Facebook admits 18% of Research spyware users were teens, not

Facebook has changed its story after initially trying to downplay how it targeted teens with its Research program that a TechCrunch investigation revealed was paying them gift cards to monitor all their mobile app usage and browser traffic. “Less than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch and many other news outlets in a damage control effort 7 hours after we published our report on January 29th. At the time,  Facebook claimed that it had removed its Research app from iOS. The next morning we learned that wasn’t true, as Apple had already forcibly blocked the Facebook Research app for violating its Enterprise Certificate program that supposed to reserved for companies distributing internal apps to employees.

It turns out that wasn’t the only time Facebook deceived the public in its response regarding the Research VPN scandal. TechCrunch has attained Facebook’s unpublished February 21st response to questions about the Research program in a letter from Senator Mark Warner, who wrote to CEO Mark Zuckerberg that “Facebook’s apparent lack of full transparency with users – particularly in the context of ‘research’ efforts – has been a source of frustration for me.”

In the response from Facebook’s VP of US public policy Kevin Martin, the company admits that (emphasis ours) “At the time we ended the Facebook Research App on Apple’s iOS platform, less than 5 percent of the people sharing data with us through this program were teens. Analysis shows that number is about 18 percent when you look at the complete lifetime of the program, and also add people who had become inactive and uninstalled the app.” So 18 percent of research testers were teens. It was only less than 5 percent when Facebook got caught. Given users age 13 to 35 were eligible for Facebook’s Research program, 13 to 18 year olds made of 22 percent of the age range. That means Facebook clearly wasn’t trying to minimize teen involvement, nor were they just a tiny fraction of users.

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 10: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg, 33, was called to testify after it was reported that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Warner asked Facebook “Do you think any use reasonable understood Facebook was using this data for commercial purposes includingto track competitors?” Facebook response indicates it never told Research users anything about tracking “competitors”, and instead dances around the question. Facebook says the registration process told users the data would help the company “understand how people use mobile apps,” “improve . . . services,” and “introduce new features for millions of people around the world.”

Facebook had also told reporters on January 29th regarding teens’ participation, “All of them with signed parental consent forms.” Yet in its response to Senator Warner, Facebook admitted that “Potential participants were required to confirm that they were over 18 or provide other evidence of parental consent, though the vendors did not require a signed parental consent form for teen users.” In some cases, underage users merely had to check a box to claim they had parental consent, and there was no verification of users’ ages or that their parents actually approved.

So to quickly recap:

Facebook targeted teens with ads on Instagram and Snapchat to join the Research program without revealing its involvement

The contradictions between Facebook’s initial response to reporters and what it told Warner, who has the power to pursue regulation of the the tech giant, shows Facebook willingness to move fast and play loose with the truth when it’s less accountable. It’s no wonder the company never shared the response with TechCrunch or posted a blog post or press release about it.

Facebook’s attempt to minimize the issue in the wake of backlash exemplifies the trend of of the social network’s “reactionary” PR strategy that employees described to BuzzFeed’s Ryan Mac. The company often views its scandals as communications errors rather than actual product screwups or as signals of deep-seeded problems with Facebook’s respect for privacy. Facebook needs to learn to take its lumps, change course, and do better rather than constantly trying to challenge details of negative press about it, especially before it has all the necessary information. Until then, the never-ending news cycle of Facebook’s self-made disasters will continue.

Below is Facebook’s full response to Senator Warner’s inquiry, followed by Warner’s original letter to Mark Zuckerberg..

//www.scribd.com/embeds/400767029/content?start_page=1&view_mode=&access_key=key-SvIzFPFVGGS0tgvYunjy

//www.scribd.com/embeds/398582231/content?start_page=1&view_mode=&access_key=key-z9V0bOKMKxtgnnMYwkiI

from Social – TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/28/facebook-research-teens/
via Superb Summers

Advertisements

A new ‘Hide Tweet’ button has been spotted in Twitter’s code

Twitter confirmed it has in development a new “Hide Tweet” option, but has yet to provide more detail about its plans for the feature. The new option, spotted in Twitter’s code, is available from a list of moderation choices that appear when you click the “Share” button on a tweet – a button whose icon has also been given a refresh, it seems. Like it sounds, “Hide Tweet” appears to function as an alternative to muting or blocking a user, while still offering some control over a conversation.

Related to this, an option to “View Hidden Tweets” was also found to be in the works. This appears to allow a user to unhide those tweets that were previously hidden.

The “Hide Tweet” feature was first discovered by Jane Manchun Wong, who tweeted about her findings on Thursday.

Wong says she found the feature within the code of the Twitter Android application. That means it’s not necessarily something Twitter will release publicly, but has at least thought about seriously enough to develop.

Reached for comment earlier today, Twitter told us some employees would soon tweet out more context about the feature. As of the time of writing, those explanations had not gone live.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Immediately, there were concerns an option like this would allow users to silence their critics – not just for themselves, as is possible today with muting and blocking – but for anyone reading through a stream of Twitter Replies. Imagine, for example, if a controversial politician began to hide tweets they didn’t like or those that contradicted an outrageous claim with a fact check, people said.

On the flip side, putting the original poster back in control of which Replies are visible may allow people to feel more comfortable with sharing on Twitter, which could impact user growth – a number Twitter struggles with today.

But as of now, it’s not clear that the “Hide Tweet” button is something that would hide the tweet from everyone’s view, or just the from the person who clicked the button.

It’s also unclear what stage of development the feature is in, or if it will be part of a larger change to moderation controls.

If Twitter chooses to comment, we’ll update with those answers.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The feature’s discovery comes at a time when Twitter has been under increased pressure to improve the conversational health on its platform.

In a recent interview, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that it puts most of the burden on the victims of abuse, which has been “a huge fail.” He said Twitter was looking into new way to proactively enforce and promote health, so blocking and reporting were last resorts.

A “Hide Tweet” button doesn’t seem to fit into that plan, as it requires users’ direct involvement with the moderation process.

It’s worth also noting that Twitter already has a “hidden tweets” feature of sorts.

In 2018, the company introduced a new filtering strategy to hide disruptive tweets, which takes into consideration various behavioral signals – like whether the account had verified its email, is frequently blocked, or tweets often at accounts that don’t follow it back, for example. If Twitter determined the tweet should be downranked, it moved it to its own secluded part of the Reply thread, under a “Show more replies” button.

Twitter tests a number of things that never see the light of day in a public product. More recently, the company said it was weighing the idea of a “clarifying function” for explaining old tweets. It’s also launching a prototype app that will experiment with new ideas around conversation threads.

 

from Social – TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/28/a-new-hide-tweet-button-has-been-spotted-in-twitters-code/
via Superb Summers

Daily Crunch: TikTok faces children’s privacy fine

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. FTC ruling sees Musical.ly (TikTok) fined $5.7M for violating children’s privacy law, app updated with age gate

In an app update released yesterday, all users will need to verify their age, and the under 13-year-olds will then be directed to a separate, more restricted in-app experience that protects their personal information and prevents them from publishing videos to TikTok .

And if you’re confused about Musical.ly versus TikTok: The Federal Trade Commission had begun looking into TikTok back when it was known as Musical.ly, and the ruling itself is a settlement with Musical.ly.

2. How Disney built Star Wars, in real life

Over the course of the past five years, Walt Disney Imagineering has been hard at work making the world of Star Wars a reality on Earth. Matthew Panzarino has all the details, with plenty of tantalizing images.

3. Amazon Prime members can choose a weekly delivery date with launch of ‘Amazon Day’

The option lets shoppers pick a day of the week to take delivery of their recent orders. The boxes will then arrive together on the selected Amazon Day, in fewer boxes.

4. Zūm, a ridesharing service for kids, raises $40M

Zūm is a mobile app that enables parents to schedule rides for their kids from fully vetted drivers. It also partners with school districts to support their transportation needs.

5. Dow Jones’ watchlist of 2.4 million high-risk individuals has leaked

The data, since secured, is the financial giant’s Watchlist database, which companies use as part of their risk and compliance efforts.

6. SoftBank’s Vision Fund invests $1.5B in Chinese second-hand car startup Chehaoduo

The Beijing-based company operates two main sites — peer-to-peer online marketplace Guazi for used vehicles, and Maodou, which retails new sedans through direct sales and financial leasing.

7. Netflix may be losing $192M per month from piracy, cord cutting study claims

As many as one in five people today are mooching off of someone else’s account when streaming video from Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Video, according to a new study from CordCutting.com. Of these, Netflix tends to be pirated for the longest period.

from Social – TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/28/daily-crunch-tiktok-fine/
via Superb Summers