Zuckerberg Apologizes for Data Breach Before Congressional Testimony

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify publicly Tuesday before a group of U.S. senators after apologizing for the way his company handled data for millions of users.

He is due to appear before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Commerce Committee, and on Wednesday will go before House lawmakers.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said users “deserve to know how their information is shared and secure,” and that he wants to explore with Zuckerberg ways to balance safety with innovation.

Zuckerberg met privately with lawmakers in Washington on Monday and released written testimony saying the social media network should have done more to prevent itself and the data of its members from being misused.

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” Zuckerberg said.Zuckerberg was called to testify after news broke last month that personal data of millions of Facebook users had been harvested without their knowledge by Cambridge Analytica, a British voter profiling company that U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign hired to target likely supporters in 2016.

WATCH:  Video report on Facebook Data Breach

Cambridge Analytica connection

Prior to 2016, Facebook allowed a British researcher to create an app on Facebook on which about 200,000 users divulged personal information that was subsequently shared with Cambridge Analytica. The number of affected Facebook users multiplied exponentially because the app also collected data about friends, relatives and acquaintances of everyone who installed it.

 

Cambridge Analytica said it had data for 30 million of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users.

On Capitol Hill, U.S. lawmakers signaled they want action, not just contrition, from social media executives.

 

“If we don’t rein in the misuse of social media, none of us are going to have any privacy anymore,” the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, Bill Nelson of Florida, told reporters after meeting privately with Zuckerberg Monday.

 

Meanwhile, Facebook announced it is starting to notify tens of millions of users, most of them in the United States, whose personal data may have been harvested by Cambridge Analytica.

New cyber firewalls

The social media giant is also empowering all its users to shut off third-party access to their apps and is setting up cyber “firewalls” to ensure that users’ data is not unwittingly transmitted by others in their social network.

 

For years, Congress took a largely “hands-off” approach to regulating the internet. Some analysts believe that is about to change after the Facebook data breach, as well as a cascade of revelations about Russian cyber-meddling.

 

“At this point in time, it’s really up to Congress and the federal agencies to step up and take some responsibility for protecting privacy, for regulating Facebook as a commercial service which it clearly is,” Marc Rotenberg, president of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, told VOA. “We’ve gone for many years in the United States believing that self-regulation could work — that Facebook and the other tech giants could police themselves, but I think very few people still believe that.”

 

Heavy Facebook Use Exposed Southeast Asia to Breaches of Personal Data

Facebook users in Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, were especially exposed to recent data privacy breaches due to high user numbers and the popularity of an app at the core of the problem, analysts believe.

According to Facebook figures, the data of 1.175 million users in the Philippines may have been “improperly shared” with London-based voter profiling firm Cambridge Analytica. That estimate is the second highest, single-country total after the United States. Indonesia ranks third at around 1.1 million people exposed to data breaches. Vietnam was ninth with 427,000.

Filipinos had also enjoyed a personality quiz app that spread fast due to the sharing of results, said Renato Reyes, secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabaya alliance of social causes in Manila. The app is suspected as a source of Cambridge Analytica data.

In Vietnam, where the media outlet VnExpress International estimates 64 million of the country’s 92 million people use Facebook, younger people like the outlet to show off, technology specialists say. Indonesians use it to communicate for free across their 13,000 islands, some impoverished.

The Silicon Valley social media giant said that beginning April 9 it would add a News Feed link for users to see what information they have shared on which apps.

“I think we are in a position to demand an explanation directly from the officials at Facebook considering that we are the second highest country in net exposure,” Reyes said.

Why Southeast Asia?

Data from about 87 million users worldwide may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook says.

Southeast Asia faced exposure because a rise in the number of “affordable” mobile phones has expanded consumption of news on social media, said Athina Karatzogianni, associate professor in media, communication and sociology at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.

Total smartphone shipments in emerging Southeast Asia came to about 100 million last year, according to the market research firm IDC.

In parts of the subcontinent, people rely on Facebook as an easy, free means to share news and images with family or friends across long distances, said Lam Nguyen, country manager with IDC.

App sharing in the Philippines

Filipinos worry that Cambridge Analytica’s parent company crunched the results of the personality quiz app to grasp voter psychology for targeted advertising on behalf of political campaigns, Reyes said. It may have taken the Philippine 2016 election as a “laboratory” for the U.S. presidential race later that year, he said.

Cambridge Analytica says independent research contractor GSR “licensed data” from no more than 30 million users and that no information was used for the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The organization took legal action against GSR.

“The use of personal data in order to influence the outcome of elections is really a cause for concern,” Reyes said.

The Philippine National Privacy Commission has required Facebook to give updates on controlling against any further risk, the commission said Friday. Any data leaked would have arisen from use of University of Cambridge academic psychologist Aleksandr Kogan’s personality quiz app, it said.

Facebook rage in Vietnam

In Vietnam, Facebook took off about 11 years ago along with emerging wealth, including access to other foreign goods and services.

A lot of people use Facebook to show off travel photos, said Phuong Hong, communications director with an app developer in Ho Chi Minh City. Such elaborate public posting exposes users to information harvesting, she said.

“In Vietnam, people (are) more open and they don’t as much realize the impact if they publish all their information on social channels,” she said.

“Just some highly well educated people who already know about the after effects will try to limit it by themselves, but most of young, from 14 to 25, and even older people 25 to 40, they just go to that site, create an account and just follow to what Facebook asks for to fill in the information,” she added.

Facebook users in Vietnam may remember a breach four years ago that let phone numbers and e-mails find their way to marketers, Nguyen said.

“When the (Cambridge Analytica) story came to light, I think a lot of Facebook users here in Vietnam were kind of like ah, OK, so now it comes to light, but we already know our personal data have been breached a couple of years ago already,” he said.

Vietnam’s national defense and diplomatic officials met last week to discuss “internet security” with an eye toward Facebook, VnExpress International said.

Indonesia, Facebook discuss ‘abuse’

In Indonesia, the communications minister met the Indonesian Facebook public policy head April 5 to discuss any “abuse” of user data, the Ministry of Communication and Informatics said on its website.

The number of Indonesian Facebook users had reached 130 million in January, 6 percent of the world total.

Five Questions for Mark Zuckerberg as He Heads to Congress

Congress has plenty of questions for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who will testify on Capitol Hill Tuesday and Wednesday about the company’s ongoing data-privacy scandal and how it failed to guard against other abuses of its service.

 

Facebook is struggling to cope with the worst privacy crisis in its history – allegations that a Trump-affiliated data mining firm may have used ill-gotten user data to try to influence elections. Zuckerberg and his company are in full damage-control mode, and have announced a number of piecemeal technical changes intended to address privacy issues.

 

But there’s plenty the Facebook CEO hasn’t yet explained. Here are five questions that could shed more light on Facebook’s privacy practices and the degree to which it is really sorry about playing fast and loose with user data – or just because its practices have drawn the spotlight.

 

QUESTION 1: You’ve said you should have acted years ago to protect user privacy and guard against other abuses. Was that solely a failure of your leadership, or did Facebook’s business model or other factors create an obstacle to change? How can you ensure that Facebook doesn’t make similar errors in the future?

 

CONTEXT: Zuckerberg controls 59.7 percent of the voting stock in Facebook. He is both chairman of the board and CEO. He can’t be fired, unless he fires himself. “At the end of the day, this is my responsibility,” he told reporters on a conference call last week. He also admitted to making a “huge mistake” in not taking a broad enough view of Facebook’s responsibility in the world.

 

Zuckerberg, however, has been apologizing for not doing better on privacy for 11 years . In the current crisis, neither he nor chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg have clarified exactly how Facebook developed such a huge blind spot, much less how it can prevent history from repeating itself.

 

POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP: Does Facebook need a chief privacy officer with the authority to take action on behalf of users?

 

QUESTION 2: Who owns user data on Facebook, the company or the users? If it’s the latter, why shouldn’t Facebook allow people to opt out of being targeted by ads?

 

CONTEXT: Facebook collects data on its own (your likes, which ads you click on, etc.); keeps data you share yourself (photos, videos, messages); and correlates data from outside sources to data on its platform (email lists from marketers, and until recently, information from credit agencies).

 

Who owns what is a difficult question to answer, and Facebook clearly hasn’t been good at explaining it. While you can download everything the company knows about you, it doesn’t really allow you to take “your” data to a rival.

Sandberg told Today’s Savannah Guthrie that given Facebook’s ad-driven business model, you can’t currently avoid data mining of your public profile information. (You can opt not to see the resulting targeted ads , though.) Allowing that, Sandberg said, would effectively require Facebook to turn into a “paid product” that charges users.

POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP: Don’t other businesses allow some users to opt out of ads? Why can’t Facebook charge users who want ad-free experiences the way Hulu and YouTube do?

QUESTION 3: Facebook has made connecting with others and sharing information dead simple. Why haven’t you put similar effort into making your privacy controls equally easy to use?

 

CONTEXT: Facebook has updated its privacy settings seven times in the last decade, each time aimed at making them simpler to use.

 

The latest update was on March 28. On April 4, the company announced new technical changes designed to close loopholes that allowed third parties overbroad access to user data.

 

Facebook makes many pieces of information your profile public by default; to lock them down, you have to change those settings yourself.

 

POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP: Does this legacy suggest the government needs to step in with clear and universal privacy rules?

 

QUESTION 4: Did Facebook threaten legal action against the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. regarding its reporting on the Cambridge Analytica scandal?

 

CONTEXT: John Mulholland, editor of the Guardian US, tweeted in March that Facebook had threatened to sue to stop publication of its story that broke the Cambridge Analytica scandal in mid-March. Neither the Guardian nor Facebook have commented further.

 

POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP: Do you still stand behind Facebook’s actions here?

QUESTION 5: Have you spoken with critics, including some former Facebook investors and colleagues, who argue that the company’s service has become an addictive and corrosive force in society?

 

CONTEXT: Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, said Facebook specializes in “exploiting” human psychology and may be harming our children’s brains. An early investor in Facebook, Roger McNamee compared Facebook to an addictive substance such as nicotine and alcohol.

 

Brian Acton, a co-founder of WhatsApp (acquired by Facebook in 2014), recently recommended that people should delete their Facebook accounts . Chamath Palihapitiya, an early vice president at Facebook, said Facebook’s tools are “ripping apart the social fabric.”

 

POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP:  If not, why not?

 

Global Hunger Is Rising, Artificial Intelligence Can Help

Despite a global abundance of food, a United Nations report says 815 million people, 11 percent of the world’s population, went hungry in 2016. That number seems to be rising.

Poverty is not the only reason, however, people are experiencing food insecurity.

“Increasingly we’re also seeing hunger caused by the displacement related to conflict, natural disaster as well, but particularly there’s been an uptick in the number of people displaced in the world,” said Robert Opp, director of Innovation and Change Management at the United Nations World Food Program.

Humanitarian organizations are turning to new technologies such as AI, or artificial intelligence, to fight global food insecurity.

WATCH: Global Hunger Is Rising — Artificial Intelligence Can Help

“What AI offers us right now, is an ability to augment human capacity. So, we’re not talking about replacing human beings and things. We’re talking about doing more things and doing them better than we could by just human capacity alone,” Opp said.

Analyze data, get it to farmers

Artificial intelligence can analyze large amounts of data to locate areas affected by conflict and natural disasters and assist farmers in developing countries. The data can then be accessed by farmers from their smartphones.

“The average smartphone that exists in the world today is more powerful than the entire Apollo space program 50 years ago. So just imagine a farmer in Africa who has a smartphone has much more computing power than the entire Apollo space program,” said Pranav Khaitan, engineering lead at Google AI.

“When you take your special data and soil mapping data and use AI to do the analysis, you can send me the information. So in a nutshell, you can help me [know] when to plant, what to plant, how to plant,” said Uyi Stewart, director of Strategy Data and Analytics in Global Development of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“When you start combining technologies, AI, robotics, sensors, that’s when we see magic start to happen on farms for production, to increase crop yields,” said Zenia Tata, vice president for Global Impact Strategy at XPRIZE, an organization that creates incentivized competitions so innovative ideas and technologies can be developed to benefit humanity.

“It all comes down to developing these techniques and making it available to these farmers and people on the ground,” Khaitan said.

Breaking down barriers

However, the developing world is often the last to get new technologies.

As Stewart said, “815 million people are hungry and I can bet you that nearly 814 million out of the 815 million do not have a smartphone.”

Even when the technology is available, other barriers still exist.

“A lot of these people that we talked about that are hungry, they don’t speak English, so when we get insights out of this technology how are we going to pass it onto them?” Stewart said.

While it may take time for new technologies to reach the developing world, many hope such advances will ultimately trickle-down to farmers in regions that face food insecurity.

“You’ve invented the technology. The big investments have gone in. Now you’re modifying it, which brings the cost down as well,” said Teddy Bekele, vice president of Ag Technology at U.S.-based agribusiness and food company Land O’Lakes.

“So, I think three to four years maybe we’ll have some of the things we have here to be used there [in the developing world] as well,” Bekele predicted.

Those who work in humanitarian organizations said entrepreneurs must look outside their own countries to adapt the new technologies to combat global hunger, or come up with a private, public model. Farmers will need the tools and training so they can harness the power of artificial intelligence to help feed the hungry in the developing world.

This story was written by Elizabeth Lee​.

Global Hunger Is Rising — Artificial Intelligence Can Help

Despite a global abundance of food, a United Nations report says 815 million people, 11 percent of the world’s population, went hungry in 2016. Advances in technology and artificial intelligence can help feed them, but there are challenges that keep first world technologies from reaching the developing world. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee explains.

Consumer Groups: Facebook’s Facial Recognition Violates Privacy Rights

Facebook violates its users’ privacy rights through the use of its facial recognition software, according to consumer groups led by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Their complaint to the federal government focuses on the use of Facebook software that identifies people in photographs that are uploaded to its site.

A complaint filed Friday by a coalition of consumer organizations with Federal Trade Commission said the social media giant “routinely scans photos for biometric facial matches without the consent of the image subject.”

The complaint says the company tries to improve its facial recognition prowess by deceptively encouraging users the participate in the process of identifying people in photographs.

“This unwanted, unnecessary, and dangerous identification of individuals undermines user privacy, ignores the explicit preferences of Facebook users, and is contrary to law in several state and many parts of the world.”

The groups maintain there is little users can do to prevent images of their faces from being in a social media system like Facebook’s. They contend facial scanning can be abused by authoritarian governments, a key argument considering Facebook may be required to provide user information to governments.

The complaint is the latest in a string of privacy-related issues the FTC is already investigating, including charges it allowed the personal information of 87 million users to be improperly harvested by Cambridge Analytica, the British consulting firm which was hired by U.S. President Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Until Thursday, Facebook had not said how many accounts had been harvested by Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has also been hesitant to explain how the company’s product might have been used by Russian-supported entities to affect the U.S. presidential election outcome.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify next week before two congressional committees.

Facebook: Up to 2.7 Million EU Users Affected by Data-Mining

The European Union said Friday Facebook has told it that up to 2.7 million people in the 28-nation bloc may have been victim of improper data sharing involving political data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica.

EU spokesman Christian Wigand said EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova will have a telephone call with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg early next week to address the massive data leaks.

The EU and Facebook will be looking at what changes the social media giant needs to make to better protect users and how the U.S. company must adapt to new EU data protection rules.

Wigand said that EU data protection authorities will discuss over the coming days “a strong coordinated approach” on how to deal with the Facebook investigation.

Separately, Italy’s competition authority opened an investigation Friday into Facebook for allegedly misleading practices following revelations that the social network sold users’ data without consent.

Authority chairman Giovanni Pitruzzella told Sky News24 that the investigation will focus on Facebook’s claims on its home page that the service is free, without revealing that it makes money off users’ data.

The investigation comes as Italian consumer advocate group Codacons prepares a U.S. class action against Facebook on behalf of Italians whose data was mined by Cambridge Analytica. Codacons said just 57 Italians downloaded the Cambridge Analytica app, but that an estimated 214,000 Italians could be affected because the data mined extended to also the users’ friends.

A top Facebook privacy official is scheduled to meet with the authority later this month.

This story was earlier corrected to show that the EU call will take place with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg not with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

As Trump Tweets, Amazon Seeks to Expand its Business Empire

Amazon is spending millions of dollars on lobbying as the global online retailer seeks to expand its reach into a swath of industries that President Donald Trump’s broadsides haven’t come close to hitting.

Trump’s attacks over the last week targeted what Amazon is best known for: rapidly shipping just about any product you can imagine to your door. But the company CEO Jeff Bezos founded more than two decades ago is now a sprawling empire that sells groceries in brick-and-mortar stores, hosts the online services of other companies and federal offices in a network of data centers, and even recently branched into health care.

Amazon relies on a nearly 30-member in-house lobbying team that’s four times as large as it was three years ago as well as outside firms to influence the lawmakers and federal regulators who can help determine its success. The outside roster includes a retired congressman from Washington state who was a senior member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee when he stepped down.

Overall, Amazon spent $15.6 million on lobbying in 2017.

“Amazon is just not on an even playing field,” Trump told reporters Thursday aboard Air Force One. “They have a tremendous lobbying effort, in addition to having The Washington Post, which is as far as I’m concerned another lobbyist. But they have a big lobbying effort, one of the biggest, frankly, one of the biggest.”

Bezos owns the Post. He and the newspaper have previously declared that Bezos isn’t involved in any journalistic decisions.

Earlier in the week, Trump alleged that Amazon is bilking the U.S. Postal Service for being its “delivery boy,” a doubtful claim about a contract that’s actually been judged profitable for the post office. And he has charged that Amazon pays “little or no taxes,” a claim that may have merit. Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said in February that Amazon “has built its business model on tax avoidance.” Amazon reported $5.6 billion of U.S. profits in 2017 “and didn’t pay a dime of federal income taxes on it,” according to Gardner.

The company declined to comment on Trump’s remarks and did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its lobbying operations.

Amazon has grown rapidly since it launched in 1995 as a site that sold books. It has changed the way people buy paper towels, diapers or just about anything else. And its ambitions go far beyond online shopping: its Alexa voice assistant is in tablets, cars and its Echo devices; it runs the Whole Foods grocery chain; the company produces movies and TV shows and it designs its own brands of furniture and clothing.

The company is in the midst of launching an independent business with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway that is seeking to lower health care costs for employees at the three companies. Given the three players’ outsize influence the alliance has the potential to shake up how Americans shop for health care and the initiative sent a shudder through the industry when it was announced in January.

Amazon Web Services is angling for a much larger share of the federal government’s market for cloud computing, which allows massive amounts of data to be stored and managed on remote servers. The CIA signed a $600 million deal with Amazon in 2013 to build a system to share secure data across the U.S. intelligence community.

A partner of Amazon Web Services, the Virginia-based Rean Cloud LLC, in February scored what appeared to be a lucrative cloud computing contract from the Pentagon. But the contract, initially projected to be worth as much as $950 million, was scaled back to $65 million after Amazon’s competitors complained about the award.

Lobbying disclosure records filed with the House and Senate show Amazon is engaged on a wide variety of other issues, from trade to transportation to telecommunications. The company also lobbied lawmakers and federal agencies on the testing and operation of unmanned aerial vehicles. Amazon has been exploring the use of drones for deliveries, but current federal rules restrict flying beyond the operator’s line of sight.

The $15.6 million Amazon spent on lobbying last year was $2.6 million more than in 2016, according to the disclosure records. The bulk of the money — $12.8 million — went for Amazon’s in-house lobbying team. The nearly 30-member unit is led by Brian Huseman, who worked previously as chief of staff at the Federal Trade Commission and a Justice Department trial attorney.

As most large corporations do, Amazon also employs outside lobbying firms — as many as 14 in 2017.

In Amazon’s corner is former Washington congressman Norm Dicks of the firm Van Ness Feldman. Dicks was serving as the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee when he ended his 36-year congressional career in 2013. He represented the company on information technology matters and “issues related to cloud computing usage by the federal government,” according to the records, which show Van Ness Feldman earned $160,000 from Amazon last year.

Amazon brought aboard four new firms in 2017, according to the records. Newcomers Ballard Partners, BGR Government Affairs, Brownstein Hyatt, and McGuireWoods Consulting lobbied for Amazon on transportation, taxes, drones and other issues.

This story was written by the Associated Press.

Smartphone Technology Helps Mental Health Patients

About 1 percent of the world’s population lives with the mental condition called bipolar disorder, characterized by swings between elevated and depressed moods. In most cases, timely interaction with psychotherapists, family and friends can alleviate the symptoms. Researchers in Denmark say modern technology can help by keeping track of a patient’s symptoms and summoning help quickly when needed. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Facebook: Public Data of Most Users Probably Has Been Scraped

Facebook’s acknowledgement that the personal data of most of its 2.2 billion members has probably been scraped by “malicious actors” is the latest example of the social network’s failure to protect its users’ data.

Not to mention its seeming inability to even identify the problem until the company was embroiled in scandal.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters Wednesday that Facebook is shutting down a feature that let people search for Facebook users by phone number or email address. Although that was useful for people who wanted to find others on Facebook, it turns out that unscrupulous types also figured out years ago that they could use it identify individuals and collect data off their profiles.

The scrapers were at it long enough, Zuckerberg said, that “at some point during the last several years, someone has probably accessed your public information in this way.”

The only way to be safe would have been for users to deliberately turn off that search feature several years ago. Facebook had it turned on by default.

Several investigations

“I think Facebook has not been clear enough with how to use its privacy settings,” said Jamie Winterton, director of strategy for Arizona State University’s Global Security Initiative. “That, to me, was the failure.”

The breach was a stunning admission for a company already reeling from allegations that the political data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica inappropriately accessed data on as many as 87 million Facebook users to influence elections.

Over the past few weeks, the scandal has mushroomed into investigations across continents, including a probe by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Zuckerberg himself will be questioned by Congress for the first time Tuesday.

“The FTC looked the other way for years when consumer groups told them Facebook was violating its 2011 deal to better protect its users. But now the Cambridge Analytica scandal has awoken the FTC from its long digital privacy slumber,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director for the Washington-based privacy nonprofit Center for Digital Democracy.

Problem found after Cambridge Analytica

Neither Zuckerberg nor his company has identified those who carried out the data scraping. Outside experts believe they could have been identity thieves, scam artists or shady data brokers assembling marketing profiles.

Zuckerberg said the company detected the problem in a data-privacy audit started after the Cambridge Analytica disclosures, but didn’t say why the company hadn’t noticed it — or fixed it — earlier.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday on when it discovered the data scraping.

In his call with reporters Wednesday, Zuckerberg said the company had tried “rate limiting” the searches. This restricted how many searches someone can conduct at one time from a particular IP address, a numeric designation that identifies a device’s location on the internet. But Zuckerberg said the scrapers circumvented that defense by cycling through multiple IP addresses.

Public information useful 

The scraped information was limited to what a user had chosen to make public — which, depending on a person’s privacy settings, could be a lot — as well as what Facebook requires people to share. That includes full name, profile picture and listings of school or workplace networks.

But hackers and scam artists could then use that information, and combine it with other data in circulation, to pull hoaxes on people, plant malware on their computers or commit other mischief.

Having access to such a massive amount of data could also pose national security risks, Winterton said.

A foreign entity could conceivably use such information to influence elections or stir up discord, exactly what Russia is alleged to have done, using Facebook and other social media, in the 2016 presidential elections.

Oversharing

Privacy advocates have long been critical of Facebook’s penchant for pushing people to share more and more information, often through pro-sharing default options.

While the company offers detailed privacy controls — users can turn off ad targeting, for example, or face recognition, and post updates that no one else sees — many people never change their settings, and often don’t even know how to.

The company has tried to simplify its settings multiple times over the years, most recently this week.

Winterton said that for individual Facebook users, worrying about this data scraping won’t do much good, after all, the data is already out there. But she said it might be a good time to “reflect on what we are sharing and how we are sharing it and whether we need to.”

“Just because someone asks us information, it doesn’t mean we have to give it to them if we are not comfortable,” she said.

She added that while she no longer has a Facebook account, when she did she put her birth year as 1912 and her hometown as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Neither is true.

This story was written by the Associated Press

Facebook Fined $33 Million for Failing to Aid Brazil Graft Probe

A Brazilian judge has ordered that Facebook Inc pay 111.7 million reais ($33.4 million) for failing to cooperate with a corruption investigation, federal prosecutors said on Thursday, prompting Facebook to say it was exploring “all legal options.”

The judge fined Facebook for failing to give access in 2016 to WhatsApp messages exchanged by individuals under investigation for defrauding the healthcare system of Brazil’s Amazonas state, the prosecutors said in a statement. In an emailed comment sent to Reuters, Facebook called the fine groundless.

“Facebook cooperates with law enforcement. In this particular case we have disclosed the data required by applicable law,” the statement said. “We understand this fine lacks grounds, and are exploring all legal options at our disposal.”

According to federal police, a Brazilian judge ordered in April 2016 that Facebook give authorities access to the WhatsApp messages in question.

The fine amounted to 1 million reais plus interest for every day Facebook did not comply with the order, beginning when it took effect in mid-June 2016, and ending when the corruption investigation was made public that September, police said.

Through the probe known as “Operacao Maus Caminhos,” or “Operation Bad Paths,” federal police exposed the embezzlement of tens of millions of reais of public funds.

This story was written by VOA News

Australia Begins Privacy Investigation into Facebook

Australia’s Privacy Commissioner said on Thursday she had opened a formal investigation into social media giant Facebook Inc after the company confirmed data from 300,000 Australian users may have been used without authorization.

The investigation will consider whether Facebook has breached Australia’s privacy laws, Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk said in a statement.

Facebook said on Wednesday that the personal information of up to 87 million users, mostly in the United States, may have been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, up from a previous news media estimate of more than 50 million.

YouTube Shooter Told Family She ‘Hated’ the Company

A woman who believed she was being suppressed by YouTube and told her family members she “hated” the company opened fire at YouTube’s headquarters in California, wounding three people before taking her own life, police said.

Investigators do not believe Nasim Aghdam specifically targeted the three victims when she pulled out a handgun and fired off several rounds in a courtyard at the company’s headquarters south of San Francisco on Tuesday, police said.

But a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press that Aghdam had a longstanding dispute with the company. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case, said Aghdam used the name “Nasime Sabz” online.

A website in that name decried YouTube’s policies and said the company was trying to “suppress” content creators.

“Youtube filtered my channels to keep them from getting views!” one of the messages on the site said. “There is no equal growth opportunity on YOUTUBE or any other video sharing site, your channel will grow if they want to!!!!!”

Aghdam “hated” YouTube and was angry that the company stopped paying her for videos she posted on the platform, her father, Ismail Aghdam, told the Bay Area News Group.

On Monday, he called police to report his daughter missing after she didn’t answer the phone for two days and warned officers that she might go to YouTube, he said.

Officers in Mountain View — about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from YouTube’s headquarters — found her sleeping in her car in a parking lot around 2 a.m. Tuesday but let her go after she refused to answer their questions. Aghdam didn’t appear to be a threat to herself or others, police spokeswoman Katie Nelson said.

Nelson would not say whether officers had been warned that Aghdam might have been headed to YouTube headquarters.

Earlier Tuesday, law enforcement said the shooting was being investigated as a domestic dispute but did not elaborate. It was not immediately clear why police later said the people shot were not specifically targeted.

One of the victims — a 36-year-old man — was in critical condition, a spokesman for San Francisco General Hospital said. A 32-year-old woman was in serious condition and a 27-year-old woman in fair condition, the spokesman said.

YouTube employee Dianna Arnspiger said she was on the building’s second floor when she heard gunshots, ran to a window and saw the shooter on a patio outside.

“It was a woman and she was firing her gun. And I just said, `Shooter,’ and everybody started running,” Arnspiger said.

She and others hid in a conference room for an hour while another employee repeatedly called 911 for updates.

The world’s biggest online video website is owned by Silicon Valley giant Google, but company officials said it’s a tight-knit community. The headquarters has more than a thousand engineers and other employees in several buildings. Originally built in the late 1990s for the clothing retailer Gap, the campus south of San Francisco is known for its sloped green roof of native grasses.

Inside, Google several years ago famously outfitted the office with a 3-lane red slide for workers to zoom from one story to another.

“Today it feels like the entire community of YouTube, all of the employees, were victims of this crime,” said Chris Dale, a spokesman for YouTube.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in a tweet the company would “come together to heal as a family.”

Officers and federal agents responding to multiple 911 calls swarmed the company’s campus sandwiched between two interstates in the San Francisco Bay Area city of San Bruno.

Zach Vorhies, 37, a senior software engineer at YouTube, said he was at his desk working on the second floor of one of the buildings on the campus when the fire alarm went off.

He got on his skateboard and approached a courtyard, where he saw the shooter yelling, “Come get me.” He said the public can access the courtyard where he saw the shooter without any security check during working hours.

There was somebody lying nearby on his back with a red stain on his stomach that appeared to be from a bullet wound.

He said he realized it was an active shooter incident when a police officer with an assault rifle came through a security door. He jumped on his skateboard and took off.

Officers discovered one victim with a gunshot wound when they arrived and then found the shooter with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound several minutes later, San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini said. He said two additional gunshot victims were later located at an adjacent business.

Facebook CEO to Testify Before Congressional Committee

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before a congressional committee about the privacy scandal that has rocked the social media company.

The House and Energy and Commerce Committee announced Wednesday Zuckerberg will testify on April 11 about the British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which obtained data on tens of millions of Facebook users that could be used to influence voters in U.S. elections. The firm was hired by U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, which paid the firm nearly $6 million.

Committee chairman Greg Walden and ranking Democrat Frank Pallone said the hearing hopes to “shed light on critical consumer data privacy issues and help all Americans better understand what happens to their personal information online.” The panel is the first of three congressional committees that have asked Zuckerberg to testify.

Zuckerberg’s upcoming testimony comes after senior Facebook officials failed to answer questions during a private meeting with congressional staffers about how the company and third-party software developers use and protect consumer data.

It remains unclear if Congress or the administration will take any action against Facebook, but the company is well-positioned to counter any efforts to regulate it.

The social media giant has a large lobbying operation to advance its interests in Washington. Documents filed with the House and Senate shows Facebook spent more than $17 million in2017, much of it on an in-house lobbying team that is comprised of former Republican and Democratic political aides. The company lobbied on a variety of issues, including potential changes to government surveillance programs and on corporate tax issues.