special issue focusing on facebook developments

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From: Civic Hall <i...@civichall.org>
Date: Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 4:32 PM
Subject: Civicist's First Post: Your Data
To: Michel <michelsub2...@gmail.com>

April 6, 2018
[image: First Post]

*Micah L. Sifry*
*Your Data*


   *Life in Facebookistan*: Speaking to Vox's *Ezra Klein* a few days ago,
   Facebook CEO *Mark Zuckerberg* pointed to the company's detection and
   blocking of malicious messages flowing through Messenger from inside
   Myanmar, inciting Muslims and Buddhists to arm themselves and go fight each
   other, as an example of how it is taking seriously its role in that
   country's civil strife. A group of civil society organizations led by civic
   tech hub Phandeeyar has released an open letter responding to this claim
   They write:

   "As representatives of Myanmar civil society organizations and the
   people who raised the Facebook Messenger threat to your team’s attention,
   we were surprised to hear you use this case to praise the effectiveness of
   your ‘systems’ in the context of Myanmar. From where we stand, this case
   exemplifies the very opposite of effective moderation: it reveals an
   over-reliance on third parties, a lack of a proper mechanism for emergency
   escalation, a reticence to engage local stakeholders around systemic
   solutions and a lack of transparency. Far from being an isolated incident,
   this case further epitomizes the kind of issues that have been rife on
   Facebook in Myanmar for more than four years now and the inadequate
   response of the Facebook team.

   The group points out that "far from being stopped," the malicious
   messages "spread country-wide, causing widespread fear and at least three
   violent incidents in the process."

   Facebook responded to the groups' criticism, *Paul Mozur* reports for
   the New York Times
   saying “We are sorry that Mark did not make clearer that it was the civil
   society groups in Myanmar who first reported these messages. We took their
   reports very seriously and immediately investigated ways to help prevent
   the spread of this content. We should have been faster, and are working
   hard to improve our technology and tools to detect and prevent abusive,
   hateful or false content.”

   For what it's worth, Facebook's failure to build a global team capable
   of responding in real time to problems on its platform is not new. Human
   rights organizers have been complaining
   about the company's lack of a serious reporting system for years. Recall
   that it took special efforts, for example
   for Egyptian organizer *Wael Ghonim* to regain control of his "We are
   All *Khaled Said*" Facebook page back in the weeks just before the
   January 25 revolution.

   "Our service depends on your data," Facebook COO *Sheryl Sandberg* told
   the Today Show's
   Guthrie *yesterday. If you wanted to opt out of letting advertisers
   target you based on your profile data, "that would be a paid product," she

   If you read the transcript of Sandberg's interview yesterday
   with *Steve Inskeep* of NPR carefully, you'll note how artfully she
   dodges his question about the company's core business model. "We don't sell
   data, period," she declares, "and we don't give any advertisers your
   personal information." That's correct: the company monopolizes access to
   that information, which is the even more invidious move.

   As alpha geek *Dave Troy* points out, you can target an individual for
   an ad on Facebook if you know their user ID number. He is suggesting
   that the company create new IDs for all of its users and only allowing
   entities that have agreed to its new terms of service access to them.

   Facebook is accepting comments on its Terms of Service and Data Policy
   through next Wednesday. Submit them here

   Here are highlights of some of Facebook's recent patent applications
   complied by *Jeremy Ashkenas* of Observable. As indicators of corporate
   intent, the list shows the company dreaming of building an even more
   intrusive surveillance machine. One creepy example, a patent for a "user
   influence score" which "can be decreased when the sender is reported to be
   associated, within a specified time period, with other users who are
   reported to be associated with undesired content."

   Virtual reality developer *Chet Faliszek* points out that Facebook's
   plans for its Oculus VR headset include tracking and storing all device
   motion and location information, and imagines a future
   where the company sells political ads based on who or what you've
   encountered in real life.

   At least 1.75 million Facebook users in the Philippines and 1.1 million
   in Indonesia may have had their data harvested by Cambridge Analytica, *Tim
   Burrowes* reports for Mumbrella Asia
   Around a half million each in India and Vietnam and 300,000 in Australia
   may also have been exposed.

   As recently as last month, Facebook was engaged in secret talks with
   hospitals and medical schools seeking to collect data that would allow it
   to build profiles of people including their medical conditions, *Christina
   Farr *reports for CNBC
   Medical data on patient's illnesses and prescriptions would be matched to
   their social data from Facebook, using hashing to obscure their actual
   names. *Aneesh Chopra*, president of a health software company called
   CareJourney and a former White House CTO, said, "I would be wary of efforts
   that repurpose user data without explicit consent." The project was
   recently put on hold, Facebook says, "so we can focus on other important
   work, including doing a better job of protecting people's data and being
   clearer with them about how that data is used."

   Old Facebook messages sent by CEO *Mark Zuckerberg* have been removed
   from recipients Facebook inboxes, while their own replies remain, *Josh
   Constine* reports for Techcrunch
   Facebook admits the practice but claims it was done after the Sony Pictures
   email hack, and that it included "limiting the retention period for Mark's
   messages in Messenger." As Constine notes, "Facebook never publicly
   disclosed the removal of messages from users’ inboxes, nor privately
   informed the recipients."

   Has anyone asked Facebook and Google why they helped Secure America Now
   a secretive group funded by billionaire *Robert Mercer,* target ads at
   voters in swing states in 2016 that claimed that America was on the verge
   of the imposition of Sharia law?

   Longtime ProPublica privacy reporter *Julia Angwin*, who has exposed
   many of Facebook's failures, talked to regulatory experts to compile this
   list of reforms
   that might begin to fix what is broken about the tech industry and user
   data. It's a good but very modest list.

   There's no word on whether the Egyptian family that named their newborn
   daughter Facebook
   after the 2011 revolution has any regrets.

   *This is civic tech*: In other news, New York Times' columnist *David
   Brooks* read *Jeremy Heimans* and *Henry Timms*' new book New Power and sees
   in it evidence
   that "people are ingenious" and they are figuring out how to "redeem the
   broader social fabric" building on local ties of trust.

   Code for Atlanta is calling on the city
   to publish a "blameless postmortem" on the ransomware attack that paralyzed
   city services for several days.


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