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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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Australia Proposes To Strengthen Regulations of Facebook, Google

Facebook has 17 million monthly users in Australia -- 68 per cent of its population -- while Instagram, second most popular site in terms of users - which is owned by Facebook, has 11 million users

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Australia recommends strengthening regulation of Facebook, Google. Pixabay

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Monday proposed measures to counter the dominant market positions of Google and Facebook and strengthen monitoring on their access to information, advertising and consumers personal data.

The regulatory body, which recommended 11 preliminary measures in the report, was directed to conduct a public inquiry into the impact of digital search engines, social media platforms and other digital content in 2017 by then treasurer and current Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“Acting as an intermediary between consumers and news outlets, platforms are inherently influential in shaping consumers’ choices of digital journalism,” said the report cited by Efe news.

This influential position and filtration of news items could place the consumer in a so-called filter bubble, increasing the risk of consumers being exposed to unreliable news, according to the report.

“The algorithms operated by each of Google and Facebook, as well as other policies, determine which content is surfaced and displayed to consumers in news feed and search results,” it said.

“The ACCC considers that the strong market position of digital platforms like Google and Facebook justifies a greater level of regulatory oversight,” Chair Rod Sims said.

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Facebook, social media. Pixabay

The commission called for the creation of a regulatory authority with powers to monitor these digital platforms and recommended establishing an automatic mechanism to take down content that violates copyright.

The ACCC said consumers should be informed about the manner in which these platforms collect and use their data to create personalized advertising.

This would include a reform of privacy laws to require the user’s express consent to data collection and “enable consumers to require erasure of their personal information where they have withdrawn their consent”.

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ACCC said that it found that “competition may have been distorted in multiple sectors where consumer data is used”.

Facebook has 17 million monthly users in Australia — 68 per cent of its population — while Instagram, second most popular site in terms of users – which is owned by Facebook, has 11 million users.

In 2017, Google registered 90 per cent of search traffic originating from Australian desktops and 98 per cent from mobile phones. (IANS)