Tag: Facebook

Phone numbers of 420 million Facebook users in online database

5. September 2019

A database with more than 400 million phone numbers of Facebook users was publicly accessible online. Most of the records belong to American Facebook users (133 million), 50 million to users from Vietnam and 18 million to users from the UK. In each case the phone number was connected with the user’s Facebook ID, a long, unique and public number associated with the account.

As a result of the publicly accessible data the concerned users are put at risk for spam calls and SIM-swapping attacks. Furthermore, the passwords of the accounts can be changed so that the user cannot access his own Facebook profile.

IT-expert Sanyam Jain found the database and contacted TechCrunch after being unable to find the owner. TechCrunch verified the authenticity of the found data and then tried to determine the owner – without success. So they contacted the web host who turned the site down.

The database is not accessible at the moment, but it is still unknown how the data was collected and who uploaded the information. It is possible, that the ability to find friends by phone number on Facebook was misused to create the database. This feature was disabled by Facebook in April 2018. In connection to this new infringement, Facebook just announced that there is no evidence for a hacking attack.

Update: on Friday September 6th 2019 a copy of the database appeared on the internet, so that the data is currently publicly accessible again.

Privacy incidents cost Facebook 5 billion dollar

15. July 2019

According to a report of the Washington Post the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a $ 5 billion (approx. € 4,4 billion) settlement with Facebook. The settlement was reached between the FTC and Facebook due to various Data Protection incidents, in particular the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The settlement relies on a three to two vote – the FTC’s three republicans supported the fine the two democrats were against it- and terminates the procedure for investigating Facebook’s privacy violations against users’ personal information. The fine of $ 5 billion is the highest fine ever assessed against a tech company, but even if it sounds like a very high fine, it only corresponds to the amount of the monthly turnover and is therefore not very high in relative terms. So far, the highest fine was $ 22,5 million for Google in 2012.

The decision of the FTC needs to be approved by the Justice Department. As a rule, however, this is a formality.

This is not the first fine Facebook has to accept in connection with various data protection incidents and certainly not the last. Investigations against Facebook are still ongoing in Spain as well as in Germany. In addition, Facebook has been criticized for quite some time for privacy incidents.

Italian DPA fines Facebook

2. July 2019

The Italian Data Protection Authority Garante (Garante per la protezione dei dati personali) fined Facebook due to the Cambridge Analytica Scandal of 2015, which was discovered in 2018. The Cambridge Analytica Scandal is connected to the presidential campaign of the current president of the USA Donald Trump.

The Garante has imposed a fine of EUR 1.000.000 for abusing the use of data of more than 200.000 Italian Facebook users and their Facebook friends. According to the Garante, the abused data has not been transferred to Cambridge Analytica, which was also confirmed by a Facebook spokesman.  Nevertheless, the high fine was imposed.

The fine is still based on the old Italian Data Protection law because at the time of the abusive use the GDPR, which now applies throughout Europe, was not yet in force.

Facebook has to answer to the scandal not only in Italy. Legal consequences are also looming in the USA.

 

Consumers should know how much their data is worth

27. June 2019

US Senators Mark R. Warner (Democrats) and Josh Hawley (Republicans) want to know from Facebook, Google and Co. exactly how much the data of their users, measured in dollars and cents, is worth to them.

Last Sunday, the two senators announced their intention for the first time in a US talk show: Every three months, each user is to receive an overview of which data has been collected and stored and how the respective provider rates it. In addition, the aggregated value of all user data is to be reported annually to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. In this report, the companies are to disclose how they store, process and protect data and how and with which partner companies they generate sales with the data. All companies with more than 100 million users per month will be affected.

The value of user data has risen enormously in recent years; so far, companies have protected their internal calculations as company secrets. In addition, there is no recognized method for quantifying the value of user data; only when a company is sold or valued by means of an initial public offering (IPO) does it become obvious. In the case of the WhatsApp takeover it was  $ 55 per user, in the case of Skype it was $ 200.

But one can doubt the significance of these figures. A further indication can be the advertising revenues, which are disclosed by companies per quarter. At the end of 2018, Facebook earned around $6 per user worldwide, while Amazon earned $752 per user. These figures are likely to rise in the future.  “For years, social media companies have told consumers that their products are free to the user. But that’s not true – you are paying with your data instead of your wallet,” said Senator Warner. “But the overall lack of transparency and disclosure in this market have made it impossible for users to know what they’re giving up, who else their data is being shared with, or what it’s worth to the platform. […]” Experts believe it is important for consumers to know the value of their data, because only when you know the value of a good you are able to value it.

On Monday, Warner and Rawley plan to introduce the  Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act to the parliament for its first reading. It remains to be seen whether their plans will meet with the approval of the other senators.

Google Introduces Automatic Deletion for Web Tracking History

7. May 2019

Google has announced on its blog that it will introduce an auto delete feature for web tracking history.

So far, users have the option to manually delete data from Google products such as YouTube or Maps. After numerous requests, however, Google follows other technology giants and revised its privacy settings. “We work to keep your data private and secure, and we’ve heard your feedback that we need to provide simple ways for you to manage or delete it,” Google writes on it’s blog.

Users will be able to choose a period for which the data should remain stored, lasting a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 18 months. At the end of the selected period, Google will automatically delete the data on a regular basis. This option will initially be introduced for Location History and Web & App Activity data and will be available over the next few weeks, according to Google.

Google’s announcement came the day after Microsoft unveiled a set of features designed to strengthen privacy controls for its Microsoft 365 users, aimed to simplify its privacy policies.

On the same day, during Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8, Mark Zuckerberg announced a privacy roadmap for the social network.

Latest Facebook Data Breach

25. April 2019

Since May 2016 Facebook uploaded email-contacts without respectively against the will of 1,5 million users.

Facebook itself discovered the mistake in March 2019 and according to it’s own statement has now corrected it. The data was uploaded unintentionally and not shared with third parties. The data will be deleted and Facebook will contact the concerned users.

Facebook was able to read the email-contacts of 1,5 million users, but the concerned amount of data subjects is a lot higher due to that many  users have thousands of contacts. Facebook denied that e-mails have been accessed by its employees. It expects a fine of three to five billion dollar in the USA.

Category: Cyber security · Data breach
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The German Bundeskartellamt prohibits Facebook to combine their user data from different sources

7. February 2019

The Bundeskartellamt announced in a press release on their website on Febraury 7, 2019 that it imposes far-reaching restrictions on Facebook.

Up to now Facebook’s terms and conditions stated that users have only been able to use the social network under the precondition that Facebook can collect user data also outside of the Facebook website in the internet or on smartphone apps and assign these data to the user’s Facebook account. Therefore, all data collected on the Facebook website, by Facebook-owned services which includes Instagram and WhatsApp as well as on third party websites can be combined and assigned to the account of a Facebook user.

The authority’s decision affects said processing of user data in Germany and covers different sources of data.
Firstly, all social networks/services can continue to collect data under the existing laws. But the collected data can only be transferred to Facebook itself if consent is given by the data subject (the user). If such a consent is not given, the data cannot be assigned to an existing Facebook account. Secondly, the same applies to collecting data from third party websites.
Consequently, without the above mentioned consent Facebook will face far-reaching restrictions concerning collecting and combining data.

The Bundeskartellamt states as reason for this decision that in December 2018 Facebook had 1.52 billion daily active users and 2.32 billion monthly active users and therefore also occupies a dominant position in the German market for social networks. It further claims that the market share of Facebook concerning social networks in Germany is more than 95 % (daily active users) and more than 80 % (monthly active users). Therefore, the conclusion is drawn that the group with its subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram occupy a key position in the market which indicates a monopolisation process. Competitors like Google+, Snapchat, YouTube or Twitter or professional networks like LinkedIn or Xing provide only components of the services offered by the Facebook Group.

The authority’s decision is not yet final. Facebook has one month to appeal the decision to the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court. The company has already announced that it will appeal against the decision.

Category: EU · General · German Law · Instagram · Personal Data
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Data Protection Commission announces statutory inquiry into Facebook

17. December 2018

The Irish Data Protection Commission announced in a press release on  December 14, 2018 that it had initiated a statutory inquiry into Facebook.

Due to the frequent, especially in the recent past, data breaches of the American company and the total number of reported data breaches since the GDPR came into force on May 25, 2018, the Irish Data Protection Commission has initiated an investigation into compliance with the relevant provisions of the GDPR against Facebook.

In recent weeks, reports of renewed breaches of data protection by Facebook have continued.

Most recently, it became known that the Italian competition authority AGCM had imposed a fine of 10 million euros on Facebook because the company had passed on data to other platforms without the express consent of the users and that a bug in the programming interface for picture processing led to third-party apps having access to pictures of 6.8 million Facebook users, some of which had not even been published by the users.

Android apps share sensitive information with Facebook

14. December 2018

According to the German information portal mobilsicher.de, about 30 % of all Android apps contact Facebook as soon as you start them. This also includes apps that are directly related to religion, sexual orientation or health. The user has usually no idea of this connection.

Mobilsicher.de tested out several Android app versions, which were available in the Play-Store on November 29, 2018. For example the Apps of the German political parties CDU and SPD.

App developers integrate so-called Software Development Kits (SDK) into their apps because they include the helpful “Facebook Analytics” function. This function provides the app operator with information on how users use the app. Facebook, on the other hand, receive the user’s advertising ID, which is individually assigned to each smartphone and, if available, can link this ID to the corresponding Facebook account. This leads to the fact that someone who has downloaded for example a pregnancy guide app now getting ads for baby clothes displayed on Facebook.

Facebook accesses user data even if they do not have a Facebook account at all. Upon request, the company confirmed that it is not clear to the user which data is transferred to Facebook. A tool called “Clear History”, announced by Mark Zuckerberg in May 2018, which should help this lack of transparency, is still not available.

Facebook itself does not consider this type of collecting data a problem, as users would have the option of opting out of personalized advertising and deactivating it either on their smartphone or in their Facebook account.

„If a person utilizes one of these controls, then Facebook will not use data gathered on these third-party apps (e.g. through Facebook Audience Network), for ad targeting”, the company replied to the question of whether the information would be deleted after the transfer. If someone decides against personalized advertising, Facebook still transfers the data, but with a corresponding note. Nevertheless, the user’s data will be collected.

Facebook: private messages from more than 81.000 people for sale

5. November 2018

According to a BBC report, more than 81.000 Facebook profiles were hacked. Private messages and other information was offered for 10 cents per account.

The BBC had the allegations checked by the IT security company Digital Shadows, who confirmed that over 81.000 of the profiles posted online contained private messenger messages. Furthermore, data from more than 176.000 accounts, including e-mail addresses and telephone numbers were available. This information did not necessarily have to come from a hack, as some of it was also open on public Facebook profiles

The BBC Russian Service also emailed the address that offered the data. The respondent – someone called “John Smith”- wrote that the offered data was neither from profiles involved in the Cambridge Analytica scandal nor of the recent security breach revealed in September. He said that his hacker group could offer data from 20 million users, of whom 2.7 million were Russians. But Digital Shadows doubts this because Facebook should have noticed such a big leak.

Facebook reported that its security has not been compromised. The data might be obtained through malicious browser extensions. According to Facebook executive Guy Rosen, they “have contacted browser-makers to ensure that known malicious extensions are no longer available to download in their stores”.

 

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