"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Friday, April 13, 2018

Facebook User Engagement Data Goes From Bad To Worse

Facebook User Engagement Data Goes From Bad To Worse

Facebook user engagement was already starting to fall by the wayside and the company was already scrambling to figure out new methods for boosting its user engagement before it came under fire over the past month for the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Now, new data from Cowen's monthly social engagement survey shows that activity continues to fall. As reported by Bloomberg:
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did well under Congress’ microscope, but Facebook has more hurdles to overcome as data shows a decline in user engagement, writes Cowen analyst John Blackledge.
Cowen’s monthly social engagement survey found that time spent per day by U.S. users declined moderately in 1Q y/y; likely due to platform management changes from 2H17

Despite the data, Cowen was bullish on all things left open for interpretation, stating that "political and regulatory hurdles will likely persist, but FB is open to working together to solve the issues".
In a seperate note put out by Cowen's Washington correspondence, analyst Paul Gallant noted that an FTC investigation into the company's compliance with its consent decree remains a risk and that "Democrats are unhappy and want legislation". What else is new. 
3. DEMOCRATS UNHAPPY & WANT LEGISLATION. Numerous Democrats said Facebook's
advertising model is fundamentally in tension with user privacy and that Facebook has not
lived up to prior commitments of self-regulation. Most indicated that legislation -- not self
regulation -- is the only way to protect consumers at this point.
4. LEGISLATION UNLIKELY. After watching the hearings, our sense is Facebook has a
window to improve on its own. If 6-9 months months pass and little changes, Republicans
may well shift to legislation. But in the hearings, most Republicans retained their preference
for light-touch regulation, including some who said formal regulation would actually lock
in Facebook (and Google's) dominance and prevent the next Facebook from emerging. But
midterms important: Democrats' call for privacy legislation was led by Reps. Pallone and
Eshoo, who appear to favor comprehensive GDPR legislation. If Democrats win the House in
November, the chances of legislation would rise, although a likely Republican Senate would
still make passage an uphill battle.

5. FTC IS KEY. We think the FTC's investigation of Facebook's consent decree compliance is
quite important. At a minimum, we expect a big fine -- probably in the billions. We also think
the FTC could impose some privacy changes -- perhaps data breach notification, clearer
data usage notifications to users, etc -- in a new consent decree. But we think new FTC
requirements would not be game-changing -- such as mandating GDPR-like opt-in consent
-- given that key members of Congress are saying legislation would be required for opt-in
(as it was in Europe).
It was less than two months ago that we wrote about Facebook's most recent "dirty trick" for trying to boost its user engagement numbers - using phone numbers provided for two-factor authentication to send users data they can "engage with" but didn't sign up for recieiving via text message. In that article we told the story of Gabriel Lewis, who tweeted that Facebook texted "spam" to the phone number he submitted for the purposes of 2-factor authenticationAnd no, he insists he did not have mobile notifications turned on.
What's more, when he replied "stop" and "DO NOT TEXT ME," he says those message showed up on his Facebook wall.

Cops Around the Country Can Now Unlock iPhones, Records Show

Published: April 12, 2018
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Source: Motherboard

FBI Director Christopher Wray recently said that law enforcement agencies are “increasingly unable to access” evidence stored on encrypted devices.
Wray is not telling the whole truth.
Police forces and federal agencies around the country have bought relatively cheap tools to unlock up-to-date iPhones and bypass their encryption, according to a Motherboard investigation based on several caches of internal agency documents, online records, and conversations with law enforcement officials. Many of the documents were obtained by Motherboard using public records requests.
The news highlights the going dark debate, in which law enforcement officials say they cannot access evidence against criminals. But easy access to iPhone hacking tools also hamstrings the FBI’s argument for introducing backdoors into consumer devices so authorities can more readily access their contents.
“It demonstrates that even state and local police do have access to this data in many situations,” Matthew Green, an assistant professor and cryptographer at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, told Motherboard in a Twitter message. “This seems to contradict what the FBI is saying about their inability to access these phones.”
As part of the investigation, Motherboard found:
  • Regional police forces, such as the Maryland State Police and Indiana State Police, are procuring a technology called ‘GrayKey’ which can break into iPhones, including the iPhone X running the latest operating system iOS 11.
  • Local police forces, including Miami-Dade County Police, have also indicated that they may have bought the equipment.
  • Other forces, including the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, have seemingly not bought GrayKey, but have received quotations from the company selling the technology, called Grayshift.
  • Emails show the Secret Service is planning to buy at least half a dozen GrayKey boxes to unlock iPhones.
  • The State Department has already bought the technology, and the Drug Enforcement Administration is interested in doing so.


Grayshift has been shopping its iPhone cracking technology to police forces. The firm, which includes an ex-Apple security engineer on its staff, provided demonstrations to potential customers, according to one email.