Facebook sets itself against China, Russia, all human life

Zuckerberg had no real answer to Graham’s question. The Facebook CEO cited other big tech companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and even Twitter as the main competitors to Facebook. But none of these companies come close to presenting a real alternative to Facebook’s main product, the social media site.

Graham, to his credit, realizes this: “If I buy a Ford and it doesn’t work well and I don’t like it, I can buy a Chevy. If I’m upset with Facebook, what’s the equivalent product that I can sign up for?”

Zuckerberg’s answer, that Facebook is just one of the eight different apps that the average American uses to communicate, leaves out the fact that Facebook owns four of the eight top communication apps: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. In terms of digital communication, Facebook has no real rival.

In the senate hearing, Zuckerberg joked that it “doesn’t feel” like Facebook has a monopoly. It might be because, like with any monopoly, it’s convenient to broaden the definition of the market. And in Zuckerberg’s mind, this definition may come across as all-encompassing to the point of megalomania…Facebook has put itself in competition with all human activity.

Facebook’s enemy is life itself

In an ironic turn of events, an insight into how Mark Zuckerberg sees Facebook comes from when his private information was taken without his explicit consent. At one point during his Senate testimony, Zuckerberg left his notes open on the witness table.

The notes, photographed by AP Washington’s Andrew Harnik, had this argument prepped  for the monopoly question:“Consumers have lots of choices over how they spend their time.”

When you make your money from ads, attention IS the economy. Your attention is what Facebook sells. To commercial advertisers. To political propaganda. So, what’s Facebook’s competitor for your attention? Anything else that could possibly occupy your time.

Well, given this position no wonder Facebook, “doesn’t feel” like a monopoly to Zuckerberg. Not while there’s literally anything else you can think about. Not when sleep is still a thing.

You might be thinking that serious lawmakers are unlikely to be convinced by this absurd argument. And you’d be right. But despite pressure from consumer advocacy groups, it’s unlikely that a strong political will to act against the monopoly will emerge.

Will we see Facebook break up?

Facebook monopoly issues aren’t new, even if the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal has brought the problem to the public eye once more. But what would a solution look like? Politico advocated breaking up Facebook into smaller entities. Similar action has been proposed against other tech giants such as Google and Apple.

Such a breakup would require a huge amount of political will on behalf of lawmakers and the public, given the amount of money that big tech can funnel into Washington to preserve the integrity of their empires. But American tech companies won’t have to try so hard. 

Zuckerberg’s notes reveal a different angle that Facebook can leverage to save itself. It’s about competition, but not about Facebook’s competitors. Rather, it’s about the rivals to the United States itself.

Zuckerberg leverages fear of competition…with China and Russia

Take another look at Zuckerberg’s cheat sheet. On the issue of whether to break up Facebook we see: “US tech companies key asset for America; break up strengthens Chinese companies”. It’s this that cements that, no matter how often he might pull a naive act, Zuckerberg knows exactly how to pressure the US government on its pain points.

facebook world map hero 1 Facebook was created in America, but is a global empire. / © Facebook

Facebook is a global company, and most of its users (almost 90%) are outside of the US. But it’s also an American company, and its surveillance of the citizens of the world is also a US intelligence asset, distasteful as it may be to think about.

Responding to Alaska Republican Senator Dan Sullivan’s question about whether Facebook was too powerful, Zuckerberg once again played the China card:

“Well, senator,” Zuckerberg responded, “I think most of the time when people talk about our scale, they’re referencing that we have two billion people in our community. And I think one of the big questions that we need to think through here is the vast majority of those 2 billion people are outside of the US. And I think that that’s something that, to your point, that Americans should be proud of. And when I brought up the Chinese Internet companies, I think that that’s a real—a real strategic and competitive threat that, in American technology policy we should be thinking about.”

AndroidPIT China Facebook will exploit fears of Chinese technology to preserve itself. / © AndroidPIT

Anyone following mobile tech shouldn’t be surprised at this line. The current US administration has already taken action to prevent Huawei from succeeding in the US market. Similarly, when it comes to data, breaking up Facebook could be seen as weakening an American asset, while China makes use of powerful companies like Tencent and Alibaba.

Facebook isn’t only threatening the US government with China. Russia’s in the mix too. Ironic, but despite Facebook’s complete failure to prevent itself being hijacked by a Russian disinformation campaign, Zuckerberg still presents Facebook as the main line of defense against foreign agents, instead of the vulnerability it really is:

“There are people in Russia whose job it is to try to exploit our systems and other internet systems and other systems as well.

“This is an ongoing arms race. As long as there are people sitting in Russia whose job is it to try to interfere in elections around the world, this is going to be an ongoing conflict.”

If there’s an arms race going on, then Facebook has been selling weapons to both sides in a classic case of war profiteering. Nothing that the US government would usually frown upon, but a definite no-no (to use a legal term) when the US is one of the sides involved in the conflict.

Last week House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden presented Zuckerberg as an all-American hero: “Your success story is an American success story, embodying values such as freedom of speech and freedom of enterprise.”

The United States can lay claim to Facebook as an embodiment of its ideals. Based on what you know about Facebook, you can judge for yourself its suitability for that role. Idealism aside, Facebook is clever enough to position itself as an asset in an international information war.

But this is an alliance of convenience. In its heart of hearts, Facebook listens to its true reason for existence: profit. Our attention. Against any upstart corporation that tries to compete. Against any nation-state, including the US, that threatens it. Against sleep. Against time itself.

Do you think Facebook should be broken up? Or is it in the national interest to keep Facebook strong?

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Facebook tracks data from non-users, and keeps it from them

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that’s seen Facebook stock take a big hit and a strong user backlash against the platform, those who never signed up for the social network could be forgiven for being a little smug. But not so fast.

As it turns out, Facebook, which is in the business of gathering as much data from as many people as possible in order to run precisely targeted ads, gets its information about you from many sources, not just what’s on the profiles of its users. 

This gives the lie to Facebook’s official line that the users are in control of the data that they share, and that the company is only using the data that people willingly offer up.

What are Facebook’s ‘shadow profiles?’

Even if you’ve never signed up for Facebook, the company might still have a file on you, gathered through uploaded contact lists, photos, or other sources.When someone you know joins Facebook, the social network can find traces of you in the email/phone contacts, for example. Should you then register on the network, you’ll find it already has an uncanny ability to suggest friends from your social and professional circle before you’ve told them any details.

As well as details pulled from your social and professional circle that you may not have consented to share with the company, Facebook’s file on you also contains information on your web browsing through use of embedded ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons. These can be tracked even if you’re logged out of your Facebook account.

Privacy advocates refer to these files on non-users as ‘shadow profiles’, and, given Facebook’s huge userbase, there’s a good chance the company has one on you even if you’ve been diligent in avoiding the social network. 

Zuckerberg has, of course, never heard of such a thing

Mark Zuckerberg testified before a congressional hearing last week, Mark Zuckerberg  was asked about shadow profiles by new Mexico Democrat Ben Luján. The Facebook founder and CEO claimed not to be familiar with them, and although it’s not a term Facebook uses officially, it’s also hard to believe Zuckerberg has never heard of the most widely used name for these occult files.

Congressman Ben Luján questions Zuckerberg on ‘shadow profiles’:

Nonetheless Zuckerberg confirmed the company collects information on nonusers. “In general, we collect data of people who have not signed up for Facebook for security purposes,” he said.

Trouble is, non-users haven’t given their consent to have his personal data collected, and what’s worse, don’t have any recourse to access this data without registering. Yes, you heard that right.

I don’t have a Facebook account, and want to access my personal data

We’ve explained how to download all the information Facebook has on you, a sensible precaution to take if you’re planning to #DeleteFacebook. Fine, if you’re already a Facebook user. But if you don’t have a Facebook account? Facebook’s help page for this situation directs you to a process that requires you to sign up for the social network.

So to add insult to injury, not only has the non-Facebook user had their data gathered without their consent, but they have to sign up to a service they don’t want and ‘consent’ to give up more information to the company in the process of requesting this data.

It’s clear from this that Facebook’s problems with privacy don’t just concern its active users, but will remain a problem for those who have quit the social network or never signed up for it in the first place. This is likely going to cause some tension when Europe’s GDPR kicks in, as the regulation requires data-portability for all citizens, not just Facebook users.

Zuckerberg has stated his willingness to comply with GDPR for its European users but has stopped short of guaranteeing similar protections for users in the US and elsewhere. Nonetheless, if Facebook wants people to take seriously the idea that they can control their data, it needs to bring the information in these shadow profiles into the light—where users and non-users alike can see their personal data and claim it.

What do you think of Facebook’s data collection practices? What kind of changes would you like to see?

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You could soon ‘unsend’ Facebook Messages, just like Zuck

Messenger fans can rejoice: Facebook will add the possibility to delete messages sent from the recipient’s history. It has been proven that some Facebook executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, are already in a position to do so. Just for testing purposes, of course.

Facebook will introduce a new feature allowing users of its Messenger application to ‘Unsend’, or delete messages already sent. TechCrunch discovered this feature after noting that Mark Zuckerberg and some company executives are already using it.

Several sources report that old Facebook messages from Zuckerberg have disappeared from their Facebook inbox as well as from the “Download Your Information” archive while their responses remain.

androidpit supprimer messages messenger With great power comes great evasion of responsibility. / © Techcrunch

According to Facebook, this possibility had been introduced following hacking by the Japanese manufacturer Sony, but a spokesperson for the social network told Bloomberg that:

“We have discussed this feature several times. And people using our secret message feature in the encrypted version of Messenger have the ability to set a timer—and have their messages automatically deleted. We will now be making a broader delete message feature available. This may take some time. And until this feature is ready, we will no longer be deleting any executives’ messages. We should have done this sooner—and we’re sorry that we did not.”

It’s unclear whether Zuckerberg was simply serving as a beta tester for this new feature or whether being caught in the act has made Facebook decide to roll out this executive-level superpower out to all users. Facebook is still playing defense in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and needs to be on its best behavior if it hopes to win back the trust of the public.

Looking forward to a feature to delete Facebook messages? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Poll: Do you still trust Facebook enough to use it?

Facebook is great for connecting with friends and family, sharing memories and having a good laugh. But there are plenty of things it doesn’t get right. You’ve been hearing about the Cambridge Analytica scandal all over the news recently, and it probably feels a bit like déjà vu, as we’ve been hearing for years now about issues with personal privacy, fake news, threats to democracy and more. We want to know how you feel about Facebook now.

Last week, our colleague Eric wrote a great article detailing the recent scandal and why now is the time to ditch Facebook. If you believe that Facebook won’t have a “moral change” as he puts it, then it’s up to us as users to leave Facebook behind.

That’s easier said than done, not because of any technical difficulty, but because it’s hard to leave behind a mode of communication many of our circles have come to rely on for keeping in touch, sending event invitations and sharing photos. But plenty of us got on just fine without Facebook before, and we can surely survive without it now. The question is whether or not you’re concerned enough about Facebook’s issues to quit yet. Have you finally had enough?

Let us know what’s on your mind by participating in the poll below and leaving us a comment. We’ve put together an article on not only how to deactivate an account but also how to delete it permanently, which you can find here if you’re exploring your options or ready to take the plunge.

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It’s time to say goodbye to Facebook

Facebook seems to be finished. Fake news, echo chambers, unchecked agitation and demonstrable attacks on democracy have tainted the network once described as social and upset many of its approximate two billion users. The handling of our user data was questionable right from the start. But the recent scandals about political manipulation with Cambridge Analytica and the recording of our call and messaging logs has gotten out of hand. For the first time, people are seriously moving on from the network. In this article we’ll explain to you why they’re right about this, and what this could entail.

It’s sad that it came to this. Completely unregulated, data giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook were able to expand and collect more and more intimate details about people all over the world. These details were analyzed and exploited in various ways. If personalized advertising was the extent of it, probably nobody would’ve really gotten upset.

But echo chambers in which people are confronted with one-sided reporting and data analyses that specifically supply these chambers with fake news and manipulate masses of people have revealed a new kind of big data conspiracy. It had been clear for a while that we would have to pay for these “free” web services somehow if they weren’t asking for our money upfront. But few could have guessed that it would cost us our freedom.

As early as 2011, Avaaz and Upworthy founder Eli Pariser warned of the filter bubbles in his TED talk and predicted that they would distort our view of the world. This year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal proved him to be correct.

What is the Cambridge Analytica scandal?

The extremely brief summary of the scandal is that a British professor named Aleksandr Kogan collected the data of 57 million Facebook users via an inconspicuous survey. He passed these on to Cambridge Analytica, which used them to influence those users in the 2016 US presidential elections in favor of Donald Trump. Investigations into this story are still underway, but any further findings from it will surely be a nightmare.

Facebook’s handling of the crisis hasn’t been any better. Jean-Louis Gassée, entrepreneur and former Apple employee, is convinced that Zuckerberg considers us ‘idiots’. After Steve Jobs said, “You’re holding the iPhone wrong,” and Sun CEO Scott McNealy said, “Get over it, you have no privacy,” Zuckerberg’s ambiguous “Your privacy is important to us,” is the boldest statement we’ve heard in a long time. Gassée says:

“Yes, of course, our privacy is important to you; you made billions by surveilling and mining our private lives. One wonders how aware Zuckerberg is of the double entendre.”

He also criticizes Zuckerberg’s claim to have acted quickly against Cambridge Analytica’s abuse. Because…

  • Facebook has always shared too much user data with third parties.
  • Facebook was warned in 2011 against misusing app permissions.
  • Declarations of consent for the use of Facebook apps are, without exception, too complicated for the average user.
  • Facebook had obviously been aware of the abuse for a long time and had done nothing.

Of course Facebook didn’t do anything. In the end, political campaigns are diligently financed and Facebook has been able to secure large parts of the generous campaign budget in the form of sponsored posts. So the question is: how many Cambridge Analytica type scandals have we not discovered yet?

Facebook, chat logs, and permissions

A small proportion of users will be surprised to discover when extracting their Facebook data that chat logs have also been recorded, i.e. the meta-information about who you talked to for how long. While this only happened on Android devices with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and was fixed by restructuring the rights management with API level 16, this feature clearly shows how Facebook ticks.

Facebook also handled our movement and location data in a really lax manner. Until it was specifically told to do otherwise, Facebook would reveal your location to your chat partners. In the future you will have to enable this feature.

The mood has long since changed

Not only users, politicians and regulators are losing faith in Facebook. As the FTC launches a non-public investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices, investors are beginning to lose faith in the company. In the meantime, the share price fell to a one-year low after having risen almost continuously over the past five years.

In other social media channels, but also in some news media headlines, the hashtag #DeleteFacebook appears again and again, and has even become a catchphrase on Twitter. Elon Musk deleted the Facebook pages for Tesla and SpaceX. Edward Snowden spoke out and declared it our moral duty to oppose data monopolists like Facebook if we want to keep our freedom.

The next steps

Since we don’t expect Facebook to undergo any kind of moral change under Mark Zuckerberg and suddenly become good, we as users are forced to act. The requirement to use your real name will disappear, that much has been decided in court. Anonymous use will become easier. We can also stop giving Facebook so much of ourselves: we don’t need to optimize face recognition by tagging every photo, inform Facebook about every step we take, or rate every event.

It doesn’t all have to happen on Facebook. It wasn’t like that before Facebook either. The network was decentralized, a place for many. Its inventor Tim Bernes-Lee has chosen more dramatic words and says that Facebook and Google are turning the web into a weapon.

Facebook offered us convenience because everything is in one place or in one app. But now it has finally become apparent that we have paid for this with a complete digital image of our personality on the net. We are also paying to be informed and are potentially used more and more unilaterally. The only appropriate answer is a clear no.

Exiting Facebook or even Google is complicated. Our dependence on their services has become enormous. It is only inconvenient for individual users. For companies, even for AndroidPIT, it would be associated with a direct financial loss; after all, we are acquiring a considerable proportion of our readership via online services.

Leaving must therefore be wisely planned and patiently implemented. Our separate article goes into this in greater detail and outlines the Facebook deletion/deactivation process step-by-step.

What do you think? If you already have your finger on the “Delete Facebook account” button or if you’re keeping your account for a good reason, please feel free to leave a comment below!

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Firefox’s new add-on could protect your data from Facebook

The Facebook backlash continues with no satisfactory answers from Zuckerberg. Many are questioning whether they should delete Facebook all together. Mozilla announced an add-on today that will apparently help to keep our online activity private. Is this the start of a positive trend, or are companies simply capitalizing on our fears?

A step in the right direction?

Mozilla were among the first companies to announce its pausing of advertising activities following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It’s now introducing a new feature for Firefox, called Facebook Container, that will prevent Facebook from tracking you by isolating your activity outside of the website, thus making it more difficult for it to determine targeted ads and messages. Mozilla explained more in their blog post:

 As a user of the internet, you deserve a voice and should be able to use the internet on your own terms. In light of recent news on how the aggregation of user data can be used in surprising ways, we’ve created an add-on for Firefox called Facebook Container, based on technology we’ve been working on for the last couple of years and accelerated in response to what we see in terms of growing demand for tools that help manage privacy and security

This all sounds great, but it is just a very tiny step in the right direction. It certainly couldn’t have prevented the data harvesting that so many are outraged by, and it doesn’t change the fact that there are still vast amounts of data that are currently in the hands of Cambridge Analytica and other companies that can’t be taken back.

Rivals in the tech world will attempt to exploit Facebook’s weaknesses. Even the cynical can see some benefit in appealing to the privacy-conscious user and striking while the iron is hot.

Ultimately, we can’t expect other companies to step up and clean Facebook’s mess, but it’s nice to see that we have new tools to help us move forward, as the scandal has shaken many users out of complacency. Let’s hope it sticks!

The new Firefox add-on seems like an easy alternative if you need to keep your account and use Facebook’s features for your business, for example, while stopping Facebook from tracking you. It’s undeniable that the social media platform can have huge benefits, but it doesn’t outweigh the concerns for the protection of our data. 

firefox If you cannot delete Facebook, add-ons such as this could be very useful. / © AndroidPIT

While for now, this cannot ease fears over the way our data is being used, but we will hopefully see more and more tools and actions from companies like this in order to take steps to protecting our privacy.

Firefox for Android Beta Install on Google Play

Would you use this add-on? Or do you still think deleting Facebook is the best option?

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How to see the apps tracking you on Facebook and stop them

Facebook is currently embroiled in scandal after it was revealed that data firm Cambridge Analytica harvested the personal information of over 50 million users without their permission. In the light of this, you might be wondering if you can do something about apps like this taking your data. As a matter of fact, you can. We’ll show you how.

One of the most disconcerting things about the Facebook privacy scandal is that Cambridge Analytica didn’t get the data through a hack or by breaking the system, but instead through a legit Facebook app which collected the data of users, and also the data of all their friends.

Jump to:

When you download an app or sign into a website with Facebook, these companies can see certain information on your Facebook profile. For example, your email address, phone number, employment/education history and current location, depending on the individual app. The key thing that most people forget is, if you’re sharing that data with friends, then apps used by those friends can also see that information.

Now, certain sensitive data such as your name, your phone number, and your employer is encrypted by Facebook to protect your privacy, but that doesn’t stop Facebook from selling that data in bulk to advertisers and other companies who use that data to target and track you and the population in general.

Since Facebook profits from user data sharing, we can’t necessarily leave it to the company to keep things as secure as we’d like. So it’s good practice to take a dive into the settings every once in a while and clean house. Here’s how to take control of how Facebook apps use your data.

How to find and control the apps tracking you on Facebook

There are two ways you can access your Facebook account, with only slight differences in method, but we’ll outline both step-by-step below:

How to find and stop the Facebook apps tracking you on desktop/web browser:

  1. First, go to the arrow symbol on the top right of your Facebook page.
  2. Select Settings from the drop down menu
  3. Once you’re in the settings, select Apps (should be on the left)
  4. In Logged in with Facebook, you’ll see the apps tracking you 
  5. Hit show all to see the full list (I had 47!)
  6. Hover over the app to see your options—you can edit the app’s permissions or remove it entirely
  7. If you scroll down and explore the Settings > Apps section, you’ll find more options. You can set Facebook to log in and play games anonymously, for example.
  8. This is important: select Apps Others Use to limit the information your friends’ apps can get on you.

facebookdesktop Chances are you won’t even recognize the apps that track you. / © AndroidPIT (screenshot)

If you’re on the Facebook mobile app:

  1. Open the app, tap the 3 bars symbol on the top right
  2. Scroll down to Account Settings, open it
  3. Select Apps
  4. Tap Logged in with Facebook to see the list of apps
  5. Select each app individually to edit the settings—there’s the Remove App option right at the bottom
  6. Tap Apps others use to control what your contacts’ apps can see about you
  7. Tap Platform to control notifications and logging into games with Facebook

facebook How to access these apps on mobile. / © AndroidPIT (screenshot)

Going forward

If you’ve been using Facebook for some time, or very actively, you might be surprised at the apps that have permission to track you. I’ve had a Facebook account for over a decade, and saw that that apparently harmless games and quizzes clicked on in more innocent times still had access to my data!

Going forward, beware of any app, game or quiz shared by friends. It might not be worth the few seconds of amusement finding out which TV character you are, how you’d look in 20 years, and other such nonsense. If you absolutely must join in though, then you can fine-tune your settings to limit data sharing.

Have you used this method to make your data more secure? Were you surprised at what you found?

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Zuckerberg isn’t going to fix the problem with Facebook

As the Facebook backlash from lawmakers and users continues, eyes naturally turn towards the man in charge, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, to take responsibility and to take action. Although the early days of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal were marked by a deafening silence from the social media kingpin, Zuckerberg’s finally addressed the issue in a CNN interview. And it’s, um, well…not great.

Awkward and twitching, the Facebook founder was visibly uncomfortable during his sit-down with CNNMoney’s Laurie Segall, in which he broke the silence regarding Cambridge Analytica, the shady company that accessed information from 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge. The users knowledge, that is. Facebook had no problem sitting on that knowledge until it was put under the spotlight this week.

Facebook isn’t a victim, but an accomplice

Zuckerberg came with an apology, acknowledged a “major breach of trust” beween the social network and its users. In full damage control, he painted Facebook as a victim of “rogue apps” and bad actors like Kogan and Cambridge Analytica. Poor, hapless, bumbling Facebook was taken advantage of.

Wach Zuckerberg’s full interview with CNN below: 

Needless to say, this ‘poor little me’ position doesn’t really help for Facebook, which could have revealed to users that their data was being harvested and used without their consent over two years ago. Why didn’t it trust its users, or audit those “rogue apps” then? 

Because there was no “data breach” and Facebook wasn’t a victim. Facebook’s whole appeal to advertisers and analytics companies is that they can harvest user data as well as go scraping interaction data from everything connected to it. Take that away, and the social network would soon lose interest from its business partners.

Zuckerberg has pledged to “investigate” the affair and inform all users who may have been targeted by Cambridge Analytica, but when asked why Facebook didn’t notify users back in 2015, he replied that Facebook banned Alexander Kogan’s app and asked Cambridge Analytica to confirm that they didn’t keep or make use of this gathered data. Facebook, of course, took Cambridge Analytica’s word that this data wasn’t being used for anything and that its users didn’t need to be alerted to anything. Oh, sweet, naive Facebook.

We can’t trust Facebook to fix itself

Zuckerberg promises a thorough investigation and audit to stop similar data heists, as well as the potential negative consequences, such as the use of big data analysis to target propaganda from fake sources, as is widely alleged, for example, by Russian agents in the 2016 US elections. 

Zuck and co. don’t run a corporation to get any kind of moral satisfaction.

In the interview, Zuckerberg shows awareness of how Facebook is being manipulated in order to sow division related to elections in the US and around the world. Certainly, more than one nation or party is involved in this. Certainly, no one nation or party should hold the role of caretaker of democracy through Facebook either.

Zuck and co. don’t run a corporation to get any kind of moral satisfaction. Despite what Zuckerberg says in a sickly segment on how it took parenthood apparently make him aware of basic human decency, it’s not the opinion of his daughters that has brought him forward to break the silence now. Facebook’s tumbling stock and a hit of billions to his own personal net worth probably has a little more to do with it.

AndroidPIT shutterstock 558278971 Facebook Users are deleting their accounts to protest Facebook. / © shutterstock, AndroidPIT

Generally, when an industry comes under fire and attracts the attention of government bodies (such as the FTC in the US), the industry leaders make an proposal to self-regulate in order to keep as much control over their own affairs as possible.

From the CNN interview, it sounds like Zuckerberg has reached this stage of contrition: “You know, I think in general, technology is an increasingly important trend in the world, and I actually think the question is more what is the right regulation rather than yes or no, should it be regulated?”

No doubt Zuckerberg will want to play a role in shaping upcoming regulation, but as someone who profits from how Facebook’s data is used by third parties, he might have a different judgement call from you or me on situations where the balance is between Facebook’s bottom line and its commitment to transparency.

The vows to investigate and improve are a good start, but given Facebook’s rather poor record when it comes to trust and privacy, such an initiative should also be monitored by outside regulators. In this bid for reform, Facebook positions itself as the watchman over such “rogue apps” and “bad apps”. Which raises the ancient question, who will watch them?

What did you think of the interview? And what would an improved, trustworthy Facebook look like in your eyes?

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WhatsApp co-founder urges you to delete Facebook

The Facebook app has always been a source of debate on Android, especially because of its performance and  resource consumption. But this time, privacy is at the center of the controversy, thanks to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Now even Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp, urges users to delete their Facebook accounts.

“It’s time” followed by the hashtag #deletefacebook. It is with these words that Brian Acton, one of the founders of WhatsApp along with Jan Koun, commented on the case that has been stirring Facebook in recent days. The man worth $ 6.5 billion (Facebook bought WhatsApp for $ 16 billion) does not appreciate the turn the company has taken in recent months. 

Acton, who left WhatsApp to create his own foundation that supports the Signal messaging app, wants to let Facebook users know that it is time to quit. The tweet comes after a particularly difficult five-day period for Facebook which saw its action drop following concerns over data privacy following revelations about the misuse of user data by Cambridge Analytica .

Acton is not the first former Facebook executive to express his discomfort with the company after leaving it. Last year, Chamath Palihapitiya, former director of traffic development, explained his fears. Other former leaders have also expressed regret: Sean Parker, Justin Rosenstein and Roger McNamee.

Signal Private Messenger Install on Google Play

Did you uninstall Facebook following this scandal? How do you feel about WhatsApp?

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There’s no reason to give Facebook and WhatsApp everything

Across the Atlantic, Facebook’s shenanigans have landed it in some hot water. Last May, the social media giant was fined €110 million by the European Commission for misleading regulators about its technical capacities of matching WhatsApp and Facebook users. Now, an investigation by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has reached a settlement with WhatsApp, barring the company from sharing data with Facebook until both companies comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The GDPR comes into full effect this May, and we’re already seeing a positive effect when it comes to user privacy and control over the data we hand over to big tech companies.

Privacy in the UK

The ICO concluded that WhatsApp and Facebook can’t legally share user data at the moment. In an official statement by Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, the ICO clarifies that while there is not sufficient cause to fine Facebook in Britain, the investigation identified the following problems with WhatsApp:

  1. WhatsApp has not identified a lawful basis of processing for any such sharing of personal data;

  2. WhatsApp has failed to provide adequate fair processing information to users in relation to any such sharing of personal data;

  3. In relation to existing users, such sharing would involve the processing of personal data for a purpose that is incompatible with the purpose for which such data was obtained;

  4. I found that if they had shared the data, they would have been in contravention of the first and second data protection principles of the Data Protection Act.

The ICO’s announcement mentions that Facebook is also under investigation from various other EU data protection authorities. Facebook is already banned from using WhatsApp user data in Germany and faces further investigation, and the French data protection authority (CNIL) has its own enforcement action against WhatsApp

Is it time for the US to protect the data of its citizens?

Back in the USA, Facebook has faced only a comparatively soft touch from consumer protection agencies and trade regulation authorities. After Facebook acquired WhatsApp, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) confronted the company with a…uh…strongly worded letter. Ok.

Facebook is already under a 20-year consent decree from the FTC (since 2012), related to earlier complaints about its privacy policies and misleading its users. Yet the decision to share data with WhatsApp hasn’t met with the same pushback the social network faced in more privacy-conscious Europe.

AndroidPIT best messenger apps 1 whatsapp WhatsApp won many users with a promise of privacy, but now the situation is very different. / © AndroidPIT

The FTC seems to be content with WhatsApp’s opt-out system for data sharing, in which the ability to opt-out of data collection is only valid for 30 days. A more pro-active opt-in system, supported by the European Commission, would give users more control by default.

As it stands right now, US users can still hope to benefit from the more far-reaching European measures, as companies like Facebook and Google are forced to adapt to maintain their position globally.

In the meantime, however it’s not a great look when the US, a country that drives so much technological innovation, ends up relying on other countries to protect the users.

What do you think? Should the US follow suit and enforce privacy protections for consumers?

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