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Facebook Suspends Another Data Analytics Firm Over Surveillance Concerns

In April this year, Facebook had warned investors that more users' data scandals in the future may adversely affect the social networking giant's reputation and brand image

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Facebook warned investors that there may be more such data breaches in the future. Pixabay

After the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook has now suspended Boston-based data analytics company Crimson Hexagon over concerns that it harvested users’ data.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal late on Friday, the social media giant was investigating whether the analytics firm’s “contracts with the US government, a Russian non-profit organisation tied to the Kremlin and the Turkish government violate the platform’s policies”.

Crimson Hexagon has reportedly collected more than 1 trillion public social media posts from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and other online sources.

The company has had contracts in recent years to analyse public Facebook data for third-party clients, the report claimed.

It was co-founded by Harvard professor Gary King in 2007 who now leads Facebook’s independent research initiative titled “Social Science One” which is focused on preventing election interference, said the report.

“We are investigating the claims about Crimson Hexagon to see if they violated any of our policies,” Ime Archibong, Facebook’s Vice President of Product Partnerships, said in a statement.

Facebook, however, said the firm didn’t inappropriately obtain any Facebook or Instagram user data, adding that using the data for surveillance is a violation of the company’s policies.

“We do not collect private data from social media providers or anyone else,” Crimson Hexagon’s Chief Technology Officer Chris Bingham said in a blog post.

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Facebook App on a smartphone device. (VOA)

“Crimson Hexagon only allows government customers to use the platform for specific approved use cases; and under no circumstances is surveillance a permitted use case,” Bringham wrote.

According to Crimson Hexagon, it uses technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help clients get insights and shape marketing campaigns and develop new products.

In a statement to the portal Fast Company, King said: “Even though he is co-founder and board chairman, he has never had day-to-day involvement in Crimson Hexagon.”

In April this year, Facebook had warned investors that more users’ data scandals in the future may adversely affect the social networking giant’s reputation and brand image.

Also Read: Instagram Stories get Facebook-Like Emoji Reactions

In its quarterly report, Facebook said that its ongoing investments in safety, security, and content review will identify additional instances of misuse of user data.

“We may also be notified of such incidents or activity via the media or other third parties,” Facebook said.

Appearing before the US Congress, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the lawmakers that his own personal data was part of 87 million users’ that was ‘improperly shared’ with the British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook warned investors that there may be more such data breaches in the future. (IANS)

Next Story

FB, Instagram on Google Play Store Vulnerable: Check Point

The revelations come amid a snooping controversy that hit WhatsApp after Israeli spyware Pegasus exploited vulnerability in the messaging platform, affecting 1,400 select users globally, including over 100 in India

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Facebook, Messenger and Instagram apps are displayed on an iPhone, March 13, 2019, in New York. VOA

Check Point Research on Thursday said it found the latest versions of some of the most famous apps in the world on Google’s Play Store, including Facebook and Instagram, to have vulnerabilities that were believed to have been patched earlier.

The research shows that threat actors can still execute code on the latest versions of mobile applications on Play Store, despite the updates those mobile apps have pushed to people.

In short, threat actors can gain administrative control over the mobile applications studied by Check Point Research.

Theoretically, hackers can steal and alter posts on Facebook, extract location data from Instagram and read SMS messages in WeChat, said the research.

In a month-long study, Check Point Research cross-examined the latest versions of these high-profile mobile for three known remote control execution (RCE) vulnerabilities dating from 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Each vulnerability was assigned two signatures. Then, Check Point Research ran its static engine to examine hundreds of mobile applications in Google’s Play Store to see if old, vulnerable code was present in the latest version of the application.

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An iPhone displays the app for Facebook in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. VOA

Check Point Research found vulnerable code, which was claimed to patched, present in the latest versions of popular mobile application.

For now, Check Point urges people to install an antivirus-app that monitors vulnerable apps on the phone.

“Mobile app stores and security researchers do proactively scan apps for malware patterns, but devote less attention to long-known critical vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, this means there’s not much the end user can do to keep his mobile device fully secure,” said the research.

Also Read: Google Announces to Pay $1 Million for Finding Bugs in Pixel Phones

Check Point Research said it informed the applications as well as Google about the vulnerabilities.

The revelations come amid a snooping controversy that hit WhatsApp after Israeli spyware Pegasus exploited vulnerability in the messaging platform, affecting 1,400 select users globally, including over 100 in India. (IANS)