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Feature: The Unlikely Activists Who Took On Silicon Valley — and Won

In early 2014, Pritzker traveled to Silicon Valley for a highly publicized listening tour. She hailed the tech industry as a model for government — a partner, not an antagonist. Data, she proclaimed, was “the fuel of the 21st century.” Pritzker’s tour included visits to eBay, Google and the Menlo Park campus of Facebook, where she met again with Sandberg. The women discussed an array of issues, including consumer privacy and how to ensure that American tech businesses remained competitive around the world. Two former Obama administration officials told me that those conversations appeared to have shaped Pritzker’s early views on privacy. “Our goal at the Department…

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For Sale: Survey Data on Millions of High School Students

“The harm is that these children are being profiled, stereotyped, and their data profiles are being traded commercially for all sorts of uses — including attempts to manipulate them and their families,” said Joel Reidenberg, a professor at the Fordham University School of Law who was one of the authors of a recent research report on the student data market.Paul Weeks, ACT’s senior vice president for client relations, said his organization allowed only colleges, universities and scholarship organizations to use its database, which includes details like students’ family income, religious affiliation and test score range. ACT also prohibits clients from sharing students’ data with third parties, he…

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Facebook Fined in U.K. Over Cambridge Analytica Leak

LONDON — Facebook was hit with the maximum possible fine in Britain for allowing the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to harvest the information of millions of people without their consent, in what amounts to the social network’s first financial penalty since the data leak was revealed.The fine of 500,000 pounds, or about $660,000, represents a tiny sum for Facebook, which brings in billions of dollars in revenue every year. But it is the largest fine that can be levied by the British Information Commissioner’s Office, an independent government agency that enforces the country’s data-protection laws.The agency has been investigating the potential misuse of personal data by…

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: The Memories Hiding in My Data Dump

AdvertisementLooking through information stored by Facebook and Google was like reading a diary I hadn’t intended to keep. CreditIllustration by Ben MendelewiczBy Karen HanleyJuly 9, 2018The first message I saw when I downloaded my Facebook data referenced a long-forgotten encounter. Eleven years ago, two weeks before my senior year of high school, I had — apparently — written an angry note to a guy on a clunky Dell desktop (no iPhones yet) from the bedroom I shared with my sister at our parents’ home in Brooklyn. For some reason, I believed at the time that this person was spreading rumors about the nature of our relationship. The…

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Facebook Faces Broadened Federal Investigations Over Data and Privacy

WASHINGTON — Facebook said on Monday that it faced an expansion of federal investigations into its sharing of user data with the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, with more government agencies inquiring about the matter and examining the social network’s statements about the episode.The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have each broadened their inquiries into Cambridge Analytica by also focusing on Facebook, the Silicon Valley company said. In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission has started an investigation into the social network’s public statements about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook said.“We are cooperating with officials in the U.S., U.K. and beyond,” a Facebook spokesman said. “We’ve…

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Facebook Gives Lawmakers Follow-Up Answers, but Not Much Is New

SAN FRANCISCO — During two days of grilling from Congress in April, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, repeatedly promised to “get back to” lawmakers on questions he could not answer. On Monday, Congress released the social network’s follow-up responses to those queries.In 454 pages that were made public by the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees, Facebook provided information to more than 2,000 questions from lawmakers on topics including its policies on user data, privacy and security. Yet much of the information that Facebook included was not new and the social network sidestepped providing detailed answers, in a move that may embolden some of its critics.In dozens of…

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Alexander Nix, Ex-Chief of Cambridge Analytica, Disputes ‘Ridiculous Accusations’

The revelations about Cambridge Analytica have led to a global reckoning about the information Facebook has amassed on its roughly two billion users, and the ways that information can be manipulated to sway voters and tailor advertisements to specific types of people.Mr. Zuckerberg was called to testify before American and European lawmakers to answer questions about the scandal, and the social media company has made changes to its privacy policies to limit how it collects and shares user data.Lawmakers on Wednesday grew increasingly frustrated with Mr. Nix’s aggressive responses.“You’ve attempted to paint yourself as the victim,” one member of Parliament said. “You’re not the victim.”Mr. Nix shot…

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Facebook Back on the Defensive, Now Over Data Deals With Device Makers

But some American lawmakers criticized Facebook’s rationale and urged the F.T.C. to review whether the partnerships violated Facebook’s promises to the regulator.“I think this explanation is completely inadequate and potentially disingenuous,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat and ranking member of the Senate subcommittee charged with consumer protection. “I think Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony raises very serious and severe questions about Facebook’s credibility.”David Cicilline of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the House antitrust subcommittee, responded even more harshly.“Sure looks like Zuckerberg lied to Congress about whether users have ‘complete control’ over who sees our data on Facebook,” Mr. Cicilline wrote on Twitter.Senior Republicans also said the…

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Facebook’s Device Partnerships Explained

What does this have to do with Cambridge Analytica?In 2014, the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica sought to build psychological profiles of American voters by exploiting Facebook data, such as the kinds of content people “liked” on Facebook. Only a few hundred thousand people gave Cambridge’s contractor access to their Facebook information, many of them through a third-party quiz app.But under Facebook’s policies at the time, the app could retrieve data on all of the Facebook friends of those people — as many as 87 million in all, according to the social network. In what Facebook says was misuse of the data, the contractor sold it to…

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Is Facebook Just a Platform? A Lawyer to the Stars Says No

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Paul Tweed made his name suing news organizations like CNN, Forbes and The National Enquirer on behalf of Hollywood movie stars, winning high-profile cases for celebrities like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake by hopscotching among Belfast, London and Dublin to take advantage of their favorable defamation or privacy laws.So it was telling last year when Mr. Tweed stopped by the Dublin office of a lawyer for Facebook, Twitter and other social media giants — many of which keep their non-United States headquarters in Ireland for tax reasons — with some half-playful questions.Was public sentiment turning against the companies? Mr. Tweed wanted to know.…

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