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Facebook's recommendation algorithms push users to engage with ... content, spreading conspiracy to people who may never have encountered it otherwise. It is unclear if our democracy can survive a platform optimized for conspiratorial thinking. Like industrial-age steel companies dumping poisonous waste into waterways, Facebook pumps paranoia and disinformation into the body politic, the toxic byproduct of its relentless drive for profit.[1]

How To Delete Your Facebook Account

  • May19.2018: 'I felt exposed online': how to disappear from the internet. ... The process of deleting one’s Facebook account is deliberately arcane. The social network encourages you to “deactivate” your account, rather than “delete” it, to leave an open door if you later regret the decision. Permanent deletion requires a request be made to the company. If you log in within 14 days of the process being under way (easy to do accidentally if you have the app on your phone or linked accounts that require you to log in via Facebook), the company will automatically cancel your original request. Complete invisibility is an impossible goal for anyone outside a witness protection programme, even for those who have never signed up for a social media or Google account. In Britain, unless you opt out when registering to vote, your data is collected and made available to anyone who wants to buy a copy. “People see the digital realm as being this separate thing, something close to unreal,” Ahearn says. “But it’s all the same thing. Would you put a picture of your child on a billboard next to a highway alongside your family name? Of course not. But people do it online all the time. And it’s not a problem. Until it is.” Simon Parkin, The Guardian. See also Facebooks's page on Deactivating & Deleting Accounts, and How to Permanently Delete your Facebook Account - 2019 update.

Messenger

  • Aug.18.2018: Facebook Messenger backdoor demand, bail in Bitcoin, and lots more. Uncle Sam is demanding Facebook alter its Messenger software so that American g-men can easily snoop on suspected criminals. The social network is said to be fighting off demands by the US government to deliberately hobble the strong end-to-end encryption in its chat software, and allow voice conversations to be spied on by investigators. Prosecutors are trying to hold Facebook in contempt of court for failing to build a secret backdoor in its app and open it to the Feds. It is feared if the US Department of Justice is successful in force Facebook to insert a surveillance backdoor into Messenger, it will pave the way for other application developers to be pressured into providing agents and cops extraordinary access to people's private encrypted communications. That will reignite concerns that miscreants and hackers will find and exploit these Feds-only backdoors to spy on victims. Facebook declined to comment. Shaun Nicholas, The Register. See original article here

WhatsApp

  • Sept.2018: WhatsApp founder, Brian Acton, says Facebook used him to get its acquisition past EU regulators. Acton has suggested he was used by Facebook to help get its 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp past EU regulators who had been concerned it might be able to link accounts — as it subsequently did. His departure boils down to a disagreement over how to monetize their famously ‘anti-ads’ messaging platform. How Acton and Koum ever imagined their platform would be safe from ads in the clutches of an ad giant like Facebook remains one of the tech world’s greatest unexplained brain-fails. Or else they were mostly just thinking of the $billions Facebook was paying them. The company is also set to charge businesses for messages they receive from potential customers via the WhatsApp platform — of between a half a penny and 9 cents, depending on the country. Acton revealed that before the WhatsApp acquisition had been cleared, he was carefully coached by Facebook to tell European regulators it would be “really difficult” for it to combine WhatsApp and Facebook user data. An ‘impossible conjoining’ that Facebook subsequently, miraculously went on to achieve, just two years later, which later earned it a $122M fine from the European Commission for providing incorrect or misleading information on the original filing. But a $122M fine is hardly a proportionate disincentive for a company as revenue-heavy as Facebook (which earned a whopping $13.23BN in Q2). And which can therefore swallow the penalty as another standard business cost. After the acquisition had been cleared Acton said he later learned that elsewhere in Facebook there were indeed “plans and technologies to blend data” between the two services — and that specifically it could use the 128-bit string of numbers assigned to each phone to connect WhatsApp and Facebook user accounts. Now, of course, with both founders out of the company Facebook is free to scrub the no ads clause and use the already linked accounts for ad targeting in both directions (not just at Facebook users). Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch.
  • Aug.01.2018: Facebook’s New Message to WhatsApp: Make Money. Messaging service WhatsApp, which has a user base of ~1.5bn, is set to start showing ads in its Status feature next year. So WhatsApp’s ~1.5BN+ monthly users can look forward to unwelcome intrusions as they try to go about their daily business of sending messages to their friends and family. Deepa Seetharaman, The Wall Street Journal.
  • Apr.11.2018: Rebekah Mercer Asked Facebook For An Independent Investigation Into Cambridge Analytica. As the crisis at Facebook intensified, Mercer adviser Matt Michelsen, met senior managers to ask for an outside inquest. He told BuzzFeed News Facebook initially seemed open to the idea — then suddenly didn’t. A well-connected tech investor met with Facebook senior management late last month on behalf of billionaire Republican donor Rebekah Mercer to suggest an independent investigation into Cambridge Analytica, data collection, and the 2016 election. According to Michelsen, Facebook leadership seemed open to the possibility of an outside inquiry — and to meeting in person with Mercer — during the hour-long, March 20 meeting, but changed its attitude suddenly later that week. Joseph Bernstein, BuzzFeed News.
  • May.06.2018: WhatsApp founder sends Facebook users a coded message by quitting. Early in 2009, two former Yahoo! employees, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, sat down to try and create a smartphone messaging app. They had a few simple design principles. One was that it should be easy to use; second, the app should have an honest business model – no more pretending it’s free while covertly monetising users’ data: instead, users would pay $1 a year after a certain period. It grew slowly at first until Apple enabled push notifications in the iPhone operating system. Koum changed the app so that when a user’s status changed, everyone in that person’s network would be notified. From then on, WhatsApp took off like a rocket. Then Facebook came by and offered $19bn for the company, which at that moment was valued at $1.5bn. Koum and Acton accepted the offer and instantly became billionaires. So WhatsApp became a subsidiary of Facebook and Koum joined the new owner’s main board. The big puzzle at the time was why Facebook had paid so far over the odds for a messaging app. But then Koum and Acton did something that made that impossible – they implemented end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp, which meant that Facebook (and, interestingly, the US govt) couldn’t snoop on users’ communications. But the pill was sweetened, at least from Facebook’s point of view, by a decision to change WhatsApp’s terms and conditions to allow Zuckerberg’s crowd to access the phone numbers of the app’s users – unless they had opted out. This was a key moment, because once Facebook has your phone number, then you’re easy meat for identity purposes. In this way, WhatsApp was launched on to the slippery slope that leads to full-blown surveillance capitalism. Some of us wondered how Koum was viewing the perversion of his dream. Now we know. Last week, the Washington Post broke the story that he was leaving Facebook after clashing with the company’s leadership over WhatsApp’s strategic direction under its current ownership and Facebook’s attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption. It may not be a coincidence that Acton left Facebook in Nov.2017 and has played a major role in creating Signal, a strongly encrypted and free messaging app, which might just be the obvious destination for WhatsApp users who are distressed by the prospect of becoming advertising fodder for Zuckerberg and his antisocial network. Opinion, The Guardian. See Washington Post article here.
  • May.01.2018: WhatsApp founder’s Facebook exit: What he didn’t say. Jan Koum announced Monday in a Facebook post that he is leaving the company. Koum’s post was curiously clear of any reference to Facebook. Koum and co-founder Brian Acton — who left Facebook in November — promised WhatsApp users when the app was bought by Facebook that the service would continue to value privacy. But the Washington Post reports that Koum’s points of contention with Facebook included the company’s attempt to weaken WhatsApp’s encryption and utilize user data for business purposes. In March, Acton was among those who called on people to delete their Facebook accounts. Acton is now executive chairman of a nonprofit he helped create, the Signal Foundation, which has built the Signal encrypted-messaging app. Levi Sumagaysay, The Mercury News.
  • Sept.13.2017: WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton is leaving to start a non-profit. Acton started WhatsApp with CEO Jan Koum in 2009 after the pair had met working at Yahoo. The team struck it big in 2014 when Facebook agreed to pay $19bn to buy it,[1] although the price ended up rising to $22bn thanks to share-based components to the deal. Lately the company has begun to make moves to monetize the service.ref It is adding business profiles to let users connect with companies through the app andit has been strongly linked with enabling payments, initially in India which is its largest market based on users. Jon Russell, TechCrunch.
  • Jan.13.2017: There is no WhatsApp 'backdoor'. Today, The Guardian published a story falsely claiming that WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption contains a “backdoor.” ... ... It is great that The Guardian thinks privacy is something their readers should be concerned about. However, running a story like this without taking the time to carefully evaluate claims of a "backdoor" will ultimately only hurt their readers. It has the potential to drive them away from a well-engineered and carefully considered system to much more dangerous products that make truly false claims. Since the story has been published, we have repeatedly reached out to the author and the editors at The Guardian, but have received no response. Moxie Marlinspike, Signal.org.

Instagram

  • Sept.25.2018: Instagram founders quit amid suspected clash with Zuckerberg. Tension with Facebook may have prompted Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger to leave. Analysts said the departure of the pair may have been due to growing tensions with Zuckerberg over the direction of the business since Facebook bought Instagram. “Our sense is the duo may have wanted to run Instagram more independently than their parent company wanted.” At the time (of purchase) Zuckerberg said that Facebook was committed to running Instagram independently. Lynette Luna, the principal analyst at GlobalData, said she was not surprised the founders were leaving at a time when Facebook was “squeezing more advertising dollars” out of Instagram. “Facebook’s strategy has been to allow the companies it has purchased to operate independently to garner growth, and then monetise,” she said. “When they start monetising that’s when there’s a little conflict with the founders.” She said the same thing happened with WhatsApp, with both founders leaving the company in the last year over disagreements about encryption and privacy. Om Malik, a partner at the venture capital firm True Ventures, noted in a blogpost that Instagram had become increasingly crucial to Facebook’s growth prospects at a time when user growth of the core Facebook platform was slowing down. Samuel Gibbs, Kate Lyons, Olivia Solon, The Guardian.

Articles

  • Jan.25.2019: Facebook to integrate Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. Merger of three platforms would allow users to text each other without switching apps. While E2E is a valuable security measure for users, it has the side effect of preventing Facebook from scanning messages as part of its advertising business. The attempts to merge the networks could hit a stumbling block in Europe, where Facebook has once before been prevented from transferring data from WhatsApp to Facebook’s main service. In November 2016, the company was forced to halt a transfer of data following complaints from the pan-European data protection agency. Alex Hern, the Guardian.
  • Dec.15.2018: Facebook's privacy problems: a roundup. The social media giant’s troubles have led to lawsuits, House of Commons hearings and several apologies. Facebook disclosed on Friday that a bug may have affected up to 6.8 million users, allowing app developers to see photos that users had uploaded but never posted – but this was hardly the first mea culpa the social media giant has had to send out regarding data and security as of late. Here’s a quick look at Facebook’s recent issues with user privacy. Vivian Ho, The Guardian.
  • Dec.12.2018: Going off-grid? Facebook will be watching. Facebook has filed a patent application to predict your future movements and preload your phone with status updates and adverts if it looks like you are about to go offline. The “offline trajectories” system would “pre-fetch” adverts, news stories and other posts linked to users’ predicted destinations based on previous movements and data. The application sets out how Facebook already tracks users’ locations from their smartphones or tablets. If it looks like users will go offline on a railway journey, say, Facebook would send enough “content” to keep them glued to their handset for as long as they have no signal, generating advertising revenue presently lost to the company. Mark Bridge, The Times.
  • Dec.06.2018: Facebook ‘tried to secretly snoop on calls and texts’. Facebook sought to collect details of hundreds of millions of users’ phone calls and texts without permission as it feared that gathering the data openly would bring negative headlines. Details of how Facebook engineers conceived a way to prevent a “permissions” screen from appearing in the apps of Android phone users are included in a 250-page cache of company emails published by MPs yesterday. Mark Bridge, The Times.
  • Nov.14.2018: Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis. Facebook has gone on the attack as one scandal after another — Russian meddling, data sharing, hate speech — has led to a congressional and consumer backlash. In Oct.2017, Facebook also expanded its work with a Washington-based consultant, Definers Public Affairs. On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. Facebook also used Definers to take on bigger opponents, such as Mr. Soros, a longtime boogeyman to mainstream conservatives and the target of intense anti-Semitic smears on the far right. He was a natural target. In a speech at the World Economic Forum in January, he had attacked Facebook and Google, describing them as a monopolist “menace” with “neither the will nor the inclination to protect society against the consequences of their actions.” Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Matthew Rosenberg, Jack Nicas, New York Times.
  • Nov.07.2018: Facebook delays identity checks on UK political advertisers. Says it is improving process to stop abuse of disclaimer system. Facebook is delaying its plans to require British political advertisers to verify their identity The social network will bring in the requirement “in the next month”, it says, pushing back the initial deadline of Nov.07. The company had initially planned to make the system compulsory by 7 November, but in the intervening time, a damaging series of stories cast doubts on the effectiveness of the project. Alex Hern, Jim Waterson, The Guardian.
  • Oct.26.2018: Facebook fined 10 minutes’ sales over Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook was handed a £500,000 fine by the data watchdog Information Commissioner's Office yesterday for allowing the companyCambridge Analytica to access its users’ personal data without their explicit consent. Although the fine was the maximum permitted under data protection rules that applied before the new GDPR law took effect in May, it represents a tiny amount compared with Facebook’s overall revenue. Under new rules, Facebook could be fined up to $1.6 billion for a similar breach. New laws under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation will allow a company to be fined up to 4 per cent of its revenue. Francis Elliott, The Times.
  • Sept.29.2018: Facebook says nearly 50m users compromised in huge security breach. Attack gave hackers ability to take over accounts in what is believed to be largest breach in Facebook’s history. Strangely, articles about the data breach by the Guardian and the Associated Press were flagged as spam on Facebook, preventing users from sharing news of the attack on their profiles. Julia Carrie Wong, The Guardian.
  • May.22.2018: Facebook takes data from my phone – but I don't have an account!. What happens if you don't even have an account, you can't remove the app, and the social network won't leave you alone? That's a problem facing folks around the world. Why is the Facebook app trying to send and receive data on the handsets of people who don't even use the service? Facebook insisted that no personal info is being trafficked, only things like the operating system version and device type that Facebook uses to keep the app updated. Now comes the bad news: that app is going to get and stay updated whether you like it or not. A Facebook spokesperson told us the following: We have partnered with mobile operators and device manufacturers to pre-install Facebook apps on Android devices to help people have the best experience on Facebook right out of the box and during the life of the device". So there you have it, dear reader. If Facebook is glued into your Android phone, it will stay there, pinging Facebook, and you don't even have to use it. In fact, you don't even have to create a profile. But the data must flow. Shaun Nicholas, The Register.
  • May.18.2018: Facebook Android app caught seeking 'superuser' clearance. The Facebook Android app is under the spotlight after folks noticed it requesting an extraordinary amount of access privileges – specifically, requesting "superuser" access to a device, granting it full control over a handheld. For Android devices, the "superuser" classification would basically grant an app full access to the device and data stored on it. The situation is reminiscent of the May.2016 findings that Facebook's app was getting microphone access for the placement of ads, something F'book would later deny. Update: Facebook said it was a coding error which only affected a small number of people. Shaun Nicholas, The Register.
  • May.03.2018: Facebook Placed An Employee Who Harvested User Data For Cambridge Analytica On Leave. Facebook is now conducting an investigation into Joseph Chancellor, who cofounded a company that sold Facebook user information used by Cambridge Analytica. A Facebook employee, who helped harvest and sell data from millions of users of the social network for political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica in a previous job, has quietly been placed on administrative leave by the Menlo Park, California–based company. Joseph Chancellor, a quantitative social psychologist for Facebook, has been on leave for a few weeks following revelations of his role in a data privacy scandal that has rocked the Silicon Valley giant, according to two sources familiar with the situation. In March, it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a consulting company that did elections work for Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump, inappropriately obtained user data from a third-party app developer. That app company, Global Science Research (GSR), was founded by Chancellor and his research partner Aleksandr Kogan, and obtained Facebook user data on up to 87 million people. Ryan Mac, BuzzFeed News.
  • Apr.20.2018: Facebook puts 1.5bn users outside European privacy laws. Facebook has changed its terms of service to move more than 1.5 billion users outside the jurisdiction of European privacy laws before restrictions on data protection come into effect next month. Responsibility for all users outside the US, Canada and the EU will now fall to Facebook’s main offices in California, having previously been held by its international hub in Ireland. This means that data belonging to 1.5bn of the site’s 1.9bn users will be on a site governed by US law, rather than Irish, or EU, law. The change was made before the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe takes effect on May.25.2018. The laws will allow European regulators to fine companies for collecting or using personal data without consent. Katie Gibbons, The Times.
  • Apr.20.2018: Hackers advertise stolen card details on Facebook. Criminals are using hundreds of groups on Facebook to advertise stolen credit card details, cyberattacks and logins for hacked Amazon and Netflix accounts. Brian Krebs, a security researcher, identified nearly 120 groups apparently dedicated to fraud, hacking and money laundering — activities normally associated with the “dark web”. The groups had more than 300,000 members and had been on Facebook for an average of two years, although some had been active for nine years. The biggest category of groups identified by Mr Krebs promoted the sale of stolen credit and debit card details. The next largest offered automated methods for accessing user accounts of services such as Amazon, Netflix and PayPal using logins for other websites obtained from previous data breaches. Facebook took down the groups after they were reported by Mr Krebs as a security researcher. When he previously reported them anonymously, however, the company said that they did not break its rules. The groups identified by Mr Krebs were private groups, meaning members must be approved by moderators. However, some groups advertising the same services are public. Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “This is yet more troubling evidence that social media companies like Facebook are not doing nearly enough to deal with illegal activity on their platforms.” Mark Bridge, The Times.
  • Apr.15.2018: Mark Zuckerberg in Facebook ‘shadow profiles’ row. Facebook is facing a fresh barrage of attacks over its use of personal data following the revelation that it has quietly constructed a vast database of “shadow profiles” of people who have never consented to use the social media platform. The shadow profiles are built primarily by importing email and smartphone contacts from Facebook users so that, if and when a new user signs up, the company already has a detailed social map that can be used to suggest friends and target advertisements. There appears to be no straightforward way for non-users to find out what data Facebook may hold on them. Danny Fortson, The Times.
  • Apr.10.2018: Too Big to Let Others Fail Us: How Mark Zuckerberg Blamed Facebook's Problems On Openness. The message coming from Facebook’s leadership is not about how it has failed its users. Instead it's about how users — and especially developers — have failed Facebook, and how Facebook needs to step in to take exclusive control over your data. Facebook's initial response was to say that whatever Cambridge Analytica had gotten away with, the problem was already solved. ...by locking down its APIs, Facebook is giving people less power over their information and reserving that power for itself. (...) We are unwittingly hard-wiring the existence of our present day social media giants into the infrastructure of society. The next step in this hard-wiring is to crack down on all data access in ways "unauthorized" by the companies holding it. But there is an alternative: We could empower Internet users, not big Internet companies, to decide what they want to do with their private data. Danny O'Brien, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
  • Apr.04.2018: let’s browse a few of Facebook’s recent U.S.P.T.O. patent applications… In “Systems and methods of eye tracking control”, Facebook describes a system that watches your eye movements to track “the object of interest,” or “point of regard.” In “Soft matching user identifiers,“ Facebook describes how sending an innocuous event invite to your uploaded contact can trigger a “bounce-back” message, including cookies, device UUIDs, and other unique information for identity matching purposes. Next! Facebook explains a “user influence score,” and how “the user influence score can be decreased when the sender is reported to be associated, within a specified time period, with other users who are reported to be associated with undesired content.” more... Linkback: Data privacy Twitter.
  • Apr.07.2018: Facebook gives WPP new ways to Sail its Data Sea. WPP, home to some of the world's top media and data-centric ad agencies including GroupM, Kantar and Wunderman's KBM Group, is now home to more expansive Facebook data than ever before. A multi-year partnership extension gives WPP direct integration to Facebook's vast user base, allowing its agencies to build their own complex segments based on their attitudinal, purchase, location and weather data for targeting in Facebook. The deal also gives WPP new insights from Facebook topic data via a relationship with social data firm DataSift, and new ways to measure the long-term impact of Facebook marketing campaigns for brands. So, rather than going to Facebook and asking to target its off-the-shelf segment of, say, golfers, WPP can use its own array of data to create a specialized segment, then directly access the Facebook platform to find those people and know before planning a campaign how many of them there are. The company might combine purchase data from KBM with Kantar's attitudinal data and retail loyalty data from Kantar's Shopcom to build a segment of young people who buy mayonnaise but don't buy Hellmann's or Miracle Whip, for example. "It's like having a USB port into Facebook," said Nick Nyhan, CEO of WPP's Data Alliance, a cross-company organization that oversees data relationships and access for all WPP agencies. Facebook allows WPP to use its Kantar Worldpanel market and analytics data to measure total sales over time resulting from ads on the social network. The campaign measurement system will work similarly to the one Facebook has in place with Datalogix, which links Facebook ad exposure to in-store sales, but, said Mr. Nyhan, employing the Worldpanel data will give a measure over an extended period rather than serving as a gauge of direct response. Kate Kaye, Ad Age. (article also in WPP).
  • Mar.23.2018: Rise of digital politics: why UK parties spend big on Facebook. Figures released this week by the Electoral Commission are the simplest way to demonstrate the growing influence of Facebook on British politics. Political parties nationally spent about £1.3m on Facebook during the GE-2015 campaign; 2 years later the figure soared to £3.2m. In each election it was the Conservatives that spent the most, with decidedly mixed results. Sam Jeffers, co-founder of Who Targets Me, a body that tries to monitor political Facebook advertising, says the difference stems from the fact that the Conservatives had a better overall strategy in 2015. Nevertheless, the Conservative success was so striking in 2015 that every other political party and campaign group felt it had to follow suit. Dan Sabbagh, The Guardian.
  • Mar.18.2018: Cambridge Analytica accused of Facebook data grab. Facebook did not go public in 2015 when, it now says, it first discovered "that Kogan lied to us and violated our platform policies by passing data from an app that was using Facebook Login to SCL/Cambridge Analytica". Nicholas Hellen, The Times.
  • Feb.18.2018: Facebook 'tried to buy' support of anti-extremist. Fiyaz Mughal, director of the anti-Islamophobia watchdog Tell Mama, said Facebook had twice offered him valuable advertising credits on its site if he would do media interviews as an apparently independent third party to defend it when it was attacked by politicians and think tanks.
    Facebook has funded International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) at King’s College London, with £60,000 over 3 years. Professor Peter Neumann, ICSR's former director, has repeatedly defended Facebook against attacks in the press — although he strongly denies its money has influenced what he has said. Andrew Gilligan, The Times.
  • May.31.2016: Shhhh! Facebook is listening. Facebook wants to hear what you have to say. Literally. Professor Kelli Burns has verified the fact that Facebook's mobile app grants itself access to your microphone. Facebook's app access to a phone's microphone is fact, and, critically, it now appears to be turned on by default, meaning you have to dig into your phone's innards to disable it. This is not the first time Facebook has faced this charge: last year it was also accused of listening to people and selling ads in response. It said at the time that users had to turn the microphone on. But that may have changed subsequently, since most users find their microphones are on as a default for the Facebook app. Facebook says this about its use of the microphone: "We use your microphone to identify the things you're listening to or watching, based on the music and TV matches we're able to identify." Kieren McCarthy, The Register.

Timeline

ToDo: Peter Thiel, board member + investor

References

  1. ^ Facebook Has Been a Disaster for the World. How much longer are we going to allow its platform to foment hatred and undermine democracy? Jamelle Bouie, The New York Times, Sept.18.2020.