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Facebook Prepares for Europe's General Data Protection Regulation With 'New Privacy Experiences'

Facebook this week shared a blog post explaining "new privacy experiences" that will be available on the social network, in compliance with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), coming into effect on May 25. Facebook originally detailed part of its plan for GDPR-related privacy features back in January, and is now following through in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The rollout will begin in Europe this week, but the company described the update as being "for everyone on Facebook," and it'll begin expanding worldwide "on a slightly later schedule." In the new blog post, Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan explained that users will be asked to make choices about multiple aspects of the social network from now on, including ads, profile data, and face recognition. As soon as GDPR was finalized, we realized it was an opportunity to invest even more heavily in privacy. We not only want to comply with the law, but also go beyond our obligations to build new and improved privacy experiences for everyone on Facebook. We’ve brought together hundreds of employees across product, engineering, legal, policy, design and research teams. We’ve also sought input from people outside Facebook with different perspectives on privacy, including people who use our services, regulators and government officials, privacy experts, and designers. Facebook will ask its users to review information about advertising based on partner data, such as websites and apps that use business tools like the Like button. They will be able to decide if they want

Facebook Outlines What Data it Collects From Other Apps and Websites

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress last week about the ongoing Cambridge Analytica scandal, he was asked a question about what kind of data Facebook collects from people when they use various apps and websites that have Facebook tools and integrations installed. Zuckerberg promised to share more information on that topic at a later time, and today Facebook made good on that promise with a detailed article on what data Facebook gets from third-party apps and websites. Facebook has several plug-ins and tools that allow Facebook to gather data on users even when they're not using Facebook, including social plugins (Like and Share buttons), Facebook login (which lets you log in to services with a Facebook account), Facebook Analytics, and Facebook ads (allows apps and websites to show ads from Facebook advertisers, run ads on Facebook, and measure ad effectiveness). Facebook says that whenever you use an app or a website that has one of these tools installed, the company receives information even if you're logged out of Facebook or do not have a Facebook account. According to Facebook, the information collected offline is used to "make [app and website] ads better," with Facebook receiving data that includes IP address, browser, operating system, cookie information, and which app or website you're using, all of which is common information collected when you use an app or a website. Facebook provides detailed information on how the data collected from each of these tools is used: Social plugins and Facebook Login. We use your

Facebook Debuts 'Data Abuse Bounty' Offering Rewards From $500 to $40,000 for Discovering Data Breaches

Facebook today announced the launch of a new data abuse bounty program that will see it rewarding Facebook users who discover instances of companies using unauthorized data. Facebook users who report companies for misusing data can receive rewards that range from $500 to $40,000 for major discoveries impacting at least 10,000 people. Companies who are discovered misusing data will have their app removed from the Facebook platform, will face a forensic audit of related systems, and could face legal action.This program will reward people with first-hand knowledge and proof of cases where a Facebook platform app collects and transfers people's data to another party to be sold, stolen or used for scams or political influence. Just like the bug bounty program, we will reward based on the impact of each report. While there is no maximum, high impact bug reports have garnered as much as $40,000 for people who bring them to our attention.The social network says the new program is designed to protect people's data on Facebook by helping identify violations of the company's policies. Facebook says all "legitimate reports" will be reviewed and responded to as quickly as possible. If data abuse is confirmed, the person who made the report will receive payment. Users must have first-hand knowledge of facts and cannot submit reports based on speculation. You must have direct first-hand knowledge of facts showing that data collected by a Facebook platform app is or has been passed to another party. You cannot submit a report based on speculation, but must be aware of the facts

Facebook Launches Help Center Tool to Check if Your Data Was Shared With Cambridge Analytica

Facebook today launched a new section of its Help Center focusing on user data breaches following the Cambridge Analytica scandal that's been ongoing for the past few weeks. The updated Help Center tool allows you to check to see if any of your Facebook data was shared with Cambridge Analytica (via Matt Navarra). The tool specifically details whether or not you or any of your friends ever logged into "This Is Your Digital Life," a quiz app that Cambridge Analytica used to steal information and tailor political messages towards Facebook users. If you or someone you know was affected by the app, Facebook details what information was shared with Cambridge Analytica, including topics like public profile, page likes, birthday, current city, and more. Besides the new tool, Facebook has been sharing numerous blog posts in recent weeks about the security and privacy of its users. Most recently, chief technology officer Mike Shroepfer outlined several changes coming to Facebook APIs that will limit the amount of data that apps can collect from users. The company also promised to more prominently notify users of what apps are using their data in links atop their News Feeds, which started appearing for some users yesterday. Facebook's Help Center tool launches the same day that company CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be testifying before Congress at 2:15 p.m. PT. According to prepared remarks released by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Zuckerberg is expected to state that Facebook "didn't do enough" to prevent multiple issues from spreading on the social network,

Facebook Details Several Privacy Changes Coming in the Wake of Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Shroepfer today wrote a blog post outlining several changes that are being made to Facebook APIs to limit the amount of data apps can collect from Facebook users. Changes are being made to the Events, Groups, and Pages API to cut down on what apps can see. With the Events API, for example, apps will no longer be able to access attendees or posts on the event wall, and the Groups API will no longer provide member lists or names associated with posts or comments. Facebook will also now need to approve third-party access to both Groups and Pages APIs, and, as mentioned previously, all apps that access information like check-ins, photos, posts, and videos. Apps will no longer be able to see religious or political views, relationship status, education, work history, and tons more, all of which was previously readily available. It is also no longer possible to search for a person's phone number or email address to locate them on Facebook. Facebook says "malicious actors" have used this feature to "scrape public profile information" using data pulled from search and account recovery options. For Android users, Facebook had been collecting call and message logs to enable Messenger features. Facebook says it will delete all logs older than a year and will upload less data to its servers going forward. Starting next Monday, Facebook will also introduce a link at the top of the News Feed to let all users see what apps are installed and what information has been shared with those apps to make it easy for less technically savvy

Mark Zuckerberg Rebuts Tim Cook: Companies That Charge You More Don't Necessarily Care About You More

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has countered the argument that companies without an ad-supported business model are better off. "You know, I find that argument, that if you're not paying that somehow we can't care about you, to be extremely glib," said Zuckerberg, in an interview with Vox's Ezra Klein. "And not at all aligned with the truth." "The reality here is that if you want to build a service that helps connect everyone in the world, then there are a lot of people who can't afford to pay. And therefore, as with a lot of media, having an advertising-supported model is the only rational model that can support building this service to reach people." Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Recode's Kara Swisher and MSNBC's Chris Hayes that his company "could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer," but added "we've elected not to do that." Apple's business model is primarily focused on selling products like iPhones and iPads to customers, rather than targeting users with advertisements based on their personal information. Facebook, on the other hand, is a free service that relies on ads for a significant portion of its revenue. Cook, who said Apple views privacy as a "human right," believes that Facebook shouldn't have the ability to collect as much information as it does. "The ability of anyone to know what you've been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life -- from my own point of view it shouldn't exist," said Cook, speaking at the annual China

Tim Cook on What He Would Do in Mark Zuckerberg's Shoes: 'I Wouldn't Be in This Situation'

"I wouldn't be in this situation" Apple CEO Tim Cook told Recode's Kara Swisher in an interview where he was asked what he would do right now if he was Mark Zuckerberg. Cook went on to say that Facebook should have self regulated to prevent the massive data collection scandal it's now embroiled in, but the time for that has passed. "I do think that it is time for a set of people to think deeply about what can be done here." Image via Recode It's clear to me that something, some large profound change is needed... I'm personally not a big fan of regulation because sometimes regulation can have unexpected consequences to it, however I think this certain situation is so dire and has become so large, that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary.Cook made the comments calling for regulation in a wide-ranging discussion with Swisher and MSNBC's Chris Hayes, covering topics from privacy to DACA to education, where he also again pointed out Apple's strong stance on privacy. As Cook has said many times in the past, "you" are not Apple's product and Apple does not make its money selling customer data. Cook says Apple sees privacy as a "human right, a civil liberty."We could make a ton of money if we monetized our customers. If our customers were our product. We've elected not to do that. ...We're not going to traffic in your personal life.Curation is important to Apple, and that's one of the ways Cook believes Facebook went wrong. "We curate," he said. "We don't want porn on our App Store. We don't want hate speech on our App Store." Apple, he says, looks at

Facebook Details Revamped Privacy Tools to Put Users 'More in Control' of Their Data

Following revelations that emerged last week about Facebook's misuse of user data, the company today said it has "heard loud and clear" that it needs to make it easier for users to know how to control their own privacy settings and data. These updates to Facebook mobile and on the web "have been in the works for some time," according to Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan, "but the events of the past several days underscore their importance." The first update is found in a redesigned settings menu on mobile devices, so instead of settings that are spread across "nearly 20 different screens," they're all in one place. This area is also now cleaned up so outdated menus are gone and it's more clear what user information can and can't be shared with apps. The old settings menu (left) and new settings menu (right) A new Privacy Shortcuts menu launches users into an area where they can look at information regarding privacy, security, and ads "in just a few taps." This menu is also now clearer, has more visuals, and provides simple explanations for how each control option works. Below you'll find a breakdown of everything you can do when jumping into Privacy Shortcuts: Make your account more secure: You can add more layers of protection to your account, like two-factor authentication. If you turn this on and someone tries to log into your account from a device we don’t recognize, you’ll be asked to confirm whether it was you. Control your personal information: You can review what you’ve shared and delete it if you want to. This includes posts you’ve shared or

Facebook to Delay Smart Speaker Unveiling Amid User Data Scandal

Facebook has chosen not to unveil its latest smart connected devices at the company's F8 developer conference in May, in part because of the ongoing data-privacy scandal that has engulfed the social network, according to people familiar with the matter. Bloomberg reports that Facebook's new home products, which include a video-capable smart speaker featuring the company's own digital assistant, are now being held back from public view, pending a deeper review into the devices' processing of user data. Although the hardware wasn't expected to launch until the fall, Facebook had planned to preview the devices at its annual developer summit, according to the paper's sources. 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.In the last few weeks, Facebook has come under increasing scrutiny over its user data practices, after reports emerged that political advertising firm Cambridge Analytica procured information on 50 million social network users without seeking permission. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify in front of Congress on privacy in the coming weeks, but the chief executive has so far refused a British request to appear before a

Apple CEO Tim Cook Calls for Stronger Privacy Regulations Following 'Dire' Facebook Data Scandal

Apple CEO Tim Cook attended the annual China Development Forum in Beijing on Saturday, during which he called for stronger data privacy regulations following the "dire" Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal (via Bloomberg). Last week, it was revealed that the social network let Cambridge Analytica amass data on 50 million Facebook users without their consent, in an effort to target messages to voters during the 2016 presidential election. Photo of Tim Cook by Giulia Marchi via Bloomberg On the topic, Cook called for "well-crafted regulation" to protect users: “I think that this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary,” Cook said after being asked if the use of data should be restricted in light of the Facebook incident. “The ability of anyone to know what you’ve been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life -- from my own point of view it shouldn’t exist.” Cook went on by stating that Apple has "worried for a number of years" that something like the recent Facebook data scandal might happen. "Unfortunately that prediction has come true more than once," he said. “We’ve worried for a number of years that people in many countries were giving up data probably without knowing fully what they were doing and that these detailed profiles that were being built of them, that one day something would occur and people would be incredibly offended by what had been done without them being aware of it,” he

Facebook Launching News Feed Tool to Let Users Quickly Revoke Permissions From Apps

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this afternoon addressed the ongoing Cambridge Analytica situation, in which Cambridge Analytica used personal data acquired from Facebook in an illicit manner by a third-party app to create targeted political advertisements during the 2016 election. Zuckerberg outlined a multi-step response that Facebook plans to take to prevent this situation from recurring, and one feature Facebook will add is a new tool at the top of the News Feed which will let people see which apps they've used. Any app used on the Facebook platform has access to a user's personal data, so the Facebook tool will let people see which apps have their info and it will offer up an easy way to revoke permissions. This tool is already available through Facebook's privacy settings, but the company plans to make it more accessible to all users. Back in 2014, Facebook implemented changes to reduce the amount of data apps had access to (the CA data was pre-2014), and Facebook says it will now investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before the platform change.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.Zuckerberg also says Facebook plans to remove developers' access to data if an app hasn't been used in three months, and the amount of data provided to an app when a user signs in will be further

Facebook Messenger Adds New Admin Privileges Amid Backlash Over Company's Mishandling of User Data

Facebook today announced the rollout of a new feature in Messenger called "Admin Privileges." With this toggled on, the company said that it will give specific users in a group chat "more control" over who partakes in the chat, and should help boost the app's privacy. If you have admin privileges you'll be able to approve or decline new members before they join the chat, remove members already in a chat, and promote or demote any other person as an admin. The company said that the feature should help large groups who need to get in touch but may not be connected to on Facebook, like for a friend's surprise party. There are also new joinable links that any member can create and send out to potential new members, which an admin will then be able to approve. These admin privileges will be turned off by default: The great thing about admin privileges in Messenger is they work in the background; if your group chat doesn’t need that level of control, it won’t get in the way of your group messaging. You’ll have the option to decide if you’d like admin approval for approving new members, but this preference is off by default in your group chat settings. Today's Facebook Messenger update launches at the same time that Facebook is facing immense scrutiny for its involvement with consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which itself has been tied to President Trump's 2016 election campaign. According to recent reports, the firm improperly amassed information from 50 million Facebook users without their consent and used that data to "target messages to voters." In the wake of

Facebook Watch Platform to Launch Dedicated News Section

Facebook is set to launch a news section for its Watch platform and is testing different video partnerships with around 10 publishers, according to a report by Axios today. Launched back in August, Watch is a section of Facebook in the U.S. for mobile and desktop that's designed to showcase TV shows exclusive to the social network. Along with serving as a platform for end users to watch shows, Watch is also meant to help creators and publishers find an audience for their content, build a community, and earn money. The additional section would be the first standalone news product for national news in Watch. Previously news has been hosted on the platform mixed in with other publisher content through delivery mechanisms such as Instant Articles and Facebook Live. Facebook is said to be testing a daily video feature for the upcoming news section that includes content from both "legacy and digital-first news publishers" and would run for at least a year, according to Axios' sources. Hosted content would be a minimum of three minutes, and Facebook plans to launch the feature this summer to test what works best. Aside from Facebook's monetization goals, creating a news product that's native to the platform is part of an effort to promote content from vetted publishers, following last year's outbreak of "fake news" on the social network. Accusations that Facebook did little to halt the spread of misinformation on its platform hit the company's reputation among both users and publishers in 2017, and it has since been testing ways to guide readers to more credible

Facebook Messenger Streamlines Controls for Creating Group Video and Audio Chats

In December 2016, Facebook Messenger rolled out the ability for users to create group video chats with up to six members participating, and today the company has further streamlined the feature. Before today's update, if users were already in a one-on-one video or audio call they had to hang up, start a new conversation, and choose every member to invite to the new group chat. Now, while in a video chat or voice call, there will be a new "add person" icon so that users can simply scrub through a list of their Facebook Messenger friends, tap who to invite, and wait for them to join -- all without leaving the original call. With the ability to add more people seamlessly to your calls, you can continue your conversation in the moment, just like if you were together in real life. Never again worry about skipping a beat when sharing your BFF’s spontaneous karaoke performance on Messenger. Sharing moments like these is now a few quick taps away. Otherwise, the feature remains the same with six total users able to video chat at once and various filters and effects still supported. After the call ends, Facebook Messenger also creates a group chat automatically in each user's inbox, so that members can keep texting one another. Facebook's refinement to group video chats in Messenger comes as a similar feature has yet to debut in Apple's FaceTime app. The long-requested, multi-person FaceTime call update is now being rumored for a potential launch within iOS 12 later this year, but Bloomberg has stated that it may not be ready for a debut in 2018. If group video calls

Facebook Promoting its Onavo VPN in Facebook iOS App

Facebook has started promoting the Onavo VPN client it acquired back in 2013 directly within the Facebook app for iOS devices. A link to the Onavo VPN client is available in the Facebook app in the United States under a new "Protect" section of the Facebook navigation menu. To get to it, tap on the hamburger menu in the right hand side of the app, and then scroll down. "Protect" features a blue icon with a shield, and when you tap on it, it links to the Onavo VPN app in the iOS App Store. As TechCrunch points out, while Onavo offers to "keep your data safe while you browse" and let you know when you "visit potentially malicious or harmful websites," Facebook's real aim with Onavo is tracking user activity across multiple different apps to learn insights about how its customer base uses third-party apps.But Facebook didn't buy Onavo for its security protections. Instead, Onavo's VPN allow Facebook to monitor user activity across apps, giving Facebook a big advantage in terms of spotting new trends across the larger mobile ecosystem. For example, Facebook gets an early heads up about apps that are becoming breakout hits; it can tell which are seeing slowing user growth; it sees which apps' new features appear to be resonating with their users, and much more.In August of last year, The Wall Street Journal took a look at how Facebook uses Onavo to track what people do on their smartphones outside of the Facebook ecosystem. Using Onavo data, for example, Facebook was able to determine that the Instagram Stories feature was impacting Snapchat's business well ahead of

Facebook and Apple Work Out Deal for Subscription News Purchases in iOS App

Facebook in October introduced a new feature designed to let publishers sell subscriptions to their news sites directly on Facebook, but the social network could not work out a deal with Apple, preventing the news subscription options from being available on Facebook for iOS. At issue was Apple's demand for its standard 30 percent cut of any subscription revenue brought in through the Facebook iOS app, while Facebook wanted all money to go to publishers. At today's Code Media event, Facebook executive Campbell Brown said the dispute with Apple had been resolved, which means the subscription service tool will launch on iOS devices on March 1. Brown did not provide details on the deal that Facebook and Apple worked out, so it is not clear if Apple will be taking a standard 30 percent cut, a lower cut, or no cut at all. Facebook's news service does not offer subscriptions purchased directly on Facebook, but instead redirects customers to sign up for a subscription on the publisher website once the article limit has been reached. Publishers have asked Facebook to change the number of free articles Facebook users can view without a subscription from 10 to 5, a change Facebook will also implement starting on March

Facebook Tests Reddit-Like 'Downvote' Feature for Disliking User Comments

Facebook is said to be testing a "downvote" button among some users of the social network, according to a report on Thursday. The "dislike"-like option apparently appeared in the comments section of posts within Facebook groups and on old Facebook memories content, as shown in screenshots shared with The Daily Beast. A Facebook spokesperson denied that the company is "testing a dislike button", but then went on to offer an explanation that appeared on the face of it to suggest something just like one. Image via The Daily Beast We are exploring a feature for people to give us feedback about comments on public page posts. This is running for a small set of people in the U.S. only.The feature in testing reportedly gives users the ability to downvote certain comments, similar to the way votes in Reddit work, but it's unclear how far the tests will go. According to a 2016 Bloomberg report, Facebook executives had rejected a dislike button long ago "on the grounds that it would sow too much negativity" on the social network. In February 2016, Facebook launched Reactions, an extension of the Like button, to give users more ways to share their reaction to a post. The emoji-like feature extended to Facebook Messenger in March last year. Facebook regularly tests features with a small number of users and many never reach the stage of a broader rollout to the general

Facebook Announces Series of Updates Aimed at Improving User Privacy

Facebook this week has detailed how it plans to give its users "more control" of their privacy on the mobile and desktop versions of the social network. One of the major new additions is described as a "privacy center" that will provide simple tools to manage privacy and combine all core privacy settings into one easy-to-find interface. In order to explain how to use these features to its users, the company today is rolling out educational videos in its News Feed centering upon topics like "how to control what information Facebook uses to show you, how to review and delete old posts, and even what it means to delete your account." This marks the first time that Facebook shared its privacy principles with its users, stating that the updates "reflect core principles" it has maintained on privacy over the years. As pointed out by TechCrunch, Facebook's planned rollout of beefed up privacy features comes ahead of a May 25 deadline for compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU. The GDPR's goal is to give citizens back control over their personal data while "simplifying" the regulatory environment for business, essentially affecting "any entities processing the personal data of EU citizens." [Facebook] will need to make users feel they trust its brand to protect their privacy and therefore make them feel happy to consent to the company processing their data (rather than asking it to delete it). So PR and carefully packaged info-messaging to users is going to be increasingly important for Facebook’s business, going forward. While all Facebook

Facebook Doubling Down on Stories Format By Testing Ability to Post From Desktop

Facebook is testing a feature that will let users post stories on Mac and PC, in an effort to further make the ephemeral sharing feature stick on the platform. Once the test rolls out wide, Facebook users will be able to click an "Upload Photo" button to share pictures and videos to their story, or "Open Camera" to record a story with a webcam. Images via TechCrunch The test also includes "much more prominent placement" for stories on desktop, where they will now sit on top of the News Feed -- similar to their location on the iOS app -- instead of in the sidebar. TechCrunch reported that all of this amounts to a new effort in "doubling down" on the stories format, despite the fact that most users have responded critically to the addition, and its poor performance last year caused the company to slightly tweak the app's user interface in an attempt to boost usage. While some normal users might remain hesitant to use stories, it's believed Facebook's introduction of stories onto its desktop website could lead to "brands, event promoters, and group admins" embracing the format more. For users that visit Facebook daily on the web, the company said that the site will remain easy to navigate. “We are always working to ensure people can easily navigate and enjoy Facebook, regardless of how they connect,” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. “We are testing the option to create and share Stories from Facebook on desktop and are also testing moving the Stories tray from the top right corner to above News Feed, just like on mobile.” Previously you could only consume

Facebook to Overhaul News Feed With More Content From Family and Friends, Less From Publishers

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this afternoon announced some major changes that are coming to the Facebook News Feed, which will cut down on the content displayed from publishers to instead highlight more content from family and friends. According to Zuckerberg, feedback from Facebook users has suggested content from businesses, brands, and media is crowding out personal content from friends, something Facebook wants to correct. Rather than aiming to help Facebook users find relevant content, it will now help users find "meaningful social interactions."Based on this, we're making a major change to how we build Facebook. I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.Zuckerberg says that it will take months to roll out the new focus to all of its products, but the first change will be coming to the News Feed, which will feature more content from family, friends, and groups. Less public content will be displayed, and what is displayed, should encourage meaningful interactions.As we roll this out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard -- it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.Through implementing these changes, Zuckerberg expects to see engagement and the time people spend on Facebook go down, but the time that is spent on Facebook "will be more valuable." Doing the right thing, he says, will be "good for the community" and Facebook's