Sharing privately with friends on Facebook — may have been very public

❝ As many as 14 million Facebook users who thought they were posting items they only wanted their friends or smaller groups to see may have been posting that content publicly, the company said Thursday.

According to Facebook, a software bug — which was live for 10 days in May — updated the audience for some users’ posts to “public” without any warning. Facebook typically lets users select the audiences who get to see posts; that setting is “sticky,” which means it remains the default until it is manually updated.

And then there’s a school of thought that believes there never was a bug. Just a switch clicked or left switched on – accidentally.

Cambridge Analytica shuts down — and Emerdata is open for business!

❝ Embattled psychographics firm Cambridge Analytica and its affiliated company SCL Elections announced on 2 May 2018 they will file for insolvency following scandal over its misuse of millions of Facebook users’ data in relation to consequential elections.

Some of the firm’s key officials have migrated to a new company, Emerdata, even as questions remain about where that data might be. According to business filings in the UK, Cambridge Analytica funder Rebekah Mercer and her sister Jennifer are listed as Emerdata directors, as are former acting chief executive officers Alexander Tayler and Julian Wheatland.

Former CEO Alexander Nix was also listed as an Emerdata director, but resigned. Nix was suspended by Cambridge Analytica’s board after Britain’s Channel 4 published an undercover camera investigation in which he was caught discussing dirty election tricks like using sex workers to seduce and then blackmail candidates.

❝ New York-based investigative journalist Wendy Siegelman, who first reported on Emerdata, told us that some have expressed concern that closing some of the company’s operations could be an attempt to hinder access to data by investigators…

Like, um, CA is closed down. I guess we don’t need to keep any info anymore on who bought our dirty tricks albums, eh?

Thanks, Om Malik

Trump’s data pimps kept Facebook info they said was deleted

Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica, a data-analysis firm that worked for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, over allegations that it held onto improperly obtained user data after telling Facebook it had deleted the information.

…Facebook said, Cambridge Analytica received user data from a Facebook app that purported to be a psychological research tool, though the firm wasn’t authorized to have that information. Roughly 270,000 people downloaded the app and shared their personal details with it…

Cambridge Analytica later certified in 2015 that it had destroyed the information that it received, according to Facebook, although the social network said it received reports “several days ago” that not all the data was deleted.

❝ While it investigates the matter, Facebook has also suspended the access of Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, Strategic Communication Laboratories; the academic who created the app in question, a University of Cambridge psychology professor named Aleksandr Kogan; and another individual, Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, who also allegedly received the user data from the app.

Many big, successful geeky firms pride themselves on high standards, privacy protection. Some are as sleazy as the worst of the creeps populating corporate admin. Going to spend much time online – in a world where the fastest communications and info are Web-dependent – better learn who you should trust and shouldn’t.

Bigoted adverts still make it into Facebook

❝ After ProPublica revealed last year that Facebook advertisers could target housing ads to whites only, the company announced it had built a system to spot and reject discriminatory ads. We retested and found major omissions…

❝ Last week, ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads on Facebook, but asked that they not be shown to certain categories of users, such as African Americans, mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina and Spanish speakers…

Every single ad was approved within minutes.

The only ad that took longer than three minutes to be approved by Facebook sought to exclude potential renters “interested in Islam, Sunni Islam and Shia Islam.” It was approved after 22 minutes…

❝ Under its own policies, Facebook should have flagged these ads, and prevented the posting of some of them. Its failure to do so revives questions about whether the company is in compliance with federal fair housing rules, as well as about its ability and commitment to police discriminatory advertising on the world’s largest social network.

Long, detailed article – including answers and promised solutions from Facebook. They didn’t work.

Apple, Facebook, Twitter and more say they won’t help Trump build a registry of Muslim-Americans

Twitter was the first big tech company to say it would refuse to hand over data to help the United States government build a registry President-elect Donald Trump has described that would be used specifically to track Muslim-Americans…

As of Friday, companies including Facebook, Apple, Google, IBM, Uber and Microsoft have all chimed in to likewise refuse to hand over data to help build a database that would profile Muslim-Americans…

❝ Trump’s potential plan to create a registry of Muslim-Americans was a topic that surfaced repeatedly on the campaign trail. And, unlike many of Trump’s campaign promises, this one may actually be on the table. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a member of Trump’s transition team, said that after the election, Trump’s policy advisers began discussing a proposal to build the registry…

❝ Trump has promised to be heavy on surveillance, which has long required the cooperation of technology companies that collect user data to provide services and sell ads. Companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google get so many requests for user data from the government and law enforcement that they voluntarily publish regular transparency reports to detail, in broad figures, how these requests are made and fulfilled…

❝ Twitter, the one major tech company noticeably absent from Trump’s tech summit, has long had an anti-surveillance rule. Earlier this year, Twitter shut off access to at least two different companies that were providing surveillance services to U.S. law enforcement efforts.

Nice to see a number of money-making geeks still care about constitutional freedoms. Even even a few that our elected officials in Congress and the White House haven’t gotten round to explicitly codifying. Like privacy.

Sleazy surveillance firm selling your Facebook, Twitter data to police departments

❝ Business isn’t good at a Chicago tech company that was outed last month for its practice of buying social media data and re-selling it to police.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that Geofeedia had been given access to data by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, which Geofeedia used to build software products for police that the ACLU called “surveillance tools.” Facebook and Instagram took cut off Geofeedia’s access in September, and Twitter blocked access after reviewing the ACLU report in October.

❝ Losing access to those social media data feeds seems to have had a big impact on Geofeedia’s business. A Geofeedia spokesperson today told the Chicago Tribune that it laid off 31 employees out of about 60 total…

Nice to see a company lose out because their opportunist corruption of civil liberties is turned out.

❝ The company…claimed more than 500 customers, including police agencies in Chicago, Denver, Seattle, and Baltimore. Denver police paid $30,000 for a one-year subscription. In a funding request, a Denver police lieutenant said the service would be used to monitor large public events, like Denver’s annual marijuana rally and Martin Luther King Day march.

I hope there aren’t too many fools out there thinking this invasion of privacy and civil liberties is going to retreat anytime soon. Not so incidentally, how about inquiring if your city has been sending these scumbags a monthly check?

Four students solve Facebook’s fake-news problem in 36 hours

❝ Facebook is facing increasing criticism over its role in the 2016 US presidential election because it allowed propaganda lies disguised as news stories to spread on the social-media site unchecked…

❝ Business Insider’s Alyson Shontell called Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s reaction to this criticism “tone-deaf.” His public stance is that fake news is such a small percentage of the stuff shared on Facebook that it couldn’t have had an impact. This even while Facebook has officially vowed to do better and insisted that ferreting out the real news from the lies is a difficult technical problem.

❝ Just how hard of a problem is it for an algorithm to determine real news from lies?

Not that hard.

During a hackathon at Princeton University, four college students created one in the form of a Chrome browser extension in just 36 hours. They named their project “FiB: Stop living a lie.”

❝ The students are Nabanita De, a second-year master’s student in computer science student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Anant Goel, a freshman at Purdue University; Mark Craft, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Qinglin Chen, a sophomore also at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

❝ Their News Feed authenticity checker…classifies every post, be it pictures, adult content pictures, fake links, malware links, fake news links as verified or non-verified using artificial intelligence…

The browser plug-in then adds a little tag in the corner that says whether the story is verified.

Game, set and match. Facebook is one of the sponsors of that hackathon. Better take a closer look at the coders, Zuck.

Facebook decides whether Palestinian editors can publish — or not

Facebook is deciding how the media should do its job again, even though CEO Mark Zuckerberg has insisted it’s “not a media company.” This time, two Palestinian news organizations say one of their Facebook pages, and the personal accounts of seven editors and executives, were suspended, al Jazeera reported. This prevented them from accessing their organizations’ Facebook pages, which collectively have 11 million “likes.”

The news organizations allege that the suspensions were the result of an agreement Facebook struck with Israel earlier this month to monitor incitement to violence on the platform. Facebook says it was a mistake with the way it handles accounts that have been flagged for review.

❝ Facebook reinstated the accounts over the weekend (Sept. 24) and apologized…Blah, blah, blah.

I think it was a warning on behalf of the Netanyahu government.

I contributed – a while back – to a Facebook site that averages 5 million hits a week – that was periodically shutdown, blocked or otherwise had access limited because it was critical of Israel’s apartheid policies. None of this surprises me.

❝ The system has caused outrage before, as was the case recently in Norway, when it removed posts with a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph — the “napalm girl” of the Vietnam war — because it depicted a child’s nude form. Facebook reversed its position after Norway’s prime minister got involved.

Corporate politics, today, ain’t especially different from the class history of corporate politics. The reach is global, focused or broad in effect. Only the industries and sophistication have changed. Or not.