Friday, June 28, 2013

Message from Facebook's White Hat Program

The link to the full story is here

At Facebook, we take people’s privacy seriously, and we strive to protect people’s information to the very best of our ability. We implement many safeguards, hire the brightest engineers and train them to ensure we have only high-quality code behind the scenes of your Facebook experiences. We even have teams that focus exclusively on preventing and fixing privacy-related technical issues before they affect you.

Even with a strong team, no company can ensure 100% prevention of bugs, and in rare cases we don’t discover a problem until it has already affected a person’s account. This is one of the reasons we also have a White Hat program to collaborate with external security researchers and help us ensure that we maintain the highest security standards for our users.

We recently received a report to our White Hat program regarding a bug that may have allowed some of a person’s contact information (email or phone number) to be accessed by people who either had some contact information about that person or some connection to them. 

Describing what caused the bug can get pretty technical, but we want to explain how it happened. When people upload their contact lists or address books to Facebook, we try to match that data with the contact information of other people on Facebook in order to generate friend recommendations. For example, we don’t want to recommend that people invite contacts to join Facebook if those contacts are already on Facebook; instead, we want to recommend that they invite those contacts to be their friends on Facebook. 

Because of the bug, some of the information used to make friend recommendations and reduce the number of invitations we send was inadvertently stored in association with people’s contact information as part of their account on Facebook. As a result, if a person went to download an archive of their Facebook account through our Download Your Information (DYI) tool, they may have been provided with additional email addresses or telephone numbers for their contacts or people with whom they have some connection. This contact information was provided by other people on Facebook and was not necessarily accurate, but was inadvertently included with the contacts of the person using the DYI tool. 

After review and confirmation of the bug by our security team, we immediately disabled the DYI tool to fix the problem and were able to turn the tool back on the next day once we were satisfied that the problem had been fixed.

We've concluded that approximately 6 million Facebook users had email addresses or telephone numbers shared. There were other email addresses or telephone numbers included in the downloads, but they were not connected to any Facebook users or even names of individuals. For almost all of the email addresses or telephone numbers impacted, each individual email address or telephone number was only included in a download once or twice. This means, in almost all cases, an email address or telephone number was only exposed to one person. Additionally, no other types of personal or financial information were included and only people on Facebook – not developers or advertisers – have access to the DYI tool.

We currently have no evidence that this bug has been exploited maliciously and we have not received complaints from users or seen anomalous behavior on the tool or site to suggest wrongdoing. Although the practical impact of this bug is likely to be minimal since any email address or phone number that was shared was shared with people who already had some of that contact information anyway, or who had some connection to one another, it's still something we're upset and embarrassed by, and we'll work doubly hard to make sure nothing like this happens again. Your trust is the most important asset we have, and we are committed to improving our safety procedures and keeping your information safe and secure.

We have already notified our regulators in the US, Canada and Europe, and we are in the process of notifying affected users via email.

We appreciate the security researcher's report to our White Hat program, and have paid out a bug bounty to thank him for his efforts.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

LinkedIn’s Page Views Skyrocket As Users Linger To Consume Content

The link to the full story is here

BII LinkedIn pageviews
Roth is responsible for “Influencers,” a LinkedIn content program that launched in October 2012, and is a kind of blogging platform for thought leaders to share expertise. Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and President Obama are among the more than 250 uncompensated contributors. 
Roth told The New York Times that “traffic to all … news products had increased eightfold since Influencers was introduced.” 
In other words, Influencers and other content products like industry-specific “channels” boost engagement as users linger on the site to consume career-linked news and advice. 
  • In the first quarter, LinkedIn experienced 8% growth in the number of members on its site from the previous quarter and 35% growth year-over-year. 
  • In the first quarter, LinkedIn experienced 14% growth in the average number of monthly unique visitors going to its site from the previous quarter and 28% growth year-over-year. 
  • For comparison, Facebook’s average number of monthly unique visitors grew 23% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2013. 
  • For comparison, Facebook’s average number of monthly unique visitors grew 23% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2013. 
BII LinkedIn engagement

LinkedIn Gets A Little More Watchful, Now Tells You Who’s Viewed Your Updates, And Where You’ve Been Looking

The link to the full story is here

LinkedIn, the social network used by people for job hunting and making other business connections, is adding two more enhancements to its homepage that highlight one of its creepier, but occasionally useful, elements: how it tracks what people visit on the site and then reports on that activity.
From today, it will start showing users who has viewed their not just their overall profiles, but their updates on the site; and it will also start showing what you’ve been visiting yourself. Together, the two build on a long-standing feature on LinkedIn’s homepage, “Who’s viewed your profile,” and they also underscore how LinkedIn continues to add services to encourage more activity on its platform.
The bigger picture, too, is that LinkedIn is fighting another creeping trend: that of declining revenue growth. While actual sales are still on the rise, and even exceeding expectations in recent quarters, the overall trend is one of growth on the site slowing. In that context, the hope is that adding new features to increase activity on LinkedIn will drive more paid users, as well as more advertising.
who viewed updates“Who’s viewed your updates” differs from the existing profile viewing tracker in a couple of ways. For starters, there is no paygate on the feature that limits how much data you can see. In comparison, LinkedIn uses its profile view as a way to drive paid subscriptions to the service: you receive a limited list of those who have looked up your profile; you cannot see a full list, or who is seeing your name in searches, unless you “unlock the full list with LinkedIn Premium.”
LinkedIn tells me it has no plans to charge for “who’s viewed your updates,” perhaps because it wants to push the site as a platform for sharing content. To that end, it shows how much specific status updates and shared news gets viewed, liked and commented on, and by whom, and whether those people are in your first, second or third circle of contacts.
This, in turn, not only serves as a reminder to people to keep updating their accounts — “Share something new,” the box notes — but like the profile view, seeing who has been responding to your status updates is a way for you to make new contacts or revisit existing ones. (And also like the profile view, it’s a slightly unnerving reminder that you are being watched wherever you go on the site.)
“Who’s viewed your updates” also highlights LinkedIn’s wider social media ambitions. The concentric circles and datapoints about comments, likes and views speaks to how the site is, bit by bit, offering more analytics tools to its users, particularly those who look to the site as a marketing platform either for themselves or for their businesses.
who viewed you“You recently visited” is another play on analytics, but this time focusing on you. It tracks personal profiles that you’ve viewed, searches you have made, and group discussions where you have contributed. Down the line, LinkedIn tells me it will also include articles you have seen and company profiles.
“This makes it easier to retrace your steps, re-engage in conversations or follow-up with that old colleague you intended to connect with,” writes Caroline Gaffney, Homepage product lead at LinkedIn in a post that will soon be posted on the company’s blog.
Again, this highlights LinkedIn as a place for research, and if you use it a lot, it can be a simple way to track what you’ve done in case you need to return to something. Like the other new feature, LinkedIn tells me there are no plans for now to charge for this.
Today’s two new features are the latest additions to LinkedIn’s homepage, which it first started to update about a year ago. They will start appearing in that all-important right-hand column, where the profile viewing data, advertising, new contact suggestions and other high-priority features are placed.
Altogether, these features are part of a much bigger platform refresh at LinkedIn that has seen the site move to more updated, interactive features across the board. These have included the ability to add photos, presentations and other media to your profile; an update to the Contacts page to add in more “personal assistant” life organizing features; new iPhone and Android apps; an expanded search engine@mentions in status updatesKlout-style endorsements; and a Recruiter homepage redesign for the site’s most dedicated user vertical.

Google Launches Google+ Photos App For Chromebook Pixel, Coming Soon To Other Chrome OS Devices

The link to the full story is here

Google has launched a Google+ photos app for the Chromebook Pixel, something it actually previewed way back at the Pixel launch, and screens showed up in February, but it has taken until now to get the Google+ to wide release. The app plugs into your Google+ account, and will automatically upload photos on any SD card plugged into the device back to your Drive account, in either full resolution (with a limited cap) or Google’s standard 2048px wide format (unlimited) depending on what the user chooses.
The app offers a very nice browsing experience, augmented by the Pixel’s super high resolution display, and touchscreen interface for paging through images. The image viewer shows you a preview, with rotation controls, easy access to sharing and album creation features, and metadata along the right including maps, tags, dimensions and camera data. Offline mode allows for viewing recently uploaded photos, which are automatically cached, and you can add photos from Google Drive, your local downloads folder or attached media storage, and it’ll get the new automagical Google+ photo enhancement treatment if you have that enabled.
The Chromebook Pixel app is available via the Chromebook Pixel owner’s portal, and for now you definitely need to own that fanciest of Chrome OS notebooks to play. But Google’s AJ Asver said in a Google+ update that the app will definitely be rolling out to other Chromebooks as well, though he doesn’t specify a timeline for that happening.
Google+ may not be my social network of choice (I’m not exactly a model citizen of any of them) but the photos experience is pretty great, especially given Google’s recent updates to the same. The G+ Photos app for Chromebook is a good way to help satisfy would-be Chromebook owners who are also photography enthusiasts, too, in the absence of more advanced tools like Lightroom, though it still won’t please any pro photographers. It’ll be much more useful once it hits other Chromebooks, which need something just like this to satisfy users who have grown used to tools like iPhoto.

Twitter Is Experimenting With New Live Events Platform, “DVR Mode” For Using Twitter With TV & More

The link to the full story is here

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo today hinted at several upcoming features for the social media platform, including plans to address cyberbullying and better ways to filter the “signal from the noise” during live events, including something he referred to as a “DVR mode” for Twitter. These comments were made during a moderated panel this morning at the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings.
On the subject of cyberbullying, Costolo spoke of ongoing experiments with technological solutions that would better filter out “egregious, obvious harassment,” noting that the challenge facing the company is in finding a scalable solution to that problem. Twitter today has more than 200 million active users every month, and the addition of celebrities, athletes, politicians and others the CEO dubbed “VIT’s” — “very important tweeters” — dramatically increase the usage of Twitter.
But even though the public nature of Twitter’s platform alleviates some of the potential for cyber bullying, Twitter also allows users to be anonymous, which can be a problem at times. On the one hand, anonymity makes it possible for people to express political commentary, but on the other, Costolo admitted it could also allow for trolling.
Twitter has to do a better job on the “Connect” stream to clean up the abusive, repeat and trolling posts, he said.
The CEO also talked about the challenge Twitter faces during live events. Early adopters will remember, of course, that the biggest problem used to be simply keeping Twitter online. It had once seemed like every time Steve Jobs took the stage to speak, Twitter would crash and display the infamous “fail whale” message indicating the service was down.
These days, the problem is no longer about stability, but making sense of all the data that flows in real-time.
“That ability to track and monitor the moments within an event, either as they happen or to catch up with them, is something we want to enhance,” said Costolo. “We want to make that experience even better, curating the moments within the event, the media from it, and making it that much easier to navigate.”
Costolo talked about how Twitter had tried, during the last Olympics, to curate and highlight tweets from athletes and news commenters, for example, but found that solution lacking. “The amazing thing about that was that you lost the roar of the crowd,” he said. Twitter no longer felt like the town square it aspires to be, but became more of an aggregator. That’s something which, later in the talk, Costolo explained is not Twitter’s role.
“We’re not in the business of synthesizing and analyzing,” he said of the data on Twitter. “It’s the journalists and the news organizations in the world who will take all this info and analyze and curate it as they’ve always done,” he explained.
To address the signal from the noise problem, Twitter is experimenting with a new live events tool that aims to keep that “roar of the crowd,” while still highlighting the key moments. Right now, keeping track of live events on Twitter is very basic — you’re essentially just following the tweets in reverse chronological order, the CEO explained.
“It would be nice to see things like a graphic of spikes in the conversation, what timed they happened…and be able to scroll back to that time to see what happened at that particular moment,” he said.  And for planned events, like televised events, Costolo added that Twitter would like to offer that same functionality to users, even if they’re watching the event on a delayed basis. He described this as being able to “follow along with Twitter in a DVR mode.”
That feature, likely birthed out Twitter’s acquisition of social TV analytics service Bluefin Labs, is still in the testing phase but fits in with Twitter’s broader goal to become the default “second screen” application. In recent weeks, the company has launched TV ad targeting for Promoted Tweets, also powered by its acquisition of Bluefin Labs. And it announced broadcast partnerships with BBC America, Fox, Fuse and The Weather Channel, allowing networks to promote TV clips, as well as other deals with cable networks and content publishers. Plus, it partnered with Nielsen for Twitter TV ratings, too.
Costolo today touted Twitter’s position as the go-to second screen app, saying that if he’s watching a major event on television and doesn’t have Twitter on hand, he feels like he’s “watching [TV] with the volume off.”

Official Facebook, Flipboard, And NFL Apps Are Coming To Windows 8/RT

The link to the full story is here

At its Build developer conference in San Francisco today, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer announced that FacebookFlipboard and theNFL are about to launch their apps on Windows 8 and Windows RT. As Ballmer notes, Microsoft believes that developers are doing great work on Windows 8 and that the number of apps “that are coming into the store is phenomenal.” He did, however, single these three apps out, which makes sense, given that they are indeed marquee apps for Windows 8 that were, until now, sadly missing from the platform.
Now that Microsoft is putting a new emphasis on small Windows tablets with Windows 8.1, apps like Flipboard will make a lot more sense on the Windows 8 platform.
Flipboard CEO Mike McCue argues that he doesn’t just want to build “the best app possible for Windows 8,” but that Flipboard wants it to be “the best version of Flipboard possible.”
As for the Facebook apps, Facebook tells us that it will first bring a Facebook for Windows 8 apps to the platform. The company is building this service itself and the focus will, for now, be on tablets.
Microsoft, Ballmer said, also “recently struck a deal with the NFL to bring its content and applications to a broad set of Microsoft devices, including all Windows tablets and PCs.” The first app to come to Windows 8, it seems, will be a fantasy football app.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Twitter The Ad Player Wants To Push More TV Buttons, Adds Viacom To Its Partner List

The link to the full story is here

The Cannes Lions mega advertising event is in full swing today in the south of France and while Twitter is marking its official presence there with a big sign at the entrance to the main venue (pictured here), and a big data keynote (led by Twitter’s new chief media scientist Deb Roy) to go along with it, it’s also continuing to ink deals. The latest is with Viacom, which joins ESPN, Fox and Discovery among the broadcasters who will link up ads on Twitter’s platform to ads they’re running alongside their programs.
The idea behind Twitter’s ad targeting platform Amplify, first launched in May, is to create ever more, and smarter, links between the two screens to better capture the ever-fickle consumer. Video will be a key feature of Amplify, and is another reminder of why other social media platforms like Facebook are also making video moves (with its hot photo property Instagram expected to add video services very soon).
Twitter’s first Viacom deal is picking an easy target: the two will create social video campaigns that will run on Twitter during the popular MTV Video Music Awards on August 25. Last year’s Video Music Awards, Twitter says, was the most popular news event on its platform last year, with 52 million votes cast via Tweets for the “Most Sharable Video” and the show itself generating 14.7 million Tweets. The biggest peak of the night went to the moment cheesy manufactured pop band One Direction won Best Pop Video with 98,307 Tweets per minute, Viacom notes. That says quite a lot about how Twitter pitches itself as mainstream, and also about how it gets used.
The aim will be, in future, for at least some of those tweets — if not all — to get linked up in two ways. One will be in terms of analytics to help give advertisers and TV companies an idea of what their viewers are interested in. The other will be to figure out when and where they are most likely to see an ad, based on their interactions on Twitter.
“Our technology has automated ad detection. We know where and when each national commercial airs,” Roy noted today during his Cannes Lions presentation. “It’s no accident that Twitter [has] emerged as the prime platform for social soundtrack. It’s live [and] goes hand in hand with TV,” headded later.
Roy, an associate professor at MIT’s Media Lab, came to Twitter via the company’s acquisition ofBlueFin Labs, where he was the co-founder, and he made liberal use of his big data chops, with visuals of what he called the “social soundtrack” for different locations that visualized the “noise” coming from them across different times of day.

Twitter Adds Easier Column Navigation To Tweetdeck For Power Users

The link to the full story is here

Twitter added new features to Tweetdeck today that makes it easier to arrange and consume various feeds.
Column headers now have “grab handles” in the top-left corner so they can quickly and easily be rearranged. If you are looking at fewer than four feeds, the selected column will now snap its left edge to the sidebar; if four or more columns are visible, the selected column will still be in the center of the screen, like before.
Finally, when you click a column icon twice, it will scroll to the top and reveal any Tweets you may have missed, a similar function to Twitter for Mac.
Tweetdeck, which Twitter acquired for $40 million in 2011, is a web, mobile, and desktop client for sorting and reading many customized Twitter feeds in a short amount of time. Twitter seems to be working hard to keep their core “power users” loyal to digesting most of their media through the service; the company redesigned Tweetdeck two weeks ago and added some “often requested features.”
Today’s updates are available now for web and Chrome, and the company says updates for Mac and Windows will “follow soon.”

Twitter Acquires Local Discovery Startup Spindle, Will End Spindle Service

The link to the full story is here

Twitter today acquired Spindle, an app that uses mobile devices and social networks to make a smarter localized search engine. The Spindle team will move to San Francisco and shutter the Spindle app.
Using social networks, the time of day, and your location, Spindle would show you places you may want to visit, like restaurants or stores or other points of interest.
“We’ve spent the past two-and-a-half years building a product that helps you answer the question: “What’s happening nearby right now?” Every time we’ve experimented and looked beyond local discovery, we’ve been amazed by the breadth and quality of content shared on Twitter,” the company wrote in a blog post today. “By joining forces with Twitter, we can do so much more to help you find interesting, timely and useful information about what’s happening around you.”
Spindle comes from ex-Microsoft engineers and raised $2.3 million in funding before being acquired by Twitter. The company introduced version 2.0 in March, which featured interesting Google Now-esque push notifications based on user preferences.
The Spindle team also said they will be relocating from Boston to San Francisco to join the Twitter team, and will be “sunsetting the Spindle service today to focus on these new and exciting opportunities.”
It’s not immediately clear what the Spindle team will be working on, but we obviously expect them to keep answering the question, “What’s happening nearby right now?” Combined with Twitter’s resources and social graph, the team could produce a product to rival Foursquare or Facebook’s local search.

Twitter Said To Be Preparing Location-Based Ads For Clicks And Bricks

The link to the full story is here

Twitter is reportedly working on geolocated promoted tweets to help retailers target specifically consumers within spitting distance of their stores, according to AdAge. The location-based ads might be ready to launch as soon as later this year, the report claims, and would be the perfect means of delivery for spot deals designed to drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar retailers and other businesses to nearby shoppers.
This is an area where Twitter lags behind Facebook in terms of giving its advertisers access to targeting tools. Facebook has been doing zip code targeting for a couple of years now, while Twitter has yet to introduce anything along those lines. Lately, the 140 character-based social network has been rolling out a lot of new ad programs, however, and geo-targeted tweets are a natural fit for Twitter, which has an incredibly strong mobile user base and which already displays trending topics based on broad geographic categories.
More companies are looking around for a why to take the rising interest in mobile devices and ecommerce to drive business back to traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. eBay just launched its own inaugural window shopping project in NYC, for instance. Location-based offers are something that a few different companies have been trying for years now, too, so it’s hardly risky territory for Twitter to enter.
Twitter doing more hyperlocal targeting has potential beyond just bringing more foot traffic to stores, however. For a company with strong mobile traction, it’s a way to make discovery even more relevant, by surfacing trending topics at the level of the neighborhood for instance. That could offer even more refinement to tailored trends, which offers different tags based on a user’s habits and general location, to surface not only relevant ad content but things like relevant events as well. Specificity can only help with recommended content when it comes to location, across all verticals.
Still, the appeal for advertisers will likely be the biggest part of the puzzle, especially as Twitter continues to grow its revenue engine. The question will be whether tweets or FB ads prove a better sales conversion tool for brands to leverage when it comes to getting people into local shops and stores.

Big Brands Are Growing More Quickly On Twitter Than Facebook (According To Optimal)

The link to the full story is here

Here’s a fun comparison from Optimal, a social advertising and analytics startup: If you look at big brands on social networks, their following seems to be growing more quickly on Twitter than on Facebook.
Optimal says it looked at the data from 4,330 brands, representing a total of 3.49 billion Facebook Likes and 595 million Twitter followers. Last week, those brands added 18.5 million new Likes and 4.5 million new followers — so on a percentage basis, their following grew 55 percent more quickly on Twitter than it did on Facebook.
Now, you might quibble about whether pitting Facebook Likes against Twitter followers is a bit of an apples-and-oranges comparison, but those are, ultimately, the main ways that businesses can count their following on each service. You could also point out the Twitter audience is still smaller than it is on Facebook — so even though Optimal said Twitter grew more quickly, the brands in question actually got more Facebook Likes than new Twitter followers.
There are cases, however, where brands have a larger following on Twitter, full stop. Facebook-owned Instagram, for example, added the most Twitter followers of all the brands tracked — 279,500 new followers compared to 214,300 Likes. It has 21.3 million followers total and 4.6 million Facebook Likes. (Facebook itself came in at No. 3 on Twitter growth, adding 167,400 new followers and 217,200 Likes.)
Not that Optimal CEO Rob Leathern is really trying to pitch this as Twitter overtaking Facebook.
“I think it does show that Twitter is growing and becoming more relevant for brands, too – in a sense ‘catching up’, but also it is different as well,” he told me via email. “A smaller but often more active audience.”
Optimal also broke down the data by industry. Department and general merchandise stores had the highest growth rate on Twitter (2.01 percent, versus 0.59 percent on Facebook), while books and magazines had the lowest (0.46 percent, compared to 0.61 percent on Facebook).
Leathern said this isn’t necessarily the first time Twitter has outpaced Facebook (in this very specific measurement) — it’s just “the first time we are looking at the data this way.”

Vine Has A Head Start, But There’s Plenty Of Room For An Instagram Video Win

The link to the full story is here

Facebook is making an announcement later today that we have heard could do with Instagram, its very popular photo app, getting a video service. If true, Facebook would be entering a crowded market – but one that is nevertheless ripe for the picking, with no single app yet to achieve more than one-tenth of a potential audience.
We got the researchers at Onavo to pull together some statistics for us on how the leading video apps are playing out at the moment, charting what percentage of consumers are accessing these apps each month. (To keep things simple, we kept these numbers restricted to iPhone and U.S.-only.)
Here’s how the market shares of video apps look at the moment:
New Video Sharing Apps graphic
As you can see, Twitter’s Vine — the newest player on the scene, launching only in January of this year — is far and away the biggest of the top-five video sharing apps. It has 10.7% of all iPhone users monthly. Among the next four biggest — Keek, Cinemagram, Viddy and SocialCam — as of the month of May, not one of them managed to attract more than 0.9% of users. Among those four, Keek is the only one that is not in decline, according to Onavo’s figures.
But Vine’s winning share says something else: it points to how small this market is at the moment. Assuming that most people would not use more than one video app, together all four still make up less than 13% of all iPhone users. On the other hand, as a sign of why Vine specifically might pose a competitive threat to Facebook, it is also the only one of the four video apps that has been growing — and sharply, too.
How much growth is left? Compare the video app proportions to those of photo apps. For all the video apps out there, there are even more photo sharing services, but these are reaching into much bigger proportions of consumers, and bigger overall numbers.
New New Photo Sharing Apps
Instagram has been steadily creeping up and is now at 35.5%; while the second-largest, Snapchat, is at just under half that size, at 16.8%; Flickr is at 1.15%; and Facebook’s own camera is at 0.46%. (In the last quarter, Facebook noted that Instagram has now passed 100 million monthly active users, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they updated that number today. That is, if the news is about Instagram.)
While Snapchat is the opposite of a public posting site — the ephemeral quality is something that Facebook itself tried to mimic in its own Poke app — it’s notable that Snapchat lets people take both photos and video. And I don’t think the feature growth will end there: I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it move into more ways of “sharing” pictures longer term, and possibly attracting people away from sites like Instagram. (There’s  another story to tell here, too, about how Yahoo will need to startmaking good use of all its new acquisitions and talent fast to turn around things like that paltry Flickr mobile audience share. Another time.)
Indeed, while Instagram looks like the clear winner now, we are still far from being in a saturated market in photo apps. Video looks small compared to photo, but when you compare photo app use to social networking app use, it also pales. Facebook, notes Onavo, is currently being used by some 72.40% of users. Twitter is in second at 27.10%, with Pinterest at 10.90% and LinkedIn at 9.65%.


Video, and specifically video with a social and/or mobile spin, are hot tickets at the moment. For consumer apps and websites, video provides a route to picking up more users, getting those users to spend more time on their networks, and possibly laying the groundwork for brand-friendly advertising. For users, the rise of smartphones with good cameras, combined with a surge of interest to document our lives and share those clips with others over better and faster networks, are all contributing to a boom in the market.
But it’s not at all a sure-fire formula. Lightt, a video taking, editing and sharing app that is popular with Instagrammers, is currently getting a lot of prominence from Apple in the “new and noteworthy” and “photo & video” sections of the App Store. But Lightt didn’t make the top-four cut, Onavo tells me.
We’ll see if that changes. Backed by investors like Maveron; and founded by Alex Mostoufi, who also started up and then sold to Apple, Lightt is still young and may yet have some more flashes left in it. Mostoufi tells me that it’s currently “doubling and sometimes tripling” its user base every week.

Facebook Now Allows Publishers To Highlight Their Pages And Authors’ Profiles In Shared Links

The link to the full story is here

This isn’t exactly Facebook’s mystery announcement (we’ll still have to wait a little bit for that), but in the shadow of its press event today, Facebook also today made a small but interesting update to its Open Graph tagsfor media publishers that you’ll likely see in your news feed soon. Publishers can now add two new tags to their HTML that will help Facebook add links to their own Facebook pages and links to the author’s Facebook profile in content previews.
When the publisher tag is set, a “like” button for the publisher’s Facebook page will appear in the content preview whenever an article is shared. The author tag works similarly and will display a “follow” button in the preview that allows Facebook users to follow the author on the site. This, of course, only works if the author has activated Facebook’s Twitter-like follow feature.
All it takes for a publisher to activate this is to add two lines of code to their HTML pages. These tags join Facebook’s other Open Graph tags for displaying article titles, descriptions and associated images.
Facebook also announced a number of other small changes to its platform. Developers will now have to submit at least two screenshots of their app’s user flow when they submit their apps for review, for example, and they can now suppress the creation of a News Feed story when they create a new event for a page.

Instagram Launches Cinema, Its Fix For The iPhone’s Shaky Camera

The link to the full story is here

Instagram today finally unveiled its anticipated video service and served it with a kicker, which is great for those of us with shaky hands. It launched Cinema: a way to stabilize the video captured with the iPhone.
Right now this is an iPhone-only app. And for good reason. Since the launch of the iPhone 5, Android phone makers have embraced higher-quality cameras than Apple with many flagship devices already featuring superior image stabilization.
Of course a lot of this is hearsay right now. Image stabilization performed by software, as is done here, historically gets the job done at the sacrifice of image quality. Either it introduces more digital noise or messes with the flow of the image. But most of the time the image does improve in some way.
This feature gives Instagram a solid leg up over Vine and other camera apps. Like when taking pics with Instragram, the photos often look better with a slight adjustment. Other apps, like Camera+, feature similar tools, but Instagram bakes in features that make their pics, and now videos, look as good as possible — and then adds a social layer on top.

Facebook Adds Like Button To Mobile Messages, A One-Touch “OK”

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Like Replies Short
“Alright”, “Yes”, and the much-hated “k” just got a visual redesign. Facebook’s iOS and Android apps have rolled out the option in messages to reply with a one-tap thumbs-up Like button sticker. It’s a highly-functional flourish that replaces the greyed-out Send button when you haven’t typed anything. And while it seems simple, I’m finding it quite satisfying.
Facebook confirms with me that the “Like Reply” button, as I’m calling it, was “part of a recent update”. However, it doesn’t appear to have been included in any of the “What’s New” release notes. That meshes with my suspicion that Facebook sometimes adds new mobile features and either doesn’t announce them, or notes them a few updates after they appear. Cheeky. The Like Replies are now available in Facebook and Messenger for iOS and Android, plus, but not on desktop.
Update: Path 3 had this feature first. It was included in the Path 3 update a few months ago. Path design uses a checkmark which I find to be a lot more ambiguous than the thumbs-up. Still, considering Facebook also added stickers soon after Path did, there may be a fast-follow trend emerging.


Stickers have blown up recently as people search for quick and vivid way to share emotions while mobile messaging. But usually you have to dig those out of a menu. Meanwhile, texting was built for efficient communication. One of the most common things you have to communicate is an ‘affirmative’. Yes to whatever you just said. I agree. I approve. I acquiesce.
And so “k” was born. A one-letter affirmative. But it still requires several clicks. To open the messaging field, to type the letter, and to send it.
Android Like ReplyBut *BAM*, the Like Reply button does it in a single gesture. Facebook even has a Like button thumbs-up sticker, but this makes it instantly accessible in the right situations. The bright blue one on Android looks especially sharp. Yes, this will save you one second. But it could save you and everyone else that one second hundreds of times, multiplied by 750 million mobile users a month. Efficiency matters.
I’ve always wanted this for text messaging. Actually, not just for replies but as way to signal to people that was lighter-weight than a text message. I called it the “nudge”. A little buzz, even more subtle than an SMS. If I said I’d pick you up in 10 minutes, and you get a nudge 11 minutes later, it means come outside. If it’s late and I want to see if you’re up, I might nudge you. If I’m free to meet up with friends and want to ping a bunch of them? Mass nudge. Much less annoying than “Hey guys wanna hang out with me? I’m lonely.”

Facebook’s Creepy Data-Grabbing Ways Make It The Borg Of The Digital World

The link to the full story is here

The latest Facebook data breach – which exposed personal contact information Facebook had harvested on six million of its users – is a reminder that even if you’re not handing over all your contact data to Facebook, Facebook is obtaining and triangulating that data anyway. And even if you’re not on Facebook yourself, your contact data likely is because the social network is building a shadow profile of you by data-mining other people.
You might never join Facebook but a zombie you — sewn together from scattered bits of your personal data — is still sitting there in sort-of-stasis on its servers. Waiting to be properly animated if you do sign up for the service. Or waiting to escape through the cracks of another security flaw in Facebook’s systems.
Facebook is a crowd-fuelled data-mining machine that’s now so massive (1.11 billion monthly active users as of March 2013) it doesn’t matter if you haven’t ever signed up yourself to sign over your personal data. It has long since passed the tipping point where it can act as a distributed data network that knows something about almost everyone. Or everyone who leaves any kind of digital/cellular trace that can be fed into its data banks.
Chances are someone you have corresponded with — by email or mobile phone — has let Facebook’s data spiders crawl through their correspondence, thereby allowing your contact data to be assimilated entirely without your knowledge or consent. One such example was flagged to TechCrunch on Saturday when one of the users informed by Facebook they had been affected by its latest breach found it had harvested an email address they had never personally handed over.
This behaviour casts Facebook as the Borg of the digital world: resistance is futile. It also underlines exactly why the NSA wants a backdoor into this type of digital treasure trove store. If you’re going to outsource low-level surveillance of everyone then Facebook is one of a handful of tech companies large enough to have files on almost everyone. So really, forget the futuristic Borg: this ceaseless data-harvesting brings to mind the dossier-gathering attention to detail of the Stasi.
Does this matter? That depends on whether you care about privacy — your own or other people’s. Since Facebook is not immune to data leaks and security imperfections, as the latest bug illustrates (which has apparently been a puncture-hole in its systems since last year), the fact that it is harvesting and storing your data means there is an ongoing risk that data could be exposed to others without your consent. And that’s ignoring the primary lack of consent in Facebook storing your data without asking you in the first place.
Apparently it’s ok for your friends to consent to sharing your data on your behalf. Better choose your friends carefully then. Except it’s not even just your friends — it’s likely anyone you have had cause to correspond with in any capacity, friendship or otherwise. It seems unlikely Facebook’s algorithms are discerning enough to determine which contacts are friends, were once friends or have always only ever been passing/fleeting acquaintances and therefore have zero claim to be custodians of your personal data. Not that your real friends are likely aware they are acting as guardians of your data either.
Facebook says it uses the data it mines on you from others to power its friend recommendation feature. Which means the friend suggestion thumbnails that periodically crop up to help you build out your Facebook network, based on people its algorithms think you might know. This feature is helpful to Facebook, allowing it to encourage rapid growth of its users’ networks — by cutting down on the legwork required to find friends on the service — and therefore fuel overall user growth of its service. Sure, it’s also handy for individual Facebook users but is it useful enough to justify holding on to a vast mountain of personal contact data without consent?
The key issues here — beyond the overarching privacy theme — are transparency and consent. Facebook is very coy about explaining what it is doing. Do your friends even know they are consenting to your contact details being stored in Facebook’s cloud when they hook Facebook up to their contacts’ books? It’s highly unlikely they’re aware that that is what is happening. All they’re likely thinking is: ‘this feature will help me find more friends’. Facebook is certainly not going out of its way to explicitly say how its digital matchmaking service works.
You could argue that the average user won’t care or likely understand a technical explanation. But that does not excuse Facebook treating your personal data as the property of another person who may or may not care where that data ends up. It’s your data — and you are the one affected if it’s leaked. But Facebook is sidestepping that reality by being opaque about its processes and failing to acknowledge there are wider privacy implications to its data-grabbing ways (Packet Storm goes into one possible unpleasant scenario of the current Facebook data-harvesting process here).
In its blog post detailing last week’s data breach, Facebook skimmed over the surface of its processes (see quotation below). It focused, instead, on explaining why it harvests data, rather than making it clear it is storing users’ friends’ phone numbers and email addresses’ to do this. Why avoid spelling that out? Because it inevitably sounds creepy. Because, well, it inevitably is creepy.
When people upload their contact lists or address books to Facebook, we try to match that data with the contact information of other people on Facebook in order to generate friend recommendations. For example, we don’t want to recommend that people invite contacts to join Facebook if those contacts are already on Facebook; instead, we want to recommend that they invite those contacts to be their friends on Facebook.
Because of the bug, some of the information used to make friend recommendations and reduce the number of invitations we send was inadvertently stored in association with people’s contact information as part of their account on Facebook. As a result, if a person went to download an archive of their Facebook account through our Download Your Information (DYI) tool, they may have been provided with additional email addresses or telephone numbers for their contacts or people with whom they have some connection. This contact information was provided by other people on Facebook and was not necessarily accurate, but was inadvertently included with the contacts of the person using the DYI tool.
Note Facebook’s phrasing: “This contact information was provided by other people on Facebook”. In other words, ‘your personal contact info was shared with us — but not by you’. That’s the root issue here, and Facebook is cloaking it with anodyne language — and burying it five paragraphs into the post. Transparent? No, not even close.
Of course Facebook is not the only tech giant intent on amassing data dossiers on as many Internet users as possible. Google has drawn the attention of European data protection regulators, for example, after it consolidated more than 60 individual product privacy policies into one joined up policy — allowing it to join the dots of usage of its different products to sketch more detailed profiles of those users. Mountain View’s Google+ social layer is also designed to function as a data harvester, pushing people to tie their usage of multiple Google products back to a single public profile. As the Guardian‘s Charles Arthur has argued, Google+ is not really a social network at all; it’s more like The Matrix.
But despite Google’s consolidated privacy policies drawing the attention of data protection regulators the company has not (yet) altered its data-knitting course. It remains to be seen whether the investigation by six European Union member states will force it to make changes. The possibility of fines is on the table. But when you’re dealing with a company with such massive resources as Google — and one which pours so much effort into political lobbying — it likely requires a commensurately joined up, global approach to have any hope of changing its behaviour. A handful of EU countries aren’t going to be able to turn this juggernaut around.
There is also the argument that the cat is out of the bag. That these huge data-mining operations are now so mature, extensive and well used that any kind of regulatory unpicking is futile. Not least because the quantity of data being gathered on human behaviour is only going to grow — likely becoming even more personal and intimate, with wearable devices enabling the harvesting of physical data-points too. And yet that actually sounds like a lot more weight for the argument that these huge data-harvesting operations really need proper scrutiny stat.
It has to be said that data protection regulators have been extremely flat-footed in their response to the implications of systematic consolidation and cross-referencing of personal data. The lack of transparency about how these algorithms work has certainly helped the companies that created them to grow their user-data mountains in carefully crafted shade.
But a little more light is now being directed onto those darkened places, and onto the control-minded organisations (such as the NSA) inevitably attracted by the scale of the data-mining operations going on behind some of the shiniest consumer facades in tech town. So, even if we as personal Internet-using individuals can’t now hope to claim absolute ownership of all our data online, it’s worth asking what other kind of data-fuelled Frankensteins are lurking in the darkness — besides Facebook’s zombie army of shadow profiles.