NEW YORK (AP) — The Latest on reports that millions of Facebook users' data was used to target political ads (all times local):
Germany's justice minister says she wants closer oversight of companies such as Facebook, following a meeting with executives about the abuse of users' private data.
Katarina Barley says Facebook representatives assured her Monday that such breaches wouldn't occur again and pledged to inform those users who were affected.
She added that "promises aren't enough, though. We will need to monitor companies such as Facebook much more strictly in future and also punish breaches of data protection strongly, swiftly and painfully."
Barley said Facebook reacted "favorably" to her demand for greater transparency about the algorithms that underpin the company's data collection.
She said campaigns such as "Delete Facebook" would likely make a strong impression on the company because "in the end the currency that Facebook works with is trust."The Federal Trade Commission is investigating Facebook's privacy practices following a week of privacy scandals including whether the company engaged in "unfair acts" that cause "substantial injury" to consumers.
Facebook's stock, which already took a big hit last week, plunged as a result.
Facebook said in a statement on Monday that the company remains "strongly committed" to protecting people's information and that it welcomes the opportunity to answer the FTC's questions.
News outlets have reported on the FTC investigation last week, but the FTC hadn't confirmed it until Monday. Facebook reached a settlement with the FTC in 2011 offering privacy assurances.The liar, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is promising to do a better job protecting user data following reports that a political consultant misused the personal information of millions of the company's subscribers. The fact is, European regulators are already forcing him to do so.
A similar data breach in the future could make Facebook liable for fines of more than $1.6 billion under the European Union's new General Data Protection Regulation, which will be enforced from May 25. The rules, approved two years ago, also make it easier for consumers to give and withdraw consent for the use of their data and apply to any company that uses the data of EU residents, no matter where it is based.
Fleeing Facebook app users realise what they agreed to in apps years ago - total slurpage
Zuck takes out full-page ads to apologise as Tim Cook calls for 'well-crafted' privacy laws
It was the weekend that had it all: promiscuous permissions dragged Google into the Facebook privacy row, Facebook apologised again while at the same time denying anything's wrong with its Android apps, and Tim Cook was totally not smug when he chimed into the privacy debate.
It's long been understood by people in tech (less so, El Reg suspects, in the broader public) that Facebook analysed users' interactions in its Social Graph. Doing so is the core of the company's advertising strategy and the purpose of the algorithms that choose what's at the top of users' feeds.
However, when people started deleting their accounts on the weekend, the more sharp-eyed realised Facebook was slurping more than they expected.
New Zealand LLVM developer Dylan McKay got the ball rolling with the following Tweet:
What McKay and others realised to their horror was that Facebook Messenger on Android uploaded far more than expected. Specifically: metadata for phone calls and text messages, even though they were sent with Android's default phone and SMS apps, not Facebook's Messenger apps.
The same kinds of everything-including-the-kitchen-sink permissions apply to the Facebook and Instagram apps.
You were warned: Facebook and Instagram Android app permissions
As Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew Green put it:
The data slurp included Facebook app users' interactions with others who are not on Facebook – meaning people who never gave the Social Network™ permission for anything are probably profiled in its data troves anyway.
In January, long-time Facebook antagonist Max Schrems was told he couldn't run a privacy class action in Austria, but individuals could sue in that country. Schrems is conducting a separate and very costly legal battle with Facebook in Ireland.
However, few if any users realised message metadata they believed were private were being uploaded.
As futurist and El Reg columnist Mark Pesce put it:
Pesce also mused on the ethical considerations that accompanied the development of a capability that results in such an extensive data-slurp:
Facebook has responded with a statement saying “uploading call and text history” was always opt-in (unless, of course, you're not a Facebook user, in which case you had no say in the matter).
The post says the data was never offered for sale, and also draws on the “metadata is not data” defence: “When this feature is enabled, uploading your contacts also allows us to use information like when a call or text was made or received. This feature does not collect the content of your calls or text messages. Your information is securely stored and we do not sell this information to third parties. You are always in control of the information you share with Facebook” (emphasis added).
Facebook's other response to the escalating scandal was to take out full-page mea-culpa newspaper advertisements in the UK and USA.
Over Mark Zuckerberg's signature, the ad apologised for the 2014 quiz app at the bottom of the scandal, saying “we're now taking steps to make sure this doesn't happen again”. The rest of the ad text is at follows:
Given that Apple has a far less permissive attitude to user privacy, Tim Cook was commendably not-smug when he chimed into the debate.
Speaking at the annual Chinese Development Forum in Beijing on Saturday, Bloomberg quoted Cook as calling for stronger, “well-crafted” privacy regulation.
“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 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,” he added. Apple's concern that data would be abused in the form of profiling, with an inevitable user backlash, was a prediction that “has come true more than once”. ®