The last time we saw Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, he was answering questions before Congress about his company’s commitment to keeping private user data safe, the potential impact of the social network on the US election, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal that saw at least 87 million people have their data shared without their knowledge. And now the CEO will appear at Facebook’s F8 developer conference on Tuesday.
While the Congressional hearings are technically behind him, the fallout of the data breach isn’t going away any time soon. Zuckerberg has no choice but to address the incident to the developers who will be in attendance at the event in San Jose, California this week and the thousands of Facebook users who will stream from their homes.
But groveling for forgiveness will only be a portion of the keynote address, as Zuckerberg and his team have plenty of new products and updates to discuss as well. Oculus (which has dealt with its own controversies over the years) will make an appearance, with the new, wireless Oculus Go going up for preorder on Monday.
We’ll also hear more about Facebook’s plans for augmented reality, which began to take shape last spring when the company introduced a platform that would allow developers to bring AR-powered camera effects to their apps.
If you want to watch along and see Zuckerberg’s public, live-streamed response to the issues that have been making headlines for the past few weeks, you can do so when his keynote begins at 10 AM PT / 1 PM ET on Tuesday. You can watch the stream at either the F8 stream page or the Facebook for Developers page.
Earlier this month, Mark Zuckerberg completed Step 7 of the Tech Company Scandal Apology Tour by trekking to Capitol Hill to be interrogated by lawmakers. The public spectacle was mostly embarrassing for both sides, since Zuckerberg’s lack of human emotions were put on display, and the lawmakers proved once again that they have no idea what the interweb is or how it works.
But even better than watching that particular trainwreck is watching what can be done when you literally put words in people’s mouths. The Bad Lip Reading YouTube channel did just that, and the five-minute long video is everything you’d hope it would be.
The makers stayed impressively true to its origins. Zuckerberg is given a lot of very brusque one-line answers, while the senators mostly babble about things they don’t understand, while Lindsey Graham tries and fails to suck up to the Facebook founder. Some highlights:
I swear, it’s like he’s got a mask on
Listen kid, blink if you’re not a lampWe’d like you to make a little smile just to show that you canOh, good heavens, that’s just horrible.Stop that son!
For the rest of the day, will you not do that please?
Can we be friends later?No, I mean, we probably shouldn’tWould you say that if I lived in a treehouse? I doubt itHave you ever smelled a girl’s feet?Cuz I imagine you and me could be doing that at some pointNoWhat’s the problem, little friend?Don’t try to get in my Porsche againBut I really like you!
Just because Mark Zuckerberg appeared before US Congress last week to answer a plethora of questions about the way Facebook handles user data and privacy doesn’t mean Facebook is done with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. There are more “hard questions” ahead, given that Zuckerberg’s answers weren’t exhaustive.
One of the things Facebook CEO failed to address appropriately during questioning concerns the way Facebook tracks internet users, regardless of whether they have a Facebook account, or whether they’re signed into one. Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook tracks all your activity online, saying it does it for security reasons.
Reports that followed revealed that Facebook isn’t really interested in building tools that would allow non-Facebook users to keep track of the kind of data Facebook collects, and opt out. It turns out that you can’t really prevent Facebook, or other internet companies, from tracking your activities.
And Facebook just came out with a “Hard Questions” blog post that further elaborates on the kind of data Facebook collects when you’re not using Facebook.
The post is a lot more comprehensive than Zuckerberg’s testimony. However, don’t expect a way out. Facebook is simply explaining what data it collects, and why it does it. But there’s absolutely no way to turn it off.
Facebook Product Management Director David Baser reminds readers in the lengthy blog post that Facebook is merely doing what others websites also do when it comes to tracking you.
Facebook uses social plugins (Like and Share buttons), Facebook Logins, Facebook Analytics, as well as Facebook ads to keep track of users.
“When you visit a site or app that uses our services, we receive information even if you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account,” Baser writes. “This is because other apps and sites don’t know who is using Facebook.”
Facebook collects a bunch of data about you including your IP address (therefore your location), browser type, operating system. Its cookies also keep track of the sites you visit, and what app you’re using.
Facebook says it uses the data for security reasons — which is the reason Zuckerberg gave last week — but also to provide its services to sites and apps, and enhance its own services.
The exec would like you to know that “we don’t sell people’s data. Period.” Whenever someone says “period” like that, something feels off.
Sure, Facebook doesn’t sell the data it collects. But it uses that data to sell better ads, or to try to convert more internet users to Facebook:
Facebook Audience Network enables other websites and apps to show ads from Facebook advertisers. When we get a request to show an Audience Network ad, we need to know where to send it and the browser and operating system a person is using. Cookies and device identifiers help us determine whether the person uses Facebook. If they don’t, we can show an ad encouraging them to sign up for Facebook. If they do, we’ll show them ads from the same advertisers that are targeting them on Facebook. We can also use the fact that they visited a site or app to show them an ad from that business – or a similar one – back on Facebook.
One issue with the blog post is that it doesn’t specifically address what happens with the data belonging to those internet users who choose not to sign up for Facebook. It’s mostly focusing on internet users who may not be signed into Facebook at all times.
Furthermore, Baser only offers controls to Facebook users, which will allow them to customize their News Feed and Ads experiences, and even disregard data Facebook collects about them. Non-users, meanwhile, have no control over what Facebook knows about them, or what happens with that data. In other words, this “Hard Questions” post feels like it deserves a sequel.
We’ve talked about the fact that Facebook is tracking everyone online — even people who choose not to open a Facebook account — long before the Cambridge Analytica revelations came to light. But now that Mark Zuckerberg had to face Congress twice in as many days, we know for a fact that Facebook is indeed doing it. The good news is that, well, we know Facebook is doing it, which means regulators may find ways to stop the practice. But the bad news is that you can’t really do anything about it for the time being, and Facebook doesn’t plan to offer non-users access to the information about them that the service collects.
Zuckerberg told U.S. Representative Ben Luján on Wednesday that Facebook collects “data of people who have not signed up for Facebook” for security reasons. However, he never explained what these reasons are, nor did he explain what Facebook is doing with the information it gathers, aside from using it for security purposes.
“There are basic things you can do to limit the use of this information for advertising, like using browser or device settings to delete cookies,” Facebook said when asked if users could opt out. “This would apply to other services beyond Facebook because, as mentioned, it is standard to how the internet works.”
That is true, but you’d have to rinse and repeat that operation over and over. Also, that doesn’t limit Facebook’s ability to collect data on you, and it doesn’t let you delete any of the info the company has on you.
Facebook said it uses browsing data to create analytics reports about traffic to a site, and that it doesn’t use the data to target ads, aside from the ones inviting you to join the social network. Facebook also gets data about non-users when users upload contact information. Facebook said it doesn’t combine cookie data with data from uploaded contacts.
Lawmakers, including Representative Luján, want Facebook to build a tool that would allow non-users to find out what the company knows about them. For the time being, however, Facebook has no plans to create such a tool, Reuters said.
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Tim Cook have been taking small potshots at one another. A few weeks back, Cook got the ball rolling when he said that he’s never been a big proponent of any service that houses detailed profiles of its users. In a broad sense, Cook took swipes at any service where users are leveraged for advertising dollars.
“We can make a ton of money if customers were our product,” Cook said in an interview late last month. “We have elected not to do that.”
When specifically asked what he would do if he found himself in Zuckerberg’s position, Cook replied: “I wouldn’t be in this situation.”
Not too long after, Zuckerberg sat down for an interview with Ezra Klein where he took umbrage with Cook’s remarks.
“You know,” Zuckerberg added, “I find that argument that, if you’re not paying that somehow we can’t care about you to be extremely glib and not at all aligned with the truth.”
“The reality here,” Zuckerberg continued, “is that if you want to build a service that helps connect everyone in the world, then there are a lot of people who can’t afford to pay.”
With that as a backdrop, an eagle-eyed AP photographer observed that Zuckerberg’s notes during his appearance on Capitol Hill yesterday included a few blurbs on Apple’s own privacy practices. Presumably, Zuckerberg was prepared to lay into Apple should the need arise, though that never ended up happening.
One portion in particular notes that there are “lots of stories about apps misusing Apple data, never seen Apple notify people.”
Another bullet point references the fact that logging in to an app with Facebook is, in many ways, no different than installing an app on an iPhone.
“On data,” the point reads, “when you install an app on your iPhone, you give it access to some information, just like when you login with FB.”