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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
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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.

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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)

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Facebook Set up a War Room to Fight Election Interference

With the new ad architecture in place, people would be able to see who paid for a particular political ad

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Facebook now has a War Room to fight election interference. Pixabay

In line with its efforts to prevent misuse of its platform during elections, Facebook has set up a War Room to reduce the spread of potentially harmful content.

Facebook faced flak for not doing enough to prevent spread of misinformation by Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 US presidential election. The social networking giant has rolled out several initiatives to fight fake news and bring more transparency and accountability in its advertising since then.

The launch of the first War Room at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, is part of the social network’s new initiatives to fight election interference on its platform.

Although Facebook opened the doors of the War Room ahead of the general elections in Brazil and mid-term elections in the US, it revealed the details only this week.

The goal behind setting up the War Room was to get the right subject-matter experts from across the company in one place so they can address potential problems identified by its technology in real time and respond quickly.

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Facebook, social media. Pixabay

“The War Room has over two dozen experts from across the company – including from our threat intelligence, data science, software engineering, research, community operations and legal teams,” Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s Director of Product Management, Civic Engagement, said in a statement on Thursday.

“These employees represent and are supported by the more than 20,000 people working on safety and security across Facebook,” Chakrabarti added.

Facebook said its dashboards offer real-time monitoring on key elections issues, such as efforts to prevent people from voting, increases in spam, potential foreign interference, or reports of content that violates our policies.

The War Room team also monitors news coverage and election-related activity across other social networks and traditional media in order to identify what type of content may go viral.

These preparations helped a lot during the first round of Brazil’s presidential elections, Facebook claimed.

The social networking giant said its technology detected a false post claiming that Brazil’s Election Day had been moved from October 7 to October 8 due to national protests.

While untrue, that message began to go viral. But the team quickly detected the problem, determined that the post violated Facebook’s policies, and removed it in under an hour.

“And within two hours, we’d removed other versions of the same fake news post,” Chakrabarti said.

Facebook
Facebook App on a smartphone device. (VOA)

The team in the War Room, Facebook said, also helped quickly remove hate speech posts that were designed to whip up violence against people from northeast Brazil after the first round of election results were called.

“The work we are doing in the War Room builds on almost two years of hard work and significant investments, in both people and technology, to improve security on Facebook, including during elections,” Chakrabarti said.

Earlier this month Facebook said that it was planning to set up a task force comprising “hundreds of people” ahead of the 2019 general elections in India.

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“With the 2019 elections coming, we are pulling together a group of specialists to work together with political parties,” Richard Allan, Facebook’s Vice President for Global Policy Solutions, told the media in New Delhi.

Facebook has also set a goal of bringing a transparency feature for political ads — now available in the US and Brazil — to India by March next year, Allan informed.

With the new ad architecture in place, people would be able to see who paid for a particular political ad. (IANS)