Facebook Seeking to Exploit Consumer Banking Data

Major corporations are interested primarily in profits, not helping human beings. Since data is clearly one of the most valuable resources in the world today, major corporations trying to obtain consumer banking data represents the corporations trying to further engage in data mining and exploitation.

Apparently not satisfied with access to its users’ call history, text messaging data, and online conversations, Facebook has reportedly asked major Wall Street firms like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo to hand over their customers’ sensitive financial data as part of the social media giant’s ongoing attempt to become “a platform where people buy and sell goods and services.”

And according to the Wall Street Journal—which first reported on Facebook’s plans on Monday—the social media behemoth isn’t the only tech company that wants access to Americans’ financial data. Google and Amazon have also “asked banks to share data if they join with them, in order to provide basic banking services on applications such as Google Assistant and Alexa,” the Journal pointed out, citing anonymous sources familiar with the companies’ ambitions.

Over the past year, Facebook has reached out to some of America’s largest banks to request “detailed financial information about their customers, including card transactions and checking account balances, as part of an effort to offer new services to users,” the Journal notes. “Facebook has told banks that the additional customer information could be used to offer services that might entice users to spend more time on Messenger.”

In response to the Journal‘s reporting, critics of corporate power used the word “dystopian” to describe the push by Facebook, Google, and Amazon for ever-greater access to users’ personal information in a bid to boost profits.

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While Facebook insisted in response to the Journal‘s story that it doesn’t want to use any of this data for advertising purposes or share it with third parties, many pointed out that there is no reason to trust Facebook’s expressed commitment to user privacy, particularly in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other abuses.

Post of Recent Noteworthy Facebook Criticisms

Facebook deserves heavy criticism for allowing the exploitation of data by corporations such as Cambridge Analytica, which — according to the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie — built psychological profiles on 50 million Facebook users in order to “target their inner demons” and wrongly manipulate them with political advertisements. I’ve been critical of Facebook for several years though, and I know much of importance about it that the corporate mass media has missed, such as Facebook’s experiment to manipulate the news feeds of nearly 700,000 users (without their consent) in an attempt to see much it could influence user emotions.

Facebook has also made a selling point to advertisers that it can identify when teenagers are feeling “worthless” and “insecure,” which of course is a widespread teenage vulnerability that allows for exploitation. Facebook has let advertisers discriminate against people by ethnicity before, it has near pointlessly asked victims of revenge porn to send it their nude photos (letting Facebook employees view them and maybe abuse them), and it has supported the recent Cloud Act that allows for significant violations of consumer privacy by police, among many other outrages. While it’s useful that Facebook has helped some people forge meaningful connections, that doesn’t have to come at the high costs of personal exploitation that the corporate has allowed and still allows.

Article: As Feds Launch Probe, Users Discover ‘Horrifying’ Reach of Facebook’s Data Mining

As the fallout from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal continued on Monday with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) announcement that it is conducting a long-overdue probe into the tech giant’s privacy practices, many Facebook users are only now discovering the astonishing and in some cases downright “creepy” reach of the platform’s data-mining operations, which form the foundation of its business model.

After a New Zealand man named Dylan McKay called attention in a viral tweet last week to the alarming fact that Facebook had collected his “entire call history” with his partner’s mother and “metadata about every text message [he’s] ever received or sent,” other Facebook users began downloading their archive of personal data the social media giant had stored and discovered that McKay’s experience was hardly anomalous.

Based on the stories of a number of users who shared their experiences and data, Ars Technica concluded in an explosive report published on Saturday that Facebook has been scraping call and text message data from Android phones “for years.”

While the social media giant insisted in a statement that it only collects such data with permission—which is usually requested during the process of installing particular apps such as Messenger—Ars noted that this claim “contradicts the experience of several users who shared their data,” including McKay.

Other articles that have appeared recently are linked to below here.

South Korea fines Facebook $369K for slowing user internet connections

73% of Canadians to change Facebook habits after data mining furor, survey suggests

More than #DeleteFacebook

Facebook’s Surveillance Machine

No one can pretend Facebook is just harmless fun any more

Ex-Facebook president Sean Parker: site made to exploit human ‘vulnerability’

Cambridge Analytica Files

Facebook Deleting Accounts at the Request of the U.S. and Israeli Government

A dangerous new form of censorship this is.

IN SEPTEMBER OF last year, we noted that Facebook representatives were meeting with the Israeli government to determine which Facebook accounts of Palestinians should be deleted on the ground that they constituted “incitement.” The meetings — called for and presided over by one of the most extremist and authoritarian Israeli officials, pro-settlement Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — came after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country.

The predictable results of those meetings are now clear and well-documented. Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials. Indeed, Israeli officials have been publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders:

Shortly after news broke earlier this month of the agreement between the Israeli government and Facebook, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Tel Aviv had submitted 158 requests to the social media giant over the previous four months asking it to remove content it deemed “incitement.” She said Facebook had granted 95 percent of the requests.

She’s right. The submission to Israeli dictates is hard to overstate: As the New York Times put it in December of last year, “Israeli security agencies monitor Facebook and send the company posts they consider incitement. Facebook has responded by removing most of them.”

What makes this censorship particularly consequential is that “96 percent of Palestinians said their primary use of Facebook was for following news.” That means that Israeli officials have virtually unfettered control over a key communications forum of Palestinians.

In the weeks following those Facebook-Israel meetings, reported The Independent, “the activist collective Palestinian Information Center reported that at least 10 of their administrators’ accounts for their Arabic and English Facebook pages — followed by more than 2 million people — have been suspended, seven of them permanently, which they say is a result of new measures put in place in the wake of Facebook’s meeting with Israel.” Last March, Facebook briefly shut down the Facebook page of the political party, Fatah, followed by millions, “because of an old photo posted of former leader Yasser Arafat holding a rifle.”

A 2016 report from the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms detailed how extensive the Facebook censorship was:

Pages and personal accounts that were filtered and blocked: Palestinian Dialogue Network (PALDF.net) Gaza now, Jerusalem News Network, Shihab agency, Radio Bethlehem 2000, Orient Radio Network, page Mesh Heck, Ramallah news, journalist Huzaifa Jamous from Abu Dis, activist Qassam Bedier, activist Mohammed Ghannam, journalist Kamel Jbeil, administrative accounts for Al Quds Page, administrative accounts Shihab agency, activist Abdel-Qader al-Titi, youth activist Hussein Shajaeih, Ramah Mubarak (account is activated), Ahmed Abdel Aal (account is activated), Mohammad Za’anin (still deleted), Amer Abu Arafa (still deleted), Abdulrahman al-Kahlout (still deleted).

Needless to say, Israelis have virtually free rein to post whatever they want about Palestinians. Calls by Israelis for the killing of Palestinians are commonplace on Facebook, and largely remain undisturbed.

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FACEBOOK NOW SEEMS to be explicitly admitting that it also intends to follow the censorship orders of the U.S. government. Earlier this week, the company deleted the Facebook and Instagram accounts of Ramzan Kadyrov, the repressive, brutal, and authoritarian leader of the Chechen Republic, who had a combined 4 million followers on those accounts. To put it mildly, Kadyrov — who is given free rein to rule the province in exchange for ultimate loyalty to Moscow — is the opposite of a sympathetic figure: He has been credibly accused of a wide range of horrific human rights violations, from the imprisonment and torture of LGBTs to the kidnapping and killing of dissidents.

But none of that dilutes how disturbing and dangerous Facebook’s rationale for its deletion of his accounts is. A Facebook spokesperson told the New York Times that the company deleted these accounts not because Kadyrov is a mass murderer and tyrant, but that “Mr. Kadyrov’s accounts were deactivated because he had just been added to a United States sanctions list and that the company was legally obligated to act.”

As the Times notes, this rationale appears dubious or at least inconsistently applied: Others who are on the same sanctions list, such as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, remain active on both Facebook and Instagram. But just consider the incredibly menacing implications of Facebook’s claims.

What this means is obvious: that the U.S. government — meaning, at the moment, the Trump administration — has the unilateral and unchecked power to force the removal of anyone it wants from Facebook and Instagram by simply including them on a sanctions list. Does anyone think this is a good outcome? Does anyone trust the Trump administration — or any other government — to compel social media platforms to delete and block anyone it wants to be silenced?

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As is always true of censorship, there is one, and only one, principle driving all of this: power. Facebook will submit to and obey the censorship demands of governments and officials who actually wield power over it, while ignoring those who do not. That’s why declared enemies of the U.S. and Israeli governments are vulnerable to censorship measures by Facebook, whereas U.S and Israeli officials (and their most tyrannical and repressive allies) are not:

All of this illustrates that the same severe dangers from state censorship are raised at least as much by the pleas for Silicon Valley giants to more actively censor “bad speech.” Calls for state censorship may often be well-intentioned — a desire to protect marginalized groups from damaging “hate speech” — yet, predictably, they are far more often used against marginalized groups: to censor them rather than protect them. One need merely look at how hate speech laws are used in Europe, or on U.S. college campuses, to see that the censorship victims are often critics of European wars, or activists against Israeli occupation, or advocates for minority rights.

One can create a fantasy world in one’s head, if one wishes, in which Silicon Valley executives use their power to protect marginalized peoples around the world by censoring those who wish to harm them. But in the real world, that is nothing but a sad pipe dream. Just as governments will, these companies will use their censorship power to serve, not to undermine, the world’s most powerful factions.

Just as one might cheer the censorship of someone one dislikes without contemplating the long-term consequences of the principle being validated, one can cheer the disappearance from Facebook and Instagram of a Chechen monster. But Facebook is explicitly telling you that the reason for its actions is that it was obeying the decrees of the U.S. government about who must be shunned.

It’s hard to believe that anyone’s ideal view of the internet entails vesting power in the U.S. government, the Israeli government, and other world powers to decide who may be heard on it and who must be suppressed. But increasingly, in the name of pleading with internet companies to protect us, that’s exactly what is happening.

Facebook is Still Letting Housing Advertisers Discriminate Against Users by Ethnicity

Another mark against the Facebook corporation that provides another example of why I despise it. I will never approve of a corporation that manipulates the emotions of human beings for profits and takes invasiveness of personal privacy to new extremes.

In February, Facebook said it would step up enforcement of its prohibition against discrimination in advertising for housing, employment or credit.

But our tests showed a significant lapse in the company’s monitoring of the rental market.

Last week, ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads on Facebook, but asked that they not be shown to certain categories of users, such as African Americansmothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair rampsJewsexpats from Argentina and Spanish speakers.

All of these groups are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to publish any advertisement “with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Every single ad was approved within minutes.

The only ad that took longer than three minutes to be approved by Facebook sought to exclude potential renters “interested in Islam, Sunni Islam and Shia Islam.” It was approved after 22 minutes.

Under its own policies, Facebook should have flagged these ads, and prevented the posting of some of them. Its failure to do so revives questions about whether the company is in compliance with federal fair housing rules, as well as about its ability and commitment to police discriminatory advertising on the world’s largest social network.

Facebook Asks Australian Users for Nude Photos to “Combat Revenge Porn”

I see this effort by Facebook as doing much more harm than good, and it provides me with another justified reason for being against Facebook and having never used it personally. This Facebook effort doesn’t stop revenge porn in general, as other sites besides Facebook could be used against victims to post revenge porn.

Facebook is asking users to send the company their nude photos in an effort to tackle revenge porn, in an attempt to give some control back to victims of this type of abuse.

Individuals who have shared intimate, nude or sexual images with partners and are worried that the partner (or ex-partner) might distribute them without their consent can use Messenger to send the images to be “hashed”. This means that the company converts the image into a unique digital fingerprint that can be used to identify and block any attempts to re-upload that same image.

Facebook is piloting the technology in Australia in partnership with a government agency headed up by the e-safety commissioner, Julia Inman Grant, who told ABC it would allow victims of “image-based abuse” to take action before pictures were posted to Facebook, Instagram or Messenger.

Crucially terrible is that Facebook employees will have to review uncensored nude photos as part of the process. That means that another avenue of potential abuse is opened up against victims.

According to a Facebook spokesperson, Facebook workers will have to review full, uncensored versions of nude images first, volunteered by the user, to determine if malicious posts by other users qualify as revenge porn.