NEWS RELEASE: Rights groups demand more transparency over Facebook’s ‘insights’ into young users
Facebook should immediately release all documents describing how it collected and analyzed psychological information it recently collected about its youngest users, some as young as 14, and college students, Public Citizen and a coalition of 25 groups said in a letter to the corporation today.
The groups are concerned about how this information might have been used or may be used in the future by marketers and others to take advantage of young people’s emotions, all without users’ knowledge. Marketing companies and Facebook have secretly moved to tap into teens’ emotions and developmental vulnerabilities strictly for profit, the letter says. The groups want to know how the data was used, when it was used, how many users were impacted and the names of the companies that received the data.
“What began as a way for college students to keep in touch has morphed into a platform for brand-saturated marketing and psychological manipulation,” said Kristen Strader, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert campaign. “It is incumbent upon Facebook as a cultural leader to protect, not exploit, the privacy of young people, especially when their vulnerable emotions are involved.”
According to The Australian newspaper, Facebook presented research to one of its advertisers that shows it collects sensitive data regarding young users’ emotions and “mood shifts.” The research detailed how Facebook can analyse sensitive user data in real time to determine how young users are communicating emotion, and at which points during the week they are doing so, the letter continued. Facebook’s research was conducted without users’ knowledge, which raises ethical concerns.
“Because Facebook plays such a powerful role in the lives of teens, it must adopt a policy that respects and protects them,” said Dr. Kathryn Montgomery, professor of communication at American University and a consultant to the Center for Digital Democracy. “This should include not only strong safeguards for its advertising and data practices, but also clear limits on the kinds of research it conducts for marketing purposes. Under no circumstances should marketers be using emotional states, stress levels, biometric information or other highly sensitive data to target users. And this should apply to both young people and adults.”
Jim Killock, Executive Director of UK-based digital rights campaigners, Open Rights Group explained why they had signed on
“We need more transparency about supposed research projects that are used to create valuable insights, which can be sold to the highest bidder. This is exploiting children and young people, who may not be aware of how Facebook are using and selling their data.”
The public, its users and elected officials have a right to know how pervasive this research was, who was affected and how the company will ensure it does not occur again, the groups said. The only way to fully address those concerns is to publicly release the internal document and related materials, accompanied by a more detailed explanation from Facebook of what was intended, what happened and the company’s actual practices, the letter says.
Read the letter: https://www.citizen.org/system/files/case_documents/letter-to-facebook_2.pdf
Winner of the Liberty Human Rights Campaigner of the Year Award 2012
The Open Rights Group has had a productive year. The following is the group's New Year newsletter;
"This update and previous versions are now available from our website
2016 has been a year to remember or possibly one to forget! Political upheaval and celebrity deaths aside, what did 2016 mean for digital rights?
It was the year when....
Theresa May got her snoopers' charter While politicians, the media and public were distracted by Brexit, the UK parliament passed the most extreme surveillance law in a democracy – the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA). ORG fought hard to limit its severe measures but only the Lib Dems, Greens and SNP suggested serious amendments, which the Tories and Labour rejected.
But the Courts say it needs to be rewritten
In 2014, ORG intervened in a case about data retention brought by the MPs Tom Watson and David Davis. ORG argued that blanket data retention contravened the protections set out in a previous Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) judgment. These arguments – including the unlawfulness of blanket retention – won the day and were accepted by the court. Last week, the CJEU stated, among other things, that blanket data retention is not permissible. This means that the Government is going to have to change the IPA or face another legal challenge. The fightback begins!
The Government decided it wanted to block porn
The Digital Economy Bill, which is currently going through parliament, will compel porn sites to verify that their users are over 18. The proposals, which don’t include privacy protections, are largely unworkable because foreign porn sites could refuse to comply. Undeterred, the Government has now proposed to force ISPs to block sites that don’t apply age verification – potentially blocking thousands of legal websites in the UK. And just last week, they confirmed that Twitter accounts that link to blocked websites could also be blocked.
ORG is working to get the Government to amend the Digital Economy Bill so that privacy rights are protected. Over 18,000 people have already signed our petition against web blocking and this is going to be one of our big fights in 2017.
Admiral's app was sunk Admiral Insurance thought it would be a good idea to offer first time drivers discounts in return for analysing their Facebook feeds. ORG raised awareness in the media and Facebook clarified that this was a breach of their Platform policy and blocked Admiral's app.
There are real risks in allowing the financial or insurance industry to base financial decisions on our social media activity. ORG will continue to raise awareness when companies try to do this.
Prison sentences were proposed for file sharers
Earlier in the year, almost 1,000 ORG supporters wrote to the Intellectual Property Office to say no to proposals that could see people who commit online copyright infringement getting ten-year prison sentences. Despite this opposition, the proposals still appeared in the Digital Economy Bill. However, we’re working with Labour to amend the wording of the law so that such sentences will only be given to those guilty of serious copyright infringement.
Net Neutrality was protected
This summer, ORG supporters along with Internet users from across Europe secured some the the strongest net neutrality protections in the world. BEREC, the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications, set strong guidelines on how European net neutrality rules should be enforced by national telecoms regulators like Ofcom in the UK. We'll be keeping an eye out for potential net neutrality violations in the UK over 2017 and beyond.
The UK voted to leave Europe
After the UK voted to leave the European Union, we warned that there would be major consequences for digital rights as many European laws apply. We still don't know what shape Brexit will take but this should become clearer in 2017 and will be something that massively affects our work.
Data protection should get better
The European Union passed the General Data Proection Regulation (GDPR) in April this year. ORG, EDRi and other digital rights groups had argued for stronger data protection laws for the last five years. Along with the European Parliament, we worked to stop industry efforts to water the proposals down. When it enters force in 2018, it will give people new rights, including the right to get an electronic copy of your data, to delete your data, and to object to automatic decisions that affect your rights. Companies will also face bigger fines if they breach the law. Despite Brexit, the UK Government has confirmed that it will enact the proposals in the GDPR – largely because it would otherwise damage UK business interests.
The European Commission proposed filtering the Internet
The European Commission published its draft Copyright Directive, which included plans to force Internet companies to ‘filter’ everything we upload in case it infringes copyright laws. This would have a massive impact on how we all use the Internet as photos, songs, images, and even memes, could be checked and censored as copyright violations. Over 3,000 ORG supporters wrote to the IPO about these plans and we will continue to challenge them in 2017.
We were all Trumped
“If there were a crisis in the relationship between the UK and the US, what risks would our shared intelligence arrangements pose?” We asked this question in our 2015 report about the Snowden leaks. We might be about to find out the answer. The Snowden documents show that Britain’s GCHQ and America’s NSA work very closely together. They are integrated in a way that means it is difficult for our Parliament to hold GCHQ to account.
We rely so much on US technology and data that it poses questions for our sovereignty. Is sharing of UK citizens’ 'bulk data' with a Trump government safe? Will Trump threaten the UK with the removal of key technologies, if our government steps out of line? Will he push the UK into taking ever greater risks and intrusions as the price for this close relationship?
Oversight of this state of dependency between the UK and USA is woeful in the UK. If we want our future to be safe, this is time to rethink how surveillance is governed and overseen.
Thank you from ORG
A special thanks to our local group organisers in Aberdeen, Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Leeds, London, Manchester and the North East who have put on some excellent events this year. Thank you to everyone who signed a petition, emailed their MP, tweeted about us, came to an event or followed us on social media.
Please do consider joining ORG and helping us to fight for your rights in 2017.
Happy New Year from everyone at ORG!
Open Rights Group"
Labour Press Release
***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***
Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, in a speech to the Party of European Socialists Council in Prague today, said:
"Colleagues and comrades, I want to thank you for inviting me here today, and for the reception we have received from our hosts in this magnificent city.
It is fitting we are in Prague to discuss the challenges ahead for democracy in Europe.
This is a city which has been at the heart of the history of our continent and the convulsions of the past century - of war, revolution and the struggle for democracy and social justice.
We are in a city that also suffered the scourge of Nazi occupation and the horror of its genocidal crimes.
Today I will also be visiting the Terezin memorial which commemorates the victims of Nazi political and racial persecution in the Czech Republic, a permanent testimony to the threat posed by far right politics, anti-semitism and racist scapegoating.
On behalf of the British Labour party I will be paying tribute and remembering those who died, whose suffering is a reminder of the scars left by the far right, not just on this country or this continent, but on the whole world.
Today, we live in a different time with different pressures and opportunities.
But it is clear, across Europe and beyond there has been an alarming acceleration in the rise of the populist right.
Whether it be UKIP in Britain, Donald Trump in the United States, Jobbik in Hungary or Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France.
Politics has been shaken across the world and, as socialists and progressives, we know very well why the populist right is gaining ground. But we are finding it increasingly hard to get our message heard and it is up to us to offer the political leadership needed for a real alternative.
We know the gap between rich and poor is widening. We know living standards are stagnating or falling and insecurity is growing. We know that many people feel left behind by the forces unleashed by globalization - powerless in the face of deregulated corporate power.
Often the populist right do identify the right problems but their solutions are the toxic dead ends of the past, seeking to divert it with rhetoric designed to divide and blame.
They are political parasites, feeding on people’s concerns and worsening conditions, blaming the most vulnerable for society’s ills instead of offering a way to take back real control of our lives from powerful elites who serve their own interests.
But unless progressive parties and movements break with that failed economic and political establishment it is the siren voices of the populist far right that will fill the gap.
It can be difficult to convince the long-term unemployed that the reason there is no work is not that immigrants are stealing their jobs but the result of the economic programme of the right that has failed to deliver sustainable growth, security and rising living standards for all.
Or It can be hard to make clear that our public services are being run down because of years of austerity and predatory privatisation, rather than overspending and government waste, but it is vital that we do.
We cannot abandon our socialist principles because we are told this is the only way to win power. That is nonsense.
The reason we are losing ground to the right today is because the message of what socialism is and what it can achieve in people’s daily lives has been steadily diluted.
Many people no longer understand what we stand for.
Too often in recent years the left in Europe has been seen as apologists for a broken system rather than the answer to how to deliver radical social and economic reform for the 21st century.
Too often the left has been seen as the accomplice to reckless, unfettered capitalism rather than a challenge to it.
Too often the left has been seen as standing up for the privileged few rather than for the many we exist to represent and defend.
If we are only seen as protectors of the status quo how can we expect people to turn to us when they can see that status quo has failed?
We must stand for real change, and a break with the failed elite politics and economics of the past.
If we do, I have every confidence that the principles of solidarity, internationalism and socialism that we stand for can be at the heart of European politics in the 21st century.
That’s why it is vital that our rhetoric cannot be used to legitimise the scapegoating of refugees or migrant workers.
When we talk about refugees we need to talk about them as human beings, not as numbers, or as a burden, but instead as children, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters.
And when we face the challenge of migration we need to work together to halt the exploitation of migrant labour to undercut pay and conditions in a race to the bottom across Europe. We cannot allow the parties of the right to sow divisions and fan the flames of fear.
When it comes to Britain’s referendum vote to leave the European Union we in the Labour party respect that decision, and we want to work together with Socialist and progressive parties across Europe to find the best possible solution that benefits both Britain and the EU in the Brexit negotiations.
Labour is calling on the British Government to guarantee the rights of all EU Citizens before Article 50 negotiations begin, and not to use them as a bargaining chip in negotiations.
Labour is pushing for Brexit negotiations to be carried out in a transparent manner, in a spirit that aims to find a deal that works for all across our the continent.
That is why I am inviting leaders from socialist and progressive parties and movements across Europe to a special conference in London in February.
I believe our movement has the new ideas to take on and beat the populist right.. But we must harvest those ideas and that energy, allow a space within our parties for new ideas to be heard and build a movement with a democratic culture at its very heart.
It is when people lose faith in the power of politics to improve people’s lives that the space opens up for the far right to scapegoat and blame. Our task is harder, to restore people’s confidence that we have both the vision and an understanding of the lives of those we represent to change them for the better.
As we head towards 2017 many people are worried about the direction that Europe is taking. Well now is time for us to turn the tide. To put the interests of working people front and centre stage and to fight for our values, of social justice, solidarity, equality and internationalism.
If we do that together, and break with the failed politics of the past, I am confident we can overcome the challenge from the populist right.
North Yorks fire authority has days to avert industrial action ballot - Press release
November 9, 2016
North Yorkshire Combined Fire Authority have just days to avert firefighters in North Yorkshire voting for the first time ever locally on whether to take industrial action over a series of cutbacks that will result in fire crews taking up to 30 minutes longer to make it to the scene of an emergency.
There are serious concerns for public safety and the safety of firefighters as a result of the impact the cutbacks will have.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said that proposals put forward by the Combined Fire Authority (CFA) to replace six fire engines with smaller Tactical Response Vehicles, which carry as few as two firefighters, will severely extend the amount of time it will take to perform rescues from fires and road traffic collisions. This is because fire crews will have to wait at the scene for more specialised equipment to arrive before performing rescues.
The union has also warned that, due to a chronic shortage of firefighters, scores of fire engines are unavailable at any one time. This again contributes to the slowing emergency response to incidents, which are their longest nationally in two decades at the government’s own admission.
Steve Howley, secretary of the FBU in North Yorkshire, said: “The CFA’s plan will lead to a significant and unacceptable increased risk to the public and to frontline firefighters. Despite public opposition to the plans agreed by the CFA last December and our best attempts to resolve the issues through negotiation with local managers, we have now been forced to put the matter in the hands of the fire authority to try to resolve. If they fail to do so, we are left with no option but to ballot our members for industrial action.”
The FBU have also slammed the CFA for abandoning its promise to phase in the changes over a four-year period, which the union says would have given managers the time to address concerns about the shortage of firefighters and fire engines being unavailable.
Howley added: “The CFA have gone back on their word. Instead of trying to fix the problems, senior managers are pushing ahead with a drastic plan which will end up costing lives. We cannot accept that.
The CFA and chief fire officer for North Yorkshire are failing in their duty to provide the effective fire and rescue service the public pay for and deserve.”
Firefighters' union welcomes Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service's withdrawal of proposals to sack its workforce
FIREFIGHTERS’ UNION WELCOMES GREATER MANCHESTER FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE’S WITHDRAWAL OF PROPOSALS TO SACK ITS WORKFORCE
"The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has welcomed Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s (GMFRS) announcement today that it is not now planning to sack its 1250 strong firefighter workforce. The service withdrew its plans to issue Section 188 notices that would have terminated the firefighters’ contracts of employment – only those who agreed to the new 12 hour shift patterns would have been re-employed.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “This is a very welcome move that will allow both parties to engage in discussions about the detail of the proposals to implement the planned cuts to the service’s budget without the threat of action by either party. The FBU has confirmed that it will participate fully in talks facilitated through the independent Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) with both parties engaging constructively in discussions to ensure the safety of the public.”
The TAP talks will begin Thursday 29 September.
The FBU acknowledges that the proposed changes were the result of continuing cuts by this government. The GMFRS has already had to make £28 million of cuts, with the government imposing a further £14.4 million over the next four years.
Approximately 20,000 members of the public signed a petition against the plans to dismiss the firefighters. The FBU’s campaign against the service’s plans to sack and re-engage its firefighters won support across the media."
Jennie Formby: Labour's new general secretary