As govt issues ultimatun, EC to formulate new Facebook code of conduct

The government on Wednesday issued a notice to social networking giant Facebook, seeking its response over the user data breach and details of the measures it has put in place to ensure safety and prevent misuse of personal data.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT (Meity) today said that a notice seeking details relating to breach of data from Facebook had been sent to Cambridge Analytica particularly with regard to reports in the media about questionable practices attributed to the UK-based firm in their efforts to influence elections.

"It is felt that there is a need for further information about the data breach from Facebook. Accordingly, a letter has been issued by the Ministry of Electronics & IT on March 28, 2018, to Facebook seeking their response," Meity said in a statement.

The ministry has raised five questions in all including whether the personal data of Indian voters and users has been compromised by Cambridge Analytica or any other downstream entity in any manner.

The ministry has asked social media major to submit a reply whether the company or its related or downstream agencies utilising Facebook's data have previously been engaged by any entities "to manipulate the Indian electoral process".

Here are the top 10 developments in the Cambridge Analytica row:

1) Govt seeks Facebook's response by April 7
The letter sent to Facebook said that at present, it has the largest footprint in India in terms of its user base and sought its reply on proactive measures being taken by the company to ensure safety, security and privacy of such large user data and to prevent its misuse by any third party.

"Facebook has been called upon to give their response by April 7, 2018," the statement said.

Govt seeks Cambridge Analytica's response by March 31: The government had on Friday issued a notice to UK-based Cambridge Analytica, asking it to give a list of clients and the source of data it had collected.

The IT Ministry has asked the firm to respond by March 31 on six questions, including how the company had collected user data, whether consent was taken from the individuals, and how the data was used.

2) Facebook to step up privacy settings: Meanwhile, Facebook has said it will overhaul its privacy settings tools to put users "more in control" of their information on the social media website.The updates include improved access to Facebook's user settings and tools to easily search for, download and delete personal data stored by Facebook.

A new privacy shortcuts menu will allow users to quickly increase account security, manage who can see their information and activity on the site and control advertisements they see.

"We've heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find and that we must do more to keep people informed," chief privacy officer Erin Egan and deputy general counsel Ashlie Beringer said in a blog post.

Egan and Beringer also announced updates to Facebook's terms of service and data policy to improve transparency about how the site collects and uses data.

3) Facebook to delay launch of home speaker: Facebook has decided not to unveil new home products at its major developer conference in May, in part because the public is currently so outraged about the social network’s data-privacy practices, according to Bloomberg.

The company’s new hardware products, connected speakers with digital-assistant and video-chat capabilities, are undergoing a deeper review to ensure that they make the right trade-offs regarding user data, according to sources, reported Bloomberg.

4) EC to formulate code of conductSocial media platforms, which collaborate with the Election Commission will now have to follow a 'code of conduct' to ensure that their user data remains protected from manipulation which could adversely affect elections.

Highly-placed sources in the poll panel said on Wednesday that the body's social media unit met on Tuesday and decided to draft the 'code of conduct'.

The platforms which do not follow the proposed code will not get to partner with the EC. The decision was taken in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica episode.

5) Facebook to remain poll panel's partner during Karnataka elections: Observing that utilisation of social media cannot be stopped due to instances of "aberrations", Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat had said on Tuesday that Facebook would remain the poll panel's social media partner during the Karnataka assembly elections.

He also said the social media cell of the EC would go into the issue of App of politicians and political parties sharing user data without the users' consent.

"Any aberration won't stop the use of modern technology... banks frauds have taken place, but we don't stop banking," Rawat said, according to news agency PTI.

Rawat said that the social media is a reality and the EC will take all precautions at its commend, to prevent episodes, which adversely affect Indian elections.

6) Zuckerberg runs full-page apology ads in UK and US papers: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took out full-page ads in at least nine major British and US newspapers to apologise for the huge Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal. "We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can't we don't deserve it," the Facebook chief said.  

The ads ran in prominent positions in British nationals, including the best-selling Mail on Sunday, The Sunday Times and The Observer -- which helped break the story -- as well as the New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal

7) Facebook denies collecting users' call, text data without consent: Amid the Cambridge Analytica controversy engulfing Facebook, the social media giant has dismissed claims of having collected users' text and call data without their consent. So, when does the company collect such data? In a press note, Facebook argued that user data is collected only from those users who have given permission for the doing same. The company added that the feature could be disabled at any point in time.   

"You may have seen some recent reports that Facebook has been logging people's call and SMS (text) history without their permission. This is not the case. Your information is securely stored and we do not sell this information to third parties. You are always in control of the information you share with Facebook," the company clarified.

8) Facebook says feature can be disabled at any point: Aiming to put users at ease after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook explained that at any point, a user who no longer wished to upload information could easily turn the feature off. The user could also turn off continuous call and text history logging while keeping contact uploading enabled.  

University researcher leaked data: In the ads seeking to address the damage done by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Zuckerberg explained that there was a quiz developed by a university researcher "that leaked Facebook data of millions of people in 2014".

"This was a breach of trust, and I'm sorry we didn't do more at the time. We're now taking steps to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said. 

9) Cambridge Analytica's name finds no mention: In the Facebook advertisement, there was no mention of the British firm accused of using the data, Cambridge Analytica, which worked on US President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. It, too, has blamed the University of Cambridge researcher Alexsandr Kogan for any potential breach of data rules. 

Kogan created a lifestyle quiz app for Facebook which was downloaded by 270,000 people, but allowed access to tens of millions of their contacts. Facebook says he passed this to Cambridge Analytica without its knowledge. 

Kogan says he is being made a scapegoat.

10) Facebook logs texts and calls data? A number of Facebook users have discovered that the social media giant holds far more information about them than they expect. Facebook holds data of complete logs of incoming and outgoing calls and SMS messages, reports The Guardian.  

According to The Guardian, Facebook makes it difficult for users to delete their accounts. Instead, it pushes them towards "deactivation" of their account, which eventually leaves all personal data on the company's servers. "The most important part of apps and services that help you make connections is to make it easy to find the people you want to connect with. So, the first time you sign in on your phone to a messaging or social app, it's a widely used practice to begin by uploading your phone contacts," The Guardian quoted a statement from Facebook's spokesperson. "Contact uploading is optional. People are expressly asked if they want to give permission to upload their contacts from their phone - it's explained right there in the apps when you get started. People can delete previously uploaded information at any time and can find all the information available to them in their account and activity log from our Download Your Information tool," the statement adds. 

The Guardian further reports that Messenger for Android asks for permissions to read call and SMS logs for a similar purpose. The company notes that users can stop continuously uploading contacts and delete all their previously uploaded contacts by turning off the continuous uploading setting in the Messenger app. Permanently deleting a Facebook account will also result in contacts no longer being uploaded and all previously uploaded contacts being deleted.