SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook said today it considered charging application makers to access data at the social network.
Such a move would have been a major shift away from the policy of not selling Facebook members’ information, which the social network has stressed in the face of criticism alleging it is more interested in making money than protecting privacy.
“To be clear, Facebook has never sold anyone’s data,” director of developer platforms and programs Konstantinos Papamiltiadis said in response to an AFP inquiry.
“Our APIs have always been free of charge and we have never required developers to pay for using them, either directly or by buying advertising.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that internal emails indicating that Facebook mulled charging companies for access to user data were referred to in a lawsuit filed against the social network in 2015 by Six4Three, creator of a failed app called “Pikinis.”
The application enabled users to find Facebook pictures of people in bathing suits, taking advantage of an API feature that let apps access the data of social network users as well as their friends.
The suit accuses Facebook of abusing its power over user data. Most of the documents filed in the case have been sealed by a California judge at Facebook’s request.
Some emails indicated Facebook employees discussed providing increased access of user information to advertisers in return for spending more money on the social network, according to the WSJ.
“The documents Six4Three gathered for this baseless case are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context,” Papamiltiadis said.
Facebook early on adopted a practice of letting developers use APIs (application programming interfaces) to plug into the social network for free and connect to user data to enhance the online gathering place with games, services and more.
Facebook went public on the stock market in early 2012, and subsequently considered ways it might be able to increase revenue, opting not to charge developers for access to the social network.
Facebook in August said it has suspended more than 400 out of thousands of applications it has investigated to determine whether people’s personal information was being improperly shared.
Applications were suspended “due to concerns around the developers who built them or how the information people chose to share with the app may have been used,” according to a blog post.
Facebook contended that the suit by Six4Three is aimed at compelling the social network to provide the kind of access to friends’ data that was taken advantage of in the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.
Facebook admitted that up to 87 million users may have had their data hijacked by Cambridge Analytica, which was working for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Facebook has modified app data sharing policies since the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
“We stand by the platform changes we made in 2015 to stop a person from sharing their friends’ data with developers,” Papamiltiadis said.
Huawei’s founder says world can’t live without it
BEIJING: The founder of Chinese telecom giant Huawei has hit back at US efforts to blacklist the company, saying defiantly that the world cannot do without Huawei and its “more advanced” technology.
“There’s no way the US can crush us,” Ren Zhengfei said in an interview with the BBC.
“The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced.”
Ren, 74, also denounced as “politically motivated” the December arrest of his daughter, Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who is accused of violating US sanctions against Iran and faces an extradition hearing in Canada next month.
“We object to this,” he said.
“But now that we’ve gone down this path, we’ll let the courts settle it.”
The normally media-shy Huawei founder has been forced to step into the limelight in recent months as the company has come under increasing pressure over espionage concerns and the US-led campaign to persuade other countries to ban its technology.
Last year, security concerns prompted Australia to ban Huawei equipment from its future 5G network.
New Zealand has also blocked its largest telecom carrier from using Huawei technology for the next generation network, while the Czech Republic has reportedly excluded it from a 20-million-euro ($22 million) tender to build a tax portal.
US prosecutors are also charging Huawei with stealing trade secrets, saying it offered rewards to employees for stealing technology from other rivals.
Ren shrugged off the growing pressure.
“If the lights go out in the West, the East will still shine,” he said. “America doesn’t represent the world.”
“Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily, we can always downsize and become smaller.”
Russia to send tourists to near-Earth orbit on “space yacht”
MOSCOW: Russia is developing a “space yacht” that is able to take off from ordinary airfields like an aircraft to send tourists to near-Earth orbit, a chief designer of NPO Aviation and Space Technologies told Sputnik news agency.
A number of private companies are working on the unmanned spacecraft dubbed Selena Space Yacht with the support of the National Technology Initiative’s (NTI) AeroNet and SpaceNet working groups, designer Alexander Begak said in an interview.
“We have an opportunity to land on any airfield, the device lands like an airplane … We now calculate the optimal time for space travel, a comfortable flight path, because experience shows that people do not need to be in zero-gravity condition for as long as 10 minutes,” Begak said, adding that the development of the spacecraft began two years ago.
Three “space yachts” will be produced, with six passenger seats and one pilot seat each. Though the spacecraft will be unmanned, the pilot will be present for the convenience of passengers, Begak said.
The cost of the flight will be about 200,000-300,000 U.S. dollars per person.
Begak said that the first flights may start in five years.
South Korea ranks 7th in OECD’s science, technology capabilities scale in 2018
SEOUL: South Korea’s science and technology capabilities ranked seventh among other major economies in 2018, a state-run think tank said Monday.
The Korea Institute of S&T Evaluation and Planning (KISTEP) said its evaluation was compared against one done on the 34-member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last year.
The evaluation was based on five categories: research environment, support from both the public and private sectors, quality of work carried out by scientists and engineers, the results of research and overall network capabilities, KISTEP said.
The United States came in first in 2018, followed by Switzerland, Japan, Israel, Germany and the Netherlands, according to the KISTEP.