FTC’s Facebook investigation could focus on Zuckerberg

Several federal agencies launched their own probe into the massive Cambridge Analytica scandal after it exploded in 2018. That was when one of the political consulting firm’s employees revealed that it harvested millions of Facebook users’ data without their knowledge and used it for political purposes. At the moment, the social network is under investigation by the FTC, the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department.

While the FTC doesn’t typically hold executives accountable for their companies’ business practices, both its Democratic members support targeting executives when appropriate. The commission even considered taking aim at Zuckerberg during its last settlement with the social network over [...]  read more

Facebook now says its password leak affected ‘millions’ of Instagram users

Facebook has confirmed its password-related security incident last month now affects “millions” of Instagram users, not “tens of thousands” as first thought.

The social media giant confirmed the new information in its updated blog post, first published on March 21.

“We discovered additional logs of Instagram passwords being stored in a readable format,” the company said. “We now estimate that this issue impacted millions of Instagram users. We will be notifying these users as we did the others.”

“Our investigation has determined that these stored passwords were not internally abused or improperly accessed,” the updated post said, but the company still has not said how it made that determination.

The social media giant did not say how many millions were affected, however.

Last month, Facebook admitted it had inadvertently stored “hundreds of millions” of user account passwords in plaintext for years, said to have dated as far back as 2012. The company said the unencrypted [...]  read more

Facebook is discontinuing P2P payments in Messenger in the UK and France on June 15

Facebook is pulling away from its ambitions to provide peer-to-peer money transfers via Messenger in Europe. Today, the company announced that it would be discontinuing the service — which let individuals send money to each other — in the two countries in the region where it had rolled it out, the UK and France on June 15 of this year. It appears that for now, the service will remain active in the US, where Facebook holds a number of money transmitter licenses.

It’s not shutting down payments altogether in Europe: it will continue to let people make charitable donations through Facebook itself.

“On 15 June 2019, we will discontinue P2P services on Messenger or through Facebook messages for all residents in the UK and France,” the company noted in a short statement on its main help page for the payments service. [...]  read more

Journalist Carole Cadwalladr says ‘the gods of Silicon Valley’ have broken democracy

On the same day that she became a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her work bringing the Cambridge Analytica scandal to light, journalist Carole Cadwalladr took the stage at TED to “address you directly, the gods of Silicon Valley.”

Cadwalladr began her talk by recounting a trip she took after the Brexit referendum, back to her hometown in South Wales.

She recalled feeling “a weird sense of unreality” walking around a town filled with new infrastructure funded by the European Union, while being told by residents that the EU had done nothing for them. Similarly, she said they told her about the dangers of immigration, even though they lived in a town with “one of the lowest rates of immigration in the country.”

Cadwalladr said she began to understand where those sentiments were coming from after her story ran, and someone contacted her about seeing scary, misleading ads about Turkey and Turkish immigration on  [...]  read more

Facebook prototypes a swipeable hybrid carousel of feed posts & Stories

Feed and Stories unite! Facebook is so eager to preempt the shift to Stories that it might even let us use the same interface of horizontally swipeable cards to sift through News Feed posts. If users won’t scroll down any more, Facebook’s ad business could take a huge hit. But by allowing traditional feed posts and ads to appear amidst Stories in the same carousel you’re more prone to swipe through, it could squeeze more views and dollars out of that content. This would help Facebook gracefully transition to the post-News Feed era while it teaches advertisers how to use the full-screen Stories ad format.

In this image, you can see a user in mid-swipe through the hybrid carousel between a News Feed story about a friend updating their profile photo to an animated GIF-style video on the left and a Stories video on the right.

We’re awaiting comment from Facebook about this. There’s a chance it was just caused by a bug like the briefly [...]  read more

Facebook taps Peggy Alford for its board, Reed Hastings and Erskine Bowles to depart

Facebook’s board is undergoing its biggest shakeup in memory. On Friday, the company announced that Peggy Alford would be nominated to join the company’s board of directors.

“Peggy is one of those rare people who’s an expert across many different areas — from business management to finance operations to product development,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said of the change. “I know she will have great ideas that help us address both the opportunities and challenges facing our company.”

Alford, currently senior vice president of Core Markets for PayPal, will become the first black woman to serve on Facebook’s board. She previously served as the chief financial officer of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s massive charitable foundation.

Facebook announced some serious departures along with the news of Alford’s nomination. Longtime Facebook board members  [...]  read more

Facebook spent $20 million last year on Zuckerberg’s personal protection

2018 was by all means a very rough year for Facebook. The company, which spent the year reeling from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and a general bubbling-up of public anger, also had to deal with animosity toward the company’s founder, and gave the executive a lot of cash to handle a full security detail for himself and his family.

While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg takes a $1 annual salary and does not earn an annual bonus, he gets millions in “other compensation” largely related to security costs. In an SEC document published this afternoon, the company reveals that Zuckerberg earned more than $22 million in “other compensation” in 2018, up from more than $9 million in 2017.

About $2.6 million of the 2018 figure is compensation for Zuckerberg’s personal travel on a private jet, but nearly $20 million of that figure is related to Zuckerberg’s personal security costs.

He was awarded $9,956,847 in pre-tax 2018 income for security related to his personal travel and residential [...]  read more

The chat feature may soon return to Facebook’s mobile app

Facebook upset millions upon millions of users five years ago when it removed chat from its core mobile app and forced them to download Messenger to communicate privately with friends. Now it looks like it might be able to restore the option inside the Facebook app.

That’s according to a discovery from researcher Jane Manchun Wong who discovered an unreleased feature that brings limited chat features back into the core social networking app. Wong’s finding suggests that, at this point, calling, photo sharing and reactions won’t be supported inside the Facebook app chat feature, but it remains to be seen if that is simply because it is currently in development.

It is unclear whether the feature will ship to users at all since this is a test. Messenger, which has over 1.3 billion monthly users, will likely stick but this change would give users other options for chatting to friends.

We’ve contacted Facebook for comment, although we’re yet to hear back from the company. We’ll update [...]  read more

Democrats draw up bill that would require tech platforms to assess algorithmic bias

Democratic lawmakers have proposed a bill to address the algorithmic biases lurking under the surface of tech’s biggest platforms. The bill, known as the Algorithmic Accountability Act, was introduced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY) will sponsor parallel legislation in the House.

The bill is well timed. Over the last month alone, Facebook found itself settling over discriminatory practices that affected job ads as well as drawing civil charges from the Department of Housing and Urban Development over similar issues with its housing ad targeting tools. The present bill targets companies that make more than $50 million a year, though any company holding data on more than one million users would be subject to its requirements.

Like yesterday’s proposed Senate bill addressing dark pattern design, the Algorithmic Accountability Act (PDF[...]  read more

Instagram now demotes vaguely “inappropriate” content

Instagram is home to plenty of scantily-clad models and edgy memes that may start to get fewer views starting today. Now Instagram says “We have begun reducing the spread of posts that are inappropriate but do not go against Instagram’s Community Guidelines”. That means if a post is sexually suggestive, but doesn’t depict a sex act or nudity, it could still get demoted. Similarly, if a meme doesn’t constitute hate speech or harassment, but is considered in bad taste, lewd, violent, or hurtful, it could get fewer views.

Specifically, Instagram says “this type of content may not appear for the broader community in Explore or hashtag pages” which could severely hurt the ability of creators to gain new followers. The news came amidst a flood of “Integrity” announcements from Facebook to safeguard its family of apps revealed today at a press event a the company’s Menlo Park headquarters.

“We’ve started to use machine learning to determine if the actual media posted [...]  read more