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The Facebook data breach is a scandal of our own making. Legally, there’s nothing we can do about it.

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I’ve spent 15 years researching and litigating privacy laws, and I’m still baffled by Facebook’s ever-changing privacy settings.

Facebook users angered by recent privacy scandals involving the social media giant and various consulting firms like Cambridge Analytica may be wondering what legal recourse they have to reclaim their data or protect themselves from data manipulation. Unfortunately, while Facebook’s actions may have been unethical, Facebook has little legal liability when it comes to its users.

Remember those “Terms and Policies” notices from Facebook that we never read, but always clicked yes on? With those clicks, we consented to binding legal contracts that explain how the cost of using Facebook is the ubiquitous collection of our personal details, purchasing habits, and location information for everything we do on Facebook, many things we do on the internet, and an increasing number of things we do in real life.

If Cambridge Analytica was able to harvest your profile data, Facebook essentially blames you and your friends for not properly configuring your privacy settings.

The Facebook user privacy setting to “restrict access to a specific network or friend group” provides less protection than many may have assumed.

In announcing its suspension of Cambridge Analytica from the platform, Facebook stated that, “The claim that this is a data breach is completely false. Aleksandr Kogan requested and gained access to information from users who chose to sign up to his app, and everyone involved gave their consent. People knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked.”

But users can’t be fully faulted for the confusion. That’s because the Facebook user privacy setting to “restrict access to a specific network or friend group” provides less protection than many may have assumed.

In Facebook’s mystifying privacy dashboard, “profile privacy” settings are different than “application privacy” settings. When you select “Use Now” or “Play Now” on Facebook Apps and Games, you grant the application full access to your public profile information and email address. Prior to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the default privacy setting for Apps and Games was “Friends”. Thus, the default application privacy settings enabled your friends to give away your profile information (without your knowledge) to the Apps and Games they used.

By analyzing only your Facebook “Likes,” your data can be manipulated to predict your fundamental qualities, including your intelligence and relationship status.

Data taken from Facebook profiles and friends by such apps can include the following information: name, email, gender, birthday, current city, profile picture, and content (e.g., Likes, status updates, events, and public photos). By analyzing only your Facebook “Likes,” your data can be manipulated to predict your fundamental qualities, including your intelligence, personality type, satisfaction with life, gender, age, sexual preference, interests, religion, political views, and relationship status.

On the basis of ten “Likes,” researchers from Cambridge have demonstrated that Facebook knows you better than your work colleagues. After 70 “Likes,” Facebook knows you better than your friends. Accumulate 150 “Likes,” researchers showed, and Facebook knows you better than your parents. Complete 300 “Likes” and Facebook knows you better than your spouse or partner. Record more than 500 honest “Likes” and Facebook can even know you better than you know yourself.

Voter privacy is a legal gray area. Key to Cambridge Analytica’s work with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is the fact that there are no privacy laws in the United States that directly prohibit political campaigns from buying, selling, or manipulating voter data and personally identifiable information. Without any privacy protections for individuals in the United States, companies such as Cambridge Analytica are able to exploit trillions of bits of personal information about individual voters. And while Facebook has offered a plethora of apologies and suspended the company from its platform, there’s not much you can do about it after the fact.

The Facebook Platform Policy​ clearly prohibits this type of data harvesting, instructing developers, “don’t confuse, deceive, defraud, mislead, spam or surprise anyone.” Facebook’s ​Platform Policy​ also says developers must, “obtain adequate consent from people before using any Facebook technology that allows us to collect and process data about them.”

Users whose data was harvested by Cambridge Analytica may have viable legal claims against the company. Yet, Facebook users ultimately have little recourse against Facebook itself. Third-party developers like Cambridge Analytica agree to Facebook’s Platform Policy​ and thereby, “agree to indemnify and hold us [Facebook] harmless from and against all damages, losses, and expenses of any kind (including reasonable legal fees and costs) related to any claim against us related to your service, actions, content or information.”

The Facebook privacy debacle involving Cambridge Analytica is bad, but its really only the tip of a very big iceberg.

In short, Facebook is contractually off the hook for any improper actions taken by outside companies. This includes if companies want to use all that data to manipulate Facebook users, making the question no longer “how can I protect my own data,” but rather “how can I protect my own data from being used against me?” Again, federal and state privacy laws offer very little protection. Boycotting or deleting Facebook may prevent you from being manipulated on Facebook, but it won’t protect your data elsewhere.

It’s not just Facebook. If you exist in society, your data is collected. All the biggest technology companies track you around the web (i.e., Amazon A9, Google DoubleClick, and Verizon Oath), collect data about your life (i.e., Oracle Data Cloud (Datalogix), IBM Universal Behavior Exchange, and Adobe Audience Manager), and report your credit and financial wherewithal (i.e., Experian, Equifax Workforce Solutions, and CoreLogic SafeRent).

The Facebook privacy debacle involving Cambridge Analytica is bad, but its really only the tip of a very big iceberg. Americans are desperate for meaningful privacy laws to protect their personal information. And these laws should be stringently applied not just to Facebook, but to personal data in all commercial contexts.

Joel Winston (@joelwinston) is a Pittsburgh-based attorney who specializes in privacy and cybersecurity law. He formerly served as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of New Jersey and currently provides global legal and regulatory counsel to technology companies.



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Alexei Navalny supporters clash with police and ‘hundreds arrested’ as mass protests expected across Russia | World News

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Hundreds of people have reportedly been detained as a series of demonstrations in support of jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny begins across Russia.

The gatherings, which police have declared illegal, are the first by Mr Navalny’s supporters since he was arrested last weekend on his return to Moscow, after spending five months in Germany recovering from novichok poisoning.

Police detain a man in Moscow. Pic: AP
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Police detain a man in Moscow. Pic: AP

More than 200 people have been detained in central and eastern Russia because of the protests, according to monitoring group OVD-INFO, with more than 100 held in Moscow, according to a Reuters witness, the location for one of up to 70 marches this weekend.

There have been scuffles in the southeastern city of Khabarovsk, and videos also show people being taken away from a protest in Yakutsk, where people have been gathering in -50C temperatures, and one person lying on the ground, apparently injured, in Novosibirsk.

Other footage shows people being hit with batons in Orenburg and riot shields and tears gas being used in some cities.

Police detain a man  in Khabarovsk, Russia, during a protest against the jailing of Alexei Navalny. Pic: AP
Image:
Police detain a man in Khabarovsk during a protest against the jailing of Alexei Navalny. Pic: AP

Hundreds, possibly thousands, appear to have been taking part in rallies and marches in Yekaterinburg and Irkutsk.

There have also been reports that mobile phone and internet services in Russia have suffered outages as police
crack down on anti-Kremlin protesters.

Authorities sometimes interfere with communication networks to make it harder for protesters to get in touch with each other and the wider world online.

Protesters run away from police officers in Vladivostok,
Image:
Protesters run away from police officers in Vladivostok,

Six journalists have been held in St Petersburg, according to Avtozaklive.

Mr Navalny, 44, who is one of President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critics, blames Moscow for the attack that nearly killed him, although the Kremlin denies any involvement.

He is charged with breaking his bail conditions – and is facing a potential three-and-a half-year jail term if found guilty.

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Navalny supporters clash with Russian police

Protesters gathered in support of Mr Navalny in temperatures on -50C in Yakutsk. Pic: Ksenia Korshun/via REUTERS
Image:
Protesters gathered in support of Mr Navalny in temperatures on -50C in Yakutsk. Pic: Ksenia Korshun/via REUTERS

Anyone who takes part faces charges of rioting, fines, problems at work, prison and even threats over child custody as the Russian state tries to crack down on the demonstrations, which could be the largest against Mr Putin since 2018.

Officials also enforced a crackdown in the run-up to the demonstrations, arresting members of Mr Navalny’s team, including his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh.

They launched an investigation after young Navalny supporters flooded TikTok with anti-Putin videos, pushing for people to support the action this weekend and using the using the hashtags #freenavalny and #23Jan.

The content has been viewed more than 300 million times.

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TikTok videos in support of Navalny

Anger mounted against Mr Putin this week after Mr Navalny’s team released a documentary exposing a vast and opulent palace built by Russia’s leader on the Black Sea coast.

The programme claims the complex – 39 times larger than Monaco – cost £1bn to build and was funded through illicit money.

It is said to have a casino, an underground ice hockey complex and a vineyard.

More than 60 million people have now viewed the Russian-language video on YouTube within three days of it being published.

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Navalny calls for protests over his arrest

On Friday, ahead of the weekend of planned protests, Mr Navalny issued a statement saying he wanted it known that he had no plans to take his own life in prison.

The arrest of Mr Navalny has attracted widespread criticism from Western leaders, sparking new tensions in the already strained relationship with the US.

Despite the plans for the protests, Mr Putin’s grip on power appears solid, with the 68-year-old regularly recording approval ratings of more than 60%, many times higher than those of Mr Navalny.

Protesters attending a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow
Image:
Protesters attending a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow

‘Our kids are being brainwashed’
Eyewitness by Diana Magnay, Moscow correspondent

The rally is not due to start until 2pm, but already here in Moscow, the police are making arrests and there are several hundred people around waiting.

It reminds me very much of the protests in the summer of 2019. There are huge numbers of press following each arrest. I haven’t seen any beatings yet, but the arrests are not pleasant.

Among those attending are Olga and Vladislav Sheglov, father and daughter.

Mr Sheglov told me: “I came here because I cannot live like this anymore, what they’re doing is not acceptable.

“I always tell myself we have the best country, but the worst government.”

His daughter Olga said: “Our kids are being brainwashed. You have families with low income and they have another view of politics.

Olga and Vladislav Sheglov
Image:
Olga and Vladislav Sheglov

“When we saw the Putin’s palace investigation, we were so shocked. We used to vote for him, but this was the last straw. We believe 150%, a million percent that Navalny was poisoned.”

Another person at the protest, 16-year-old Yaroslavl, who we are not naming fully because he’s 16, said: “There’ll probably be more detentions than normal because it’s such a big day.

“I’m a bit concerned, but so many people have come together to defend their own opinion and to defend Russia.

“I was told at school not to come, that they might have extra lessons today, but I ignored them. And my parents were even more serious about me not coming, but I ignored them too.”

He said that today everyone went out not for Navalny, but for themselves, to fight for their rights.



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Alexei Navalny supporters clash with police as mass protests expected across Russia | World News

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Police have clashed with protesters as series of demonstrations in support of jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny begins across Russia.

The gatherings, which police have declared illegal, are the first by Mr Navalny’s supporters since he was arrested last weekend on his return to Moscow, after spending five months in Germany recovering from novichok poisoning.

Dozens of people have been detained ahead of the protests, according to a monitoring group, and there have already been scuffles in the southeastern city of Khabarovsk, the location for one of up to 70 marches this weekend.

Videos also show people being taken away from a protest in Yakutsk, where people have been gathering in -50C temperatures.

Pic: Yulia Navalnaya
Image:
Alexei Navalny, pictured with his wife Yulia, was poisoned with novichok

Mr Navalny, 44, who is one of President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critics, blames Moscow for the attack that nearly killed him, although the Kremlin denies any involvement.

He is charged with breaking his bail conditions – and is facing a potential three-and-a half-year jail term if found guilty.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Navalny supporters clash with Russian police

They face charges of rioting, fines, problems at work, prison and even threats over child custody as the Russian state tries to crack down on the demonstrations, which could be the largest against Mr Putin since 2018.

Officials also enforced a crackdown in the run-up to the demonstrations, arresting members of Mr Navalny’s team, including his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh.

They have launched an investigation after young Navalny supporters flooded TikTok with anti-Putin videos, pushing for people to support the action this weekend and using the using the hashtags #freenavalny and #23Jan.

The content has been viewed more than 300 million times.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

TikTok videos in support of Navalny

Anger mounted against Mr Putin this week after Mr Navalny’s team released a documentary exposing a vast and opulent palace built by Russia’s leader on the Black Sea coast.

The programme claims the complex – 39 times larger than Monaco – cost £1bn to build and was funded through illicit money.

It is said to have a casino, an underground ice hockey complex and a vineyard.

More than 60 million people have now viewed the Russian-language video on YouTube within three days of it being published.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Navalny calls for protests over his arrest

On Friday, ahead of the weekend of planned protests, Mr Navalny issued a statement saying he wanted it known that he had no plans to take his own life in prison.

The arrest of Mr Navalny has attracted widespread criticism from Western leaders, sparking new tensions in the already strained relationship with the US.

Despite the plans for the protests, Mr Putin’s grip on power appears solid, with the 68-year-old regularly recording approval ratings of more than 60%, many times higher than those of Mr Navalny.



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Viral TikTok videos call on young Russians to stage illegal pro-Navalny protests | World News

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Momentum is building in Russia for widespread protests this weekend in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Videos have been posted on TikTok, Russia’s most popular iPhone app, encouraging people to defy authorities and turn out.

Young Russians in particular have flooded the social media site using the hashtags #freenavalny and #23Jan.

One video tells demonstrators to pretend they are American tourists if questioned by the police on the march.

Navalny released a video on YouTube
Image:
Alexei Navalny was detained on arrival in Moscow

Other videos show Navalny supporters packing their bags ready for demonstrations, recommending they bring milk to help counter the effects of tear gas, and some depict students removing pictures of President Vladimir Putin from classrooms and replacing them with photos of Mr Navalny.

The videos have been watched more than 50 million times, prompting the state censor to demand TikTok remove them.

Mr Navalny returned to Moscow from Berlin last weekend, where he’d spent months being treated for Novichok poisoning.

Pic: No_Miting
Image:
They use the hashtags #freenavalny and #23Jan. Pic: No_Miting

He was arrested on arrival in Moscow and charged with breaking his bail conditions – and is facing a potential three-and-a half-year jail term if found guilty.

His detention has been widely condemned by the international community, which believes the Russian state was behind attempts to kill him.

Demonstrations are set to take place on Saturday in more than 70 towns across Russia including Moscow, St Petersburg and Vladivostok.

Pic: Yulia Navalnaya
Image:
Fellow opposition leader Yulia Navalnaya posted on Instagram to say she would attent. Pic: Yulia Navalnaya

They could be the biggest demonstrations against Mr Putin since 2018.

Anger has hardened against the president this week after the Navalny team released a documentary exposing a vast and opulent palace built by Russia’s leader on the Black Sea coast.

The programme claims the complex – 39 times larger than Monaco – cost £1bn to build and was funded through illicit money.

Moscow mayor
Image:
Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin makes a statement about the illegal protests

It is said to have a casino, an underground ice hockey complex and a vineyard.

“It has impregnable fences, its own port, its own security, a church, its own permit system, a no-fly zone, and even its own border checkpoint,” Mr Navalny says in the video.

Forty million people had viewed the video on YouTube within 40 hours of it being published.

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