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Tracking non-users; What is Facebook up to?

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

The most popular social networking site, Facebook, admitted that it tracked users not active on FB.

However it claimed that the report commissioned by the Belgian data protection authority ‘gets it wrong multiple times’ on what exactly FaceBook does with the user data. According to the social media giant, tracking happened because of a bug that is now being fixed.

Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president of policy for Europe wrote, “The researchers did find a bug that may have sent cookies to some people when they weren’t on Facebook. This was not our intention; a fix for this is already under way.”

Allan responded to a few claims of the report which were presented by researchers at the Centre of Interdisciplinary Law and ICT (ICRI) and the Computer Security and Industrial Cryptography department (Cosic) at the University of Leuven, and the media, information and telecommunication department (Smit) at Vrije Universiteit Brussels.

What is interesting is that Facebook claimed in a press release that “there’s no way to opt out of social ads” while the report states that “users can opt-out from so-called Social Ads”.

“Facebook does receive standard ‘web impressions’, or website visit information, when people visit sites with our plug-ins or other integrations. The authors misleadingly call this ‘tracking’,” “Unlike many companies, we explain how we will use this information and the controls we honor and offer,” said Allan.

Allan also wrote that Facebook is very much open about use of cookies for security, personalization and ads.

The Belgian Privacy Commission will be giving its verdict on the report on 29 April.

Meanwhile, things are getting hot for FaceBook. A team of data regulators from Belgium, France, Spain and Italy has been set up to look into Facebook’s privacy practices. Flemish, Dutch and European parliaments have also called for closer inspection of the company.

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Social Networking Giant Facebook Allows Ads to Promote Anti-vaccine Content

“We’re currently working on additional changes that we’ll be announcing soon.”

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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 has enabled advertisers to promote anti-vaccine content to nearly nine lakh people interested in “vaccine controversies”, the media reported.

The social networking giant is already facing pressure to stop promoting anti-vaccine propaganda to users amid global concern over vaccine hesitancy and a measles outbreak in the Pacific northwest.

Advertisers pay to reach groups of people on Facebook which include those interested in “Dr Tenpenny on Vaccines”, which refers to anti-vaccine activist Sherri Tenpenny, and “informed consent”, which is language that anti-vaccine propagandists have adopted to fight vaccination laws, The Guardian reported on Friday.

On Thursday, California congressman Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, in letters to Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, urged them to take more responsibility for health-related misinformation on their platforms.

“The algorithms which power these services are not designed to distinguish quality information from misinformation or misleading information, and the consequences of that are particularly troubling for public health issues,” Schiff wrote.

“I am concerned by the report that Facebook accepts paid advertising that contains deliberate misinformation about vaccines,” he added.

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Facebook, social media. Pixabay

In 2017, ProPublica, a US-based non-profit organisation, revealed that the platform included targeting categories for people interested in a number of anti-Semitic phrases, such as “How to burn Jews” or “Jew hater”.

While the anti-Semitic categories found by ProPublica were automatically generated and were too small to run effective ad campaigns by themselves, the “vaccine controversies” category contains nearly nine lakh people, and “informed consent” from about 340,000. The Tenpenny category only includes 720 people, which is too few to run a campaign.

Facebook declined to comment on the ad targeting categories, but said it was looking into the issue, The Guardian reported.

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“We’ve taken steps to reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation on Facebook, but we know we have more to do,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement responding to Schiff’s letter.

“We’re currently working on additional changes that we’ll be announcing soon.” (IANS)