Facebook voice-to-text Messenger users got no warning of human transcribers

Wow, this is really something, even for a company as awful as Facebook.

“Facebook users who opted into voice-to-text in Messenger had NO warning about human transcribers.” Read the rest

Facebook has filed a laughable patent-application for the well-known practice of "shadow banning"

Shadow-banning is a process that dates back to at least the 1980s, with Citadel BBS's "twit bit," which would allow users to post replies to forums that they could see, but no one else could see. Read the rest

Facebook's $5B FTC fine was so laughable its stock price went UP after the announcement

In 2011, the US Federal Trade Commission put Facebook under consent decree after the company "deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly [allowed] it to be shared and made public." Read the rest

For years, the chief of the Border Patrol was a member of the secret CBP Facebook group for racist and threatening chatter

Last week, Propublica revealed the existence of "I'm 10-15", a secret Facebook group for current and former Customs and Border Protection employees -- a group with 9,500 members, while CBP's total workforce numbers 58,000 -- where it was commons for members to share violent, racist, sexist, misogynist, rape-y memes, including some that threatened and disparaged members of Congress. Read the rest

Zuck's personal head of security resigns after allegations of homophobia, transphobia, "pervasive discriminatory conduct," and "horrific levels of sexual harassment and battery"

Ex-Secret Service officer Liam Booth was the head of security for Mark Zuckerberg's "family office" and charitable foundation; two former employees accused Booth of homophobia, transphobia, "pervasive discriminatory conduct," and "horrific levels of sexual harassment and battery," saying that he had made racist remarks about Zuckerberg's wife, Priscilla Chan; that he had told a staffer that he "didn't trust Black people" and that he believed that "white lives matter more than Black lives" and had personally sabotaged Chan's attempt to hire more diverse staff; that he'd complained about the number of Black people working for the family charity; and that he'd "angrily advocat[ed] against diversity in the workplace and the movement Black Lives Matters, which he called 'reverse racism.'" Read the rest

Tim Wu rebuts Zuck's reasons for exempting Facebook from antitrust enforcement

Competition scholar and cyberlawyer Tim "Net Neutrality" Wu's (previously) latest book is The Curse of Bigness: a tight, beautifully argued case for restoring pre-Reagan antitrust approaches. Read the rest

Independent audit finds Facebook activity has fallen by 20% since Cambridge Analytica

The "business analytics" firm Mixpanel has released its figures estimating the total usage of Facebook (liking, sharing and posting) since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke; they showed usage falling off 10% in the first month following from the news of the scandal, and continuing to fall, with overall usage down by 20% since April 2018. Read the rest

Facebook execs are worried that Zuck's emails show he never took his FTC privacy obligations seriously

In 2012, Facebook settled an FTC privacy investigation by promising a host of privacy protections (that they never delivered on); now, the FTC is probing Facebook's noncompliance and they've demanded that the company let them look at Zuck's email, which prompted the company's legal team to have a look therein, and they really didn't like what they saw. Read the rest

68% of "ordinary Facebook investors" voted to fire Zuckerberg

Every year, activist investors try to get Mark Zuckerberg to resign for the good of the company, citing his incompetent handling of the company's endless string of privacy scandals and his inability to steer the business towards a scandal-free, sustainable future: in 2018, 51% of the company's "ordinary investors" (shareholders apart from Zuck, his board and his employees) voted to fire Zuckerberg; this year, the bloc calling for his resignation represented $3B in Facebook investments. Read the rest

Speech Police: vital, critical look at the drive to force Big Tech to control who may speak and what they may say

David Kaye (previously) has served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression since 2014 -- a critical half-decade in the evolution of free speech both online and offline; in Speech Police: The Global Struggle to Govern the Internet a new, short book from Columbia Special Reports, Kaye provides a snapshot of the global state of play for expression, as governments, platforms, and activists act out of a mix of both noble and corrupt motives to control online discourse. Read the rest

What the FTC should do AFTER it fines Facebook $3-5B

Facebook is about to pay the largest privacy-related fine in US history: $3-5B (the company made $3.3B in Q1/2019).

The FTC's fines are a nice start, but fines are just part of the cost of doing business. To change Facebook's conduct, the FTC should impose structural changes on the company, and EFF's Bennett Cyphers has some suggestions: ban third-party tracking; prohibit the combining of data from Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook; and ban the company from targeting ads with information from data brokers.

That's for starters.

Stop Third-Party Tracking

Facebook uses “Like” buttons, invisible Pixel conversion trackers, and ad code in mobile apps to track its users nearly any time they use the Internet—even when they’re off Facebook products. This program allows Facebook to build nauseatingly detailed profiles of users’—and non-users’—personal activity. Facebook’s unique ability to match third-party website activity to real-world identities also gives it a competitive advantage in both the social media and third-party ad markets. The FTC should order Facebook to stop linking data it collects outside of Facebook with user profiles inside the social network.

Don’t Merge WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Data

Facebook has announced plans to build a unified chat platform so that users can send messages between WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram accounts seamlessly. Letting users of different services talk to each other is reasonable, and Facebook’s commitment to end-to-end encryption for the unified service is great (if it’s for real). But in order to link the services together, Facebook will likely need to merge account data from its disparate properties.

Read the rest

Facebook's Dutch Head of Policy lied to the Dutch parliament about election interference

Hans from the Dutch activist group Bits of Freedom writes, "Wednesday May 15, 2019, Facebook’s Head of Public Policy for the Netherlands spoke at a round table in the House of Representatives about data and democracy. The Facebook employee reassured members of parliament that Facebook has implemented measures to prevent election manipulation. He stated: 'You can now only advertise political messages in a country, if you’re a resident of that country.' Bits of Freedom then went on to show how easy it was to buy political ads targeting people in Germany from the Netherlands and vice versa." Read the rest

Europe's top trustbuster thinks it'll be impossible to break up Facebook

Margrethe Vestager (previously) is the EU Commissioner responsible for handing out billions in fines to Big Tech to punish them for monopolistic practices. Read the rest

Facebook's "celebration" and "memories" algorithms are auto-generating best-of-terror-recruiting pages for extremist groups

Facebook isn't very good at selling you things on behalf of its advertisers, so the company has to gather as much data as possible on you and use it keep you clicking as much as possible in the hopes of eventually scoring a hit with its targeting system, and that means that it often commits unwitting -- but utterly predictable -- acts of algorithmic cruelty. Read the rest

Google mistakenly started handing out a reporter's cellphone number to people searching for Facebook tech support

If Facebook is broken for you in some way large or small, you can't call them to complain -- the company doesn't have a customer service number, it has a "support portal" for people suffering with the service, which combines the worst of autoresponders with the worst of underpaid, three-ring-binder constrained support staff to make a system that runs like a cost-conscious version of Kafka's "The Trial." Read the rest

Co-founder of Facebook calls for breakup of Facebook

Chris Hughes co-founded Facebook with Mark Zukerberg, and describes Zuckerberg in warm terms as a friend, but in a long op-ed for the New York Times, Hughes calls for the breakup of Facebook and identifies Zuckerberg's shortsighted prioritization of "clicks" instead of "security and civility" for the platform's toxicity, blaming the company's unusual share structure (which gives Zuckerberg an absolute veto over all matters of company policy despite holding a minority of its shares) for a situation in which Zuckerberg is surrounded by yes-men who never check his worst impulses. Read the rest

"Steering With the Windshield Wipers": why nothing we're doing to fix Big Tech is working

My latest Locus column is "Steering with the Windshield Wipers," and it ties together the growth of Big Tech with the dismantling of antitrust law (which came about thanks to Robert Bork's bizarre alternate history of antitrust, a theory so ridiculous that it never would have gained traction except that it promised to make rich people a lot richer). Read the rest

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