6 revelations from Facebook’s 500-page response to the U.S. Senate
In about 500 pages of documents, Facebook responded to questions from U.S. senators about privacy, monopoly, and political discourse on the world’s largest social media platform.
It’s been about two month since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg answered (and sometimes evaded) questions about privacy, monopoly, and political discourse on the world’s largest social media platform. Now, in about 500 pages of documents, Facebook has answered more questions and elaborated on those not quite addressed at the hearings.
“Answered” might be a little generous. Facebooks responses were often reiterations of already-stated policy, crafted in an impersonal and opaque lawyer-speak that’s bound to frustrate some senators.
Still, it wasn’t all old news—here are six things Facebook revealed this week by in the new documents.
Facebook is looking into eye-tracking technology
The company has filed at least two patents for eye-tracking technology, though says it hasn’t implemented it.
“Like many companies, we apply for a wide variety of patents to protect our intellectual property. Right now we’re not building technology to identify people with eye-tracking cameras,” Facebook wrote in response to questions from the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “If we implement this technology in the future, we will absolutely do so with people’s privacy in mind, just as we do with movement information (which we anonymize in our systems).”
(Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Facebook didn’t give a clear answer on how it logs users’ IP addresses
When asked whether the company permanently stores every IP address ever used by users, Facebook didn’t answer yes or no and instead pointed to its ‘retention schedule’ without providing a timeline detailing when it deletes this data:
“Facebook automatically logs IP addresses where a user has logged into their Facebook account. Users can download a list of IP addresses where they’ve logged into their Facebook accounts, as well as other information associated with their Facebook accounts, through our Download Your Information tool, although this list won’t include all historical IP addresses as they are deleted according to a retention schedule.”
(Photo: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Facebook tracks mouse and window movements
The company notes that it records “information about operations and behaviors performed on the device, such as whether a window is foregrounded or backgrounded, or mouse movements.” Facebook says this can help distinguish humans from bots. However, mouse tracking can also be used to compile marketing data on users, though the company doesn’t mention this use in the documents.
Facebook doesn’t seem to care for Senator Ted Cruz
In the April Senate hearings, Cruz repeatedly pressed Zuckerberg about anti-conservative bias on Facebook, referencing examples of what he considered to be political censorship on the platform. In the new document, Cruz submitted 114 questions to Facebook. He gave a clear directive at the beginning of his inquiry: “A question’s answer should not cross-reference answers provided in other questions.”
Facebook’s lawyers responded by answering “See Response to Question 2” seven times in the series of questions that followed, and disobeyed his order on 60 of his other questions.
Facebook still can’t really name a competitor
In April, Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Zuckerberg ‘Is there an alternative to Facebook in the private sector?’ The CEO struggled to name one, instead saying “there are three categories that I would focus on. One are the other tech platforms: Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, we overlap with them in different ways.” The senator didn’t like that and asked Zuckerberg if he thought his company was a monopoly.
“It certainly doesn’t feel like that to me,” Zuckerberg replied, getting a laugh from the room.
Responding to a question from Sen. Kamala Harris, Facebook provided more companies, though couldn’t really say it had a true competitor:
“For instance, if users want to share a photo or video, they can choose between Facebook, DailyMotion, Snapchat, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Vimeo, Google Photos, and Pinterest, among many other services.
Similarly, if people are looking to message someone, just to name a few, there’s Apple’s iMessage, Telegram, Skype, Line, Viber, WeChat, Snapchat, and LinkedIn—as well as the traditional text messaging services their mobile phone carrier provides. Equally, companies also have more options than ever when it comes to advertising—from billboards, print, and broadcast, to newer platforms like Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, Google, YouTube, Amazon, or Snapchat. Facebook represents a small part (in fact, just 6%) of this $650 billion global advertising ecosystem and much of that has been achieved by helping small businesses—many of whom could never have previously afforded newspaper or TV ads—to cost-effectively reach a wider audience.”
Facebook basically said ‘everyone else does it’ when asked why it collects user data from third-party sites
Facebook had a clever response for the question:
“This is a standard feature of the Internet, and most websites and apps share this same information with multiple different third-parties whenever people visit their website or app. For example, the Senate Commerce Committee’s website shares information with Google and its affiliate DoubleClick and with the analytics company Webtrends. This means that, when a person visits the Committee’s website, it sends browser information about their visit to each one of those third parties.”
One major difference, however, is that the way user data gets utilized on Facebook can seem more personalized than it would on other sites. For example, someone’s Google searches or the websites they frequent might cause Facebook to start showing them pages and ads geared toward services for depression.
The new version's battery has a shorter range and a price $4,000 lower than the previous starting price.
- Tesla's new version of the Model 3 costs $45,000 and can travel 260 miles on one charge.
- The Model 3 is the best-selling luxury car in the U.S.
- Tesla still has yet to introduce a fully self-driving car, even though it once offered the capability as an option to be installed at a future date.
What makes an excellent educator?
- When it comes to educating, says Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, a brave failure is preferable to timid success.
- Fostering an environment where one isn't afraid to fail is tantamount to learning.
- Human beings are complicated and flawed. Working with those complications and flaws leads to true knowledge.
"It's about having employees that are empowered."
Denmark may be the birthplace of the Lego tower, but its workplace hierarchy is the flattest in the world.
According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2018, the nation tops an index measuring "willingness to delegate authority" at work, beating 139 other countries.
We all know sleeping with your ex is a bad idea, or is it?
- In the first study of its kind, researchers have found sex with an ex didn't prevent people from getting over their relationship.
- Instead of feeling worse about their breakup after a hookup, the new singles who attempted sexual contact with their ex reported feeling better afterwards.
- The findings suggest that not every piece of relationship advice is to be taken at face value.
It's hard to imagine such a number. But these images will help you try.
The Mega Millions lottery just passed $1 billion for tonight's drawing.
What does that even look like, when represented by various currencies?
It takes just 6 numbers to win. You can only, however, purchase tickets up until 10:45 ET tonight.
Want a happy, satisfying relationship? Psychologists say the best way is to learn to take a joke.
- New research looks at how partners' attitudes toward humor affects the overall quality of a relationship.
- Out of the three basic types of people, people who love to be laughed at made for better partners.
- Fine-tuning your sense of humor might be the secret to a healthy, happy, and committed relationship.
Tiny and efficient, these biodegradable single cells show promise as a way to target hard-to-reach cancers.
- Scientists in Germany have found a potential improvement on the idea of bacteria delivering medicine.
- This kind of microtargeting could be useful in cancer treatments.
- The microswimmers are biodegradable and easy to produce.
Metin Sitti and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Germany recently demonstrated that tiny drugs could be attached to individual algae cells and that those algae cells could then be directed through body-like fluid by a magnetic field.
The results were recently published in Advanced Materials, and the paper as a whole offers up a striking portrait of precision and usefulness, perhaps loosely comparable in overall quality to recent work done by The Yale Quantum Institute. It begins by noting that medicine has been attached to bacteria cells before, but bacteria can multiply and end up causing more harm than good.
A potential solution to the problem seems to have been found in an algal cell: the intended object of delivery is given a different electrical charge than the algal cell, which helps attach the object to the cell. The movement of the algae was then tested in 2D and 3D. (The study calls this cell a 'microswimmer.') It would later be found that "3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers increased more than twofold compared to their 2D mean swimming speed." The study continues —
More interestingly, 3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers in the presence of a uniform magnetic field in the x-direction was approximately threefolds higher than their 2D mean swimming speed.
After the 2D and 3D speed of the algal was examined, it was then tested in something made to approximate human fluid, including what they call 'human tubal fluid' (think of the fallopian tubes), plasma, and blood. They then moved to test the compatibility of the microswimmer with cervical cancer cells, ovarian cancer cells, and healthy cells. They found that the microswimmer didn't follow the path of bacteria cells and create something toxic.
The next logical steps from the study include testing this inside a living organism in order to assess the safety of the procedure. Potential future research could include examining how effective this method of drug delivery could be in targeting "diseases in deep body locations," as in, the reproductive and gastrointestinal tracts.
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