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Facebook did not read terms of the app that harvested data of 87 million

Wow, this is just too perfect.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/26/facebook-cto-admits-firm-didnt-read-terms-of-aleksandr-kogans-app.html

Facebook did not read the terms and services of the app that improperly shared user data with Cambridge Analytica, the company's chief technology officer said Thursday.

"We require that people have a terms and conditions and we have an automated check there at the time — this was in 2014, maybe earlier," Mike Schroepfer told U.K. lawmakers at a parliamentary committee hearing. "We did not read all of the terms and conditions."

...Facebook did not pull it up on its terms of services until after The Guardian newspaper reported early information about it harvesting user data.

Could you script a more absurd plot twist to this user data harvesting scandal? I really hope this is the beginning of the end for Facebook. I mean, aside from this current stuff, Facebook has always been a clunky and awkwardly designed site.

Also, it's way past time for legislation protecting consumers against the absurdity of terms of service agreements. I mean, literally no one reads them. Can't everyone (except corporate attorneys probably) agree that there's an issue here? Trying to lock users into legally binding agreements that they don't understand and haven't read.

We need something that will define what an acceptable terms of service/terms and conditions agreement looks like:

  • A maximum word length for consumer products
  • Grade-level language at the average for a U.S. adult (remove legal jargon)
  • Stop anti-consumer conditions like restrictions on criticism/benchmarking, restrictions on use of competitor products, agreeing in advance to future changes, etc.

 

I wonder if there are going to be any consequences for Facebook and Zuckerberg for all these privacy breeches. I think it's going to take a political shift though, because the current president doesn't seem to value holding corporations responsible.

More in "Facebook is a terrible steward of users' data" news...they accidentally set 14 million users' sharing settings to public. So, if you thought your stuff was privately shared, you might want to double check that!

http://money.cnn.com/2018/06/07/technology/facebook-public-post-error/index.html

Facebook posts typically default to the last "audience" a post was shared with, such as family members, friends, or friends except their boss. That default was changed to public for the 14 million users, but if affected users noticed, they could have manually switched the setting themselves.

"We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts," said Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer. "We have fixed this issue and starting today we are letting everyone affected know and asking them to review any posts they made during that time. To be clear, this bug did not impact anything people had posted before -- and they could still choose their audience just as they always have."

And this is my favorite part:

A Facebook spokesperson said the notification is the start of new proactive and transparent way for the company to handle issues going forward.

I'll personally attest to the fact that nothing this company does is transparent. I say this because the Amdall Gallery Facebook page was recently disabled, and I was given no reason why or if it's ever coming back. Because of the total lack of communication or transparency regarding this banned account process, I went ahead and created a new page today. We lost followers and months of history/posts/etc.

So yeah, not a big fan of Facebook as a company.

Facebook really didn't have a good 2018. More privacy issues:

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/facebook-android-privacy-data-tracking-skyscanner-duolingo-a8708071.html

I had previously read somewhere that Facebook creates internal user profiles for people who don't even have profiles, which is pretty outrageous. But here's an article about them tracking Android users even if they didn't use the app.

Facebook's data collecting practices have once again been called into question, after a new report revealed that it "routinely tracked" people who do not use the app.

Their report, which was presented at Chaos Computer Congress in Leipzig, Germany, stated:  "Facebook routinely tracks users, non-users and logged-out users outside its platform through Facebook Business Tools. App developers share data with Facebook through the Facebook Software Development Kit (SDK), a set of software development tools that help developers build apps for a specific operating system."

And don't worry! Turning off location apparently doesn't stop Facebook from tracking your location:

https://gizmodo.com/turning-off-facebook-location-tracking-doesnt-stop-it-f-1831149148

“There is no way for people to opt out of using location for ads entirely,” said a Facebook spokesperson by email. “We use city and zip level location which we collect from IP addresses and other information such as check-ins and current city from your profile to ensure we are providing people with a good service—from ensuring they see Facebook in the right language, to making sure that they are shown nearby events and ads for businesses that are local to them.”

Also, just a reminder on smartphone apps and location data...many, many apps sell your specific location history to third parties. This is very common, in fact. The Weather Channel app is catching a ton of heat about this:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/04/weather-channel-app-lawsuit-location-data-selling

People relied on the most popular mobile weather app to track forecasts that determined whether they chose jeans over shorts and packed a parka or umbrella, but its owners used it to track their every step and profit off that information, Los Angeles prosecutors said Friday.

The operator of the Weather Channel mobile app misled users who agreed to share their location information in exchange for personalized forecasts and alerts, and they instead unwittingly surrendered personal privacy when the company sold their data to third parties, the city attorney, Michael Feuer, said.

Feuer sued the app’s operator in Los Angeles county superior court to stop the practice. He said 80% of users agreed to allow access to their locations because disclosures on how the app uses geolocation data were buried within a 10,000-word privacy policy and not revealed when they downloaded the app.

“Think how Orwellian it feels to live in a world where a private company is tracking potentially every place you go, every minute of every day,” Feuer said. “If you want to sacrifice to that company that information, you sure ought to be doing it with clear advanced notice of what’s at stake.”

These tech companies aren't going to self-regulate to any meaningful degree. We really need Congress to intervene and set up some privacy protections for consumers.