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Facebook Halts Collection of WhatsApp User Data Across Europe

Facebook has temporarily halted the collection of WhatsApp user data across Europe after pressure from privacy watchdogs, according to the Financial Times. The move follows news last week that the social media company, which owns the popular chat platform, agreed to pause data collection in the U.K. while a government probe there inquired into WhatsApp's privacy policy. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner's office, which acts as Facebook's European regulatory body, confirmed to FT that the company had suspended European data collection since last week. The change in data gathering means that WhatsApp users across Europe will no longer have select information shared with Facebook, including the phone number a user verifies during the registration process and the last time a user accessed the service. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, but only began collecting data from users of the chat service in August this year. In September, German authorities ordered a halt to the practice in the country after ruling that it was an infringement of national data protection law. Last month, pan-European privacy watchdogs signed an open letter to WhatsApp saying they had serious concerns over the privacy policy change, and urged Facebook to pause data collection until appropriate legal protections could be

Facebook iOS App Will Soon Gain Prisma-Like Art Filters for Photos and Videos

In a lengthy blog post about Facebook's ten-year plan to "accelerate innovation and power new experiences with AI," chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer mentioned that one update coming to the company's mobile apps will be a "style transfer" tool that turns normal photos and videos into works of art using "high efficiency neural networks," all running directly on iOS and Android smartphones. Facebook's impending update will, according to Schroepfer, run entirely on the user's smartphone and not be dependent on the content to be sent to servers, creating long load times and frustrating users. The CTO described this as the most demanding and "technically difficult" hurdle to clear in the process of adding the feature to the company's mobile apps, but Schroepfer said the company has done just that, and the result is a deep learning platform called "Caffe2Go." Just three months ago we set out to do something nobody else had done before: ship AI-based style transfer running live, in real time, on mobile devices. This was a major engineering challenge, as we needed to design software that could run high-powered computing operations on a device with unique resource constraints in areas like power, memory and compute capability. The result is Caffe2Go, a new deep learning platform that can capture, analyze and process pixels in real time on a mobile device. We found that by condensing the size of the AI model used to process images and videos by 100x, we’re able to run deep neural networks with high efficiency on both iOS and Android. This is all happening in the

Facebook Suspends WhatsApp Data Sharing in the U.K. Following Privacy Probe

Facebook has agreed to pause data collection from WhatsApp users in the United Kingdom following a government probe into the company's privacy policy (via Engadget). Back in August, Facebook-owned WhatsApp updated its terms of service and privacy policy to reflect that it would begin sharing select data with the social media network, including the phone number a user verifies during the registration process and the last time a user accessed the service. Facebook argued that the new policy would allow it to better fight spam and abuse, deliver better friend suggestions and more relevant ads. However, the company soon came under fire from European Privacy watchdogs who cited "serious concerns" over the policy change, while the U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is now eight weeks into its own probe. The U.K.'s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham explained the reasons for the probe on the ICO website: "I had concerns that consumers weren't being properly protected, and it's fair to say the enquiries my team have made haven't changed that view. I don't think users have been given enough information about what Facebook plans to do with their information, and I don't think WhatsApp has got valid consent from users to share the information. I also believe users should be given ongoing control over how their information is used, not just a 30-day window."ICO said it was "pleased" that Facebook had agreed to pause using data from U.K. WhatsApp users for advertisements or product improvement purposes. As part of the inquiry, the ICO has also asked

Facebook Plans to Make Camera More Prominent in Mobile App, Akin to Snapchat

During a quarterly earnings meeting yesterday, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg briefly commented on the status of the company's mobile app experience, mentioning a belief that "a text box is still the default way we share." As reported by Bloomberg, the CEO said that the next step for Facebook on smartphones is a camera-first experience that changes status updates from simple written posts to dynamic photos and videos. As it stands, when the Facebook app is opened today users must click on "Photo" at the top of the app to begin a status update, then navigate to the Camera icon among their photos in order to take a picture or record a video. Zuckerberg's vision is one more akin to Snapchat's camera-first user interface, but on Facebook it's described as "a swipe away," hinting that it could be introduced as a new left-to-right swipe, replace the friends list currently in the menu that appears after a right-to-left swipe, or come in from the top of the screen. Facebook's Olympics update in Canada and Brazil introduced a camera-first experience "In most social apps today, a text box is still the default way we share,” Zuckerberg said. “Soon, we believe a camera will be the main way that we share.” The Facebook camera itself will be updated with new features as well, including new augmented reality filters -- like the ones that appeared on Halloween -- and "have many of the same features Snapchat has," according to AdAge. Facebook's move to put itself more in line with Snapchat has stretched into its other apps, including Instagram, and the new camera-first

Facebook Updates iOS App With Halloween Themed Reactions and Live Filters

Continuing in the tradition of changing Reactions to suit a theme or holiday, Facebook today has begun rolling out a Halloween version of the six Reaction buttons. Replacing Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry are a skeleton's hand, candy heart, witch, ghost, Frankenstein's monster, and a pumpkin. Some Reactions, including Like, change into their festive versions after being tapped Using its acquisition of MSQRD, Facebook is also introducing Halloween-themed live filter masks into its live video streaming feature. The limited-time masks are said to include a skull, an evil queen, a pumpkin, and a witch. After you start broadcasting from the "Live" button on top of the feed in the Facebook app, you can find the masks in the magic wand menu in the top left corner of the screen. The company said that a selection of masks will continue to be available after Halloween, "so you can be creative in your Live videos any time." The update is expected to stick around through Halloween, although Facebook didn't specifically confirm how long it would last. Reactions will be rolling out to people "in a select set of countries," while masks are available only to iOS users in the United States, United Kingdom, and New

MasterCard Announces Facebook Messenger Bot for Purchases and Account Management

During the Money 20/20 conference taking place in Las Vegas this week, MasterCard announced that it's creating a chatbot for Facebook Messenger that will allow customers to "transact, manage finances, and shop via messaging platforms." Like many other companies, MasterCard is getting in on the chatbot craze to boost customer loyalty and profits; according to Gartner "nearly $2 billion in online sales" will pass through an artificial intelligence bot on mobile by the end of the year. For MasterCard, the company is introducing two chatbots: MasterCard Bot for Banks and MasterCard Bot for Merchants. The distinction in the chatbots lies in their intended use on the consumer side of Facebook Messenger, where users will be able to chat with the bank bot to ask questions about their account, look at purchase history, monitor spending levels, receive assistance with financial literacy, and more. Powered by Kasisto's KAI Banking AI platform, the MasterCard bot intends to accomplish all these tasks with the conversational ease of "texting a friend." “At Mastercard, we believe that AI-driven conversations between companies and their customers can drive better customer experiences in places and platforms that consumers are already engaging in.,” said Kiki Del Valle, senior vice president, Commerce for Every Device, Mastercard. “Mastercard Labs has been testing integration of key Mastercard products and services within different messaging platforms and we’re thrilled to test Mastercard KAI on Messenger first. We will keep moving this test-and-learn approach to the

Facebook App Integrates Food and Ticket Ordering Into Brand Pages

In the consistently updated Facebook app for iOS, the social media company is today introducing a slew of new features focused on event discovery and streamlined interaction with brands. Notably, now in the company's mobile app users will be able to purchase tickets to movies and concerts, buy food, or book an appointment without leaving Facebook. For food and ticket orders, the feature is fueled by Facebook's partnership with services like Delivery.com, Slice, Ticketmaster, Fandango, and Eventbrite. Local businesses will need to be on board to support the appointment booking feature, but if they do users can simply request a specific time from the business' Facebook page after looking at their list of services. A response confirmation will be sent through Facebook Messenger when the appointment is decided upon. To generate more personalized interactions, there's also a new Recommendations feature in the app that aims to make it easier to get advice from friends and family on places to see and things to do in a user's hometown, or while traveling in a new city. Recommendations are represented as a new status option, so users can post about wanting to check out new restaurants, for example, and their friends can comment back with suggestions to try in the area. People come to Facebook every day to connect and share experiences with friends and family. We share the great places we go and we ask our friends for advice when we need help getting things done. Today we’re starting to introduce a variety of new features that help you use those connections to discover

Facebook's Snapchat Clone 'Messenger Day' Expanding Slowly Across the Globe

Following the launch of "Instagram Stories" in August, Facebook is now preparing to ape Snapchat in its own Messenger app, with a feature called "Messenger Day." Originally launched to users in Poland, Messenger Day is now expanding and gaining attention with Facebook users in Australia (via Mashable). With the new feature in the Facebook Messenger iOS and Android apps, Messenger Day lets users post ephemeral updates to their friends, which last 24 hours before expiring, with the ability to doodle and add stickers to posts. Friend updates can be found atop the normal Facebook Messenger home page, and the interface is visually similar to the layout of Instagram Stories with a horizontal row of reverse-chronological updates. "We know that people come to Messenger to share everyday moments with friends and family. In Poland we are running a small test of new ways for people to share those updates visually," a Messenger spokesperson told Mashable at the time. For those who have used Messenger Day, the user interface and features have yet to impress, with one user mentioning that "(The user interface) is really poor, on every level — nothing like Instagram Stories." Most of the criticism so far seems to be focused on the simple fact that as companies introduce more of the same features into their mobile apps, it leaves users to choose only one service, which is still Snapchat for most, and ignore the rest. Snapchat's growing popularity has resulted in other social networks (namely Facebook, which owns Instagram) attempting to combat its 24-hour posts with similar

Facebook iOS Gains 'Initial View' For 360-Degree Photos, Data Saver Coming to Messenger

Facebook recently announced that users are now able to select the "initial view" for 360-degree photos when uploading pictures to the iOS, Android, and Chrome for Desktop Facebook apps. Prior to the update, Facebook would randomly choose a section of the 360-degree photo to showcase on the service, so now users can personally select the best section to show their friends and family (via The Next Web). To do this, before posting users simply have to drag around the photo on mobile, or select "Edit" on desktop, to find the area of the picture they want to be the initial viewpoint for anyone scrolling through their Facebook feed. Whenever the initial view is clicked on, the full 360-degree photo will be showcased with more detail. "In the coming weeks," the company will also rollout album support for 360-degree photos, as well as the ability to post them into multimedia status updates, "i.e. when you want to post a combination of 360 photos, regular photos, 360 videos and regular videos at once." We've heard you loud and clear and we're excited to roll out the ability to set the initial field of view on your 360 photo on iOS, Android and Chrome for desktop. To change the view, simply upload a 360 photo, then, before posting, move your photo around by dragging with your finger or select Edit on desktop and move the mouse until you've reached the desired view. Your friends will now see this angle of your photo when you post to Facebook. Please note, we have not enabled zoom with this feature. Additionally, it was recently reported that the social network is running a

Facebook App Gains Video Streaming Support for Apple TV

Facebook yesterday announced an update to its flagship app that lets users stream video from their iOS device directly to an Apple TV. Now, when a video is selected in the app's news feed or from the Saved tab, a small button appears in the top right corner which, when tapped, offers to send the video to an Apple TV on the same wireless network. If you’re streaming a Facebook Live video to your TV, you can see real-time reactions and comments on the screen, and you can join in the conversation yourself by reacting or commenting.The new feature – which also supports Chromecast – continues to stream the video to the TV while allowing the user to browse other parts of Facebook on their iPhone or iPad. Facebook is free download on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. [Direct Link

Facebook Launches New Team Collaboration Tool Called 'Workplace'

Facebook yesterday officially launched its 'Workplace' platform, an organization and business collaboration tool to rival the likes of Slack. Previously known as Facebook Work, Workplace combines social network, chat messenger, and productivity features to help teams work together online. The app includes groups, custom profiles and ad-free news feeds, including tools for team members to make audio and video calls as well as host live broadcasts. There's also something called Multi-Company Groups, which allows employees from different organizations to work together. Workplace is free for non-profits and schools, but Facebook will charge commercial users of the platform $3 per month for organizations of up to 1,000 people, and as low as $1 per month for organizations comprising over 10,000 employees. That contrasts with Slack's Standard plan of $6.67 per user and its Free tier, which has some search and archive limitations. Workplace exists as a web interface and an iOS app similar in style to Facebook's other mobile offerings. The app is a free download for iPhone and iPad available on the App Store. [Direct Link]

Facebook Launches Standalone Calendar-Based 'Events' App

Facebook yesterday announced the launch of a standalone iOS app that lets users of the social network directly access its "Events" features, which the company says have more than 100 million daily users. Today we're announcing Events from Facebook, a new app we designed for event seekers who are passionate about keeping up with nearby events and finding things to do with their friends. Whether you're looking for something to attend this weekend or just wondering what's happening in your area, Events will help get you there.The app offers a feed of events that are created or followed by users' Facebook friends, including any updates to events that users have confirmed they're going to, as well as those promoted by any commercial pages they follow. Events can be searched based on time, location, and interest, and upcoming events can be browsed via an interactive map. To keep track of events, the app also offers a calendar view, to which existing Google and iCloud calendars can be added, so it's easier for users to make plans. Facebook events is a free download for iPhone and iPad from the U.S. App Store, but availability in other regional stores remains patchy as of Saturday. [Direct Link]

Facebook Replacing Messenger Tab With E-Commerce 'Marketplace' in iOS App

Facebook is launching a new user-to-user e-commerce service called "Marketplace" this week in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand (via The Verge). The new buying and selling service will replace the Messenger tab in the main Facebook mobile app for iOS and Android. According to Facebook Marketplace project manager Bowen Pan, almost 450 million people use the social network's various other services, like group messaging, to buy and sell items already, so "with Marketplace, Facebook is now giving users a more formal process to conduct these exchanges." When users tap on the new Marketplace icon, Facebook will use an algorithm to present each user with items it believes they will be interested in. This data is accumulated based on previously liked pages, and will even factor in a user's viewing, purchasing, and selling history on Marketplace after they've used the service for a while. When an item is discovered, users can send the seller a message, or place an offer on it to see if the seller accepts. When users want to unload something of their own, the process will include taking a photo of the item, naming and describing it, setting a sell price, and confirming a current location. The company said search queries can be set to nearby (for person-to-person exchanges), or wider to other cities with the option to ship the item. "We saw a lot of people were really just looking at coming to Marketplace without necessarily anything in particular they were looking for," Pan says. "They were just on Marketplace to casually browse through. This

Facebook Celebrates 50th Anniversary of 'Star Trek' With Custom Reactions

Facebook marketing lead Lindsey Shepard recently posted a blog sharing new details of the company's celebration of Star Trek's 50th anniversary, taking place today. After updating the "Like" button to a set of emotional reactions earlier in the year, the social network is temporarily giving each reaction a Star Trek themed makeover to celebrate the franchise's premiere on September 8, 1966. In order to make this understood by all Star Trek fans, we chose the most iconic and recognizable characters and symbols from the original Star Trek series, as well as the Next Generation. We also wanted to honor the original design and spirit of Reactions, so we needed visual cues that were easy to identify at a glance, like Geordi’s visor. This led us to our final cast: Kirk, Spock, Geordi and a Klingon. This project has truly been a labor of love. We hope that people find as much joy in using these different celebratory elements as we have in creating them. We may test experiences like this in the future, and will focus on community and moment-driven events like this one. Live long and prosper. Shepard said Facebook chose "the most iconic and recognizable characters and symbols from the original Star Trek series" as inspiration for the new reaction buttons, and paired them with what users expect from reactions. The new Star Trek reactions include a sparkly thumbs-up (Like), Vulcan salute (Love), Captain Kirk (Haha), Spock (Wow), Geordi (Sad), and a Klingon (Angry). The update to reactions also comes with a customized greeting and profile frame that Facebook says only

Facebook Introduces Live Streaming 'Instant Video' Feature in Messenger App

In yet another deeper push into video, Facebook today is rolling out a new update to its Messenger app [Direct Link] that adds a new live video button into every chat window. When used, Facebook users will begin live streaming in a small pop-up window with sound turned off by default, allowing them to keep texting with the person on the other end while sharing visual details of their location that might be easier through video rather than simple text. Facebook is calling the new feature "Instant Video," and says it represents "a reflection of the ubiquity of video" that's expected in most messaging apps nowadays. Rather than a full-on video chatting experience, the social network hopes for Instant Video to be a companion to traditional texting. Instant Video is a reflection of the ubiquity of video — we simply expect to have that ability in real-time, all the time. With Instant Video, you can bring your conversations to life in the most authentic way — seamlessly and instantly. It’s perfect for sharing quick moments with friends who aren’t right by your side or making your conversations richer by seeing each other face-to-face when you are messaging. Sometimes you want to ask a friend’s opinion on a pair of shoes you want to buy, weigh in on what ice cream flavor they should bring home, or just want to see your BFF’s reaction to your witty message when you’re in a place where you can’t actually talk live. To start an Instant Video conversation, there will be a new video icon in the top right corner of each Messenger conversation. This will bring up the live

WhatsApp to Share User Data With Facebook to Show Targeted Ads

WhatsApp has updated its terms of service and privacy policy to reflect that it will begin sharing select data with Facebook, including the phone number a user verifies during the registration process and the last time a user accessed the service. Facebook, which acquired WhatsApp in 2014, will use the information to provide better friend suggestions and targeted ads and offers to users of its own service. By coordinating more with Facebook, we'll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp. And by connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For example, you might see an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone you've never heard of.WhatsApp ensures that nothing users share on the service, including messages, photos, and account information, will be publicly shared onto Facebook for others to see. The updated terms and privacy policy also state that the new data sharing measures will help WhatsApp more accurately count unique users, fight spam and abuse, and improve the overall experience of its messaging service. Existing WhatsApp users can choose not to share their account information with Facebook. On the iPhone app, before you tap "Agree" to accept the updated terms, tap on "Read," scroll to the bottom, and toggle the control. Users that agree to the updated terms also have an additional 30 days to opt out by going to Settings > Account >

Facebook Now Testing Autoplay Videos With Sound in iOS App

Starting today, Facebook will begin testing autoplay videos -- including ads -- with sound in its iOS and Android apps. Facebook told Mashable the test will be limited to Australian users and rolled out in two different ways to gauge how users react. In both versions of the test, sound will only play if the iPhone's volume is turned up, and sound can also be turned to "always off" in Facebook settings. In one version of the test, sound plays immediately as the video begins, if you have sound enabled on your device. Another group is able to turn sound on during the test session using an icon that will sit to the bottom right of videos. Both groups see a pop-up message informing them about how to use the controls, and sound will only play if the smartphone's volume is up. If you don't want to annoy your workmates, sound can also be turned to "always off" in Facebook settings.The test is interesting given that Facebook's own research concluded that mobile users prefer having the choice to opt in to sound, with 80% of people reacting negatively towards both the platform and advertiser if sound is unexpectedly played. But, given that Facebook is an advertising-driven company with aspirations of pushing deeper into video content, autoplay sound may eventually be a necessary

Facebook Announces Video-Based Social App 'Lifestage' For High Schoolers

Facebook has released a new teens-only social app called "Lifestage" that asks users to create profiles by uploading video clips instead of filling in text fields. The standalone app is aimed at high school kids aged 21 and under, and doesn't require a Facebook account. Users are asked to select their high school and are then shown video profiles of people at the same school or ones nearby, as long as at least 20 people from the same school use the app. User profiles ask kids to upload videos of their "happy face", "sad face", likes, dislikes, best friend, the way they dance, and more, and Lifestage turns the clips into a video profile that others can then watch on the app's social feed. While there's no restriction on who can download the app and create an account, anyone 22 or older will only be able to see their own profile, although Lifestage notes during sign-up that it can't verify that users are the age they say they are. The app includes various highly visible blocking and reporting options, apparently to guard against the possibility of suspect users. TechCrunch reports that the app was designed by Michael Sayman, a 19-year-old Facebook product manager who aims to replicate Facebook's original incarnation as a college student network. "I wanted to work on an app that my demographic would relate to, or at least that my friends would want to use," said Sayman. The launch of Lifestage is certainly consistent with Mark Zuckerberg's stated goal of putting video at the heart of all of Facebook's apps and services, but it also points to the company's

Facebook Begins Testing MSQRD Live Filters in Brazil and Canada

After acquiring live filter app MSQRD back in March, Facebook today has begun officially integrating its capabilities into the main Facebook mobile app, focusing first on a soft rollout in Brazil and Canada (via TechCrunch). The Olympics-themed launch will greet users with an open, front-facing camera window when first jumping into Facebook, letting them swipe between various filters that add animations and graphics onto their face, which they can then take a photo or video of and then post directly to their feed. For now, Brazilian and Canadian users will only see filters inspired by the Rio Olympics -- like Brazilian flags and a "Go Canada!" motto -- that attach to the user's face and move around with them, similar to Snapchat's popular camera filters. Facebook is also introducing static banners in its rollout, with similar country and team-supported messages that attach to any picture or image. "The way that people share has changed a lot" Facebook Product Manager Sachin Monga tells me. "12 years ago, most of what was shared was text" so Facebook’s status composer with a big white text box. "Now, mobile changed things a little bit, but we didn’t really change our tools. If you look at what people are sharing, now it’s mostly photos, and soon it will be mostly videos. Our strategy is really simple. We want to make it really easy to share photos and videos" Monga explains. Facebook has long been pushing its video content, whether created by media companies or everyday users, as a main focus of the social network in the future. Although the company didn't confirm a

Facebook Messenger Celebrates Reaching 1 Billion Monthly Active Users

Yesterday on Facebook, the company's dedicated messaging app, Facebook Messenger, posted news regarding its recent milestone of surpassing 1 billion monthly active users. As The Next Web pointed out, that's a growth of 200 million users since January, and roughly suggests that 1 out of every 7 members of the population are logging onto Facebook Messenger each month to text with friends and family. In the message thanking users, the Facebook Messenger team mentioned that the company will be celebrating by debuting the launch of new animated balloons into the chat app. Anyone can try it out by sending someone a traditional balloon emoji within Facebook Messenger to activate the new animation. On behalf of the entire Messenger team, we'd like to thank the more than 1 billion people who are now using Messenger every month. People use Messenger to connect with the people and businesses they care most about. They make plans, share dreams, send payments, tell jokes, play games, let their loved ones know they're thinking of them and much, much more. We know that every message is important to you - no matter what you want to say - and we're grateful that you choose to communicate using Messenger. To put its growing popularity into perspective, Facebook also released some stats related to its messaging service. According to the company, 22 million GIFs are sent every day (approximately 254 per second), and popular holidays saw a noticable uptick in user messaging, with 300 million flowers sent on Mother's Day and 360 valentine-related chats sent on February 14. Among a