Displaying items by tag: Users

Facebook embroiled in new data sharing claims

Written on Thursday, 14 June 2018 09:10

Beleaguered social media behemoth Facebook has been subjected to further scrutiny over its data sharing policies following a report by the Wall Street Journal.  The WSJ has claimed that Facebook offered deeper access to user records in a series of customized data sharing deals.

According to the report in the New York-based publication the Silicon Valley based social networking firm struck agreements, known internally as whitelists with a small group of companies which allowed access to users’ data which included connections, phone numbers and a metric that measures the closeness of a user with other users in its network.

When quizzed about these agreements and whitelists by The Wall Street Journal, Facebook acknowledged the deals which included agreements with enterprises such as the Royal Bank of Canada and Japanese car manufacturer Nissan, among others.

It was further alleged that the access was offered to companies which advertise on the social network or were valuable for other reasons, the newspaper said. In addition to this, it was further disclosed that Facebook continued to offer such access for periods lasting weeks and months after declaring it had cut off access to third party developers in 2015.

Company officials told WSJ Facebook struck the deals to improve user experience, test new features and allow certain partners to wind down existing data sharing projects. The latest revelation is the latest in a string of publicly damaging setbacks for the company, which faced fierce criticism in recent months over its data sharing activities.

Last week, Facebook’s data sharing practices with 60 device makers, including China-headquartered vendors, was flagged by a US politician. The company is also attempting to deal with the fallout of revelations in March that it shared data of 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica. It was also announced last week that Instagram had overtaken Facebook amongst teenagers and young adults.

Published in Apps

Huawei denies collecting data from Facebook users

Written on Thursday, 07 June 2018 08:39

Chinese telecommunications vendor Huawei has vehemently denied that it collected data from Facebook users after the Silicon Valley social media colossus confirmed that it granted the Chinese smartphone manufacturer with access to user information.

Huawei has been deemed a threat to national security in the United States by a number of leading US intelligence officials and Republican congressman. The Chinese vendor has been subjected to intense scrutiny over the last few months, and this latest revelation by Facebook will only serve to heighten concerns over national security.

Facebook confirmed that Huawei along with several other companies was allowed to access Facebook data to get the world’s leading social network to perform on its smartphones. Following a fierce backlash in the US congress, Facebook mobile partnerships leader Francisco Varela has leapt to the defense of Huawei, saying that the information utilized by the Chinese vendor was stored on the device and not on Huawei’s servers.

Varela said, “Facebook along with many other US tech companies have worked with them and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones. Given the interest from Congress, we wanted to make clear that all the information from these integrations with Huawei was stored on the device, not on Huawei's servers.”

A spokesperson for Huawei told AFP that it cooperated with Facebook as part of a concerted effort to improve user services, and strongly denied it collected or stored the data of users. In addition to this, it also rubbished claims it had any links to the Chinese government and dismissed fears in the US over national security.

The spokesperson said, “Like all leading smartphone providers, Huawei worked with Facebook to make Facebook's services more convenient for users. Huawei has never collected or stored any Facebook user data. Our infrastructure and computing products are used in 170 countries and we’ve worked hard to become a trusted ICT provider for our customers.”

US Senator Mark Warner, who is also vice-chairman of the senate select committee on intelligence, expressed his concern regarding the revelations by Facebook that Huawei had access to users’ data.

Warner said, “Concerns about Huawei aren't new. I look forward to learning more about how Facebook ensured that information about their users was not sent to Chinese servers."

Contracts with phone makers placed tight limits on what could be done with data, and "approved experiences" were reviewed by engineers and managers before being deployed - according to the social network.  Facebook said it does not know of any privacy abuse by phone makers who years ago were able to gain access to personal data on users and their friends. 

Published in Telecom Vendors

The European Union has increased pressure on US technology leaders Facebook, Twitter and Google in relation to its user terms. The EU has requested that they amend their user terms in order to make them compliant with current EU law - after EU lawmakers deemed the proposals submitted by the technology giants as ‘insufficient’.

In June, the European Commission (EC) and consumer protection authorities in the EU wrote directly to Facebook, Google and Twitter in which they stressed to the technology companies that they need to improve their proposed changes to user terms by the end of September.

The EU has the power to impose fines if Facebook, Twitter and Google fail to comply with the request issued. Twitter has thus far not responded to an e-mailed request for a comment from Reuters, whilst Google declined to comment on the ongoing situation. However, Facebook believes that it is compliant with current EU law, but conceded that its terms could be formatted in a way which was easier to understand and would work to meet the authorities concerns.

The concerns are concentrated mainly on procedures the social media entities propose to set up for the removal of illegal content on their websites, some analysts have claimed that the terms limit their liability and allows them unilaterally to remove content posted by users.

The US technology trio has been given a deadline of July 20th to submit new proposals, which need to be implemented by the end of September. A source close to the case has claimed that two of the companies had submitted amended proposals, while a third had asked for more time, declining to specify which one.

Facebook, Google and Twitter agreed to the proposed changes touted in March amidst concerns raised by European regulators in March of this year. One of the main issues centered on the terms which forced European consumers to seek redress in California, where the companies are all headquartered, instead of the consumer’s home address.

US technology firms have previously faced scrutiny over the way it conducts its business in Europe, ranging from issues such as privacy, to illegal or threatening content. Both the consumer protection authorities and the EC has requested that the trio provide more details on the timeframe and deadlines it will apply in relation to dealing with notifications of content deemed illegal under consumer law.

Published in Government

Social networking colossus Facebook is challenging a gag order from a US court that is currently preventing the organization from talking about three government search warrants. However, Facebook is claiming that the preventative measures implemented by the US court pose a threat to freedom of speech.

According to reports and court documents, Facebook wants to notify three of its users about the search warrants that are seeking their communications and information, and to provide those users with the opportunity to object to the warrants.

Facebook released a statement on the gag order and expressed its concern over a breach of the First Amendment concerns with this particular case. Facebook said: "We believe there are important First Amendment concerns with this case, including the government's refusal to let us notify three people of broad requests for their account information in connection with public events.”

The First Amendment to the US constitution guarantees certain rights including freedom of speech; however, William Miller, a spokesman for US prosecutors declined to comment on Facebook’s decision to challenge the gag order. In an undated court document it said that Facebook decided to challenge the gag order around the three warrants on the basis that free speech was at stake – and that the events underlying the government’s investigation were generally known to the public.

It has not yet been disclosed what the precise nature of the government’s investigation is; however, there have been suggestions that the timing of the proceedings coincide with charges against people who protested at Donald Trump’s inauguration in January. On the day, Donald Trump was sworn in as president - over 200 people were arrested in Washington as masked activists threw rocks at police, whilst multiple vehicles were set on fire.

Technology firms have consistently complied with thousands of requests for user data made on an annual basis by the government around the world, but in extraordinary circumstances, leading tech entities such as Microsoft and Twitter have defied and challenged government secrecy orders. Facebook fought a secrecy order in April, in relation to a disability fraud investigation, but it lost the case in New York highest state court.

Facebook says about half of U.S. requests are accompanied by a non-disclosure order prohibiting it from notifying affected users. In April, a local judge in Washington denied Facebook's request to remove the gag order there, according to the document. Facebook is appealing and has preserved the relevant records pending the outcome, the document said.

"The government can only insulate its actions from public scrutiny in this way in the rarest circumstances, which likely do not apply here," said Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates for digital rights.

Published in Apps

The World’s largest mobile operator has announced its intentions to double its VoLTE user base by the end of 2017. Chairman of China Mobile, Shang Bing made the announcement during his keynote address at Mobile World Congress Shanghai. (MWCS 2017)

Bing declared that China Mobile would increase its VoLTE customer base from 86 million to 150 million by the end of December – and that its overall VoLTE penetration would reach 17%. In addition to this, it was disclosed that the telecommunications colossus has launched VoLTE in 313 cities across China.

China Mobile’s Chairman also claimed that the operator’s mobile 4G user base will reach 620 million by the end of 2017 – with overall 4G penetration hitting a staggering 72%. It has been reported that the China Mobile has invested an estimated CNY450 billion ($66 billion) in the last three years to construct the world’s largest 4G network. Its 4G customer base reached 583 million in May of this year – with penetration rates standing at 67.5%. In broad terms it means that basically one in four 4G users in the entire world is a China Mobile customer.

Bing said: “We’ve deployed 1.6 million 4G base stations which accounts for about 30% of the global total. Our 4G coverage will reach 99% of the population by the end of the year – and our LTE base station will rise to 1.77 million.”

He conceded that after an initiative pursued by the Chinese government overall mobile phone bills fell by around 60% in 2015, and that household monthly broadband fees declined from CYN51 to CYN32.7. Bing added: “Our cost-reduction initiatives have boosted information consumption and the information economy.”

He concluded by announcing that the operator aims for its broadband coverage to reach 70% of households by the end of 2017, with fiber making up about 90% of the market.

Published in Telecom Operators

Twitter has dropped some subtle hints that suggest it may introduce a subscription-based option on the hugely popular social networking platform. Reports have emerged that management is considering the option of building a premium version of its popular ‘Tweet-deck’ interface which is specifically aimed at professionals. Analysts have predicted that there is now a distinct possibility that it could collect subscription fees from some users for the first time.

Twitter which was founded in 2006 – has like all other successful social media outlets focused on building a huge core of followers for a free service which generates income through advertising. Twitter has claimed that it has 319 million users worldwide, and is more popular with celebrities than Facebook. Its most famous user is current US President Donald Trump who tweets on a regular basis. However, its numbers are significantly inferior to Facebook who have consistently been able to grow its reach. This has subsequently and rather inevitably led Twitter to fail to attract enough in advertising revenue to turn a profit. 

The potential of subscriptions fees could come from a premium version of Tweet-deck that is an existing interface on the platform that helps users to navigate Twitter. It has conducted market research to assess whether or not there would be interest in a new, more enhanced version of the interface.

Twitter spokeswoman Brielle Villablanca said: "We regularly conduct user research to gather feedback about people's Twitter experience and to better inform our product investment decisions, and we're exploring several ways to make Tweetdeck even more valuable for professionals." However, there was no concrete indication that Twitter was considering charging fees from all its users.”

Word of the survey had earlier leaked on Twitter, where a journalist affiliated with the New York Times posted screenshots of what a premium version of Tweetdeck could look like. That version could include "more powerful tools to help marketers, journalists, professionals, and others in our community find out what is happening in the world quicker.

It was further reported that if the new and improved experience generates enough interest, it could be ad-free. Other social media firms such as Microsoft Corp’s and LinkedIn unit have already implemented memberships and subscriptions version that offer greater access and data.

Twitter posted the slowest revenue growth since it went public four years earlier, and revenue from advertising fell year-over-year. The company also said that advertising revenue growth would continue to lag user growth during 2017. Financial markets speculated about a sale of Twitter last year, but no concrete bids were forthcoming.

Published in Apps

Indian operator agrees deal with Uber over its new app

Written on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 12:09

Reliance Jio, India’s newest telecommunications operator has reached an agreement with US global ride-sharing platform Uber - which will enable passengers to pay for services by utilizing the operator’s new application. The Indian 4G newcomer have recently launched an application called JioMoney which is a digital wallet.

The partnership between the firm and Uber will allow those who have the JioMoney app to be able to request to pay for Uber rides by using the application - this will subsequently provide a major boost to cashless payments in India – and also provides mobility options to millions of Reliance Jio customers.

Uber have started to rollout the JioMoney payment options right across the Indian nation – Uber’s chief business officer in India, Madhu Kannan, expressed their delight at the agreement brokered between the two organizations.

In a statement he said, “We are delighted to partner with Reliance Jio to unlock synergies across two of the largest user bases in India. Digital payments have become part of our everyday lives and by integrating JioMoney as a payment options, our riders will have the ability to use a familiar and consistent payment experience.”

In addition to this, Uber’s chief business officer believes the strategic partnership between the two companies will fast forward digital solutions at a large scale for Indian users. Those sentiments were echoed by Head of Business at JioMoney, Anirban Mukherjee - who declared the integration with Uber will power the rapid migration of many more Uber transactions to the digital platform.

Both organizations disclosed that they will celebrate the collaboration by offering special incentives in the form of coupons, which will be made available through the application to users paying for Uber rides through the JioMoney app.

Uber has entered into similar arrangements in the past in India. In 2014, they integrated Paytm into its platform which gave users an alternative payment option to credit cards. However, users couldn’t book or pay for rides by using the Paytm application. Analysts have predicted that this deal with Jio will directly challenge Paytm’s dominance in the digital payments market in India.

Jio has announced that it has reached its launch target ahead of schedule – it claims to have signed up to 100 million subscribers in just the first five months of its operation – which they say is ahead of schedule.

The operator officially launched its service in September, offering a range of free data, voice and messaging services to quickly build its subscriber base. Although the free offers were initially due to expire in December, Jio extended the period to end of March.

Published in Apps

Online social networking giants Twitter have created a new tab which is specifically aimed at making it easier for users to find interesting content while browsing on their social media platform. The move is just the latest in a long list of strategies management at Twitter in their attempts to find new users as they seek new ways to expand their business.

Twitter, which is headquartered in San Francisco, have added an ‘explore tab’ which will enable users to find and engage with interesting content easier. The feature will be added first on Twitter to Apple mobile devices – and it is expected to be added to Android smartphones in the coming weeks.

Project designer Angela Lam explained the benefits and thought process behind the ‘explore app’. Citing that it combines trends, moments, search and live video highlights in a single spot.

In a blog post, Lam said, “Until today, you had to go to a few different places to find each of these experiences. As part of our continued efforts to make it easier to see what's happening, we're bringing all these together."

The intentions behind the ‘explore app’ are to simply make it easier for users to find news, trending topics, and popular tweets - Twitter are striving to boost its rank of users and revenue.

It is set to report its earnings for the final quarter of 2016 later next month – Twitter reported a net loss of $103 million in September - they had losses amounting to $132 million in the previous year, while revenue grew by 8% to $616 million due to advertising.

The key metric of monthly active users rose only modestly to 317 million from 313 million in the prior quarter -- a growth pace that has prompted concerns over Twitter's ability to keep up in the fast-moving world of social media.

Analysts have been skeptical about Twitter's outlook for expansion, expressing concerns about its ability to entice users beyond its core base.

Published in Apps

Facebook have announced that they’ve created a new tool which enables users to report fake news stories that appear on their newsfeeds. Facebook is the market leader in social networking with over 1.7 billion registered accounts. However, it has been heavily criticized in many quarters for its failure to prevent the volume of fake stories going viral on its platform.

The new tool will give users the opportunity to report stories they believe may be fabricated. Articles suspected of being fabricated will be flagged and disputed - then Facebook will work with global fact-checking organizations in order to establish the authenticity of the article.

Facebook VP Adam Mosseri , said the social networking giant had a clear focus to eradicate the issue of fake news stories, and acknowledged the negative impact they can have, although, he refuted the claim the spread of fabricated stories about Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton that appeared on Facebook swung the vote in Donald Trump’s favor.

Mosseri wrote the following in a blog post, “We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we're approaching this problem carefully. We've focused our efforts on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain, and on engaging both our community and third-party organizations."

Facebook said it would begin testing a system enabling users to click on news items if they suspect they are fabricated. The social network said it would work with global fact-checking organizations subscribing to the Poynter Institute's International Fact Checking Code of Principles. Mosseri added, “If the fact-checking organizations identify a story as fake, it will get flagged as disputed and there will be a link to the corresponding article explaining why.” 

Facebook and Google both released statements last month in which they reiterated their desire to shut down websites which profited from promoting fake news articles through their lucrative advertising networks. These publications known as ‘click-bait’ websites make their money by baiting readers into clicking on sensational headlines.

But an analysis by the watchdog group Media Matters found Google AdSense advertisements on more than half of sites studied with track records for pushing fake news stories. "The recent incarnation of 'fake news' is destructive and dangerous," Media Matters president Angelo Carusone said. Its proliferation and the perverse incentive that rewards it with money must be stopped. Information consumers must be discerning when reading and sharing news so as not to become part of the problem. And fake news creators should not be able to profit from their scams."

Published in Apps