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Facebook actions deadly

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The antitrust action filed by 48 states and territories against Facebook gives us hope that tech firms will one day be held responsible for the harms they have caused our society. But we’re left wondering: Why are state prosecutors focused only on Facebook’s monopolistic behavior? What about the firm’s facilitation of serious crime and extremism?

The Alliance to Counter Crime Online, which we run, tracks how tech platforms enable a wide range of illicit actors to reach vast audiences to market their goods, negotiate prices, raise money and accept payment. Facebook profits off this illegal activity from the ads for commercial products that appear in the feeds of users who come online in search of illegal ones. This symbiotic relationship benefits Facebook and criminals, but its impact on ordinary people can be deadly.

We are not speaking figuratively. Consider the example of online drug sales: 40 states involved the antitrust suit are seeing a spike in synthetic opioid overdoses in 2020, a shadow epidemic outpacing even COVID deaths in places like San Francisco. In Albany County alone, where New York Attorney General Letitia James leads the 48-state case, overdose deaths are at a record high. Our researchers and others have tracked how Facebook’s family of platforms have overtaken the dark web as the premier online source for the illegal drugs driving these overdoses.

To get a sense of the scale of the narcotics market thriving across Facebook platforms, consider this: Facebook’s latest Transparency Report claims the company found and took action on more than 5.9 million drug sales posts from Facebook and Instagram in the third quarter of 2020. The report also claims that AI flagged 94 percent of these drug sales posts before any users reported them (although this doesn’t account for how many times these posts were viewed). Facebook’s 94 percent “success rate,” however, means that at least 354,000 confirmed drug sales were reported by users after evading Facebook’s AI systems. By comparison, when the Justice Department shut down AlphaBay in 2017, the world’s largest dark web marketplace had about 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals. And when the Justice Department seized the Silk Road servers in 2013, that dark web marketplace featured a mere 13,000 drug postings.

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And these numbers assume Facebook is being honest. Our research, collaborated by recent whistleblower accounts, suggests the firm exaggerates the success of their content removal efforts, so the number of drug posts could be even larger.

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The problem is that Facebook’s recommendation algorithms are far more efficient at spreading drug content than its moderation tools are at sniffing it out. Predictive search on Instagram, the number one online drug marketplace, suggests alternate spellings to make sure anyone showing the faintest interest in drugs can find them—even if that interest is negative. Search for #opioidaddiction, #twelvesteps or another recovery-related topic on Instagram and you will be served multiple posts with drugs for sale (even as a spokesperson touts the platform as a place where people struggling with addiction can get help).

Our researchers run daily test searches, and we consistently find that the average Instagram user — i.e. someone between the ages of 13 and 29 — is less than 10 seconds and a few clicks away from being able to buy narcotics or counterfeit pills.

It’s enough to make you feel anxious. Mention that sensation while chatting on Facebook platforms and you will begin to see advertisements for online pharmacies selling prescription medicines at cut-rate prices, some of which are lethal counterfeit drugs. The pandemic gave the online pharmacy market a shot in the arm, with 31 percent of Americans buying prescriptions online for the first time.

According to the FDA, 97 percent of online pharmacies are fake, and illegal online pharmacies have emerged as the main source of the counterfeit medications causing the current spike in overdoses. Facebook actually sells these illegal pharmacies ad space, yet another way the firm profits off illegal activity.

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On Jan. 6, members of Congress experienced firsthand how illegal activity taking place on Facebook can have deadly, real-life consequences. Facebook knows its algorithms spread division, and that many of its most popular groups are cesspits of illicit activity and extremism, but this active facilitation of crime and extremism has never been properly addressed by our judicial system.

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Just as state attorneys general have begun to unravel how powerful tech algorithms stifle competition, it is vital to also grasp how Facebook algorithms spread and amplify serious crime, and the myriad ways the firm profits from victimizing ordinary people.

The world’s biggest social media company isn’t just harming society with its monopolistic behavior. Facebook platforms are a threat to the health and human safety of the American people. It is time to hold the firm and its senior executives accountable.

Gretchen Peters and Kathleen Miles co-founded
The Alliance to Counter Crime Online
.

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Updating Special Ad Audiences for housing, employment, and credit advertisers

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On June 21, 2022 we announced an important settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that will change the way we deliver housing ads to people residing in the US. Specifically, we are building into our ads system a method designed to make sure the audience that ends up seeing a housing ad more closely reflects the eligible targeted audience for that ad.

As part of this agreement, we will also be sunsetting Special Ad Audiences, a tool that lets advertisers expand their audiences for ad sets related to housing. We are choosing to sunset this for employment and credit ads as well. In 2019, in addition to eliminating certain targeting options for housing, employment and credit ads, we introduced Special Ad Audiences as an alternative to Lookalike Audiences. But the field of fairness in machine learning is a dynamic and evolving one, and Special Ad Audiences was an early way to address concerns. Now, our focus will move to new approaches to improve fairness, including the method previously announced.

What’s happening: We’re removing the ability to create Special Ad Audiences via Ads Manager beginning on August 25, 2022.

Beginning October 12th, 2022, we will pause any remaining ad sets that contain Special Ad Audiences. These ad sets may be restarted once advertisers have removed any and all Special Ad Audiences from those ad sets. We are providing a two month window between preventing new Special Ad Audiences and pausing existing Special Ad Audiences to enable advertisers the time to adjust budgets and strategies as needed.

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For more details, please visit our Newsroom post.

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Impact to Advertisers using Marketing API on September 13, 2022

For advertisers and partners using the API listed below, the blocking of new Special Ad Audience creation will present a breaking change on all versions. Beginning August 15, 2022, developers can start to implement the code changes, and will have until September 13, 2022, when the non-versioning change occurs and prior values are deprecated. Refer below to the list of impacted endpoints related to this deprecation:

For reading audience:

  • endpoint gr:get:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field operation_status

For adset creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/adsets
  • field subtype

For adset editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdCampaign
  • field subtype

For custom audience creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field subtype

For custom audience editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:CustomAudience

Please refer to the developer documentation for further details to support code implementation.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Introducing an Update to the Data Protection Assessment

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Over the coming year, some apps with access to certain types of user data on our platforms will be required to complete the annual Data Protection Assessment. We have made a number of improvements to this process since our launch last year, when we introduced our first iteration of the assessment.

The updated Data Protection Assessment will include a new developer experience that is enhanced through streamlined communications, direct support, and clear status updates. Today, we’re sharing what you can expect from these new updates and how you can best prepare for completing this important privacy requirement if your app is within scope.

If your app is in scope for the Data Protection Assessment, and you’re an app admin, you’ll receive an email and a message in your app’s Alert Inbox when it’s time to complete the annual assessment. You and your team of experts will then have 60 calendar days to complete the assessment. We’ve built a new platform that enhances the user experience of completing the Data Protection Assessment. These updates to the platform are based on learnings over the past year from our partnership with the developer community. When completing the assessment, you can expect:

  • Streamlined communication: All communications and required actions will be through the My Apps page. You’ll be notified of pending communications requiring your response via your Alerts Inbox, email, and notifications in the My Apps page.

    Note: Other programs may still communicate with you through the App Contact Email.

  • Available support: Ability to engage with Meta teams via the Support tool to seek clarification on the questions within the Data Protection Assessment prior to submission and help with any requests for more info, or to resolve violations.

    Note: To access this feature, you will need to add the app and app admins to your Business Manager. Please refer to those links for step-by-step guides.

  • Clear status updates: Easy to understand status and timeline indicators throughout the process in the App Dashboard, App Settings, and My Apps page.
  • Straightforward reviewer follow-ups: Streamlined experience for any follow-ups from our reviewers, all via developers.facebook.com.

We’ve included a brief video that provides a walkthrough of the experience you’ll have with the Data Protection Assessment:

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The Data Protection Assessment elevates the importance of data security and helps gain the trust of the billions of people who use our products and services around the world. That’s why we are committed to providing a seamless experience for our partners as you complete this important privacy requirement.

Here is what you can do now to prepare for the assessment:

  1. Make sure you are reachable: Update your developer or business account contact email and notification settings.
  2. Review the questions in the Data Protection Assessment and engage with your teams on how best to answer these questions. You may have to enlist the help of your legal and information security points of contact to answer some parts of the assessment.
  3. Review Meta Platform Terms and our Developer Policies.

We know that when people choose to share their data, we’re able to work with the developer community to safely deliver rich and relevant experiences that create value for people and businesses. It’s a privilege we share when people grant us access to their data, and it’s imperative that we protect that data in order to maintain and build upon their trust. This is why the Data Protection Assessment focuses on data use, data sharing and data security.

Data privacy is challenging and complex, and we’re dedicated to continuously improving the processes to safeguard user privacy on our platform. Thank you for partnering with us as we continue to build a safer, more sustainable platform.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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See also  Facebook Reintroduces Instagram Lite In 170 Low Bandwidth Countries: Reuters
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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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Updated July 18: Developers and advertising partners may be required to share information on their app’s privacy practices in third party app stores, such as Google Play and the Apple App Store, including the functionality of SDKs provided by Meta. To help make it easier for you to complete these requirements, we have consolidated information that explains our data collection practices for the Facebook and Audience Network SDKs.

Facebook SDK

To provide functionality within the Facebook SDK, we may receive and process certain contact, location, identifier, and device information associated with Facebook users and their use of your application. The information we receive depends on what SDK features 3rd party applications use and we have structured the document below according to these features.

App Ads, Facebook Analytics, & App Events

Facebook App Events allow you to measure the performance of your app using Facebook Analytics, measure conversions associated with Facebook ads, and build audiences to acquire new users as well as re-engage existing users. There are a number of different ways your app can use app events to keep track of when people take specific actions such as installing your app or completing a purchase.

With Facebook SDK, there are app events that are automatically logged (app installs, app launches, and in-app purchases) and collected for Facebook Analytics unless you disable automatic event logging. Developers determine what events to send to Facebook from a list of standard events, or via a custom event.

When developers send Facebook custom events, these events could include data types outside of standard events. Developers control sending these events to Facebook either directly via application code or in Events Manager for codeless app events. Developers can review their code and Events Manager to determine which data types they are sending to Facebook. It’s the developer’s responsibility to ensure this is reflected in their application’s privacy policy.

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Advanced Matching

Developers may also send us additional user contact information in code, or via the Events Manager. Advanced matching functionality may use the following data, if sent:

  • email address, name, phone number, physical address (city, state or province, zip or postal code and country), gender, and date of birth.
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Facebook Login

There are two scenarios for applications that use Facebook Login via the Facebook SDK: Authenticated Sign Up or Sign In, and User Data Access via Permissions. For authentication, a unique, app-specific identifier tied to a user’s Facebook Account enables the user to sign in to your app. For Data Access, a user must explicitly grant your app permission to access data.

Note: Since Facebook Login is part of the Facebook SDK, we may collect other information referenced here when you use Facebook Login, depending on your settings.

Device Information

We may also receive and process the following information if your app is integrated with the Facebook SDK:

  • Device identifiers;
  • Device attributes, such as device model and screen dimensions, CPU core, storage size, SDK version, OS and app versions, and app package name; and
  • Networking information, such as the name of the mobile operator or ISP, language, time zone, and IP address.

Audience Network SDK

We may receive and process the following information when you use the Audience Network SDK to integrate Audience Network ads in your app:

  • Device identifiers;
  • Device attributes, such as device model and screen dimensions, operating system, mediation platform and SDK versions; and
  • Ad performance information, such as impressions, clicks, placement, and viewability.

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