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Facebook

WhatsApp To Share Some Data With Facebook (bloomberg.com) 60

Two years ago when Facebook bought WhatsApp, the instant messaging client said that the deal would not affect the digital privacy of its users. Things are changing now, WhatsApp said Thursday. The Facebook-owned app will share with the company some member information, as well as some analytics data of its users. Bloomberg reports: WhatsApp announced a change to its privacy policy today that allows businesses to communicate with users. The messages could include appointment reminders, delivery and shipping notifications or marketing material, the company said in its revised terms of service. In a blog post, WhatsApp said it will be testing these business features over the coming months. The strategy is an important step for Facebook as it attempts to make money from its most expensive acquisition. In addition to the messages from businesses, WhatsApp said it would begin sharing more information about its users with the "Facebook family." The data, including a person's phone number, could be used to better targets ads when browsing Facebook or Instagram, WhatsApp said.
Social Networks

Researchers Create Algorithm That Diagnoses Depression From Your Instagram Feed (inverse.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: Harvard University's Andrew Reece and the University of Vermont's Chris Danforth crafted an algorithm that can correctly diagnose depression, with up to 70 percent accuracy, based on a patient's Instagram feed alone. After a careful screening process, the team analyzed almost 50,000 photos from 166 participants, all of whom were Instagram users and 71 of whom had already been diagnosed with clinical depression. Their results confirmed their two hypotheses: first, that "markers of depression are observable in Instagram user behavior," and second, that "these depressive signals are detectable in posts made even before the date of first diagnosis." The duo had good rationale for both hypotheses. Photos shared on Instagram, despite their innocent appearance, are data-laden: Photos are either taken during the day or at night, in- or outdoors. They may include or exclude people. The user may or may not have used a filter. You can imagine an algorithm drooling at these binary inputs, all of which reflect a person's preferences, and, in turn, their well-being. Metadata is likewise full of analyzable information: How many people liked the photo? How many commented on it? How often does the user post, and how often do they browse? Many studies have shown that depressed people both perceive less color in the world and prefer dark, anemic scenes and images. The majority of healthy people, on the other hand, prefer colorful things. [Reece and Danforth] collected each photo's hue, saturation, and value averages. Depressed people, they found, tended to post photos that were more bluish, unsaturated, and dark. "Increased hue, along with decreased brightness and saturation, predicted depression," they write. The researchers found that happy people post less than depressed people, happy people post photos with more people in them than their depressed counterparts. and that depressed participants were less likely to use filters. The majority of "healthy" participants chose the Valencia filter, while the majority of "depressed" participants chose the Inkwell filter. Inverse has a neat little chart embedded in their report that shows the usage of Instagram filters between depressed and healthy users.
Social Networks

YouTube Plans To Bring Photos, Polls, and Text To Its Video Service (venturebeat.com) 20

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: YouTube is developing a feature internally called Backstage where users can share photos, polls, links, text posts, and videos with their subscribers. Backstage is expected to launch by the end of the year, possibly this fall, on mobile and desktop, initially with select popular YouTube accounts and with limited features, VentureBeat has learned. Akin to a Facebook Timeline or Twitter profile, Backstage will live alongside the Home and Videos tabs within individual YouTube channels. Posts shared to Backstage will appear in reverse chronological order, and, crucially, will also appear in subscribers' feeds and notifications, making them highly visible to fans. While Backstage is expected to introduce entirely new types of content to YouTube, including tweet-like text posts and topical polls, it also presents new opportunities for video sharing. Backstage will eventually enable users to share both traditional YouTube videos and Backstage-only videos, possibly creating an opportunity for more intimate, or even ephemeral, video sharing between YouTubers and their fans.
Communications

Facebook Is Testing Autoplaying Video With Sound (thenextweb.com) 145

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook is testing a "feature" that autoplays video clips on your feed with sound. It's not a very big test, but there's a possibility the company could roll it out to a larger group of users. The Next Web reports: "The company is currently trying two methods of getting people to watch video with sound in Australia: the aforementioned autoplaying, and an unmute button on the lower right corner of videos, like Vine videos on a desktop. The latter certainly sounds more reasonable; the last thing you want is to be checking Facebook quickly during a meeting or class, and suddenly have your phone blaring out an advert because you happened to stop on a video. Thankfully, you can disable the 'feature' from your settings, but the point is there's nothing wrong with the current opt-in approach, especially considering how many companies are embracing video captioning, and that Facebook even has its own auto-caption tool for advertisers." "We're running a small test in News Feed where people can choose whether they want to watch videos with sound on from the start," a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable Australia. "For people in this test who do not want sound to play, they can switch it off in Settings or directly on the video itself. This is one of several tests we're running as we work to improve the video experience for people on Facebook."
AI

Microsoft Buys AI-Powered Scheduling App Genee (thestack.com) 28

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: Microsoft has announced that it has completed its acquisition of artificial intelligence-based scheduling app Genee for an undisclosed amount. The app, which was launched in beta last year, uses natural language processing tools and decision-making algorithms to allow users to schedule appointments without having to consult a calendar. Prior to the acquisition, Genee supported scheduling across Facebook, Twitter, Skype, email, and via SMS. From September 1, Genee will close its own service and will officially join Microsoft, supposedly the Office 365 team. Microsoft believes the addition will help it "further [its] ambition to bring intelligence into every digital experience."
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Tries To Remove News Articles About PlayStation 4 Slim Leak From The Internet (techdirt.com) 85

Sony is expected to announce two new PlayStation 4 consoles at a scheduled event on September 7th in New York City, but as that date nears more leaks of the consoles have emerged. The most recent leak appears to show the upcoming PlayStation 4 Slim, which Sony is trying to remove from the internet by taking down news articles from social media accounts about the leak. Erik Kain via @erikkain on Twitter tweeted (Tweet no longer exists): "Sony issued a takedown and had this post removed from my Facebook page: https://t.co/fIjP0buTdY (Warning: may be paywalled)." Techdirt reports: "[The Forbes post] references the work Eurogamer did in visiting the leaker of the image to confirm the console is for real (it is), as well as generating its own image and even video of the console working for its story on the leak. But if you go today to the Eurogamer post about the leak, the video has been replaced by the following update. UPDATE, 7.30pm: Upon taking legal advice, we have removed the video previously referenced in this article. Left unsaid is whether or not any contact had been made by Sony with Eurogamer, thus prompting this 'legal advice,' but one can imagine that being the case, particularly given Sony's threats to social media users sharing images and reporting of Sony leaks and, more to the point, threats against any media that might report on those leaks."
Facebook

Facebook Knows Your Political Preferences (businessinsider.com) 183

Facebook knows a lot more about its users than they think. For instance, the New York Times reports, the company is categorizing its users as liberal, conservative, or moderate. These details are valuable for advertisers and campaign managers, especially ahead of the election season. From a BusinessInsider report: For some, Facebook is able to come to conclusions about your political leanings easily, if you mention a political party on your page. For those that are less open about politics on social media, Facebook makes assumptions based on pages you like. As The New York Times explained, if you like Ben and Jerry's Facebook page and most of the other people that like that page identify as liberal, Facebook might assume you too are liberal.
The Almighty Buck

Pokemon Go Daily Active Users, Downloads, Engagement Are Dropping (bloomberg.com) 188

An anonymous reader writes:Pokemon Go is starting to lose the battle for mobile mindshare, according to Axiom Capital Management. As such, investors and executives at Facebook Inc., Instagram, Tinder (Match Group Inc.), Twitter Inc., and Snapchat can breathe a sigh of relief, says Senior Analyst Victor Anthony. "Given the rapid rise in usage of the Pokemon Go app since the launch in July, investors have been concerned that this new user experience has been detracting from time spent on other mobile focused apps," he writes. Enthusiasm about the potential for Pokemon Go (and augmented reality gaming in general) to improve Nintendo Co Ltd.'s financial performance sent shares parabolic after the app launched in the U.S., and even spurred rallies in secondary plays linked to the success of the game. Data from Sensor Tower, SurveyMonkey, and Apptopia, however, show that Pokemon Go's daily active users, downloads, engagement, and time spent on the app per day are all well off their peaks and on a downward trend.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

US Customs and Border Protection Wants To Know Who You Are On Twitter (eff.org) 346

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electronic Frontier Foundation: U.S. border control agents want to gather Facebook and Twitter identities from visitors from around the world. But this flawed plan would violate travelers' privacy, and would have a wide-ranging impact on freedom of expression -- all while doing little or nothing to protect Americans from terrorism. A proposal has been issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect social media handles from visitors to the United States from visa waiver countries. The Electronic Frontier Foundation opposes the proposal and has commented on it individually and as part of a larger coalition. "CBP specifically seeks 'information associated with your online presence -- Provider/Platform -- Social media identifier' in order to provider DHS 'greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections' for 'vetting purposes,'" reports EFF. "In our comments, we argue that would-be terrorists are unlikely to disclose social media identifiers that reveal publicly available posts expressing support for terrorism." They say this plan "would unfairly violate the privacy of innocent travelers," would cause "innocent travelers" to "engage in self-censorship, cutting back on their online activity out of fear of being wrongly judged by the U.S. government," and would lead to a "slippery slope, where CBP would require U.S. citizens and residents returning home to disclose their social media handles, or subject both foreign visitors and U.S. persons to invasive device searches at ports of entry with the intent of easily accessing any and all cloud data."
Bitcoin

Eleven Reasons To Be Excited About The Future of Technology (medium.com) 282

Chris Dixon, an American internet entrepreneur and investor in a range of tech and media companies including Kickstarter and Foursquare has written an essay on Medium highlighting some of the reasons why we should be excited about the future of technology. The reasons he has listed are as follows: 1. Self-Driving Cars: Self-driving cars exist today that are safer than human-driven cars in most driving conditions. Over the next 3-5 years they'll get even safer, and will begin to go mainstream.
2. Clean Energy: Attempts to fight climate change by reducing the demand for energy haven't worked. Fortunately, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have been working hard on the supply side to make clean energy convenient and cost-effective.
3. Virtual and Augmented Reality: Computer processors only recently became fast enough to power comfortable and convincing virtual and augmented reality experiences. Companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are investing billions of dollars to make VR and AR more immersive, comfortable, and affordable.
4. Drones and Flying Cars: GPS started out as a military technology but is now used to hail taxis, get mapping directions, and hunt Pokemon. Likewise, drones started out as a military technology, but are increasingly being used for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications.
5. Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence has made rapid advances in the last decade, due to new algorithms and massive increases in data collection and computing power.
6. Pocket Supercomputers for Everyone: By 2020, 80% of adults on earth will have an internet-connected smartphone. An iPhone 6 has about 2 billion transistors, roughly 625 times more transistors than a 1995 Intel Pentium computer. Today's smartphones are what used to be considered supercomputers.
7. Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains: Protocols are the plumbing of the internet. Most of the protocols we use today were developed decades ago by academia and government. Since then, protocol development mostly stopped as energy shifted to developing proprietary systems like social networks and messaging apps. Cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies are changing this by providing a new business model for internet protocols. This year alone, hundreds of millions of dollars were raised for a broad range of innovative blockchain-based protocols.
8. High-Quality Online Education: While college tuition skyrockets, anyone with a smartphone can study almost any topic online, accessing educational content that is mostly free and increasingly high-quality.
9. Better Food through Science: Earth is running out of farmable land and fresh water. This is partly because our food production systems are incredibly inefficient. It takes an astounding 1799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. Fortunately, a variety of new technologies are being developed to improve our food system.
10. Computerized Medicine: Until recently, computers have only been at the periphery of medicine, used primarily for research and record keeping. Today, the combination of computer science and medicine is leading to a variety of breakthroughs.
11. A New Space Age: Since the beginning of the space age in the 1950s, the vast majority of space funding has come from governments. But that funding has been in decline: for example, NASA's budget dropped from about 4.5% of the federal budget in the 1960s to about 0.5% of the federal budget today.

Security

Millions Of Steam Game Keys Stolen After Hacker Breaches Gaming Site (zdnet.com) 68

An anonymous reader writes:A little over nine million keys used to redeem and activate games on the Steam platform were stolen by a hacker who breached a gaming news site last month. The site, DLH.net, provides news, reviews, cheat codes, and forums, was breached on July 31 by an unnamed hacker, whose name isn't known but was also responsible for the Dota 2 forum breach. The site also allows users to share redeemable game keys through its forums, which along with the main site has around 3.3 million unique registered users, according to breach notification site LeakedSource.com, which obtained a copy of the database. A known vulnerability found in older vBulletin forum software, which powers the site's community, allowed the hacker to access the databases. The data stolen from the forum includes full names, usernames, scrambled passwords, email addresses, dates of birth, join dates, avatars, Steam usernames, and user activity data. Facebook access tokens were stolen for those who signed in with their social account.
Facebook

Facebook Teams Up With Unity To Create a Gaming Platform To Rival Steam (betanews.com) 103

Facebook is now shifting its attention back to capturing the gaming market. The company said Thursday that it's working with game engine Unity to build a dedicated, downloadable desktop gaming platform. The social juggernaut added that it is also broadening the Facebook.com experience for gamers. BetaNews reports: Facebook is starting to take gaming far more seriously. Not content with funneling the likes of Candy Crush through its servers, the social network is now joining forces with the company behind the Unity game engine to create its own desktop gaming platform. The aim is to tap into not only the millions of gamers that are already on Facebook, but also to gather more from the PC-gaming community. It's a new venture that very clearly treads on the toes of Steam, and is likely to cause ripples in the gaming world. The scope of the work between Facebook and Unity Technologies is quite wide. It will bring together Unity's 2D, 3D, VR and AR development platform with Facebook's own game development tools. While Facebook is currently associated with very casual gaming, hooking up with an established serious player in the field means we're likely to see the social network appealing more to hardcore gamers.
Businesses

WSJ: Facebook's Point System Fails To Close Diversity Gap 414

theodp writes: Gizmodo and others are picking up on a Wall Street Journal story (Warning: may be paywalled) which reported that Facebook's failure to move the needle on diversity is all the more surprising because the social network awarded Facebook recruiters double points for a "diversity hire" -- a female, Black, or Hispanic engineer -- compared to the hire of a White or Asian male. Facebook declined to comment on whether this points-based system is still in effect. The WSJ also notes that Intel has paid its employees double referral bonuses for women, minorities, and veterans. The reward schemes evoke memories of gender-based (and later race-based) incentives offered for K-12 coding and STEM programs run by tech-backed Code.org (to which Facebook just pledged $15 million) and Google, which offered lower funding or no funding at all to teachers if participation by female students was deemed unacceptable to the sponsoring organizations. Facebook's efforts also seem consistent with the tech-backed Every Student Succeeds Act, which calls for increasing CS and STEM access to address a tech-declared national crisis, but only "for students through grade 12 who are members of groups underrepresented in such subject fields, such as female students, minority students, English learners, children with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students." Hey, sometimes "every" doesn't mean "every!"
Facebook

Your Political Facebook Posts Aren't Changing How Your Friends Think (qz.com) 399

An anonymous reader writes:It may be hard to resist airing political grievances or appealing to voters on social media during a U.S. presidential race as heated as this one. But no one wants to hear about your politics, least of all on Facebook. Those long rants about how Trump is a bully and a buffoon, Hillary is a crook, and conspiring against Bernie Sanders has doomed America forever aren't changing voters' minds, a new study found. A staggering 94% of Republicans, 92% of Democrats, and 85% of independents on Facebook say they have never been swayed by a political post, according to Rantic, a firm that sells social media followers. The firm surveyed 10,000 Facebook users who self-identified as Republicans, Democrats, or independents. The only thing those opinionated election posts are doing is damaging your friendships. Nearly one-third of Facebook users surveyed said social media is not an appropriate forum for political discussions. And respondents from each political affiliation admitted they've un-friended people on Facebook because of their political posts.
Social Networks

Metropolitan Police To Target Online Hate Crime and Abuse (bbc.com) 161

A new team of specialist police officers is being set up to investigate online hate crimes, including abuse on Twitter and Facebook. The London-based hub will include a team of five officers who will support victims and identify online abuse, reports BBC. From the report: The two-year pilot will cost 1.7m pound and has received 452,000 pound from the Home Office, the London Mayor's office said. A spokesman said there was "no place for hate" in London and there would be a "zero tolerance" of online abuse. The team, which will be set up in the coming months, will identify the location of crimes and allocate them to the appropriate force. They will work with a team of volunteers. The Mayor's Office for Policing And Crime (Mopac) said social media "provides hate crime perpetrators with a veil of anonymity, making it harder to bring them to justice and potentially impacting on a larger number of people".
Security

EU Plans To Extend Some Telecom Rules To Web-Based Providers (reuters.com) 25

The European Union is planning to extend telecom rules covering security and confidentiality of communications to web services such as Microsoft's Skype and Facebook's WhatsApp which could restrict how they use encryption, reports Reuters. From the report: The rules currently only apply to telecoms providers such as Vodafone and Orange. According to an internal European Commission document seen by Reuters, the EU executive wants to extend some of the rules to web companies offering calls and messages over the Internet. Telecoms companies have long complained that web groups such as Alphabet Inc's Google, Microsoft and Facebook are more lightly regulated despite offering similar services and have called for the EU's telecoms-specific rules to be repealed. They have also said that companies such as Google and Facebook can make money from the use of customer data. Under the existing "ePrivacy Directive", telecoms operators have to protect users' communications and ensure the security of their networks and may not keep customers' location and traffic data.Reuters adds that the exact confidentiality obligations for web firms would still have to be defined.
Privacy

First Confirmed Prism Surveillance Target Was Democracy Activist (fortune.com) 110

A new report by Television New Zealand in collaboration with The Intercept, based on leaks of former U.S. National Security Agency worker Edward Snowden has for the first time named a target of the NSA's controversial Prism program. The target was a middle-aged civil servant and pro-democracy activist named Tony Fullman. Fullman, who is originally from Fiji but has lived in New Zealand for decades, is an advocate for democracy in Fiji and a critic of Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama, who took power in a 2006 coup. From a Fortune report: According to The Intercept, the NSA in 2012 monitored Fullman's communications through the Prism program and passed on information to the New Zealand intelligence services. Around the same time, the New Zealand authorities raided Fullman's home and revoked his passport. The New Zealand intelligence services were not themselves allowed to spy on Fullman, who was a New Zealand citizen. However, as Snowden has repeatedly described, the agencies of many Anglophone countries spy on each other's behalf, in order to bypass their national legal restrictions. Fullman suggested in the article that people in the group may well have said violent things about Bainimarama, but this was just venting, not a plot. According to the report, they never suspected someone was listening into their communications. The NSA was said to be helping by analyzing Fullman's Facebook and Gmail activities. The 190 pages of intercepted documentation seen by The Intercept apparently didn't reveal evidence of a plot.
Education

Billionaire Launches Free Code College in California (arstechnica.com) 187

Xavier Niel is the billionaire founder of France's second-largest ISP. In February he bought a former campus from DeVry University, and tried building something better. Slashdot reader bheerssen writes: 42 US is a free coding school near Facebook's headquarters in Fremont, California. The courses are boot camp like experiences that do not offer traditional degrees, but hope to provide programming skills and experience to students for free.
Ars Technica calls it "a radical education experiment" -- even the dorms are free -- and the school's COO describes their ambition to become a place "where individuals from all different kinds of backgrounds, all different kinds of financial backgrounds, can come and have access to this kind of education so that then we can have new kinds of ideas." Students between the ages of 18 and 30 are screened through an online logic test, according to the article, then tossed into a month-long "sink or swim" program that begins with C. "Students spend 12 or more hours per day, six to seven days per week. If they do well, students are invited back to a three- to five-year program with increasing levels of specialty."
Businesses

Tech Giants Sign Pledge With World Wildlife Fund To Prevent Wildlife Trading (mashable.com) 27

Kerry Flynn, writing for Mashable: Looking to buy an elephant tusk on eBay? Might not be so easy. The e-commerce giant, along with Etsy, Gumtree, Microsoft, Pinterest, Tencent and Yahoo, have signed on to a new commitment to prevent the sale of illegal wildlife products on their services. The initiative is in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and TRAFFIC, and was announced Friday to coincide with World Elephant Day. Under the new policy, companies are seeking to prohibit the sale of wild live animals and animal body parts that are sourced illegally, species that are threatened by extinction and other protected animals. That includes rhino horns, pangolin parts and turtle meat. It's the first time that conservation organizations have partnered with multiple tech companies. Prior, the WWF, for example, has worked with other organizations individually.Recently, the Indian government had accused several tech companies including Amazon of "selling" rare animals and their parts.
Advertising

Facebook Rolls Out Code To Nullify Adblock Plus' Workaround (techcrunch.com) 426

An anonymous reader writes: The Wall Street Journal issued a report Tuesday that said Facebook will begin forcing ads to appear for all users of its desktop site, even if they use ad-blocking software. Adblock Plus, the most popular ad-blocking software, opposed Facebook's plan and found a workaround to Facebook's revision two days later. Now, TechCrunch is reporting that Facebook is well aware of Adblock Plus' workaround and their "plan to address the issue" is coming quick. "A source close to Facebook tells [TechCrunch] that today possibly within hours, the company will push an update to its site's code that will nullify Adblock Plus' workaround," reports TechCrunch. "Apparently it took two days for Adblock Plus to come up with the workaround, and only a fraction of that time for Facebook to disable it." An update on their site says, "A source says Facebook is now rolling out the code update that will disable Adblock Plus' workaround. It should reach all users soon."

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