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  1. #751

    Re: Techno-babble Random Random

    Facebook allegedly offered advertisers special access to users' data and activities, according to documents released by British lawmakers

    By Craig Timberg ,
    Elizabeth Dwoskin and
    Tony Romm December 5 at 9:48 AM
    A key British lawmaker alleged Wednesday that Facebook maintained “whitelisting agreements” that gave select companies preferential access to valuable user data, echoing a key claim from an app developer that has been embroiled in a lawsuit with the social network in a California court.

    Damian Collins, chairman of a British parliamentary committee that has led a wide-ranging investigation into Facebook and its dealings with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, released a summary of findings along with more than 200 pages of documents Wednesday. Facebook has denied that it offered preferential access to data for major advertisers, as the app developer, Six4Three, has alleged in its suit.

    Collins released a limited trove of documents that long have been sealed in a California court, along with a summary saying, “Facebook have clearly entered into whitelisting agreements with certain companies, which meant that after the platform changes in 2014/15 they maintained full access to friends data. It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted or not.”

    Facebook, which has long said it does not sell user data, did not immediately reply to requests for comment but has disputed such allegations in the past, saying that some legal documents filed by Six4Three were misleadingly crafted and do not represent the company’s practices or policies.

    The documents emerged out of a closely watched legal battle in San Mateo County federal court in the United States between Six4Three and Facebook. They came into the possession of British authorities last month when Six4Three developer Ted Kramer traveled to London with digital copies of thousands of the documents. British authorities took custody of the documents, sidestepping the sealing order of the California court.

    Critics of the company say that the legal documents in the Six4Three case shed light on practices that compromised the privacy of Facebook users and could have violated a 2011 agreement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

    A small number of documents already became public last week, including descriptions of emails suggesting that Facebook executives had discussed giving access to their valuable user data to some companies that bought advertising when it was struggling to launch its mobile-ad business. The alleged practice started around seven years ago but has become more relevant this year because the practices in question — allowing outside developers to gather data on not only app users but their friends — are at the heart of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal.

    Facebook said last week that the picture offered by those documents was misleadingly crafted by Six4Three’s attorneys.

    Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy whose vice president was Republican strategist Stephen K. Bannon, gained access to data on 87 million users in ways that Facebook has said was improper but resembled a common practice at the time among app developers. Facebook largely stopped permitting such wide-ranging access to user data in 2015, but it did not stop it for all outside developers at the same time because, the company has said, some needed extensions to keep their software from breaking in ways that would have harmed users.

    Cambridge Analytica’s acquisition and use of such data for political campaigns has spawned several investigations since it was revealed in news reports in March. In the United States, the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the FTC have been investigating Facebook’s handling of this data and its public representations about it.

    Since the Cambridge Analytica controversy, lawmakers have repeatedly questioned Facebook about its relationships with data partners. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told Congress in April that the company had cut off outsiders’ access to friends' data several years ago, but subsequent reports have exposed privileged relationships brokered by the company.

    Facebook has not disputed the authenticity of the documents in its battle with Kramer, the Six4Three developer. But the company said that the exhibits in the case were used selectively to give a misleading portrait of decision-making at the company at a time when the social network was sharply limiting the information that app developers could gather from the platform.

    "The documents Six4Three gathered for this baseless case are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context,” Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook’s director of developer platforms and programs, said in a statement last week. “We stand by the platform changes we made in 2015 to stop a person from sharing their friends' data with developers. Any short-term extensions granted during this platform transition were to prevent the changes from breaking user experience.”

    Kramer’s company was the developer of Pikinis, an app that enabled people to find photos of Facebook users wearing bikinis. The app was built on the back of Facebook’s data, which Six4Three and thousands of other developers accessed through a feed known as an application programming interface, or API. The data feed enabled Six4Three to scour Facebook for bikini photos of people who were friends with Pikinis’s users.
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

  2. #752

    Re: Techno-babble Random Random

    Cyberattack from outside the U.S. hits newspapers across the country, preventing distribution, source says
    DEC 29, 2018 | 3:15 PM

    A cyberattack that appears to have originated from outside the United States caused major printing and delivery disruptions at several newspapers across the country on Saturday including the Los Angeles Times, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

    The attack led to distribution delays in the Saturday edition of The Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and several other major newspapers that operate on a shared production platform. It also stymied distribution of the West Coast editions of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, which are all printed at the Los Angeles Times’ Olympic printing plant in downtown Los Angeles.

    “We believe the intention of the attack was to disable infrastructure, more specifically servers, as opposed to looking to steal information,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly.

    No other details about the origin of the attack were immediately available, including the motive. The source identified the attacker only as a “foreign entity.”

    All papers within The Times’ former parent company, Tribune Publishing, experienced glitches with the production of papers. Tribune Publishing sold The Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune to Los Angeles businessman Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong in June, but the companies continue to share various systems, including software.

    “Every market across the company was impacted,” said Marisa Kollias, spokesperson for Tribune Publishing. She declined to provide specifics on the disruptions, but the company properties include The Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Annapolis Capital-Gazette, Hartford Courant, New York Daily News, Orlando Sentinel and Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

    Tribune Publishing said in a statement Saturday that “the personal data of our subscribers, online users, and advertising clients has not been compromised. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank our readers and advertising partners for their patience as we investigate the situation. News and all of our regular features are available online.”

    The Times said the problem was first detected Friday. Technology teams made significant progress in fixing it, but were unable to clear all systems before press time.

    Readers can access a digital edition of the Saturday paper here.

    Director of Distribution Joe Robidoux said he expects the majority of Los Angeles Times subscribers will receive their paper Saturday, however delivery will be late. For print subscribers that did not receive Saturday’s paper, they will receive the paper with their regularly scheduled delivery of the Sunday edition.

    The attack seemed to have begun late Thursday night and by Friday had spread to crucial areas needed to publish the paper.

    The computer problem shut down a number of crucial software systems that store news stories, photographs and administrative information, and made it difficult to create the plates used to print the papers at The Times’ downtown plant.

    “We are trying to do work-arounds so we can get pages out. It’s all in production. We need the plates to start the presses. That’s the bottleneck.” Robidoux said.

    “We apologize to our customers for this inconvenience. Thank you for your patience and support as we respond to this ongoing matter,” The Times said in a statement.

    It was unclear whether the company has been in contact with law enforcement regarding the suspected attack. An FBI spokeswoman was not immediately aware if the incident had been reported to her agency.

    The problem caused widespread issues for Sun-Sentinel readers in South Florida, one of Tribune Publishing’s major markets.The paper told readers that it had been “crippled this weekend by a computer virus that shut down production and hampered phone lines,” according to a story on its website.

    The problem caused widespread confusion, the paper noted, because subscribers who called the newspaper’s offices on Saturday morning were “told, incorrectly, that the numbers were not in service.”

    New York Times and Palm Beach Post readers in South Florida also failed to receive their Saturday editions because the Sun-Sentinel also prints those newspapers. The Sun Sentinel told readers that they would receive their Saturday issue along with their Sunday papers. The Orlando Sentinel subscribers received their papers on time, according to a Tribune Publishing executive.

    The Ventura County Star, owned by Gannett Co. Inc., said it was also affected.

    Experts said holidays are "a well known time for mischief" by digital troublemakers, because organizations are more thinly staffed

    "Usually when someone tries to disrupt a significant digital resource like a newspaper, you're looking at an experienced and sophisticated hacker," said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit public interest research group.

    Malware has, over time, become more sophisticated and coordinated, involving more planning by networks of hackers who infiltrate a system over time, she said."

    Modern malware is all about the long game," Dixon said. "It's serious attacks, not small stuff anymore.""When people think of malware, the impression may be, 'It's a little program that runs on my computer,'" Dixon said.

    Today, "malware can root into the deepest systems and disrupt very significant aspects of those systems."
    "Even if you dance for your enemy on the rock, he will accuse you of splashing water on him." ~ African Proverb

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