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Paul Merrell

Facebook to Pay $550 Million to Settle Facial Recognition Suit - The New York Times - 1 views

  • Facebook said on Wednesday that it had agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over its use of facial recognition technology in Illinois, giving privacy groups a major victory that again raised questions about the social network’s data-mining practices.The case stemmed from Facebook’s photo-labeling service, Tag Suggestions, which uses face-matching software to suggest the names of people in users’ photos. The suit said the Silicon Valley company violated an Illinois biometric privacy law by harvesting facial data for Tag Suggestions from the photos of millions of users in the state without their permission and without telling them how long the data would be kept. Facebook has said the allegations have no merit.Under the agreement, Facebook will pay $550 million to eligible Illinois users and for the plaintiffs’ legal fees. The sum dwarfs the $380.5 million that the Equifax credit reporting agency agreed this month to pay to settle a class-action case over a 2017 consumer data breach.
Paul Merrell

California's Attorney General joins the long list of people who have had it with Facebo... - 0 views

  • California’s attorney general has gone to court to force Facebook to hand over documents as part of an investigation into the company. Xavier Becerra filed a “petition to enforce investigative subpoena” with the Superior Court of California in San Francisco on Wednesday morning, arguing that Facebook’s response to his subpoenas has been “patently inadequate.” Citing a “lack of cooperation” not just with his office but also the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Xavier Becerra points out [PDF] that it took Facebook a year to respond to his initial inquiry to produce documents relating to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where Facebook allowed a third party to access vast amounts of personal information through its systems.
  • Not only that but Facebook flat out refused to “search communications involving senior executives,” meaning that it refused to search for relevant information in the emails and other communications of CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, among others. “Facebook is not just continuing to drag its feet, it is failing to comply with lawfully issued subpoenas and interrogatories,” the filing states.
  • The filing comes the same day that 7,000 pages of internal Facebook files were published online. Those documents were obtained and leaked amid a lawsuit between Facebook and a third-party app developer and were labelled as “highly confidential” by the antisocial network. The main upshot of those files is that they show Facebook used the data it gathered on millions of its users as a business weapon: it provided people's profile information to companies that, for instance, agreed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on adverts within Facebook, and it cut off developers that posed a competitive threat to its ever-growing stable of companies and services (or developers that wouldn't pay up, or were just too sketchy for the internet giant.) This confirms earlier reporting. CEO Zuckerberg also continues to avoid visiting London, or anywhere in the UK, out of fear he will be arrested for repeatedly failing to comply with a request by Parliament to answer questions about Facebook’s actions, as revealed in the tranche of documents.
Paul Merrell

Time to 'Break Facebook Up,' Sanders Says After Leaked Docs Show Social Media Giant 'Tr... - 0 views

  • After NBC News on Wednesday published a trove of leaked documents that show how Facebook "treated user data as a bargaining chip with external app developers," White House hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders declared that it is time "to break Facebook up."
  • When British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell first shared the trove of documents with a handful of media outlets including NBC News in April, journalists Olivia Solon and Cyrus Farivar reported that "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg oversaw plans to consolidate the social network's power and control competitors by treating its users' data as a bargaining chip, while publicly proclaiming to be protecting that data." With the publication Wednesday of nearly 7,000 pages of records—which include internal Facebook emails, web chats, notes, presentations, and spreadsheets—journalists and the public can now have a closer look at exactly how the company was using the vast amount of data it collects when it came to bargaining with third parties.
  • The document dump comes as Facebook and Zuckerberg are facing widespread criticism over the company's political advertising policy, which allows candidates for elected office to lie in the ads they pay to circulate on the platform. It also comes as 47 state attorneys general, led by Letitia James of New York, are investigating the social media giant for antitrust violations.
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  • According to Solon and Farivar of NBC: Taken together, they show how Zuckerberg, along with his board and management team, found ways to tap Facebook users' data—including information about friends, relationships, and photos—as leverage over the companies it partnered with. In some cases, Facebook would reward partners by giving them preferential access to certain types of user data while denying the same access to rival companies. For example, Facebook gave Amazon special access to user data because it was spending money on Facebook advertising. In another case the messaging app MessageMe was cut off from access to data because it had grown too popular and could compete with Facebook.
  • The call from Sanders (I-Vt.) Wednesday to break up Facebook follows similar but less definitive statements from the senator. One of Sanders' rivals in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), released her plan to "Break Up Big Tech" in March. Zuckerberg is among the opponents of Warren's proposal, which also targets other major technology companies like Amazon and Google.
Paul Merrell

U.S. vs. Facebook: A Playbook for SEC, DOJ and EDNY - 0 views

  • Six4Three recently published a playbook for the FTC to get to the bottom of Facebook’s secretive deals selling user data without privacy controls. In light of The New York Times article reporting multiple criminal investigations into Facebook surrounding these secretive deals, we’re publishing the playbook for criminal investigators.Perhaps the most important recognition at the outset is that the secretive deals that have been reported, whether those with a handful of device manufacturers or with 150 large technology companies, are just the tip of the iceberg. Those secretive deals handing over user data in exchange for gobs of cash were merely part and parcel of a much broader illegal scheme that begins with Facebook’s transition to mobile in 2012 and continues to this very day. We believe this illegal scheme amounts to a clear RICO violation. The United Kingdom Parliament agrees. Here’s how criminal investigators can overcome Facebook’s incredibly effective concealment campaign and bring a viable RICO case.Facebook’s pattern of racketeering activity is a play in three acts from at least 2012 to present. The first act is all about the desperation resulting from the collapse of Facebook’s desktop advertising business right around its IPO and the various securities violations that resulted. The second act is about covering up those securities violations by illegally building its mobile advertising business via extortion and wire fraud in order to close the gap in Facebook’s revenue projections before the world took notice, which likely resulted in additional securities violations. The third act is about covering up the extortion and wire fraud by lying to government officials investigating Facebook while continuing to effectuate the scheme. We are still in the third act.For almost a decade now Facebook has been covering up one illegal act with another in order to hide how it managed to ramp up its mobile advertising business faster than any other business in the history of capitalism. The abuses of Facebook’s data, from Russian interference in the 2016 election to Cambridge Analytica and Brexit, all stem in substantial part from the decisions Facebook knowingly, willfully and maliciously made to facilitate this criminal conspiracy. Put simply, Facebook’s transition to mobile destabilized the world.
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    This is so reminiscent of Microsoft tactics at the point that antitrust regulators stepped in.
Paul Merrell

Lessons (So Far) From WhatsApp v. NSO - Lawfare - 0 views

  • NSO Group, an Israeli vendor of “lawful” hacking tools designed to infect a target’s phone with spyware, is regarded by many as a bad actor. The group claims to be shocked when its products are misused, as they have been in Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. One incident might be excusable, but the group’s continued enabling of misbehavior has resulted in well-earned enmity. Recently, Facebook struck back. NSO Group deployed a weaponized exploit for Facebook’s WhatsApp messenger, integrated it into its Pegasus malcode system, and offered it to its customers (a mix of legitimate government agencies and nefarious government actors) interested in hacking WhatsApp users beginning in April. This was a particularly powerful exploit because it required no user interaction and the only sign of the exploit a user might discover would be a series of “missed calls” received on the user’s phone. Facebook patched the vulnerability on May 13, blocking the NSO campaign. Facebook wasn’t satisfied with simply closing the vulnerability. In cooperation with CitizenLab, Facebook identified more than 100 incidents in which NSO Group’s WhatsApp exploit appeared to target human rights activists and journalists. In total, Facebook and CitizenLab identified 1,400 targets (which apparently also included government officials in U.S. allied governments). They then filed a federal lawsuit against NSO Group, closed NSO Group member accounts, and, most damaging of all to NSO’s customers, sent a notice to all identified victims alerting them of the attack. This meant that all targets, both dissidents and drug lords alike, were notified of this surveillance. The lawsuit will be a case to watch. Facebook has already revealed a large amount of detail concerning NSO Group’s internal workings, including the hands-on nature of its business model: NSO Group actively assists countries in hacking targets. For example, we now know that while an NSO Group employee may not press the “Enter” key for a target, NSO employees do act to advise and consult on targeting; and NSO Group is largely responsible for running the infrastructure used to exploit targets and manage implants. Expect more revelations like this as the case proceeds.
Paul Merrell

WhatsApp sues Israel's NSO for allegedly helping spies hack phones around the world - R... - 0 views

  • WhatsApp sued Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group on Tuesday, accusing it of helping government spies break into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents in a hacking spree whose targets included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.
  • In a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco, messaging service WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook Inc (FB.O), accused NSO of facilitating government hacking sprees in 20 countries. Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were the only countries identified. WhatsApp said in a statement that 100 civil society members had been targeted, and called it “an unmistakable pattern of abuse.” NSO denied the allegations.
  • Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity research laboratory based at the University of Toronto that worked with WhatsApp to investigate the phone hacking, told Reuters that the targets included well-known television personalities, prominent women who had been subjected to online hate campaigns and people who had faced “assassination attempts and threats of violence.”
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  • NSO came under particularly harsh scrutiny over the allegation that its spyware played a role in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul a little over a year ago. Khashoggi’s friend Omar Abdulaziz is one of seven activists and journalists who have taken the spyware firm to court in Israel and Cyprus over allegations that their phones were compromised using NSO technology. Amnesty has also filed a lawsuit, demanding that the Israeli Ministry of Defense revoke NSO’s export license to “stop it profiting from state-sponsored repression.”
Paul Merrell

Zuckerberg says he's willing to delay digital currency to satisfy regulators - POLITICO - 2 views

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will tell House lawmakers Wednesday that he's willing to postpone the launch of the controversial digital currency that the social media giant is spearheading, amid growing pushback from policymakers around the world. Facebook and its partners working to launch the Libra payments network have been planning to start offering it to users next year. But Zuckerberg signaled he was open to taking more time, the latest indicator that regulatory hurdles are imperiling efforts to get Libra off the ground.
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    Zuckerberg surrenders.
Paul Merrell

Facebook probe by U.S. states expands to 47 attorneys general - Reuters - 0 views

  • A New York-led probe into allegations that Facebook Inc put consumer data at risk and pushed up advertising rates has expanded to include attorneys general from 47 U.S. states and territories, New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement on Tuesday.
  • The investigation of Facebook announced in September had included Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia. It now includes most U.S. states as well as the U.S. territory of Guam.
  • Some states, particularly New York and Nebraska, have raised concerns that Facebook and other big tech companies engage in anti-competitive practices, expose consumer data to potential data theft and push up advertising prices.
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  • The Facebook investigations are part of a larger landscape of probes of big tech firms. Reuters and others reported in June that the Justice Department and FTC had divided responsibility for the companies being investigated, with the Justice Department taking on Alphabet Inc’s Google and Apple Inc while the FTC looked into Facebook and Amazon.com Inc. The Justice Department later said it was opening a probe of online platforms, which would include Facebook.
Paul Merrell

Libra Is Dead: eBay, Stripe, Visa And MasterCard All Abandon Facebook's Cryptocurrency ... - 0 views

  • One week after we reported that Facebook's Libra stablecoin project, Libra, was imploding, as online payment giant PayPal quite the Libra network, we can now set the time of death to today - that's when first eBay, then Stripe and finally Mastercard all abandoned Mark Zuckerberg's pet "cryptocurrency" (which was anything but) project. As the FT reports, Ebay and Stripe became the second and third major companies in a week to drop out of Facebook’s planned cryptocurrency, following sustained political pressure and just days before the project’s backers are due to meet for their first board meeting, which may soon be empty.
Paul Merrell

AG Barr asks Facebook to postpone encrypted messaging plans - 0 views

  • Attorney General William Barr asks Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to hold off on his plans to encrypt the company’s three messaging services until officials can determine it will not reduce public safety in a letter dated Oct. 4.Barr’s request is backed by officials in the U.K. and Australia. BuzzFeed News first reported the story after obtaining a draft of the open letter on Thursday. The letter, which the DOJ sent to CNBC Thursday, builds on concerns about Facebook’s plans to integrate and encrypt its messaging services across Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. A New York Times investigation published Saturday found that encrypted technology helps predators share child pornography online in a way that makes it much harder for law enforcement to track down.
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    The text of the Attorney General's letter to Zuckerberg is here. Note the strong DoJ concern about child sex abusers. Yes, the same DoJ that let serial pederast Jeffrey Epstein off with a 13-month sentence in a county jail, where he was allowed to leave for 12 hours every day. The same DoJ that frames Muslims who lack mental capacity to resist to charge them as "terrorists." My point being that "child abuse" and "terrorists" are not real concerns for our illustrious leaders. It also bears notice that what government officials are after (without saying so) is the ability to intercept and decode messages en masse as they transit the Internet. With snail mail interception, that requires an individualized search warrant signed by a judge based on probable cause to believe that the mail contains evidence of a crime. But these folks want to read everything transmitted. Might one reasonably suspect that they have no respect for our Constitution?
Paul Merrell

Is This The End Of Facebook And WhatsApp​ Encrypted Messaging? - 0 views

  • A week ago, we saw a procession of nervous headlines after the Times and then Bloomberg reported that Facebook, its messaging platform WhatsApp and others would now be forced to disclose encrypted messages to law enforcement agencies under a new treaty between the U.S. and the U.K. As I commented at the time, these reports were misleading, mixing up agreements to share data that already exists with changes in the law to break encryption. But now the U.S. and U.K., as well as Australia, are set to write to Facebook to request that the company pauses its plans for cross-platform messaging encryption until backdoors can be added, citing public safety and serious crime as its reasons.EFF described the letter as an “all-out attack on encryption... a staggering attempt to undermine the security and privacy of communications tools used by billions of people,” and urged Facebook not to comply. The organization warned that the move would endanger activists and journalists, and could be used by “authoritarian regimes... to spy on dissidents in the name of combatting terrorism or civil unrest.”
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    A more in-depth look at the issue. Unstated: this is only the latest round of the Deep State fight against digital privacy that has periodically recurred since the World Wide Web first appeared on the scene. The good news: all previous attempts have failed since Pretty Good Privacy broke the U.S. encryption export barrier beginning in 1991. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretty_Good_Privacy#History
Paul Merrell

U.S., allies urge Facebook for backdoor to encryption as they fight child abuse - Reuters - 1 views

  • The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia have called on Facebook Inc to not go ahead with end-to-end encryption across its messaging services unless law enforcement officials have backdoor access, saying encryption hindered the fight against child abuse and terrorism.
  • The United States and United Kingdom also signed a special data agreement that would fast track requests from law enforcement to technology companies for information about the communications of terrorists and child predators. Law enforcement could get information in weeks or even days instead of the current wait of six months to two years. The latest tug-of-war between governments and tech companies over user data could also impact Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, as well as smaller encrypted chat apps like Signal.
Paul Merrell

48 States Investigating Whether Google's Dominance Hurts Competition : NPR - 1 views

  • State attorneys general of 48 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia announced a major probe Monday into Google's dominance in search and advertising for practices that harm competition as well as consumers. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading the bipartisan pack.
  • The investigation includes all the states, except for California and Alabama.
  • Google has the power to put a user on page 1 or 100. European regulators have charged Google with abusing that power and, following years-long investigations, they issued multi-billion-dollar fines. The tech giant, along with Facebook, controls nearly 60% of all digital advertising, according to eMarketer. A wide range of businesses that must publicize their services — be it a hair stylist, a hospital or a Fortune 500 company — must abide by the terms and prices set by two companies. But, as eMarketer notes, the duopoly's control is diminishing as Amazon grows.
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  • Last week Google disclosed that, in addition to state-level government action, the Justice Department has asked the company to hand over documents.
  • Led by New York, attorneys general from eight states and the District of Columbia announced a probe into Facebook as well.
Paul Merrell

States to launch antitrust investigation into big tech companies, reports say | TechCrunch - 2 views

  • The state attorneys in more than a dozen states are preparing to begin an antitrust investigation of the tech giants, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Monday, putting the spotlight on an industry that is already facing federal scrutiny.The bipartisan group of attorneys from as many as 20 states is expected to formally launch a probe as soon as next month to assess whether tech companies are using their dominant market position to hurt competition, the WSJ reported.If true, the move follows the Department of Justice, which last month announced its own antitrust review of how online platforms scaled to their gigantic sizes and whether they are using their power to curb competition and stifle innovation. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission formed a task force to monitor competition among tech platforms.
Paul Merrell

A Federal Court Sounds the Alarm on the Privacy Harms of Face Recognition Technology | ... - 1 views

  • On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit became the first appellate court in the nation to directly address the privacy harms posed by face recognition technology. The decision is a significant advance in the fight against the threats of face surveillance, sounding the alarm on the potential for this technology to seriously violate people’s privacy. In Patel v. Facebook, a group of Facebook users from Illinois allege that Facebook violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) by using face recognition technology on the users’ photographs without their knowledge and consent. BIPA is the oldest and strongest biometric privacy law in the country, requiring companies to obtain informed consent before collecting a person’s biometric identifiers, including face recognition scans. Importantly, the law provides individuals in Illinois with a right to sue for damages if a company has violated their rights.
Paul Merrell

Facebook to pay $5bn fine as regulator settles Cambridge Analytica complaint | Technolo... - 0 views

  • Facebook will pay a record $5bn (£4bn) penalty in the US for “deceiving” users about their ability to keep personal information private, after a year-long investigation into the Cambridge Analytica data breach. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the US consumer regulator, also announced a lawsuit against Cambridge Analytica and proposed settlements with the data analysis firm’s former chief executive Alexander Nix and its app developer Aleksandr Kogan. The $5bn fine for Facebook dwarfs the previous record for the largest fine handed down by the FTC for violation of consumers’ privacy, which was a $275m penalty for consumer credit agency Equifax.
Paul Merrell

Explainer: What Google, Facebook could face in U.S. antitrust probe - Reuters - 0 views

  • The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether big technology companies are engaged in anticompetitive behavior, addressing a rising tide of criticism they have become too powerful to the detriment of consumers.
  • The Justice Department has said it will investigate “whether and how” online platforms in “search, social media, and some retail services online” are engaging in behavior that stifles competition and harms consumers. While the Justice Department did not name any targets in announcing the probe on Tuesday, sources have indicated Alphabet Inc’s Google, social media giant Facebook Inc, online retailer Amazon.com Inc and possibly Apple Inc will likely be reviewed. Here’s what regulators could focus on at the big technology companies:
Paul Merrell

Facebook's Cryptocurrency: Stop It Before It Starts - Lawfare - 0 views

  • On Tuesday, Facebook announced its forthcoming cryptocurrency, Libra. The company says it intends to integrate it into Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp products. Although Facebook says it’s created an “independent” subsidiary, Calibra, and purports that the currency itself will be controlled by an independent Libra Foundation, the coin really a Facebook project. It is not live yet, giving governments the opportunity to kill this project before it actually gets off the ground and gives rise to cybercriminals that couldn’t capitalize on existing cryptocurrencies. In particular, the IRS and FinCEN should take action now.
Paul Merrell

Facebook unveils cryptocurrency Libra | Time - 0 views

  • As it continues to explore new business models that may work in a world focused on privacy rather than broadly sharing data online, Facebook on Tuesday revealed plans for its own global digital currency, Libra, which aims to allow users to make purchases or send money with close to zero transaction fees. Facebook said it hopes Libra will make it easier for the estimated 1.7 billion unbanked adults worldwide to access banking services and transfer money electronically. “Just as people can use their phones to message friends anywhere in the world today, with Libra, the same can be done with money — instantly, securely and at a low cost,” Facebook said in a Libra white paper.
  • Users will be able to make transactions with Libra by 2020, Facebook says, both through a standalone app called Calibra as well as with Facebook’s own family of apps. Unlike bitcoin and some similar offerings, the price of Libra is tied to low-risk assets, which should prevent the speculative behavior and wild price swings plaguing other digital currencies. The currency will be overseen by the Libra Association, a Switzerland-based collective of more than a dozen companies, including Visa, Uber and Mastercard, each of whom have invested at least $10 million in the technology. Users of Libra will pay $1 to use Libra which will sit in a bank account and earn interest which will pay the Libra Association.
Paul Merrell

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes calls for the company to be broken up - 0 views

  • show chapters Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes calls for the company to be broken up    15 Hours Ago Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes issued a forceful call for regulators to break up the company he helped build in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday. Hughes, who left Facebook to work for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, said that from his own experience building and working inside the company, Facebook now has more power than a private sector entity is due. While emphasizing his belief that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has good intentions overall, he said the executive has far too much unchecked power, aided by his majority voting stake in the company.
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