Facebook

19 Mar 2020
Facebook's scientists are analysing location data about compliance with social distancing recommendations in various countries using information from a private vault of location information its apps have collected. The analysis shows that only "very modest" changes in habits in the US, France, and
15 Mar 2020
US government agencies are considering a range of tracking and surveillance technologies as part of efforts to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. These include: geolocation tracking and facial recognition systems to analyse photos, both to enable contact tracing. Palantir is working with
17 Mar 2020
A task force at the Italian Ministry of Innovation, in collaboration with the University of Pavia to leverage big data technologies to deal with COVID-19, after the WHO advised governments that lockdowns alone are not enough, and that testing, isolation, and contact tracing are crucial. The effort
17 Mar 2020
A task force at the Italian Ministry of Innovation, in collaboration with the University of Pavia to leverage big data technologies to deal with COVID-19, after the WHO advised governments that lockdowns alone are not enough, and that testing, isolation, and contact tracing are crucial. The effort
05 Mar 2020
In a rare departure from personalisation, Facebook announced that it had begun inserting a box into its news feed directing users to the Centers for Disease Control’s page about COVID-19, potentially driving many millions of users to reliable information from an authoritative source. Facebook also
26 Feb 2020
Facebook announced on its blog that it was providing researchers at Harvard University’s School of Public Health and National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan with aggregated and anonymised mobility data and high resolution population density maps to help inform their forecasting models for the spread
In 2018, to prove how easily soldiers' real-world actions can be manipulated via social media, researchers at NATO's Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (StratCom) conducted a red-team exercise in which they "catfished" members of the armed forces. Using information collected from Facebook
After four years of negotiation, in 2017 Google began paying Mastercard millions of dollars for access to the latter's piles of transaction data as part of its "Stores Sales Measurement" service. Google, which claimed to have access to 70% of US credit and debit cards through partners, said that
In December 2018, Facebook provided an update on the civil rights audit it asked civil rights leader Laura Murphy to undertake in May. Based on advice Murphy culled from 90 civil society organisations, Facebook said it had expanded its policy prohibiting voter suppression, updated its policy to ban
Le Monde exposed anti-IVG (anti-abortion) advertising on Facebook as part of a borader campaign led by anti-abortion website IVG.net. The advertisement relied on stock photos and fake testimonies posted in public Facebook groups and promoted to young women. Most of the posts attempt to promote the
17 Aug 2018
US Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE) used social media monitoring to track groups and people in New York City associated with public events opposing the Trump administration’s policies, including ones related to immigration and gun control. The investigative branch of ICE created and
29 Apr 2019
A private intelligence company, LookingGlass Cyber Solutions, used social media to monitor more than 600 “Family Separation Day Protests” held across the United States on June 30, 2018, to oppose the Trump administration’s policy family separation policy. The policy was part of a “zero tolerance”
18 May 2019
As a part of Facebook’s efforts to curb disinformation and misinformation on its platform, the company introduced new rules over how political content is marked. This has resulted in content that is educational, news articles, and otherwise seemingly non-political being marked incorrectly and taken
17 May 2019
Political ads on Facebook are meant to be marked with a disclaimer that says who paid for the ad, as well as be archived into the platform’s ad library, where users are able to see more information about how an ad was targeted. It’s important to note that the ‘who paid for the ad’ requirement is
15 May 2019
Facebook's efforts to remove disinformation in the wake of the 2019 Ukrainian Presidential election have so far failed. Politico reports that "Among the Facebook pages that spread spurious claims during the election was one with more than 100,000 followers that ran a video claiming (the Presidential
18 Mar 2019
Volunteers for Presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy were tasked with pouring over social media sites to search for disinformation and combat bot armies that spread negative comments about the candidate. Facebook has been slow to take down 'fake news' and so the volunteers search social media
21 Feb 2019
In August 2018, Apple forced Facebook to remove its Onava VPN from the App Store because the Facebook had been using it to harvest data across multiple apps and track user activity. In January 2019, a TechCrunch investigation revealed that in a separate part of the same programme Facebook had been
06 Feb 2018
In 2019, after five years of acquisitions and billions of dollars in investment in advertising software and real-time tracking of web users, Oracle, facing questions about the practices of Data Cloud, its advertising software division, began laying off staff. The reason may have been partly
In a December 2018 update, Facebook so effectively disguised sponsored posts that it took AdBlocker Plus a month, instead of the more usual few days, to find a way to counter it. Facebook has responded to the threat posed to its business model by adblockers by both providing users with advertising
21 Nov 2018
In November 2018 the campaign group Freedom from Facebook used the social network's own advertising tools to promote a "safe space" website where they can submit whistleblower tips anonymously. Facebook declined to comment but did not appear to be blocking the ads nor keeping a log of who viewed
02 Dec 2018
Days after the 2018 shooting that killed 11 Jewish congregants in a Pittsburgh synagogue, The Intercept found that Facebook still allowed advertisers to choose "white genocide conspiracy theory" as a targeting criterion, capturing 168,000 members of the social network. The technique used was the
14 Dec 2018
In December 2018 Facebook revealed that over a 12-day period in September a software bug may have wrongly allowed about 1,500 third-party apps to access 6.8 million users' photos, including some that people began uploading to the social network but didn't go on to finish posting. EPIC executive
16 May 2019
Facebook has taken down 65 accounts, 161 pages, dozens of groups and four Instagram accounts, which were ran by Archimedes Group, an Israeli political consulting and lobbying firm that aimed at disrupting elections in various countries. Archimedes was mostly active in Sub-Saharan Africa but also
29 Sep 2017
In the lead up to the 2017 German federal election (Bundestagswahl), all political parties used social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and e-mails as platforms to reach voters. The far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) reportedly hired a Texas-based company for their
21 Nov 2017
Before and after the Italian election on 4 March 2018, concerns were raised about the spread of misinformation, disinformation and inflammatory content through a network of news sites and Facebook pages. In November 2017, in the run up to the election, Buzzfeed reported on links between a large
19 Jun 2018
In an experiment conducted by Fabio Chiusi and Claudio Agosti during the 2018 election season and set out in detail in their report for Tactical Tech, the duo sought to investigate the Facebook algorithm that powers users’ news feed and the algorithm’s treatment of political content. One of the
22 Feb 2019
In February 2019, an examination of Facebook's searchable database of Indian political ads showed that in India political ads on Facebook were viewed nine times more often by men than by women. Facebook's Indian user base was reported as 24% female in 2016. The reason for the disparity in ad viewing
06 Feb 2019
In January 2019, Facebook announced that as of February 28 the site would add more information to that displayed when users click on the "Why am I seeing this?" button that appears next to ads on the service. Along with the brand that paid for the ad, some of the biographical details they'd targeted
27 Jan 2019
In January 2019, the British transparency NGO WhoTargetsMe, Mozilla, and the US investigative journalism site Pro Publica reported that recent changes in the social network's code were restricting their ability to monitor political ads on Facebook. The company said the changes were part of a
16 Jan 2019
In January 2019, Facebook announced it would extend some of the rules and transparency tools it developed for political advertising for upcoming spring elections in Nigeria, Ukraine, India, and the EU. In Nigeria, the site will bar electoral ads from advertisers outside the country where the
14 Jan 2019
Despite Facebook's October 2018 rules intended to provide greater transparency about political ads, the sources of funding for UK political ads remained obscure in early 2019. when a network of hard-Brexit and people's vote campaigning groups spent more than £1 million on Facebook ads in the lead-up
17 Jan 2019
In January 2019, Facebook' announced it had removed multiple pages, groups, and accounts coordinating inauthentic behaviour on Facebook and Instagram that were set up by two unrelated operations originating in Russia. One of these operated 364 pages and accounts was active in the Baltics, Central
27 Apr 2017
In a November 2017 report, Facebook's security group outlined the steps it would take to combat new forms of misuse of the platform, including attempts to deceive people and manipulate civic discourse at low cost or risk to the organisers. Among the drivers, the group cited the global reach Facebook
05 Nov 2018
The results of a year-long review issued by the UK Information Commissioner's Office in November 2018 uncovered a "disturbing disregard for voters' personal privacy" on the part of 30 organisations, including social media platforms, political parties, data brokers, and credit reference agencies
05 Nov 2018
During the November 2018 US midterm elections, Moveon conducted an experiment to test whether it could cheaply and quickly maximise the effectiveness of digital persuasion. The project created a Facebook app called MO Research, and recruited people to answer survey questions about current issues via
26 Dec 2018
Shortly after the 2016 US presidential election, LinkedIn founder and billionaire Reid Hoffman made a series of multi-million-dollar donations to dozens of left-leaning groups. Among them was American Engagement Technologies, in which Hoffman invested $750,000. In 2018, Hoffman wound up apologising
10 Oct 2015
In 2019, a prominent page on the Facebook Business site cited the British Conservative Party as a "success story" at the 2015 general election, which put the party into power with a narrow majority. The site boasted that via Facebook the Conservatives had an 80.6% reach in key constituencies, 3.5
26 Dec 2018
A startling amount of the internet is fake in one way or another, studies found in 2018. Less than 60% of web traffic is human; a 2013 study found that at least half of YouTube traffic was bots masquerading as people; in November 2018 the US Justice Department revealed that eight people were accused
18 Dec 2018
A December 2018 report prepared by the Oxford Internet Institute's Computational propaganda Research Project and the network analysis firm Graphika for the US Senate Intelligence Committee found that the campaign conducted by Russia's Internet Research Agency during the 2016 US presidential election
09 Dec 2018
A December 2018 analysis found that Facebook's measures for improving election security and discouraging anonymous political messages were poorly executed and inconsistently applied, and placed an unfair burden on charitable organisations and small businesses while simultaneously being easy for
02 Nov 2018
Facebook's latest tool for inspecting political ads showed that in the run-up to the US mid-term elections in November 2018, many of the same politicians who had been questioning Facebook about privacy and leaked user data were spending campaign funds on advertisements on the service. Between 2014
News & Analysis

We retested all the apps from our December 2019 report that showed leakages to Facebook.

23 Aug 2018
In 2018, changes to Apple's rules for data collection led Facebook to withdraw its Onavo Protect VPN app from the app store. The app's function was to warn users when they were visiting potentially harmful websites and protected their data when using public wifi. However, the app also collected data
27 Mar 2018
Affiliate marketers, who buy ad space in bulk, run campaigns, and earn commissions on the sales they generate, are behind some of the shady and misleading ads that pollute social media and the wider internet, despite also promoting some legitimate businesses such as Amazon and eBay. At one of
26 Sep 2018
In 2018, WhatsApp founder Brian Acton responded to the Cambridge Analytica scandal by tweeting "It is time. #deletefacebook." He also left the company, walking away from $850 million in unvested stock rather than accede to Facebook's plans to add advertising and commercial messaging, a purpose at
16 Oct 2018
In October 2018, researcher Johannes Eichstaedt led a project to study how the words people use on social media reflect their underlying psychological state. Working with 1,200 patients at a Philadelphia emergency department, 114 of whom had a depression diagnosis, Eichstaedt's group studied their
05 Sep 2018
After a series of scandals, in the year up to September 2018 54% of American Facebook users had changed their privacy settings and 42% had skipped visiting the platform for several weeks or more. About 26% said they had deleted the Facebook app from their smartphone. Some 74% of Facebook users had
08 Jun 2018
Even after 2015, when Facebook said it had walled off user records from third parties, inside sources and court documents showed that the company went on maintaining a whitelist of companies that were allowed customised access to information about users' Friends, phone numbers, and a "friend link"
21 Jul 2018
In July 2018, Facebook announced it was investigating whether the Boston-based company Crimson Hexagon had violated the company's policies on surveillance. Crimson Hexagon markets itself as offering "consumer insights". Its customers include a Russian non-profit with ties to the Kremlin, and
14 May 2018
In May 2018, Facebook said that as part of its investigation into how Cambridge Analytica had abused personal data on the social network, it had investigated thousands of apps on its platform and suspended about 200 of them. The company said it was investigating further to identify every app that
09 May 2018
In May 2018 Facebook announced it would partner with organisations in places such as Myanmar and South Sudan in order to develop more "context-specific" knowledge about how its platform is being abused to create real risks of harm and violence. In Myanmar, where telephone companies allowed Facebook
13 Jun 2018
In June 2018 Facebook announced it would install new controls to improve members' understanding of how companies targeted them with advertising, including letting them know if a data broker supplied the information. This was the second update to the company's policies in 2018; in March it attempted
27 Sep 2018
In 2018, experiments showed that despite the company's denials, ads could be targeted at specific Facebook users via information that the users had never given Facebook, such as phone numbers. The reason: Facebook allows advertisers to upload their own lists of phone numbers of email addresses, and
23 Jul 2018
"Buzzer teams" - teams employed to amplify messages and create a buzz on social media - were used by all candidates in the 2017 Indonesian general elections. Coordinated via WhatsApp groups, many of the teams opened fake accounts to spread both positive and negative messages, as well as hate speech
12 May 2018
Facebook ads purchased in May 2016 by the Internet Research Agency, a notorious Russian troll farm, urged users to install the FaceMusic app. When installed, this Chrome extension gained wide access to the users' Facebook accounts and web browsing behaviour; in some cases it messaged all the user's
29 Mar 2018
In March 2018, Indian Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted that the Naramendra Modi app issued by India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was leaking user data. The app is intended to spearhead BJP's social media strategy in the run-up to the 2019 general elections; the party hopes to use it to
25 Oct 2018
In the run-up to the November 2018 US midterm elections, Vice tested Facebook's new system of mandatory "Paid for" disclosure intended to bring greater transparency to the sources of ads relating to "issues of national importance". Placing political ads requires a valid ID and proof of residence
11 Oct 2018
In the run-up to the 2018 US mid-term elections, researchers found that the dissemination of fake news on Facebook was increasingly a domestic American phenomenon rather than, as in the 2016 presidential election, an effort driven by state-backed Russian operatives. Removing such accounts (Twitter)
12 Jul 2018
In July 2018, the leader of a private Facebook group for women with the BRCA gene, which is associated with high breast cancer risk, discovered that a Chrome plug-in was allowing marketers to harvest group members' names and other information. The group was concerned that exposure might lead to
06 Jul 2018
Between May 18 and May 22, a bug in Facebook's system changed the settings on 14 million users' accounts so that newly posted updates they thought were private might have been made public instead. The company attributed the error to a mistake made in redesigning how the public parts of user profiles
03 Jun 2018
In 2014, a team of four Swedish and Polish researchers began scraping every comment and interaction from 160 public Facebook pages. By two years later, they had collected one of the largest sets of user data ever assembled from the social network; it enabled them to track the behaviour of 368
12 Oct 2018
In announcing a data breach in 2018, at first Facebook said 50 million people's data had been accessed, then 30 million - but the data accessed was more sensitive than they thought at first. After investigation, the company explained that it had identified four stages of attack with a different
01 Jul 2018
In July 2018 the UK's Information Commissioner's Office announced it would fine Facebook £500,000, the maximum under the 1998 data protection law, for failing to safeguard its users' information and lacking transparency about how the data was harvested and used by others, specifically Cambridge
21 Aug 2018
In August 2018, Facebook announced it would remove more than 5,000 ad targeting options in order to prevent discrimination. Options specifying the exclusion of people interested in "Passover", "Native American culture", or "Islam" could be used as proxies to allow advertisers to exclude ethnic and
01 Nov 2018
Days before the US November 2018 midterm elections, ProPublica discovered that an organisation called Energy4US spent $20,000 to run ads on Facebook pushing conservatives to support the Trump administration's reversal of fuel emission standards. On closer scrutiny, Energy4US appeared to be a front
15 Oct 2018
In October 2018, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and questions over Facebook's influence on the UK's EU referendum, Facebook announced it would add Britain to the US and Brazil on the list of countries where the company will no longer allow political groups to publish "dark" ads on
15 Oct 2018
In the run-up to the US 2018 mid-term elections, Facebook announced it would broaden the company's policies against voter suppression by banning misrepresentations about how to vote and whether a vote will be counted. The company also introduced a reporting option to allow users to report incorrect
04 Sep 2018
For many Filipinos, Facebook is their only way online because subsidies have kept it free to use on mobile phones since its launch in the country in 2013, while the open web is expensive to access. The social media network is believed to have been an important engine behind the ascent to the
14 Jun 2018
In a systematic campaign over more than five years, Myanmar military used Facebook to covertly spread propaganda, mostly against the Rohynga, via accounts that appeared to be dedicated to pop stars and entertainment, turning the social media site into a tool for ethnic cleansing. Having garnered a
14 Jun 2018
In June 2018, human rights and digital rights activists in Myanmar called on Facebook to raise its level of moderation of Burmese-language content in order to reduce hate speech, which they said was at high risk of sparking open violence. In Myanmar, decades of civil war and the end of military rule
07 Jul 2018
In a 2018 interview, the Stanford professor of organisational behaviour Michal Kosinski discussed his research, which included a controversial and widely debunked 2017 study claiming that his algorithms could distinguish gay and straight faces; a 2013 study of 58,000 people that explored the
08 Jun 2018
In 2018, the British army used paid Facebook messages to target 16-year-olds around the day GCSE results were announced to suggest that an army career might still be open to them if their grades were sub-par. The move was criticised for targeting teenagers at their most vulnerable and stressed
23 Aug 2018
Facebook-owned Onavo VPN (adertised as a way to block harmful websites, and keep a user's data safe) is pulled from the Apple App Store due to tracking, collecting, and analysing customers' usage data, including from other unrelated apps. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/08/facebook-violates
28 Sep 2018
30 million users had their accounts breached, with a total of 90 million accounts reset after Facebook's "view as" feature leaked unique user account access tokens, allowing attackers to not only trivially impersonate any other user on the platform, but also to potentially automate the attack on a
07 Jun 2013
In 2013, Edward Snowden, working under contract to the US National Security Agency for the consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton, copied and leaked thousands of classified documents that revealed the inner workings of dozens of previously unknown surveillance programs. One of these was PRISM, launched in
Long Read
The UK's Information Commissioner's Office announces it intends to fine Facebook the maximum amount possible for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
19 Dec 2017
In December 2017, the German cartel office presented preliminary findings in an investigation of Facebook, ruling that the company had abused its dominant position by requiring access to third-party data (including data from subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram) when an account is opened and tracking
11 Sep 2017
In September 2017, the Spanish national data protection regulator fined Facebook €1.2 million, alleging that the company collected personal information from Spanish users that could then be used for advertising. The investigation, which took place alongside others in Belgium, France, Germany, and
18 May 2017
In May 2017, the European Commission fined Facebook $122 million for providing incorrect or misleading information during its 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp. At the time of the acquisition, Facebook assured the EC that it would not be able to link its accounts database to that of WhatsApp. After the
30 May 2017
In May 2017, the French data protection regular, CNIL, fined Facebook €150,000 saying the company had failed to inform users properly about how their personal data is tracked and shared with advertisers. The regulator did not, however, order the company to change its practices. The decision was one
17 Mar 2018
In 2015, Facebook removed a feature that had been in place for some years that allowed developers to access information about Friends who had also signed up for their app. During that time, about 270,000 people downloaded and installed an app that was portrayed as part of an online personality quiz
30 Jun 2015
In June 2015, the Belgian data protection regulator, Commission for the Protection of Privacy, launched a complaint that Facebook indiscriminately tracked internet users when they visited Facebook pages or clicked Like or Share, even when they are not Facebook members. In November 2015, the Court of
31 Jan 2013
In January 2013, Facebook upgraded its search tool to enable the site to answer more complex questions. Called Graph Search, the new tool aimed to make it possible for users to find businesses and each other based on location, personal history, personal interests, and mutual friends. The site
30 Nov 2015
In 2015, Facebook created the "Free Basics" programme, in which the company partnered with telephone carriers in various countries to offer free access to Facebook - that is, using Facebook would not count against their data plan. While critics argued the plan is anti-competitive, violates the
25 Jul 2014
Nearly 700,000 Facebook users were subjects of a research study where researchers changed randomly selected users' newsfeeds to be more positive or negative to study whether those users then displayed a more positive or negative affect in response. The experiment showed the power of Facebook's control over the News Feed and the algorithms that determine which of the possible pieces of content shows up at the top at any given moment.
01 Jan 2012
In 2012, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's sister, Randi, tweeted to fellow Twitter user Callie Schweitzer that Schweitzer had violated her privacy by posting a picture taken in her kitchen. Randi Zuckerberg, the former head of Facebook's marketing department, had posted the picture, which was taken in
11 Nov 2011
In November 2011, the US Federal Trade Commission charged Facebook with repeatedly breaking the privacy promises it made to users. Among the list of deceptive practices and incidents in the FTC's complaint were December 2009 changes Facebook made to its site that publicly exposed information users
01 Jul 2011
In June 2011, Facebook enabled an automatic facial recognition called "Tag Suggestions" based on its research project DeepFace, requiring users who objected to opt out. The feature scanned the faces in newly uploaded photographs and compared them to those in the billions of images already on the
26 Jan 2011
In early 2011, Facebook launched "Sponsored Stories", an advertising product that used content from members' posts inside ads displayed on the service. Drawing on Likes, check-ins, and comments, a Sponsored Story might use a member's photograph and their comments from a coffee shop to create an ad
10 Oct 2010
In October 2010, the Wall Street Journal discovered that apps on Facebook were sending identifying information such as the names of users and their Friends to myriad third-party app advertising and internet tracking companies. All of the ten most popular Facebook apps, including Zynga's FarmVille
29 Jun 2016
When journalist Alex Hern needed to set up a Facebook account in order to manage the Guardian's technology page and other work-related things, he locked down its privacy settings so that the account's profile would not appear in searches and only Friends of Friends could add him as a friend. In
28 Apr 2010
In April 2010, Facebook launched a set of tools to enable websites to add a social layer by adding a Facebook frame to their pages. The company's three launch partners, Microsoft's Docs.com, Yelp, and Pandora, had access to a more comprehensive tool, Instant Personalization, which allowed them to
31 Jul 2009
In July 2009 after an in-depth study of the site spurred by complaints from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa, Canada's Privacy Commissioner issued a ruling that Facebook was in direct violation of the country's privacy laws. Among the regulator's
05 Sep 2007
In September 2007, Facebook, which from its 2004 founding had stressed the privacy of its user profiles and interactions, opened up its profiles to public search engines such as Google and Bing. Facebook's new "public listing search" allowed anyone to search for a particular person; such searches
20 May 2009
In May 2009, University of Cambridge computer science researcher Joseph Bonneau discovered as part of his research that many social network respond to user requests to delete photographs by hiding them while remaining them on their servers. Among the worst offenders were Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and
28 Feb 2008
In February 2008, users discovered that deleting their account from Facebook does not entirely remove it. Instead, the company's servers retained copies of the information in those accounts indefinitely even after those users telephoned the company to request full removal. The company argued that
11 Nov 2007
In November 2007, Facebook launched Beacon, an advertising programme that allowed third-party sites to include a script that passed Facebook notifications about users' activities on their sites such as purchases, auction bids, reviews, and game-playing. The service as originally designed offered no
09 Sep 2006
In 2006, Facebook redesigned its system to add News Feed and Mini-Feed features, which the company said were intended to give users information about their social world. The News Feed was designed to provide a constantly updated stream of stories including updates from each user's Friends and
01 Jan 2011
Over the years from 2005, when Facebook was still known as "Thefacebook" and its membership was still limited to verifiable Harvard students, to 2010, Facebook changed its privacy policies many times. Over that time, the default circle of who could view users' data widened over time, first to
19 Nov 2003
The first iteration of Facebook, which then-student Mark Zuckerberg launched at Harvard University in 2003, was known as "Facemash", and was based on a popular website of the day, Am I Hot or Not? Using photographs of students scraped from those collected by the university's houses of residence, the
01 Mar 2018
A data breach at the Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll farm at the centre of Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election, reveals that one way the IRA operated was to use identities stolen from Americans. Using these accounts and other fake ones, the troll farm interacted
17 Mar 2018
According to whistleblower Christopher Wylie, during the 2014 US midtern elections, Cambridge Analytica, needing data to complete the new products it had promised to political advisor Steve Bannon, harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their
28 Mar 2018
In March 2018, Facebook announced it was scrapping plans to show off new home products at its developer conference in May, in part because revelations about the use of internal advertising tools by Cambridge Analytica have angered the public. The new products were expected to include connected
30 Mar 2018
Users downloading their Facebook histories have been startled to find that the company has been collecting call and SMS data. The company has responded by saying users are in control of what's uploaded to Facebook. However, the company also says it's a widely used practice when users first sign in
31 Mar 2018
Behind the colourful bicycles and games rooms, Silicon Valley tech giants operate a strict code of secrecy, relying on a combination of cultural pressure, digital and physical surveillance, legal threats, and restricted stock to prevent and detect not only criminal activity and intellectual property
The accuracy of Facebook's ad targeting sometimes leads users to believe that Facebook is spying on them by tapping the microphones in their phones. Facebook has denied the practice - and is likely telling the truth because uploading and scanning the amount of audio data such a system would involve
In 2016, Facebook and its photo-sharing subsidiary Instagram rolled out a new reporting tool that lets users anonymously flag posts that suggest friends are threatening self-harm or suicide. The act of flagging the post triggers a message from Instagram to the user in question offering support
23 Feb 2018
A former Facebook insider explains to Wired Magazine why it's almost certain that the Trump campaign's skill using the site's internal advertising infrastructure was more important in the 2016 US presidential election than Russia's troll farm was. The first was the ads auction; the second a little
Princeton University's WebTap - Web Transparency and Accountability - project conducts a monthly automated census of 1 million websites to measure tracking and privacy. The census detects and measures many or most of the known privacy violations researchers have found in the past: circumvention of
21 Feb 2018
In 2017, Facebook introduced two mechanisms intended to give users greater transparency about its data practices: the "why am I seeing this?" button users can click to get an explanation of why they're being shown a particular ad, and an Ad Preferences page that shows users a list of attributes the
11 Jan 2018
As of early 2018, Facebook's friends recommendations (People You May Know) are based on the address books users give them. However, Facebook has been filing patent applications for a new generation of technologies for collecting more information about its users and matching them more accurately. One
02 Jan 2018
EU antitrust regulators are studying how companies gather and use big data with a view to understanding how access to data may close off the market to smaller, newer competitors. Among the companies being scrutinised are the obvious technology companies, such as Google and Facebook, and less obvious
20 Dec 2017
Research from ProPublica in December 2017 found that dozens of companies, including Verizon, Amazon, and Target are using Facebook to target job ads to exclude older workers. Excluding older workers is illegal under US law, but Facebook's system allows advertisers to specify precisely who should see
28 Nov 2017
Facebook and Twitter have advised Damian Collins, the chair of the UK Parliament's digital, culture, media, and sport committee, that the companies will hand over some information relating to the rearch of Russia-backed posts during the EU referendum. Facebook has already given the US Senate similar
Among the friends Facebook recommended to Kashmir Hill as people she might know was Rebecca Porter, to the best of her knowledge a total stranger. Because Hill was studying how the "black box" of Facebook recommendations worked, she contacted Porter to ask what the connection might be. To her
17 Oct 2017
A mistake in Facebook's machine translation service led to the arrest and questioning of a Palestinian man by Israeli police. The man, a construction worker on the West Bank, posted a picture of himself leaning against a bulldozer like those that have been used in hit-and-run terrorist attacks, with
11 Dec 2015
In what proved to be the first of several years of scandals over the use of personal data in illegal, anti-democratic campaigning, in 2015 the Guardian discovered that Ted Cruz's campaign for the US presidency paid at least $750,000 that year to use tens of millions of profiles of Facebook users
22 Jun 2015
In 2015, Facebook's AI lab announced that its researchers had devised an experimental algorithm that could recognise people in photographs even when their faces are hidden or turned away. The researchers trained a sophisticated neural network on a dataset of 40,000 photographs taken from Flickr
28 Jun 2016
In 2016, Facebook gave conflicting accounts of whether the service uses location data in order to recommend prospective Friends in its "People You May Know" feature. When the company first admitted - for publication - that location data was indeed one of the signals it used, many users felt this
14 Jun 2016
In 2016, Facebook and Google began introducing ways to measure the effectiveness of online ads by linking them to offline sales and in-store visits. Facebook's measurement tools are intended to allow stores to see how many people visit in person after seeing a Facebook campaign, and the company
15 Oct 2016
In 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California published a report revealing that the social media monitoring service Geofeedia had suggested it could help police track protesters. The report's publication led Twitter and Facebook to restrict Geofeedia's access to their bulk data
In 2015, The Intercept obtained documents showing that the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota used a fake Facebook account to friend and monitor local Black Lives Matter activists, and collect their personal information and photographs without their knowledge. The account was discovered in a
03 Apr 2018
In 2016, researchers discovered that the personalisation built into online advertising platforms such as Facebook is making it easy to invisibly bypass anti-discrimination laws regarding housing and employment. Under the US Fair Housing Act, it would be illegal for ads to explicitly state a
01 May 2017
Facebook has come under fire after leaked documents revealed the social media site has been targeting potentially vulnerable children. The allegations suggest the company is gathering information on young people who “need a confidence boost” to facilitate predatory advertising practices
News & Analysis
Facebook's new "Download your Information" feature provides only a fraction of the personal information held by Facebook.