Facebook may have scrapped talks to buy Houseparty over antitrust concerns

It was reportedly in discussions last year to buy Houseparty, a group video chat app from the team behind Meerkat. However, it ended the talks after a few weeks, according to the New York Times. Sources told the paper Facebook ultimately decided buying another sizeable player in the social networking space posed too much of an antitrust risk. Epic Games eventually bought Houseparty in June.

The FTC reportedly discovered documents that gave it cause for concern on the antitrust front when it investigated the company last year over its privacy practices. Facebook ultimately agreed to pay an FTC fine of $5 billion related to its privacy issues, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The agency received approval from the Justice Department to start an antitrust investigation into the company earlier this year, the NYT reported. Since then, investigators are said to have contacted several founders of companies Facebook has bought to gain insight into its acquisition methods. Engadget [...]  read more

Facebook could face billions in potential damages as court rules facial recognition lawsuit can proceed

Facebook is facing exposure to billions of dollars in potential damages as a federal appeals court on Thursday rejected Facebook’s arguments to halt a class action lawsuit claiming it illegally collected and stored the biometric data of millions of users.

The class action lawsuit has been working its way through the courts since 2015, when Illinois Facebook users sued the company for alleged violations of the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act by automatically collecting and identifying people in photographs posted to the service.

Now, thanks to an unanimous decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the lawsuit can proceed.

The most significant language from the decision from the circuit court seems to be this:

 We conclude that the development of face template using facial-recognition technology without consent (as alleged here) invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests. Similar conduct is actionable at common law.

The  [...]  read more

Facebook still full of groups trading fake reviews, says consumer group

Facebook has failed to clean up the brisk trade in fake product reviews taking place on its platform, an investigation by the consumer association Which? has found.

In June both Facebook and eBay were warned by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) they needed to do more to tackle the sale of fake product reviews. On eBay sellers were offering batches of five-star product reviews in exchange for cash, while Facebook’s platform was found hosting multiple groups were members solicited writers of fake reviews in exchange for free products or cash (or both).

A follow-up look at the two platforms by Which? has found a “significant improvement” in the number of eBay listings selling five-star reviews — with the group saying it found just one listing selling five-star reviews after the CMA’s intervention.

But little appears to have been done to prevent Facebook groups trading in fake reviews — with Which? finding dozens of Facebook groups that it said “continue [...]  read more

UK watchdog eyeing PM Boris Johnson’s Facebook ads data grab

The online campaigning activities of the UK’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson, have already caught the eye of the country’s data protection watchdog.

Responding to concerns about the scope of data processing set out in the Conservative Party’s Privacy Policy being flagged to it by a Twitter user, the Information Commissioner’s Office replied that: “This is something we are aware of and we are making enquiries.”

The Privacy Policy is currently being attached to an online call to action that ask Brits to tell the party what the most “important issue” to them and their family is, alongside submitting their personal data.

Anyone sending their contact details to the party is also asked to pick from a pre-populated list of 18 issues the three most important to them. The list runs the gamut from the National Health Service to brexit, terrorism, the environment, housing, racism [...]  read more

Instagram and Facebook are experiencing outages

Users reported issues with Instagram and Facebook Sunday morning.

[Update as of 12:45 p.m. pacific] Facebook says the outage affecting its apps has been resolved.

“Earlier today some people may have had trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps due to a networking issue. We have resolved the issue and are fully back up, we apologize for the inconvenience,” a Facebook company spokesperson said in a statement provided to TechCrunch.

The mobile apps wouldn’t load for many users beginning in the early hours of the morning, prompting thousands to take to Twitter to complain about the outage. #facebookdown and #instagramdown are both trending on Twitter at time of publish.

social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #techcrunch http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Techcrunch/~3/pWQvtVYFQ64/

Facebook to admit ownership of Instagram, WhatsApp in barely visible small-print

For the first time in more than half a decade, Facebook wants to inform you that it owns Instagram, the hyper-popular rival social networking app it acquired for a $1BN steal back in 2012.

Ditto messaging platform WhatsApp — which Mark Zuckerberg splurged $19BN on a couple of years later to keep feeding eyeballs into his growth engine.

Facebook is adding its own brand name alongside the other two — in the following format: ‘Instagram from Facebook’; ‘WhatsApp from Facebook.’

The cheap perfume style rebranding was first reported by The Information which cites three people familiar with the matter who told it employees for the two apps were recently notified internally of the plan to rebrand.

“The move to add Facebook’s name to the apps has been met with surprise and confusion internally, reflecting the autonomy that the units have operated under,” it said. Although it also reported that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also been frustrated that Facebook doesn’t get more credit [...]  read more

Don’t miss this epic Twitter fight between the IAB’s CEO and actual publishers

Grab popcorn. As internet fights go, this one deserves your full attention — because the fight is over your attention. Your eyeballs and the creepy ads that trade data on you to try to swivel ’em.

A Clockwork Orange Eyes GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

In the blue corner, the Internet Advertising Association’s CEO, Randall Rothenberg, who has been taking to Twitter increasingly loudly in recent days to savage Europe’s privacy framework, the GDPR, and bleat dire warnings about California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) — including amplifying studies he claims show “the negative impact” on publishers.

Exhibit A, tweeted August 1:

NB: The IAB is a mixed membership industry organization which combines advertisers, brands, publishers, data brokers* and adtech platform tech giants — including the dominant adtech duopoly, Google and Facebook, who take home ~60% of [...]  read more

Facebook defends decision not to ban fake news from politicians

“I understand that your preference would be for Facebook to remove all content that you believe constitutes misinformation – which in this instance mean all content that discussed whether or not Labor intends to introduce a death tax – rather than demote it; however Facebook only removes content that violates our community standards,” wrote Milner. The executive insisted that the company had invested significantly in the Australian government’s efforts to “safeguard” the 2019 federal election.

Opponents of Australia’s Labor Party played a part in spreading fake news about the party’s tax policy. Back in January, Liberal treasurer Josh Frydenberg published a media release that falsely claimed that the Labor Party was going to impose a death tax. Minor political parties such as Clive [...]  read more

Week in Review: Regulation boogaloo

Hello, weekenders. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about how services like Instagram had moved beyond letting their algorithms take over the curation process as they tested minimizing key user metrics such as “like” counts on the platform.

John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The big story

The big news stories this week intimately involved the government poking its head into the tech industry. What was clear between the two biggest stories, the DoJ approving the Sprint/T-Mobile merger and the FTC giving Facebook a $5 billion slap on the wrist, is that big tech has little to worry about its inertia being contained.

It seems the argument from Spring and  [...]  read more

The Great Hack tells us data corrupts 

This week professor David Carroll, whose dogged search for answers to how his personal data was misused plays a focal role in The Great Hack: Netflix’s documentary tackling the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, quipped that perhaps a follow up would be more punitive for the company than the $5BN FTC fine released the same day.

The documentary — which we previewed ahead of its general release Wednesday — does an impressive job of articulating for a mainstream audience the risks for individuals and society of unregulated surveillance capitalism, despite the complexities involved in the invisible data ‘supply chain’ that feeds the beast. Most obviously by trying to make these digital social emissions visible to the viewer — as mushrooming pop-ups overlaid on shots of smartphone users going about their everyday business, largely unaware of the pervasive tracking it enables.

 [...]  read more