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Posts Tagged ‘#whatsapp’

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Facebook’s ads just keep creeping into new apps

July 27, 2017

Scrolling through an ad-free Instagram is now a distant memory, much like the once ad-free Facebook itself. Soon, users of its Messenger app will begin to see advertisements, too — and WhatsApp may not be too far behind.

Welcome to the Facebook ad creep.

The world’s biggest social media company has squeezed about as many ads onto its main platform as it can. The fancy term for this is “ad load,” and Facebook warned investors back in 2016 that it has pretty much maxed it out . Put any more ads in front of users and they might start complaining — or worse, just leave.

As such, Facebook, a free service that relies almost completely on ads to make money, has to keep finding new and creative ways to let businesses hawk their stuff on its properties.

One solution is to spread ads beyond Facebook itself, onto the other popular messaging and photo-sharing apps it owns.

So far, it’s working. On Wednesday, Facebook posted a 71 percent increase in net income to $3.89 billion, or $1.32 per share, from $2.28 billion, or 78 cents a share, a year ago.

Revenue for the three months that ended on June 30 rose 45 percent to $9.32 billion from $6.44 billion. The Menlo Park, California-based company’s monthly active user base grew 17 percent to 2.01 billion.

INSTAGRAM

Ads began arriving on Instagram, which Facebook bought in 2012 for $1 billion, in 2013. It was a slow and careful rollout, and tells us a lot about Facebook’s subsequent ad strategy.

The company didn’t want to upset Instagram’s loyal fans, who were used to scrolling through beautiful landscapes, stylized breakfast shots and well-groomed kittens in their feed. An ad for headache pills would have interrupted the flow. So Instagram started off with just a few ads it considered “beautiful,” selected from hand-picked businesses. For a while, CEO Kevin Systrom reviewed every ad before it went live.

Four years later, things have changed a bit, although to Instagram’s credit, not so much as to alienate significant numbers of its 700 million users (up from 100 million in 2013). There are more ads now, Systrom no longer inspects them before publication, and while many could still be called “beautiful,” users are also likely to see generic ads not specifically created for Instagram.

By this point, though, people seem to have gotten used to them.

MESSENGER

Facebook has already been testing ads on its primary chat app, and earlier this month it announced it will expand this test globally. Paralleling its experience with Instagram, Facebook told developers and businesses they can start showing ads — specifically for brands that people “love” or that offer an “opportunity to discover experiences” — to Messenger’s 1.2 billion users.

A tsunami it won’t be. Facebook product manager Ted Helwick wrote in a blog post that a “small percentage” of Messenger users will start seeing ads by the end of July. The company will then study that limited rollout to ensure that it’s delivering “the best experience.”

Of course, even a small percentage of 1.2 billion users could be tens of millions of people. But this gives Facebook a chance to see what works and what doesn’t without mass revolt.

And it highlights the importance of Facebook’s decision to spin out the Messenger app from its main Facebook app (and to start pressuring people to use it ). While Facebook billed its decision as a way to make Messenger easier to use, it also essentially doubled the available real estate for its mobile ads.

In a conference call with analysts on Wednesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he wants to see the company “move a little faster” when it comes to ads on Messenger, but added that he is “confident that we’re going to get this right over the long term.”

WHATSAPP AND MORE

With its popularity outside the U.S. and in developing countries, WhatsApp might be a harder nut to crack when it comes to ads. But there are signs it’s coming. It’s true that WhatsApp’s CEO Jan Koum promised users they can count on ” absolutely no ads interrupting your communication” when Facebook bought the company in 2014 for $19 billion.

But last August, WhatsApp updated its privacy policy to reflect that the service would be sharing user data with Facebook so that it could “offer better friend suggestions” and “show you more relevant ads” on Facebook and its other properties.

That doesn’t mean that ads will appear on WhatsApp right away. But in the same post, the company also said it wants people to be able to communicate with businesses, not just people. That’s exactly how Messenger began dabbling in the advertising business.

What else can Facebook do?

“One, they will raise their rates on ads,” said Matt Britton, CEO of social media marketing company CrowdTap. “Because they can. The value is tremendous for advertisers right now, including for video ads.”

For eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson, Facebook video presents the biggest opportunity for ad-business growth. How people will respond to Messenger ads remains uncertain, she said. But with video, Facebook is doing what people already know, taking short and long-form programs and inserting ads in the middle.

That lets Facebook attract money from “traditional video advertisers,” she said — meaning the folks who honed their talents inserting ads into prime-time shows.

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4000

WhatsApp update could be SERIOUSLY bad news for your privacy

April 14, 2017

WhatsApp users could be about to see their privacy take a major hit thanks to a new announcement concerning its relationship with Facebook.

The social media giant is set to anger WhatsApp users across Europe by finally being able to see information from users of the world’s most popular messaging app with Facebook.

That’s after a senior EU lawmaker revealed that a deal was close to being agreed that would see the two companies finally be able to share information on their users after months of wrangling.
The news was revealed by EU regulator Helen Dixon, who has been overseeing Facebook’s case.

She told Reuters that, “I think we are in agreement with the parties – WhatsApp and Facebook – that the quality of the information provided to users could have been clearer, could have been more transparent and could have been expressed in simpler terms.”

Dixon, who is also Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner, added that she hopes a final agreement will be reached this summer.
The news is the latest stage of a long-running discussion between Facebook, WhatsApp, and various regulatory bodies.

Facebook, which bought WhatsApp back in 2014, caused controversy last summer when it announced plans to use information from the app to influence the advertisements displayed on Facebook users’ News Feed.

This included seeing the phone number associated with a WhatsApp account, enabling the California-based social network to link and track users’ profiles between the two services – helping the company gather more data for its advertisements.
This was particularly controversial, as the news represented the first change to WhatsApp’s terms and privacy policy in some four years.

Facebook had previously said it would ensure that WhatsApp user data would remain private and separate from the social network.

“Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible,” the privacy policy read.

Speaking during the acquisition, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said: “It would be pretty stupid of us to interfere.”

WhatsApp was sued in a German court earlier this year by customers angry that the app had gone back on its word.

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whatsapp-encryption-explained

WhatsApp’s privacy protections questioned after terror attack

March 27, 2017

Chat apps that promise to prevent your messages being accessed by strangers are under scrutiny again following last week’s terror attack in London.

On Sunday, the home secretary said the intelligence services must be able to access relevant information.
Her comments followed the discovery that Khalid Masood appeared to have used WhatsApp minutes before carrying out his killings.
There are doubts about whether that action was related to the atrocity.
BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw has highlighted that the police had declared that they believed Masood had acted alone on the day, and would not have done so unless they had accessed and read messages stored on his phone.
Even so, the home secretary has summoned WhatsApp’s owner, Facebook, and other technology companies to a meeting on Thursday to discuss ways to ensure that security officers get the data they need in the future.

What has this got to do with encryption?
WhatsApp indicates Khalid Masood used WhatsApp a couple of minutes before his attack
Several chat apps have adopted a technique called end-to-end encryption.
This digitally scrambles their messages’ contents when it leaves a sender’s device, and then reassembles it on the recipient’s computer using a shared key.
The technology company running the service is not made privy to the key, so is unable to make sense of the conversation even though it passes through its computer servers.
Some apps, including WhatsApp, Apple’s iMessage, Signal and Threema, use end-to-end encryption by default.
Others, such as Telegram, Line and Google’s Allo, offer it as an option.
If end-to-end encryption is active, the technology company running the app is limited in what useful information it can remotely disclose.
But if a phone, tablet or PC is not passcode-protected – or if the authorities find a way to bypass the code – the physical device itself will provide access.
Does that mean the technology companies have made it impossible for themselves to help investigators?

Unscrambled data can be retrieved from iCloud back-ups. Not necessarily. When someone sends or reads a message, they generate what’s known as “metadata” – information about their interaction that is distinct from the chat’s contents. This can include: the time a message was written
the telephone number or other ID of the person it was sent to the physical locations of the sender and recipient at the time
WhatsApp has shared such details with law enforcement officers in the past and has said it has been co-operating with authorities over last week’s incident.
In addition, if Apple users subscribe to the company’s iCloud Backup service, the firm may be able to recover messages copied to its servers for safe-keeping and it has co-operated with investigators in the past.

What more does the government want? It is not exactly clear.
The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, told the BBC that chat apps must not “provide a secret place” for terrorists to communicate, and that when a warrant had been issued, officers should be able to “get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp”.
On Sky News, she later added that she supported end-to-end encryption as a cybersecurity measure, but said it was “absurd to have a situation where you can have terrorists talking to each other on a formal platform… and it can’t be accessed”.
How this would work in practice is uncertain. WhatsApp, for example, does not store messages on its servers after they have been delivered.
So, even if there was a way to retrospectively unencrypt the chats, it is unclear how this would work without significant changes to its systems.
At one point, there had been speculation that the Investigatory Powers Act – which came into effect last year – might ban chat app’s use of end-to-end encryption outright.
Instead, it stated that technology companies could be compelled to “provide a technical capability” to remove “electronic protection” within their products – which has been interpreted by some to mean app-makers might be compelled to secretly create backdoors or other security weaknesses to let messages be unscrambled.
Why might technology companies resist?
Recent CIA leaks indicate it can be difficult to keep hacking tools a secret
Files leaked by rogue US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden and Wikileaks suggest that even the most closely guarded hacking secrets can be revealed.
And even if the tech companies did not share the technical details of the backdoors with the authorities – instead limiting themselves to passing on unscrambled chats – the very fact vulnerabilities existed means someone else might sniff them out.
As a consequence, public trust in their software might be undermined.
“The encryption debate always rages after a terror incident, regardless of how effective backdoors would have been,” said security consultant Troy Hunt.
“Even if, say, the UK was to ban encryption or mandate weaknesses be built into WhatsApp and iMessage, those with nefarious intent would simply obtain encryption products from other sources.
“These responses are kneejerk reactions by those who have little understanding of the efficacy and implications of what they’re actually proposing.”
The TechUK lobby group said other hacking powers and a move to make internet providers keep a record of their customers’ internet habits – which were also outlined in the Investigatory Powers Act – meant counter-terrorism officers already had strong powers to tackle threats.
“From storing data on the cloud to online banking to identity verification, end-to-end encryption is essential for preventing data being accessed illegally in ways that can harm consumers, business and our national security,” said its deputy chief executive, Antony Walker.

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whatsapp-encryption-explained

German consumer groups sue WhatsApp over privacy policy changes

January 31, 2017

WhatsApp’s privacy policy change allowing Facebook to target advertising at its users has landed the company in a German court.

The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBZ) has filed suit against WhatsApp in the Berlin regional court, alleging that the company collects and stores data illegally and passes it on to Facebook, the federation said Monday.

Facebook acquired WhatsApp in October 2014, but it wasn’t until August 2016 that WhatsApp said it would modify its privacy policy to allow it to share lists of users’ contacts with Facebook. The move made it possible to match WhatsApp accounts with Facebook ones where users had registered a phone number, giving the parent company more data with which to make new friend suggestions and another way to target advertising.

Of particular concern to VZBZ is the way that WhatsApp transfers numbers from its users’ contacts lists to Facebook — even when those numbers are not WhatsApp users. The federation wants the companies to stop transferring such information, and to delete any already transferred. It is also objecting to eight clauses in WhatsApp’s revised terms of use, including one allowing WhatsApp to provide users with advertising materials from the rest of Facebook without their consent.

The policy changes have also landed WhatsApp in hot water elsewhere.

Within days, privacy campaigners including the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy complained to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, accusing the companies of unfair and deceptive trade practices.

The city of Hamburg was first to rule against the companies, ordering Facebook in September to stop collecting data about WhatsApp users and to delete any data it had already gathered.

In October, European Union privacy watchdogs asked the companies to end the data transfers while they investigated whether they needed additional user consent to comply with EU privacy laws.

There’s even concern that the data transfer may have breached antitrust law. In December the European Commission said it was investigating concerns that Facebook had intentionally or negligently submitted incorrect or misleading information to antitrust regulators in the run-up to its acquisition of WhatsApp. Back then, the company told regulators that the phone number matching now being done could not be performed reliably. If the Commission concludes regulators were misled, it could fine the company 1 percent of worldwide revenue.

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Related: Social Networking Internet Mobile Security

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EU privacy proposal could dent Facebook, Gmail ad revenue

January 11, 2017

By Julia Fioretti | BRUSSELS
Online messaging services such as WhatsApp, iMessage and Gmail will face tougher rules on how they can track users under a proposal presented by the European Union executive on Tuesday which could hurt companies reliant on advertising.

The web companies would have to guarantee the confidentiality of their customers’ conversations and get their consent before tracking them online to target them with personalized advertisements.

For example, email services such as Gmail and Hotmail will not be able to scan customers’ emails to serve them with targeted advertisements without getting their explicit agreement.

Most free online services rely on advertising to fund themselves.

Spending on online advertising in 2015 was 36.4 billion euros, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).

The proposal by the European Commission extends some rules that now apply to telecom operators to web companies offering calls and messages using the internet, known as “Over-The-Top” (OTT) services, and seeks to close a perceived regulatory gap between the telecoms industry and mainly U.S. Internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

It would allow telecoms companies to use customer metadata, such as the duration and location of calls, as well as content to provide additional services and so make more money, although the telecoms lobby group ETNO said they remain more constrained than their tech competitors.

The proposal will also require web browsers to ask users upon installation whether they want to allow websites to place cookies on their browsers to deliver personalized advertisements.

A previous version of the proposal would have forced browsers to set the default settings as not allowing cookies which are the small files placed on people’s computers when they visit a website containing information about their browsing activity.

“It’s up to our people to say yes or no,” said Andrus Ansip, Commission vice-president for the digital single market.

Online advertisers say such rules would undermine many websites’ ability to fund themselves and keep offering free services.

“It will particularly hit those companies that … find it most difficult to talk directly to end users and what I mean by that is tech companies that operate in the background and sort of facilitate the buying and selling of advertising rather than the ones that the user directly engages with,” said Yves Schwarzbart, head of policy and regulatory affairs at the IAB.

“There is no doubt that it is time for the entire ecosystem to become more transparent and fair to all of the stakeholders. Users want easy access to trustworthy sources of information while feeling safe with the data they share,” Elad Natanson said.

Companies falling foul of the new law will face fines of up to 4.0 percent of their global turnover, in line with a separate data protection law set to enter into force in 2018.

The proposal will need to be approved by the European Parliament and member states before becoming law.

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