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Facebook clarifies how it collects data when you’re logged out

Facebook is embroiled in a widening scandal that a British data firm called Cambridge Analytica improperly gathered detailed information on its 87 million users

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Facebook warned investors that there may be more such data breaches in the future. Pixabay
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After Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the US Congress last week, the company on Tuesday tried to clarify on questions how it collects data when people are not directly using the website or app.

Many websites and apps use Facebook services to make their content and ads more engaging and relevant.

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The social media app is in news for all the wrong reasons lately. VOA

“Apps and websites that use our services, such as the Like button or Facebook Analytics, send us information to make their content and ads better,” David Baser, Product Management Director at Facebook, wrote in a blog post.

In return for that information, Facebook helps those websites serve up relevant ads or receive analytics that help them understand how people use their services.

“When you visit a site or app that uses our services, we receive information even if you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account. This is because other apps and sites don’t know who is using Facebook,” Baser added.

Many companies offer these types of services and, like Facebook, they also get information from the apps and sites that use them.

“Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn all have similar Like and Share buttons to help people share things on their services. Google has a popular analytics service. And Amazon, Google and Twitter all offer login features,” Facebook said.

These companies — and many others — also offer advertising services. When you visit a website, your browser (for example Chrome, Safari or Firefox) sends a request to the site’s server. The browser shares your IP address so the website knows where on the Internet to send the site content.

The website also gets information about the browser and operating system (for example Android or Windows) you’re using because not all browsers and devices support the same features.

Also Read: Google Home To Be Your Best Friend Now

“It also gets cookies, which are identifiers that websites use to know if you’ve visited before. This can help with things like saving items in your shopping cart,” Facebook explained. “So when a website uses one of our services, your browser sends the same kind of information to Facebook as the website receives. We also get information about which website or app you’re using, which is necessary to know when to provide our tools,” Baser noted.

There are three main ways in which Facebook uses the information it gets from other websites and apps.

“Providing our services to these sites or apps; improving safety and security on Facebook; and enhancing our own products and services,” Baser said.

“We also use the information we receive from websites and apps to help protect the security of Facebook. For example, receiving data about the sites a particular browser has visited can help us identify bad actors,” he posted.

Facebook one of the most popular apps in US. Pixabay
Facebook needs to fix itself. Pixabay

Zuckerberg, appearing before the US Congress last week, told the lawmakers that his own personal data was part of 87 million users’ that was “improperly shared” with British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.

“We don’t sell the data. We use the data that people put into the system in order to make them more relevant. I believe people own their content,” he told the US Congress.

Facebook is embroiled in a widening scandal that a British data firm called Cambridge Analytica improperly gathered detailed information on its 87 million users. IANS

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How To Deal With Online Hate Speech: A Detailed Guide By Facebook

Critics of the company, however, said Zuckerberg hasn't gone far enough to address the inherent problems of Facebook, which has 2 billion users.

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Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
A television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

Facebook says it is getting better at proactively removing hate speech and changing the incentives that result in the most sensational and provocative content becoming the most popular on the site.

The company has done so, it says, by ramping up its operations so that computers can review and make quick decisions on large amounts of content with thousands of reviewers making more nuanced decisions.

In the future, if a person disagrees with Facebook’s decision, he or she will be able to appeal to an independent review board.

Facebook “shouldn’t be making so many important decisions about free expression and safety on our own,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a call with reporters Thursday.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at a Facebook developers conference in San Jose, California. VOA

But as Zuckerberg detailed what the company has accomplished in recent months to crack down on spam, hate speech and violent content, he also acknowledged that Facebook has far to go.

“There are issues you never fix,” he said. “There’s going to be ongoing content issues.”

Company’s actions

In the call, Zuckerberg addressed a recent story in The New York Times that detailed how the company fought back during some of its biggest controversies over the past two years, such as the revelation of how the network was used by Russian operatives in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Times story suggested that company executives first dismissed early concerns about foreign operatives, then tried to deflect public attention away from Facebook once the news came out.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France. VOA

Zuckerberg said the firm made mistakes and was slow to understand the enormity of the issues it faced. “But to suggest that we didn’t want to know is simply untrue,” he said.

Zuckerberg also said he didn’t know the firm had hired Definers Public Affairs, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm that spread negative information about Facebook competitors as the social networking firm was in the midst of one scandal after another. Facebook severed its relationship with the firm.

“It may be normal in Washington, but it’s not the kind of thing I want Facebook associated with, which is why we won’t be doing it,” Zuckerberg said.

The firm posted a rebuttal to the Times story.

Content removed

Facebook said it is getting better at proactively finding and removing contentsuch as spam, violent posts and hate speech. The company said it removed or took other action on 15.4 million pieces of violent content between June and September of this year, about double what it removed in the prior three months.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

But Zuckerberg and other executives said Facebook still has more work to do in places such as Myanmar. In the third quarter, the firm said it proactively identified 63 percent of the hate speech it removed, up from 13 percent in the last quarter of 2017. At least 100 Burmese language experts are reviewing content, the firm said.

One issue that continues to dog Facebook is that some of the most popular content is also the most sensational and provocative. Facebook said it now penalizes what it calls “borderline content” so it gets less distribution and engagement.

“By fixing this incentive problem in our services, we believe it’ll create a virtuous cycle: by reducing sensationalism of all forms, we’ll create a healthier, less-polarized discourse where more people feel safe participating,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post.

Also Read: Facebook to Establish an Independent Body to Moderate Content

Critics of the company, however, said Zuckerberg hasn’t gone far enough to address the inherent problems of Facebook, which has 2 billion users.

“We have a man-made, for-profit, simultaneous communication space, marketplace and battle space and that it is, as a result, designed not to reward veracity or morality but virality,” said Peter W. Singer, strategist and senior fellow at New America, a nonpartisan think tank, at an event Thursday in Washington, D.C. (VOA)