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Exclusive: Facebook to put 1.5 billion users out of reach of new EU privacy law

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, April 20th, 2018

FILE PHOTO: People are silhouetted as they pose with mobile devices in front of a screen projected with a Facebook logo, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica October 29, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – If a new European law restricting what companies can do with people’s online data went into effect tomorrow (April 20) almost 1.9 billion Facebook Inc users around the world would be protected by it. The online social network is making changes that ensure the number will be much smaller.

Facebook members outside the United States and Canada, whether they know it or not, are currently governed by terms of service agreed with the company’s international headquarters in Ireland.

Next month, Facebook is planning to make that the case for only European users, meaning 1.5 billion members in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America will not fall under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect on May 25.

The previously unreported move, which Facebook confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday, shows the world’s largest online social network is keen to reduce its exposure to GDPR, which allows European regulators to fine companies for collecting or using personal data without users’ consent.

That removes a huge potential liability for Facebook, as the new EU law allows for fines of up to 4 percent of global annual revenue for infractions, which in Facebook’s case could mean billions of dollars.

The change comes as Facebook is under scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers around the world since disclosing last month that the personal information of millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, setting off wider concerns about how it handles user data.

The change affects more than 70 percent of Facebook’s 2 billion-plus members. As of December, Facebook had 239 million users in the United States and Canada, 370 million in Europe and 1.52 billion users elsewhere.

Facebook, like many other U.S. technology companies, established an Irish subsidiary in 2008 and took advantage of the country’s low corporate tax rates, routing through it revenue from some advertisers outside North America. The unit is subject to regulations applied by the 28-nation European Union.

Facebook said the latest change does not have tax implications.

‘IN SPIRIT’

In a statement given to Reuters, Facebook played down the importance of the terms of service change, saying it plans to make the privacy controls and settings that Europe will get under GDPR available to the rest of the world.

“We apply the same privacy protections everywhere, regardless of whether your agreement is with Facebook Inc or Facebook Ireland,” the company said.

Earlier this month, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told Reuters in an interview that his company would apply the EU law globally “in spirit,” but stopped short of committing to it as the standard for the social network across the world.

In practice, the change means the 1.5 billion affected users will not be able to file complaints with Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner or in Irish courts. Instead they will be governed by more lenient U.S. privacy laws, said Michael Veale, a technology policy researcher at University College London.

Facebook will have more leeway in how it handles data about those users, Veale said. Certain types of data such as browsing history, for instance, are considered personal data under EU law but are not as protected in the United States, he said.

The company said its rationale for the change was related to the European Union’s mandated privacy notices, “because EU law requires specific language.” For example, the company said, the new EU law requires specific legal terminology about the legal basis for processing data which does not exist in U.S. law.

NO WARNING

Ireland was unaware of the change. One Irish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he did not know of any plans by Facebook to transfer responsibilities wholesale to the United States or to decrease Facebook’s presence in Ireland, where the social network is seeking to recruit more than 100 new staff.

Facebook released a revised terms of service in draft form two weeks ago, and they are scheduled to take effect next month.

Other multinational companies are also planning changes. LinkedIn, a unit of Microsoft Corp, tells users in its existing terms of service that if they are outside the United States, they have a contract with LinkedIn Ireland. New terms that take effect May 8 move non-Europeans to contracts with U.S.-based LinkedIn Corp.

LinkedIn said in a statement on Wednesday that all users are entitled to the same privacy protections. “We’ve simply streamlined the contract location to ensure all members understand the LinkedIn entity responsible for their personal data,” the company said.

Reporting by David Ingram in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco, Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries in Dublin and Douglas Busvine in Frankfurt; Editing by Greg Mitchell and Bill Rigby

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Facebook says big breach exposed 50 million accounts to full takeover

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Saturday, September 29th, 2018

Man poses in front of on a display showing a Facebook logo and the word ‘cyber’ in binary code, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica December 27, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Files

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Friday that hackers stole digital login codes allowing them to take over nearly 50 million user accounts in its worst security breach ever given the unprecedented level of potential access, adding to what has been a difficult year for the company’s reputation.

Facebook, which has more than 2.2 billion monthly users, said it has yet to determine whether the attacker misused any accounts or stole private information. It also has not identified the attacker’s location or whether specific victims were targeted. Its initial review suggests the attack was broad in nature.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg described the incident as “really serious” in a conference call with reporters. His account was affected along with that of Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, a spokeswoman said.

Shares in Facebook fell 2.6 percent on Friday, weighing on major Wall Street stock indexes.

Facebook made headlines earlier this year after profile details from 87 million users was improperly accessed by political data firm Cambridge Analytica. The disclosure has prompted government inquiries into the company’s privacy practices across the world, and fueled a “#deleteFacebook” social movement among consumers.

U.S. lawmakers said on Friday that the hack may boost calls for data privacy legislation.

“This is another sobering indicator that Congress needs to step up and take action to protect the privacy and security of social media users,” Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner said in a statement.

Federal Trade Commission Commissioner Rohit Chopra on Twitter said “I want answers” with a link to a Reuters story on the breach.

‘COMPLEX’ FLAW
Facebook’s latest vulnerability had existed since July 2017, but the company first identified it on Tuesday after spotting a “fairly large” increase in use of its “view as” privacy feature on Sept. 16, executives said.

“View as” allows users to verify their privacy settings by seeing what their own profile looks like to someone else. The flaw inadvertently gave the devices of “view as” users the wrong digital code, which, like a browser cookie, keeps users signed in to a service across multiple visits.

That code could allow the person using “view as” to post and browse from someone else’s Facebook account, potentially exposing private messages, photos and posts. The attacker also could have gained full access to victims’ accounts on any third-party app or website where they had logged in with Facebook credentials.

“The implications of this are huge,” Justin Fier, director of cyber intelligence at security company Darktrace, told Reuters.

Guy Rosen, the Facebook vice president overseeing security, said the flaw was “complex” in that it resulted from three failings.

A video upload feature should not have displayed on a user’s profile page when accessed through “view as,” Rosen told reporters on a conference call. That alone would not have been problematic except that the video feature wrongly triggered the placement of the powerful login code. And it placed the code not for the “view as” user, but for who they were pretending to be.

Facebook fixed the issue on Thursday. It also notified the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Congressional aides and the Data Protection Commission in Ireland, where the company has European headquarters.

The Irish authority expressed concern in a statement that Facebook has been “unable to clarify the nature of the breach and risk to users” and said it was pressing Facebook for answers.

Facebook reset the digital keys of the 50 million affected accounts, and as a precaution temporarily disabled “view as” and reset those keys for another 40 million that have been looked up through “view as” over the last year.

About 90 million people will have to log back into Facebook or any of their apps that use a Facebook login, the company said.

Two Facebook users sued the company over the breach in federal court in California on Friday.

More than 6,000 users complained about the breach on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page.

“I’m so scared now. All my activities are on Facebook,” Mohammad ZR Zia, a 25-year-old college student in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who has been using the social media platform since 2009, told Reuters. His account was logged out earlier on Friday.

The level of concern expressed on Facebook was enough that the company’s automated system temporarily blocked sharing of some articles about the breach.

“Our security systems have detected that a lot of people are posting the same content, which could mean that it’s spam,” a message told users. Facebook later apologized for the misfire.

Facebook has suffered narrower breaches before.

In 2013, Facebook disclosed a software flaw that exposed 6 million users’ phone numbers and email addresses to unauthorized viewers for a year, while a technical glitch in 2008 revealed confidential birth-dates on 80 million Facebook users’ profiles.

Reporting by Munsif Vengattil and Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Christopher Bing, Jim Finkle and David Shepardson in Washington, D.C., Joseph Menn in San Francisco and Angela Moon in New York; Editing by Clive McKeef

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U.S. Congress grills Facebook, Twitter over foreign bids to tilt politics

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Top executives from Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. defended their companies in the U.S. Congress on Wednesday (September 5) over what lawmakers see as a failure to combat continuing foreign efforts to influence U.S. politics.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who testified alongside Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, acknowledged to the Senate Intelligence Committee that the company was too slow to respond to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election and general American political discourse, but insisted it is doing better.

Dorsey also described Twitter’s tighter monitoring of malicious use of its platform, including notifying law enforcement last month of accounts that appeared to be located in Iran. He said it suspended 770 accounts for violating Twitter policies.

Facebook, Twitter, and other technology firms have been on the defensive for many months over political influence activity on their sites as well as concerns over user privacy.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has been looking into Russian efforts to influence U.S. public opinion throughout Donald Trump’s presidency after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that entities backed by the Kremlin had sought to boost his chances of winning the White House in 2016.

In the Senate, both Burr and the committee’s Democratic vice chairman, Senator Mark Warner, said they called Wednesday’s hearing to press the social media companies to do more. — Reuters

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Trump warns Google, Facebook, Twitter to be careful

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

U.S. President Donald Trump warned Google, Facebook, and Twitter to tread carefully on Tuesday (August 28) after recently accusing internet and social media firms of political bias and censorship, without providing evidence.

“I think what Google and what others are doing if you look at what’s going on with Twitter if you look at what’s going on with Facebook, they better be careful because you can’t do that to people,” Trump said in remarks at the White House.

“So I think that Google, and Twitter and Facebook, they are really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful. It’s not fair to large portions of the population.” — Reuters

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