Zuckerberg defends Free Basics in India

Facebook’s initiative to provide Internet to developing parts of the world, Free Basics, has been met with substantial criticism from those who believe that the service violates Net Neutrality. This Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the service in an opinion article in the Times of India.

Zuckerberg’s effort to offer free Internet throughout India was obstructed by the country’s Telecom Regulatory Authority’s request that Facebook discontinue the program. India has 132 million active Facebook users, the second largest population of Facebook users behind the Unite States’ 193 million users.

Critics argue that Free Basics, the website that offers Internet services, provides more content from Facebook than from other sources. When Zuckerberg visited India in October, however, he implied that the Facebook service did not breach Net Neutrality when he said that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally.

“Instead of wanting to give people access to some basic Internet services for free, critics of the program continue to spread false claims—even if that means leaving behind a billion people,” Zuckerberg said. “Who could possibly be against this? Choose facts over false claims. Everyone deserves access to the Internet.”

Article via CNET, December 28, 2015

Photo: Mark Zuckerberg via Mathieu Thouvenin [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Brazil suspends Whatsapp for 100 million users

Brazil’s government recently banned the Facebook-owned communication service Whatsapp for 48 hours after the company refused to hand over user data to authorities. Whatsapp is used by 100 million Brazilians, many who prefer the app to standard texting and calling. As a result, the ban was met with outrage. Some called for the impeachment of Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff; others immediately switched to an alternative messaging service, Telegram.

Law enforcement has been in conflict with Whatsapp for months due to Facebook’s refusal to hand over user data from a suspected drug user. The irony, however, is that Brazil condemned the NSA in 2013 after Edward Snowden exposed the surveillance agency’s data collection practices.

In a 2013 speech to the U.N., President Rousseff asserted, “My government will do everything within its reach to defend the human rights of all Brazilians, and to protect the fruits borne from the ingenuity of our workers and our companies.”

Following Snowden’s leak, Brazil even committed to a $185 million project to construct a fiber optic cable transporting data to and from Portugal while bypassing the United States, so that U.S. authorities could not intercept information. U.S. businesses were prohibited from participating in the project.

In response to the suspension of Whatsapp, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said: “I am stunned that our efforts to protect people’s data would result in such an extreme decision by a single judge to punish every person in Brazil who uses WhatsApp.”

Article via Washington Post, December 17, 2015

Photo: Visita de Dilma Rousseff via La Moncloa Gobierno de Espana

[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Social media may be used to fight terrorism

In his address this past Sunday on his plan to deal with ISIS, President Obama stated that he will be meeting with social media giants like Facebook and Twitter to talk about their anti-terrorism efforts. Specifically, the Obama administration wants to create a “clearer understanding of when we believe social media is being used actively and operationally to promote terrorism,” according to what one White House official told ReutersWhile social media powerhouses already have policies concerning terrorism and hate speech, allowing government demands to interfere with social media could potentially go against free speech and user privacy.

Social media powerhouses are already combating terrorism. Collectively, Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter have taken down more posts this year than in previous years. Therefore, any hesitancy from social media to remove encryption that allows users to retain their privacy online shouldn’t be viewed as supporting extremist ideology. In fact, a former employee of a social media company who chose to remained unnamed told Reuters that social media may be working with Western governments more than you think. Even though some social media companies state that they do expedite the removal of content based on government complaints, the former employee revealed that direct channels for government complaints exist to get rid of certain content quickly.

Finding the balance between using social media as a way to prevent terrorism while still protecting user privacy is simply another part of the ongoing debate of security versus privacy.

Article via CNETDecember 7, 2015; ReutersDecember 6, 2015; ReutersDecember 7, 2015

Photo: Twitter Follower Mosaic via Joe Lazarus [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

How to use social media evidence in court

In February of 2014, Maria Nucci attempted to sue Target after she slipped and fell on a work shift. In response, Target requested access to her Facebook profile in order to gather evidence on Nucci’s quality of life following the accident.

Saying that she had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” because of Facebook’s privacy settings, Nucci declined, and 36 photographs were removed from her profile two days following her objection.

The case was taken to the Fourth District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida, where in January of 2015, the three-judge panel ruled in favor of Target’s request for Nucci’s Facebook photographs.

“Because information that an individual shares through social networking websites like Facebook may be copied and disseminated by another,’ the expectation that such information is private, in the traditional sense of the word, is not a reasonable one,” the panel ruled.

Courts are still navigating how to use social media as evidence in legal cases. Currently, the main two issues complicating social media’s role in the courthouse are privacy, as in the Target case, and authentication.

Many social media sites require only an email to sign up, and those who require more don’t use any system to verify whether the person creating an account is in fact who they say they are.

Gibson Dunn partner Jennifer Rearden sums up the difficulties in using social media profiles as evidence: “Anybody can put anything on the Internet, and most Internet sites are not monitored for accuracy, so just because you have a print-out of someone’s profile page doesn’t mean you actually have confirmation they are controlling that page.”

Article via Legaltech News, November 2, 2015

Photo: Tumblr via Corrado [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Facebook’s new report on government data requests

Government requests for data about Facebook users increased 18 percent to 17,577 compared to the latter half of 2014, according to Facebook’s most recent transparency report. Beyond requests for information, governments insisted that the company restrict content that violated local laws. The amount of restricted content grew 112 percent to 20,568 pieces; a little over 15,000 of these were restricted by India. No other country limited over 1,000 pieces of data.

Facebook reported that it restricted content in India that was considered by the nation’s government to be “anti-religious and hate speech that could cause unrest and disharmony within India.”

Facebook publishes global government data request reports biannually, including the percentage of requests the company agrees to. Eighty percent of U.S. government data requests are granted.

Chris Sonderby, Facebook’s deputy general, introduced the report with a blog post: “As we have emphasized before, Facebook does not provide any government ‘back doors’ or direct access to people’s data. If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back hard and will fight in court, if necessary.”

Data on intelligence agency requests is released with less specificity, only in ranges of 1,000. According to the most recent report, the number of intelligence agency requests numbered somewhere between 0 and 999 for the first half of 2015.

Article via CNET, November 10, 2015

Photo: Mark Zuckerberg Keynote – SXSW 2008 via kris krüg

[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Courts and social media: privacy and authentication

On Feb. 4, 2010 Maria Nucci sued Target for the injury she sustained while working at the store. However, when Target requested access to her social media account, Nucci objected. As a result, 36 photos were deleted two days later. However, the Fourth District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida granted Target’s motion with respect to all photographs on the Facebook page that included Nucci. She argued she had a right to privacy, but the judges used that very argument against her.

“Because ‘information that an individual shares through social networking websites like Facebook may be copied and disseminated by another,’ the expectation that such information is private, in the traditional sense of the word, is not a reasonable one,” the panel ruled, partially quoting another Florida case. It also added, “Before the right to privacy attaches, there must exist a legitimate expectation of privacy.”

Using social media in court cases continues to skyrocket. It has been used about 80% of the time. According to John Facciola, the information has to be collected. Second, they have to sorted out into what the attorney needs and does not need. Courts are still trying to figure out what to do with social media in discovery and the privacy rights of those whose profiles are in question. This past year, the arguing has centered on two main issues: authentication, and where the expectation of privacy stops.

Social media is notorious for one particular thing: you don’t have to be who you say you are online. This is demonstrated in parody Twitter accounts and multiple Linkedin profiles. State courts have different standards on the authentication of social media. For example, the Maryland standard is that “the judge had to be ‘convinced’ that a social media post wasn’t falsified or created by another user. On the other hand, the Texas approach stipulated that any evidence could be used “as long as the proponent of the evidence can demonstrate to the judge that a jury can reasonably find that evidence to be authentic.” In United States vs. Vayner, Aliaksandr Zhyltsou accused Vladyslav Timku of providing a forged birth certificate for an imaginary infant daughter to avoid compulsory military service in Ukraine. The key piece of evidence was in the defendant’s social media account. However, the federal agent could not provide authenticity. As a result, Maryland revisited their standard and deemed that the judge has to identify which evidence would be sufficient. In other words, the judge has to determine that “there is proof from which a reasonable juror could find that the evidence is what the proponent is claiming.”

Article via Legaltech News , November 2, 2015

Photo: Affiliated Network for Social Accountability- Arab World via World Bank Photo Collection [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]