Facebook Roundup: Dating, Regulatory Concerns, Features, Deepfakes
Last week’s news highlights included the launch of Facebook’s FB opt-in dating service, state attorneys general stepping up regulatory pressure, certain new features and initiatives to tackle deepfakes.
Facebook’s opt-in dating service seeks to connect people looking for partners based on their interests, preferences the things they share on Facebook, and the events and groups they are part of. So Facebook will allow you to create a separate dating profile that will display your first name and age, while allowing you to add further details like hometown, religion and occupation, as you see fit.
Your name won’t be suggested to your Facebook friends unless you have them in your “secret crush” list and they do as well, and will be shown to friends of friends only if you opt in. Overall, the people suggested to you, the people to whom you’re suggested and the people you name as secret crushes will be the only ones seeing your dating profile. And you can bring over your Instagram following and posts, if you connect the two accounts. You can also share details of your date with trusted people on Messenger (what’s the fun if you can’t do that!).
Facebook says it has gone to a lot of trouble ensuring privacy so “your dating activity, such as people you like or pass on, won’t be shared with anyone outside Dating.”
In addition to the U.S., Facebook Dating is currently available in 19 other countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Suriname, Thailand, Uruguay and Vietnam.
Antitrust Probes from U.S. States
Two separate groups of U.S. state attorneys general are investigating technology companies like Facebook and Alphabet GOOGL-owned Google.
The first announcement, led by New York, and including seven other U.S. states and the District of Columbia, mentions Facebook. The second one that was started by Texas appears broader and includes support from 40 U.D. states. The announcement didn’t name names.
In a filing on Friday, Alphabet said that the Department of Justice had requested in late August, information and documents related to prior antitrust probes of the company. It also said, “We expect to receive in the future, similar investigative demands from state attorneys general.” And that it was co-operating with regulators, as always. "We look forward to working with the attorneys general to answer questions about our business and the dynamic technology sector," Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said.
“If we stop innovating, people can easily leave our platform. This underscores the competition we face,” Will Castleberry, Facebook’s vice president for state and local policy, said in a statement. “We will work constructively with state attorneys general and we welcome a conversation with policymakers about the competitive environment in which we operate.”
Antitrust acts are nothing new for big tech. While Facebook has snapped up its competitors shrinking competition in the process, Google has used various means, including preference to its own shopping service over rivals on its platform, thus limiting choice. But Google has been ceding share to newer entrants in digital advertising, such as Facebook and Amazon AMZN, which can help it argue on antitrust issues.
Third-party sellers have complained that Amazon treats them unfairly and uses its platform to promote its in-house brands. And again, developers have complained that Apple AAPL keeps non-iOS apps away from its App Store and Spotify has taken it to court over App Store policies that make it hard to compete with Apple Music for paid subscribers.
Separately, Facebook, Google, Microsoft MSFT and Twitter TWTR security teams met with U.S. intelligence agencies including the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Department of Homeland Security, to discuss security strategies ahead of the November 2020 U.S. state, federal and presidential elections.
First, the company announced recent improvements made in its data portability tools that support its decade-long practice of helping users to download and transfer their data wherever they like. The company has now published a white paper outlining points that should trigger a conversation about the kinds of data that can be ported, who would be responsible for protecting the data during its transfer, and so on. The goal is to increase awareness among companies and individuals about what it really means to be able to do this in the context of new privacy legislations like the GDPR that are increasingly coming into force.
Second, it is replacing the “tag suggestions” feature (for those who have it turned on) with the “face recognition” feature. So all new users and those using the tags setting will now see an easy on or off switch for a broader set of uses of face recognition, including ID protection. Facebook is notifying users about the change in the newsfeed. For existing users who have the setting turned off, there won’t be any notification about the change.
Third, the company is contemplating hiding the number of “likes” from public view, that it says creates tension among users about the number of likes on their posts, creates the need to post only those things that are likely to get more likes and prevents them from more spontaneous sharing. This won’t impact businesses because the information will still be there on the platform and be visible to the person posting, whether individual or company.
Facebook is teaming up with Microsoft, the Partnership on AI coalition and academics from Cornell, MIT, Oxford University, UC Berkeley, University of Maryland, College Park and University at Albany-SUNY to launch a contest for deepfake detection.
This is a newish take on the old concept of doctoring videos so they say things that they didn’t originally. Deepfake videos take this concept to the next level by using artificial intelligence to create hyper-realistic fakes. Because they are AI-generated, they are likely to get ever harder to detect as AI technologies advance.
While there is a certain urgency in honing these tools because of the elections next year, this is really an ongoing battle that will continue for a long time, with some wins and some losses. That’s why technology companies have the responsibility of creating the best detection tools possible.
Facebook shares carry a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). For safer picks, consider the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
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