Category Archives: FaceBook

To make Stories global, Facebook adds Archive and audio posts

Facebook’s future rests on convincing the developing world to adopt Stories. But just because the slideshow format will soon surpass feed sharing doesn’t mean people use them the same way everywhere. So late last year, Facebook sent a team to India to learn what features they’d need to embrace Stories across a variety of local languages on phones without much storage.

Today, Facebook will start rolling out three big Stories features in India, which will come to the rest of the world shortly after. First, to lure posts from users who don’t want to type or have a non-native language keyboard, as well as micropodcasters, Facebook Stories will allow audio posts combining a voice message with a colored background or photo.

Facebook Stories will get an Archive similar to Instagram Stories that automatically saves your clips privately after they expire so you can go back to check them out or re-share the content to the News Feed. And finally, Facebook will let Stories users privately Save their clips from the Facebook Camera directly to the social network instead of their phone in case they don’t have enough space.

Facebook Stories Archive

“We know that the performance and reliability of viewing and posting Stories is extremely important to people around the world, especially those with slower connections” Facebook’s director of Stories Connor Hayes tells me. “We are always working on ways to improve the experience of viewing Stories on all types of connections, and have been investing here — especially on our FB Lite app.”

Facebook has a big opportunity to capitalize on Snapchat’s failure to focus on the international market. Plagued by Android engineering problems and initial reluctance to court users beyond U.S. teens, Snapchat left the door open for Facebook’s Stories products to win the globe. Now Snapchat has sunk to its slowest growth rate ever, hitting 191 million daily users despite shrinking in March. Meanwhile, WhatsApp Status, its clone of Snapchat Stories has 450 million daily users, while Instagram Stories has over 300 million.

As for Facebook Stories, it was initially seen as a bit of a ghost town but more and more of my friends are posting there, in part thanks to the ability to syndicate you Instagram Stories there. Facebook Stories has never announced a user count, and Hayes says “We don’t have anything to share yet, but performance of Facebook Stories is encouraging, and we’ve learned a lot about how we can make the experience even better.” Facebook is hell-bent on making Stories work on its own app after launching the in mid-2017, and seems to believe users who find them needless or redundant will come around eventually.

My concern about the global rise of Stories is that instead of only recording the biggest highlights of our lives to capture with our phones, we’re increasingly interrupting all our activities and exiting the present to thrust our phone in the air.

That’s one thing Facebook hopes to fix here, Facebook’s director of Stories Connor Hayes tells me. “Saving photos and videos can be used to save what you might want to post later – So you don’t have to edit or post them while you’re out with your friends, and instead enjoy the moment at the concert and share them later.” You’re still injecting technology into your experience, though, so I hope we can all learn to record as subtly as possible without disturbing the memory for those around us.

Facebook Camera’s Save feature

The new Save to Facebook Camera feature creates a private tab in the Stories creation interface where you can access and post the imagery you’ve stored, and you’ll also find a Saved tab in your profile’s Photos section. Unlike Facebook’s discontinued Photo Sync feature, here you’ll choose to save imagery one at a time. It will be a big help to users lacking free space on their phone, as Facebook says many people around the world have to delete a photo just to save a new one.

Facebook wants to encourage people to invest more time decorating Stories, and learned that some people want to re-live or re-share their clips that expire after 24 hours. That’s why its built the Archive, a hedge against the potentially short-sighted trend of ephemerality.

On the team’s journey to India, they heard that photos and videos aren’t always the easiest way to share. If you’re camera-shy, have a low-quality camera, or don’t have cool scenes to capture, audio posts could get you sharing more. In fact, Facebook started testing voice clips as feed status updates in March. “With this week’s update, you will have options to add a voice message to a colorful background or a photo from your camera gallery or saved gallery. You can also add stickers, text, or doodles” says Hayes. With 22 official languages in India and over 100 spoken, recording voice can often be easier than typing.

Facebook Audio Stories

Some users will still hate Stories, which are getting more and more prominence atop Facebook’s feed. But Facebook can’t afford to retreat here. Stories are social media bedrock — the most full-screen and immersive content medium we can record and consume with just our phones. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself said that Facebook must make sure that “ads are as good in Stories as they are in feeds. If we don’t do this well, then as more sharing shifts to Stories, that could hurt our business.” That means Facebook Stories needs India’s hundreds of millions of users.

There will always be room for text, yet if people want to achieve an emotional impact, they’ll eventually wade into Storytelling. But social networks must remember low-bandwidth users, or we’ll only get windows into the developed world.

For more on Facebook Stories, check out our recent coverage:

Zuckerberg again snubs UK parliament over call to testify

Facebook has once again eschewed a direct request from the UK parliament for its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to testify to a committee investigating online disinformation — without rustling up so much as a fig-leaf-sized excuse to explain why the founder of one of the world’s most used technology platforms can’t squeeze a video call into his busy schedule and spare UK politicians’ blushes.

Which tells you pretty much all you need to know about where the balance of power lies in the global game of (essentially unregulated) U.S. tech platforms giants vs (essentially powerless) foreign political jurisdictions.

At the end of an 18-page letter sent to the DCMS committee yesterday — in which Facebook’s UK head of public policy, Rebecca Stimson, provides a point-by-point response to the almost 40 questions the committee said had not been adequately addressed by CTO Mike Schroepfer in a prior hearing last month — Facebook professes itself disappointed that the CTO’s grilling was not deemed sufficient by the committee.

“While Mark Zuckerberg has no plans to meet with the Committee or travel to the UK at the present time, we fully recognize the seriousness of these issues and remain committed to providing any additional information required for their enquiry into fake news,” she adds.

So, in other words, Facebook has served up another big fat ‘no’ to the renewed request for Zuckerberg to testify — after also denying a request for him to appear before it in March, when it instead sent Schroepfer to claim to be unable to answer MPs’ questions.

At the start of this month committee chair Damian Collins wrote to Facebook saying he hoped Zuckerberg would voluntarily agree to answer questions. But the MP also took the unprecedented step of warning that if the Facebook founder did not do so the committee would issue a formal summons for him to appear the next time Zuckerberg steps foot in the UK.

Hence, presumably, that addendum line in Stimson’s letter — saying the Facebook CEO has no plans to travel to the UK “at the present time”.

The committee of course has zero powers to comply testimony from a non-UK national who is resident outside the UK — even though the platform he controls does plenty of business within the UK.

Last month Schroepfer faced five hours of close and at times angry questions from the committee, with members accusing his employer of lacking integrity and displaying a pattern of intentionally deceptive behavior.

The committee has been specifically asking Facebook to provide it with information related to the UK’s 2016 EU referendum for months — and complaining the company has narrowly interpreted its requests to sidestep a thorough investigation.

More recently research carried out by the Tow Center unearthed Russian-bought UK targeted immigration ads relevant to the Brexit referendum among a cache Facebook had provided to Congress — which the company had not disclosed to the UK committee.

At the end of the CTO’s evidence session last month the committee expressed immediate dissatisfaction — claiming there were almost 40 outstanding questions the CTO had failed to answer, and calling again for Zuckerberg to testify.

It possibly overplayed its hand slightly, though, giving Facebook the chance to serve up a detailed (if not entirely comprehensive) point-by-point reply now — and use that to sidestep the latest request for its CEO to testify.

Still, Collins expressed fresh dissatisfaction today, saying Facebook’s answers “do not fully answer each point with sufficient detail or data evidence”, and adding the committee would be writing to the company in the coming days to ask it to address “significant gaps” in its answers. So this game of political question and self-serving answer is set to continue.

In a statement, Collins also criticized Facebook’s response at length, writing:

It is disappointing that a company with the resources of Facebook chooses not to provide a sufficient level of detail and transparency on various points including on Cambridge Analytica, dark ads, Facebook Connect, the amount spent by Russia on UK ads on the platform, data collection across the web, budgets for investigations, and that shows general discrepancies between Schroepfer and Zuckerberg’s respective testimonies. Given that these were follow up questions to questions Mr Schroepfer previously failed to answer, we expected both detail and data, and in a number of cases got excuses.

If Mark Zuckerberg truly recognises the ‘seriousness’ of these issues as they say they do, we would expect that he would want to appear in front of the Committee and answer questions that are of concern not only to Parliament, but Facebook’s tens of millions of users in this country. Although Facebook says Mr Zuckerberg has no plans to travel to the UK, we would also be open to taking his evidence by video link, if that would be the only way to do this during the period of our inquiry.

For too long these companies have gone unchallenged in their business practices, and only under public pressure from this Committee and others have they begun to fully cooperate with our requests. We plan to write to Facebook in the coming days with further follow up questions.

In terms of the answers Facebook provides to the committee in its letter (plus some supporting documents related to the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal) there’s certainly plenty of padding on show. And deploying self-serving PR to fuzz the signal is a strategy Facebook has mastered in recent more challenging political times (just look at its ‘Hard Questions’ series to see this tactic at work).

At times Facebook’s response to political attacks certainly looks like an attempt to drown out critical points by deploying self-serving but selective data points — so, for instance, it talks at length in the letter about the work it’s doing in Myanmar, where its platform has been accused by the UN of accelerating ethnic violence as a result of systematic content moderation failures, but declines to state how many fake accounts it’s identified and removed in the market; nor will it disclose how much revenue it generates from the market.

Asked by the committee what the average time to respond to content flagged for review in the region, Facebook also responds in the letter with the vaguest of generalized global data points — saying: “The vast majority of the content reported to us is reviewed within 24 hours.” Nor does it specify if that global average refers to human review — or just an AI parsing the content.

Another of the committee’s questions is: ‘Who was the person at Facebook responsible for the decision not to tell users affected in 2015 by the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal?’ On this Facebook provides three full paragraphs of response but does not provide a direct answer specifying who decided not to tell users at that point — so either the company is concealing the identity of the person responsible or there simply was no one in charge of that kind of consideration at that time because user privacy was so low a priority for the company that it had no responsibility structures in place to enforce it.

Another question — ‘who at Facebook heads up the investigation into Cambridge Analytica?’ — does get a straight and short response, with Facebook saying its legal team, led by general counsel Colin Stretch, is the lead there.

It also claims that Zuckerberg himself only become aware of the allegations that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted Facebook user data in March 2018 following press reports.

Asked what data it holds on dark ads, Facebook provides some information but it’s also being a bit vague here too — saying: “In general, Facebook maintains for paid advertisers data such as name, address and banking details”, and: “We also maintain information about advertiser’s accounts on the Facebook platform and information about their ad campaigns (most advertising content, run dates, spend, etc).”

It does also confirms it can retain the aforementioned data even if a page has been deleted — responding to another of the committee’s questions about how the company would be able to audit advertisers who set up to target political ads during a campaign and immediately deleted their presence once the election was over.

Though, given it’s said it only generally retains data, we must assume there are instances where it might not retain data and the purveyors of dark ads are essentially untraceable via its platform — unless it puts in place a more robust and comprehensive advertiser audit framework.

The committee also asked Facebook’s CTO whether it retains money from fraudulent ads running on its platform, such as the ads at the center of a defamation lawsuit by consumer finance personality Martin Lewis. On this Facebook says it does not “generally” return money to an advertiser when it discovers a policy violation — claiming this “would seem perverse” given the attempt to deceive users. Instead it says it makes “investments in areas to improve security on Facebook and beyond”.

Asked by the committee for copies of the Brexit ads that a Cambridge Analytica linked data company, AIQ, ran on its platform, Facebook says it’s in the process of compiling the content and notifying the advertisers that the committee wants to see the content.

Though it does break out AIQ ad spending related to different vote leave campaigns, and says the individual campaigns would have had to grant the Canadian company admin access to their pages in order for AIQ to run ads on their behalf.

The full letter containing all Facebook’s responses can be read here.

WhatsApp revamps Groups to fight Telegram

Facebook just installed its VP of Internet.org as the new head of WhatsApp after its CEO Jan Koum left the company. And now Facebook is expanding its mission to get people into “meaningful” groups to WhatsApp. Today, WhatsApp launched a slew of new features for Groups on iOS and Android that let admins set a description for their community and decide who can change the Groups settings. Meanwhile, users will be able to get a Group catch up that shows messages they were mentioned in, and search for people in the group.

WhatsApp’s new Group descriptions

WhatsApp Group participant search

Group improvements will help WhatsApp better compete with Telegram, which has recently emerged as an insanely popular platform for chat groups, especially around cryptocurrency. Telegram has plenty of admin controls of its own, but the two apps will be competing over who can make it easiest to digest these fast-moving chat forums.

“These are features are based on user requests. We develop the product based on what our users want and need” a WhatsApp spokesperson told me when asked why it’s making this update. “There are also people coming together in groups onWhatsApp like new parents looking for support, students organizing study sessions, and even city leaders coordinating relief efforts after natural disasters.”

Facebook is on a quest to get 1 billion users into “meaningful” Groups and recently said it now has hit the 200 million user milestone. Groups could help people strengthen their ties with their city or niche interests, which can make them feel less alone.

With Group descriptions, admins can explain the purpose and rules of a group. They show up when people check out the group and appear atop the chat window when they join. New admin controls let them restrict who is allowed to alter a group’s subject, icon, and description. WhatsApp is also making it tougher to re-add someone to a group they left so you can’t “Group-add-spam people”. Together, these could make sure people find relevant groups, naturally acclimate to their culture, and don’t troll everyone.

As for users, the new Group catch up feature offers a new @ button in the bottom right of the chat window that when tapped, surfaces all your replies and mentions since you last checked. And if you want to find someone specific in the Group, the new participant search on the Info page could let you turn a group chat into a private convo with someone you meet.

WhatsApp Group catch up

Now that WhatsApp has a stunning 1.5 billion users compared to 200 million on Telegram, its next phase of growth may come from deepening engagement instead of just adding more accounts. Many people already do most of their one-on-one chatting with friends on WhatsApp, but Groups could invite tons of time spent as users participate in communities of strangers around their interests.

Instagram has an unlaunched “time spent” Usage Insights dashboard

Instagram may be jumping into the time well spent movement, following the unveiling of Google’s new time management controls last week. Code buried in Instagram’s Android app reveals a “Usage Insights” feature that will show users their “time spent”. It’s not exactly clear whether that will be your total time spent in Instagram ever, which could be a pretty scary number to some users, or within some shorter time frame like a day, week, or month.

By being upfront with users about how much of their lives they’re investing in their favorite apps, tech giants could encourage people to adopt healthier habits and avoid the long, passive, anti-social browsing sessions that can harm their well-being. These features could also help parents keep track of what their kids are doing online. Both might lead people to spend less time on apps like Instagram, but they could be happier with companies like Instagram.

The Usage Insights screenshot and “time spent” code were discovered by prolific app investigator Jane Manchun Wong inside the Instagram for Android application package, or “APK”. She wrote “Be self-aware or be prepared to be ashamed for Instagram addiction”. When asked by TechCrunch for more evidence about how the feature worked, she tweeted screenshot below of Instagram’s code. Several of Wong’s other recent discoveries of unlaunched features like Facebook Avatars and Twitter encrypted DMs were subsequently confirmed by the companies as being in testing.

An Instagram spokesperson told TechCrunch the company has no comment on this discovery for now, but may return with more info later. We’ll update when we hear back. Until then we’ll have to wait and see what exactly the time spent dashboard will show, or if Instagram ends up launching it at all.

For comparison, the new Android time management tool shows a daily look at how much time you spent on different apps, and lets you set time limits. But since most of Google’s apps outside of YouTube are utilities designed to be used as quickly as possible, it might have less to lose by revealing how users spend time on their phones than Facebook . Many are hoping to see Apple launch time management features at WWDC this year.

Google’s new Android time management features. Image via The Verge.

Offering “Usage Insights” aligns with Facebook’s recent discussion of research that shows active social networking, like messaging, posting, or commenting can be positive for people’s well-being, but endless zombie scrolling can make people feel worse. While Facebook hasn’t created anything like this feature in its own apps, it’s started to change its algorithm to promote active interactions while downranking viral videos that people consume passively. That led to Facebook’s first ever decline in its North American daily user count in Q4 2017, though it was growing again in the region by Q1 2018.

Instagram’s photo and video-heavy feed especially lends itself to the negative social networking behaviors like envy spiraling, where users constantly compare themselves against the glamorous highlights posted by their friends. Letting users know how long they’re Instagramming, or even let them set time limits, could push people to go out and live life instead of watching through a screen as others live it.

Anyone could download Cambridge researchers’ 4-million-user Facebook data set for years

A data set of more than 3 million Facebook users and a variety of their personal details collected by Cambridge researchers was available for anyone to download for some four years, New Scientist reports. It’s likely only one of many places where such huge sets of personal data collected during a period of permissive Facebook access terms have been obtainable.

The data were collected as part of a personality test, myPersonality, which, according to its own wiki (now taken down), was operational from 2007 to 2012, but new data was added as late as August of 2016. It started as a side project by the Cambridge Psychometrics Centre’s David Stillwell (now deputy director there), but graduated to a more organized research effort later. The project “has close academic links,” the site explains, “however, it is a standalone business.” (Presumably for liability purposes; the group never charged for access to the data.)

Though “Cambridge” is in the name, there’s no real connection to Cambridge Analytica, just a very tenuous one through Aleksandr Kogan, which is explained below.

Like other quiz apps, it requested consent to access the user’s profile (friends’ data was not collected), which combined with responses to questionnaires produced a rich data set with entries for millions of users. Data collected included demographics, status updates, some profile pictures, likes and lots more, but not private messages or data from friends.

Exactly how many users are affected is a bit difficult to say: the wiki claims the database holds 6 million test results from 4 million profiles (hence the headline), though only 3.1 million sets of personality scores are in the set and far less data points are available on certain metrics, such as employer or school. At any rate, the total number is on that order, though the same data is not available for every user.

Although the data is stripped of identifying information, such as the user’s actual name, the volume and breadth of it makes the set susceptible to de-anonymization, for lack of a better term. (I should add there is no evidence that this has actually occurred; simple anonymizing processes on rich data sets are just fundamentally more vulnerable to this kind of reassembly effort.)

This data set was available via a wiki to credentialed academics who had to agree to the team’s own terms of service. It was used by hundreds of researchers from dozens of institutions and companies for numerous papers and projects, including some from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and even Facebook itself. (I asked the latter about this curious occurrence, and a representative told me that two researchers listed signed up for the data before working there; it’s unclear why in that case the name I saw would list Facebook as their affiliation, but there you have it.)

This in itself is in violation of Facebook’s terms of service, which ostensibly prohibited the distribution of such data to third parties. As we’ve seen over the last year or so, however, it appears to have exerted almost no effort at all in enforcing this policy, as hundreds (potentially thousands) of apps were plainly and seemingly proudly violating the terms by sharing data sets gleaned from Facebook users.

In the case of myPersonality, the data was supposed to be distributed only to actual researchers; Stillwell and his collaborator at the time, Michal Kosinski, personally vetted applications, which had to list the data they needed and why, as this sample application shows:

I am a full-time faculty member. [IF YOU ARE A STUDENT PLEASE HAVE YOU SUPERVISOR REQUEST ACCESS TO THE DATA FOR YOU.] I read and agree with the myPersonality Database Terms of Use. [SERIOUSLY, PLEASE DO READ IT.] I will take responsibility for the use of the data by any students in my research group.

I am planning to use the following variables:
* [LIST THE VARIABLES YOU INTEND TO
* USE AND TELL US HOW
* YOU PLAN TO ANALYZE THEM.]

One lecturer, however, published their credentials on GitHub in order to allow their students to use the data. Those credentials were available to anyone searching for access to the myPersonality database for, as New Scientist estimates, about four years.

This seems to demonstrate the laxity with which Facebook was policing the data it supposedly guarded. Once that data left company premises, there was no way for the company to control it in the first place, but the fact that a set of millions of entries was being sent to any academic who asked, and anyone who had a publicly listed username and password, suggests it wasn’t even trying.

A Facebook researcher actually requested the data in violation of his own company’s policies. I’m not sure what to conclude from that, other than that the company was utterly uninterested in securing sets like this and far more concerned with providing against any future liability. After all, if the app was in violation, Facebook can simply suspend it — as the company did last month, by the way — and lay the whole burden on the violator.

“We suspended the myPersonality app almost a month ago because we believe that it may have violated Facebook’s policies,” said Facebook’s VP of product partnerships, Ime Archibong, in a statement. “We are currently investigating the app, and if myPersonality refuses to cooperate or fails our audit, we will ban it.”

In a statement provided to TechCrunch, David Stillwell defended the myPersonality project’s data collection and distribution.

“myPersonality collaborators have published more than 100 social science research papers on important topics that advance our understanding of the growing use and impact of social networks,” he said. “We believe that academic research benefits from properly controlled sharing of anonymised data among the research community.”

In a separate email, Michal Kosinski also emphasized the importance of the published research based on their data set. Here’s a recent example looking into how people assess their own personalities versus how those who know them do, and how a computer trained to do so performs.

From the research paper based on myPersonality’s database. The computer performed almost as well as a spouse.

“Facebook has been aware of and has encouraged our research since at least 2011,” the statement continued. It’s hard to square this with Facebook’s allegation that the project was suspended for policy violations based on the language of its redistribution terms, which is how a company spokesperson explained it to me. The likely explanation is that Facebook never looked closely until this type of profile data sharing became unpopular, and usage and distribution among academics came under closer scrutiny.

Stillwell said (and the Centre has specifically explained) that Aleksandr Kogan was not in fact associated with the project; he was, however, one of the collaborators who received access to the data like those at other institutions. He apparently certified that he did not use this data in his SCL and Cambridge Analytica dealings.

The statement also says that the newest data is six years old, which seems substantially accurate from what I can tell except, for a set of nearly 800,000 users’ data regarding the 2015 rainbow profile picture filter campaign, added in August 2016. That doesn’t change much, but I thought it worth noting.

Facebook has suspended hundreds of apps and services and is investigating thousands more after it became clear in the Cambridge Analytica case that data collected from its users for one purpose was being redeployed for all sorts of purposes by actors nefarious and otherwise. One is a separate endeavor from the Cambridge Psychometrics Centre called Apply Magic Sauce; I asked the researchers about the connection between it and myPersonality data.

The takeaway from the small sample of these suspensions and collection methods that have been made public suggest that during its most permissive period (up until 2014 or so) Facebook allowed the data of countless users (the totals will only increase) to escape its authority, and that data is still out there, totally out of the company’s control and being used by anyone for just about anything.

Researchers working with user data provided with consent aren’t the enemy, but the total inability of Facebook (and to a certain extent the researchers themselves) to exert any kind of meaningful control over that data is indicative of grave missteps in digital privacy.

Ultimately it seems that Facebook should be the one taking responsibility for this massive oversight, but as Mark Zuckerberg’s performance in the Capitol emphasized, it’s not really clear what taking responsibility looks like other than an appearance of contrition and promises to do better.

Facebook suspends ~200 suspicious apps out of “thousands” reviewed so far

Did you just notice a Facebook app has gone AWOL? After reviewing “thousands” of apps on its platform following a major data misuse scandal that blew up in March, Facebook has announced it’s suspended around 200 apps — pending what it describes as a “thorough investigation” into whether or not their developers misused Facebook user data.

The action is part of a still ongoing audit of third party applications running on the platform announced by Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal where a third party developer used quiz apps to extract and pass Facebook user data to the consultancy for political ad targeting purposes.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the app audit on March 21, writing that the company would “investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014, and we will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity”.

Apps that would not agree to a “thorough audit” would also be banned, he said then.

Just under two months on and the tally is ~200 ‘suspicious’ app suspensions, though the review process is ongoing — and Facebook is not being more specific about the total number of apps it’s looked at so far (beyond saying “thousands”) — so expect that figure to rise.

In the Cambridge Analytica instance, Facebook admitted that personal information on as many as 87 million users may have been passed to the political consultancy — without most people’s knowledge or consent.

Giving an update on the app audit process in a blog post, Ime ArchibongFacebook’s VP of product partnerships, writes that the investigation is “in full swing”.

“We have large teams of internal and external experts working hard to investigate these apps as quickly as possible,” he says. “To date thousands of apps have been investigated and around 200 have been suspended — pending a thorough investigation into whether they did in fact misuse any data. Where we find evidence that these or other apps did misuse data, we will ban them and notify people via this website. It will show people if they or their friends installed an app that misused data before 2015 — just as we did for Cambridge Analytica.”

Archibong does not confirm how much longer the audit will take — but does admit there’s a long way to go, writing that: “There is a lot more work to be done to find all the apps that may have misused people’s Facebook data – and it will take time.”

“We are investing heavily to make sure this investigation is as thorough and timely as possible,” he adds.

Where Facebook does have concerns about an app — such as the ~200 apps it has suspended pending a fuller probe — Archibong says it will conduct interviews; make requests for information (“which ask a series of detailed questions about the app and the data it has access to”); and perform audits “that may include on-site inspections”.

So Facebook will not be doing on site inspections in every suspicious app instance.

We’ve asked Facebook a series of follow up questions about the ~200 suspicious apps it’s identified, and more broadly about the ongoing audit process and will update this post with any response.

For instance it’s not clear whether the company will publish a public list of every app that it suspends or deems to have misused user data — or whether it will just notify affected individuals.

Given the likely scale of data misuse by developers on its platform there is an argument for Facebook to publish a public list of suspensions.

House Democrats release more than 3,500 Russian Facebook ads

Democrats from the House Intelligence Committee have released thousands of ads that were run on Facebook by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency.

The Democrats said they’ve released a total of 3,519 ads today from 2015, 2016 and 2017. This doesn’t include 80,000 pieces of organic content shared on Facebook by the IRA, which the Democrats plan to release later.

What remains unclear is the impact that these ads actually had on public opinion, but the Democrats note that they were seen by more than 11.4 million Americans.

You can find all the ads here, though it’ll take some time just to download them. As has been noted about earlier (smaller) releases of IRA ads, they aren’t all nakedly pro-Trump, but instead express a dizzying array of opinions and arguments, targeted at a wide range of users.

“Russia sought to weaponize social media to drive a wedge between Americans, and in an attempt to sway the 2016 election,” tweeted Adam Schiff, who is the Democrats’ ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee. “They created fake accounts, pages and communities to push divisive online content and videos, and to mobilize real Americans,”

He added, “By exposing these Russian-created Facebook advertisements, we hope to better protect legitimate political expression and safeguard Americans from having the information they seek polluted by foreign adversaries. Sunlight is always the best disinfectant.

In conjunction with this release, Facebook published a post acknowledging that it was “too slow to spot this type of information operations interference” in the 2016 election, and outlining the steps (like creating a public database of political ads) that it’s taking to prevent this in the future.

“This will never be a solved problem because we’re up against determined, creative and well-funded adversaries,” Facebook said. “But we are making steady progress.”