Innovation
Facebook's Zuckerberg phones Obama about government spying
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Mar 14, 2014 - 10:56 AM

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President Obama speaks to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, at a dinner in Silicon Valley, March 2011

Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and chief executive of Facebook, on Wednesday on a phone call to the White House, complained directly to President Obama about spying by the United States government on the activities of some of the social network's more than 1bn users.

On Wednesday, the Intercept news service in a piece co-authored by Glenn Greenwald, said that "the NSA (National Security Agency) has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites."

Edward. Snowden, the former NSA contractor, had originally leaked information on the spying programs to Glenn Greenwald, who had been working for The Guardian newspaper.

Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday in a post on his Facebook page said:

The internet works because most people and companies do the same. We work together to create this secure environment and make our shared space even better for the world.

This is why I've been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we're protecting you against criminals, not our own government.

The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they're doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.

I've called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.

So it's up to us -- all of us -- to build the internet we want. Together, we can build a space that is greater and a more important part of the world than anything we have today, but is also safe and secure. I'm committed to seeing this happen, and you can count on Facebook to do our part."

In a statement on Thursday, the NSA said that it does not use its technical capabilities to impersonate U.S. company websites.

NSA uses its technical capabilities only to support lawful and appropriate foreign intelligence operations, all of which must be carried out in strict accordance with its authorities...Reports of indiscriminate computer exploitation operations are simply false.”

Facebook privacy

The Wall Street Journal said last August that Facebook said that it is going to expand its use of facial recognition software to include profile pictures. "Right now, unless a user opts-out, Facebook software recognizes people’s images in posted photos with tags. In addition to tagged photos, Facebook is going to start using users’ profile pictures as a reference in suggested tags."

The new language is the result of a protracted legal battle over privacy. In 2011, some Facebook members filed a lawsuit against the company, accusing it of publicizing their “likes” in ads without their consent. On Monday, Facebook agreed to pay $20m and to update its policies to better explain how members’ personal information is used by the company. Minors were at issue in the lawsuit; the plaintiffs tried, unsuccessfully, to get Facebook to create an opt-in feature for those under 18.

The New York Times said "the company is also deliberately deleting information about specific privacy controls. Instead, Facebook decided it was better to send users to various other pages, such as one on advertising, to learn more about privacy issues and how to adjust the controls.

For example, the data use policy will no longer offer a direct path to the control for opting out of your name and activities on the site being used as endorsements on ads sent to your friends.

Facebook is also doing nothing to simplify its maze of privacy settings. The company doesn’t offer clear links or explanations of the settings from its own “Facebook and Privacy” page, and its Graph Search feature isn’t especially helpful for the task, either.

Privacy controls are still buried in at least six different menus. To plunge down the rabbit hole, click on the little lock icon next to your name in the top-left column of your news feed page. You will find privacy settings in the tabs for Privacy, Timeline and Tagging, Blocking, Followers, Apps and Ads."


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