Displaying items by tag: Facebook
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.
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.
The Hong Kong-Americas (HKA) consortium and Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) have signed a turnkey contract for the deployment of the Hong Kong-Americas (HKA) submarine cable network, which will span more than 13,000 kilometers.
This new open cable system will increase connectivity between Hong Kong and the US and will reinforce Hong Kong’s role as a key communications hub in the Asia-Pacific region. The HKA consortium includes China Telecom, China Unicom, Facebook, Tata Communications, and Telstra as the major parties.
The HKA system will feature six fiber pairs and will connect Chung Hom Kok in Hong Kong to Hermosa Beach in California; additional connectivity options may be exercised in future. Its open design will deliver significant cost benefits as well as enhanced bandwidth availability for telecommunications services and content-based services between Asia and North America. Target completion date for the HKA System is in the year 2020.
Chung Hom Kok Cable Landing Station is located at Chung Hom Kok in the central island of Hong Kong and is the southernmost cable landing station in Hong Kong. Three cables of the C2C Network land at the Chung Hom Kok Cable Landing Station. In addition, the Southeast Asia Japan cable system lands at this station. The station is owned by Pacnet (Telstra) with Pacnet and China telecom Global providing backhaul.
Leveraging its state-of-the-art subsea technology, the ASN solution will deliver greater diversity of connections, enhanced reliability and network efficiency, as well as enabling optimal connectivity between major data centers in Asia and the USA.
The solution includes ASN's submarine WSS ROADM units, the latest generation of repeaters and will offer high performance and powering resilience, enabling over 80Tb/s transmission capacity. In addition, it is also compatible with future generations of submarine line terminal equipped with Probabilistic Shaping technology.
Philippe Piron, President of Alcatel Submarine Netwoks, said: "We are proud to work with the HKA consortium on this project, which incorporates several innovations from ASN and will be based on the latest high-performance submarine line design. The trust placed upon us by the HKA consortium validates our position as a key player for submarine network infrastructures in the Asia-Pacific region and the reinforcement of our local presence.”
Piron added: “It also provides a strong platform to further demonstrate our commitment in project management and in the development of local relationships to support operators and content providers for their network and capacity expansion strategies."
Telstra said it would invest in a half fiber pair on the Hong Kong Americas (HKA) cable. Telstra said it would also purchase capacity equivalent to 6 terabits per second on the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), which like HKA will stretch from Hong Kong to the west coast of the US. Google and Facebook are also backing the PLCN.
The PLCN will have a total capacity of around 120 terabits per second and include 12,800 kilometers of fiber. The cables will offer lower latency than the Asia-America Gateway (AAG), which connects South-East Asia to the west coast of the US via Guam and Hawaii.
“Together with the current AAG cable on which Telstra carries the most traffic today, these two investments will provide us with increased capacity across the important Hong Kong to US route, one of the fastest growing routes in the world for capacity demand,” Telstra’s group managing director of global services and international, David Burns, said in a statement.
PLDT, NTT Communications, PCCW Global, SoftBank, Facebook and Amazon have selected TE SubCom to install a high-capacity transpacific cable system scheduled to launch in 2020. TE SubCom, a TE Connectivity Ltd. Company, is an industry pioneer in undersea communications technology.
“The demand for bandwidth in the Pacific region continues to grow at a remarkable rate, and is accompanied by the rise of capacity-dependent applications like live video, augmented and virtual reality, and 4k/8k video,” said Koji Ishii of SoftBank, co-chairperson of JUPITER consortium.
The JUPITER cable system will connect the following locations: Maruyama, Japan; Shima, Japan; Los Angeles, California; and Daet, Camarines Norte, Philippines. The new transpacific route will provide greater diversity of connections and enhanced reliability for customers, as well as optimal connectivity to data centers on the West Coast of the United States.
“JUPITER will provide the necessary diversity of connections and the highest capacity available to meet the needs of the evolving marketplace,” Ishii added. “TE SubCom has a proven record of success in the design and implementation of innovative, scalable and robust transoceanic cable systems, making the company the most reliable choice for the JUPITER supply partner.”
Sanjay Chowbey, president of TE SubCom, said submarine cables continue to have a critical impact on the global economy, as well as cultural, educational and medical advancement around the world.
“It is our privilege to help facilitate the growth of global connectivity and provide reliable, high-capacity and low-latency transmission to regions where bandwidth is at a premium,” Chowbey said. “We look forward to the next phases of what will be a high quality and industry leading system implementation.”
Completing five years in the Middle East and North Africa, Facebook opened the doors to its brand new regional headquarters in Dubai on Oct. 27. The 20,000-square-foot space features an open office concept, and showcases regional cultural inspirations through the various designs and artistic cues.
Since launching a local presence in the region in 2012, Facebook has been embraced by users, growing to 164 million monthly active people. With over 60 employees, mostly from the Arab region, Facebook’s office in Dubai acts as a hub.
Over the past five years, Facebook has grown its MENA user base by 264 percent, and now looks to galvanize the digital transformation in the Arab World, collaborating with users and partners to create products and solutions relevant to the region.
The new office houses a strong, purpose-built team, with strong regional experience, that reflects the brand’s mission to give people the power to build communities and bring the world closer together.
Working with companies across a multitude of industries including travel and tourism, finance, media, automotive, FMCG, retail, telecom and start-ups, Facebook has driven both awareness and consideration for global and local brands in the region. Complementing this is the company’s mobile-first strategy as over 156 million users access Facebook on mobile devices every month in MENA.
“This region has embarked on a path of growth and transformation and we aim to be part of it. Our new headquarters is a truly inspiring space, and brings to life the dynamism, creativity and innovative culture of Facebook while reflecting the communities around us,” said Jonathan Labin, Managing Director, Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan at Facebook.
“With its strong business ecosystems, regional connectivity, and access to the best global talent, Dubai and the UAE remain the right place for us to call home in the region,” Labin added. “We are only 1 percent finished in our journey here, and we are excited about what lies ahead in this young, connected, and mobile-first region.”
Facebook’s strong connection to the region is reflected in the Arabic themes used in the new office design, not just limited to quirky meeting room names such as ‘Hommous’, but also with commissioned pieces that blend modern and traditional styles from Emirati artist Eman Al Hashemi, making her the first artist from the Arab world to join Facebook’s Global Artist in Residence program.
Other things to look out for in the office include a maternity room for mothers who choose to bring their children to work, a treadmill desk, and an interfaith room. The office also features an in-house library with a cross-section of publications from global authors.
Designed by INC Group and JLL MENA, the office includes a bright open floor area to encourage collaboration, a mother’s room, an interfaith room, a majlis, with recreational and quiet rooms. The office also features a private terrace with views of the iconic Palm Jumeirah.
Employees have access to a gaming section or can take selfies in a custom-built Instagram anti-gravity room. For those looking for quiet time, the space features ‘acoustic sofas’ as a quieter location for work as well as meeting rooms that reflect the regional culture and sense of humor, including ‘Three Men and a Habibi’, ‘Shawarma’, and ‘Gone with the Sandstorm’.
Expanding their presence in the region, Facebook aims to build on its work with local and regional Arab content creators like The Saudi Reporters, as well as further create opportunities for entrepreneurs by working directly with businesses to develop bespoke strategies that supports their growth.
The next few years will also see Facebook sustaining the momentum of its global #SheMeansBusiness program, launched earlier this year, in partnership with Emirates Foundation, Sheraa Sharjah and Ahead of the Curve in Egypt which aims to train and inspire women entrepreneurs in the region, and use Facebook and Instagram as platforms to reach and grow their audiences.
Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Saudi Arabia’s largest telecom company, announced the company’s interim financial results for the period ending at 30 September 2017. The group’s net income for the 3rd quarter of 2017 increased 18.2 percent compared to the comparable quarter last year, and for the 9 months period of 2017, net income reached SR 7.5 billion, an increase of 10.4 percent compared to the comparable period last year.
The company’s operating profit for the 3rd quarter increased 23 percent compared to comparable quarter last year, while earnings per share for the 9 months period of 2017 grew to reach SR 3.76 compared to SR 3.41 for the comparable period last year.
STC CEO, Dr. Khalid Biyari, said the results reflect growth in enterprise and wholesale sectors which achieved revenue despite a decline in consumer revenue during the period. The results were also achieved, he said, despite various economic and regulatory conditions in the domestic market.
STC adopted a strategy years ago to focus on diversifying sources and introducing innovative programs to achieve operational efficiency. Therefore, net income for the 3rd quarter increased 18.2 percent compared to the comparable period last year, and for the 9 months period of 2017 net income increased 10.4 percent compared to the comparable period last year.
Dr. Biyari said that STC, through its various subsidiaries, works “hard and steadily side by side with public and private sector in the Kingdom to establish a contemporary environment for the digital transformation in Saudi Arabia and to establish a modern environment that contributes to the spread of the digital environment.”
STC’s growth strategy adopted recently seeks to achieve the kingdom’s Vision 2030 and the NTP 2020 which means entering into major transformation. The telecom sector, said Dr. Biyari, is seeking new opportunities outside of traditional services. The transformation will provide STC with new opportunities outside its core business, and thus its market capitalization will rapidly increase.
“As an example of a new era for Sales and Distribution, (STC channels) was re-launched recently with an innovative digital vision and new spirit as an important selling and distribution arm of the group, which is an important part of the transition to digital channels in the service of our clients and providing innovative new services,” Dr. Biyari said. “This will be followed by successive steps in the near future that will bring us closer to our objectives in meeting the customers’ needs and achieve attractive returns for the investors.”
In accordance with the approved dividend policy for three years starting from the 4th quarter 2015 which was announced on 11 November 2015, and have been ratified during the General Assembly Meeting on April 4th 2016, STC will distribute a total of SR 2,000 million in cash dividend for Q3 2017, representing SR 1 per share.
It’s no secret that telecom operators have struggled against the popularity of over-the-top (OTT) applications like WhatsApp and Skype, who have challenged traditional voice and SMS revenue streams. Some operators have called for regulators to subject OTTs to legacy telecommunications regulations in order to even the playing field. But such suggestions are misguided, according to the ITU.
Telecom operators are stuck in a predicament regarding OTT services who utilize their networks. They have little control over the growth of OTTs because users should be free to use the internet as they please. The network carrier only carries the IP packets from source to destination. They might be aware of the packets and their contents, but cannot do much about it. Carriers have had to roll with the punches and figure out how to adapt.
Ultimately, using VoIP (voice-over-IP) is a cheaper alternative to making expensive phone calls because the user doesn’t have to pay to use the dedicated phone line and instead utilizes an internet connection without any extra costs. As is the case with most VoIP services, calls made using the internet are often free while calls made to a cellular network require a payment. The advanced communication functions of modern smartphones have played a role in the rapid growth of OTT services.
The question is: what can network carriers do about it? Telecom carriers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue to VoIP services, statistics show. Some network carriers reacted, of course, by imposing restrictions on VoIP services. AT&T did this when Apple released its iPhone and the US telecom operator didn’t want its network being used for VoIP calling. AT&T lifted the block in 2009 after pressure from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
AT&T had an agreement with Apple to ban apps that would enable iPhone users to make phone calls using a wireless data connection. The scandal was revealed when the FCC requested that the companies explain why Google’s Voice app was rejected for the iPhone app store. The FCC was led to investigate if AT&T and Apple were colluding to prevent competition, sparking the beginning of a sour relationship between telecom providers and OTTs.
Can telcos come out on top?
For decades, telecom operators had free reign to charge rates for voice, data and SMS largely in excess of their marginal cost, which created a market ripe with innovation. The International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) recent report ‘The State of Broadband 2017’ highlights the struggle telecom operators have faced since that period began to wane, as online applications became increasingly popular with consumers around the world who wished to interact in ways not possible through traditional communications channels.
Communication has been transformed by the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Skype, WeChat, Google, WhatsApp and Viber. These OTT services have “transformed the way people build communities and search for information, and made valuable contributions to health, education, finance and entertainment,” ITU claims in the report. “Online applications now generate a significant proportion of the socioeconomic impact of digitization and utilization of the internet itself.”
The demand for OTT services has driven the telecom industry to a new era, and some telecom operators – in defense of their traditional revenues – have sought to “handicap” the growth of OTT players, the report suggests. It’s important to note, however, that these OTT services, however disruptive they may be, are driving demand for telecom operators’ broadband services. Without the content and services that OTTs provide, consumers would be less willing to pay operators for internet access, ITU claims.
“The operators’ complaints make as much sense as cable operators that sell access to cable channels complaining that people are watching too much TV, driving up the demand for their own services,” the report says, “Or a restaurant complaining that too many people want to eat its food driving up food costs. Operators sell access – not content – but people only want that access to use online content.”
Telecom operators, according to the report, claim they cannot invest in their networks because online OTT services have limited their ability to generate revenue. The ITU says this is “inaccurate” and “misguided”.
Some telecom operators have called upon regulators to apply the “same rules for the same service” by encouraging authorities to subject all online OTT services to legacy telecommunications regulations. ITU rejects this, emphasizing that OTTs don’t offer the “same service” as telecom operators, and that subjecting them to the same rules would be “entirely inappropriate”.
OTT services like Facebook and Google, for example, don’t provide equivalent services as telecom operators, the report points out. Operators provide access to the internet and some vertically integrated services that take advantage of, and are bundled with, general access. Online OTTs, on the other hand, provide interactive experiences for internet users that go beyond traditional voice and SMS, including payment services, chat services and photo/video sharing.
The fundamental differences between the telecom sector and online OTT services has led to the establishment of different rules, the report highlights. For instance, telecom regulations are intended to ensure that established operators – who own network infrastructure with high barriers to entry and face limited competition – do not use these privileges to the disadvantage of consumers. OTT services, by contrast, don’t control network infrastructure and must compete fiercely to retain customers who could easily be swayed.
There’s also the perception that OTT payers get a “free ride” on telecom network infrastructure which is financed by operators. But in truth, OTT players invest billions of dollars annually in a combination of physical facilities, according to the ITU, including data centers, fiber networks, servers and routers, which form an “essential part of the physical fabric of the internet”. In fact, according to the report, online OTT players invested an average of US$33 billion per year in infrastructure from 2011-2013.
ITU argues that telecom operators should recognize how much online OTT players drive consumers’ willingness to pay for internet access, which then provides more opportunities to generate revenue and finance new infrastructure. According to the report, consumers who demand the most data tend to spend more money on mobile contracts that feature high-speed data – revenue that goes directly to the telecom operators.
“Regulatory authorities do not have to choose directly between the interests of online application providers and telecom operators,” the ITU report concludes with. The most important aspects of internet usage that regulatory authorities should focus on, the report suggests, are adhering to customer needs, ensuring that the internet is widely available, and prioritizing connectivity, competition and innovation.
WhatsApp, which is one of the world’s most popular messaging applications - has finally announced a strategy for the monetization of its service in an effort to address issues regarding its ‘sustainability’. Concerns have long been raised over its sustainability, but now the application which was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $22 billion has revealed its plans.
WhatsApp published a blog post in which it outlined its plans to launch a new innovative service that specifically targets large businesses, with green tick verification badges and a host of other communications tools. In addition to this, it also plans to introduce a ‘free app’ for SME’s.
A spokesperson for the messaging platform said, “Over a billion people use WhatsApp every day to stay connected with their family and friends, and over time, more people are using the app to communicate with businesses they care about too.”
Analysts have claimed that WhatsApp have identified a gaping hole in the market for businesses all over the world, especially those located in Asia, where the platform is a staple, use the service as a free way of connecting merchants and consumers. On the company’s blog post it highlighted information gathered from a survey it conducted, which indicated that users prefer when businesses use WhatsApp as it makes them feel more comfortable buying from a retailer that establishes a connection between the invisible sides of a digital transaction.
The blog post added, “We’ve heard stories of shopkeepers who use WhatsApp to stay in touch with hundreds of customers from a single smartphone, and from people who are unsure about whether or not a business on WhatsApp is authentic.”
The issue of monetization has always been an issue for technology products as companies have to engage in an education process in order to convince users to get past the notion that digital services are ephemeral enough to not warrant a cost. That’s fine, but tech firms have overheads and employees to pay, which makes it extremely challenging in the sense that one of the biggest problems in the industry are its most integral.
WhatsApp COO, Matt Idema confirmed that the firm does plan on introducing fees for businesses, but claimed that he didn’t yet have the details of what services would be monetized. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said: “We do intend on charging businesses in the future. Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today’s announcement means we’re introducing third-party ads. The answer is no.”
The COO also disclosed that WhatsApp will commence tests on tools that enable users to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. This could for example allow you to communicate with financial institutions such as a bank over a recent transaction which you believe to be fraudulent - or with an airline over a cancellation or a delay.
WhatsApp continues to appear reluctant to want to go down the advertising route, which is in stark contrast to its parent company, Facebook, whose entire business is funded by huge advertising revenues. Facebook began introducing sponsored posts in its Messenger app in July of this year as it seeks new ways to engage users of its messaging service with advertising clients. However, it’s plain to see that Facebook is now pushing for WhatsApp to make its acquisition worthwhile.
Facebook announced that it’s taking an additional step to reduce false news and hoaxes on its platform, by disallowing companies to advertize if they repeatedly share stories marked as false. This ads to Facebook’s current policy of disallowing advertisers to run ads that link to stories that have been marked as false by third-party fact-checking organizations.
The update, according to a blog post by the social media giant, will help to reduce the distribution of false news which will keep pages that spread false news from making money. Facebook said it found instances where sites were using Facebook ads to build their audiences in order to distribute false news more broadly.
Now, if a site repeatedly shares stories marked as false, they won’t be able to buy ads on Facebook. However, if those pages stop sharing false news, Facebook said they “may be eligible to start running ads again.”
Facebook said: “False news is harmful to our community. It makes the world less informed and erodes trust.” The Californian company said it’s working to fight the spread of false news in three key areas: disrupting the economic incentives to create false news; building new products to curb the spread of false news; and helping people make more informed decisions when they encounter false news.
The company announced a new tool in December 2016 which would enable users to report false news stories that appear on the social media site. Facebook has been criticized in the past for its failure to prevent the volume of fake stories going viral on its platform.
“Today’s update helps to disrupt the economic incentives and curb the spread of false news, which is another step towards building a more informed community on Facebook,” the company said of its latest initiative.
Social networking colossus Facebook has announced that it is attempting to make a ‘technical ‘breakthrough in relation to developing and manufacturing futuristic ‘smart glasses’ specifically designed to allow you see to see virtual objects in the real world.
It has emerged that Facebook published a patent application for a ‘waveguide display with two-dimensional scanner’ which was compiled by three members of its advanced research division of Facebook’s VR subsidiary Oculus.
It has been reported that the display may augment views of a physical, real-world environment with computer generated elements. In addition to this, the patent filing also suggested that the display being developed may be included in an eye-wear comprising a frame and a display assembly yhat presents media to a user’s eyes.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously expressed his belief that virtual and augmented reality - represents the next major computing platform which is capable of replacing smartphones and traditional PCs. Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014 for $2 billion and has announced its intentions to continue to invest billions on developing more revolutionary technology.
The ‘smart glasses’ currently being developed by Oculus will use a waveguide display in order to project light onto the wearer’s eyes instead of a more traditional display. However, it has also been claimed that the ‘smart glasses’ would be able to display images, video and be compatible with connected speakers or headphones to play audio when worn.
Facebook has thus far declined to comment on the patent application, but analysts have suggested that the social networking firm have adopted a similar approach to Microsoft, when they launched its HoloLens AR headset. Oculus’s ‘smart glasses’ have also drawn comparisons with glasses being developed by Google start-up Magic Leap.
Interestingly, one of the lead authors of Facebook’s patent application is optical scientist Pasi Saarikko who joined Facebook two years ago, after he spearheaded the optical design of HoloLens at Microsoft. However, despite the announcement being made in relation to work commencing on Facebook’s ‘smart glasses’, analysts have claimed don’t expect to see the device anytime soon.
Chief scientist of Oculus, Michael Abrash said AR glasses won’t start replacing smartphones until 2022. He said, “20 or 30 years from now, I predict that instead of carrying stylish smartphones everywhere, we’ll wear stylish glasses. Those glasses will offer VR, AR and everything in between, and we’ll use them all day.”