Sunday, March 3, 2019

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Facebook's Inclusive Internet Index shows lack of trust in internet - Business Insider

Posted: 03 Mar 2019 01:31 AM PST

Most people don't trust the internet with their personal information.

That's the finding of a study commissioned by Facebook less than a year after it confessed to a "breach of trust" over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, during which the data of 50 million users was compromised.

Facebook's Inclusive Internet Index 2019, compiled in partnership with the Economist Intelligence Unit, surveyed 5,069 people around the world about their online lives.

It found that more than half — 52.2% to be precise — of those questioned, are not confident about their privacy on the internet. This was a marginal increase on the 51.5% who answered in the same way last year.

Read more: Facebook and Google will be punished with giant fines in the UK if they fail to rid their platforms of toxic content

Given that Facebook is the second biggest website in the US, according to ComScore, and the third biggest in the world, per SimilarWeb, this doesn't reflect particularly well on Mark Zuckerberg's company.

The study also revealed that people are changing the way they use the internet to mitigate the risk of their data being breached. The below graph, taken from the study, says it all:

Facebook Value of the Internet survey

People sharing less online is bad news for firms like Facebook and Google, which rely on users sharing information and using their platforms to communicate to better target advertising. It suggests there could be a clear link between trust and future revenue.

Facebook's findings also appeared to make the case for stronger regulation when it comes to protecting people's data. Here's what the study says:

"In Europe, the share of respondents confident about their online privacy increased by 8 percentage points from the 2018 survey, probably because of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the EU's comprehensive data privacy rules that came into force in May 2018."

Facebook, Google, Apple, and others have all said they are open to federal privacy laws in the US. The Inclusive Internet Index shows new laws could go some way to helping rebuild user trust.

Facebook patents 'cartilage conduction' technology for AR, VR headsets - Business Insider

Posted: 03 Mar 2019 04:30 AM PST

Facebook is thinking about a novel approach to providing sound in augmented reality: "cartilage conduction" technology that would allow you to hear sound from a computer without having to wear headphones.

Adding sound to virtual reality is pretty straightforward — the user's headset replaces the entire world with virtual imagery, so they can pop a pair of headphones or speakers on to complete the illusion. But with augmented reality, where virtual objects are overlaid via a display over the real world, it's more tricky; users might benefit from added sound, but traditional headphones could block out sound from real life entirely.

Facebook's potential solution, which it details in a patent application filed in late February, is to avoid headphones entirely. Instead, the patent suggests building a "transducer" that sits behind the user's ear, and vibrates the cartilage in the ear, producing sound without blocking ambient audio from the surrounding world.

"A user wearing a head-mounted display in a VR, AR, and MR system can benefit from keeping the ear canal open and not covered by an audio devices. For example, the user can have a more immersive and safer experience and receive spatial cues from ambient sound when the ear is unobstructed," the patent explains.

An image included with the patent office showing how it might look.
Facebook/USPTO

Tech giants like Facebook file for hundreds of patents, and so there's no guarantee that this idea will ever make its way into a commercial product. But it does provide a window into how Facebook is thinking about solving some of the core problems facing augmented reality headsets as its own efforts inch closer to an eventual launch.

In January 2019, Business Insider reported that Facebook had restructured its augmented reality glasses division— moving hundreds of employees from the research-focused unit Facebook Reality Labs to a standalone product team focused on AR.

The employees had already been working on AR tech at the Reality Labs group prior to the move, and the shift indicates Facebook continues to be focused on developing augmented-reality hardware and that its approach is shifting from something experimental and research-driven, to a focus on delivering actual commercial products.

Other companies have explored similar bone conduction technology before. Bose, for example, features similar technology in a pair of sunglasses that lets users listen to music without having to wear headphones.

Facebook declined to comment for this story.


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Facebook's Sandberg threatened to pull investment from Europe and Canada if her demands were not met, documents say - Business Insider

Posted: 03 Mar 2019 07:13 AM PST

Facebook threatened to pull investment projects from Europe and Canada if lobbying demands from COO Sheryl Sandberg were not met, according to court documents seen by Computer Weekly and The Guardian. In both cases, Sandberg told government officials from the European Union and Canada that if she did not receive certain reassurances then Facebook would consider other "options" for investment and growth.

Canada gave her the written reassurance she sought the same day. Facebook pronounced itself pleased with its relationship with the Irish government, through which it was hoping to influence the EU.

The documents were apparently filed under seal as part of a lawsuit in California between Facebook and an app developer, Six4Three. Confidential documents from the case have leaked online before, in an apparent attempt to embarrass Facebook.

Facebook told the Guardian and CW it would not comment in detail. "Like the other documents that were cherry-picked and released in violation of a court order last year, these by design tell one side of a story and omit important context. As we've said, these selective leaks came from a lawsuit where Six4Three, the creators of an app known as Pikinis, hoped to force Facebook to share information on friends of the app's users. These documents have been sealed by a Californian court so we're not able to discuss them in detail," the company said.

"If we could not get comfort from the Canadian government on the jurisdiction issue we had other options"

In Canada, Facebook was planning to build a datacentre. But before completing it, Sandberg wanted Canada's then minister of industry, Christian Paradis, to send a letter reassuring the company that the existence of the datacentre on Canadian soil would not be used by the country to extend its legal jurisdiction over non-Canadian data held by Facebook. (Paradis was a minister from 2011 to 2013.)

"Sheryl took a firm approach and outlined that a decision on the datacentre was imminent. She emphasised that if we could not get comfort from the Canadian government on the jurisdiction issue we had other options," Marne Levine, then Facebook's vice-president of global public policy, wrote, according to CW.

Paradis agreed to send the letter the same day, CW reported.

An ambush at a party

In the leaked messages, Levine also described how Facebook staff distracted aides to Paradis at a party so that other lobbyists could buttonhole ministers directly. One aide in particular "made us look like real jerks" to the Canadian government, Levine told colleagues, and she was determined to put that right. CW described the stunt like this:

Together with her entourage, Levine was dispatched by car to a Canadian reception for finance trade and foreign affairs ministers "so that we could cut the awful staff person out of the way".

Facebook's team distracted the minister's aide and other officials, allowing Levine to "touch base" with three government ministers and get their mobile phone numbers. "We were out of there in 20 minutes," said Levine.

Facebook believed it had a "great relationship" with Irish PM Enda Kenny

In Europe, Sandberg tried to influence privacy policy via the Irish government. The company gushed over its relationship with Irish prime minister Enda Kenny, according to Computer Weekly. The Irish government has historically been very friendly to tech companies, and many — including Apple and Google — have opened operations there as a result. Facebook was happy that Ireland would take on the presidency of the EU in 2013 and could thus influence revisions to the European Data Directive, which preceded GDPR. Facebook believed it had a "great relationship" with Kenny, the documents say.

The next year, according to a separate Freedom of Information request described by CW, Sandberg wrote to Kenny after meeting him in Davos to suggest that changes in data protection or tax rules would prompt Facebook to look at "different options for future investment and growth in Europe." The company believed the directive was "a threat to jobs, innovation and economic growth in Europe," CW reported.

Although the EU did pass GDPR laws tightening consumer privacy, the documents suggest that Facebook got its message through to Kenny: "We used the meeting to press them to make the EU Data Protection Directive a priority for their presidency. The prime minister said they could exercise significant influence as president of the EU, even though technically Ireland is supposed to remain neutral in this role," the memo states.

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