Facebook: We did ‘a test’ last year using some people's location data to suggest friends

Photo: Reuters

Facebook recently told Fusion reporter Kashmir Hill that Facebook uses location data to recommend friends. People freaked out. Facebook retracted the statement. Then, the social media giant said what, that's crazy, LOL, no. No, we didn't do that at all. Now, Facebook’s communications team tells Hill the confusion arose “because there was a brief time when the social network used location for friend suggestions,” which involved a small percentage of Facebook users and stopped last year.

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Privacy invasion? Facebook is using your phone's location data to suggest friends

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Well, this sounds like potentially a pretty big deal. Facebook is using smartphone location data to recommend new friends to users, which suggests many possible privacy invasions. This is also a technique NSA uses to track surveillance targets.

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US Customs and Border Protection wants to ask for your "online presence" at the border

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The week, the US CBP published a notice in the Federal Register proposing a change to the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record paperwork that visitors to the US fill out when they cross the border, in which they announce plans to ask travellers to "please enter information associated with your online presence." Read the rest

Oculus quietly drops DRM from its VR systems

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In May, Facebook division Oculus broke its longstanding promise not to use DRM to limit its customers' choices, deploying a system that prevented Oculus customers from porting the software they'd purchased to run on non-Oculus hardware. Read the rest

The strange genre of Mark Zuckerberg fan art

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Some of Mark Zuckerberg's truefans are so appreciative of their hero that they create art in his honor and post it to his Facebook timeline. (via Gizmodo)

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Omar Mateen posted to Facebook during Orlando mass shooting

Victims of the mass shooting early Sunday, June 12, 2016, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL.
I spoke to KCRW Press Play host Madeleine Brand today about some of the macabre social media details coming out of the Orlando Pulse mass shooting in Florida, and the terrorist attack two days later on a police officer and his family in Paris.

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Salt Lake City apartment complex threatens tenants with eviction if they don't "Friend" the building

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The landlords at City Park Apartments stuck memos on their tenants' doors last week, outlining a "Facebook addendum" requiring tenants to Friend the building on Facebook or lose their lease. Read the rest

Oculus breaks promise, uses DRM to kill app that let you switch VR systems

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As recently as 5 months ago, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey was promising his customers that they could play the software they bought from the Oculus store on "whatever they want," guaranteeing that the company wouldn't shut down apps that let customers move their purchased software to non-Oculus hardware. Read the rest

Former Facebook staff say they routinely manipulated trending news topics

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Update: Facebook released a statement on Monday afternoon: “We take allegations of bias very seriously. Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum.”

Facebook workers "routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers," reports Gizmodo, regarding the "trending" topics that are inserted in readers' feeds. This was apparently an issue of individuals working on their own initiative rather than the result of corporate policy, but they were directed to squelch news about Facebook itself and to manually inject "missing" stories into the trending topics.

These new allegations emerged after Gizmodo last week revealed details about the inner workings of Facebook’s trending news team—a small group of young journalists, primarily educated at Ivy League or private East Coast universities, who curate the “trending” module on the upper-right-hand corner of the site. As we reported last week, curators have access to a ranked list of trending topics surfaced by Facebook’s algorithm, which prioritizes the stories that should be shown to Facebook users in the trending section. The curators write headlines and summaries of each topic, and include links to news sites. The section, which launched in 2014, constitutes some of the most powerful real estate on the internet and helps dictate what news Facebook’s users—167 million in the US alone—are reading at any given moment.

In short, Facebook's "trending" stuff comes out of a newsroom-like culture, with editorial direction and values. Which would be fine, except for the fact that Facebook claims that its trending topics are an organic or algorithmic representation of user interests and activities. Read the rest

Hilary Clinton campaign ad: mashup of Republicans bashing Trump

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With the release of a pair of anti-Trump ads, the Clinton campaign has begun to fight a war on two fronts. Read the rest

Facebook morphs into a clickhole, at the expense of personal sharing

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Surveillance capitalism continues to astound and confound: as Facebook has turned into the traffic-factory life-support for ad-supported media -- and as Facebook profits from those companies by charging for "access" to their own followers -- the amount of personal sharing on Facebook is dropping off sharply. Read the rest

Egypt blocked Facebook's Internet service over surveillance demands

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Egypt blocked Facebook's Free Basics Internet service late last year after Facebook refused the Egyptian government's demands to build in the ability to spy on users. Reuters reported the story late Thursday, citing two people familiar with the matter.

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Instagram now allows videos up to a full minute long, up from 30 seconds

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Instagram just increased the time limit on user video uploads to a full minute long.

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Surveillance has reversed the net's capacity for social change

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Sociologists describe the "spiral of silence": people with socially unpopular ideas fear that they're the only ones who think that way, and say nothing, and their silence convinces others that they, too are alone, begetting yet more silence. Read the rest

Instagram is a dialup BBS

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JWZ reminds us that all social media is some variation on the walled garden strategy, designed to lock you in and lock value away from the open, interoperable Web into a silo where it languishes and rots. You know, AOL. Read the rest

Facebook shutting legal weed pages

A man gestures in support of pot legalization outside the Supreme Court in Mexico City, Nov. 4, 2015.  REUTERS
Reminder: even if cannabis is now legal in 23 states, including recreationally in some, Facebook does not want you posting about it on its website. The BBC reports on its recent crackdown on accounts and pages set up by legal dispensaries and weedy websites.

So what's the logic behind the move? Well, although the drug may be legal in some places, it's still very much illegal for others. That creates a tough dilemma for a social network like Facebook, which is used by people all over the world. Facebook's "Community Standards", which users agree to maintain when they sign up, tend to take one standard global position on issues like the promotion of drugs.

When BBC Trending contacted Facebook, they issued this official statement: "In order to maintain a safe environment on Facebook, we have Community Standards that describe what is and is not allowed on the service. Anyone can report content to us if they think it violates our standards. Our teams review these reports rapidly and will remove the content if there is a violation."

The wave of shut-downs was noticed last week, reports NBC News.

In New Jersey, where medical marijuana is legal, three of the state's five dispensaries, or Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs), they're called, had their Facebook pages shut down last week. Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center, Compassionate Sciences Alternative Treatment Center (CSATC) and Garden State Dispensary all received messages from Facebook stating their pages had been "unpublished" because content posted on their pages "doesn't follow the Facebook Terms."

The delicious part is, of course, inconsistent enforcement: it appears that weed sellers are grassing one another up to Facebook. Read the rest

Facebook's "Free Basics" and colonialism: an argument in six devastating points

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Though India's independent telcoms regulator has banned services like Facebook's "Free Basics" -- which bribed phone companies to exempt Facebook's chosen services from the carriers' punishing data-caps -- the debate rages on, as Free Basics has taken hold through many poor countries around the world. Read the rest

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