Sunday December 16, 2018
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Facebook Expands Its Feature Showing Local Information

Facebook uses software filters to weed out objectionable content, just as it does on people's regular news feed.

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A smartphone user displays a Facebook newsfeed .VOA
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Facebook is cautiously expanding a feature that shows people local news and information, including missing-person alerts, road closures, crime reports and school announcements.

Called “Today In,” the service shows people information from their towns and cities from such sources as news outlets, government entities and community groups. Facebook launched the service in January with six cities and expanded that to 25, then more. On Wednesday, “Today In” is expanding to 400 cities in the U.S. — and a few others in Australia.

The move comes as Facebook tries to shake off its reputation as a hotbed for misinformation and elections-meddling and rather a place for communities and people to come together and stay informed.

Here are some things to know about this effort, and why it matters:

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A Facebook logo is displayed at a start-up companies’ gathering in Paris, France. VOA

The big picture

It’s something users have asked for, the company says. Think of it as an evolution of a “trending” feature the company dropped earlier this year. That feature, which showed news articles that were popular among users, but was rife with such problems as fake news and accusations of bias.

Anthea Watson Strong, product manager for local news and community information, said her team learned from the problems with that feature.

“We feel deeply the mistakes of our foremothers and forefathers,” she said.

This time around, Facebook employees went to some of the cities they were launching in and met with users. They tried to predict problems by doing “pre-mortem” assessments, she said. That is, instead of a “post-mortem” where engineers dissect what went wrong after the fact, they tried to anticipate how people might misuse a feature — for financial gain, for example

 

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This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

.Facebook isn’t saying how long it has been taking this “pre-mortem” approach, though the practice isn’t unique to the company. Nonetheless, it’s a significant step given that many of Facebook’s current problems stem from its failure to foresee how bad actors might co-opt the service.

 

Facebook also hopes the feature’s slow rollout will prevent problems.

How it works

To find out if “Today In” is available in your city or town, tap the “menu” icon with the three horizontal lines. Then scroll down until you see it. If you want, you can choose to see the local updates directly in your news feed.

For now, the company is offering this only in small and mid-sized cities such as Conroe, Texas, Morgantown, West Virginia, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Large cities such as New York or Los Angeles have added challenges, such as an abundance of news and information, and may need to be broken up into smaller neighborhoods.

 

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A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France. VOA

 

The posts in “Today In” are curated by artificial intelligence; there is no human involvement. The service aggregates posts from the Facebook pages for news organizations, government agencies and community groups like dog shelters. For this reason, a kid couldn’t declare a snow day, because “Today In” relies on the school’s official page. Discussion posts from local Facebook groups may also be included.

For now, the information is tailored only by geography, but this might change. A person with no kids, for example, might not want to see updates from schools.

Also Read: Social Media laws Should Be Tightened: Germany

Safeguards?

Facebook uses software filters to weed out objectionable content, just as it does on people’s regular news feed. But the filters are turned up for “Today In.” If a good friend posts something a bit objectionable, you are still likely to see it because Facebook takes your friendship into account. But “Today In” posts aren’t coming from your friends, so Facebook is more likely to keep it out. (VOA)

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Irish Watchdog Opens Inquiry into Latest Privacy Breach of Facebook

The private information of Facebook users was alleged to be used to influence the US 2016 general elections in favour of President Donald Trump's campaign

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Irish watchdog opens inquiry into latest Facebook privacy breach. Pixabay

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) has announced a fresh investigation into Facebook, a day after the social networking giant admitted another security breach where nearly 6.8 million users risked their private photos being exposed to third-party apps.

Facebook, which is already facing a probe from the Irish watchdog for a previous privacy leak in September that affected 50 million people, may end up with fine of 4 per cent of its annual turnover – the highest fine under the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), The Independent reported on Saturday.

In Facebook’s case, the fine could amount to nearly 1.5 billion euros.

“The Irish DPC has received a number of breach notifications from Facebook since the introduction of the GDPR on May 25, 2018,” a spokesperson for the watchdog was quoted as saying.

The fresh move came after Facebook on Friday said more than 1,500 apps built by 876 developers may have also been affected by the bug that exposed users’ unshared photos during a 12-day-period from September 13 to 25.

Facebook, in a statement, said it has fixed the breach and will roll out next week “tools for app developers that will allow them to determine which people using their app might be impacted by this bug”.

“Currently, we believe this may have affected up to 6.8 million users and up to 1,500 apps built by 876 developers. The only apps affected by this bug were ones that Facebook approved to access the photos API and that individuals had authorised to access their photos.

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This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

“We’re sorry this happened,” said Facebook, adding that it will also notify the people potentially impacted by this bug via an alert.

The disclosure is another example of Facebook’s failure to properly protect users’ privacy that may drew more criticism of its privacy policy.

Earlier this month, Italian regulators fined Facebook 10 million euros for selling users’ data without informing them.

The competition watchdog handed Facebook two fines totalling 10 million euros, “also for discouraging users from trying to limit how the company shares their data”.

The Irish watchdog, which is Facebook’s lead privacy regulator in Europe, in October opened a formal investigation into a data breach which affected 50 million users.

Also Read- Prime Minister Narendra Modi Extends Condolences to France Terror Attack Victims

“The investigation will examine Facebook’s compliance with its obligation under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure the security and safeguarding of the personal data it processes,” said the DPC.

The world’s largest social media network has been grilled over the past year for its mishandling of user data, including its involvement in a privacy scandal in March when Cambridge Analytica, a British political consultancy firm, was accused of illegally accessing the data of more than 87 million Facebook users without their consent.

The private information of Facebook users was alleged to be used to influence the US 2016 general elections in favour of President Donald Trump’s campaign. (IANS)