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Facebook Isn’t Scandal-Proof – The New York Times

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This social network may finally be paying the price for its bad reputation.

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CreditCredit…Kiel Mutschelknaus

Shira Ovide

All of that is, at least in part, the price that Facebook is already paying for its bad reputation.

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Let me go back to Instagram because it helps show the weight of Facebook’s baggage.

Almost the minute that news broke this year about Facebook’s plans for a version of the app for preteens, there were shrieks of “NOPE!” from attorneys general and some children’s advocates. Facebook now says it will hear out critics.

Instagram Kids isn’t necessarily a bad idea. U.S. law requires limits on online accounts of children under 13, but many lie about their age. Facebook was in part trying to acknowledge reality and draw preteens to a version of Instagram with more protections. Facebook pointed out on Monday that both YouTube and TikTok have tailored their apps for kids. (And they have attracted criticism at times.) All of this is complicated for parents, regulators, internet companies and children.

The biggest problem was that Instagram Kids came from Facebook, which people didn’t trust to create a safe space for children. Many don’t trust the company, period. This was at least the second high-profile product that Facebook backed away from after pushback. Last year, Facebook also changed its mind about starting its own virtual currency, called Libra, after its business partners balked and some U.S. government officials worried about potential disruptions to the financial system.

If a more trusted company like General Motors, or even Apple, were behind Libra or a an app for kids, there still might have been a backlash to those proposals. But U.S. senators might not have criticized the company’s work using an expletive or likened it to a toddler arsonist, as they did with Facebook.

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I know it feels as if lots of people say they dislike Facebook but still use the social network or one of its other apps. There are weak spots in Facebook’s popularity, though, that may be the result of Americans feeling as though they have to hold their noses when they log in.

The number of people in the U.S. and Canada who use Facebook or its Messenger app at least once a month have increased only about 8 percent since the end of 2017 — before the Cambridge Analytica scandal about harvesting users’ information exposed Facebook’s lax treatment of personal data.

Facebook may simply have maxed out now that two-thirds of the combined population of the U.S. and Canada use the social media network. Those numbers don’t include people who use Instagram or WhatsApp, owned by the same company. Facebook doesn’t regularly reveal numbers for those apps.

You could look at these facts and reach the opposite conclusion: Nothing matters. On the scoreboard of money and power, Facebook is winning.

Yup, I hear you. The cynical devil on my shoulder is yelling that a few project delays, screaming politicians, rejections from job candidates and armies of public relations specialists and lawyers are simply the costs of doing business for a high-profile company.

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Maybe Facebook can skate past the mistrust forever and remain hated but rich. But I wonder whether at some point the burden of a bad reputation does become too much and starts hurting Facebook where it counts — in its wallet. Or maybe I just wish this were true because companies shouldn’t be able to mess up repeatedly and face few consequences.


Your lead

I wrote last week that we all might be better off if Facebook retreated from many less affluent countries. The company has repeatedly not devoted enough money, attention and cultural competence to many countries outside the United States and Western Europe, and this has resulted in a horrible human toll including ethnic violence and government harassment of citizens.

An On Tech reader in Sofia, Bulgaria, Antoniya Staneva, disagreed with me and made great points. I wanted to share part of the email, slightly edited for clarity:

Yes, it is absolutely clear to me that there are places where Facebook is a tool for misinformation, manipulation, propaganda and other dangerous practices (is this not the same even in the U.S. when you think about it?), but being from a smaller unimportant country (Bulgaria), I can assure you that those things would happen in those places with or without Facebook present there. They would happen via (social) media channels and networks at a local level.

The big difference, however, for people in countries like those would be that they would lose an important window to the bigger world, which is what very often Facebook is in smaller, non-Western, not-so-well-developed countries.

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  • Meet Amazon’s latest invention: It’s called Astro, and it is essentially a $1,000 Alexa screen on wheels, with googly eyes.

  • More Amazon! The company has mostly failed for years to create a hit video game for die-hard gamers. An executive told my colleague Kellen Browning that Amazon’s newest release “has to be our breakthrough game — there’s no doubt about it.”

    Related: The video game company Activision Blizzard agreed to pay $18 million in a settlement with a federal employment agency. The agency had accused Activision of discriminating against pregnant employees, paying female workers less than their male counterparts because of their gender and retaliating against employees who complained about unfair treatment.

  • Happy Meg Ryan cozy-sweater season! TikTok looks have been inspired by the actress’s characters in “You’ve Got Mail,” “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle.” This is another twist in our obsession with hating or loving all things autumn, Vox’s Rebecca Jennings writes.

Have you ever seen a baby riding a robot vacuum cleaner? Now you have.


We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think of this newsletter and what else you’d like us to explore. You can reach us at ontech@nytimes.com.

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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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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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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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