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December 12, 2018
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Congress

A long and winding road to new copyright legislation

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Back in May, as part of a settlement, Spotify agreed to pay more than $112 million to clean up some copyright problems. Even for a service with millions of users, that had to leave a mark. No one wants to be dragged into court all the time, not even bold, disruptive technology start-ups.

On October 11th, the President signed the Hatch-Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (the “Act”, or “MMA”). The MMA goes back, legislatively, to at least 2013, when Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA) announced that, as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he planned to conduct a “comprehensive” review of issues in US copyright law. Ranking Member Jerry Nadler (D-NY) was also deeply involved in this process, as were Senators Hatch (R-UT) Leahy (D-VT), and Wyden (D-OR). But this legislation didn’t fall from the sky; far from it.

After many hearings, several “roadshow” panels around the country, and a couple of elections, in early 2018 Goodlatte announced his intent to move forward on addressing several looming issues in music copyright before his planned retirement from Congress at the end of his current term (January 2019).  With that deadline in place, the push was on, and through the spring and summer, the House Judiciary Committee and their colleagues in the Senate worked to complete the text of the legislation and move it through to process. By late September, the House and Senate versions had been reconciled and the bill moved to the President’s desk.

What’s all this about streaming?

As enacted, the Act instantiates several changes to music copyright in the US, especially as regards streaming music services. What does “streaming” refer to in this context? Basically, it occurs when a provider makes music available to listeners, over the internet, without creating a downloadable or storable copy: “Streaming differs from downloads in that no copy of the music is saved to your hard drive.”

“It’s all about the Benjamins.”

One part, by far the largest change in terms of money, provides that a new royalty regime be created for digital streaming of musical works, e.g. by services like Spotify and Apple Music. Pre-1972 recordings — and the creators involved in making them (including, for the first time, for audio engineers, studio mixers and record producers) — are also brought under this royalty umbrella.

These are significant, generally beneficial results for a piece of legislation. But to make this revenue bounty fully effective, a to-be-created licensing entity will have to be set up with the ability to first collect, and then distribute, the money. Think “ASCAP/BMI for streaming.” This new non-profit will be the first such “collective licensing” copyright organization set up in the US in quite some time.

Collective Licensing: It’s not “Money for Nothing”, right?

What do we mean by “collective licensing” in this context, and how will this new organization be created and organized to engage in it? Collective licensing is primarily an economically efficient mechanism for (A) gathering up monies due for certain uses of works under copyright– in this case, digital streaming of musical recordings, and (B) distributing the royalty checks back to the rights-holding parties ( e.g. recording artists, their estates in some cases, and record labels).  Generally speaking, in collective licensing:

 “…rights holders collect money that would otherwise be in tiny little bits that they could not afford to collect, and in that way they are able to protect their copyright rights. On the flip side, substantial users of lots of other people’s copyrighted materials are prepared to pay for it, as long as the transaction costs are not extreme.”

—Fred Haber, VP and Corporate Counsel, Copyright Clearance Center

The Act envisions the new organization as setting up and implementing a new, extensive —and, publicly accessible —database of musical works and the rights attached to them. Nothing quite like this is currently available, although resources like SONY’s Gracenote suggest a good start along those lines. After it is set up and the initial database has a sufficient number of records, the new collective licensing agency will then get down to the business of offering licenses:

“…a blanket statutory license administered by a nonprofit mechanical licensing collective. This collective will collect and distribute royalties, work to identify songs and their owners for payment, and maintain a comprehensive, publicly accessible database for music ownership information.”

— Regan A. Smith, General Counsel and Associate Register of Copyrights

(AP Photo) The Liverpool beat group The Beatles, with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, take it easy resting their feet on a table, during a break in rehearsals for the Royal variety show at the Prince of Wales Theater, London, England, November 4, 1963. (AP Photo)

You “Can’t Buy Me Love”, so who is all this going to benefit?

In theory, the listening public should be the primary beneficiary. More music available through digital streaming services means more exposure —and potentially more money —for recording artists. For students of music, the new database of recorded works and licenses will serve to clarify who is (or was) responsible for what. Another public benefit will be fewer actions on digital streaming issues clogging up the courts.

There’s an interesting wrinkle in the Act providing for the otherwise authorized use of “orphaned” musical works such that these can now be played in library or archival (i.e. non-profit) contexts. “Orphan works” are those which may still protected under copyright, but for which the legitimate rights holders are unknown, and, sometimes, undiscoverable. This is the first implementation of orphan works authorization in US copyright law.  Cultural services – like Open Culture – can look forward to being able to stream more musical works without incurring risk or hindrance (provided that the proper forms are filled out) and this implies that some great music is now more likely to find new audiences and thereby be preserved for posterity. Even the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), generally no great fan of new copyright legislation, finds something to like in the Act.

In the land of copyright wonks, and in another line of infringement suits, this resolution of the copyright status of musical recordings released before 1972 seems, in my opinion, fair and workable. In order to accomplish that, the Act also had to address the matter of the duration of these new copyright protections, which is always (post-1998) a touchy subject:

  • For recordings first published before 1923, the additional time period ends on December 31, 2021.
  • For recordings created between 1923-1946, the additional time period is 5 years after the general 95-year term.
  • For recordings created between 1947-1956, the additional time period is 15 years after the general 95-year term.
  • For works first published between 1957-February 15, 1972 the additional time period ends on February 15, 2067.

(Source: US Copyright Office)

 (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Live Nation)

Money (That’s What I Want – and lots and lots of listeners, too.)

For the digital music services themselves, this statutory or ‘blanket’ license arrangement should mean fewer infringement actions being brought; this might even help their prospects for investment and encourage  new and more innovative services to come into the mix.

“And, in The End…”

This new legislation, now the law of the land, extends the history of American copyright law in new and substantial ways. Its actual implementation is only now beginning. Although five years might seem like a lifetime in popular culture, in politics it amounts to several eons. And let’s not lose sight of the fact that the industry got over its perceived short-term self-interests enough, this time, to agree to support something that Congress could pass. That’s rare enough to take note of and applaud.

This law lacks perfection, as all laws do. The licensing regime it envisions will not satisfy everyone, but every constituent, every stakeholder, got something. From the perspective of right now, chances seem good that, a few years from now, the achievement of the Hatch-Goodlatte Music Modernization Act will be viewed as a net positive for creators of music, for the distributors of music, for scholars, fans of ‘open culture’, and for the listening public. In copyright, you can’t do better than that.

News Source = techcrunch.com

A digital revolution is reshaping Democratic campaigns

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Two weeks before the 2016 election, Bloomberg’s Joshua Green and Sasha Issenberg published a story about Trump’s brash, self-aggrandizing digital team. Democrats treated the story as evidence of the Trump campaign’s utter cluelessness, until he won.

For months after, coverage of the Trump’s tech and digital strategy dominated headlines. Those stories had consequences: Facebook locked down its user data; Cambridge Analytica folded; and a wave of startups, including my own, emerged to help progressives mobilize online.

A change is coming to the Democratic Party, and for some campaigns, it’s already here. I’ve seen it firsthand. As part of my job I’ve personally visited dozens of the most competitive and best-staffed races in the country, giving me a unique perspective on the state of the party. With a few notable exceptions, like Obama’s campaigns, Democratic campaigns have treated digital media exclusively as a way to acquire new emails for fundraising lists and to advertise in the same way they do on TV. Digital media has been detached from the practice of ‘organizing’ (i.e., direct voter contact). A handful of innovative House, Senate, and governor’s campaigns are changing this.

These campaigns treat digital not just as a place to spam eyeballs, but as a space for organizing. The rest of the party would benefit from following their lead. In your own life, is it more meaningful to get a fundraising email and see an ad on Facebook, or to have a real conversation with someone you know?

These campaigns have made that switch by taking responsibility for engaging voters and volunteers online away from an isolated “digital” department and putting it at the core of their Field team’s strategy.

The Field team on a campaign is responsible for recruiting volunteers to knock doors and call you during dinner. Field organizers are the underpaid, overworked foot soldiers of Democratic organizing. By giving them license to engage online, and the tools to do so effectively, successful Democratic campaigns are meeting their constituents where they are today: on their smartphones via text and social media.

(Photo by Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

One of the most remarkable examples of this model is the Casten for Congress operation, in Illinois’s 6th District. When I stopped by the office, I saw the campaign stream a Sean Casten speech through Facebook Live to his supporters. The campaign’s field team had brought together hundreds of supporters to mingle at thirty different “house parties” around the district, and everyone tuned into the live video. Their digital team worked hand-in-hand with field organizers to develop a livestream designed to motivate volunteers to sign up for more canvassing shifts.

It worked unambiguously. I watched supporters go from diffident to bold, excited to feel part of something bigger than themselves. This single event, a hybrid of the digital and physical, brought volunteers together from across the district, and motivated them to sign up for thousands of additional canvassing shifts.

Digital isn’t just a powerful way to supercharge traditional organizing by driving more canvassing or phone banking shifts. It also helps campaigns harness the power of relational organizing. ‘Relational organizing,’ or the practice of asking volunteers to speak specifically to voters they know, is the most effective type of voter contact we know of for reaching critical Democratic constituencies, like young people, communities of color, and working class people.

In California’s 49th District, the Field team supporting Mike Levin for Congress in CA-49 is running a fast-growing and successful relational organizing program through digital channels. They’re using a new tool designed to scale up relational contact, prompting their volunteers  to contact friends almost exclusively through Facebook Messenger and text messages. They’re being asked to recruit their friends to volunteer, and to verify their friends have a plan to vote.

Digital is also powerful for expanding volunteer communities and reducing attrition, when combined with a focus on “community organizing” strategies. These include sharing stories (“I’m here because I care about X, why are you here?”), explaining why certain tasks are important to the campaign (“Cold calls suck, but they’re important because…”), and deliberately introducing volunteers to one another based on mutual interests.

Several sophisticated statewide and House campaigns are running very effective Facebook Groups or Slack channels based on these principles. Each platform provides unique opportunities, as well as challenges for Field staff.

Slack is extremely useful for coordinating already-committed volunteers. Slack’s higher barrier to entry – volunteers must download Slack and get an invitation to join from an administrator – means fewer intergroup problems and less moderation. However, unlike with Facebook Groups, individual volunteers are not empowered to recruit their friends to the campaigns. Because Facebook Groups are a now-highly privileged piece of the Facebook Feed, activity inside of a campaign’s Facebook Group is effectively mainlined into volunteer brains. This stimulates growth of the group. For many new volunteers, being added to a Facebook Group by a motivated friend is their first step into a campaign’s Field operation.

Not all campaigns have shifted their thinking from “digital equals ads and fundraising spam” approach. But the campaigns that encourage their field organizers to adopt digital media as a way to harness political energy, engage volunteers, and contact voters are thriving. Their work this cycle will lay the foundation for the 2020 presidential primaries, for which these innovative staffers will be coveted.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Facebook is weaponizing security to erode privacy

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At a Senate hearing this week in which US lawmakers quizzed tech giants on how they should go about drawing up comprehensive Federal consumer privacy protection legislation, Apple’s VP of software technology described privacy as a “core value” for the company.

“We want your device to know everything about you but we don’t think we should,” Bud Tribble told them in his opening remarks.

Facebook was not at the commerce committee hearing which, as well as Apple, included reps from Amazon, AT&T, Charter Communications, Google and Twitter.

But the company could hardly have made such a claim had it been in the room, given that its business is based on trying to know everything about you in order to dart you with ads.

You could say Facebook has ‘hostility to privacy‘ as a core value.

Earlier this year one US senator wondered of Mark Zuckerberg how Facebook could run its service given it doesn’t charge users for access. “Senator we run ads,” was the almost startled response, as if the Facebook founder couldn’t believe his luck at the not-even-surface-level political probing his platform was getting.

But there have been tougher moments of scrutiny for Zuckerberg and his company in 2018, as public awareness about how people’s data is being ceaselessly sucked out of platforms and passed around in the background, as fuel for a certain slice of the digital economy, has grown and grown — fuelled by a steady parade of data breaches and privacy scandals which provide a glimpse behind the curtain.

On the data scandal front Facebook has reigned supreme, whether it’s as an ‘oops we just didn’t think of that’ spreader of socially divisive ads paid for by Kremlin agents (sometimes with roubles!); or as a carefree host for third party apps to party at its users’ expense by silently hovering up info on their friends, in the multi-millions.

Facebook’s response to the Cambridge Analytica debacle was to loudly claim it was ‘locking the platform down‘. And try to paint everyone else as the rogue data sucker — to avoid the obvious and awkward fact that its own business functions in much the same way.

All this scandalabra has kept Facebook execs very busy with year, with policy staffers and execs being grilled by lawmakers on an increasing number of fronts and issues — from election interference and data misuse, to ad transparencyhate speech and abuse, and also directly, and at times closely, on consumer privacy and control

Facebook shielded its founder from one sought for grilling on data misuse, as UK MPs investigated online disinformation vs democracy, as well as examining wider issues around consumer control and privacy. (They’ve since recommended a social media levy to safeguard society from platform power.) 

The DCMS committee wanted Zuckerberg to testify to unpick how Facebook’s platform contributes to the spread of disinformation online. The company sent various reps to face questions (including its CTO) — but never the founder (not even via video link). And committee chair Damian Collins was withering and public in his criticism of Facebook sidestepping close questioning — saying the company had displayed a “pattern” of uncooperative behaviour, and “an unwillingness to engage, and a desire to hold onto information and not disclose it.”

As a result, Zuckerberg’s tally of public appearances before lawmakers this year stands at just two domestic hearings, in the US Senate and Congress, and one at a meeting of the EU parliament’s conference of presidents (which switched from a behind closed doors format to being streamed online after a revolt by parliamentarians) — and where he was heckled by MEPs for avoiding their questions.

But three sessions in a handful of months is still a lot more political grillings than Zuckerberg has ever faced before.

He’s going to need to get used to awkward questions now that lawmakers have woken up to the power and risk of his platform.

Security, weaponized 

What has become increasingly clear from the growing sound and fury over privacy and Facebook (and Facebook and privacy), is that a key plank of the company’s strategy to fight against the rise of consumer privacy as a mainstream concern is misdirection and cynical exploitation of valid security concerns.

Simply put, Facebook is weaponizing security to shield its erosion of privacy.

Privacy legislation is perhaps the only thing that could pose an existential threat to a business that’s entirely powered by watching and recording what people do at vast scale. And relying on that scale (and its own dark pattern design) to manipulate consent flows to acquire the private data it needs to profit.

Only robust privacy laws could bring Facebook’s self-serving house of cards tumbling down. User growth on its main service isn’t what it was but the company has shown itself very adept at picking up (and picking off) potential competitors — applying its surveillance practices to crushing competition too.

In Europe lawmakers have already tightened privacy oversight on digital businesses and massively beefed up penalties for data misuse. Under the region’s new GDPR framework compliance violations can attract fines as high as 4% of a company’s global annual turnover.

Which would mean billions of dollars in Facebook’s case — vs the pinprick penalties it has been dealing with for data abuse up to now.

Though fines aren’t the real point; if Facebook is forced to change its processes, so how it harvests and mines people’s data, that could knock a major, major hole right through its profit-center.

Hence the existential nature of the threat.

The GDPR came into force in May and multiple investigations are already underway. This summer the EU’s data protection supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli, told the Washington Post to expect the first results by the end of the year.

Which means 2018 could result in some very well known tech giants being hit with major fines. And — more interestingly — being forced to change how they approach privacy.

One target for GDPR complainants is so-called ‘forced consent‘ — where consumers are told by platforms leveraging powerful network effects that they must accept giving up their privacy as the ‘take it or leave it’ price of accessing the service. Which doesn’t exactly smell like the ‘free choice’ EU law actually requires.

It’s not just Europe, either. Regulators across the globe are paying greater attention than ever to the use and abuse of people’s data. And also, therefore, to Facebook’s business — which profits, so very handsomely, by exploiting privacy to build profiles on literally billions of people in order to dart them with ads.

US lawmakers are now directly asking tech firms whether they should implement GDPR style legislation at home.

Unsurprisingly, tech giants are not at all keen — arguing, as they did at this week’s hearing, for the need to “balance” individual privacy rights against “freedom to innovate”.

So a lobbying joint-front to try to water down any US privacy clampdown is in full effect. (Though also asked this week whether they would leave Europe or California as a result of tougher-than-they’d-like privacy laws none of the tech giants said they would.)

The state of California passed its own robust privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act, this summer, which is due to come into force in 2020. And the tech industry is not a fan. So its engagement with federal lawmakers now is a clear attempt to secure a weaker federal framework to ride over any more stringent state laws.

Europe and its GDPR obviously can’t be rolled over like that, though. Even as tech giants like Facebook have certainly been seeing how much they can get away with — to force a expensive and time-consuming legal fight.

While ‘innovation’ is one oft-trotted angle tech firms use to argue against consumer privacy protections, Facebook included, the company has another tactic too: Deploying the ‘S’ word — security — both to fend off increasingly tricky questions from lawmakers, as they finally get up to speed and start to grapple with what it’s actually doing; and — more broadly — to keep its people-mining, ad-targeting business steamrollering on by greasing the pipe that keeps the personal data flowing in.

In recent years multiple major data misuse scandals have undoubtedly raised consumer awareness about privacy, and put greater emphasis on the value of robustly securing personal data. Scandals that even seem to have begun to impact how some Facebook users Facebook. So the risks for its business are clear.

Part of its strategic response, then, looks like an attempt to collapse the distinction between security and privacy — by using security concerns to shield privacy hostile practices from critical scrutiny, specifically by chain-linking its data-harvesting activities to some vaguely invoked “security purposes”, whether that’s security for all Facebook users against malicious non-users trying to hack them; or, wider still, for every engaged citizen who wants democracy to be protected from fake accounts spreading malicious propaganda.

So the game Facebook is here playing is to use security as a very broad-brush to try to defang legislation that could radically shrink its access to people’s data.

Here, for example, is Zuckerberg responding to a question from an MEP in the EU parliament asking for answers on so-called ‘shadow profiles’ (aka the personal data the company collects on non-users) — emphasis mine:

It’s very important that we don’t have people who aren’t Facebook users that are coming to our service and trying to scrape the public data that’s available. And one of the ways that we do that is people use our service and even if they’re not signed in we need to understand how they’re using the service to prevent bad activity.

At this point in the meeting Zuckerberg also suggestively referenced MEPs’ concerns about election interference — to better play on a security fear that’s inexorably close to their hearts. (With the spectre of re-election looming next spring.) So he’s making good use of his psychology major.

“On the security side we think it’s important to keep it to protect people in our community,” he also said when pressed by MEPs to answer how a person who isn’t a Facebook user could delete its shadow profile of them.

He was also questioned about shadow profiles by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in April. And used the same security justification for harvesting data on people who aren’t Facebook users.

“Congressman, in general we collect data on people who have not signed up for Facebook for security purposes to prevent the kind of scraping you were just referring to [reverse searches based on public info like phone numbers],” he said. “In order to prevent people from scraping public information… we need to know when someone is repeatedly trying to access our services.”

He claimed not to know “off the top of my head” how many data points Facebook holds on non-users (nor even on users, which the congressman had also asked for, for comparative purposes).

These sorts of exchanges are very telling because for years Facebook has relied upon people not knowing or really understanding how its platform works to keep what are clearly ethically questionable practices from closer scrutiny.

But, as political attention has dialled up around privacy, and its become harder for the company to simply deny or fog what it’s actually doing, Facebook appears to be evolving its defence strategy — by defiantly arguing it simply must profile everyone, including non-users, for user security.

No matter this is the same company which, despite maintaining all those shadow profiles on its servers, famously failed to spot Kremlin election interference going on at massive scale in its own back yard — and thus failed to protect its users from malicious propaganda.

TechCrunch/Bryce Durbin

Nor was Facebook capable of preventing its platform from being repurposed as a conduit for accelerating ethnic hate in a country such as Myanmar — with some truly tragic consequences. Yet it must, presumably, hold shadow profiles on non-users there too. Yet was seemingly unable (or unwilling) to use that intelligence to help protect actual lives…

So when Zuckerberg invokes overarching “security purposes” as a justification for violating people’s privacy en masse it pays to ask critical questions about what kind of security it’s actually purporting to be able deliver. Beyond, y’know, continued security for its own business model as it comes under increasing attack.

What Facebook indisputably does do with ‘shadow contact information’, acquired about people via other means than the person themselves handing it over, is to use it to target people with ads. So it uses intelligence harvested without consent to make money.

Facebook confirmed as much this week, when Gizmodo asked it to respond to a study by some US academics that showed how a piece of personal data that had never been knowingly provided to Facebook by its owner could still be used to target an ad at that person.

Responding to the study, Facebook admitted it was “likely” the academic had been shown the ad “because someone else uploaded his contact information via contact importer”.

“People own their address books. We understand that in some cases this may mean that another person may not be able to control the contact information someone else uploads about them,” it told Gizmodo.

So essentially Facebook has finally admitted that consentless scraped contact information is a core part of its ad targeting apparatus.

Safe to say, that’s not going to play at all well in Europe.

Basically Facebook is saying you own and control your personal data until it can acquire it from someone else — and then, er, nope!

Yet given the reach of its network, the chances of your data not sitting on its servers somewhere seems very, very slim. So Facebook is essentially invading the privacy of pretty much everyone in the world who has ever used a mobile phone. (Something like two-thirds of the global population then.)

In other contexts this would be called spying — or, well, ‘mass surveillance’.

It’s also how Facebook makes money.

And yet when called in front of lawmakers to asking about the ethics of spying on the majority of the people on the planet, the company seeks to justify this supermassive privacy intrusion by suggesting that gathering data about every phone user without their consent is necessary for some fuzzily-defined “security purposes” — even as its own record on security really isn’t looking so shiny these days.

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 11: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepares to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill April 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the second day of testimony before Congress by Zuckerberg, 33, after it was reported that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It’s as if Facebook is trying to lift a page out of national intelligence agency playbooks — when governments claim ‘mass surveillance’ of populations is necessary for security purposes like counterterrorism.

Except Facebook is a commercial company, not the NSA.

So it’s only fighting to keep being able to carpet-bomb the planet with ads.

Profiting from shadow profiles

Another example of Facebook weaponizing security to erode privacy was also confirmed via Gizmodo’s reportage. The same academics found the company uses phone numbers provided to it by users for the specific (security) purpose of enabling two-factor authentication, which is a technique intended to make it harder for a hacker to take over an account, to also target them with ads.

In a nutshell, Facebook is exploiting its users’ valid security fears about being hacked in order to make itself more money.

Any security expert worth their salt will have spent long years encouraging web users to turn on two factor authentication for as many of their accounts as possible in order to reduce the risk of being hacked. So Facebook exploiting that security vector to boost its profits is truly awful. Because it works against those valiant infosec efforts — so risks eroding users’ security as well as trampling all over their privacy.

It’s just a double whammy of awful, awful behavior.

And of course, there’s more.

A third example of how Facebook seeks to play on people’s security fears to enable deeper privacy intrusion comes by way of the recent rollout of its facial recognition technology in Europe.

In this region the company had previously been forced to pull the plug on facial recognition after being leaned on by privacy conscious regulators. But after having to redesign its consent flows to come up with its version of ‘GDPR compliance’ in time for May 25, Facebook used this opportunity to revisit a rollout of the technology on Europeans — by asking users there to consent to switching it on.

Now you might think that asking for consent sounds okay on the surface. But it pays to remember that Facebook is a master of dark pattern design.

Which means it’s expert at extracting outcomes from people by applying these manipulative dark arts. (Don’t forget, it has even directly experimented in manipulating users’ emotions.)

So can it be a free consent if ‘individual choice’ is set against a powerful technology platform that’s both in charge of the consent wording, button placement and button design, and which can also data-mine the behavior of its 2BN+ users to further inform and tweak (via A/B testing) the design of the aforementioned ‘consent flow’? (Or, to put it another way, is it still ‘yes’ if the tiny greyscale ‘no’ button fades away when your cursor approaches while the big ‘YES’ button pops and blinks suggestively?)

In the case of facial recognition, Facebook used a manipulative consent flow that included a couple of self-serving ‘examples’ — selling the ‘benefits’ of the technology to users before they landed on the screen where they could choose either yes switch it on, or no leave it off.

One of which explicitly played on people’s security fears — by suggesting that without the technology enabled users were at risk of being impersonated by strangers. Whereas, by agreeing to do what Facebook wanted you to do, Facebook said it would help “protect you from a stranger using your photo to impersonate you”…

That example shows the company is not above actively jerking on the chain of people’s security fears, as well as passively exploiting similar security worries when it jerkily repurposes 2FA digits for ad targeting.

There’s even more too; Facebook has been positioning itself to pull off what is arguably the greatest (in the ‘largest’ sense of the word) appropriation of security concerns yet to shield its behind-the-scenes trampling of user privacy — when, from next year, it will begin injecting ads into the WhatsApp messaging platform.

These will be targeted ads, because Facebook has already changed the WhatsApp T&Cs to link Facebook and WhatsApp accounts — via phone number matching and other technical means that enable it to connect distinct accounts across two otherwise entirely separate social services.

Thing is, WhatsApp got fat on its founders promise of 100% ad-free messaging. The founders were also privacy and security champions, pushing to roll e2e encryption right across the platform — even after selling their app to the adtech giant in 2014.

WhatsApp’s robust e2e encryption means Facebook literally cannot read the messages users are sending each other. But that does not mean Facebook is respecting WhatsApp users’ privacy.

On the contrary; The company has given itself broader rights to user data by changing the WhatsApp T&Cs and by matching accounts.

So, really, it’s all just one big Facebook profile now — whichever of its products you do (or don’t) use.

This means that even without literally reading your WhatsApps, Facebook can still know plenty about a WhatsApp user, thanks to any other Facebook Group profiles they have ever had and any shadow profiles it maintains in parallel. WhatsApp users will soon become 1.5BN+ bullseyes for yet more creepily intrusive Facebook ads to seek their target.

No private spaces, then, in Facebook’s empire as the company capitalizes on people’s fears to shift the debate away from personal privacy and onto the self-serving notion of ‘secured by Facebook spaces’ — in order that it can keep sucking up people’s personal data.

Yet this is a very dangerous strategy, though.

Because if Facebook can’t even deliver security for its users, thereby undermining those “security purposes” it keeps banging on about, it might find it difficult to sell the world on going naked just so Facebook Inc can keep turning a profit.

What’s the best security practice of all? That’s super simple: Not holding data in the first place.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Twitter agrees to abuse transparency reports, civil rights audit

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A meek and quiet “no” was Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s refrain as he responded to an onslaught of questions from House Energy Committee Republicans about whether his service shadowbans or is biased against conservatives. A few Democrats like Rep Sarbanes (D-MD) accurately pointed out that the whole point of the hearing was to “work the ref” in an attempt to badger Twitter into an overcorrection that would promote conservatives and make it tougher to enforce its policies against right-wing trolls and conspiracy theorists.

Before the start of the hearing, Dorsey laid out data that showed Democrat an Republican congress members got the same number of impressions per tweet when controlling for follower count — debunking the theory that it suppresses conservative view points. Given the session’s spurious purpose, many of the questions were just different ways of asking if Twitter discriminated based on political ideology, which Dorsey repeatedly denied.

But two interesting points have come out of the hearing so far, which followed this morning’s session with Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg about their efforts to prevent election interference.

First, Dorsey said that Twitter will release an abuse transparency report in order to quantify harassment on its service and its progress at preventing it. Rep DeGette (D-CO) cited Amnesty International’s “Toxic Twitter” study on harassment of women on the service. She asked if Twitter has demographic-based data on abuse and its response to reports of harassment.

Dorsey responded that “We do have data on all violations that we have seen across the platform and the context of those violations. And we do intend, and this will be an initiative this year, to create a transparency report that will make that data more public so that all can learn from it and we can be held public accountable.”

In May, Facebook began publishing abuse reports detailing the number of nudity/sexual content, graphic violence, and hate speech posts it removed and what percentage were caught by automated systems.

Twitter already publishes transparency reports full of info about requests by the government for private user data or content takedowns, as well as copyright infringement and requests by content owners to suspend pirates. But the public knows little about just how many instances of abuse occur on the platform, how often they’re reported, Twitter’s speed and accuracy with which it responds to reports, and the development of products that could thwart or remove abuse before it spreads. We’ve asked Twitter for details on what will be included.

Second, Dorsey agreed to have Twitter undergo a civil rights audit. Rep Frank Pallone (D-NJ) asked “Will you commit to working with an independent third-party institution to conduct a civil rights audit of Twitter?” as well as make the results public and use them to change policies. Dorsey agreed, while noting that it already does internal audits with its Trust and Safety Board.

Again in May, Facebook agreed to a similar civil rights audit as well as a political bias audit. These will investigae whether Facebook discriminates against minorities or suppresses conservative views. It’s unclear exactly what the scope of Twitter’s audit will be, but we’ve asked the company.

These commitments could give Twitter more ammunition with which to fight back against the accusations that it’s failing to solve the abuse problem and that it preferences liberals — if the results come back positive. But they could also become ways to prove it’s moving too slowly, and any signal of bias no matter how small is sure to be seized upon by the current administration.

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 5: (L-R) Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter chief executive officer Jack Dorsey testify during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing concerning foreign influence operations’ use of social media platforms, on Capitol Hill, September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg faced questions about how foreign operatives use their platforms in attempts to influence and manipulate public opinion. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Yet while Dorsey spent the day saying Twitter is doing everything it can to prevent election interference and fairly enforce its policies, it’s yet to make a quantifiable financial commitment to that drive.

Facebook agreed to double its security and content moderation staff from 10,000 to 20,000 even if that hurt its profits. Yet what Rep Pallone asked how many human content moderators Twitter has, how much they’re paid, and how they’re trained, Dorsey dodged. “We want to think about this problem not in the number of people but in how we make decisions to invest in new technologies” the CEO said.

After years in the red, Twitter posted a record $100 million profit last quarter. It’s time for it to pledge some of those profits, not just more words, towards solving its problems.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Twitter is a Nazi haven for the same reason its CEO claims no bias

in Alex Jones/Apps/Congress/Delhi/Free Speech/Government/India/jack dorsey/Policy/Politics/Richard Spencer/Social/Twitter/twitter safety by

“From a simple business perspective and to serve the public, Twitter is incentivized to keep all voices on the platform”. That’s Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s argument for why “Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions” according to his prepared statement for his appearance at tomorrow’s hearing with the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

But it’s also validates criticism of why Twitter is reluctant to ban Nazis, hate-mongers, and other trolls that harass people on the service: It makes money off of them.

Twitter has been long-known to ignore reports of threats or abuse. It’s common to see people posting the screenshots of the messages they get back from Twitter saying that sexist, racist, homophobic, and violent remarks don’t violate its policies. Only when they get enough retweets and media attention do those accounts seem to disappear.

In fact, a Wall Street Journal report claims that Dorsey told a confidante that he’d personally intervened to overrule his staff in order to allow Infowars’ Alex Jones to remain on the app and to reinstate alt-right figure Richard Spencer.

To avoid being labeled overly liberal which could lead to a flight of conservative users, Twitter has bowed to the abusers and weakly enforced its own rules. And since these trolls can be highly engaged with Twitter, they can rack up lots of ad views. Dorsey’s statement is emblematic of that stance, prioritizing user count, share price, and revenue over safety and civility.

Elsewhere in the statement, Dorsey makes a much stronger argument for why Twitter isn’t biased against conservatives via data instead of market forces. He says that Twitter compared tweets by Democrats and Republicans and found that “controlling for the same number of followers, a single Tweet by a Republican will be viewed as many times as a single Tweet by a Democrat, even after all filtering and algorithms have been applied by Twitter.” It’s that fact Dorsey should point to, not that Twitter isn’t biased because his hands are tied by Wall Street.

Dorsey also claims Twitter is making progress by tuning its algorithm to limit the distribution of abuse. He notes that signals that reduce a tweet’s prominence include if the author has “no confirmed email address, simultaneous registration for multiple accounts, accounts that repeatedly Tweet and mention accounts that do not follow them, or behavior that might indicate a coordinated attack”, as well as “how accounts are connected to those that violate our rules and how they interact with each other.” That’s supposedly led to “a 4 percent drop in abuse reports from search and 8 percent fewer abuse reports from conversations”.

But that progress would likely to come faster if Twitter was willing to make sacrifices to its bottom line. Facebook pledged to double its security and moderation team from 10,000 to 20,000 members despite the impact that would have on profits. Twitter has yet to make a pledge as direct and quantifiable. Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg will also appear before Congress tomorrow to face tough questions about whether that hiring and its product changes are actually protecting democracy. But at least it’s throwing money at the problem.

Dorsey didn’t say Twitter was “incentivized to keep all civil voices on the platform” or “all voices that abide by our policies” — just “all voices”. But when Twitter lets trolls bully and shout down those they hate, it’s the victims’ voices that are silenced by ‘free speech’. It’s effectively endorsing censorship, not of those with conservative or even extremist views, but of the marginalized who most deserve that voice.

Hopefully during tomorrow’s House hearing, we’ll see members of congress use Dorsey’s own words to question whether his “simple business perspective” is what’s keeping such an ugly place to have a conversation.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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