50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by hmscott, Mar 17, 2018.

  1. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

    Reputations:
    4,650
    Messages:
    16,158
    Likes Received:
    19,879
    Trophy Points:
    931
    Al Franken lashes out at Facebook over Cambridge Analytica scandal
    The former senator says the social network has no incentive to act in users' best interests, because it has no rivals and those users have nowhere else to go.
    BY MARGUERITE REARDON, MAY 3, 2018 11:37 AM PDT
    https://www.cnet.com/news/al-franken-lashes-out-at-facebook-over-cambridge-analytica-scandal/

    "In his first major public appearance since leaving office, former US Sen. Al Franken blasted Facebook over consumer privacy in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

    Speaking earlier this week at the Privacy XChange Forum, a cybersecurity conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Franken discussed how the business models of Facebook and search giant Google, built on digital advertising, are at odds with their users' privacy interests.

    He also said Congress' inaction on these issues has made it complicit in ensuring these companies, which spend millions of dollars each year on lobbying, could harvest users' information and allow others to misuse it.

    "As Facebook and Google have gotten bigger and bigger, they have lost all incentive to act in their users' best interest, because well, their users have nowhere else to go," Franken said.

    He noted that if left unchecked, the misuse of user data will threaten the very foundation of democracy. He also pointed to the dissemination, on social networks and other internet platforms, of misinformation.

    "If we can't have a political discourse where we agree on basic, objective facts, then our democratic government will continue to be polarized and paralyzed," he said, referring to the Russians' efforts to spread fake news online during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

    The comments come as lawmakers in Washington consider legislation to protect consumers' data following the revelation that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, with ties to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, obtained data on as many as 87 million Facebook users.

    "What happened with Cambridge Analytica wasn't an accident," he said. "It was an exploitation of Facebook's business model. This business model made Facebook a lot of money but left users vulnerable to having their data taken by companies that they never heard of."

    Franken referred to Congress' failed attempts to pass legislation to protect consumer data online and said those failures are part of the reason Facebook, Google and others have been allowed to go unchecked in their harvesting of information. Specifically, he mentioned a bill he authored called the Location Privacy Protection Act, which sparked intense lobbying from the tech industry and never became law.

    He also said that even as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was testifying before Congress last month, acknowledging that facial recognition technology should be a case in which companies must explicitly ask for users' permission, the company was lobbying lawmakers in Illinois to kill legislation that would implement the strongest set of facial recognition protections in the country.

    "This is the kind of stuff that Facebook and other internet companies do to paralyze American privacy laws," Franken said.

    Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Franken said Facebook's and Google's market power has made it nearly impossible for consumers to avoid these companies' services. And he talked about Facebook's strategy to gobble up small startups that threaten to compete with the company and to copy new ideas from the companies it can't acquire.

    "Facebook doesn't have to care about the privacy and security of users' online information, because there is no mass exodus when it violates those values," he said. "They have no real competitors when users feel they can't walk away."

    And he added that the fact that Facebook and Google control 75 percent of all news referrals online gives them "unprecedented power."

    Franken urged lawmakers to do something, saying the foundation of American democracy is at stake if they choose to sit on the sidelines.

    "If we do not act to address these problems, all of this will happen again," he said, speaking of the Russian meddling online during the 2016 presidential election. "Maybe at the hands of the Russians, maybe at the hands of a private company like Cambridge Analytica, maybe at the hands of other bad actors."

    Franken left the senate in December amid sexual misconduct allegations. Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota, has taken over Franken's seat."

    Cambridge Analytica: Everything you need to know about Facebook's data mining scandal.
     
  2. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

    Reputations:
    4,650
    Messages:
    16,158
    Likes Received:
    19,879
    Trophy Points:
    931
  3. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

    Reputations:
    4,650
    Messages:
    16,158
    Likes Received:
    19,879
    Trophy Points:
    931
    Social Capital CEO Says Consumers Partly At Fault For Facebook
    Bloomberg TV Markets and Finance
    Published on May 8, 2018
    May.08 -- Venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, founder and chief executive officer of Social Capital, speaks with Bloomberg's Emily Chang at the inaugural Bloomberg Business of Equality Summit.
     
  4. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

    Reputations:
    4,650
    Messages:
    16,158
    Likes Received:
    19,879
    Trophy Points:
    931
    US Congress finally emits all 3,000 Russian 'troll' Facebook ads. Let's take a look at some
    Sub-literate, inept, and mostly highly divisive
    By Andrew Orlowski 10 May 2018 at 18:40
    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/05/10/congress_russian_facebook_troll_ads/

    "Pics US Congress has released more than 3,000 Facebook adspurchased and created by the Internet Research Agency, a pro-Kremlin so-called troll factory.

    Previously the House Intelligence Committee had only released about 50.

    Usefully, the panel includes information on who the advert was targeted at, and how much engagement it received, in terms of impressions and clicks. Not all views and clicks are by humans, remember.

    You may have expected hundreds or thousands of posts condemning Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and promoting Donald Trump, but that is not the case.

    Many of the ads were not directly politically related, and instead highlighted black and LGBT civil rights issues. They repeated the Black Lives Matters mantra, demanded stronger borders, and called for protests against homophobia and police brutality. Rather than outright back a particular candidate, instead many of the paid-for Facebook posts sought to set people against each other: blacks against whites, muslims against christians, citizens against immigrants, and so on.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    The cache includes ads that were racist and inflammatory, and were seemingly designed to reinforce and enable prejudices. Many played to their base, in other words. For instance, a post that read, "A message from Muslim American kids to all citizens of the US," was actually targeted at people who liked, or were connected to those who liked, the group United Muslims of America.

    And as the Wall Street Journal observed, the Internet Research Agency, the Russia-based assembly line of these posts, was curiously inept at times:

    Many of the Internet Research Agency ads include grammatical and spelling errors, and some have no discernible political purpose. In June 2015, the page 'L for life' bought an ad targeting people interested in 'landscape painting or landscape.' The ad featured a photo of a city with a mountain in the backdrop and read: 'Such a beautiful day! Such a beatiful (sic) view!'

    The giveaway in the ads that something was amiss is the stilted English. It isn't difficult to imagine them in a Compare the Meerkat voice: "Defend free market!"
    [​IMG]
    A portion of the adverts had seemingly false or inflated engagement numbers. Genuine engagement, per post, was surprisingly low, overall. This anti-Sanders ad, for example, received 11 impressions and zero clicks.
    [​IMG]
    This anti-Clinton ad received 61 impressions and 10 clicks.
    [​IMG]
    This other anti-Clinton post, drawing 4,668 views, 304 shares, and 771 reactions, was somewhat more successful.
    [​IMG]
    Posts that strayed away from naming and shaming candidates drew more eyeballs. For example, this anti-immigration post chalked up 15,254 ad clicks and 97,000 ad impressions.
    [​IMG]
    There was a theory that "fake news" spread on Facebook and elsewhereled to Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 US presidential elections. However, that would require us to believe that American voters discarded decades of experience of the two national figures leading the race – Trump and Clinton – and instead had their minds made up in an instant by something they saw on the internet.

    After the release of this cache, along with the conclusions of related research, that may be even harder to believe.

    What is clear now is that the ads and posts were an attempt to pour a little more gas on an already fiery political climate in America. Perhaps the intention was to further polarize support for the White House contenders – by dividing America, muddying the waters between truth and fiction, and sowing a little chaos among the population, which would suit the Kremlin.

    Perhaps the posts and adverts were utterly pointless and mostly ignored, and simply quietly filled Facebook's coffers with Rubles.

    Whether or not the release of these images fortifies the idea that Russians decisively influenced the result of the 2016 election, we'll leave to you, dear reader."

    Comments
     
  5. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

    Reputations:
    4,650
    Messages:
    16,158
    Likes Received:
    19,879
    Trophy Points:
    931
    Mark Zuckerberg Escapes Unscathed From European Parliamentary Questioning
    Yet again, Facebook’s CEO avoided publicly answering tough questions from lawmakers.
    Sophie Kleeman, May 22 2018
    https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/7xm8k9/mark-zuckerberg-european-parliament

    "Mark Zuckerberg may have walked into his testimony in Brussels before European lawmakers today with a script full of contrition, but as it turns out, he didn’t have to answer for any of his company’s numerous misdeeds.

    Initially, it appeared that European parliamentary members were set to pepper Zuckerberg with a far sharper line of questioning than that of their American counterparts. But it quickly became clear that the format of the session—each member asked his or her questions first, and Zuckerberg responded collectively at the end—simply provided the Facebook CEO with ample cover to avoid answering the toughest queries.

    Zuckerberg alluded to this himself toward the end of his responses, noting, for good measure, that he had also gone 15 minutes over his allotted time. “I think I was able to address the high-level areas of each,” he said. In other words: I’m not going to address any specific questions, so here are a bunch of Facebook talking points instead.

    Zuckerberg’s dodge was made even worse by the fact that many of the questions were thoughtful and pointed.

    There was the odd head-scratcher (hello, Nigel Farage, taking a page out of Ted Cruz’sbook by asking about alleged biases against right-wing opinion). But there were also questions about Facebook’s status as a monopoly; whether Zuckerberg could guarantee another Cambridge Analytica scandal wouldn’t happen in six months; collecting data on non-Facebook users; if Zuckerberg would be remembered as a monster or a force for good; why, if Facebook is committed to transparency, was the session initially closed to the public; whether the company can truly support women given that it was formed as a “hot or not” site; and what kind of data-sharing, if any, would happen between Facebook and WhatsApp.

    Zuckerberg, outfitted in a suit and a dark purple tie, rattled off a list of bullet points that should be familiar by now. He mentioned political bias, and noted that staying neutral was “an important philosophical point to me.” He claimed that much of what constitutes fake news is motivated not by politics, but by money, a point that, at the very least, distracts from Facebook’s role in creating our current political wasteland. He said that “some sort of regulation is inevitable and important.” He asserted that the company would comply with Europe’s new GDPR guidelines by May 25.

    By the end, even the lawmakers were frustrated with the proceedings. “I asked you six yes or no questions, I got not a single answer,” one fumed, adding, “you asked for this format, well, for a reason.” In a brief question-and-answer session with reporters afterward, Antonio Tajani, the parliamentary president, claimed it was “the conference of presidents who decided” on the format. He appeared frustrated with the criticism, noting that “this is not an obligatory hearing” and “the time available was what was available to us.” He also pointed to Zuckerberg’s promise that the company would soon respond to specific questions with written answers, a tactic Zuckerberg alsorelied on during his congressional testimony in April. (We’ve reached out to Facebook for clarification on who requested this particular format, and we’ll update if we hear back.)

    Zuckerberg’s jaunt to Brussels is the latest stop on his Big Apology Tour, but it seems clear that, coupled with his earlier appearance before congress, he hasn’t yet been made to truly answer for Facebook’s misdeeds. (In a sign of just how far he’s been able to move the goalposts, several European lawmakers thanked him profusely for even showing up at all.)

    It’s especially disappointing when one considers that, historically, Europe has taken a more realistic view of Silicon Valley, which is to say it has tried to demand higher standards and greater accountability when it comes to data privacy and taxes, among other things. For today, at least, Zuckerberg has managed to once again slip by."
     
  6. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

    Reputations:
    4,650
    Messages:
    16,158
    Likes Received:
    19,879
    Trophy Points:
    931
    15 Years Ago, the Military Tried to Record Whole Human Lives. It Ended Badly
    Before Facebook, the military tried to make an all knowing 'cyberdiary' called LifeLog.
    David Axe, May 21 2018
    https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/...ed-to-record-whole-human-lives-it-ended-badly

    "In mid-2003, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched an ambitious program aimed at recording essentially all of a person's movements and conversations and everything they listened to, watched, read and bought.

    The idea behind the LifeLog initiative was to create a permanent, searchable, electronic diary of entire lives. Not only would a lifelog immortalize users, in a sense, it would also contribute to a growing body of data that military researchers hoped would contribute to the development of artificial intelligence capable of thinking like a human being does.

    LifeLog was an iPhone before there were iPhones, social media before there was social media. It was potential all-seeing government surveillance before anyone worried about the NSA or had heard of Edward Snowden.

    LifeLog arguably was years ahead of its time. But today, it's just a footnote in tech history. Barely a year after it began, the LifeLog program abruptly ended, effectively shamed out of existence by privacy-advocates and the media.

    And then, over the following decade, much of what LifeLog aimed to achieve happened, anyway. A failed military cyber-diary from 15 years ago was, in a way, a preview of our smartphone-addicted, Facebooking, government-surveilled present.

    At the same time, LifeLog was "a cautionary tale regarding privacy controversies,” its creator Douglas Gage told me during a series of phone and email interviews.

    The ideas behind LifeLog are much, much older than the program itself. In 1945, a government scientist named Vannevar Bush described an idea he termed "Memex." It was, in some ways, a prescient flash forward to smartphones.

    Memex, Bush wrote in The Atlantic in 1945, would be a "device in which an individual stores all his books, records and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility."

    Of course, 1940s technology wasn't up to the task of recording a person's every conversation and everything they read. It took nearly 70 years for the tech to catch up to Bush's vision. In late 2001, Gordon Bell, a computer scientist consultant, volunteered to be the subject of MyLifeBits, a life-logging experiment run by computer scientists Jim Gemmell and Roger Lueder for Microsoft.

    For 17 years running, Bell has digitized and saved, well, everything. "A lifetime’s worth of articles, books, cards, CDs, letters, memos, papers, photos, pictures, presentations, home movies, videotaped lectures and voice recordings," according to the project's website.

    In later years Bell added phone calls, instant-messaging transcripts, television and radio to his record. Meanwhile, Gemmel and Lueder wrote software for indexing and searching Bell's log.

    To the experiment's architects, its value was self-evident. "Given only one thing that could be saved as their house burns down, many people would grab their photo albums or such memorabilia," the three men wrote in a 2002 paper.

    DARPA, however, saw the military value in a comprehensive record of a person's life. In late 2002 the agency had launched a wide-ranging effort to develop new, more sophisticated artificial intelligence. The $7.3 million Cognitive Computing initiative included an "enduring personalized cognitive assistant"—basically, an artificial intelligence secretary that could learn by watching.

    To replicate human decision-making, the AI assistant would need data on human behavior. Lots of it. Gage, a former Navy researcher with more than 25 years' experience, had recently joined DARPA. He had a plan for gathering that data.

    "I hate to say 'Orwellian,' but I think that's what my reaction was."

    Drawing inspiration from Bush and Bell, Gage proposed LifeLog. If enough people recorded enough of their lives, the combined information would amount to "the ontology of a human life," Gage told me.

    His bosses liked the idea. "DARPA clearly saw how increasing digitization of human experience would make the data needed to model everyday life accessible in machine-readable form," Lee Tien, a privacy lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told me.

    Gage got initial approval for his project and, in December 2002, began workshopping the idea with fellow scientists and engineers. "The research community was very enthusiastic," Gage told me.

    "My father was a stroke victim, and he lost the ability to record short-term memories," Howard Shrobe, an MIT computer scientist, told Wired in defense of LifeLog. "If you ever saw the movie Memento, he had that. So I'm interested in seeing how memory works after seeing a broken one. LifeLog is a chance to do that."

    Privacy advocates, by contrast, reacted with revulsion. "I hate to say 'Orwellian,' but I think that's what my reaction was," Steven Aftergood, an analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, told me. "It seemed like a massively intrusive initiative that went far beyond what an ordinary person would willingly and knowingly consent to."

    In 2003, Aftergood, Lee and other experts were on high alert for new, potentially intrusive surveillance technologies. In February of that year, DARPA had launched a new surveillance effort it called "Total Information Awareness." TIA's sophisticated software cross-referenced phone calls, internet traffic, bank records, and other personal data in an effort to identify potential terrorists.

    Congress shut down TIA after just a few months. But for Gage and DARPA, the damage was done. "LifeLog has the potential to become something like 'TIA cubed,'" Aftergood told Wired at the time.

    Gage told me the criticism took him by surprise. "[Journalist Noah] Shachtman’s Wiredarticle was the full flowering of paranoia," he told me. Gage said he never intended for LifeLog to spy on people. "The critics completely mischaracterized LifeLog as a collection system, when the focus was the classification and fusion of low-level multidimensional data to infer higher level 'knowledge' of the course of a single person’s life."

    Gage insisted that LifeLog users would be able to choose which facets of their lives the system recorded, and who had access to the resulting data.

    But the pamphlet DARPA handed out to researchers who might want to join the LifeLog program did point to LifeLog's potential as a surveillance tool. "LifeLog will be able ... to infer the user’s routines, habits and relationships with other people, organizations, places, and objects," the pamphlet explained, "and to exploit these patterns to ease its task."

    News of the program spread.

    In June 2003, The New York Times' William Safire blasted LifeLog as an "all-remembering cyberdiary" with insidious side-effects as people became walking government data-collectors. "Everybody would be snooping on everybody else," Safire warned.

    LifeLog's problems multiplied. In July 2003, DARPA began offering grants in support of Gage's work. The grant guidelines seemed to underscore the privacy concerns. "Researchers who receive LifeLog grants will be required to test the system on themselves," Shachtman explained in a July 2003 follow-up Wired article.

    "Cameras will record everything they do during a trip to Washington, DC, and global-positioning satellite locators will track where they go," Shachtman wrote. "Biomedical sensors will monitor their health. All the e-mail they send, all the magazines they read, all the credit card payments they make will be indexed and made searchable."

    The writing was on the wall. In February 2004, then-DARPA director Tony Tether cancelled LifeLog. "Change in priorities," agency spokesperson Jan Walker explained.

    Gage was in the middle of evaluating proposals and preparing to hire researchers when Tether pulled the plug. "I think he had been burnt so badly with TIA that he didn’t want to deal with any further controversy with LifeLog," Gage told me. "The death of LifeLog was collateral damage tied to the death of TIA."

    "Canceling it was the path of least resistance," Aftergood added.

    Not long after LifeLog's demise, Gage's contract came up for renewal. "Tony elected not to extend my appointment," said Gage, now retired from government service. In the time since, he's done some part-time consulting and taken up sailing and choral singing.

    Absent Gage, aspects of LifeLog might have survived, albeit under a different name. "It would not surprise me to learn that the government continued to fund research that pushed this area forward without calling it LifeLog," Lee said. As far as we know, nothing came of DARPA’s AI secretary.

    It was the private sector, not the government, that is coming close to turning Gage's LifeLog, Bell's MyLifeBits, and Bush's Memex into reality for millions of people. And ironically for privacy advocates, we practically beg for it.

    In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin founded Facebook. Three years later, Apple introduced the iPhone. Aftergood described smartphones and social media as "LifeLog equivalents."

    More recently, wearable devices and smart-home systems like Alexa have accelerated our acceptance of digital life logs, according to Lee.

    “I think that Facebook is the real face of pseudo-LifeLog at this point,” Gage said. But LifeLog’s creator said he avoids the all-seeing social network. "I generally avoid using Facebook, only occasionally logging in to see what everyone is up to, and have never 'liked' anything."

    His caution is understandable. Both Facebook and Apple have come under fire for gathering users' data and passing it along to the government. "We have ended up providing the same kind of detailed personal information to advertisers and data brokers and without arousing the kind of opposition that LifeLog provoked," Aftergood said.

    Gage, for his part, said he's devised his own LifeLog surrogate using Apple's iCalendar. "I mis-use iCal as my diary, and have waded through my travel records and copious piles of personal and professional memorabilia to fill in my past timeline—but, of course, it gets ever more sparse the farther back I go," Gage told me.

    "I would like to tie all my photos into this in a coherent fashion, but I really don’t know how,” Gage added. “I want my LifeLog!"

    LifeLog reflected people’s growing willingness and ability to keep a comprehensive digital record of their lives.

    But the public has rejected military-developed, government run digital life records in favor of similar systems developed and run by corporations. It doesn’t seem to matter to most people that the corporate social media watch them arguably as much as a government system would have.

    And the government mines social media for people’s data, anyway. In October 2016 the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that police had been working with a company called Geofeedia to track peaceful protesters on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

    Meanwhile, Silicon Valley firm Palantir set up a "predictive policing" system in New Orleans that helped authorities anticipate potential gang ties between social media users and predict when those suspected gang members might perpetrate crimes.

    Apps from Geofeedia and Palantir and other surveillance tools largely tap into data that people voluntarily share on social media. LifeLog reflected people’s growing willingness and ability to keep a comprehensive digital record of their lives—and the government willingness and ability to capture those records—more than it drove those trends.

    "The growing digitization of all kinds of personal transactions, combined with the feasibility of collecting and interpreting the resulting data," Aftergood said, "made something like LifeLog conceivable if not inevitable.""
     
  7. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

    Reputations:
    4,650
    Messages:
    16,158
    Likes Received:
    19,879
    Trophy Points:
    931
    EU lawmakers question Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
    CBS This Morning
    Published on May 23, 2018
    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is at a conference in Paris with tech leaders, discussing their global influence. The appearance comes as Facebook and others face growing questions about user data and privacy. European lawmakers grilled Zuckerberg on Tuesday in Brussels. Mark Phillips reports.
     
  8. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

    Reputations:
    4,650
    Messages:
    16,158
    Likes Received:
    19,879
    Trophy Points:
    931
    Mark Zuckerberg faces European parliament
    Guardian News
    Streamed live 20 hours ago
    Current video starts coverage at 03:51


    This video has English translations in the Right Channel:

    Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Speaks With European Parliament - May 22, 2018 | CNBC
    CNBC
    Streamed live 20 hours ago
    Facebook CEO meets with European Parliament to answer questions about the improper use of millions of users' data by a political consultancy, as pressure on the company's protection of data continues.


    Zuckerberg Ducks Pointed Questions fron the EU Parliament
    Author: ISSIE LAPOWSKY, 05.22.18 03:35 PM
    https://www.wired.com/story/mark-zuckerberg-european-parliament/
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2018
  9. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

    Reputations:
    4,650
    Messages:
    16,158
    Likes Received:
    19,879
    Trophy Points:
    931
    Report: Facebook shared users' data with device makers
    CBS News
    Published on Jun 4, 2018
    The New York Times reports that Facebook shared users' data in partnership deals with at least 60 device makers, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung, without explicit consent from users.


    Facebook reportedly gave device makers deep access to user data
    Fox Business
    Published on Jun 4, 2018
    Rep. Marsha Blackburn, (R-Tenn.), on reports Facebook shared user data with device makers.
     
  10. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

    Reputations:
    4,650
    Messages:
    16,158
    Likes Received:
    19,879
    Trophy Points:
    931
    Four US govt agencies poke probe in Facebook following more 'oops, we spilled your data' shocks
    Giving dozens of devs access to profiles suddenly looks dumb
    By Kieren McCarthy in San Francisco 3 Jul 2018 at 18:16
    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/07/03/four_federal_agencies_facebook/

    "No less than four federal agencies in the US are now investigating Facebook following yet more revelations over how it gave vast quantities of personal data to developers.

    As well as the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the FBI, and America's financial watchdog the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are now all digging into the issue, even reportedly holding joint meetings to discuss how to proceed.

    The investigations have also been expanded to look at what Facebook executives knew, when they knew it, and what they did in response, including their public statements.

    That expansion comes after Facebook dumped more than 700 pages of information [PDF] at midnight on Friday in response to questions from the House Energy and Commerce committee, which has also been looking into the issue.
    Amid that glut of information were two significant new admissions: it shared huge quantities of its users' personal profile data with no less than 52 hardware and software companies including Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft – but also Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Huawei. And it gave 61 Facebook app and extension developers an additional six months to comply with new policies that restricted data access and came into effect in May 2015.

    Facebook is now – finally – being open about the enormous sharing and mining of personal information gathered from its addicts. Just this week it admitted to yet another "bug" that meant some blocked users were effectively unblocked and able to see some people's posts. The number of people impacted? No less than 800,000.

    About time
    But that openness has only come after years of stonewalling. Even for Congressmen with the power of subpoena, it has been like getting blood out of a stone. Federal investigators suspect that may be because executives knew they have been misleading investors and the public over the true extent of the sharing of personal data for several years.

    The fact that Facebook's shares dove more than 10 per cent in March after it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica has accessed the profiles of tens of millions of users through an app that very few people actually used has led the SEC to wonder whether the company has been less-than-entirely truthful with investors: something that is a serious issue as a publicly listed company.

    Likewise, the FTC is looking into whether Facebook's approach has broken an agreement it reached with the social media giant back in 2011over safeguarding people's private details. Due to the sheer scale of the problem – tens of millions of people – the company faces an astronomical fine.

    Former FTC chairman William Kovacic noted that if each instance of sharing user data wrongly was viewed as its own separate "violation," the company – which has more than a billion people logging in every day – could face a fine that totals "more money than there is on the planet." Literally trillions of dollars.

    In reality, the FTC can't impose a fine that would effectively put an American tech goliath out of business, but if found guilty, Facebook would almost certainly be at the end of the FTC's biggest ever fine, possibly as much as $1bn.

    That's not all, either: Facebook inserted a disclaimer into its info dump that has already caught the attention of lawmakers. "It is important to note that the lists above are comprehensive to the best of our ability," the biz noted in the middle of the doc. "It is possible we have not been able to identify some extensions."

    Boy who denied wolf
    Given the fact that Facebook has repeatedly given what appear to be straight answers but with little caveats that turn out to be blatant efforts to hide damaging information, this disclaimer has already got people raising their eyebrows and wondering what else the company is hiding.

    Even Facebook's home turf representative appears to have had enough. "I support a full investigation to get all the facts that is not politicized,"tweeted Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA), who district covers a big chunk of Silicon Valley this week. "I am hopeful that Facebook will cooperate fully and be transparent, recognizing this a matter of public trust."
    In short, the chicken is finally coming home to roost. Whatever Facebook has got up to is unlikely to stay hidden with so many people with investigative powers digging into the matter.

    And to be frank, when it all does emerge, a lot of academics and some tech press – and we include ourselves in that – will be fully justified in standing up and exclaiming: "We told you so."

    Comments
     
    Vasudev likes this.
Loading...

Share This Page