Facebook Preps Users for Apple’s New Location Tracking Alerts in iOS 13

Facebook has attempted to pre-empt awkward questions about privacy ahead of the launch of iOS 13, with a blog post explaining what Apple's new location data alerts mean for users of its mobile app.


As we've covered elsewhere, Apple has doubled down on its privacy features in iOS 13, giving iPhone and iPad users a more granular view of how third-party apps access their location information – something that's obviously of concern to Facebook.

In a blog post titled "Understanding Updates to Your Device's Location Settings," the social network company highlights the fact that pop-up notifications now let users know when an app is using their location in the background, and even show a map of the location data that the app has tracked. The alerts also make users aware of how often apps are tracking them and their motivation for doing so.

Facebook points out that while iOS 12 gives users the option to allow apps access to precise location information "Always," "While Using the App" or "Never," iOS 13 adds an additional "Allow Once" option for permitting restricted one-time access. The social media giant clearly wants users to know that regardless of these changes, "Facebook is better with location..."
It powers features like check-ins and makes planning events easier. It helps improve ads and keep you and the Facebook community safe. Features like Find Wi-Fi and Nearby Friends use precise location even when you're not using the app to make sure that alerts and tools are accurate and personalized for you.
It's no secret that Facebook harvests huge amounts of data on all of its users, but the company is clearly trying to allay concerns when the alerts start rolling in on Facebook users' devices once they've updated to iOS 13.

Apple usually releases new versions of iOS one or two weeks after it unveils new iPhones. Apple's iPhone event takes place today at 10:00 a.m Pacific Time, so we should see iOS 13 drop relatively soon. MacRumors will be providing live coverage of today's event both here on MacRumors.com and on the MacRumorsLive Twitter account. Stay tuned.

Related Roundups: iOS 13, iPadOS

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Hundreds of Millions of Phone Numbers From Facebook Accounts Leaked Online

An exposed server with more than 419 million records from Facebook users has been discovered online, reports TechCrunch.

The server was not protected with a password and was accessible to anyone. It featured 133 million records from U.S.-based Facebook users, 18 million records from users in the UK, and 50 million records on users in Vietnam.


The records contained each person's unique Facebook ID along with the phone number listed on the account. Facebook IDs are unique numbers that can be associated with an account to discover a person's username.

Facebook restricted access to phone numbers more than a year ago, so the database that was found is older than that. A Facebook spokesperson said that the data had been scraped prior to when Facebook cut off access to phone numbers, calling the dataset "old."
"This dataset is old and appears to have information obtained before we made changes last year to remove people's ability to find others using their phone numbers," the spokesperson said. "The dataset has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised."
TechCrunch was able to verify multiple records in the database by matching a known Facebook user's phone number against a listed Facebook ID. Other records were verified by matching phone numbers with Facebook's password reset feature, which can be used to partially reveal a phone number linked to an account. Records primarily had phone numbers, but in some cases, also had usernames, genders, and country location.

Image via TechCrunch

Phone number security has become increasingly important over the course of the last few years due to SIM-hacking, which involves calling a phone carrier and asking for a SIM transfer for a specific number, thereby giving access to anything linked to that phone number, such as two-factor verification, password reset info, and more.

SIM-hacking requires little more than a phone number and social engineering skills, and it has been devastating for people who have been impacted. Leaked phone numbers also expose Facebook users to spam calls, which have also become more and more prevalent over the last several years.

The database was originally found by security researcher Sanyam Jain, who said that he was able to locate phone numbers associated with several celebrities. It's not clear who owned the database nor where it originated from, but it was taken offline after TechCrunch contacted the web host. There is no word on why the data was scraped from Facebook or what it was used for.


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Facebook Paid Contractors to Transcribe Messenger Voice Chats

Facebook paid “hundreds of outside contractors” to transcribe user audio clips from its Messenger app, reports Bloomberg.

Employees who worked on the transcription were not told where the audio was recorded or how it was obtained, nor were they told why Facebook needs conversations transcribed.


Facebook says that while it had indeed been transcribing audio, it no longer plans to do so. "We paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” Facebook told Bloomberg.

Facebook’s decision to pause its audio transcribing comes following scrutiny of human review programs from Apple, Amazon, and Google. The three companies use employees to review voice assistant requests and accidental activations for improvement purposes.

One firm that Facebook uses to transcribe Messenger conversations is TaskUs, a company that also reviews Facebook content for possible policy violations.

Facebook says that users who had voice chats transcribed had opted in, and that the transcriptions were used to make sure Facebook’s AI correctly interpreted the messages. Despite this, Facebook did not disclose to users that third parties may be reviewing audio, which led some of Facebook’s contractors to “feel their work is unethical.”

Facebook’s data use policy does mention the collection of “content, communications, and other information,” but there’s no specific mention of audio.
Facebook says its “systems automatically process content and communications you and others provide to analyze context and what’s in them.” It includes no mention of other human beings screening the content. In a list of “types of third parties we share information with,” Facebook doesn’t mention a transcription team, but vaguely refers to “vendors and service providers who support our business” by “analyzing how our products are used.”

While Facebook claims it has stopped the audio transcription program, those concerned should refrain from using Facebook services like Messenger and WhatsApp.

Google and Apple have temporarily suspended their human audio review programs, while Amazon is letting Alexa users opt out. In the future, when Apple re-implements human review of Siri queries, there will be a clear privacy policy and opt-out option.


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Facebook to Be Fined $5 Billion in Cambridge Analytica Privacy Scandal

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has voted to approve a settlement with Facebook that will see the social media giant hit with a roughly $5 billion fine over the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The matter has been moved to the Justice Department’s civil division and it is unclear how long it will take to finalize, the person said. Justice Department reviews are part of the FTC’s procedure but typically don’t change the outcome of an FTC decision.

A settlement is expected to include other government restrictions on how Facebook treats user privacy. The additional terms of the settlement couldn’t immediately be learned.
The scandal revolved around data firm Cambridge Analytica, which improperly collected information on tens of millions of Facebook users without their consent to create targeted political advertisements during the 2016 campaign.

The data collection came through an app called "This Is Your Digital Life," which requested that Facebook users complete a survey for academic use. In reality, the app's permissions allowed it to collect personal information on not just the Facebook users who took the survey but also their friends.

Facebook revamped its privacy practices in the wake of the scandal, but the company still faced investigations by regulators over multiple security lapses and marked a significant moment in efforts to raise awareness about digital privacy.

Apple CEO Tim Cook called the Cambridge Analytica situation "dire" and has on multiple occasions called for increased regulation to protect user privacy.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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WhatsApp Tests Feature That Lets Users Share Their Status With Facebook and Other Apps

WhatsApp is testing a feature that enables users to share their WhatsApp Status posts over Facebook, Instagram, and other services.


WhatsApp's Status feature works a lot like Stories do in Instagram, in that users can use the option to stitch together photos and video to express themselves in a way words alone might not allow them to.

The idea behind WhatsApp Status sharing is that it will allow users to post their status directly to their Facebook story, Instagram Story, Gmail, Google Photos, or other service.

WhatsApp told The Verge that the sharing feature doesn't link accounts on the two services in any way, and instead transfers the data on-device using Android and iOS data-sharing APIs.

Even when sharing to another Facebook-owned service like Instagram, WhatsApp says the two posts remain separate events and are not associated in Facebook's systems.

Regardless of that explanation, relating the two platforms in the public consciousness has become a risky business for Facebook ever since it acquired WhatsApp in 2014.

The company said at the time that it wouldn't collect data from the end-to-end encrypted messaging service, but then two years later it began doing exactly that for ad-targeting purposes.

In 2016 the company had to end the collection of WhatsApp user data across Europe, including the phone number a user verifies during the registration process and the last time a user accessed the service, after privacy watchdogs slammed the practice and regulators demanded it be stopped.

Facebook was subsequently fined $122 million by the European Commission for misleading regulators during the merger review about the extent to which it could link accounts.


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Contact Info for Millions of Instagram Influencers, Celebrities, and Brand Accounts Leaked Online

A database that contained contact information for millions of Instagram influencers, celebrities, and brand accounts was recently leaked online, reports TechCrunch.

The database, which was hosted by Amazon Web Services and contains more than 49 million records, was accessible without a password or other credentials according to the security researcher who informed TechCrunch about the leak.

Records include public data pulled from Instagram, such as profile picture, biography, and follower numbers, but also private contact information like phone numbers and email addresses.

Records also calculated the "worth" of each account based on follower count, engagement, reach, likes, and shares.

The database was initially uploaded and shared by Mumbai-based social media marketing firm Chtrbox, a company that pays Instagram influencers to share sponsored content. Though uploaded by Chtrbox, the database includes info from influencers who have never worked with the company.
TechCrunch found several high-profile influencers in the exposed database, including prominent food bloggers, celebrities and other social media influencers.

We contacted several people at random whose information was found in the database and provided them their phone numbers. Two of the people responded and confirmed their email address and phone number found in the database was used to set up their Instagram accounts. Neither had any involvement with Chtrbox, they said.
After hearing from TechCrunch, Chtrbox took the database offline, but the company's CEO did not respond to a request for comment on how the data was obtained.

Instagram parent company Facebook said that it was looking into the issue and aiming to determine whether the data was from Instagram or other sources. "We're also inquiring with Chtrbox to understand where this data came from and how it became publicly available," said Facebook.


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Facebook Brings Back ‘View As Public’ Feature That Was Removed Because of Security Issues

Facebook today announced that it is reintroducing the "View As Public" feature that's designed to let you see your Facebook profile as a non-friend sees it, so you can double check that you're not sharing information publicly that you don't want to share.

In addition, Facebook is adding an "Edit Public Details" button directly to your profile, which will make it easier to adjust what information about you is publicly visible.


Facebook removed all "View As" features in September 2018 after a vulnerability with the feature allowed hackers to steal Facebook access tokens for almost 50 million accounts.

Facebook now says that the "View As" feature for viewing an account as a member of the public was not affected by the security incident and was more popular than the "View as Specific Person" options that are still disabled.


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Facebook Co-Founder Calls For ‘Break Up’ of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp

Recently, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren put forward the idea to reverse certain tech mergers to promote healthy competition in the market, particularly including Facebook and Instagram. In an op-ed shared today by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, that topic is revisited (via The New York Times).


According to Hughes, the Federal Trade Commission's "biggest mistake" was letting Facebook acquire Instagram and WhatsApp. As the co-founder pointed out, many people left Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but they didn't leave the Facebook ecosystem altogether because of Instagram and WhatsApp, with some people unaware that Facebook owned these social networks.
First, Facebook should be separated into multiple companies. The F.T.C., in conjunction with the Justice Department, should enforce antitrust laws by undoing the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions and banning future acquisitions for several years.

How would a breakup work? Facebook would have a brief period to spin off the Instagram and WhatsApp businesses, and the three would become distinct companies, most likely publicly traded. Facebook shareholders would initially hold stock in the new companies, although Mark and other executives would probably be required to divest their management shares.
In the years since its acqusitions, the founders of both Instagram and WhatsApp have left each company, reportedly due to clashing with Mark Zuckerberg and his management of their apps. Hughes described an informal slogan that became well-known in the Facebook offices in the wake of its launch of the "Stories" format on Instagram and Facebook: "Don't be too proud to copy."
The vibrant marketplace that once drove Facebook and other social media companies to compete to come up with better products has virtually disappeared. This means there’s less chance of start-ups developing healthier, less exploitative social media platforms. It also means less accountability on issues like privacy.

Mark may never have a boss, but he needs to have some check on his power. The American government needs to do two things: break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people.
Although the Cambridge Analytica scandal has passed, in 2019 Facebook continued to appear in headlines regarding data breaches and user privacy issues. In April alone, it was reported that Facebook's executive team used the data of its users as leverage over partner companies; two days later it emerged that Facebook harvested the email contacts of 1.5 million users without their knowledge or consent and used the data to build a web of their social connections.

That same day, Facebook confirmed that millions of Instagram passwords were stored on its servers in plain text with no encryption. Similar stories have been shared frequently since news broke about about the Cambridge Analytica scandal just over one year ago.

Amid all of the news, Facebook today announced the launch of a new feature for Stories called "Birthday Stories." Using this ability, friends and family members can add digital birthday cards, photos, or video messages to your Birthday Story, which will be visible at the top of the Facebook iOS app like other Stories.


The feature will be available in the birthday notification that pops up when a friend is celebrating their big day. From there, you'll be able to take a photo or video, share a music sticker on the Story, and more. Once multiple people have added to the Birthday Story, the person in question will be able to browse it like any traditional Facebook or Instagram Story.

The company said that its goal with the new update was expanding on existing birthday features on Facebook, while also continuing to push interaction with Stories. It's been over two years since Facebook Stories began rolling out to users, and nearly three years since Instagram first copied the Stories format from Snapchat.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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Facebook Getting Refreshed Look on Desktop and Mobile

Facebook's developer conference, F8, took place today, and Facebook announced a number of changes coming to the social network in the future.

Facebook is set to gain a refreshed design, that's meant to be "simpler, faster, and more immersive," situating Facebook Groups more prominently. The new design will "make it easy" for people to transition from public spaces to more private ones.


There's a redesigned Groups tab to make it easier to find content from your groups, along with a new discovery tool for recommendations for new groups. Content from groups may show up more prominently in the News Feed, and content from the News Feed will be able to be shared directly with groups.

New features for specific types of groups are coming, such as an option to post without a name in a health support group and an option for employers to post job openings in job groups. Gaming groups will get a chat feature, and Buy and Sell groups are getting an option that will let people ask questions and place orders during live broadcasts.

A "Meet New Friends" feature is coming to help people start friendships with new people from shared communities like a school, workplace, or city, and this summer, a new Events tab is coming to allow users to see what's happening around them.

Facebook's redesign is rolling out on mobile devices starting today and will be available on the desktop site "in the next few months."

As was announced earlier today, Facebook also plans to introduce a Messenger app for macOS, a re-engineered mobile Messenger app, a feature for watching videos with friends, and a dedicated space for messaging close friends and family.

During today's event, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also said that privacy will be more of a focus going forward. Facebook will focus on six principles as it makes site and app changes in the future: private interactions, encryption, reduced permanence for content, safety, interoperability, and secure data storage.

"Over the next few years we are going to build more of our services around these ideas," Zuckerberg said. "This isn't just about building features. We need to change a lot of the different ways that we run this company today."


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Facebook Messenger to Launch on Mac Later This Year

Facebook will launch a new desktop app for Messenger on both macOS and Windows later this year, according to a since-deleted blog post spotted by French blog iGeneration ahead of Facebook's annual F8 developer conference.


A screenshot of the Windows version of the app reveals that it will look rather similar to both Skype and Apple's own Messages app on Mac. Facebook said Messenger Desktop will have many of the same features as the mobile version of the app, including support for group video calls and collaboration.

Facebook is expected to unveil the desktop app alongside several other new Messenger features at its F8 keynote today at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.


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