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The planet survived six hours without Facebook. Let’s make it longer next time – The Register

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Opinion At the time of writing, it has been exactly 100 hours since Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp crept back out of the void onto the internet*. They’d been gone for six hours – or seven billion dollars, if you measure out your life by Zuck’s net worth, which we don’t recommend.

The time for hot takes has passed. We are now in the brief window for sober analysis before everyone forgets it ever happened. Next Thursday, by current standards.

There are three angles that matter. One is the pure technical side – how a giant corporation, built out of the most resilient networking technologies ever created, just vanished. One is what it teaches us about Facebook’s importance to our daily lives. The last is what it tells us about Facebook itself, where it goes next, and whether its strip-mining of societal values for profit will continue.

The technical side is simply put. Someone, most likely a hapless sysadmin, tried to check backbone availability, but a malformed command shut down access to the company’s DNS servers instead.

It did this by cancelling the routes into Facebook that the internet knew about. The safety checks to stop that happening were broken, there was no Plan B and, as a bonus, most if not all of Facebook’s internal tools, comms, virtual and physical access systems shut down too. Hilarity ensued.

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Did it matter?

Yes and no. There are lots and lots of small businesses that rely on Facebook pages to talk to their customers. They had six hours of uncertainty.

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WhatsApp has been widely adopted as a team channel by all sorts of people who had to wait to plot, plan or parcel out work.

Families dealing with sickness or crises remotely suffered.

You don’t turn a multibillion-user service off without pain, and most of that was felt by people with the least heard of voices. But think what would happen if Google, Microsoft or Amazon had a total service outage like that. Even the partial ones we’ve seen have created universal concern that was absent here.

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Instead of concern, there was a sigh of relief all around, and a surge of schadenfreude among that hapless admin’s peers. That’s unusual and noteworthy.

Most sysadmins and other ops types have huge sympathy when an internal fumble by one of the clan causes public conniptions. There but for the grace of God is the rule – and the #HugOps tag is deployed in fraternal and sororal support. This time, not so much. Normally, everyone in the business recognises that work is work, but the social network seems like social death for network admins.

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This failure of respect amplifies the technical aspects of the outage. The raw components from which Facebook is built, the technologies and the people in the engine room, can do much better when allowed. You can build secure backdoors that bypass your main networks. You can build watchdogs that fall back to a known safe state when things stop happening.

You can’t foresee everything, but you can assume systemic failures whatever the cause. Yet a single point of failure took everything down. Efficiency had won over redundancy. The worst case that never happens, happened. Too much security is never enough – until it’s just too much.

And these are managerial decisions.

When we look at how Facebook’s business model is constructed, we see the same thinking. Concerns of malfeasance from the outside world must be locked out, no matter how badly the internal systems are behaving. Maximal efficiency, a single-minded approach to gathering data and selling it – allegedly without nuance or safeguard – is the one true way.

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Whistleblowers are the enemy. The media is to be ignored, rebuffed or treated like idiots, and what the hell do regulators or governments know anyway? Best practice is what Facebook says it is, not what everyone else decides.

This is hubris, characteristic of a company that is too powerful to care. State telcos had it. IBM in the 1960s had it and Microsoft in the 1990s – neither are by any means cured. And Apple, Google, Amazon all have it too.

But where Facebook is uniquely vulnerable is that if it goes away, it doesn’t much matter, even in the medium term. It is a social network, and nothing but, and users can rebuild that social interaction on a different platform in weeks. Others stand ready to take the advertising and analytics spend.

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Unlike Microsoft, Amazon and Google, unlike the telcos and IBM, Facebook provides no essential services to business or state. Quite the opposite – it threatens, and it has money, but it has no leverage. A loss of confidence at the top, or a sufficiently puissant legal or regulatory challenge, and it could vanish as quickly as its BGP routes, an irrelevant Yahoo! for the 2020s.

Facebook embodies the single point of failure. It has no friends it cannot buy, just enemies it cannot pay off. Six hours on a Facebook-free planet felt like six thousand hours too few, and now we know it. Does Facebook? ®

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Down and out in Menlo Park…

*The firm later gave some Facebook and Instagram users another little breather on Friday from around noon Pacific Time (19:00 UTC) to around 13:00 PT (20:00 UTC).

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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.

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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:

Something Went Wrong

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We’re having trouble playing this video.

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.

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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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