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Posts Tagged ‘privacy’


Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access to Data on Users and Friends

June 5, 2018

As Facebook sought to become the world’s dominant social media service, it struck agreements allowing phone and other device makers access to vast amounts of its users’ personal information.

Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung — over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said. The deals allowed Facebook to expand its reach and let device makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, “like” buttons and address books.

But the partnerships, whose scope has not previously been reported, raise concerns about the company’s privacy protections and compliance with a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission. Facebook allowed the device companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders. Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users’ friends who believed they had barred any sharing, The New York Times found.

Most of the partnerships remain in effect, though Facebook began winding them down in April. The company came under intensifying scrutiny by lawmakers and regulators after news reports in March that a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, misused the private information of tens of millions of Facebook users.

In the furor that followed, Facebook’s leaders said that the kind of access exploited by Cambridge in 2014 was cut off by the next year, when Facebook prohibited developers from collecting information from users’ friends. But the company officials did not disclose that Facebook had exempted the makers of cellphones, tablets and other hardware from such restrictions.

“You might think that Facebook or the device manufacturer is trustworthy,” said Serge Egelman, a privacy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the security of mobile apps. “But the problem is that as more and more data is collected on the device — and if it can be accessed by apps on the device — it creates serious privacy and security risks.”

In interviews, Facebook officials defended the data sharing as consistent with its privacy policies, the F.T.C. agreement and pledges to users. They said its partnerships were governed by contracts that strictly limited use of the data, including any stored on partners’ servers. The officials added that they knew of no cases where the information had been misused.

The company views its device partners as extensions of Facebook, serving its more than two billion users, the officials said.

“These partnerships work very differently from the way in which app developers use our platform,” said Ime Archibong, a Facebook vice president. Unlike developers that provide games and services to Facebook users, the device partners can use Facebook data only to provide versions of “the Facebook experience,” the officials said.

Some device partners can retrieve Facebook users’ relationship status, religion, political leaning and upcoming events, among other data. Tests by The Times showed that the partners requested and received data in the same way other third parties did.

Facebook’s view that the device makers are not outsiders lets the partners go even further, The Times found: They can obtain data about a user’s Facebook friends, even those who have denied Facebook permission to share information with any third parties.

In interviews, several former Facebook software engineers and security experts said they were surprised at the ability to override sharing restrictions.

“It’s like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission,” said Ashkan Soltani, a research and privacy consultant who formerly served as the F.T.C.’s chief technologist.

How One Phone Gains Access to Hundreds of Thousands of Facebook Accounts
Gabriel J.X. Dance
606 friends
of Mr. Dance

Michael LaForgia, a New York Times reporter, used the Hub app on a BlackBerry Z10 to log into Facebook.

After connecting to Facebook, the BlackBerry Hub app was able to retrieve detailed data on 556 of Mr. LaForgia’s friends, including relationship status, religious and political leanings and events they planned to attend. Facebook has said that it cut off third parties’ access to this type of information in 2015, but that it does not consider BlackBerry a third party in this case.

The Hub app was also able to access information — including unique identifiers — on 294,258 friends of Mr. LaForgia’s friends.

By Rich Harris and Gabriel J.X. Dance

Details of Facebook’s partnerships have emerged amid a reckoning in Silicon Valley over the volume of personal information collected on the internet and monetized by the tech industry. The pervasive collection of data, while largely unregulated in the United States, has come under growing criticism from elected officials at home and overseas and provoked concern among consumers about how freely their information is shared.

In a tense appearance before Congress in March, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, emphasized what he said was a company priority for Facebook users.“Every piece of content that you share on Facebook you own,” he testified. ”You have complete control over who sees it and how you share it.”

But the device partnerships provoked discussion even within Facebook as early as 2012, according to Sandy Parakilas, who at the time led third-party advertising and privacy compliance for Facebook’s platform.

“This was flagged internally as a privacy issue,” said Mr. Parakilas, who left Facebook that year and has recently emerged as a harsh critic of the company. “It is shocking that this practice may still continue six years later, and it appears to contradict Facebook’s testimony to Congress that all friend permissions were disabled.”

The partnerships were briefly mentioned in documents submitted to German lawmakers investigating the social media giant’s privacy practices and released by Facebook in mid-May. But Facebook provided the lawmakers with the name of only one partner — BlackBerry, maker of the once-ubiquitous mobile device — and little information about how the agreements worked.

The submission followed testimony by Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president for global public policy, during a closed-door German parliamentary hearing in April. Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker, one of the lawmakers who questioned Mr. Kaplan, said in an interview that she believed the data partnerships disclosed by Facebook violated users’ privacy rights.

“What we have been trying to determine is whether Facebook has knowingly handed over user data elsewhere without explicit consent,” Ms. Winkelmeier-Becker said. “I would never have imagined that this might even be happening secretly via deals with device makers. BlackBerry users seem to have been turned into data dealers, unknowingly and unwillingly.”

In interviews with The Times, Facebook identified other partners: Apple and Samsung, the world’s two biggest smartphone makers, and Amazon, which sells tablets.

An Apple spokesman said the company relied on private access to Facebook data for features that enabled users to post photos to the social network without opening the Facebook app, among other things. Apple said its phones no longer had such access to Facebook as of last September.

Samsung declined to respond to questions about whether it had any data-sharing partnerships with Facebook. Amazon also declined to respond to questions.

Usher Lieberman, a BlackBerry spokesman, said in a statement that the company used Facebook data only to give its own customers access to their Facebook networks and messages. Mr. Lieberman said that the company “did not collect or mine the Facebook data of our customers,” adding that “BlackBerry has always been in the business of protecting, not monetizing, customer data.”

Microsoft entered a partnership with Facebook in 2008 that allowed Microsoft-powered devices to do things like add contacts and friends and receive notifications, according to a spokesman. He added that the data was stored locally on the phone and was not synced to Microsoft’s servers.

Facebook acknowledged that some partners did store users’ data — including friends’ data — on their own servers. A Facebook official said that regardless of where the data was kept, it was governed by strict agreements between the companies.

“I am dumbfounded by the attitude that anybody in Facebook’s corporate office would think allowing third parties access to data would be a good idea,” said Henning Schulzrinne, a computer science professor at Columbia University who specializes in network security and mobile systems.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed how loosely Facebook had policed the bustling ecosystem of developers building apps on its platform. They ranged from well-known players like Zynga, the maker of the FarmVille game, to smaller ones, like a Cambridge contractor who used a quiz taken by about 300,000 Facebook users to gain access to the profiles of as many as 87 million of their friends.

Those developers relied on Facebook’s public data channels, known as application programming interfaces, or APIs. But starting in 2007, the company also established private data channels for device manufacturers.

At the time, mobile phones were less powerful, and relatively few of them could run stand-alone Facebook apps like those now common on smartphones. The company continued to build new private APIs for device makers through 2014, spreading user data through tens of millions of mobile devices, game consoles, televisions and other systems outside Facebook’s direct control.

Facebook began moving to wind down the partnerships in April, after assessing its privacy and data practices in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Mr. Archibong said the company had concluded that the partnerships were no longer needed to serve Facebook users. About 22 of them have been shut down.

The broad access Facebook provided to device makers raises questions about its compliance with a 2011 consent decree with the F.T.C.

The decree barred Facebook from overriding users’ privacy settings without first getting explicit consent. That agreement stemmed from an investigation that found Facebook had allowed app developers and other third parties to collect personal details about users’ friends, even when those friends had asked that their information remain private.

After the Cambridge Analytica revelations, the F.T.C. began an investigation into whether Facebook’s continued sharing of data after 2011 violated the decree, potentially exposing the company to fines.

Facebook officials said the private data channels did not violate the decree because the company viewed its hardware partners as “service providers,” akin to a cloud computing service paid to store Facebook data or a company contracted to process credit card transactions. According to the consent decree, Facebook does not need to seek additional permission to share friend data with service providers.

“These contracts and partnerships are entirely consistent with Facebook’s F.T.C. consent decree,” Mr. Archibong, the Facebook official, said.

But Jessica Rich, a former F.T.C. official who helped lead the commission’s earlier Facebook investigation, disagreed with that assessment.

“Under Facebook’s interpretation, the exception swallows the rule,” said Ms. Rich, now with the Consumers Union. “They could argue that any sharing of data with third parties is part of the Facebook experience. And this is not at all how the public interpreted their 2014 announcement that they would limit third-party app access to friend data.”

To test one partner’s access to Facebook’s private data channels, The Times used a reporter’s Facebook account — with about 550 friends — and a 2013 BlackBerry device, monitoring what data the device requested and received. (More recent BlackBerry devices, which run Google’s Android operating system, do not use the same private channels, BlackBerry officials said.)

Immediately after the reporter connected the device to his Facebook account, it requested some of his profile data, including user ID, name, picture, “about” information, location, email and cellphone number. The device then retrieved the reporter’s private messages and the responses to them, along with the name and user ID of each person with whom he was communicating.

The data flowed to a BlackBerry app known as the Hub, which was designed to let BlackBerry users view all of their messages and social media accounts in one place.

The Hub also requested — and received — data that Facebook’s policy appears to prohibit. Since 2015, Facebook has said that apps can request only the names of friends using the same app. But the BlackBerry app had access to all of the reporter’s Facebook friends and, for most of them, returned information such as user ID, birthday, work and education history and whether they were currently online.

The BlackBerry device was also able to retrieve identifying information for nearly 295,000 Facebook users. Most of them were second-degree Facebook friends of the reporter, or friends of friends.

In all, Facebook empowers BlackBerry devices to access more than 50 types of information about users and their friends, The Times found.

Facebook’s view that the device makers are not outsiders lets the partners go even further, The Times found: They can obtain data about a user’s Facebook friends, even those who have denied Facebook permission to share information with any third parties.

In interviews, several former Facebook software engineers and security experts said they were surprised at the ability to override sharing restrictions.

“It’s like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission,” said Ashkan Soltani, a research and privacy consultant who formerly served as the F.T.C.’s chief technologist.

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Startup Behind Zk-Starks Tech to Seek Cryptocurrencies as Customers

May 26, 2018

A breakthrough blockchain privacy solution forged at the Technion in Israel is taking its first steps from theory to reality.

Heralded by developers, so-called zk-starks offer a promising way to compress large amounts of information into small proofs, named starks, and can use zero-knowledge to preserve the privacy of that information. They’re also efficient, transparent and secure against quantum computation, something that in the past, has pushed excitement surrounding the tech.

But rather than launching a new cryptocurrency, founders Eli Ben-Sasson and Alessandro Chiesa are going the corporate route, offering their novel technology to actual blockchains in exchange for their native assets, or what the team calls the “tech for tokens model.”

Starkware will provide stark-powered technology to cryptocurrencies in exchange for a fee priced in the local currency, and if the market cap rises as a result, Starkware profits as well.

“Development teams are really like investors, but instead of investing money, they invest technology and skills,” Ben-Sasson told CoinDesk.

But the Israel-based startup has some notable investors of its own as well, having raised $6 million in a seed-funding round from Pantera, Floodgate, Polychain Capital, Metastable, Naval Ravikant, Vitalik Buterin, the Zcash Company and hardware supplier Bitmain.

In the first stage of the company, Ben-Sasson told CoinDesk they’ll be partnering with some major figures from the blockchain space, (“the usual suspects,” Ben-Sasson said,) to bring zcash-style private transactions to public ledgers.

While the partnerships are yet to be confirmed, Ben-Sasson said that there is “plenty of interest” from a range of different on-chain and off-chain cryptocurrency efforts.

Indeed, advocates from many communities have spoken positively about the technology in the past, including ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, who previously hinted that such a system could be deployed on top of “ethereum 3.0.”

It’s notable considering while Ben-Sasson and Chiesa were both founding scientists at zcash, the new technology offers a wholly different outcome.

Ben-Sasson told CoinDesk:

“Our technology is unique because it is the only one out there right now that allows true exponential speedup of verification for arbitrary computations with no setup assumptions and no keys to be distributed in advance.”

Not just privacy
As detailed by CoinDesk, zk-stark proofs are notable for their ability to hide information without sacrificing computational integrity, or what Ben-Sasson calls “transparent privacy.”

If that sounds complex, it’s part of a growing interest in zero-knowledge proof systems, a form of cryptography dating from the 1980s that has been touted as a way to preserve data privacy without obscuring information to the point where it cannot be verified by the blockchain itself.

While the technology underlying privacy-centric cryptocurrency zcash also achieves this feature, zk-starks allow for zero-knowledge without the need for a trusted setup, a stage in compiling private blockchains that has been criticized for being vulnerable to attack.

Achieving this in a way that relies purely on cryptography, the transparent aspect of starks is central to its value add.

That said, Ben-Sasson said that while such qualities provided by zk-stark technology give it an advantage over other privacy solutions, the length of the proofs are still quite large, and as such, they’re up against a range of competitors.

“From a very rational point of view in this department of you know, single transactions, shielded transactions, starks are good, but they are not unique. They are one out of many solutions,” Ben-Sasson told CoinDesk.

Instead, the privacy aspect of starks is an option that can be sidelined in favor of another feature of the technology- compressing large data sets.

“You could add zero knowledge, you could have it without zero knowledge. Each solution and chain could decide,” Ben-Sasson said, “It’s like a switch you can turn on or off with very little implication.”

As such, going forward, the team plans to market the tech for its ability to create succinct, verifiable compressions of large amounts of data- and in this regard, the tech just keeps getting tidier.

“We have yet to encounter the lower bound that puts the limit of where it will end up,” Ben-Sasson said, “It could go down further.”

In the future, Starkware may move to provide in-house verification services for such proofs, and additionally, might create purpose-built hardware for performing the computations as well.

“When you go through scalability starks really stand out,” Ben-Sasson told CoinDesk,

“Scalability is the biggest problem in the blockchain space.”

Tech for tokens
Contrary to many scammers claiming otherwise, Starkware is not doing an ICO.

And while ultimately, a zk-stark powered cryptocurrency isn’t unfeasible, Ben-Sasson said that for now, the company will focus on what they do best. As such, the first step is to create a “Starkshield consortium,” a group of representatives from public blockchains looking to integrate the tech for privacy-preserving purposes.

“First of all, so we’re trying to formalize this Starkware consortium where we will integrate our technology into their systems and get tokens,” Ben-Sasson said.

Conceived of by several members of the company including Ben-Sasson, CEO Uri Kolodny, and product lead Avihu Levy, this tech for token model is a notable shift in a landscape that has been dominated by ICO startups. Indeed, while the hype sometimes appears to have settled, according to the CoinDesk ICO Tracker, the funding just keeps flooding in.

“ICO, what does it mean? It means give us a lot of money now and trust us to deliver something good. That’s a problematic model,” Ben-Sasson said.

At the same time though, it’s important for developers to be paid for their work. “We’re very proud of our engineering team,” Ben-Sasson said, “They’re very talented in both math and programming.”

Plus, ultimately, Ben-Sasson stressed that creating a coin for every new technology that emerges isn’t a sustainable trend, and for now, it’s enough to contribute to existing projects as they stand.

“We think that there should be viable business opportunities for development teams doing good work to be compensated in a meaningful way with existing tokens,” Ben-Sasson said.

If the team does decide to launch a zk-starks cryptocurrency in the future, they’ll use the same model to pay other developers as well.

“We want to be on both sides of this tech for tokens thing,” Ben-Sasson said, adding:

“Further down the line to the extent we have our own token we could engage other development teams that we think will bring value to our efforts, and would like to offer them a similar deal.”

Code via Shutterstock

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What is GDPR? A look at the European data privacy rules that could change tech

April 26, 2018

A new European data regulation that just a month ago seemed like an obscure piece of legislati
A new European data regulation that just a month ago seemed like an obscure piece of legislation is suddenly on the lips of everyone in the tech industry.

Already touted as “the most important change in data privacy regulation in two decades,” the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, goes into effect on May 25 — unintentionally good timing as it comes on the heels of a scandal that revealed that academic researchers had harvested the data of tens of millions of Facebook users and that data was allegedly misused by Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The revelation exposed the vulnerability of user data and shook the confidence of Facebook users, many of whom threatened to wipe out their accounts as part of a mass exodus #deletefacebook campaign.on is suddenly on the lips of everyone in the tech industry.
With Facebook in full damage control, the incident brought fresh calls for stronger personal data protection to the forefront of national discourse in the United States.

Meanwhile, the 28 member states of the European Union are adopting a more hands-on regulatory approach to ensure that the private data of its citizens remains just that — private.

Approved on April 14, 2016, the new rules treat personal data protection as “a fundamental right” — a utopian concept for consumers that are used to 3,000-word terms of service agreements, automatic opt-ins and data breaches that lead to little in the way of corporate punishment.

In a drastic shift in data transparency, the GDPR will give an individual the right to find out whether, where and for what purpose their personal data is being processed.

“Organizations, corporations and the government know too much about us, and what GDPR will do is provide controls that say, it’s fine that you know something, but you have to justify why you want to know it,” said Seb Matthews, a data privacy consultant with U.K.-based extaCloud.

Under the GDPR, individuals are entitled to have their personal data erased or not disseminated further, including potentially halting third parties from processing the data. They can choose to move their data and can object to having it processed for direct marketing purposes.

The definition of “personal data” is also quite broad. It includes anything from an individual’s name to their location to an online identifier, such as an IP address or browser cookies that can track web activity. An individual’s physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity is also protected.
If a data collector, whether a business or a government agency, wants to use this data, it will have to obtain consent in a clear and accessible way. No more convoluted legalese or fine print.

“You now have to have an extremely unambiguous, informed consent before the data is used,” said Stuart Lacey, head of the customer data rights management company Trunomi, which provides GDPR-related technology and solutions.

“It has to be specific, immediate and clearly articulated in language that people can understand,” Lacey said.

Should personal data be breached, GDPR dictates that authorities have to be notified within 72 hours after a company becomes aware of the issue. That’s welcome news for people fed up with reading about companies that have not reacted to data breaches with the proper urgency.

Failure to comply with the GDPR also comes with a hefty penalty. Companies that violate the new rules can be fined up to 4 percent of their annual global turnover or 20 million euros (nearly $25 million), whichever is greater.

Matthews, who consults businesses on how to be ready for the GDPR, said the hefty fines will give the new rules some teeth.

“This ability to throw enormous fines — that’s a whole different level of impact when organizations fail to justify their behavior,” Matthews said.

He said this kind of “fear factor” is why previous legislation has not been very successful and created the need for the GDPR.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal provides a practical example of how GDPR might look in action, particularly since experts who spoke to NBC News were divided over whether the new rules would have changed what happened.

“If you zoom away from the specifics of what Cambridge Analytica did, they had a data set that was for sale,” Matthews said. “Things like that become very hard to do with GDPR in place. Simply justifying why you gathered that data would be very hard.”
But Nigel Tozer, a GDPR expert with the data backup and recovery company Commvault, said GDPR won’t help if users agree to allow their data to be harvested. About 270,000 users whose information was scraped by Cambridge Analytica had consented to having their data harvested, but the data of millions more were ill-obtained through Facebook friends connections, according to The New York Times.

“If I put my wallet with a stack of cash in the middle of the street because I didn’t think anybody would steal it and they did, it’s my fault,” Tozer said. “But if I gave it to someone to look after and said, ‘Hide it’ and they didn’t, then it’s a problem.

“What GDPR serves to do is make people more aware of what privacy is and what can happen to their data down the line,” he said.

Put simply, GDPR might stop another Cambridge Analytica situation, but only if users turn down requests to collect their data.

GDPR is not without its flaws. Experts admit the new rules are creating major headaches for smaller businesses, especially nonprofits, which are running into considerable expense trying to comply and avoid heavy penalties.

Many are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the software, infrastructure and human resources necessary to fulfill requests about personal data.

“The first thing we do when working with companies is try to find where people’s data is,” said AJ Thompson, director at IT consultancy Northdoor, which has been helping businesses prepare for GDPR for the last two years. “There is information everywhere and that’s the hardest piece of this.”
For many companies, there is a massive learning curve. But Thompson says GDPR is forcing them to think differently.

“It’s a bit like buying car insurance — no one particularly likes buying car insurance until you have a crash,” Thompson said.

Experts say there is going to be a spectrum of businesses that will try to weasel their way out of complying, while others will try to be compliant to a minimal degree. Others will follow the spirit rather than the letter of the regulation.

There’s also concern that GDPR will become a boogeyman for companies, which will spend money unnecessarily on compliance.

Because the GDPR is an E.U.-wide regulation, all 28 member states, each with a different approach to data protection in the past, will now have to play by the same set of rules.

Companies outside the E.U. are not off the hook, however. Any company dealing with users in the E.U. will have to comply with the GDPR for those people — and that includes American companies.

Facebook’s response to GDPR has been closely watched, particularly after its recent scandal and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s public comments about the regulations.

During his two-day grilling by members of Congress this month, Zuckerberg was asked if GDPR should be applied in the U.S.

“I think everyone in the world deserves good privacy protection,” Zuckerberg said, adding that he thinks it’s worth discussing whether something similar to GDPR should be applied in the U.S.

Zuckerberg said that for its part, Facebook is committed to rolling out the controls and affirmative consent required by E.U.’s GDPR, regardless of whether U.S. implements the exact same regulation in light of what he called “somewhat different sensibilities in the U.S.”

That claim appeared to be slightly contradicted when Facebook recently moved the legal governance of 1.5 billion users in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America out of Ireland and away from the GDPR’s reach.

Tozer agrees there are cultural differences between U.S. and Europe when it comes to how people view data privacy.

“People in Europe expect a greater degree of privacy,” Tozer said, adding the Cambridge Analytica scandal afforded people in the U.S. “a view of what actually goes on with their personal data” and will likely make them crave GDPR-like protections down the line.

Lacey also expects the push for greater privacy protection in the U.S. to come not from the lawmakers but from the American public, who will choose to work with brands that respect their data and shun those that don’t.

Matthews adds the panicked awareness that the Cambridge Analytica scandal has generated in the U.S. will likely help fuel interest in GDPR and what it has to offer in Europe.

“It gives this ability to show off to the rest of the world, and especially the U.S., that there is a way to do this,” Matthews said. “That privacy is a possibility.”

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April 10, 2018

[Fribo] the robot is a research project in the form of an adorable unit that hears and speaks, but doesn’t move. Moving isn’t necessary for it to do its job, which is helping people who live alone feel more connected with their friends. What’s more interesting (and we daresay, unusual) is that it does this in a way that respects and maintains individuals’ feelings of privacy. To be a sort of “social connector and trigger” between friends where every interaction is optional and opt-in was the design intent behind [Fribo].

The device works by passively monitoring one’s home and understands things like the difference between opening the fridge and opening the front door; it can recognize speech but cannot record and explicitly does not have a memory of your activities. Whenever the robot hears something it recognizes, it will notify other units in a circle of friends. For example, [Fribo] may suddenly say “Oh, one of your friends just opened their refrigerator. I wonder what food they are going to have?” People know someone did something, but not who. From there, there are two entirely optional ways to interact further: knocking indicates curiosity, clapping indicates empathy, and doing either reveals your identity to the originator. All this can serve as an opportunity to connect in some way, or it can just help people feel more connected to others. The whole thing is best explained by the video embedded below, which shows several use cases.
In this day and age of treating people like data to be intrusively mined, it’s downright charming for a project’s vision to be something as simple and wholesome as being a reminder that there are others out there, sharing everyday activities. Of course, on the opposite end of [Fribo]’s minimalist visage is this robot that communicates entirely with animated gifs.

[Fribo] is a project by [Kwangmin Jeong], [Jihyun Sung], [Haesung Lee], [Aram Kim], [Hyem Kim], [Chanmi Park], [Youin Jeong], [JeeHang Lee], and [Jinwoo Kim] from Yonsei University in Korea.

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Aran Khanna versus Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg 9 months ago: People share on Facebook because ‘they know their privacy is going to be protected’

April 3, 2018

Nine months ago, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg had a conversation with a journalist about privacy on his behemoth social media platform. Now, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, his words seem both ironic and prescient.

“Of course, privacy is extremely important, and people engage and share their content and feel free to connect because they know that their privacy is going to be protected” on Facebook, Zuckerberg told Freakonomics Radio host Stephen Dunbar in June, according to a transcript of the interview shared with CNBC Make It.

Dunbar interviewed Zuckerberg in a trailer outside an event space in Chicago, where Zuckerberg had just addressed a few hundred people announcing a new mission for the company.

“For the past 10 years, our mission has been to make the world more open and connected. We will always work to give people a voice and help us stay connected, but now we will do even more…. The idea for our new mission is: ‘Bring the world closer together,'” said Zuckerberg in his speech.

As part of the announcement, Zuckerberg said Facebook would share aggregated data about people in a group with the administrator of the group — “basic demographics,” Zuckerberg told Dunbar at the time.
The Freakonomics host pressed Zuckerberg: “But I’m sure there are people who want you to share much more data about your users. Yes?”

Yes, said Zuckerberg, and there are also people who want don’t want Facebook to share more data. As CEO, Zuckerberg said he knows he can’t make everyone happy.

“One of the interesting challenges that you find running a company or a community at scale is there are people who want things that are completely conflicting,” says Zuckerberg. “So there are certain people who want us to share more information, and then there are a lot of people who really don’t.

“For some of these social decisions that we have to make, I find that the right place to be is when you’re getting yelled at from both sides equally. And you try to just make the best decision that you can on this,” he said.

Now, Zuckerberg is indeed getting yelled at from almost every direction.

Zuckerberg and Facebook are being taken to task since it was revealed in March that 50 million Facebook profiles were mined for data by the British analytics firm Cambridge Analytica. Many, like Apple CEO Tim Cook, argue Facebook should have regulated itself more carefully. (When pressed as to what Cook would do in Zuckerberg’s position, he said, “I wouldn’t be in this position.”) Others, like Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk, don’t trust Facebook, Musk saying it “gives him the willies.” And Congressional lawmakers have called on Zuckerberg to testify on Capitol Hill to answer for the data breach: “The buck stops with him,” Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” in March.
In June, the 33-year-old billionaire told Freaknomics Radio that there are reasonable cases for privacy and for making some amount of data public.

Protecting privacy encourages users to share, Zuckerberg said. But also, giving Facebook community builders access to some amount of aggregated data can better help them bring people together.

“If you’re trying to enable people to build communities, giving them some insights into how people engage in their communities in a anonymized way … can help them do their job, and help bring more people together, and help people’s lives as well,” said Zuckerberg. “So you try to just do the best that you can and know that there’s not always a simple and optimal solution.”

Further, social norms shift, said Zuckerberg.

“And another dynamic that’s interesting is that sometimes the balance of what people want shifts over time and that enables opportunities to do more in one direction or the other, that wouldn’t have made sense before,” he explained.

Meanwhile, in another interview conducted Friday, Zuckerberg said pointedly that Facebook, which launched in 2004, didn’t invest enough in security during its early years. He also said the company is working on changing that.

“When we started, we thought about how good it would be if people could connect, if everyone had a voice. Frankly, we didn’t spend enough time investing in, or thinking through, some of the downside uses of the tools. So for the first 10 years of the company, everyone was just focused on the positive,” said Zuckerberg, speaking with Vox’s Ezra Klein, according to a transcript of the conversation.

“I think now people are appropriately focused on some of the risks and downsides as well. And I think we were too slow in investing enough in that. It’s not like we did nothing. I mean, at the beginning of last year, I think we had 10,000 people working on security. But by the end of this year, we’re going to have 20,000 people working on security,” Zuckerberg said.

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Edward Snowden’s Autobiography Makes a Plea for the Fourth Amendment, the Right to Privacy, and Encryption
September 24, 2019

America's most famous whistleblower calls for restricting the power of government. Article by SCO...

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Chinese deepfake app Zao sparks privacy row after going viral
September 3, 2019

Critics say face-swap app could spread misinformation on a massive scale A Chinese app that lets ...

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Google tightens grip on some Android data over privacy fears, report says
August 19, 2019

The search giant ends a program that provided network coverage data to wireless carriers. BY CARR...

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Wikipedia co-founder slams Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter and the ‘appalling’ internet
July 8, 2019

Elizabeth Schulze Wikpedia Co-Founder Larry Sanger said in an interview social media companies ...

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Why America Needs a Thoughtful Federal Privacy Law
June 26, 2019

More than a dozen privacy bills have been introduced in this Congress. Here’s what it needs to do....

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