Facebook restricts APIs, axes old Instagram platform amidst scandals

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Facebook is entering a tough transition period where it won’t take chances around data privacy in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, CTO Mike Schroepfer tells TechCrunch. That’s why it’s moving up the shut down of part of the Instagram API. It’s significantly limiting data available from or requiring approval for access to Facebook’s Events, Groups, and Pages APIs plus Facebook Login. Facebook is also shutting down search by email or user name and changing its account recovery system after discovering malicious actors were using these to scrape people’s data. “Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way” Schroepfer writes.

Instagram will immediately shut down part of its old platform API that was scheduled for deprecation on July 31st. TechCrunch first reported that developers’ Instagram apps were breaking over the weekend due to a sudden reduction in the API call limit. Instagram refused to comment, leading to developer frustration as their apps that analyze people’s followers and help them grow their audiences stopped working.

Now an Instagram spokesperson tells TechCrunch that “Effective today, Instagram is speeding up the previously announced deprecation of the Instagram API Platform” as part of Facebook’s work to protect people’s data. The APIs for follower lists, relationships, and commenting on public content will cease to function immediately. The December 11th, 2018 deprecation of public content reading APIs and the 2020 deprecation of basic profile info APIs will happen as scheduled, but it’s implemented rate limit reductions on them now.

The announcements come alongside Facebook’s admission that up to 87 million users had their data improperly attained by Cambridge Analytica, up from early estimates of 50 million. These users will see a warning atop their News Feed about what happened, what they should do, and see surfaced options for removing other apps they gave permissions to. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to take questions about today’s announcements during at 1:00pm Pacific conference call.

Regarding the Facebook APIs, here’s the abbreviated version of the changes and what they mean:

  • Events API will require approval for use in the future, and developers will no long be able to pull guest lists or post sto the event wall. This could break some event discovery and ticketing apps.
  • Groups API will require approval from Facebook and a Group admin, and developers won’t be able to pull member lists or the names and photos associated with posts. This will limit Group management apps to reputable developers only, and keep a single non-admin member of a closed Group from giving developers access.
  • Pages API will only be available to developers providing “useful services”, and all future access will require Facebook approval. This could heavily restrict Page management apps for scheduling posts or moderating comments.
  • Facebook Login use will require a stricter review process and apps won’t be able to pull users personal information or activity, plus they’ll lose access if after 3 months of non-use. Most login apps should still work, though, as few actually needed your religious affiliation or video watching activity, though some professional apps might not function without your work history
  • Search by phone number or email will no longer work, as Facebook says it discovered malicious actors were using them to pair one piece of information with someone’s identity, and cycling through IP addresses to avoid being blocked by Facebook. This could make it tougher for people in countries where people have similar names find each other. Of all the changes, this may be the most damaging to the user experience.
  • Account Recovery will no longer immediately show the identity of a user when someone submits their email or phone number to similarly prevent scraping. The feature will still work, but may be more confusing. Facebook believes all its users’ could have had their data scraped using the search and account recovery tricks.

Schroepfer says that Facebook’s goal is to lock things down, review everything, and then figure out which developers deserve access and whether any of the functionality should be restored. The announcements raise questions about why it took the Cambridge Analytica scandal for Facebook to take data privacy seriously. You can expect the House Energy and Commerce Committee may ask Mark Zuckerberg that when he comes to testify on April 10th.

Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer

Facebook’s bold action to reform its APIs shows it’s willing to prioritize users above developers — at least once pushed by public backlash and internal strife. The platform whiplash could make developers apprehensive to build on Facebook in the future. But if Facebook didn’t shore up data privacy, it’d have no defense if future privacy abuses by outside developers came to light.

Schroepfer tells me Facebook is taking its responsibility super seriously and that company is upset that it allowed this situation to happen. At least he seems earnest. Last week I wrote that Facebook needd to make a significant act of contrition and humility if it wanted stabilize the sinking morale of its employees. These sweeping changes qualify, and could serve as a rallying call for Facebook’s team. Rather than sit with their heads in their hands, they have a roadmap of things to fix.

Still, given the public’s lack of understanding of APIs and platforms, it may be tough for Facebook to ever regain the trust broken by a month of savage headlines about the social network’s privacy negligence. Long-term, this souring of opinion could make users hesitant to share as much on Facebook. But given its role as a ubiquitous utility for login with your identity across the web, our compulsive desire to scroll its feed and check its notifications, and the lack of viable social networking alternatives, Facebook might see the backlash blow over eventually. Hopefully that won’t lead back to business as usual.

For more on the recent Facebook platform changes, read our other stories:

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Newsbyte: Total to deploy autonomous robot on North Sea platform

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total oil and gas to use autonomous robot in north sea

French oil giant Total has partnered with Austrian robotics company Taurob, and German university TU Darmstad, to develop an autonomous robot for deployment to an oil and gas platform in the North Sea.

Taurob and research partner TU Darmstadt won Total’s ARGOS Challenge, in which five teams from around the world competed to develop a robot for routine inspections and on-platform emergency operations.

The winning robot is expected to be deployed to Total’s gas plant on Shetland. It will then move on to operations on the firm’s Alwyn platform in the North Sea, some 440km north-east of Aberdeen.

The 90kg robot moves on two tracks and uses laser scanners to read instruments and valve positions. It can also measure air temperature and gas concentrations, detect abnormal noises, sense obstacles, and move with ease on slick, slippery staircases.

Read more: Shell joins digital twin initiative for offshore oil and gas assets

When working on oil and gas platforms, the priority for any machinery or operations is to avoid anything that can cause a fire.

“Our robot is also the first fully automated inspection robot in the world that can be used safely in a potentially explosive atmosphere,” says Dr. Lukas Silberbauer, who founded Taurob with partner Matthias Biegl in 2010. The robot is fully ATEX certified to ensure it doesn’t trigger an explosion while operating near explosive gases.

Falling revenues in the North Sea oil industry present one side of the argument for increased automation. But Total expects that it will also make inspections more reliable and safer.

Dave Mackinnon, head of technology and innovation for Total, believes that autonomous robots are very much here to stay in the oil and gas industry.

“Total believes that robots have the potential to play an important role on offshore platforms,” he said. “We are on the cusp of delivering technology that will improve safety, reduce costs, and even prolong the life of North Sea operations.”

Internet of Business says

The use of robots and also drones for remote or offshore maintenance – particularly in hazardous environments – is both a growing application of the technology, and ‘low hanging fruit’ in regulatory terms.

For example, a number of startups are focusing on drone maintenance of offshore wind farms in order to prove that the technology works and is safe. Authorities are happy to approve these deployments as test cases, because there are few other people around and airspace is less crowded.

In this way, the offshore energy industry is both an ideal application of robotics in itself, and a proving ground for the technology.

Read more: Aerones creates drone to de-ice and service wind turbines

Read more: DJI and FLIR launch drone tech that saves lives

Read more: The world’s fastest drone fleet is ready to service the US

Read more: Robot teachers take classes at Finland primary school

Read more: Predictability key to robot-human collaboration, finds Disney research

The post Newsbyte: Total to deploy autonomous robot on North Sea platform appeared first on Internet of Business.

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Snapchat lets Giphy back onto its platform after racist GIF incident

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Snapchat has allowed Giphy back onto its platform after it was removed when users found a racist GIF on the database earlier this month, Snapchat parent company Snap Inc. confirmed to The Verge. Instagram and Snapchat had both pulled Giphy from their platforms, but Instagram reinstated Giphy last week, with stricter moderation. Snapchat confirmed today that it would bring Giphy back since it has upgraded its moderation.

The GIF initially appeared when users searched “crime” on the Giphy database, and it showed a white announcer celebrating the death of people of color while using a racial slur. Giphy has since apologized for the slip-up, and the company says it has combed through its database several times to detect any other problematic…

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Enterprise-IoT platform Particle acquires IoT hardware startup RedBear for an undisclosed sum

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Particle, a company providing IoT hardware, software, and connectivity solutions bought Shenzhen and Hong Kong-based IoT hardware firm RedBear Labs, makers of RedBear Duo and a variety of other connectivity boards. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

RBLink

Buying RedBear marks Particle’s first acquisition. Particle has deployed IoT connectivity solutions in various industries from industrial and municipal IoT applications to manufacturing facilities. It implies the San Francisco-based company has focused on ‘enterprise market’ and entering the enterprise IoT market in China may prove to be a huge win for the company in coming years. And, what best way than to acquire a thriving local startup.

The company’s partnership goes back to Particle’s launch of three meshed devices, i.e. Argon, Boron, and Xenon as RedBear helped the company in product development of meshed devices for IoT connectivity.

RedBear started out by launching Particle-powered product, the RedBear Duo, a thumb-size development board for IoT projects on Kickstarter in November 2015. It got an overwhelming support from backers and delivered the product in the promised time of three months. Now the startup is set to contribute its hardware development experience to Particle’s Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi-enabled IoT hardware.

“Particle is committed to building the best team in the business to enable anyone to create IoT solutions that produce real value. The RedBear team impressed us with their track record of enabling IoT makers to bring their ideas to life in a third of the time and a tenth of the cost as in the past. This acquisition enables Particle to bring new products to market faster and scale to meet soaring demands for IoT connectivity, adding valuable expertise from the heart of the electronics industry in Shenzhen.”Zach Supalla, Particle co-founder, and CEO.

The enthusiasm of sharing a company already serving 8500+ clients in North America and elsewhere was evident from the statement by RedBear’s CEO.

“Particle and RedBear share the same laser focus on creating connected solutions that help product creators at any stage create value with IoT.” Chi-Hung Ma, CEO of RedBear and Particle Director of New Product Development.

It appears Particle will also benefit from RedBear’s existing network of customers and the reseller network the latter has developed in Asia, Europe, North- and South-America.


Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things

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data Artisans Releases First Turnkey Real-Time Stream Processing Platform

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MMW has learned that data Artisans — founded by the original creators of Apache Flink — has rolled out the general availability of dA Platform – the industry’s first turnkey stream processing platform that “enables enterprises to get insights from data in milliseconds and power next-generation service-centric applications and business models.”

We’re told that the new release productionizes stream processing and enables companies to provide live data applications as a centralized enterprise service. dA Platform dramatically reduces the manpower, cost and effort required to deploy stream processing applications in production, and provides a reliable and high-impact stream processing platform across an organization.

Following an early access program in which the platform was extensively tested across large-scale environments, dA Platform is enterprise ready with a trial version available for download here.

Analysts predict the streaming analytics market will reach $ 15.9 billion USD by 20221, as companies across industries are transitioning from a product-centric business model to one based on relationships and a services-centric model. For example, auto manufacturers are introducing new car-sharing and ride-sharing services as car ownership shifts to a usage-based model; consumer banks are creating new messaging applications for communicating with customers in real time to provide more seamless management of their personal finances; and insurance companies are offering dynamically priced insurance products tailored for customers based on their usage data. Stateful stream processing has emerged as the technological standard to enable this transformation.

“A streaming data architecture is the signature DNA of companies that have disrupted industries ranging from financial services to telecom to high technology and more, and enterprises of all types are under pressure to be able to react to data in real time so they can compete today,” said Kostas Tzoumas, co-founder and CEO of data Artisans. “dA Platform makes it easier than ever for businesses to deploy and manage streaming applications, allowing them to focus on building strategic new real-time products and services for customers rather than the supporting infrastructure.”

The post data Artisans Releases First Turnkey Real-Time Stream Processing Platform appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.


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Apple teases ‘late spring’ launch of new Business Manager platform for enterprise users

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Apple is teasing the launch of a new Apple Business Manager device management solution for ‘late spring’ of this year. In a document outlining new enterprise features, Apple explains that Apple Business Manger is a web-based portal for IT managers to manage people and devices…

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Google acquires Tenor GIF platform

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Google images is great, isn’t it? There’s really no competing with the web titan’s vast catalogue of indexed pictures and its cutting-edge searching algorithms. However, it’s not really most people’s first choice for sourcing a great animated GIF. Whether it’s a meme or meant to better express a reaction or emotion, the GIF format, or rather the animated content it houses, has been a true web staple over the past few years. Digging through its vast usage data, apparently, finally prompted Google to take the throw some cash at the problem by welcoming Tenor into its family. If you often…

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Google acquires GIF platform Tenor

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Google has acquired Tenor, one of the big players in the GIF game. In a blog post, Google said that Tenor will continue to operate as a separate brand while Google invests “in their technology and relationships with content and API partners.”

Tenor’s GIFs are everywhere, from Twitter to WhatsApp to Google’s own Gboard; in a post on Tenor’s blog, CEO David McIntosh says Tenor surpassed 12 billion total GIF search requests earlier this year.

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Google acquires GIF platform Tenor was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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Google is acquiring GIF platform Tenor

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Google will be acquiring Tenor, which powers a variety of GIF keyboards on phones and messengers like Facebook Messenger, the companies announced today.

Tenor will continue to operate as a separate brand within Google, the company said in a blog post. Tenor has increasingly positioned itself as a search company, using that as a metric for engagement and success as users tap into a massive database of GIFs. The company said it has more than 12 billion searches every month, and is one of the first major exits for a small but relatively hot space around tools that allow users to easily share GIFs. The company works with advertisers to create sponsored GIFs that slot into its searches, which are usually pretty compact and offer an opportunity to generate a lot of engagement.

GIFs have increasingly been pretty interesting because they offer an opportunity to compress a lot of information into something that’s easily shareable. Tenor CEO David McIntosh will often say that the company is about conveying emotion — and really, that isn’t something that often goes very well over text. If you’re watching the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, you’re probably better off searching for a GIF of your team rather than just blasting a text message to your group of friends.

“With their deep library of content, Tenor surfaces the right GIFs in the moment so you can find the one that matches your mood,” Google Images director of engineering Cathy Edwards said. “Tenor will help us do this more effectively in Google Images as well as other products that use GIFs, like Gboard. Tenor will continue to operate as a separate brand, and we’re looking forward to investing in their technology and relationships with content and API partners. So whether you’re using the Tenor keyboard or one of our other products, you can expect to see much more of this in your future:”

When you open Tenor, you’ll only find a small slice of GIFs that are available as the company is looking to compress the amount of time you actually spending digging around for a GIF you want to share. The theory is that if it’s easier to find and share one, you’ll do it again and again. This isn’t dissimilar from Google’s approach either, offering itself as a utility that’s a quick get-in, get-out experience that builds a level of stickiness that’s hard to unseat. Google is, of course, worth hundreds of billions of dollars off the back of a massive advertising business that basically prints money.

Tenor isn’t the only one in the space. Giphy, for example, also has a GIF keyboard and has a pretty large database of GIFs. Giphy says it has 300 million daily active users, though depending on who you talk to in the Valley that can mean a couple different things. Nevertheless, all of these companies have been able to attract venture financing. There’s also Gfycat, which positions itself as a tool for creators, that says it has 130 million monthly active users.

The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. But by positioning itself as a search company that slots into a messaging ecosystem, Tenor seems like a natural piece of the puzzle for Google. It also gives the company a small wedge into the messenger space as it’ll have an opportunity to touch all the platforms that are connected to Tenor like even Facebook messenger, though that one tends to flip between GIF platforms indiscriminately.

Mobile – TechCrunch

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