Apple recently rolled out its highly anticipated App Tracking Transparency feature with iOS 14.5, which lets users decide whether apps track their activity for targeted advertising. Overwhelmingly, users seem happy to leave app tracking disabled. Just 4% of iPhone users in the U.S. have agreed to app tracking after updating their device, according to the latest data from Verizon-owned analytics firm Flurry.
Worldwide, that figure jumps to 12%, a healthy increase but one that still doesn’t spell great news for companies like Facebook that sell targeting to advertisers by hoovering up user data. With iOS 14.5, if a user has app tracking requests enabled, then whenever they download or update an app, it has to ask permission before it can track their activity. And it’s clear most users are saying: “Nah.”
Users who want to turn off tracking altogether without rejecting permissions for each app individually can toggle “Allow Apps to Request Track” in the iPhone’s privacy settings. Since the update launched on April 26, Flurry’s data shows that, on average, about 3% of U.S. iOS users and 5% of international iOS users have restricted app tracking.
Flurry based its findings on a sample size of 2.5 million daily mobile active users with iOS 14.5 in the U.S. and a sample size of 5.3 million such users worldwide. According to the company, its analytics tool is installed in more than 1 million mobile applications and it aggregates data from about 2 billion devices per month.
As a vocal opponent of Apple’s new feature, Facebook has launched a sweeping fearmongering campaign to convince users that these privacy measures are, in fact, a bad thing. Facebook took out multiple full-page ads arguing that Apple’s feature will devastate small businesses that rely on its ad targeting services and warning that many free sites may have to start charging users money for subscriptions or in-app purchases. Other tech giants like Snapchat, Google, and Twitter have also said that, if the majority of users decide to forego app tracking, it will likely affect their bottom line.
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Granted, this data is just our first glimpse at the response from users. iOS 14.5 has only been out for a little less than two weeks, and, given more time, we’ll likely gain a better understanding of the average number of users opting-in or opting-out of app tracking. But one thing’s crystal clear: People value their privacy. And if that means missing out on a few personalized ads, well, plenty of folks seem happy to make that sacrifice.
America may have to wait another six months to find out whether Facebook has the capacity to make a good decision.
On Wednesday, Facebook’s Oversight Board announced that it would uphold the social media network’s decision to suspend Donald Trump from its main site and Instagram after he rallied his supporters to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6 in a failed effort to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race. It also ruled that when Facebook announced Trump would be banned “indefinitely” and punted the final decision on whether it would become permanent to the board, it was just arbitrarily making shit up.
“The Board has upheld Facebook’s decision on January 7, 2021, to restrict then-President Donald Trump’s access to posting content on his Facebook page and Instagram account,” the board wrote in its decision. “However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.”
“The Board found that the two posts by Mr. Trump on January 6 severely violated Facebook’s Community Standards and Instagram’s Community Guidelines,” the board continued. “‘We love you. You’re very special’ in the first post and ‘great patriots’ and ‘remember this day forever’ in the second post violated Facebook’s rules prohibiting praise or support of people engaged in violence. … The Board found that, in maintaining an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud and persistent calls to action, Mr. Trump created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible.”
“Given the seriousness of the violations and the ongoing risk of violence, Facebook was justified in suspending Mr. Trump’s accounts on January 6 and extending that suspension on January 7,” they added. “…[But] it is not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored… In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities.”
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The board then told Facebook that within six months, it must revisit the matter and either make Trump’s ban permanent themselves or release his account. They wrote the final determination “must be based on the gravity of the violation and the prospect of future harm” and “be consistent with Facebook’s rules for severe violations, which must, in turn, be clear, necessary and proportionate.”
Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account.
The Oversight Board, depending on who one asks, is either an independent body made up of academics, lawyers, politicians, and free speech activists with the ability to review and overrule virtually any of Facebook’s moderation decisions, including when Facebook rules in favor of the person who posted the contested content—or it’s an exercise in thinly veiled corporate obfuscation designed to add a patina of legitimacy to the company’s decisions. (Don’t blame us; blame the Oversight Board!) The board issued its first set of rulings in January, but the board took months to reach a conclusion as to whether our former carbuncle-in-chief’s use of Facebook to try and incite a coup, albeit a really shitty one, violated the site’s rules despite it clearly having done so.
Cori Crider, a director at Foxglove, a non-profit that works with Facebook content moderators around the world, told Gizmodo via email that the Oversight Board served to distract from Facebook’s broken moderation system and the grueling conditions that the army of contractors who man it labors under. Crider said absorbing the real cost of providing adequate “staff, pay, and mental health support” to keep Facebook would be transformative for the company, which is why they’ve done everything in their power to avoid doing it.
“Facebook is desperately hoping we’ll all pay attention to its shiny Oversight Board and ignore the real issue–content moderation on Facebook is totally broken,” Crider wrote. “It’s mostly done not by this Board but in digital sweatshops, and they don’t want to spend the money to fix it.”
“Today’s decision about Donald Trump is just one of thousands of similar decisions that get made every day with far less fanfare by underpaid, outsourced content moderators,” Crider wrote. “But instead of a plummy title and a six-figure stipend, the real content moderators are kept in working conditions that give lots of them PTSD. Facebook refuses to hire them, even though they’re the very heart of the business. And this lackadaisical approach to industrial-scale content moderation hasn’t been remotely enough to stop Facebook being a river of hate, lies, and violence.”
“… Moderators have real insight into the spread of lies and violence on Facebook, but when they try to suggest changes or report issues up, it’s like talking to a brick wall. Zuck ought to listen to their views,” Crider added. “I’d also invite all the Oversight Board members, if they’re really concerned about the health of the global public square, to sit in a Facebook moderator’s shoes for a week and grapple with the violence and hate and child abuse themselves. It would open their eyes to what Facebook really is – and lead to them calling for their colleagues to be given a fairer shake.”
Trump was always more concerned with the ban on @realDonaldTrump, his now-defunct Twitter account where he could more directly influence or at least try to piss off the droves of media and political elites on the platform. His account peaked at nearly 89 million followers before the kill date in January. Trump went so far as to continue posting via a series of alts including his campaign account, which was banned too. He’s seemed less eager about Facebook, where he has just shy of 33 million followers and an additional 24 million on Instagram, despite the site fueling a vast, servile right-wing digital media ecosystem that relentlessly promoted his presidency, filled his coffers, and ginned up the manpower for the Jan. 6 riot. He did briefly attempt to evade the ban by livestreaming via daughter-in-law Lara Trump’s account, though that attempt was aborted after Facebook warned workarounds wouldn’t pass scrutiny.
While Wednesday’s decision does uphold Facebook’s original decision to suspend access to Trump’s account, it could also be read as giving Facebook up to another six months to make up its mind after seeing which way the winds are blowing. Conservatives went into virtual apoplexy when Trump got banned from both sites, neutering his social media presence overnight. They’re bound to be just as displeased about the Oversight Board’s decision, which puts a capstone on four years of Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg bending over backwards to please Republican politicians and pundits who went on to vitriolically criticize the site anyhow.
Now will start another era of Facebook doing exactly that, just in a slightly different manner with vaguely different rhetoric and with or without Trump. The system works!
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Facebook hopes to launch a trial of its long-stalled digital currency project by the end of this year, according to a new report from CNBC. The currency, first announced in 2019 as Libra and then renamed Diem after some bad publicity, will now be pegged to the U.S. dollar, provided the tech giant can actually get it off the ground this time.
Facebook first announced plans for the digital currency in June of 2019 and was hit with immediate backlash from governments and consumer groups around the world that worried what would happen if a huge tech monopoly like Facebook competed with the world’s largest currencies. Facebook has roughly 2.8 billion active users on a planet of 7.9 billion people.
Facebook’s plan in 2019 was to launch the “blockchain” currency by early 2020, something that obviously didn’t happen after the tech company’s partner organizations like PayPal and eBay started to pull out after the wave of negative press.
But CNBC, and whoever leaked this Facebook news to the financial outlet, seem to hint that Facebook is taking a much more cautious approach this time, even if details are still extremely scarce.
The Diem Association, the Switzerland-based nonprofit which oversees diem’s development, is aiming to launch a pilot with a single stablecoin pegged to the U.S. dollar in 2021, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The person, who preferred to remain anonymous as the details haven’t yet been made public, said this pilot will be small in scale, focusing largely on transactions between individual consumers. There may also be an option for users to buy goods and purchases, the person added. However, there is no confirmed date for the launch and timing could therefore change.
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What the hell is the Diem Association? It appears to be the next iteration of the Calibra Association, the supposedly independent organization set up by Facebook to oversee the currency back when it was called Libra.
When reached for comment about the CNBC story, Facebook’s Head of Communications for Australia, Antonia Sanda told Gizmodo by email, “looks like this could be a leak as there are no official announcements from the Diem site, but I’ll leave that for the Diem team to confirm.”
Sanda provided Diem’s email address and wrote, “We now send all media queries direct to the Diem organisation, as it is separate from FB […] if you’d like to contact their team direct.” Gizmodo has not yet heard back from Diem but will update this post if we do.
Governments around the world are setting up committees and task forces to examine the pros and cons of creating their own digital currencies, with China, Japan, and the UK announcing their own explorations in recent months. And it’s no secret that cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether have gained traction in recent years, with large companies like PayPal starting to get in on the action. PayPal announced last month it was launching a way for consumers to pay using cryptocurrencies at millions of retailers, handing the merchant fiat during the transaction.
But will Facebook’s digital currency flourish after already experiencing one very embarrassing false start? Only time will tell. But you can bet that government regulators will be keeping a close eye on Facebook’s plans for the future of money, especially since most world leaders think CEO Mark Zuckerberg already has too much power.
Congressman Brad Sherman even told Zuck in a July 2019 hearing that his new digital currency—which Sherman mockingly called “Zuck Bucks”—could cause the next 9/11, apparently referring to the possibility that criminals would use Facebook’s new currency for illegal activities. And when that’s your starting point of conversation with politicians who could help decide the fate of your new business idea, it’s tough to see it getting very far.
Hacked data on over 553 million Facebook users was leaked online over the weekend, including names, birthdates, a Facebook user’s relationship status, the city where they live, their workplace, and sometimes even email addresses. But the most sensitive data included in the leak is arguably the phone numbers, which are often used for two-factor authentication. And now there’s a way to easily check if your phone number is in the leak—at least if you live in the U.S.
The website The News Each Day has a simple tool where you can input your phone number and see if it’s in the leak. Gizmodo tested the tool against some data from the actual Facebook leak and found it to be accurate. For example, we tested Mark Zuckerberg’s phone number, which is included in the leak. It worked. (We assume Zuck has changed his phone number by now.)
If you’re willing to risk handing over your phone number, all you need to do to check is input your phone number without any hyphens or periods. You also need to include the international country code at the beginning. For example, if you’re used to seeing your phone number in this form, 555-212-0000, you should get rid of the hyphens and add the digit “one” in front.
Using the same fake number above, the number you input should look like this: 15552120000. If you include a variation that’s anything but the string of numbers, the tool will falsely tell you that your number is not included in the leak. In reality, it very well could be.
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Facebook hasn’t said much about the leak, except that the info was hacked in 2019. The data was offered in hacking forums for a price two years ago, but the thing that makes this weekend’s leak different is that the data has now been leaked for free. Anyone can find the 16GB of data with just a simple Google search.
Update 12pm ET, April 5: HaveIBeenPwned has updated its database to include the Facebook leak. Use that tool if you’re sketched out by The News Each Day tool.
Facebook has launched a tool in partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital to help people find covid-19 vaccine appointments, according to a press release from the social media company early Monday. The tool only works in the U.S. right now, but Facebook says it hopes to roll out the vaccine finder in more regions as the coronavirus inoculations become more widely available.
Users can visit Facebook’s Covid-19 Vaccine Info Center where they’ll be able to see hours of operation for locations with the vaccine, along with contact info and links online to make an appointment to get the jab. The Facebook tool is available in 71 different languages so far, according to the company.
“Today we’re launching a global campaign to help bring 50 million people a step closer to getting Covid-19 vaccines,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post overnight.
“We’ve already connected over 2 billion people to authoritative Covid-19 information,” Zuckerberg continued. “Now that many countries are moving towards vaccinations for all adults, we’re working on tools to make it easier for everyone to get vaccinated as well.”
And while Zuck is correct that Facebook has started providing more authoritative covid-19 information in recent months, conspiracy theories about vaccines, among plenty of other things, found a safe home at Facebook for far too long—especially in private groups.
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Over 100 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. as of this past weekend, a remarkable achievement that should give Americans some sense of relief, however reserved. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
What happens if you don’t use Facebook but still want to find an appointment to get the vaccine? The good news is that Facebook’s tool is simply built on top of an existing tool that’s already available online called VaccineFinder, which is available at VaccineFinder.org. The tool was developed by the CDC, Harvard Medical School, and Boston Children’s Hospital, along with other health care partners.
To be clear, pointing out that the tool already exists is not to discount or belittle Facebook’s actions today. For some people, Facebook is the entire internet and anything that helps get more people vaccinated is certainly a good thing.
But it’s also helpful that this isn’t a tool that can only be accessed through Facebook. Plenty of people have jumped ship from Facebook in recent years following a multitude of privacy concerns with the platform. And the last thing we need is for Facebook to build proprietary public health tools that can only be accessed if you have a Facebook account.