Facebook retracted Zuckerberg’s messages from recipients’ inboxes

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You can’t remove Facebook messages from the inboxes of people you sent them to, but Facebook did that for Mark Zuckerberg and other executives. Three sources confirm to TechCrunch that old Facebook messages they received from Zuckerberg have disappeared from their Facebook inboxes, while their own replies to him conspiculously remain. An email receipt of a Facebook message from 2010 reviewed by TechCrunch proves Zuckerberg sent people messages that no longer appear in their Facebook chat logs or in the files available from Facebook’s Download Your Information tool.

When asked by TechCrunch about the situation, Facebook claimed it was done for corporate security in this statement:

“After Sony Pictures’ emails were hacked in 2014 we made a number of changes to protect our executives’ communications. These included limiting the retention period for Mark’s messages in Messenger. We did so in full compliance with our legal obligations to preserve messages.”

However, Facebook never publicly disclosed the removal of messages from users’ inboxes, nor privately informed the recipients. That raises the question of whether this was a breach of user trust. When asked that question directly over Messenger, Zuckerberg declined to provide a statement.

Tampering With Users’ Inboxes

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that users can only delete messages their own inboxes, and that they would still show up in the recipient’s thread. There appears to be no “retention period” for normal users’ messages, as my inbox shows messages from as early as 2005. That indicates Zuckerberg and other executives received special treatment in being able to pull back previously sent messages.

Facebook chats sent by Zuckerberg from several years ago or older were missing from the inboxes of both former employees and non-employees. What’s left makes it look the recipients were talking to themselves, as only their side of back-and-forth conversations with Zuckerberg still appear. Three sources asked to remain anonymous out of fear of angering Zuckerberg or burning bridges with the company.

[Update: Recent messages from Zuckerberg remain in users’ inboxes. Old messages from before 2014 still appear to some users, indicating the retraction did not apply to all chats the CEO sent. But more sources have come forward since publication, saying theirs disappeared as well.]

None of Facebook’s terms of service appear to give it the right to remove content from users’ accounts unless it violates the company’s community standards. While it’s somewhat standard for corporations to have data retention policies that see them delete emails or other messages from their own accounts that were sent by employees, they typically can’t remove the messages from the accounts of recipients outside the company. It’s rare that these companies own the communication channel itself and therefore host both sides of messages as Facebook does in this case, which potentially warrants a different course of action with more transparency than quietly retracting the messages.

Facebook’s power to tamper with users’ private message threads could alarm some. The issue is amplified by the fact that Facebook Messenger now has 1.3 billion users, making it one of the most popular communication utilities in the world.

Zuckerberg is known to have a team that helps him run his Facebook profile, with some special abilities for managing his 105 million followers and constant requests for his attention. For example, Zuckerberg’s profile doesn’t show a button to add him as a friend on desktop, and the button is grayed out and disabled on mobile. But the ability to change the messaging inboxes of other users is far more concerning.

Facebook may have sought to prevent leaks of sensitive corporate communications. Following the Sony hack, emails of Sony’s president Michael Lynton who sat on Snap Inc’s board were exposed, revealing secret acquisitions and strategy.

Mark Zuckerberg during the early days of Facebook

However, Facebook may have also looked to thwart the publication of potentially embarrassing personal messages sent by Zuckerberg or other executives. In 2010, Silicon Valley Insider published now-infamous instant messages from a 19-year-old Zuckerberg to a friend shortly after starting The Facebook in 2004. “yea so if you ever need info about anyone at harvard . . . just ask . . . i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns” Zuckerberg wrote to a friend. “what!? how’d you manage that one?” they asked. “people just submitted it . .  i don’t know why . . . they “trust me” . . . dumb fucks” Zuckerberg explained.

The New Yorker later confirmed the messages with Zuckerberg, who told the publication he “absolutely” regretted them. “If you’re going to go on to build a service that is influential and that a lot of people rely on, then you need to be mature, right? I think I’ve grown and learned a lot” said Zuckerberg.

If the goal of Facebook’s security team was to keep a hacker from accessing the accounts of executives and therefore all of their messages, they could have merely been deleted on their side the way any Facebook user is free to do, without them disappearing from the various recipients’ inboxes. If Facebook believed it needed to remove the messages entirely from its servers in case the company’s backend systems we breached, a disclosure of some kind seems reasonable.

Now as Facebook encounters increased scrutiny regarding how it treats users’ data in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the retractions could become a bigger issue. Zuckerberg is slated to speak in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees on April 10 as well as the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 11. They could request more information about Facebook removing messages or other data from users’ accounts without their consent. While Facebook is trying to convey that it understands its responsibilities, the black mark left on public opinion by past behavior may prove permanent.

If you have more info on this situation, including evidence of messages from other Facebook executives disappearing, please contact this article’s author Josh Constine via open Twitter DMs, josh@techcrunch.com, or encrypted Signal chat at (585)750-5674.

For more on Facebook’s recent troubles, read our feature pieces:

 

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Pinterest aims for products from the store down your street as its next big ad business

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Pinterest is known for having, and promoting, a lot of business content. It’s actually a majority of the content, and it’s usually from some of the most well-known brands that feed into the kinds of sometimes dream-level wants and needs of its users.

And while a majority of Pinterest’s potential is locked up there, the company has increasingly turned its gaze toward smaller and smaller businesses to try to entice users with local content — including that clothing store right down your street. That’s part of the reasoning behind Pinterest’s Propel program, which it started a year ago to work with small businesses that really either didn’t know what they were doing, or had just never done it before. In another step toward that goal, Pinterest has hired Matt Hogle to be the global head of small business.

Hogle spent 9 years at Facebook, working with small businesses and will be part of the effort for the company to try to find the right set of tools and strategies in place to appeal to small businesses as it starts to ramp it into a significant portion of its revenue. The number of small businesses advertisers on Pinterest has increased by around 50% year-over-year, the company said, and it looks to continue to refine a kind of hybrid strategy that mixes platforms and interactions with real people in order to entice those businesses. That’s important for, say, a local clothing store that only has one store and a limited online shop, but has products that would perform well on their own as content on Pinterest — and could quickly add revenue if they started advertising on it.

“We, as an ads business, know what customers’ business objectives are, and we capture that at the early stages,” Pinterest head of global sales Jon Kaplan said. “We know what they’re targeting, how they’re targeting, who, and we know the creative best practices. We should be able in the very near future to take all these elements and say, oh this is your objective, we’ll obfuscate all this complexity and hit a target [return on ad spend] you have. We’re not far. We’ve obfuscated a lot of the levers one can pull in Propel.”

Propel, for now, is adopting an increasingly popular human/digital approach for smaller businesses that are looking to advertise for the first time on Pinterest. If they have no experience whatsoever, or don’t even know what to do, Pinterest’s goal is to serve as a resource for best practices when it comes to creative content down to where to target it. Pinterest is increasingly rolling out more self-serve tools with more robust targeting and tracking, but the kind of small businesses — the sum of which could eventually account for a big chunk of its revenue — that Facebook has snapped up with the prospect of getting in front of the exact right people at the right time. The company says it will be rolling out the “promote” button, which allows advertisers to click a button on a pin to quickly spin up a campaign, to Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK in the next coming weeks.

In the end, Pinterest still has 200 million monthly active users, which is absolutely dwarfed by Facebook’s billions of users. But at the same time, Pinterest may be able to capitalize on the good will that Facebook has torched in light of its massive privacy scandal in which information on as many as 87 million users ended up in the hands of a research firm without authorization or permission. Facebook can prove a return on spend, but it can’t at the moment prove that it’ll be able to keep doing the same things that get that return on spend now that the Internet is revolting against Facebook for its massive breach of trust. (Hogle, to be clear, joined before details on the Cambridge Analytica scandal began pouring in.)

Pinterest’s value to advertisers is that it’s able to capture a potential customer when they are just a user clicking (or tapping) around Pinterest looking for ideas. Whether planning life events or just looking for wardrobe suggestions, Pinterest is able to go to advertisers and say they can catch them in those discovery stages and then stick the right ad in front of them to get their attention. Then, the service can follow the user all the way from when they are actually interested in doing something, searching for what to do, and eventually saving that product — or buying it.

It’s that potential value for advertisers that’s taken it to a $ 12.5 billion valuation in its most recent financing round. But while Pinterest is probably still a sort of curiosity buy for larger advertisers and brands, the challenge has been to chase down the businesses that don’t have huge marketing budgets and might not even be considering Pinterest as a potential advertising platform. After all, the playbook for Facebook is robust and there are plenty of success stories, and the same is true for Google. But at the same time, that bespoke coffee shop down on Valencia Street in San Francisco may have products that line up perfectly for a Pinterest user that’s looking for a holiday gift down the line.

“Over the coming nine months, into 2019, I think we’re gonna continue to invest in ways that make it easy for our small businesses to grow with us,” Hogle said. “Small businesses are unique in the sense that they don’t have the time or energy or resources — the CEO might also be the HR person and the marketing person, and so on. We need to make it extremely lightweight and seamless. At the end of the day, if we can’t provide value and deliver on the money they spend with us and demonstrate the value that’s created there — sales being that number one performance indicator for these companies — then we’re failing. The things we’re gonna continue to build are ways to make that process as easy and seamless.”

“Small businesses add disproportionate value to Pinners and our ad ecosystem,” Hogle said. “I truly believe that small businesses are part of the fabric of every community, they’re the engine that drives every economy around the world. Their relevancy, category or vertical, or proximity to consumers creates disproportionate organic value to Pinners and also creates disproportionate commercial value. Our goal is to show the people the most relevant ad they possibly can based on what they’re trying to accomplish. We can’t do that if we do not meet the needs of the vast majority of businesses that exist. It is a strategic decision, but it’s not just one that goes into paid ads, it creates disproportionate value for the entire platform and ecosystem.”

Hogle’s conversations started mid last year with Tim Kendall, Pinterest’s former president who left in November last year. What started as an exchange of ideas turned, as these conversations often do, it discussions about a potential job at Pinterest, and finally months later he ended up joining to start helping with the company’s small business efforts. Pinterest is increasingly looking to staff up with a suite of executives that will help it get its business in order ahead of a potential IPO. That includes a new COO, Francoise Brougher, who joined in February from Square.

But if Pinterest is going to eventually go public, and get its employees and investors paid out for their efforts, it needs to show that it can be a business that’s beyond just a curiosity budget for a big brand. Getting small businesses on board, like the ones Hogle looks to capture that are right down the street, are a big part of what the company hopes will eventually show that it has a diversified revenue stream and not beholden to just the big and potentially fickle budgets of larger brands.

“Our ad platform is not very old by industry standards, but the rate of development on our self serve tools and the rate of development on interfaces for our small customers is moving at a pace where I’m really pleased,” Hogle said. “The ability to carve out opportunity for advertisers is something that’s moving really quickly. Is it where it needs to be long term, of course not, but we’re gonna continue to invest. One of the reasons I joined was it was very clear to me that small businesses were a priority. We are going to invest in products and we’re also going to invest in educational programs. We’re gonna invest and provide the necessary resources.”

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Tap Bio’s mini-sites solve Instagram’s profile link problem

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You only get one link on Instagram, but Tap Bio lets you point that to a customized landing page full of all the sites you want to share. Rather than constantly changing your Instagram profile URL, you can easily add slides equipped with links to your Tap Bio corresponding to your latest Instagram posts. Tap Bio could be a powerful tool for social media stars, digital entrepreneurs or anyone trying to market themselves via Instagram.

Tap Bio is About.me for the next generation. You can see it in action here.

It’s a deceptively simple idea, yet one that the big website-creation platforms like Squarespace, Wix and Weebly have missed. It’s dumbfounding that there’s no popular mobile-first site builder, though an app called Universe was one of the hottest companies that graduated from Y Combinator’s accelerator this month. But by starting with an obvious problem, the bootstrapped Tap Bio could gain a foothold in a business dominated by heavily funded startups, and angle to become the center of your online identity. People interested can sign up for the private beta here.

The whole reason for Tap Bio’s existence is a brilliant decision of Instagram’s. You can’t post links, and you get just one link in your profile. URLs in post captions don’t hyperlink and can’t be copied. That means the focus is on sharing beauty, not driving clicks. But promoters gonna promote, so the “Link in bio” trend began. Instagrammers change their profile link to where they want to send people, then mention that much-derided phrase hoping their followers will open their profile and click-through. Unfortunately, though, anyone reading one of their older posts might be confused when the “link in bio” has changed to point somewhere unrelated.

The fact that you can’t link from posts has contributed to the quality of the experience,” says Tap Bio CEO Jesse Engle. “But it’s created a major pain point for people who are promoting something, which is a lot of people.”

Engle is experienced with filling social platform gaps. He co-founded Twitter scheduling and multi-account management app CoTweet in 2008, which sold to ExactTarget in 2010 and eventually became part of Salesforce. Over the past few years, he and Tap Bio co-founder Ryan Walker, who just left Apple, have been running Link In Profile, a more basic but similar tool that just recreates your Instagram profile but with links attached to each post.

With Tap Bio, you set it as your Instagram profile link, and then create different cards to show on your mini-site. One can show two columns of your recent Instagram posts that instantly open whichever link you want to pair with each. Another offers a more visual full-screen profile with links to your other social media presences, like on Twitter and YouTube. There’s a focused, single-link call to action page if you’ve got one big thing to promote. And Tap Bio is adding more card styles.

Tap Bio is “forever free” if you only want one profile card and one of any other card; $ 5 per month gets you three extra plus analytics, while $ 12 per month grants unlimited cards across up to three Instagram accounts — though there are discounts for yearly billing. It will compete with traditional site builders and less-polished alternatives, like Linkin.bio and Linktree.

But the biggest risk for Tap Bio isn’t competition, it’s its host platform. Instagram could always shut down links out to Tap Bio. After all, it did just suddenly kill off a big part of its API three months ahead of schedule as part of Facebook’s big data privacy crackdown. Luckily, Engle says, “we’re mitigating this risk by building a close relationship with Instagram, openly sharing our plans and offering whatever value we can to them. They’ve been very helpful in sharing their plans, and we are confident that we’ll continue to play a role in this space well into the future.”

Tap Bio’s potential goes far beyond Instagram, though. It could become the hub for your web presence. About.me is outdated, Twitter’s too temporal, Facebook’s too personal, LinkedIn’s too formal and Instagram’s too informal. Unless you have your own full-fledged website, it’s unclear which one link your should give people you meet online or off. If Tap Bio plays it right, it could become your digital calling card.

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IMAX and Conversive launch an AR app with chatty pandas

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While IMAX has become synonymous with enormous theatrical screens, Chief Marketing Officer JL Pomeroy told me the company has “been an innovator at the forefront of technology breakthroughs for the last 50 years” — for example, it recently started creating virtual reality centers.

And today, IMAX is releasing its first augmented reality project, developed in partnership with conversational technology company Conversive and tied to the release of the new IMAX documentary Pandas.

With Pandas AR, children don’t just watch an animated panda in real-world environments — they can also talk to it, getting educated on facts about pandas and taking quizzes about what they’ve learned. The experience is part of a new, free iOS app called Yakables, which Conversive plans to expand with more talking animals.

Pomeroy said she first met with Conversive CEO Kevin Cornish for a general discussion about how IMAX might incorporate AR, but it just so happened that he showed off his platform using a talking panda —  so a collaboration around Pandas seemed obvious. She described the work of Conversive and Cornish’s agency Moth + Flame as “miraculous,” particularly since they had to work on “a very quick timeframe” to get the app ready for the documentary’s release.

In fact, Cornish said that writing the script and finding the right voice actor ended up taking the most time, with the actual animation requiring only a day. That’s because Conversive’s technology can combine motion capture with the “intent” behind an actor’s words to programmatically generate character animations.

“The content can be generated really quickly, at a really low cost, so that having hours of conversational education is actually a realistic thing,” Cornish said.

He also argued that by placing the panda in a real-world environment, the interaction becomes more immersive: “The screen disappears and it becomes about you and this subject.”

And while this is just one project and one app, Pomeroy predicted that we’ll see more AR from IMAX in the future.

“This particular app in support of the documentary Pandas is a great test for us,” she said. “We fully anticipate this will be the first of many.”

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3 tests show Facebook is determined to make Stories the default

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Facebook isn’t backing down from Stories despite criticism that it copied Snapchat and that Instagram Stories is enough. Instead, it’s committed to figuring out how to adapt the slideshow format into the successor to the status update. That’s why today the company is launching three significant tests that make Facebook Stories a default way to share.

“The way people share and connect is changing; it’s quickly becoming more real-time and visual. We’re testing new creative tools to bring pictures and videos to life, and introducing easier ways to find and share stories,” a Facebook spokesperson told me.

Meanwhile, Facebook has been fixing the biggest problems with its Stories: redundancy between Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. Now you can set your Instagram Stories to automatically be reposted to your Facebook Story, and Stories on Facebook and Messenger sync with each other. That means you can just post to Instagram and have your Story show up on all three apps. That way if you want extra views or to include friends who aren’t Insta-addicts, you can show them your Story with no extra uploads.

It was a year ago that Facebook rolled out Stories. But Facebook has so many features that it has to make tough decisions about which to promote and which to bury. It often launches features with extra visibility at first, but forces them to grow popular on their own before giving them any additional attention.

Facebook is vulnerable to competitors if it doesn’t make Stories work, and users may eventually grow tired of the News Feed full of text updates from distant acquaintances. But Instagram Stories and WhatsApp’s version Status have both grown to more than 250 million daily users, showing there’s obviously demand for this product if Facebook can figure out how Stories fit in its app.

Hence, these tests:

  1. The Facebook status composer on mobile will immediately show an open camera window and the most recent images in your camera roll to spur Stories sharing. Given that Facebook has as many as 17 choices for status updates, from check-ins to recommendations to GIFs, the new camera and camera roll previews make Stories a much more prominent option. Facebook isn’t going so far as to launch with the camera as the home screen like Snapchat, or half the screen like it once tried, but it clearly believes it will be able to ride the trend and people will get more out of sharing if they choose Stories. This starts testing today to a small subset of users around the world.
  2. When you shoot something with the augmented reality-equipped Facebook Camera feature, the sharing page will now default to having Stories selected. Previously, users had to choose if they wanted to post to Stories, News Feed or send their creation to someone through Messenger. Facebook is now nudging users to go with Stories, seemingly confident of its existing dominance over the ranked feed and messaging spaces. This test will begin with all users in the Dominican Republic.
  3. Above the News Feed, Facebook Stories will show up with big preview tiles behind the smaller profile pictures of the people who created them. Teasing what’s inside a Story could make users a lot more likely to click to watch them. Facebook uses a similar format, but with smaller preview circles on Messenger. And while Instagram leaves more room for the main feed by just showing profile pic bubbles for Stories, if you keep scrolling you might see a call-out in the feed for Stories you haven’t watched using a big preview tile format similar to what Facebook Stories is trying. More views could encourage users to share more Stories, helping to dismantle the ghost town perception of Facebook Stories. This will also test to a small percentage of users around the world.

    One of Facebook’s new Stories tests shows big preview tiles behind people’s profile bubbles

If Facebook finds these tests prove popular, they could roll out everywhere and make Stories a much more central part of the app’s experience. Facebook will have to avoid users feeling like Stories are getting crammed down their throats. But the open camera, Stories default and bigger previews all disappear with a quick tap or swipe.

The fact is that the modern world of computing affords a very different type of social media than when Facebook launched 14 years ago. Then, you’d update your status with a line of text from your desktop computer because your phone didn’t have a good camera (or maybe even the internet), screens were small, mobile networks were slow and it was tough to compute on the go. Now with every phone equipped with a great camera, a nice screen, increasingly fast mobile networks and everyone else staring at them all the time, it makes sense to share through photos and videos you post throughout the day.

This isn’t a shift driven by Facebook, or even really Snapchat. Visual communication is an inevitable evolution. For Facebook, Stories aren’t an “if,” just a “how.”

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MoviePass’ parent company acquires Moviefone

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Helios and Matheson Analytics, which already owns movie ticket subscription service MoviePass, has acquired Moviefone.

Despite the old-school name, Moviefone is now a digital media business with trailers, movie information and ticketing via Fandango — it says it reaches 6 million unique visitors each month.

Moviefone was previously owned by Oath, the Verizon subsidiary formed from the merger of AOL and Yahoo. (Oath also owns TechCrunch). AOL acquired Moviefone for $ 388 million back in 1999.

The deal includes a $ 1 million cash payment, as well as stock that could bring the total value up to $ 23 million, according to Variety. That means Oath now has a stake in MoviePass . It will also continue sell Moviefone’s digital ad inventory.

MoviePass, meanwhile, allows customers to pay $ 9.95 a month (or less) to get one free movie ticket per day, albeit with inconveniences like the need to physically buy your ticket at the theater. Acquiring Moviefone is supposed to help the company expand into content and advertising.

“This natural alignment between MoviePass and Moviefone will help us grow our subscriber base significantly and expand our marketing and advertising platform for our studio and brand partners,” said MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe in the acquisition release. “Moviefone has been a go-to resource for entertainment enthusiasts for years, and we’re excited to bolster its presence and bring this iconic platform into the entertainment ecosystem of the future.”

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Facebook rewrites Terms of Service, clarifying device data collection

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Facebook is spelling out in plain English how it collects and uses your data in rewritten versions of its Terms of Service and Data Use Policy, though it’s not asking for new rights to collect and use your data or changing any of your old privacy settings.The public has seven days to comment on the changes (though Facebook doesn’t promise to adapt or even respond to the feedback) before Facebook will ask all users to consent to the first set of new rules in three years.

Unfortunately, because the changes to the language and structure of the terms are so wide-reaching and the new versions are so much longer, it’s difficult to do a direct comparison of the differences between the old TOS and DUP and the new versions embedded below.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the expanded, plain-language terms are the specifics of how Facebook collects data from your devices. Conspiracy theories about it snooping on people through its microphone, and confusion about it collecting SMS and call log history likely pushed Facebook to give people details about what data it’s slurping up.

Facebook now explains that (emphasis mine):

Information we obtain from these devices includes:

• Device attributes: information such as the operating system, hardware and software versions, battery level, signal strength, available storage space, browser type, app and file names and types, and plugins.

• Device operations: information about operations and behaviors performed on the device, such as whether a window is foregrounded or backgrounded, or mouse movements (which can help distinguish humans from bots).

• Identifiers: unique identifiers, device IDs, and other identifiers, such as from games, apps or accounts you use, and Family Device IDs (or other identifiers unique to associated with the same device or account).

• Device signals: Bluetooth signals, and information about nearby Wi-Fi access points, beacons, and cell towers.

• Data from device settings: information you allow us to receive through device settings you turn on, such as access to your GPS location, camera or photos.

• Network and connections: information such as the name of your mobile operator or ISP, language, time zone, mobile phone number, IP address, connection speed and, in some cases, information about other devices that are nearby or on your network, so we can do things like help you stream a video from your phone to your TV.

• Cookie data: data from cookies stored on your device, including cookie IDs and settings. Learn more about how we use cookies in the Facebook Cookies Policy and Instagram Cookies Policy.

Specifically regarding SMS history and call logs, Facebook writes, “We also collect contact information if you choose to upload, sync or import it (such as an address book or call log or SMS log history), which we use for things like helping you and others find people you may know.” Though Facebook asked users’ permission for this data, nothing about SMS and call logs wasn’t in the terms of service.

Disappointingly, the new explanation of helping you find friends doesn’t necessarily justify it collecting this data. Meanwhile, just today Facebook confirmed to Bloomberg that it does automatically scan all the text and image content of Messenger conversations to prevent violations of its Community Standards and the spread of spam or abuse. While other tech products like Google’s Gmail scan the contents of your messages for advertising and other purposes, the revelation could scare some privacy-focused users away from Messenger.

Facebook has also clarified how new products it’s launched since the last TOS update — like Marketplace, fundraisers, Live, 360 and camera effects — work. It explains how every user’s experience is personalized. A new Music Use Policy has been added as Facebook strikes deals with the major record labels.

Finally, Facebook makes it clear that it, WhatsApp and Oculus (as well as Instagram) are all part of one company that it refers to as “The Facebook Companies.” Instagram is now repeatedly mentioned in the TOS and DUP, whereas before it wasn’t even mentioned. The recent #DeleteFacebook movement that missed Instagram indicated that many users don’t quite realize they’re part of the same corporation.

As Facebook deals with a disgruntled public and awoken regulatory bodies, the rewriting of these policies might be perceived as the company trying to cover itself after neglecting to detail how it pulls and uses people’s data. CEO Mark Zuckerberg might face questions about the changes and why they weren’t in place before when he testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 11th regarding protections of users’ data privacy.

But today’s revamp could also give Facebook stronger documents to point to as it tries to prove it doesn’t need heavy-handed government regulation. Switching from a more “legalese” document full of jargon to a more layman’s version could also help it dispel myths or give people more transparency.

If Facebook can give users a better understanding of how it works, it might be able to diffuse privacy scandals and backlashes before they happen.

Facebook updated Terms Of Service – 4/4/18 by Josh TechCrunch on Scribd

Facebook updated Data Use Policy – 4/4/18 by Josh TechCrunch on Scribd

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Highlights and audio from Zuckerberg’s emotional Q&A on scandals

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“This is going to be a never-ending battle” said Mark Zuckerberg . He just gave the most candid look yet into his thoughts about Cambridge Analytica, data privacy, and Facebook’s sweeping developer platform changes today during a conference call with reporters. Sounding alternately vulnerable about his past negligence and confident about Facebook’s strategy going forward, Zuckerberg took nearly an hour of tough questions.

You can listen to the entire on-the-record call here, which I recorded with Facebook’s consent:

The CEO started the call by giving his condolences to those affected by the shooting at YouTube yesterday. He then delivered this mea culpa on privacy:

We’re an idealistic and optimistic company . . . but it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough. We didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse and thinking through how people could use these tools to do harm as well . . . We didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is and that was a huge mistake. That was my mistake.

It’s not enough to just connect people. We have to make sure those connections are positive and that they’re bringing people together.  It’s not enough just to give people a voice, we have to make sure that people are not using that voice to hurt people or spread misinformation. And it’s not enough to give people tools to sign into apps, we have to make sure that all those developers protect people’s information too.

It’s not enough to have rules requiring that they protect the information. It’s not enough to believe them when they’re telling us they’re protecting information. We actually have to ensure that everyone in our ecosystem protects people’s information.”

This is Zuckerberg’s strongest statement yet about his and Facebook’s failure to anticipate worst-case scenarios, which has led to a string of scandals that are now decimating the company’s morale. Spelling out how policy means nothing without enforcement, and pairing that with a massive reduction in how much data app developers can request from users makes it seem like Facebook is ready to turn over a new leaf.

Here are the highlights from the rest of the call:

On Zuckerberg calling fake news’ influence “crazy”: “I clearly made a mistake by just dismissing fake news as crazy — as having an impact . . . it was too flippant. I never should have referred to it as crazy.

On deleting Russian trolls: Not only did Facebook delete 135 Facebook and Instagram accounts belonging to Russian government-connected election interference troll farm the Internet Research Agency, as Facebook announced yesterday. Zuckerberg said Facebook removed “a Russian news organization that we determined was controlled and operated by the IRA”.

On the 87 million number: Regarding today’s disclosure that up to 87 million people had their data improperly access by Cambridge Analytica, “it very well could be less but we wanted to put out the maximum that we felt it could be as soon as we had that analysis.” Zuckerberg also referred to The New York Times’ report, noting that “We never put out the 50 million number, that was other parties.”

On users having their public info scraped: Facebook announced this morning that “we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped” via its search by phone number or email address feature and account recovery system. Scammers abused these to punch in one piece of info and then pair it to someone’s name and photo . Zuckerberg said search features are useful in languages where it’s hard to type or a lot of people have the same names. But “the methods of react limiting this weren’t able to prevent malicious actors who cycled through hundreds of thousands of IP addresses and did a relatively small number of queries for each one, so given that and what we know to day it just makes sense to shut that down.”

On when Facebook learned about the scraping and why it didn’t inform the public sooner: This was my question, and Zuckerberg dodged, merely saying Facebook had looked more closely at it in the last few days.”

On implementing GDPR worldwide: Zuckerberg refuted a Reuters story from yesterday saying that Facebook wouldn’t bring GDPR privacy protections to the U.S. and elsewhere. Instead he says, “we’re going to make all the same controls and settings available everywhere, not just in Europe.”

On if board has discussed him stepping down as chairman: “Not that I’m aware of” Zuckerberg said happily.

On if he still thinks he’s the best person to run Facebook: “Yes. Life is about learning from the mistakes and figuring out what you need to do to move forward . . . I think what people should evaluate us on is learning from our mistakes . . .and if we’re building things people like and that make their lives better . . . there are billions of people who love the products we’re building.”

On the Boz memo and prioritizing business over safety: “The things that makes our product challenging to manage and operate are not the tradeoffs between people and the business. I actually think those are quite easy because over the long-term, the business will be better if you serve people. I think it would be near-sighted to focus on short-term revenue over people, and I don’t think we’re that short-sighted. All the hard decisions we have to make are tradeoffs between people. Different people who use Facebook have different needs. Some people want to share political speech that they think is valid, and other people feel like it’s hate speech . . . we don’t always get them right.”

On whether Facebook can audit all app developers: “We’re not going to be able to go out and necessarily find every bad use of data” Zuckerberg said, but confidently said “I actually do think we’re going to be be able to cover a large amount of that activity.

On whether Facebook will sue Cambridge Analytica: “We have stood down temporarily to let the [UK government] do their investigation and their audit. Once that’s done we’ll resume ours … and ultimately to make sure none of the data persists or is being used improperly. And at that point if it makes sense we will take legal action if we need to do that to get people’s information.”

On how Facebook will measure its impact on fixing privacy: Zuckerberg wants to be able to measure “the prevalence of different categories of bad content like fake news, hate speech, bullying, terrorism. . . That’s going to end up being the way we should be held accountable and measured by the public . . .  My hope is that over time the playbook and scorecard we put out will also be followed by other internet platforms so that way there can be a standard measure across the industry.”

On whether Facebook should try to earn less money by using less data for targeting “People tell us if they’re going to see ads they want the ads to be good . . . that the ads are actually relevant to what they care about . . On the one hand people want relevant experiences, and on the other hand I do think there’s some discomfort with how data is used in systems like ads. But I think the feedback is overwhelmingly on the side of wanting a better experience. Maybe it’s 95-5.”

On whether #DeleteFacebook has had an impact on usage or ad revenue: “I don’t think there’s been any meaningful impact that we’ve observed…but it’s not good.”

On the timeline for fixing data privacy: “This is going to be a never-ending battle. You never fully solve security. It’s an arms race” Zuckerberg said early in the call. Then to close Q&A, he said “I think this is a multi-year effort. My hope is that by the end of this year we’ll have turned the corner on a lot of these issues and that people will see that things are getting a lot better.”

Overall, this was the moment of humility, candor, and contrition Facebook desperately needed. Users, developers, regulators, and the company’s own employees have felt in the dark this last month, but Zuckerberg did his best to lay out a clear path forward for Facebook. His willingness to endure this question was admirable, even if he deserved the grilling.

The company’s problems won’t disappear, and its past transgressions can’t be apologized away. But Facebook and its leader have finally matured past the incredulous dismissals and paralysis that characterized its response to past scandals. It’s ready to get to work.

Mobile – TechCrunch

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Our digital future will be shaped by increasingly mobile technologies coming from China

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Since the dawn of the internet, the titans of this industry have fought to win the “starting point” — the place that users start their online experiences. In other words, the place where they begin “browsing.” The advent of the dial-up era had America Online mailing a CD to every home in America, which passed the baton to Yahoo’s categorical listings, which was swallowed by Google’s indexing of the world’s information — winning the “starting point” was everything.

As the mobile revolution continues to explode across the world, the battle for the starting point has intensified. For a period of time, people believed it would be the hardware, then it became clear that the software mattered most. Then conversation shifted to a debate between operating systems (Android or iOS) and moved on to social properties and messaging apps, where people were spending most of their time. Today, my belief is we’re hovering somewhere between apps and operating systems. That being said, the interface layer will always be evolving.

The starting point, just like a rocket’s launchpad, is only important because of what comes after. The battle to win that coveted position, although often disguised as many other things, is really a battle to become the starting point of commerce.  

Google’s philosophy includes a commitment to get users “off their page” as quickly as possible…to get that user to form a habit and come back to their starting point. The real (yet somewhat veiled) goal, in my opinion, is to get users to search and find the things they want to buy.

Of course, Google “does no evil” while aggregating the world’s information, but they pay their bills by sending purchases to Priceline, Expedia, Amazon and the rest of the digital economy.  

Facebook, on the other hand, has become a starting point through its monopolization of users’ time, attention and data. Through this effort, it’s developed an advertising business that shatters records quarter after quarter.

Google and Facebook, this famed duopoly, represent 89 percent of new advertising spending in 2017. Their dominance is unrivaled… for now.

Change is urgently being demanded by market forces — shifts in consumer habits, intolerable rising costs to advertisers and through a nearly universal dissatisfaction with the advertising models that have dominated (plagued) the U.S. digital economy.  All of which is being accelerated by mobile. Terrible experiences for users still persist in our online experiences, deliver low efficacy for advertisers and fraud is rampant. The march away from the glut of advertising excess may be most symbolically seen in the explosion of ad blockers. Further evidence of the “need for a correction of this broken industry” is Oracle’s willingness to pay $ 850 million for a company that polices ads (probably the best entrepreneurs I know ran this company, so no surprise).

As an entrepreneur, my job is to predict the future. When reflecting on what I’ve learned thus far in my journey, it’s become clear that two truths can guide us in making smarter decisions about our digital future:

Every day, retailers, advertisers, brands and marketers get smarter. This means that every day, they will push the platforms, their partners and the places they rely on for users to be more “performance driven.” More transactional.

Paying for views, bots (Russian or otherwise) or anything other than “dollars” will become less and less popular over time. It’s no secret that Amazon, the world’s most powerful company (imho), relies so heavily on its Associates Program (its home-built partnership and affiliate platform). This channel is the highest performing form of paid acquisition that retailers have, and in fact, it’s rumored that the success of Amazon’s affiliate program led to the development of AWS due to large spikes in partner traffic.

Chinese flag overlooking The Bund, Shanghai, China (Photo: Rolf Bruderer/Getty Images)

When thinking about our digital future, look down and look east. Look down and admire your phone — this will serve as your portal to the digital world for the next decade, and our dependence will only continue to grow. The explosive adoption of this form factor is continuing to outpace any technological trend in history.

Now, look east and recognize that what happens in China will happen here, in the West, eventually. The Chinese market skipped the PC-driven digital revolution — and adopted the digital era via the smartphone. Some really smart investors have built strategies around this thesis and have quietly been reaping rewards due to their clairvoyance.  

China has historically been categorized as a market full of knock-offs and copycats — but times have changed. Some of the world’s largest and most innovative companies have come out of China over the past decade. The entrepreneurial work ethic in China (as praised recently by arguably the world’s greatest investor, Michael Moritz), the speed of innovation and the ability to quickly scale and reach meaningful populations have caused Chinese companies to leapfrog the market cap of many of their U.S. counterparts.  

The most interesting component of the Chinese digital economy’s growth is that it is fundamentally more “pure” than the U.S. market’s. I say this because the Chinese market is inherently “transactional.” As Andreessen Horowitz writes, WeChat, China’s  most valuable company, has become the “starting point” and hub for all user actions. Their revenue diversity is much more “Amazon” than “Google” or “Facebook” — it’s much more pure. They make money off the transactions driven from their platform, and advertising is far less important in their strategy.

The obsession with replicating WeChat took the tech industry by storm two years ago — and for some misplaced reason, everyone thought we needed to build messaging bots to compete.  

What shouldn’t be lost is our obsession with the purity and power of the business models being created in China. The fabric that binds the Chinese digital economy and has fostered its seemingly boundless growth is the magic combination of commerce and mobile. Singles Day, the Chinese version of Black Friday, drove $ 25 billion in sales on Alibaba — 90 percent of which were on mobile.

The lesson we’ve learned thus far in both the U.S. and in China is that “consumers spending money” creates the most durable consumer businesses. Google, putting aside all its moonshots and heroic mission statements, is a “starting point” powered by a shopping engine. If you disagree, look at where their revenue comes from…

Google’s recent announcement of Shopping Actions and their movement to a “pay per transaction model” signals a turning point that could forever change the landscape of the digital economy.  

Google’s multi-front battle against Apple, Facebook and Amazon is weighted. Amazon is the most threatening. It’s the most durable business of the four — and its model is unbounded on two fronts that almost everyone I know would bet their future on, 1) people buying more online, where Amazon makes a disproportionate amount of every dollar spent, and 2) companies needing more cloud computing power (more servers), where Amazon makes a disproportionate amount of every dollar spent.  

To add insult to injury, Amazon is threatening Google by becoming a starting point itself — 55 percent of product searches now originate at Amazon, up from 30 percent just a year ago.

Google, recognizing consumer behavior was changing in mobile (less searching) and the inferiority of their model when compared to the durability and growth prospects of Amazon, needed to respond. Google needed a model that supported boundless growth and one that created a “win-win” for its advertising partners — one that resembled Amazon’s relationship with its merchants — not one that continued to increase costs to retailers while capitalizing on their monopolization of search traffic.

Google knows that with its position as the starting point — with Google.com, Google Apps and Android — it has to become a part of the transaction to prevail in the long term. With users in mobile demanding fewer ads and more utility (demanding experiences that look and feel a lot more like what has prevailed in China), Google has every reason in the world to look down and to look east — to become a part of the transaction — to take its piece.  

A collision course for Google and the retailers it relies upon for revenue was on the horizon. Search activity per user was declining in mobile and user acquisition costs were growing quarter over quarter. Businesses are repeatedly failing to compete with Amazon, and unless Google could create an economically viable growth model for retailers, no one would stand a chance against the commerce juggernaut — not the retailers nor Google itself. 

As I’ve believed for a long time, becoming a part of the transaction is the most favorable business model for all parties; sources of traffic make money when retailers sell things, and, most importantly, this only happens when users find the things they want.  

Shopping Actions is Google’s first ambitious step to satisfy all three parties — businesses and business models all over the world will feel this impact.  

Good work, Sundar.

Mobile – TechCrunch

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Cambridge Analytica denies accessing data on 87M Facebook users…claims 30M

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Cambridge Analytica is refuting a report by Facebook today that said Cambridge Analytica improperly attained data on up to 87 million users. Instead, it claims it only “licensed data for no more than 30 million people” from Dr. Aleksandr Kogan’s research company Global Science Research. It also claims none of this data was used in work on the 2016 U.S. presidential election when it was hired by the Trump campaign, and that upon notice from Facebook immediately deleted all raw data and began removing derivative data.

The whole statement from Cambridge Analytica can be found below. We’ve requested a comment from Facebook about the incongruencies in the two companies’ positions and will update if we received a response.

The he-said-she-said of the scandal seems to be amplifying as Facebook continues to endure criticism about weak data privacy policies and enforcement that led to the Cambridge Analytica fiasco that’s seen Facebook’s market cap drop nearly $ 100 billion.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – OCTOBER 9: Co-founder and chief executive of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg gestures as he announces the Internet.org Innovation Challenge in India on October 9, 2014 in New Delhi, India. Zuckerberg is on a two-day visit to India aimed at promoting the internet.org app, which allows people in underdeveloped areas to access basic online services. (Photo by Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Today Facebook announced the 87 million figure as a maximum number of people potentially impacted and said it would notify those users with an alert atop the News Feed. It also rewrote its Terms of Service today to clarify how it collects and works with outside developers, and announced sweeping platform API restrictions that will break many apps built on Facebook but prevent privacy abuses. Zuckerberg then held a conference call with reporters to give insight on all the news.

Cambridge Analytica has repeatedly denied assertions about interactions with Facebook data, but Facebook hasn’t backed down. Instead, Facebook has used Cambridge Analytica as an example of abuse it’s trying to combat, and as a justification for cracking down on developers both malicious and benign around the world.

Cambridge Analytica responds to announcement that GSR dataset potentially contained 87 million records
Today Facebook reported that information for up to 87 million people may have been improperly obtained by research company GSR. Cambridge Analytica licensed data for  from GSR, as is clearly stated in our contract with the research company. We did not receive more data than this.

We did not use any GSR data in the work we did in the 2016 US presidential election.

Our contract with GSR stated that all data must be obtained legally, and this contract is now a matter of public record. We took legal action against GSR when we found out they had breached this contract.When Facebook contacted us to let us know the data had been improperly obtained, we immediately deleted the raw data from our file server, and began the process of searching for and removing any of its derivatives in our system.

When Facebook sought further assurances a year ago, we carried out an internal audit to make sure that all the data, all derivatives, and all backups had been deleted, and gave Facebook a certificate to this effect.

We are now undertaking an independent third-party audit to demonstrate that no GSR data remains in our systems.

Mobile – TechCrunch

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