthcoming hearings will be Facebook’s admission that the personal information of up to 87 million users, mostly in the United States, may have been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

But lawmakers are also expected to press him on a range of issues, including the 2016 election.

Meanwhile:

Facebook, which has 2.1 billion monthly active users worldwide, said on Sunday it plans to begin on Monday telling users whose data may have been shared with Cambridge Analytica.

This potentially includes thousands of New Zealanders. RNZ:

Facebook today revealed it estimated nearly 64,000 New Zealanders were estimated to have had their data collected and used by Cambridge Analytica. The company is accused of using private data to personally target voters to manipulate elections.

A spokesperson for the social media giant said 87 million people were estimated to have been affected by the “Cambridge Analytica data misuse” worldwide, with more than 80 percent of those based in the US.

The data was apparently obtained via the “thisismydigitallife” personality test on Facebook and pulled in information about users’ friends liked without their explicit permission.

“For New Zealand, we estimate a total of 63,724 people may have been impacted – 10 are estimated to have downloaded the quiz app with 63,714 friends possibly impacted,” the company said.

The spokesperson said that from Tuesday the company would begin showing users which apps they connected to at the top of their Facebook feed, and an easy way to delete them.

“As part of this, we will let people know if their data might have been accessed by Cambridge Analytica,” the spokesperson said.

“We’re dramatically reducing the information people can share with apps. We’re shutting down other ways data was being shared through Groups, Events, Pages and Search.”

NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker…

…said he did not think Facebook users needed to shut down their accounts following the revelation.

Mr Cocker said the breach was a reminder for Facebook users to take their privacy settings seriously, but not necessarily to quit the social media platform.

“Facebook has responded to this breach by setting up a series of tools and improving their management of apps and if anything the breach has lead to a safer Facebook in the future.”

There is nothing obviously different on my Facebook this morning.

 

Continuing Facebook data scandal

More revelations in the Facebook data scandal, and Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to testify before the US Congress, but will send a deputy to talk to UK MPs.

Facebook faltering, slow Zuckerberg reaction may be futile

While a lot of the recent news has focussed on a UK based company, Cambridge Analytica, and it’s involvement in many elections around the world, in particular the UK Brexit vote and the 2016 US presidential election, the company at the core of all of this, the enabler of all of this, has been Facebook.

After several days silence in the face of a growing storm Facebook founder and head Mark Zuckerberg emerged with an attempt at damage control yesterday. He made tis statement )on Facebook of course):

I want to share an update on the Cambridge Analytica situation — including the steps we’ve already taken and our next steps to address this important issue.

We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you. I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.

Here’s a timeline of the events:

In 2007, we launched the Facebook Platform with the vision that more apps should be social. Your calendar should be able to show your friends’ birthdays, your maps should show where your friends live, and your address book should show their pictures. To do this, we enabled people to log into apps and share who their friends were and some information about them.

In 2013, a Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan created a personality quiz app. It was installed by around 300,000 people who shared their data as well as some of their friends’ data. Given the way our platform worked at the time this meant Kogan was able to access tens of millions of their friends’ data.

In 2014, to prevent abusive apps, we announced that we were changing the entire platform to dramatically limit the data apps could access. Most importantly, apps like Kogan’s could no longer ask for data about a person’s friends unless their friends had also authorized the app. We also required developers to get approval from us before they could request any sensitive data from people. These actions would prevent any app like Kogan’s from being able to access so much data today.

In 2015, we learned from journalists at The Guardian that Kogan had shared data from his app with Cambridge Analytica. It is against our policies for developers to share data without people’s consent, so we immediately banned Kogan’s app from our platform, and demanded that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica formally certify that they had deleted all improperly acquired data. They provided these certifications.

Last week, we learned from The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4 that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data as they had certified. We immediately banned them from using any of our services. Cambridge Analytica claims they have already deleted the data and has agreed to a forensic audit by a firm we hired to confirm this. We’re also working with regulators as they investigate what happened.

This was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that.

In this case, we already took the most important steps a few years ago in 2014 to prevent bad actors from accessing people’s information in this way. But there’s more we need to do and I’ll outline those steps here:

First, we will investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014, and we will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity. We will ban any developer from our platform that does not agree to a thorough audit. And if we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected by those apps. That includes people whose data Kogan misused here as well.

Second, we will restrict developers’ data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse. For example, we will remove developers’ access to your data if you haven’t used their app in 3 months. We will reduce the data you give an app when you sign in — to only your name, profile photo, and email address. We’ll require developers to not only get approval but also sign a contract in order to ask anyone for access to their posts or other private data. And we’ll have more changes to share in the next few days.

Third, we want to make sure you understand which apps you’ve allowed to access your data. In the next month, we will show everyone a tool at the top of your News Feed with the apps you’ve used and an easy way to revoke those apps’ permissions to your data. We already have a tool to do this in your privacy settings, and now we will put this tool at the top of your News Feed to make sure everyone sees it.

Beyond the steps we had already taken in 2014, I believe these are the next steps we must take to continue to secure our platform.

I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform. I’m serious about doing what it takes to protect our community. While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn’t change what happened in the past. We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward.

I want to thank all of you who continue to believe in our mission and work to build this community together. I know it takes longer to fix all these issues than we’d like, but I promise you we’ll work through this and build a better service over the long term.

It was noted that he made excjses but didn’t apologise in that statement, but he went on to say sorry in an interview.

CNN: Mark Zuckerberg has regrets: ‘I’m really sorry that this happened’

“I’m really sorry that this happened,” the Facebook (FB) CEO told CNN’s Laurie Segall in an exclusive TV interview on Wednesday.

“I started this when I was so young and inexperienced,” the 33-year-old Zuckerberg said. “I made technical errors and business errors. I hired the wrong people. I trusted the wrong people,” he said.

“I’ve probably launched more products that have failed than most people will in their lifetime.”

But ultimately, he said, he’s learned from his missteps.

“That’s the commitment that I try to have inside our company, and for our community.”

But that’s a piss poor apology. He has said he is sorry it has happened, but then went on to make excuses. His assurances he can put things right are very late and quite lame.

Also on the CNN interview: Mark Zuckerberg tells CNN he is ‘happy to’ testify before Congress

Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the data debacle that has upended Facebook and opened the door to testifying before Congress.

“The short answer is I’m happy to if it’s the right thing to do,” the Facebook (FB) CEO told CNN’s Laurie Segall in an exclusive TV interview on “Anderson Cooper 360.”

“What we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge,” Zuckerberg said. “If that’s me, then I am happy to go.”

If Congress subpoenas him to appear it doesn’t matter how happy Zuckerberg is, he is compelled to appear, it won’t be his choice.

He seems a long way from properly accepting responsibility for the shoddy security of billions of people’s privacy.

And Zuckerberg and Facebook may have put themselves into a hopeless situation.

Blomberg: Mark Zuckerberg Has No Way Out of Facebook’s Quagmire

There’s simply no way to fix the fake news and data abuse problems without destroying the social network’s business model.

I think I understand why Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg hasn’tpublicly responded to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. He’s stuck in a catch-22. Any fix for Facebook’s previous big problem — fake news — would make the current big problem with data harvesting worse.

Zuckerberg has obviously responded since this was written, but the same problem persists.

As a media company and one of Americans’ top sources of information, Facebook’s de facto anonymity and general lack of responsibility for user-generated content make it easy for propagandists to exploit. Making matters worse, it isn’t willing to impose tighter identification rules for fear of losing too many users, and it doesn’t want to be held responsible in any way for content, preferring to present itself as a neutral platform. So Zuckerberg has been trying to fix the problem by showing people more material from friends and family and by prioritizing “trusted publishers” and local news sources over purveyors of fake news.

Facebook continues to struggle on the sharemarket today (Thursday US time) after an abrupt fall early this week. And the worst may be ahead for Facebook.

Facebook and fake news

Fake news on the Internet is a growing problem, and Facebook has been under fire for it and how it may have affected the US election.

In response to the Mark Zuckerberg has posted:


I want to share some thoughts on Facebook and the election.

Our goal is to give every person a voice. We believe deeply in people. Assuming that people understand what is important in their lives and that they can express those views has driven not only our community, but democracy overall. Sometimes when people use their voice though, they say things that seem wrong and they support people you disagree with.

After the election, many people are asking whether fake news contributed to the result, and what our responsibility is to prevent fake news from spreading. These are very important questions and I care deeply about getting them right. I want to do my best to explain what we know here.

Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.

That said, we don’t want any hoaxes on Facebook. Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.

This is an area where I believe we must proceed very carefully though. Identifying the “truth” is complicated. While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted. An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual. I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.

As we continue our research, we are committed to always updating you on how News Feed evolves. We hope to have more to share soon, although this work often takes longer than we’d like in order to confirm changes we make won’t introduce unintended side effects or bias into the system. If you’re interested in following our updates, I encourage you to follow our News Feed FYI here: http://bit.ly/2frNWo2.

Overall, I am proud of our role giving people a voice in this election. We helped more than 2 million people register to vote, and based on our estimates we got a similar number of people to vote who might have stayed home otherwise. We helped millions of people connect with candidates so they could hear from them directly and be better informed. Most importantly, we gave tens of millions of people tools to share billions of posts and reactions about this election. A lot of that dialog may not have happened without Facebook.

This has been a historic election and it has been very painful for many people. Still, I think it’s important to try to understand the perspective of people on the other side. In my experience, people are good, and even if you may not feel that way today, believing in people leads to better results over the long term.


Another issue with Facebook is how it feeds you news that it thinks fits your interests, but this filters out different types of topics and different opinions (I don’t use Facebook for following news much but a lot of people do).

An interesting comment just after the US election:

facebookbubble

There’s a lot more news available now but if you want to get different views of news and issues you have to go looking.