Tuesday January 28, 2020
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Facebook Urges US Police to Stop Using Fake Accounts

When law enforcement has a written policy of engaging in fake/impersonator law enforcement accounts in violation of Facebook's policies, the social network should add a notification to the agency's page to inform users of the law enforcement policy

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This photograph taken on May 16, 2018, shows a figurine standing in front of the logo of social network Facebook on a cracked screen of a smartphone in Paris. VOA

Facebook should take new steps, including issuance of alerts to users, to address the proliferation of fake accounts operated by law enforcement agencies in the US, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital civil liberties not-for-profit organisation.

A report in the Guardian earlier revealed that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) violated Facebook’s guidelines by creating fake profiles on its platform tied to the University of Farmington — a sham institution that left many students, most of them Indians, in detention.

Facebook’s policy prohibits all users, including government agencies, from making fake accounts. But despite this, law enforcement agencies created fake accounts to spy on users, EFF said.

Police departments in Ohio, New York, Georgia and Nebraska said they had policies allowing investigators to use aliases and undercover profiles on social media, the Guardian reported on Monday.

“Facebook’s practice of taking down these accounts when they learn about them from the press (or from EFF) is insufficient to deter what we believe is a much larger iceberg beneath the surface,” EFF’s Senior Investigative Researcher Dave Maass wrote in a blogpost.

Facebook
Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris, France, May 24, 2018. VOA

“We often only discover the existence of law enforcement fake profiles months, if not years, after an investigation has concluded,” Maass said.

In addition to suspending fake accounts, Facebook should publish data on the number of fake/impersonator law enforcement accounts identified, what agencies they belonged to, and what action was taken, EFF said.

According to EFF, when a fake/impersonator account is identified, Facebook should alert the users and groups that interacted with the account whether directly or indirectly.

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Facebook should further amend its “Amended Terms for Federal, State and Local Governments in the United States” to make it explicitly clear that, by agreeing to the terms, the agency was agreeing not to operate fake/impersonator profiles on the platform, Maass said.

When law enforcement has a written policy of engaging in fake/impersonator law enforcement accounts in violation of Facebook’s policies, the social network should add a notification to the agency’s page to inform users of the law enforcement policy, Maass said. (IANS)

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Social Networking Giant Facebook Blames Apple iOS for Bezos’ Phone Hacking

WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption by default, which means only the sender and recipient can view the messages

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Social Media, Facebook, Authenticity, Posts
The social media application, Facebook is displayed on Apple's App Store, July 30, 2019. VOA

Facebook has blamed Apple’s operating system for the hacking of Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone, saying WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption is unhackable.

Investigators believe that Bezos’s iPhone was compromised after he received a 4.4MB video file containing malware via WhatsApp – in the same way when phones of 1,400 select journalists and human rights activists were broken into by Pegasus software from Israel-based NSO Group last year.

In an interview to the BBC last week, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications, Nick Clegg, said it wasn’t WhatsApp’s fault because end-to-end encryption is unhackable and blamed Apple’s operating system for Bezos’ episode.

“It sounds like something on the, you know, what they call the operate, operated on the phone itself. It can’t have been anything on the, when the message was sent, in transit, because that’s end-to-end encrypted on WhatsApp,” Clegg told the show host.

Clegg compared the hack to opening a malicious email, saying that “it only comes to life when you open it”.

According to a report from FTI Consulting, a firm that has investigated Bezos’ phone, after that the video file was received, Bezos’ phone started sending unusually large amounts of outbound data, including his intimate messages with his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez.

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and owner of Blue Origin. (Wikimedia commons)

According to Clegg, “something” must have affected the phone’s operating system.

“As sure as you can be that the technology of end-to-end encryption cannot, other than unless you have handset, or you have the message at either end, cannot be hacked into,” he was quoted as saying.

Apple was yet to comment on Facebook’s statement.

The NSO Group has denied it was part of Bezos’ hacking.

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WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption by default, which means only the sender and recipient can view the messages. But the piece of NSO Group software exploited WhatsApp’s video calling system by installing the spyware via missed calls to snoop on the selected users.

According to leading tech policy and media consultant Prasanto K. Roy, end-to-end encrypted apps (E2EE) do provide security, and messages or calls cannot be intercepted and decrypted en route without enormous computing resources.

“But once anyone can get to your handset, whether a human or a piece of software, the encryption doesn’t matter anymore. Because on your handset, it’s all decrypted,” Roy told IANS recently. (IANS)