New York, Feb 01 (AP/UNB) — Facebook says Apple is restoring its access to a key development tool that the iPhone maker disabled Wednesday.
Late Tuesday, TechCrunch reported that Facebook paid teens and other users who agreed to download an app called Facebook Research. That app could extensively track their phone and web use. Apple said Facebook was abusing the tool , known as a developer enterprise certificate, to distribute the app on iPhones in a way that allowed the social network to sidestep Apple restrictions on data collection.
By revoking the certificate for the iOS software that powers the iPhone and iPad, Apple closed off Facebook's efforts to sidestep Apple's app store and its tighter rules on privacy.
Apple did not immediately respond to a message for comment Thursday afternoon. Facebook did not say whether it agreed to any conditions for the certificate restoration.
In an internal memo sent on Wednesday, Facebook told employees it is "working closely" with Apple to reinstate access. It also told workers to install the public versions of apps from the app store. Apps that it said "may not work" included internal versions of Facebook, Workplace, Instagram and the Ride app, which helps workers with transportation. WhatsApp was not affected.
While Facebook engineers could still write code and work on iPhone apps during the shutoff, their ability to test them in the field was limited.
In a statement, Facebook said it is "in the process of getting our internal apps up and running." The company noted that the issue had no impact on its consumer services.
During the shutoff, Facebook also lost the ability to create and push out iPhone apps such as internal tools and apps to its own employees. That's a big deal since Facebook publishes tools and future products to its own team to test before providing them to the public, said Marty Puranik, CEO and founder of cloud hosting company Atlantic.Net.
Puranik, who regularly works with developers, said the certificate revocation also meant developers lost the ability to publish their iPhone apps without vetting by Apple. Those in the program can skip Apple's compliance and user safety checks, which leads to faster updates.
Still, the shutoff didn't seem to debilitate Facebook's ability to work. Its developers work on code on Facebook's internal systems. And version 206.0 of the Facebook app for iPhones was sent out on Thursday morning, while the shutoff was still in effect.
Google said Thursday that Apple has also revoked its enterprise certificate, blocking Google employees from testing new app features on iPhones.
But the company seemed confident it would quickly regain its access. "We're working with Apple to fix a temporary disruption to some of our corporate iOS apps, which we expect will be resolved soon," the company said in a statement.
Google declined to say why it lost the certificate, but came a day after the company voluntarily withdrew market-research app called "Screenwise Meter" that had been distributed to consumers, although not to teens.
Google and Apple have a lucrative business relationship worth billions of dollars a year, since Googles pays a commission for the ads that it sells as the built-in search engine on iPhones.
New York, Feb 01 (AP/UNB) — Facebook says it has removed 783 Iran-linked pages, accounts and groups from its service for what it calls "coordinated inauthentic behavior." That's the social network's term for fake accounts run with the intent of disrupting politics and elections.
Facebook has been disclosing such purges more regularly in recent months, including ones linked to groups in Myanmar , Bangladesh and Russia .
The accounts on Facebook and Instagram typically misrepresented themselves as locals in more than two dozen countries ranging from Afghanistan, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
Facebook said Thursday the accounts spent about $30,000 on advertisements, paid for in U.S. dollars, British pounds, Canadian dollars and euros.
The company said Twitter helped its investigation by sharing information about suspicious activity it found on its own service. The companies, along with others in the tech industry, have been cooperating more when it comes to such account takedowns by sharing information.
Such cooperation can help the companies avoid regulatory scrutiny by showing critics and lawmakers that they can set aside differences when it comes to battling outside threats that affect their users.
The latest removed accounts, Facebook said, typically represented themselves as locals in various countries, often using fake accounts and posting news stories on current events. This included using stories from Iranian state media about conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
Dhaka, Jan 26 (UNB) - Facebook plans to integrate its messaging services on Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, reports BBC.
While all three will remain stand-alone apps, at a much deeper level they will be linked so messages can travel between the different services.
Facebook told the BBC it was at the start of a "long process".
The plan was first reported in the New York Times and is believed to be a personal project of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Once complete, the merger would mean that a Facebook user could communicate directly with someone who only has a WhatsApp account. This is currently impossible as the applications have no common core.
The work to merge the three elements has already begun, reported the NYT, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2019 or early next year.
Facebook probably didn't want to talk about this in the middle of a privacy scandal, but its hand was forced by insiders talking to the New York Times.
Until now, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger have been run as separate and competing products.
Integrating the messaging parts might simplify Facebook's work. It wouldn't need to develop competing versions of new features, such as Stories, which all three apps have added with inconsistent results.
Cross-platform messaging may also lead the way for businesses on one platform to message potential customers on another.
And it might make it easier for Facebook to share data across the three platforms, to help its targeted advertising efforts.
But bigger still: it makes Facebook's suite of apps a much tighter, interwoven collection of services. That could make the key parts of Facebook's empire more difficult to break up and spin off, if governments and regulators decide that is necessary.
Mr Zuckerberg is reportedly pushing the integration plan to make its trinity of services more useful and increase the amount of time people spend on them.
By effectively joining all its users into one massive group Facebook could compete more effectively with Google's messaging services and Apple's iMessage, suggested Makena Kelly on tech news site The Verge.
"We want to build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private," said Facebook in a statement.
"We're working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks," it added.
The statement said there was a lot of "discussion and debate" about how the system would eventually work.
Linking the three systems marks a significant change at Facebook as before now it has let Instagram and WhatsApp operate as largely independent companies.
The NYT claimed that Mr Zuckerberg's championing of the plan to connect the messaging system had caused "internal strife". It was part of the reason that the founders of both Instagram and WhatsApp left last year.
The decision comes as Facebook faces repeated investigations and criticisms over the way it has handled and safeguarded user data.
Comprehensively linking user data at a fundamental level may prompt regulators to take another look at its data handling practices.
The UK's Information Commissioner has already conducted investigations into how much data is shared between WhatsApp and Facebook.
San Francisco, Jan 26 (AP/UNB) — Facebook allowed children to rack up huge bills on digital games while the company rejected recommendations for addressing what it dubbed "friendly fraud," according to newly released court documents.
The internal Facebook memos and other records were unsealed late Thursday to comply with a judge's order in a federal court case settled in 2016.
The lawsuit, filed in San Jose, California, centered on allegations that Facebook knowingly milked teenagers by permitting them to spend hundreds of dollars buying additional features on games such as "Angry Birds" and "Barn Buddy" without their parents' consent.
The documents show Facebook considered measures to reduce the chances of kids running up charges on parents' credit cards without their knowledge. But the company didn't adopt them for fear of undercutting the revenue growth that helps boost the company's stock price — and its employees' compensation.
The internal debate about how to address the recurring problem of kids spending big bucks behind their parents' backs occurred from 2010 and 2014 — a period that included Facebook's stock market debut in 2012. After going public at $38 per share, Facebook's stock plummeted by 50 percent, intensifying the pressure on CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his management team to bring in more revenue.
None of the unsealed records, however, directly tie Facebook's tolerance of "friendly fraud" to concerns about its slumping stock price during parts of 2012 and 2013.
A Facebook statement didn't address its rejection of the recommendations. Instead, it said the company has offered refunds and changed its practices.
"We routinely examine our own practices, and in 2016 agreed to update our terms and provide dedicated resources for refund requests related to purchases made by minors on Facebook," the Menlo Park, California, company said in a statement Friday.
Facebook isn't the only prominent technology company that has been skewered for profiting from game-loving children who don't always understand how much of their parents' money they are spending while playing games in apps or websites.
Apple agreed to issue $32.5 million in refunds for allowing kids to make in-app purchases without parental consent as part of a 2014 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. That same year, Google settled a similar case for $19 million with the same agency. In 2017, Amazon resolved another case involving up to $70 million in potential refunds owed for kids' unauthorized spending on games.
But none of those companies had their dirty laundry aired quite like Facebook is now in a case that it thought it had closed a few years ago. The unflattering documents are emerging after the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting sought their release and U.S. District Judge Beth Freeman granted it.
To make matters worse for Facebook, the documents are coming out at a time when it is trying to repair the damage done to its reputation over the past 10 months from a scandal involving the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, and other debacles.
Facebook released the "friendly fraud" documents just as the Wall Street Journal was publishing an op-ed piece by Zuckerberg defending the company's integrity and business principles.
But some of the information unsealed in the court case painted a picture of a predatory company.
In a 2013 discussion between two of the company's employees, a 15-year-old Facebook user who had spent about $6,500 playing games is described as a "whale" — a term that gambling casinos use to describe people who make them a lot of money. The company decided to refuse a refund request from the teenager's parents.
The documents also disclosed that some Facebook employees had proposed requiring minors and people over 90 years old to provide the first six digits of the credit card accounts before allowing purchase as a way to reduce unauthorized spending. But Facebook management decided against requiring that additional information because it might also discourage users outside those age ranges from spending, too.
San Bruno, Jan 26 (AP/UNB) — If you believe the world is flat, don't count on YouTube recommending videos supporting your theory.
That's because YouTube is promising to stop promoting so many sensationalistic clips that revolve around scientifically proven falsehoods and other suspect information, such as conspiracy theories revolving around the U.S. government's involvement in the 9/11 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York.
YouTube, part of Google, announced its de-emphasis on misleading videos Friday. It's the latest example of a widely used digital service trying to stop the spread of misinformation as lawmakers scrutinize the role that technology companies play in distributing potentially toxic propaganda. Both Facebook and Twitter are trying to take similar steps.
The misleading videos will remain on YouTube, even after they are phased out from its recommendation list.