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US Senators Introduce Bill to Ban Social Media from Tricking Users in Giving up their Personal Data

"Misleading prompts to just click the 'OK' button can often transfer your contacts, messages, browsing activity, photos, or location information without you even realizing it"

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FILE - A man poses for a photo in front of a computer showing Facebook ad preferences in San Francisco, California, March 26, 2018. VOA

Two U.S. senators introduced a bill on Tuesday to ban online social media companies like Facebook and Twitter from tricking consumers into giving up their personal data.

The bill from Mark Warner, a Democrat, and Deb Fischer, a Republican, would also ban online platforms with more than 100 million monthly active users from designing addicting games or other websites for children under age 13.

The bill takes aim at practices that online platforms use to mislead people into giving personal data to companies or otherwise trick them. The so-called “dark patterns” were developed using behavioral psychology.

“Misleading prompts to just click the ‘OK’ button can often transfer your contacts, messages, browsing activity, photos, or location information without you even realizing it,” Fischer said in a statement issued by both senators.

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The bill takes aim at practices that online platforms use to mislead people into giving personal data to companies or otherwise trick them. Pixabay

Restrictions on how social media companies collect information about users could hurt their ability to sell advertisements, a key source of profit.

A website aimed at tracking dark patterns identifies behavior, such as a website or app showing that a user has new notifications when they do not.

Warner said in an interview on CNBC that the legislation could be included in a federal privacy bill that lawmakers in the Senate Commerce Committee are drafting. Congress has been expected to take up privacy legislation after California passed a strict privacy law that goes into effect next year.

Warner noted that Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, Google and others have expressed support for privacy regulation.

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The bill from Mark Warner, a Democrat, and Deb Fischer, a Republican, would also ban online platforms with more than 100 million monthly active users from designing addicting games or other websites for children under age 13. Pixabay

“The platform companies are now going to have an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is, to see if they support this legislation and other approaches,” he said.

The bill would bar companies from choosing groups of people for behavioral experiments unless the companies get informed consent.

ALSO READ: Facebook Uses AI to Find Profiles of Dead Friends so that People don’t Receive Birthday Reminders

Under the terms of the bill, social media companies would create a professional standards body to create best practices to deal with the issue. The Federal Trade Commission, which investigates deceptive advertising, would work with the group.

Facebook, Google, Twitter and other free online services rely on advertising for revenue, and use data collected on users to more effectively target those ads. (VOA)

Next Story

Facebook, Twitter Reveal That Android Apps Accessed Users Data

Twitter and Facebook said they will notify those whose information was likely shared through apps

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Smartphones have become the most important gadget to own these days & Android is a mobile operating system. Pixabay

In yet another data breach, Facebook and Twitter have admitted that data of hundreds of users was improperly accessed by some third-party apps on Android Google Play Store as they logged into those apps.

Security researchers discovered that the One Audience and Mobiburn software development kits (SDK) provided access to users’ data, including email addresses, usernames, and recent tweets, on both the platforms.

Twitter and Facebook said they will notify those whose information was likely shared through apps.

“We recently received a report about a malicious mobile software development kit (SDK) maintained by One Audience. We are informing you about this today because we believe we have a responsibility to inform you of incidents that may impact the safety of your personal data or Twitter account,” the micro-blogging platform said in a statement late Monday.

The companies were notified of the vulnerability by third-party security researchers.

Android is a mobile operating system
Android is a mobile operating system based on a modified version of the Linux kernel and other open source software. Pixabay

A Facebook spokesperson told The Verge: “After investigating, we removed the apps from our platform for violating our platform policies and issued cease and desist letters against One Audience and Mobiburn”.

We plan to notify people whose information we believe was likely shared after they had granted these apps permission to access their profile information like name, email and gender”.

At the moment, it looks iOS users were not impacted.

According to Twitter, this issue is not due to a vulnerability in Twitter’s software, but rather the lack of isolation between SDKs within an application.

“We have evidence that this SDK was used to access people’s personal data for at least some Twitter account holders using Android, however, we have no evidence that the iOS version of this malicious SDK targeted people who use Twitter for iOS,” said Twitter.

Twitter has informed Google and Apple about the malicious SDK so they can take further action if needed.

Android apps in a tablet
Some of the best apps available for Android smartphones. Pixabay

“We will be directly notifying people who use Twitter for Android who may have been impacted by this issue,” it added.

Earlier this month, Facebook revealed that at least 100 app developers may have accessed Facebook users’ data for months, confirming that at least 11 partners “accessed group members” information in the last 60 days”.

ALSO READ: Facebook Turned To Privacy Champion By Embracing Encrypted Messaging

The social networking giant found that the apps – primarily social media management and video streaming apps – retained access to group member information, like names and profile pictures in connection with group activity, from the Groups API (application programming interface).

According to the company, the apps designed to make it easier for group admins to manage their groups more effectively and help members share videos to their groups. (IANS)