Continued focus on data protection at Facebook
Facebook has announced an overhaul of its data practices, including a key focus on data protection. It was revealed that the personal data of 87 million users was caught up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal - far higher than the 50 million originally reported. Facebook has also admitted to a flaw in its search function which allowed accounts to be searched by email address and phone number, and now believes "most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way."
Speaking on a press call last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that more should have been done to protect user data. He also said that the company “didn’t take a broad enough view” of its responsibility to protect the platform from the likes of fake news, foreign interference and hate speech. The call came just a week before Zuckerberg is due to appear before the House of Energy and Commerce Committee in Washington (11th April) to discuss the scandal and issues related to consumer data privacy. While Zuckerberg appears in Washington, other top Facebook executives (including its Chief Operating Officer and its Deputy Privacy Chief) are set to appear before other authorities in Europe to discuss the privacy issues - including the EU's justice commissioner and a UK parliament committee.
Privacy red flags around Facebook Messenger
Facebook Messenger has also come under fire as it was revealed last week that the app scans the text and images shared to make sure they comply with the company's rules. Users have reacted with fear that their private messages might be used to inform advertising on the platform, but Facebook has denied this is the case. A report by TechCrunch added fuel to the fire by revealing a hidden privacy tool within the Messenger app which allows Facebook executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, to delete past messages shared on the platform. The social network has since promised to make this tool widely available to users as soon as possible.
Less anonymity, more transparency for large Facebook pages
Facebook has released its "most detailed policy prescriptions to date" which could affect tens of millions of brands and businesses with Facebook and Instagram accounts. The new regulations, which come into effect in the US immediately, will require large Pages (the exact numbers of this classification are yet to be confirmed) to verify the identities and locations of the people managing them by sharing a form of government-issued identification. In addition, Facebook will now require anyone buying political ads on the platform to be verified. Those who manage large Pages but fail to comply with or clear the process will no longer be able to post. Facebook hopes this move will help slow the spread of misleading information and fake ads, which in the past have drawn attention for influencing major events such as the US election.
Facebook removes third-party data for ad targeting
Facebook has notified advertisers that it plans to shut down its 'managed Custom Audiences' programme entirely. The platform will also remove the 'audience data providers' specialty from its Facebook Marketing Partners programme. The shut down will take place alongside the rollout of the new permissions tool.
Changes to Instagram API take developers by surprise
Facebook's mantra of 'move fast and break things' is familiar to those working on the platform, but developers were surprised this week with sudden changes to the API, which had previously been scheduled for much later in the year. The short term impact is that many third-party platforms are currently scrambling to provide consistent Instagram data for their customers. Some predict that lowered data visibility on the platform will lead to influencers and (marketing budgets) moving to platforms with stronger measurement capability.
Facebook wants users to share more Stories
In its ongoing effort to get users to engage with its Stories feature, Facebook is testing three new updates which it hopes will encourage users to share more content through the function. The first edit includes making 'share to Story' the default option for users when creating a new post, making 'share as post' the opt-in setting - rather than the default. The Stories icons at the top of the News Feed are also set for a revamp, with plans to enlarge the preview tiles and shrink the profile pictures to make it more eye catching on the platform. Finally, Facebook will be introducing new camera tools to the post creation area to make it easier for users to quickly and easily share their latest images.
Facebook enables 360-degree photos and HD video in Messenger
Facebook has introduced a new update to its Messenger app which will enable users to share 360-degree photos and HD-quality 720p videos on the platform. While the 360-degree photos update is available globally on iOS and Android, the video upgrade is currently only available to users in selected regions including: Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, the UK and the US. A new compass icon will be placed on the right-hand side of 360-degree photos, similarly an HD or SD marker on videos to indicate the quality.
Snapchat brings back chronological Stories feed (for some users)
After significant outcry over its recent redesign which saw the platform switch to an algorithmic news feed, Snapchat has reverted back to its reverse chronological feed format for some users. Snapchat has so far declined to comment on what this means for the platform going forward.
YouTube Kids will use human curators, not algorithms
YouTube is continuing its mission to protect users online, especially younger users, by removing algorithms from the video selection process on the latest version of its YouTube Kids app. Instead, the new version of the app will rely on human curators to "review content and handpick channels that are kid-friendly". While the old, algorithm-based version will still exist, YouTube hopes the new human-curated version will offer parents an alternative.
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This post comes from the desk of @ZohDowling