Category: Technology

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Media captionCambridge Analytica: What we know so far

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has admitted that the social network “made mistakes” that led to millions of Facebook users having their data exploited by a political consultancy.

Cambridge Analytica is accused of improperly using the data on behalf of political clients.

In a statement, Mr Zuckerberg said a “breach of trust” had occurred.

In a later interview with CNN he said he was “really sorry”, and pledged to take action against “rogue apps”.

He added that he was “happy” to testify before Congress “if it’s the right thing to do”.

In his statement posted on Facebook, he promised to make it far harder for apps to “harvest” user information.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Mr Zuckerberg said.

What has Zuckerberg pledged to do?

To address current and past problems, Mr Zuckerberg said his company would:

  • investigate all Facebook apps that had access to large amounts of information before the platform was changed “to dramatically reduce data access” in 2014
  • conduct a “full forensic audit” of any app with suspicious activity
  • ban any developer that did not agree to a thorough audit
  • ban developers that had misused personally identifiable information, and “tell everyone affected by those apps”

In future, he said Facebook would:

  • restrict developers’ data access “even further” to prevent other kinds of abuse
  • remove developers’ access to a user’s data if the user hadn’t activated the developer’s app for three months
  • reduce the data that users give an app when they sign in to just name, profile photo, and email address
  • require developers to obtain approval and also sign a contract in order to ask anyone for access to their posts or other private data

Mr Zuckerberg added: “While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn’t change what happened in the past.

“We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward.”

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Media captionMark Zuckerberg in 2009: Facebook privacy is central

‘Legal defence’

Analysis by Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, at Facebook’s headquarters

I read one thing loud and clear from Mr Zuckerberg’s initial statement: Facebook is not prepared to take the blame for what has happened.

Contrition has never been Mr Zuckerberg’s strong point, and the statement, days in the making, was no different.

No apology to users, investors or staff over how this incident was allowed to happen by the data policies in place at the time.

No explanation as to why, after learning its data was being abused like this in 2014, it opted to give the companies a telling off instead of banning them outright.

No reasoning as to why Facebook failed to inform users their data may have been affected. Technically, it still hasn’t.

Mr Zuckerberg’s words were not an explanation, but a legal and political defence. This company knows it is heading into battle on multiple fronts.


What is the row about?

In 2014, Facebook invited users to find out their personality type via a quiz developed by Cambridge University researcher Dr Aleksandr Kogan called This is Your Digital Life.

About 270,000 users’ data was collected, but the app also collected some public data from users’ friends.

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Media captionFormer Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie says the firm planted fake news

Facebook has since changed the amount of data developers can gather in this way, but a whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, says the data of about 50 million people was harvested for Cambridge Analytica before the rules on user consent were tightened up.

Mr Wylie claims the data was sold to Cambridge Analytica – which has no connection with Cambridge University – which then used it to psychologically profile people and deliver pro-Trump material to them.

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Media captionTuesday’s broadcast showed Mr Nix saying he met Donald Trump ‘many times’

The firm’s chief executive, Alexander Nix – who was suspended on Tuesday – was secretly recorded in a Channel 4 investigation saying the London-based company ran Donald Trump’s digital campaign during the 2016 US election.

“We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy,” he added.

Dr Kogan has said he was told by Cambridge Analytica everything they had done was legal, and that he was being made a “scapegoat” by the firm and Facebook.

How has Cambridge Analytica responded?

Cambridge Analytica denies any wrongdoing.

Facebook says users’ data was obtained legitimately but Cambridge Analytica failed to delete it when told to do so.

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Media captionMr Nix spoke to BBC Newsnight before the Channel 4 report was aired on Monday night. He declined to be interviewed after the undercover footage was broadcast

For its part, Cambridge Analytica says it did delete the data when told to by Facebook.

It suspended Mr Nix following his comments which appeared to suggest tactics his company could use to discredit politicians online.

However, the firm said the report of comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 News had “grossly misrepresented” Mr Nix’s comments.

What investigations are under way?

US senators have called on Mr Zuckerberg to testify before Congress about how his company will protect users, while consumer watchdog the US Federal Trade Commission has reportedly opened an investigation into Facebook.

The head of the European Parliament also said it would investigate to see if the data was misused.

  • Facebook boss summoned over data claims
  • India takes down Cambridge Analytica site

The UK’s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham is attempting to obtain a warrant to search the offices of Cambridge Analytica.

Meanwhile, a UK parliamentary committee has called for Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to give evidence about its use of personal data.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-43494337

Humanoid robots will be used as entertainers and in commercial spaces but will not undertake major tasks, according to the director of a company that makes robotic performers.

Most artificial intelligence (AI) does not need a body to work, explains Engineered Arts director Will Jackson, adding that the human body is very hard to replicate and there is much more work to be done.

BBC Click’s Spencer Kelly finds out more.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-43402896

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Media captionAlexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica was filmed by undercover reporters for Channel 4 News

The UK’s Information Commissioner says she will seek a warrant to look at the databases and servers used by British firm Cambridge Analytica.

The London-based company is accused of using the personal data of 50 million Facebook members to influence the US presidential election in 2016.

Its executives have also been filmed by Channel 4 News suggesting it could use honey traps and potentially bribery to discredit politicians.

The company denies any wrongdoing.

Fresh allegations

On Monday broadcast hidden camera footage in which Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix appears to suggest tactics his company could use to discredit politicians online.

In the footage, asked what “deep digging” could be done, Mr Nix told an undercover reporter: “Oh, we do a lot more than that.”

He suggested one way to target an individual was to “offer them a deal that’s too good to be true and make sure that’s video recorded”.

He also said he could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house…” adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”.

Mr Nix continued: “I’m just giving you examples of what can be done and what has been done.

Channel 4 News said its reporter had posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get a political candidate elected in Sri Lanka.

However, Cambridge Analytica said the report had “grossly misrepresented” the conversations caught on camera.

“In playing along with this line of conversation, and partly to spare our ‘client’ from embarrassment, we entertained a series of ludicrous hypothetical scenarios,” the company said in a statement.

“Cambridge Analytica does not condone or engage in entrapment, bribes or so-called ‘honeytraps’,” it said.

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Media captionMr Nix spoke to BBC Newsnight before the Channel 4 report was aired on Monday night. He declined to be interviewed after the undercover footage was broadcast

Mr Nix told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that he regarded the report as a “misrepresentation of the facts” and said he felt the firm had been “deliberately entrapped”.

UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham is investigating Cambridge Analytica over claims it used personal data to influence the US presidential election.

Christopher Wylie, who worked with the company, claimed it amassed the data of millions of people through a personality quiz on Facebook that was created by an academic.

Investigation

Ms Denham demanded access to the firm’s databases and servers after it missed her Monday deadline.

“I’m not accepting their response so therefore I’ll be applying to the court for a warrant,” she told Channel 4.

She said she wanted to understand how data was “processed or deleted by Cambridge Analytica”.

‘Violation’

Cambridge Analytica insists it followed the correct procedures in obtaining and using data, but it was suspended from Facebook last week.

Facebook, meanwhile, will hold an open meeting with its employees later to discuss the matter, tech news website The Verge is reporting.

Facebook said it has hired its own digital forensic team to audit Cambridge Analytica.

“This is part of a comprehensive internal and external review that we are conducting to determine the accuracy of the claims that the Facebook data in question still exists,” the firm said.

  • Facebook’s value falls $37bn amid backlash
  • Zuckerberg pressed to face breach concerns

“If this data still exists, it would be a grave violation of Facebook’s policies and an unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments these groups made.”

Facebook said Aleksandr Kogan, the creator of the personality app from which the data had been harvested, had agreed to be audited, but Mr Wylie – who made the claims about the way the data was gathered and used – had declined.


How to protect your data on Facebook

There are a few things to be aware of if you want to restrict who has access to your data.

  • Keep an eye on apps, especially those which require you to log in using your Facebook account – they often have a very wide range of permissions and many are specifically designed to pick up your data
  • Use an ad blocker to limit advertising
  • Look at your Facebook security settings and make sure you are aware of what is enabled. Check the individual app settings to see whether you have given them permission to view your friends as well as yourself.
  • You can download a copy of the data Facebook holds on you, although it is not comprehensive. There is a download button at the bottom of the General Account Settings tab. However bear in mind that your data may be less secure sitting on your laptop than it is on Facebook’s servers, if your device is hacked.

You can of course, simply leave Facebook, but the campaign group Privacy International warns that privacy concerns extend beyond the social network.

“The current focus is on protecting your data being exploited by third parties, but your data is being exploited all the time,” said a spokeswoman.

“Many apps on your phone will have permission to access location data, your entire phone book and so on. It is just the tip of the iceberg.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-43465700

5G auction bidding starts in UK

Woman holding 5G phoneImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption 5G services are not expected to roll out until 2020

Bidding has begun for the latest chunk of the UK’s airwaves as networks look to kickstart next-generation 5G services and improve existing 4G.

The main four mobile networks will compete with two new players to bid for a share of the newly released spectrum.

It follows months of legal challenges from both EE and Three, which have held up the auction.

The process is expected to last several weeks.

“We’re pressing ahead with the auction to make these airwaves available as quickly as possible,” said Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s spectrum group director, last month.

“This will benefit today’s mobile users by providing more capacity for mobile broadband use. It will also pave the way for 5G, allowing operators to launch the next generation of mobile technology.”

What’s the case for 5G?

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The hype around 5G is largely driven by network equipment makers at the moment

Image caption The hype around 5G is largely driven by network equipment makers at the moment
5G will vastly improve data speeds on phone and tablets but it will also help free up much needed bandwidth to keep billions of devices connected to the web as the internet of things becomes ubiquitous.

It could also help transform cities, allowing driverless cars to communicate with traffic lights and other cars to anticipate traffic conditions and avoid collisions.

As cities rush to embed sensors in street lights, parking spaces and rubbish bins in an effort to make services run more efficient, 5G could help them all communicate with each other.

The first commercial 5G services are expected to launch in 2020, with plenty of trials beforehand.

But the case for 5G services still needs to be made, says Matthew Howett, founder of research firm Assembly.

“Everyone is still unsure of the 5G business model and use cases with the hype largely being driven by those who make the network equipment,” he said.

“Operators still have so much more they can do with their 4G networks and investment is still going into improving the performance and coverage of those.”

5G will work across a number of spectrum bands, so those missing out in this latest auction will still be able to roll out 5G services, he added.

Who is bidding?

Alongside O2, Three, EE and Vodafone, two new players – connectivity firm Connexin Limited and Airspan Spectrum Holdings – will compete for spectrum.

Connexin mostly focuses on two areas of the UK – Hull and Lincolnshire.

Airspan, which has a US parent company, recently purchased a large chunk of Irish mobile spectrum and some believe it has ambitious plans for Europe expansion.

What spectrum is on offer?

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Some airwaves are better suited to mobile services than others

Image caption Some airwaves are better suited to mobile services than others
Spectrum relates to the radio frequencies allocated to the the mobile industry and other sectors for communication over the airwaves. It is a sovereign asset and is overseen in each by the government or a regulatory authority.

Some 40MHz of spectrum within the 2.3GHz band will be available which will allow operators to immediately improve 4G services.

There will also be 150MHz available in the 3.4GHz band, which is not compatible with most current devices but will be used for the rollout of 5G networks.

The combined spectrum will increase the available spectrum for mobile devices in the UK by nearly a third.

Spectrum in these bands is well suited to 5G as it can carry large amounts of data. It was previously used by the Ministry of Defence but has been freed up by the government.

Why the delays?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mobile spectrum is unevenly distributed in the UK

Regulator Ofcom faced separate legal challenges from EE and Three because of its decision to impose a 37% limit on how much spectrum each individual operator can bid for.

Three wanted to see no more than a 30% cap while a counter-action from EE sought to remove the cap altogether.

The disputes have arisen because there is disparity in the amount of mobile spectrum owned by the operators.

  • BT/EE owns 42% of immediately usable UK mobile spectrum
  • Three owns 15%
  • Vodafone owns 29%
  • O2 owns 14%

EE has agreed that it will not bid for spectrum in the 2.3GHz band because it already owns so much and it will only be able to to win a maximum of 85MHz of the 3.4GHz spectrum.

Most experts believe that O2 needs more spectrum the most. If it gets a good amount in the latest auction, the operator could be sold by Spanish owner Telefonica.

How much will it cost?

Ofcom will auction the spectrum in lots, with reserve prices of £10m per 10MHz lot of 2.3GHz spectrum and £1m for a 5MHz block. That sees a combined reserve price of £70m.

The spectrum is expected to be go for a higher price but is unlikely to reach the giddy heights of the 3G auctions, which provided billions to government coffers.

“Naturally all operators will be looking to limit the amount they bid given the reluctance of customers to pay more for faster speeds,” said Mr Howett.

“This auction is certainly unlikely to net as much as the last auction for 4G spectrum, and nowhere remotely close to the eye-watering £22.5bn operators paid for 3G licences almost two decades ago.”

What next?

In the second half of 2019, Ofcom will also auction off spectrum in the 700MHz band, but this will come with a caveat – the need to improve 4G coverage first.

“To ensure widespread improvements in mobile coverage across the UK, we are proposing to attach coverage obligations to some of the licences we will award for the 700 MHz band,” Ofcom said.

“These obligations will require winning bidders to roll out improved mobile coverage in rural areas and the nations.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-43401448

Donald TrumpImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Data gathered from Facebook was used to aid Donald Trump’s election campaign

Politicians in the US, Europe and the UK are calling on Facebook to explain how data on millions of its users was harvested.

US senators have called on Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress about how it will protect users.

The head of the European Parliament said it would investigate to see if the data was misused.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “very concerned” about the revelations.

Over the weekend, the Guardian and the New York Times published stories which alleged that Facebook had not done enough to warn millions of users that data firm Cambridge Analytica had collected information about them.

Facebook blocked Cambridge Analytica’s pages on its network while it investigated claims that the data grabbed by the firm was gathered inappropriately and had not been deleted.

The information was amassed via a personality quiz app created by a Cambridge Analytica subsidiary. The information gathered is believed to have been used to aid Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica both maintain that they have not acted improperly.

Election probe

In addition to calls from US politicians for explanations, Massachusetts’ attorney general said it planned to look into the data grab. Other political figures urged the Federal Trade Commission to probe Facebook to assess how well it safeguarded user data.

Antonio Tajani, who heads the European Parliament, said it wanted to find out if data had been misused. He said Facebook had to take more responsibility for users’ data and added that “allegations of misuse of Facebook user data is an unacceptable violation of our citizens’ privacy rights”.

The European Commission is already believed to have made contact with Facebook about the probe.

The UK Prime Minster’s spokesman echoed this call, saying: “It is essential that people can have confidence that their personal data will be protected and used in an appropriate way.”

The UK’s Information Commissioner said it would consider the information about the data grab as part of a larger probe into whether data culled from social media had been abused in British elections.

Facebook has not yet commented on the growing calls from politicians to explain its actions.

The weekend’s events also prompted widespread criticism in the technology world. Editorials called on Facebook’s leadership to act more decisively and on Tech Crunch, Josh Constine rehearsed Facebook’s controversial decisions and policy changes over the last decade. He said it needed to address problems more comprehensively rather than “drag its feet”.

Stock analyst Brian Wieser from the Pivotal Research Group told Reuters that regulatory oversight of Facebook was likely to get more intense.

“We think this episode is another indication of systemic problems at Facebook,” he said.

The growing chorus of criticism prompted shares in Facebook to drop by more than 7% in early trading.


How to protect your data on Facebook

There are a few things to be aware of if you want to restrict who has access to your data.

  • Keep an eye on apps, especially those which require you to log in using your Facebook account – they often have a very wide range of permissions and many are specifically designed to pick up your data
  • Use an ad blocker to limit advertising
  • Look at your Facebook security settings and make sure you are aware of what is enabled. Check the individual app settings to see whether you have given them permission to view your friends as well as yourself.
  • You can download a copy of the data Facebook holds on you, although it is not comprehensive. There is a download button at the bottom of the General Account Settings tab. However bear in mind that your data may be less secure sitting on your laptop than it is on Facebook’s servers, if your device is hacked.

You can of course, simply leave Facebook, but the campaign group Privacy International warns that privacy concerns extend beyond the social network.

“The current focus is on protecting your data being exploited by third parties, but your data is being exploited all the time,” said a spokeswoman.

“Many apps on your phone will have permission to access location data, your entire phone book and so on. It is just the tip of the iceberg.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-43461865