WhatsApp is going to share your phone number with Facebook

Global messaging service WhatsApp says it will start sharing the phone numbers of its users with Facebook, its parent company. That means WhatsApp users could soon start seeing more targeted ads and Facebook friend suggestions on Facebook based on WhatsApp information—although not on the messaging service itself.

WhatsApp is going to share your phone number with Facebook

The move is a subtle but significant shift for WhatsApp, used by more than 1 billion people around the world. When it was acquired by Facebook for an eye-popping $21.8 billion two years ago, executives promised privacy would be safeguarded.

“This is a strong-arm tactic on the part of Facebook,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy in Washington, D.C. “They continue on a campaign on to run roughshod on our privacy rights.”

WhatsApp is giving users a limited time to opt out of sharing their information with Facebook, although they must take the extra step of unchecking a box to do so. It also says Facebook won’t post phone numbers online or give them out to anyone.

But the giant social network has been looking for ways to make money from WhatsApp since it bought the service two years ago. At the same time, Facebook has pledged not to interfere with a longstanding promise by WhatsApp’s co-founders to respect users’ privacy and keep ads off its messaging platform.

WhatsApp on Thursday offered a glimpse of its plans for turning on the money spigot, releasing new documents that describe the company’s privacy policy and the terms of service that users must agree to follow. The documents are the first revision of those policies since 2012, before Facebook acquired WhatsApp.

One change follows through on previous hints by WhatsApp executives, who have said they’re exploring ways for businesses to communicate with customers on WhatsApp. That could include using WhatsApp to provide receipts, confirm a reservation or update the status of a delivery.

Companies could also send marketing offers or messages about sales to individual customers, according to the new documents, which note that users will be able to control or block such messages. WhatsApp says it will continue to bar traditional display ads from its service.

“We do not want you to have a spammy experience,” the company tells users in a summary of the new policies.

Another change is potentially more controversial: WhatsApp says it will begin “coordinating” accounts with Facebook by sharing WhatsApp users’ mobile phone numbers and device information, such as the type of operating system and other smartphone characteristics. The company says Facebook will employ the phone number internally to better identify WhatsApp users on Facebook, so it can make friend suggestions or show targeted advertising.

The ads would come through a Facebook program called “Custom Audiences,” which lets a business upload lists of customers and phone numbers or other contact information the business has collected from warranty cards or other sources. Facebook matches the list to users with the same information and shows them ads. Facebook says it doesn’t give out users’ information to advertisers.

WhatsApp phone numbers are valuable to Facebook. While the social network already has many phone numbers, it doesn’t require users to provide them, and doesn’t always have the most current number for everyone on Facebook. But anyone on WhatsApp must provide a current phone number because that’s how WhatsApp knows where to deliver messages.

The coordination of accounts may draw fire from privacy advocates. WhatsApp has long promised not to employ user data for advertising. Its acquisition by Facebook two years ago sparked complaints from activists who worried the new owner would start mining WhatsApp accounts. Though both companies pledged WhatsApp would operate separately from its parent, the Federal Trade Commission warned them publicly, in a 2014 letter, against changing how they employ WhatsApp user data without users’ consent.

WhatsApp says current users have up to 30 days to accept the new policy terms or stop using the service. Once they accept, they have 30 more days to opt out of sharing with Facebook.

Privacy groups have praised WhatsApp for building powerful encryption into its services, making it impossible for the company or anyone else to read users’ messages. WhatsApp promises that encryption will remain, so neither WhatsApp nor Facebook would be able to use message content for advertising purposes.

But privacy activists also criticized the 30-day window to opt out.

“Very few people opt out, it should be an informed opt in,” Chester said. “No data should be used unless people are informed honestly about how it’s going to be used.”

Anonymous Hackers Claim to Take Down 5,500 IS Accounts

The hacker group Anonymous claimed Tuesday to have taken out 5,500 Twitter accounts linked to the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks.

The loosely organized hacking collective made the claim in a tweet one day after launching #OpParis campaign, which stepped up an earlier effort to shut down social media accounts of the organization.

“We report that more than 5500 Twitter account of #ISIS are now #down! #OpParis #Anonymous #ExpectUs,” said a tweet posted on Tuesday which followed a video message posted Monday.

It was not immediately clear how the accounts would have been disabled. But the hacker group said it posted the accounts to an online forum labeling them as #daeshbags, a reference to Daesh, an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

In an apparent riposte, a message posted via the messaging service Telegram calls on Islamic State affiliates to secure their Internet communications.

“The #Anonymous hackers threatened… that they will carry out a major hack operation on the Islamic state (idiots),” the message said.

Anonymous has waged a long-running campaign against the Islamic State group but stepped up the effort following the attacks last Friday in the French capital.

Facebook Activates Safety Check for Nigeria Blasts After Criticism

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Facebook Inc activated its “Safety Check” feature after deadly blasts in Nigeria late on Tuesday following criticism from users that the social media network was being selective about deploying it.

Facebook usually activates the feature, which allows users to mark themselves as safe, after natural disasters, but not bombings or attacks.

The social network, however, activated it after Friday’s gun and bomb attacks in Paris, drawing criticism from some users because the feature was not activated for suicide bombings in Beirut a day earlier.

Both the Paris and Beirut attacks were claimed by Islamic State militants.

In a post on his Facebook page, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the feature would now we be used more frequently.

“After the Paris attacks last week, we made the decision to use Safety Check for more tragic events like this going forward,” he said. Tuesday’s blast at a Nigerian market killed 32 people and wounded 80 others.

Facebook said it decided to activate the feature as news of the Paris attacks unfolded because of the level of activity on its 1.55-billion-user network. People in Paris were posting to let their friends and family know they were safe, Alex Schultz, Facebook vice president of growth, wrote in a post Saturday.

Facebook Can Legally Block ‘Sikhs for Justice’ Page, Rules US Court

In a victory for Facebook,a US court has ruled that it can block content without any explanation after a Sikh group filed a lawsuit challenging the blocking of its social media page.

The ruling by the US Court in San Francisco came in response to the lawsuit filed against the Silicon Valley-headquartered company by Sikhs for Justice, which alleged thatits Facebook page, which advocated Sikh separatism, was blocked by the social media giant.

US District Judge Lucy Koh in her November 13 ruling stated that the Sikh group’s claims of religious discrimination are precluded under the Communications Decency Act, which protects providers of “interactive computer services” by barring courts from treating service providers like Facebook as the publishers or speakers of speech created by others.

“We will appeal and challenge the decision of Judge Koh which is just an extension of Facebook action of blocking SFJ’s page at the behest of the Indian government,” alleged attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal adviser to SFJ.

“Facebook is an American Corporation and owes allegiance to US Constitution which promotes and protects free speech content and not accede to threats of foreign governments but Judge Koh’s ruling failed to cover any of the allegations of SFJ,” he said.

“If Facebook is a public company making billions of dollars in public money and they don’t want to give any explanation for why they blocked the content of a human rights group, then what is the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship?” he asked.

In a statement, Pannun said that Judge Koh should have at least ordered that the social media giant give SFJ an explanation as to who ordered the take down.

“Facebook owes an explanation to its users after or before blocking and removing the content which is guaranteed under freedom of speech,” he said.

Facebook Says It Froze User Named Isis by Mistake

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Facebook Inc said it erroneously disabled the personal account of a user named Isis Anchalee for about a day, an action the user claims was due to her name being spelt the same as the acronym used for the Islamic State extremist group.

Anchalee, a software developer in San Francisco, on Monday posted a screenshot of a Facebook log-in page that showed a message “Account disabled”. She wrote to Facebook’s Twitter page (@facebook), “why would you disable my personal account? MY REAL NAME IS ISIS ANCHALEE”.

Anchalee said she sent Facebook her personal information three times to resolve the issue.

“Facebook thinks I’m a terrorist. Apparently sending them a screenshot of my passport is not good enough for them to reopen my account,” Anchalee wrote on Twitter.

A researcher at Facebook responded on Twitter on Tuesday that her account was activated again.

“This was an error made as part of a fake account reporting process and we’re sorry for the trouble it caused. It was not connected to the individual’s name and her account has already been restored,” a Facebook spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Many people with the name Isis – an Ancient Egyptian goddess of health, marriage and wisdom, have expressed concerns about the use of the acronym ISIS to refer to Islamic State, the group which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks.

An online petition on the issue calling for media to “stop calling terrorists (Islamic State) by our name” closed on 24 August with more than 56,800 signatures.

Astronomers See Planet Still Growing in Its Stellar Womb

Astronomers have taken the first images of a planet still in formation, a discovery expected to shed light on how giant planets manage to beef up early in their lives, research published on Wednesday showed.

Astronomers used a telescope in Arizona to peer at a young star located about 450 light-years away in the constellation Taurus.

The star, known as LkCa 15, is similar to the sun, but only 2 million years old.

Unlike the 4.6 billion-year-old sun, LkCa 15 is still surrounded by a disk of gas and dust, the raw materials for planet building. Within the disk is a big gap, some 50 times wider than distance between Earth and the sun.

Astronomers previously suspected that a giant planet was orbiting in the gap. Research published in this week’s issue of the journal Nature confirms the find with infrared images of the planet, along with what appear to be one or two sibling planets.

Scientists also for the first time discovered the chemical footprints of superheated hydrogen gas streaming from the dust disk onto the planet, evidence that it is still forming, said Stephanie Sallum, a University of Arizona astronomy graduate student who led the team.

“This young system provides the first opportunity to study planet formation and disk-planet interactions directly,” Sallum and colleagues wrote in Nature.

Of the nearly 2,000 confirmed planets discovered beyond the solar system, none are still in the formation stage.

In a related commentary also published in Nature, Princeton University astrophysicist Zhaohuan Zhu said the discovery will help scientists hone their theories about how planets are formed.

For example, more work is needed to explain the giant planet’s location and why it is still growing. Scientists also cannot account for how the planet is generating the massive magnetic fields that are believed to be responsible for super-charging its hydrogen gas feeding lines.

The discovery also demonstrates a technique to find other baby planets by searching for the telltale hydrogen gas emissions.

Facebook Tries to Ease Heartache of Breakups With New Tool

Facebook is trying to ease the heartache of breaking up.

A feature announced Thursday will allow people who have split up with a spouse or partner to turn on an option that spares them the emotional pain of constantly seeing their ex-lover’s posts and pictures in their news feed on the world’s largest social network.

Facebook will begin testing the breakup protection on mobile devices in the US before deciding whether to offer it to all of its 1.5 billion account holders worldwide.

The option is designed for people who don’t want to risk offending a former husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend by taking the more extreme step of ejecting or blocking them from their Facebook network.

After changing their relationship status on Facebook, people will also be allowed to remove their names from past posts linking them to a former partner.

“This work is part of our ongoing effort to develop resources for people who may be going through difficult moments in their lives,” Facebook product manager Kelly Winters wrote in a blog post.

The breakup protection serves as another reminder of how deeply ingrained Facebook has become in society. More than 1 billion people now hang out on Facebook at least once a day and those who have the network’s addictive mobile application installed on their smartphones tend to visit even more frequently.

The Menlo Park, California, company has incentive to try to keep its users as happy as possible. People who become upset with what appears in their Facebook feeds are more likely to avoid coming to the network, depriving the company of the opportunity to collect more information about their preferences and show them ads aimed at those interests.

The formula has turned Facebook into a huge success story since Mark Zuckerberg founded the service in a Harvard University dorm room more than a decade ago. Facebook’s market value now stands at $300 billion.

Facebook Is Making It Harder for You to ‘Forget’ Your Friends’ Birthdays

Facebook has started to test a feature that will make it a lot harder for you to “miss” the birthdays of your closest friends – by displaying a big, friendly banner at the top of your news feed announcing that it’s someone’s Big Day.

The banner is similar to the polite greetings that some users have started to see, wishing them a good morning, afternoon, or evening by name. “Thanks for being here,” the greetings read. “Enjoy Facebook today!” Those greetings seemed to quietly roll out in late October, puzzling, delighting, and/or creeping out those who saw them.

But the birthday message – which, in an email to The Post, Facebook called a “birthday experience” – takes that to another level. The feature is still in testing, but essentially, it’s designed to remind you when one of your closer friends (according to Facebook, at least) has a birthday, so that you don’t “forget” to post the customary birthday wishes on his or her timeline.

Last week was my friend Niraj’s birthday. Niraj and I have known each other since middle school, and we now work at the same company. There’s a pretty substantial digital trail on Facebook that would indicate to the network that he is one of my “top” friends, to use their terminology. So at least three separate times on Niraj’s birthday, when I navigated to Facebook, I saw a large reminder: “It’s Niraj’s birthday! We thought you wouldn’t want to miss a chance to wish him a happy birthday.”

There are many fine people who dutifully post birthday greetings to their friends on Facebook. I am not one of those people (sorry, friends). Until the giant banner with Niraj’s face started to haunt my day, I had found it pretty easy to ignore the notifications that Facebook currently uses to remind you about birthdays.

Eventually, I gave in and wrote something on Niraj’s timeline, just to see if it would trigger Facebook to make the banner go away (it seemed to).

A Facebook spokesperson said that the birthday greeting I saw was one of a handful of different features the site is currently testing, all aimed at making Facebook itself more “present inside of the product, to build positive emotional experiences and show people that we care.”

That idea seems to resonate with what Chris Cox, the company’s chief product officer, told the Wall Street Journal recently about how the company addresses issues like privacy with its users – Cox emphasized the need for Facebook as an entity to adopt a “warm” tone while communicating with the site’s users directly. He gave the example of Facebook’s “privacy dinosaur,” a friendly blue dino that recently started walking users through their privacy settings.

In another recent piece, the Wall Street Journal recently pointed to a different reason Facebook might want to convert me into a part-time birthday greeting writer: Although a GlobalWebIndex survey found that 65 percent of the network’s users visit the site daily, their results also indicated that fewer users are actually posting content these days. Instead, a portion of daily visitors are “lurking,” reading the news feeds from their friends, but not contributing anything of their own.

If Facebook’s engagement slides downward, that could have long-term consequences for the appeal of the network. What’s clear is that the site has rolled out several different experiments to trigger more posts in recent months.

Those include the widely-seen “On this Day” feature, which encourages users to re-share an old post from a previous year. The site has also rolled out some event-specific posting prompts, including a collaboration with AMC that coincided with the return of “The Walking Dead,” the Wall Street Journal noted.

In that capacity, the birthday guilt trip worked. Although my birthday “greeting” wasn’t exactly what Facebook asked me to do, the feature did successfully convince me to post something in response, even out of spite. And by the way, Niraj, I got you a card.

Facebook Affects Levels of Stress Hormone in Teenagers

If you are young and love Facebook, keep it to just “liking” and minimise your virtual circle of friends to cut the upcoming depression risk. According to researchers, the social networking site can have positive and negative effects on the levels of a common stress hormone in teenagers.

The team found that having more than 300 Facebook friends increased teenagers’ levels of cortisol while those who only posted “likes” on their Facebook friends to encourage them actually decreased their cortisol levels.

“We were able to show that beyond 300 Facebook friends, adolescents showed higher cortisol levels. We can imagine that those who have 1,000 or 2,000 friends on Facebook may be subjected to even greater stress,” explained Professor Sonia Lupien from University of Montreal.

“While other important external factors are also responsible, we estimated that the isolated effect of Facebook on cortisol was around eight percent,” Lupien noted.

Lupien and her colleagues recruited 88 participants aged 12-17 years who were asked about theirFacebook use, number of friends, self-promoting behaviour, and the supporting behaviour they displayed toward their friends.

Along with these four measures, the team collected cortisol samples of the participating adolescents.

Other studies have shown that high morning cortisol levels at 13 years increase the risk of suffering from depression at 16 years by 37 percent.

While none of the adolescents suffered from depression at the time of the study, Lupien could not conclude that they were free from an increased risk of developing it.

“We did not observe depression in our participants. However, adolescents who present high stress hormone levels do not become depressed immediately; it can occur later on,” Lupien emphasised.

Some studies have shown that it may take 11 years before the onset of severe depression in children who consistently had high cortisol levels

The study is one of the first in the emerging field of cyberpsychology to focus on the effects of Facebook on well-being.

“Developmental analysis could also reveal whether virtual stress is indeed ‘getting over the screen and under the skin’ to modulate neurobiological processes related to adaptation,” the authors noted in apaper published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Mark Zuckerberg to Take Two Months of Paternity Leave

Facebook Inc Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said on Friday he will take two months of paternity leave after his daughter’s birth, a strong statement from one of the busiest and most powerful US executives on the importance of family time.

Silicon Valley technology firms have rushed to extend parental leave allowances and other benefits in an attempt to recruit and retain talent, but many workers do not take advantage for fear of falling behind at work or missing out on promotions.

Facebook, the world’s biggest online social network, allows its US employees to take up to four months of paid maternity or paternity leave, which can be used all at once or throughout the first year of their child’s life, a policy which is generous by US standards. Zuckerberg announced in July that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were expecting a baby girl.

A 2015 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 21 percent of employers it surveyed offered paid maternity leave, and 17 percent provided paid paternity leave.

“This is a very personal decision,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page, along with a picture of a stroller, a yellow baby carrier and his dog, Beast. “Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families.”

Zuckerberg, 31, did not say who would be running the company while he is out. Facebook did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

It is likely that chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who oversees all of Facebook’s advertising, will assume leadership. Zuckerberg largely oversees products, but will likely rely on chief product officer Chris Cox while he is out.

Zuckerberg’s decision is unusual among high-level tech executives, especially men. Yahoo Inc CEOMarissa Mayer took two weeks off after her first child’s birth in 2012, and when she announced she was pregnant with identical twin girls in September, she said she would be taking limited maternity leave and “working throughout.”

Zuckerberg’s post generated more than 50,000 ‘likes’ in one hour and nearly 3,000 comments. Many of the comments lauded his decision and said it sent a positive message about US parental leave policies.

Sandberg commented and congratulated Zuckerberg and his wife. Noting the baby’s upcoming birth, she wrote in her post: “I can’t wait to meet her.”