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Facebook faces ‘mass action’ lawsuit in Europe over 2019 breach

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Facebook is to be sued in Europe over the major leak of user data that dates back to 2019 but which only came to light recently after information on more than 533 million accounts was found posted for free download on a hacker forum.

Today Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) announced it’s commencing a “mass action” to sue Facebook, citing the right to monetary compensation for breaches of personal data that’s set out in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Article 82 of the GDPR provides for a “right to compensation and liability” for those affected by violations of the law. Since the regulation came into force, in May 2018, related civil litigation has been on the rise in the region.

The Ireland-based digital rights group is urging Facebook users who live in the European Union or European Economic Area to check whether their data was breached — via the haveibeenpwned website (which lets you check by email address or mobile number) — and sign up to join the case if so.

Information leaked via the breach includes Facebook IDs, location, mobile phone numbers, email address, relationship status and employer.

Facebook has been contacted for comment on the litigation. Update: A Facebook spokesperson said:

We understand people’s concerns, which is why we continue to strengthen our systems to make scraping from Facebook without our permission more difficult and go after the people behind it. As LinkedIn and Clubhouse have shown, no company can completely eliminate scraping or prevent data sets like these from appearing. That’s why we devote substantial resources to combat it and will continue to build out our capabilities to help stay ahead of this challenge.

The tech giant’s European headquarters is located in Ireland — and earlier this week the national data watchdog opened an investigation, under EU and Irish data protection laws.

A mechanism in the GDPR for simplifying investigation of cross-border cases means Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) is Facebook’s lead data regulator in the EU. However it has been criticized over its handling of and approach to GDPR complaints and investigations — including the length of time it’s taking to issue decisions on major cross-border cases. And this is particularly true for Facebook.

With the three-year anniversary of the GDPR fast approaching, the DPC has multiple open investigations into various aspects of Facebook’s business but has yet to issue a single decision against the company.

(The closest it’s come is a preliminary suspension order issued last year, in relation to Facebook’s EU to U.S. data transfers. However, that complaint long predates GDPR; and Facebook immediately filed to block the order via the courts. A resolution is expected later this year after the litigant filed his own judicial review of the DPC’s processes.)

Since May 2018 the EU’s data protection regime has — at least on paper — baked in fines of up to 4% of a company’s global annual turnover for the most serious violations.

Again, though, the sole GDPR fine issued to date by the DPC against a tech giant (Twitter) is very far off that theoretical maximum. Last December the regulator announced a €450,000 (~$547,000) sanction against Twitter — which works out to around just 0.1% of the company’s full-year revenue.

That penalty was also for a data breach — but one which, unlike the Facebook leak, had been publicly disclosed when Twitter found it in 2019. So Facebook’s failure to disclose the vulnerability it discovered and claims it fixed by September 2019, which led to the leak of 533 million accounts now, suggests it should face a higher sanction from the DPC than Twitter received.

However, even if Facebook ends up with a more substantial GDPR penalty for this breach the watchdog’s caseload backlog and plodding procedural pace makes it hard to envisage a swift resolution to an investigation that’s only a few days old.

Judging by past performance it’ll be years before the DPC decides on this 2019 Facebook leak — which likely explains why the DRI sees value in instigating class action-style litigation in parallel to the regulatory investigation.

“Compensation is not the only thing that makes this mass action worth joining. It is important to send a message to large data controllers that they must comply with the law and that there is a cost to them if they do not,” DRI writes on its website.

It also submitted a complaint about the Facebook breach to the DPC earlier this month, writing then that it was “also consulting with its legal advisors on other options including a mass action for damages in the Irish Courts”.

It’s clear that the GDPR enforcement gap is creating a growing opportunity for litigation funders to step in in Europe and take a punt on suing for data-related compensation damages — with a number of other mass actions announced last year.

In the case of DRI its focus is evidently on seeking to ensure that digital rights are upheld. But it told RTE that it believes compensation claims which force tech giants to pay money to users whose privacy rights have been violated is the best way to make them legally compliant.

Facebook, meanwhile, has sought to play down the breach it failed to disclose in 2019 — claiming it’s “old data” — a deflection that ignores the fact that people’s dates of birth don’t change (nor do most people routinely change their mobile number or email address).

Plenty of the “old” data exposed in this latest massive Facebook leak will be very handy for spammers and fraudsters to target Facebook users — and also now for litigators to target Facebook for data-related damages.

TechCrunch

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Eight dogs at risk of being “destroyed” if not found homes

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Eight dogs at risk of being “destroyed” if not found homes

SAN ANGELO, Texas (Concho Valley Homepage) — Concho Valley PAWS posted on their Facebook page today that eight dogs are currently at risk of being “destroyed” if not found homes by 5 p.m. Friday, February 10, 2023.

Editors note: A ninth dog has been added to the list on the City of San Angelos’s Facebook page

The San Angelo Animal Shelter is currently at capacity with 180 dogs on the premise with more on the way.

CC PAWS

Listed below is a description of each at-risk dog from Concho Valley PAWS:

Leavey is a neutered male husky. High energy! Needs training and PAWS will provide new owners with professional training. He is 2 years and plays well in playgroup but requires 6 ft. fencing. No cats!

Charming is a 2-year-old male All-American Mix and prefers to be an only dog. He may do well with a submissive female in the home. He needs leash training. He does well with older children. He is still shy and a bit fearful so younger children may scare him. No cats!

Zeus is around 5 years old. He is a male lab mix that loves humans but not other animals. He does well on a leash and in a kennel. He’s neutered and ready to go home TODAY! No Cats!

Gilgo has anxiety issues and needs patience. He is GREAT with other dogs but does not trust humans and fear prevents him from showing well to adopters. He has the potential to be someone’s best friend. He needs a kind and patient soul to invest time and effort and we know he’s worth it! We are unsure if he will get along with cats.

Yowza is a female lab mix. She is one year old and has spent her life in the shelter and hasn’t even had a chance. She deserves to know what it’s like to be a part of a loving family! She’s high energy and needs training – she’s been confined her entire life. She does great with other dogs in the playgroup! PAWS will provide new owners with professional training. We are unsure if she will get along with cats.

Gummy Bear came to the shelter from a hoarding situation. He is shy and standoffish. He is fearful of men. He does great with other dogs – he lived in a home with 20 small dogs. But humans he does not trust. He is a male All-American breed approximately 3 years old.

Chewie is dog-selective and kennel reactive. He could benefit from living in a foster home where we could better get to know who he really is without the stress of the shelter environment. He is a large 60lb male dog and is approximately 2 years old.

Tac is a super fun boy with zero manners. Prior to living in the shelter, he had no opportunity for proper socialization or training. He has the potential to be a fantastic dog. He is loving and playful and has joy in life. PAWS will provide professional training for his new owner or foster.

Cheyenne is the ninth dog at risk and is listed as a Terrier, American Pit Bull / Mix. She is four years and six months old.

If interested, please contact [email protected] as soon as possible.

Click here for an Adoption Application

Click here for a Foster Application

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Layoffs Alone Won’t Solve Tech’s Problems: Parmy Olson

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Layoffs Alone Won’t Solve Tech’s Problems: Parmy Olson

The world’s largest tech companies are promising across the board to spend less, new territory for an industry that thrives on perks. Already last year, Facebook parent Meta Platforms shut down its laundry service for staff, and in January of this year, Alphabet’s Google included more than 30 massage therapists in its first big round of layoffs.

Tech giants are tightening up on fringe benefits and showing their talent the door. But there is still more to do.

Hiring freezes and cutting perks are the easy part. Now, having grown fat on old business models and morphed into sprawling bureaucracies, Silicon Valley’s biggest firms must become innovative again. That means spearheading a shift in culture away from protecting mini-fiefdoms and more toward getting ideas in motion and product features out the door. That’s an entirely new challenge for big tech’s stable, mostly technocrat leaders. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Google parent Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai have overseen years of continued growth largely by keeping things ticking along.

When the pandemic came, their steady growth went into overdrive. Collective profits at Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft grew by 55 percent in 2021 from an already eye-popping baseline. Their combined $1.4 trillion (roughly Rs. 1,15,83,670 crore) in sales would have made them the world’s 13th largest economy, overtaking Australia.

Now with shares and growth under pressure, Zuckerberg is talking about flattening his leadership structure and trimming middle management. Pichai wants to “re-engineer the company’s cost base in a durable way.” That will mean more layoffs because even the latest, painful cuts haven’t brought staffing levels anywhere close to pre-pandemic levels.

Facebook hired about 30,000 new staffers during the pandemic while Alphabet went on an even bigger hiring spree, swelling its ranks by 68,000 to 187,000. But Meta and Google have announced 11,000 and 12,000 job cuts, respectively, so far. Microsoft, which hired 58,000 people in the two years following the start of the pandemic, said last month that it was cutting 10,000 positions. The painful truth is that for these companies to earn the market’s trust in their pledges for efficiency, cuts will need to continue through 2023.

They also will have to continue to get the most out of their top talent, who might be less inclined to stay loyal to their employers now that they know that their bosses could cut them loose at any time.

An equally difficult task will be changing tech’s management culture. Already last year, months before the layoffs began, Zuckerberg and Pichai were telling staff they needed to work harder, with “greater urgency,” in the words of the Alphabet chief executive, and to come to the office more frequently.

Google especially needs to get better at executing on new product features. For all the attention that the company receives about its exciting moonshot projects, Google is notoriously conservative in its release of new products and services, because it doesn’t want to tinker too much with its $150 billion (roughly Rs. 12,41,000 crore) search business or its lucrative ad-tech operation. But the search business has come under threat from ChatGPT and other AI tools that generate conversational answers to any query.

Under pressure to respond, Google on Monday said it would soon release a ChatGPT competitor called Bard to the public. The service will be powered by LaMDA, Google’s highly sophisticated large language model. Google has rarely moved so quickly to develop a product, marking a risky new era for the company while it’s simultaneously trying to cut back on spending.

Doing more with less is much harder than it sounds for companies in Silicon Valley, who are used to throwing money at problems to make them go away. At least they know that needs to change. Meta Chief Technology Officer Andrew “Boz” Bosworth said in an email to the company’s 18,000 Reality Labs employees, who are driving its metaverse efforts, that “we have solved too many problems by adding headcount.” Now Meta needs to learn to solve problems by innovating and executing.

Zuckerberg used the word “efficient” or “efficiency” approximately 40 times in his earnings call with analysts last week. (By comparison, he mentioned “metaverse” just seven times.) Investors liked that direction of travel so much that they sent Meta’s shares up by more than 20 percent after earnings day, despite a miss on profit estimates.

A looming question is how much all this talk of efficiency from Alphabet, Meta, and Microsoft, the world’s biggest internet and software companies, will lead to real improvements. And if it doesn’t, will investors care? Meta’s rally last week could be a sign that investors are looking for any excuse to resume their love affair with some of the most profitable companies in history. Who wants to agitate for efficiencies from companies (barring Amazon) that have regular quarterly net margins of around 30 percent? Compare that with two other popular stocks, Walmart, and Walt Disney, that have margins of 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively, according to Bloomberg data.

Still, high margins weren’t enough to stop big tech stocks from getting bruised over the last year in the markets. Wall Street wants to see these companies become leaner and meaner. Big Tech’s investor-friendly, technocratic operators will almost certainly comply.

© 2023 Bloomberg LP


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Meta, Long an AI Leader, Tries Not to Be Left Out of the Boom

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Meta, Long an AI Leader, Tries Not to Be Left Out of the Boom

SAN FRANCISCO — Two weeks before a chatbot called ChatGPT appeared on the internet in November and wowed the world, Meta, the owner of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, unveiled a chatbot of its own. Called Galactica, it was designed for scientific research. It could instantly write its own …

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