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Facebook junks project to collect patients’ health data: Report

Facebook has reportedly suspended a research project where the social media giant was in touch with several major US hospitals

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Facebook is working on launching Athena, its own Internet satellite, early in 2019, the WIRED reported. Pixabay
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In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data breach, Facebook has reportedly suspended a research project where the social media giant was in touch with several major US hospitals to collect data about their patients.

According to a report in CNBC late Thursday, Facebook aimed to build profiles of patients and help the hospitals, including Stanford Medical School and American College of Cardiology, figure out which patients may need special care or treatment.

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Facebook is accused of leaking data to Cambridge Analytica.

“This work has not progressed past the planning phase, and we have not received, shared, or analysed anyone’s data,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC.

A Facebook statement said: “Last year Facebook began discussions with leading medical institutions to explore whether scientific research using anonymised Facebook data could help the medical community advance our understanding in this area.

“The project could have raised new concerns about the massive amount of data Facebook collects about its users, and how this data can be used in ways users never expected.”

Facebook, however, told The Verge that the patient data would instead be used more generally. “The project would not attempt to provide health recommendations for specific people. Instead, the focus would be on producing general insights that would help medical professionals take social connectedness into account as they develop treatment or intervention programmes for their patients,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying.

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Facebook is dumping projects to make amends. VOA

Facebook has admitted that information of up to 87 million people, mostly in the US, may have been improperly shared with the British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.

Private data of over 5.6 lakh Indian Facebook users was also compromised by a private marketing firm that later sold the personal details acquired through a quiz app to Cambridge Analytica.

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Teenage Girls Being Urged To Befriend ‘Middle-Aged Men’ On Facebook: Report

In October, Facebook had removed 8.7 million user images of child nudity

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Fake News, Facebook, dating
This photo shows the logo for Facebook on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square. VOA

Facebook is encouraging grooming by offering teenage girls middle-aged men as ‘friend suggestions’, the media reported.

Teenage girls, as young as 13-year-olds, who join the social network are given up to 300 suggestions for who they can add as friends, some of which include middle-aged men who are topless in their profile photos, The Telegraph reported late on Saturday.

Facebook has said that was not a typical experience for teenagers for signing up for the service and that it has safeguards built into its recommendation system.

Following the findings, UK-based charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has called for friend recommendations to be suspended for children on the social networking giant’s platform.

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A cellphone user looks at a Facebook page at a shop in Latha street, Yangon, Myanmar. VOA

‘Groomers are seeking to infiltrate children’s friendship groups on social networks, often with the intention to move children to live streaming or encrypted sites where it is easier for them to commit sexual abuse,” Andy Burrows, NSPCC Associate Head of Child Safety Online, was quoted as saying.

“Social media algorithms risk making it easier for groomers to find and contact children and ‘friend of friend’ or ‘new follower’ recommendations can add legitimacy to their requests, which is why we are calling for these features to be blocked for children.

“For too long social networks have failed to make their platforms safe for children, and that is why the Home Secretary must commit to strong and effective regulation to finally ensure that children’s safety is non-negotiable,” she said.

According to Facebook, the company has safeguards to protect children. However, the campaigners warn that the networking giant must do more to stop groomers who use the site to become friendly with children.

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

“Grooming is incredibly serious, and we have teams specifically focused on keeping children safe, informed by extensive research and outside experts,” said a spokesman for Facebook, the Daily Mail reported on Saturday.

“We use artificial intelligence to proactively identify cases of inappropriate interactions with minors and we refer potential abuse to law enforcement.

“We limit how children can be found in search, we remind them to only accept friend requests from people they know and we caution them before making public posts.”

Also Read: Twitter Giving Its Users More Freedom To Report Fake, Suspicious Accounts

In October, Facebook had removed 8.7 million user images of child nudity with the help of previously undisclosed machine learning software that automatically flagged such photos during the last quarter.

The company has said that it is also considering rolling out systems for spotting child nudity and grooming to Instagram. (IANS)