By Aaron Kesel
Recently embroiled in scandal Facebook is facing blowback from allowing its users’ data to be shared with political consultation firm Cambridge Analytica. Shockingly, Facebook has now admitted that it scans its users’ photos and links posted on the social media giant and will review text you send if something is flagged.
Facebook confirmed the practice to Bloomberg after an interview with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg told Vox’s Ezra Klein a story about receiving a phone call related to ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Facebook had detected people trying to send sensational messages through the Messenger app, he said.
“In that case, our systems detect what’s going on,” Zuckerberg said. “We stop those messages from going through.”
“For example, on Messenger, when you send a photo, our automated systems scan it using photo matching technology to detect known child exploitation imagery, or when you send a link, we scan it for malware or viruses,” a Facebook Messenger spokeswoman said in a statement to Bloomberg. “Facebook designed these automated tools so we can rapidly stop abusive behavior on our platform.”
Not only was Facebook scanning images and links, but the social media giant admitted to storing call and text meta data in a blog post. The data included who the call/text was to or from, the date, time and duration of the phone call.
“Call and text history logging is part of an opt-in feature for people using Messenger or Facebook Lite on Android,” the company wrote. “This helps you find and stay connected with the people you care about and provides you with a better experience across Facebook.” Once this feature is enabled, the Messenger app begins “to continuously upload your contacts as well as your call and text history.”
It all started when developer Dylan McKay took the time to download his data that Facebook had collected on him over the years. McKay followed up last week by tweeting out a picture of his file which appeared to show a call log of every single call he’d made for the past few years. As the tweet went viral, other Twitter users replied that they were seeing their same call history recorded in the data.
Facebook’s horror doesn’t end there; the company has just confessed that it believes the number of people affected by the Cambridge Analytica scandal is much higher than it once thought. The number is now leaning toward a massive 87 million people estimated to have been affected by the firms “data scrape.”
Previously Facebook believed it had improperly shared the privacy information with as much as 50 million, but that number has increased by a whopping 37,000,000 according to a lengthy post by CTO Mike Schroepfer about its privacy changes, including restricting third-party app access and deleting old logs of messages.
Last month, reports alleged U.K.-based political research firm Cambridge Analytica (a shell company of SCL Group) collected data from Facebook users when just 270,000 users downloaded a psychology quiz app. (More on SCL Group here in my Steemit article: “The TRUTH About The Cambridge Analytica Scandal Is Bigger Than Just Facebook.”)
Another more recent Facebook blog update noted that “most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped,” by the shady political firm.
Facebook added that it is ending a feature that lets users search for a profile using a phone number or personal email, and suggested that it has been abused for years.
“Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way,” Schroepfer said in the post. “So we have now disabled this feature.”
Facebook is also cutting third-party apps access to the member lists for groups and the personal info attached to posts in those groups, according to Schroepfer.
We will also no longer allow apps to ask for access to personal information such as religious or political views, relationship status and details, custom friends lists, education and work history, fitness activity, book reading activity, music listening activity, news reading, video watch activity, and games activity.
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote an apology in UK and U.S. newspapers to paraphrase that what’s done is done.
We’re also investigating every single app that had access to large amounts of data before we fixed this. We expect there are others.
Although, the Facebook CEO noted the company will now ban any other apps that were using its users to collect social analytical information about a person.
And when we find them, we will ban them and tell everyone affected.
Meanwhile, Cook County Illinois is suing Facebook and Cambridge Analytica for fraud after revelations that the firm obtained data on millions of Facebook users.
Of course since this scandal has caught wind, an old video of Mark Zuckerberg in 2009 has resurfaced in part due to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden who tweeted.
The same Zuckerberg, less than one year later: https://t.co/vd4JdpN79C
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) March 27, 2018
One year later in 2010, a story in The New York Times reveals that Mark Zuckerberg had flip-flopped and changed his view against an individual’s privacy in a penned headline, “Facebook’s Zuckerberg Says The Age of Privacy Is Over.”
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This is interesting due to the true story of how Facebook became the social media giant through funding from various questionable sources that lead back to DARPA and In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm.
This is especially worrying given DARPA’s Information Awareness Office involvement in several information mining projects.
Wikipedia’s IAO page says: “the IAO has the stated mission to gather as much information as possible about everyone, in a centralised location, for easy perusal by the United States government, including (though not limited to) internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver’s licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and any other available data.”
Facebook’s first round of venture capital funding ($500,000) came from former PayPal CEO, Peter Thiel.
The second round of funding into Facebook ($12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners and Thiel one again in May 2005.
Finally, the third round included $27.5 million from Accel financing that included Thiel, Accel and Greylock Partners in April 2006.
Accel Partners manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. One of the company’s key areas of expertise are in “data mining technologies.”
Breyer also served on the board of R&D firm BBN Technologies, which was one of those companies responsible for the rise of the Internet.
Dr. Anita Jones joined the firm, which included Gilman Louie. She had also served on the In-Q-Tel’s board, and had been director of Defense Research and Engineering for the U.S. Department of Defense.
She was also an adviser to the Secretary of Defense and overseeing the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is responsible for high-tech, high-end development at the agency.
Further, the infamous Peter Thiel also took in In-Q-Tel funding for his startup firm Palantir around 2004.
Even Greylock Partners has ties to In-Q-Tel’s Howard Cox, the head of Greylock who served directly on In-Q-Tel’s board of directors.
Of interest is a quote by a CIA official who describes the CIA’s work with Silicon Valley, which might show a CIA connection to Facebook due to the consistent connections to In-Q-Tel throughout its funding rounds.
“The CIA had to offer Silicon Valley something of value, a business model that the Valley understood; a model that provides those who joined hands with In-Q-Tel the opportunity to commercialize their innovations,” CIA official Rick Yannuzzi wrote in a briefing document for the Defense Intelligence Journal in 2001.
Facebook is now admitting quite publicly that it scans its users’ photos posted on the social media giant and links as well as will review text that you sent if something is flagged. All of this despite a 2014 court decision where the judge ruled that Facebook must face a class action lawsuit accusing it of violating its users’ privacy by scanning the content of messages they send to other users for advertising purposes.
A U.S. court just last year dismissed a nationwide litigation accusing Facebook of tracking users’ Internet activity even after they logged out of the social media website.
Now a whistleblower, thanks to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, has emerged: Christoper Wylie. Wylie appeared before a committee of British MPs, delivering bombshell testimony noting that Facebook has the ability to spy on all of its users in their homes and offices.
“There’s been various speculation about the fact that Facebook can, through the Facebook app on your smartphone, listen in to what people are talking about and discussing and using that to prioritize the advertising as well,” Collins said. “Other people would say, no, they don’t think it’s possible. It’s just that the Facebook system is just so good at predicting what you’re interested in that it can guess.”
“On a comment about using audio and processing audio, you can use it for, my understanding generally of how companies use it… not just Facebook, but generally other apps that pull audio, is for environmental context,” Wylie said. “So if, for example, you have a television playing versus if you’re in a busy place with a lot of people talking versus a work environment.” He clarified, “It’s not to say they’re listening to what you’re saying. It’s not natural language processing. That would be hard to scale. But to understand the environmental context of where you are to improve the contextual value of the ad itself” is possible.
In 2015 the Belgian privacy commission study concluded Facebook’s use of user data violated privacy and data protection laws in the EU, Guardian reported.
In February earlier this year, a German court echoed that previous ruling, stating that Facebook is breaching data protection rules with privacy settings that “over-share” by default and by requiring its users to give their real names.
Turns out WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was right, Facebook is “the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented.” Or, as a CBS report written in 2011 stated, “Social Media Is a Tool of the CIA. Seriously.”
Facebook’s own founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg faces a grilling on Capitol Hill next week on April 10th and 11th where Zuckerberg will testify on the Cambridge Analytica scandal to lawmakers.
Facebook isn’t the only big company collecting large amounts of user data; Google is also a big culprit of data mining. The obvious path is to seek alternatives for social media like onG.Social or Steemit. As for searching the Internet, use Presearch or DuckDuckgo in place of Google. But if you don’t want to completely divorce Google, here’s how to stop the search engine behemoth from collecting all your data and knowing more about you than you. (CLICK HERE)
Image credit: Anthony Freda Art