Archive for Facebook

Health Data Tracked And Used For Facebook Ads

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 16, 2022 by itnerd

Patterns has published a peer-reviewed study on data from digital tools related to health being tracked and used on Facebook for ad purposes. The following digital health tools used third-party ad trackers to follow patients online and market to them based on their activity:

  • Color Genomics
  • Myriad Genetics
  • Invitae
  • Health Union
  • Ciitizen

Yaric Shivek, VP of Product for Neosec had this comment:

     “There is always a balance between the requirement to market a product to prospects and the security of personal data. And in certain industries, like finance and healthcare this balance is governed by compliance and the requirement to protect personal data is paramount. Ad tracking is where this balance is problematic. Most of us wouldn’t install a piece of adware on our laptop, and yet it seems that ad trackers are installed on sensitive healthcare websites, giving advertisers visibility into our transactions on these websites. This seems to circumvent HIPAA compliance. You’d hope that security permissions are more orderly in the world of APIs, but while electronic health records (EHR) companies take protecting your sensitive healthcare data seriously, this data is often being insecurely disseminated by 3rd-party aggregators and apps, whose vulnerable APIs can be easily exploited. This connected world of APIs and apps is only as strong as the weakest link. What good is a bank safe, if your courier gets robbed the minute they walk out of the bank with your cash?”

Chris Olson, CEO of The Media Trust adds this comment:

     “Data privacy violations are one of many risks associated with unsupervised third-party code like ad trackers, content recommendation algorithms, shopping cart plugins, and more. Today, up to 90% of the code across consumer-facing websites is provided by third parties – even privacy-conscious companies are often unaware of their activities which can lead to data breaches, phishing attacks and worse.

Complacency is no longer an option – in the face of emerging data privacy legislation and rising cyber risk, organizations need to commit to the digital safety of their customers by taking control of their online domains and carefully vetting third-party vendors for risky activity. This is especially true for companies that collect sensitive and personally identifiable information (PII) like health data.”

Somehow I am not shocked that Facebook is in the middle of this as you are the product when you use Facebook. And it proves that more needs to be done to rein in Facebook’s activities so that everyone’s privacy is protected.

Yet Another Reason To #DeleteFacebook…. They Paid A Republican Linked Firm To Malign TikTok

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 30, 2022 by itnerd

Facebook continues to hit new lows with their behaviour. And today’s new low is this paywalled Washington Post story (Non paywalled source here) that details how Facebook used the services of a firm linked to the Republican Party to trash TikTok:

Employees with the firm, Targeted Victory, worked to undermine TikTok through a nationwide media and lobbying campaign portraying the fast-growing app, owned by the Beijing-based company ByteDance, as a danger to American children and society, according to internal emails shared with The Washington Post.

Targeted Victory needs to “get the message out that while Meta is the current punching bag, TikTok is the real threat especially as a foreign owned app that is #1 in sharing data that young teens are using,” a director for the firm wrote in a February email.

Campaign operatives were also encouraged to use TikTok’s prominence as a way to deflect from Meta’s own privacy and antitrust concerns.

“Bonus point if we can fit this into a broader message that the current bills/proposals aren’t where [state attorneys general] or members of Congress should be focused,” a Targeted Victory staffer wrote.

The emails, which have not been previously reported, show the extent to which Meta and its partners will use opposition-research tactics on the Chinese-owned, multibillion-dollar rival that has become one of the most downloaded apps in the world, often outranking even Meta’s popular Facebook and Instagram apps. In an internal report last year leaked by the whistleblower Frances Haugen, Facebook researchers said teens were spending “2-3X more time” on TikTok than Instagram, and that Facebook’s popularity among young people had plummeted.

So, because Facebook was losing teens to TikTok, Facebook decided to use very underhanded tactics to fight back rather than improve their product so that it would be more appealing to teens. That illustrates what sort of company Facebook is. It also underlines why people should #DeleteFacebook. Clearly they are not any sort of company that has ethics, decency, or any sort of moral compass. Though at this point, everyone should know that.

Facebook Kind Of Flip Flops On Letting People Call For The Death Of Putin And Muddies The Waters In The Process

Posted in Commentary with tags , on March 14, 2022 by itnerd

Last week, I highlighted a policy change by Facebook which let a handful of countries around Russia do things like call for the death of Vladimir Putin. At the time I said this:

Not that I want to defend Putin. But if I put up a post on this blog calling for the death of US President Joe Biden, I am certain that some US law enforcement agency would be on my doorstep looking for me by the end of the day. In other words, while rules cannot be absolute, this doesn’t seem right to me. Even if its application is limited in scope as is the case here. And I have to wonder if this policy will do more harm than good. Because everything that Facebook does does more harm than good.

It now seems that Facebook has flipped flopped on this… Sort of:

Last week, Facebook temporarily relaxed its policies so that Ukrainian users could post threats of violence against the Russian military, which invaded its neighbor in late February. The change led to some public confusion as to what was allowed, and what was not, on Facebook and Instagram. Meta’s President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg posted a statement Friday saying the move is aimed at protecting Ukrainian rights and doesn’t signal tolerance for “discrimination, harassment or violence towards Russians.” On Sunday, he tried to further explain the company’s stance to employees in an internal post. “We are now narrowing the focus to make it explicitly clear in the guidance that it is never to be interpreted as condoning violence against Russians in general,” Clegg wrote in the internal post, which was reviewed by Bloomberg.

So, is that clear? You can post a threat of violence against the military but not Putin? Right. This change doesn’t help.

#Fail Facebook.

In A Significant Escalation, Russia Is Trying To Get Facebook And Instagram Labeled As Extremist

Posted in Commentary with tags , on March 11, 2022 by itnerd

Russian prosecutors have asked a court to ban Meta Platforms’s Facebook and Instagram as “extremist,” Interfax reported, the latest move in a growing crackdown on social networks:

Authorities blocked access to Facebook last week under a new media law, but the “extremist” designation, if approved by a court, would effectively criminalize all of Meta’s operations in Russia. The company’s Instagram app would also be blocked. The move comes amid increasing tension between Moscow and U.S. tech companies. Earlier Friday, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, called on prosecutors to investigate Meta after Reuters reported that the company had temporarily eased internal restrictions on calling for violence against Russian soldiers due to the invasion of Ukraine. Russia has already banned certain social media companies like Facebook and Twitter, while tech companies have demonetized Russian state-sponsored media and blocked them in Europe.

And it looks like this may have already started:

This is a major escalation in Putin’s fight against social networks who have posts that he doesn’t agree with. Though this story from earlier today has me thinking that this may not be all bad. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The Latest Reason To #DeleteFacebook Is That They Are Temporarily Allowing Posts Calling For The Death Of Vladimir Putin In Some Countries

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 11, 2022 by itnerd

I have to admit that I am baffled by this one. Sky News is reporting this:

Facebook and Instagram posts calling for Vladimir Putin’s death – and violence against Russian soldiers – are going to be temporarily allowed in some countries, according to Reuters.

Meta, which owns both social networks, has reportedly sent emails to moderators that explain the company is making “allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules”.

The encouragement of violence against Russian civilians will continue to be prohibited – and posts calling for the president’s death will be deleted if they contain other targets or discuss a location or method.

Rules have also been relaxed surrounding posts about Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The temporary policy only applies to users in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine, according to the news agency’s report.

And to further go down the rabbit hole, there’s this:

An email seen by Reuters told moderators: “We are issuing a spirit-of-the-policy allowance to allow T1 violent speech that would otherwise be removed under the Hate Speech policy when: (a) targeting Russian soldiers, EXCEPT prisoners of war, or (b) targeting Russians where it’s clear that the context is the Russian invasion of Ukraine (e.g., content mentions the invasion, self-defence, etc.)”

Not that I want to defend Putin. But if I put up a post on this blog calling for the death of US President Joe Biden, I am certain that some US law enforcement agency would be on my doorstep looking for me by the end of the day. In other words, while rules cannot be absolute, this doesn’t seem right to me. Even if its application is limited in scope as is the case here. And I have to wonder if this policy will do more harm than good. Because everything that Facebook does does more harm than good.

I guess we’ll see.

Pro Russia Rebels Using Facebook For Nefarious Reasons…. It’s Seriously Time To #DeleteFacebook

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 10, 2022 by itnerd

Facebook appears to be in trouble again. It appears that Pro Russia rebels are using Facebook to spread propaganda and recruit people. And what makes this worse is the fact that one of the main people behind this is on the US sanctions list:

In the days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Aleksandr Zaldostanov, the leader of a pro-Putin biker club gang, the Night Wolves, turned to Facebook to disparage the Ukrainian president and push falsehoods about the war. 

“Ukraine is a torn off piece of Russia, which is shrinking in pain and bleeding still,” he posted on March 1 to more than 18,000 followers. “Russia did not start a war now!!!! Those who divided us started it!” 

A former physician known by his nickname, “the Surgeon,” Zaldostanov has been on the U.S. government sanctions list since 2014, amid allegations he helped Russian troops confiscate weapons during the country’s invasion of Crimea. 

The sanctions block Zaldostanov’s assets and generally prohibit U.S. citizens from “dealing” with him, but on Facebook he maintains a very active account, posting frequent support of Russia since the invasion.

That’s bad enough. But it gets worse if you’re Facebook:

The host of sanctioned entities and individuals who, like Zaldostanov, maintain a robust Facebook and Instagram presence is the subject of a pair of new whistleblower complaints, filed in December and February, arguing that Facebook parent company Meta engaged in “reckless or willful” violations of U.S. sanctions law by permitting the accounts, according to redacted copies reviewed exclusively by The Washington Post.

The existence of these accounts, the filings allege, allowed the users to cultivate global legitimacy and spread Russian propaganda. The complaints identify other posts appearing to recruit fighters and solicit funds to back pro-Russian separatists, which some legal experts suggest could violate U.S. sanctions laws, as well as Facebook’s rules. One post from a pro-Russian rebel called for volunteers with experience “in combat and armed conflicts.” Another video sought donations for separatist forces to pay for “equipment for soldiers on the front.” (The Post independently viewed this content on Facebook Tuesday.) 

Facebook really has some explaining to do here as this is really, really bad. And I hope it explains everything in front of a Congressional hearing. Or better yet in court. Because it’s beyond time that Facebook gets punished for all the trouble that it causes in places like Myanmar and now in the Russia/Ukraine conflict. Or you can just hand out your own punishment to Facebook by deleting them out of your lives.

Facebook Cut Off By Russia

Posted in Commentary with tags , on March 4, 2022 by itnerd

It’s rare that I will come to the defence of Facebook. But this situation makes me actually come to the defence of Facebook:

Russia’s communications agency Roskomnadzor announced Friday that it is blocking access to Facebook in Russia. It cited 26 cases of “discrimination against Russian media and information resources by Facebook” since October 2020, in addition to the more-recent restrictions Facebook has placed on Russian state media outlets.

So in other words, Facebook is being cut off because Russia doesn’t like what is on their platform. And they don’t like the fact that Facebook cut off Russian state media outlets. So Russia is retaliating.

Boo… Hoo… Hoo.

I’m guessing that people in Russia aren’t too thrilled with Vladimir Putin starting this war and his cronies are trying to alter the narrative by cutting off the outside world. In effect, they’re trying to party like it’s 1969 and they’re in the Soviet Union. And if you don’t go along with the narrative, expect to get 15 years in jail.

Facebook isn’t the problem here. Russia is. But of course, you knew that.

Other Companies Are Fighting Russian Disinformation…. But Where’s Apple?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , on March 1, 2022 by itnerd

Earlier today, I wrote that Twitter was taking action to stop disinformation from spreading from Russian media. After some looking around, I found that other social media platforms are doing the same thing in whole or in part.

Let’s start with Facebook:

Facebook’s parent company Meta said Monday it will limit access to Russian state-controlled media outlets RT and Sputnik across the European Union, a move that will likely heighten tensions between the world’s largest social network and the Russian government.

“We have received requests from a number of governments and the EU to take further steps in relation to Russian state-controlled media. Given the exceptional nature of the current situation, we will be restricting access to RT and Sputnik across the EU at this time,” Nick Clegg, who oversees global affairs at Meta and is the former UK deputy prime minister, said in a tweet.

Now let’s go to TikTok:

TikTok has joined Facebook in blocking access to two Russian state media outlets in the European Union. Sputnik and RT are no longer able to post to audiences within the EU, and their pages and content will no longer be accessible to users in the bloc, a TikTok spokesperson confirmed.

Next up is YouTube:

Google’s YouTube said Tuesday that it would block Kremlin-backed media outlets RT and Sputnik from Europe following similar bans by Facebook and TikTok.

“It’ll take time for our systems to fully ramp up. Our teams continue to monitor the situation around the clock to take swift action,” Google’s video streaming service said in a statement.

YouTube’s ban — following an announcement from the European Commission that it wanted to remove these Russian media outlets from the EU — would apply within the European Union and the U.K.

While this is not meant to fight disinformation, Google is disabling live traffic in Ukraine:

The company said it had taken the action of globally disabling the Google Maps traffic layer and live information on how busy places like stores and restaurants are in Ukraine for the safety of local communities in the country, after consulting with sources including regional authorities.

Now over to Netflix:

Netflix was due to fall under a series of new obligations in Russia on March 1 after it was added to a register of “audiovisual services”overseen by the country’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, last year. 

The obligations mean that Netflix would have had to stream 20 Russian federal television stations, including the likes of Channel One, NTV and a channel run by the Russian Orthodox Church, Spas. Channel One in particular has close links to the Kremlin.

“Given the current situation, we have no plans to add these channels to our service,” a Netflix spokesperson said on Monday evening.

Finally, Microsoft has announced that they are going to de-rank Russian media outlets on Bing so that they don’t show up nearly as often as well as pulling apps from the Windows Store that are associated with Russian media:

We are moving swiftly to take new steps to reduce the exposure of Russian state propaganda, as well to ensure our own platforms do not inadvertently fund these operations. In accordance with the EU’s recent decision, the Microsoft Start platform (including will not display any state-sponsored RT and Sputnik content. We are removing RT news apps from our Windows app store and further de-ranking these sites’ search results on Bing so that it will only return RT and Sputnik links when a user clearly intends to navigate to those pages. Finally, we are banning all advertisements from RT and Sputnik across our ad network and will not place any ads from our ad network on these sites.

Who’s missing from this list? Apple. One has to wonder why a company who preaches that it has such high ideals isn’t rushing to join this? As I type this, apps from RT and Sputnik which are two of the biggest mouthpieces for the Russians are still available on the App Store. Why isn’t Apple taking action? That’s a very interesting question that Apple will need to answer ASAP as they really stand out for not having taken action unlike all the companies above. And I should also say, it looks really bad on them.

YouTube And Facebook Ban Russian Broadcaster RT From Making Money

Posted in Commentary with tags , on February 26, 2022 by itnerd

Things are escalating when it comes to companies banning anything related to Russia. The latest example is that state owned media outlet RT has been banned from making money from YouTube and Facebook:

Citing “extraordinary circumstances,” YouTube said that it was “pausing a number of channels’ ability to monetize on YouTube, including several Russian channels affiliated with recent sanctions” such as the European Union’s. Ad placement is largely controlled by YouTube.

The EU on Wednesday announced sanctions on individuals including Margarita Simonyan, whom it described as RT’s editor-in-chief and “a central figure” of Russian propaganda.

Videos from the affected channels also will come up less often in recommendations, YouTube spokesperson Farshad Shadloo said. He added that RT and several other channels would no longer be accessible in Ukraine due to a Ukrainian government request.


Meta Platforms Inc, owner of Facebook, on Friday barred Russian state media from running ads or generating revenue from ads on its services anywhere in the world.

One thing that I will say it that this is about more than money. The fact that videos will be recommended less means that Russian propaganda won’t be seen as often. That’s going to hurt as well. Hopefully there are other ways that tech companies can hurt the Russians.

Facebook Fails To Stop Groups From Committing Genocide…. Again…. Time To #DeleteFacebook

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 23, 2022 by itnerd

Facebook, Meta, or whatever they’re called these days has hit a new low. It now seems that the company is yet again all but helping groups to commit genocide by doing nothing to stop groups from inciting ethnic massacres in Ethiopia’s escalating war:

Analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) and the Observer found Facebook is still letting users post content inciting violence through hate and misinformation. This is despite being aware it helps directly fuel tensions, prompting claims of inaction and indifference against the social media giant. The investigation tracked down relatives who have linked Facebook posts to the killings of loved ones. One senior member of Ethiopia’s media accused the firm of “standing by and watching the country fall apart.” The accusations arrive amid intensifying focus on Facebook’s content moderation decisions, with it previously being accused of playing a role in the ethnic persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

If this isn’t a reason to #DeleteFacebook, I don’t know what is. The fact is that this shows that Facebook puts profit above all else and clearly doesn’t care if their platform is used to kill people. And the fact that this is the second time that this has come to light (with Myanmar being the first) is highly problematic. At this point this company seriously needs to be put out of business as clearly they have no positive value to society.