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Lawsuit alleges Facebook “Likes” pages for you without consent

(Social Media) Facebook is in hot water for a major privacy breach, allegedly “liking” Facebook pages for you by mining links in your private messages. Ouch.

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Facebook has no scruples where your privacy is concerned

Facebook has never been known for being the epitome of privacy, but with the new allegations of using members’ private data for their own personal gain; they may have gone too far.

In the new lawsuit, plaintiffs claim Facebook is mining links shared in private messages and converting them in to public “likes” in order to gain more money from their ad program.

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They’re at it again

Previously, AGBeat investigated Facebook’s changing of your privacy settings, and now, they have violated their users’ privacy again. When you send a link to a Facebook friend, via a Facebook private message, Facebook then allegedly analyzes the content of the Facebook message, uses the enclosed link, and searches for information matching your own activity.

For example, if you send a message to a Facebook friend, enclosing a link to a new restaurant in town you want to try after work, Facebook would allegedly analyze the message, find the link, visit the page, and if it finds a “like” button on this page, it will assume you sharing the link counts as a “like” regardless of whether or not you have clicked the “like” (or enjoyed what you have sent). Many times we enclose links on Facebook messages to thing we do not like; we find them funny, or revolting, and simply want to share it with someone else.

Making a major leap

With this alleged breach of privacy, Facebook is, in a way, deciding what you like based on what links you share in your private messages. And when Facebook assumes that you have “liked” something, they receive a kickback from the ad program.

It is in their best interest, to exploit any information they can mine from anything you send, but, I believe it is also in their best interest to give their user the option to “opt out” of the marketing of private information. Facebook constantly states that they are concerned with their users’ privacy, but actions speak louder than words. And mining private information is in a word: unacceptable.

This is also incredibly misleading

I know as Internet users, we should always assume everyone can read everything we post and censor ourselves, but, by Facebook “representing to users that the content of Facebook messages are ‘private’ creates an especially profitable opportunity for Facebook, because users who believe they are communicating on a service free from surveillance are likely to reveal facts about themselves that they would not reveal had they known the content was being monitored; thus, Facebook has positioned itself to acquire pieces of the users’ profiles that are likely unavailable to other data aggregators” according to the text of lawsuit.

This is also what makes it the most contemptible breach of privacy yet: they are aggregating information users assume to be private and out of the scope of data mining.

Members of the class-action lawsuit are seeking damages in the amount of $100 per day of violation, or $10,000 per class member, plus statutory damages of either $5,000 per member or three times the amount of actual damages, whichever is greater.

Facebook has commented that the allegations “are without merit and will defend themselves vigorously.”

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Social Media

Zillow launches real estate brokerage after eons of swearing they wouldn’t

(MEDIA) We’ve warned of this for years, the industry funded it, and Zillow Homes brokerage has launched, and there are serious questions at hand.

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Zillow Homes was announced today, a Zillow licensed brokerage that will be fully operational in 2021 in Phoenix, Tucson, and Atlanta.

Whoa, big huge yawn-inducing shocker, y’all.

We’ve been warning for more than a decade that this was the end game, and the company blackballed us for our screams (and other criticisms, despite praise when merited here and there).

Blog posts were penned in fiery effigy calling naysayers like us stupid and paranoid.

Well color me unsurprised that the clarity of the gameplan was clear as day all along over here, and the paid talking heads sent out to astroturf, gaslight, and threaten us are now all quiet.

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We watched The Social Dilemma – here are some social media tips that stuck with us

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Here are some takeaways from watching Netflix’s The Social Dilemma that helped me to eliminate some social media burnout.

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Last weekend, I made the risky decision to watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix. I knew it was an important thing to watch, but the risk was that I also knew it would wig me out a bit. As much as I’m someone who is active “online,” the concept of social media overwhelms me almost more than it entertains (or enlightens) me.

The constant sharing of information, the accessibility to information, and the endless barrage of notifications are just a few of the ways social media can cause overwhelm. The documentary went in deeper than this surface-level content and got into the nitty gritty of how people behind the scenes use your data and track your usage.

Former employees of high-profile platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, and Pinterest gave their two cents on the dangers of social media from a technological standpoint. Basically, our data isn’t just being tracked to be passed along for newsletters and the like. But rather, humans are seen as products that are manipulated to buy and click all day every day in order to make others money and perpetuate information that has astronomical effects. (I’m not nearly as intelligent as these people, so watch the documentary to get the in-depth look at how all of this operates.)

One of the major elements that stuck with me was the end credits of The Social Dilemma where they asked interviewees about the ways they are working to eliminate social media overwhelm in their own lives. Some of these I’ve implemented myself and can attest to. Here’s a short list of things you can do to keep from burning out online.

  1. Turn off notifications – unless there are things you need to know about immediately (texts, emails, etc.) turn it off. Getting 100 individual notifications within an hour from those who liked your Instagram post will do nothing but burn you (and your battery) out.
  2. Know how to use these technologies to change the conversation and not perpetuate things like “fake news” and clickbait.
  3. Uninstall apps that are wasting your time. If you feel yourself wasting hours per week mindlessly scrolling through Facebook but not actually using it, consider deleting the app and only checking the site from a desktop or Internet browser.
  4. Research and consider using other search tools instead of Google (one interviewee mentioned that Qwant specifically does not collect/store your information the way Google does).
  5. Don’t perpetuate by watching recommended videos on YouTube, those are tailored to try and sway or sell you things. Pick your own content.
  6. Research the many extensions that remove these recommendations and help stop the collection of your data.

At the end of the day, just be mindful of how you’re using social media and what you’re sharing – not just about yourself, but the information you’re passing along from and to others. Do your part to make sure what you are sharing is accurate and useful in this conversation.

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WeChat ban blocked by California judge, but for how long?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) WeChat is protected by First Amendment concerns for now, but it’s unclear how long the app will remain as pressure mounts.

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WeChat barely avoided a US ban after a Californian judge stepped in to temporarily block President Trump’s executive order. Judge Laurel Beeler cited the effects of the ban on US-based WeChat users and how it threatened the First Amendment rights of those users.

“The plaintiffs’ evidence reflects that WeChat is effectively the only means of communication for many in the community, not only because China bans other apps, but also because Chinese speakers with limited English proficiency have no options other than WeChat,” Beeler wrote.

WeChat is a Chinese instant messaging and social media/mobile transaction app with over 1 billion active monthly users. The WeChat Alliance, a group of users who filed the lawsuit in August, pointed out that the ban unfairly targets Chinese-Americans as it’s the primary app used by the demographic to communicate with loved ones, engage in political discussions, and receive news.

The app, along with TikTok, has come under fire as a means for China to collect data on its users. U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has stated, “At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”

This example is yet another symptom of our ever-globalizing society where we are learning to navigate between connectivity and privacy. The plaintiffs also pointed out alternatives to an outright ban. One example cited was in Australia, where WeChat is now banned from government officials’ phones but not others.

Beeler has said that the range in alternatives to preserving national security affected her decision to strike down the ban. She also explained that in regards to dealing with national security, there is “scant little evidence that (the Commerce Department’s) effective ban of WeChat for all US users addresses those concerns.”

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