Facebook Lasso app lead Brady Voss leaves for Netflix right after launch

Facebook Lasso has a steep uphill climb ahead as it hopes to chase the musical video app it cloned, China’s TikTok (which merged with Musically). Lasso lets you overlay popular songs on 15-second clips of you lip syncing, dancing, or just being silly — kind of like Vine with a soundtrack. It’s off to a slow start since launching Friday, having failed to reach the overall app download charts as it falls from #169 to #217 on the US iOS Photo and Video App chart, according to App Annie.

Forme Facebook Lead Product Designer Brady Voss

And now one of the Lasso team’s bosses Brady Voss is leaving Facebook for a job at Netflix. He’d spent five years as a lead product designer at Facebook working on standalone apps like Hello and major feature launches like Watch, Live, 360 video, and the social network’s smart TV app. He previously designed
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Facebook bug let websites read ‘likes’ and interests from a user’s profile

Facebook has fixed a bug that let any website pull information from a user’s profile — including their ‘likes’ and interests — without that user’s knowledge.

That’s the findings from Ron Masas, a security researcher at Imperva, who found that Facebook search results weren’t properly protected from cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attacks. In other words, a website could quietly siphon off certain bits of data from your logged-in Facebook profile in another tab. Masas demonstrated how a website acting in bad faith could embed an IFRAME — used to nest a webpage within a webpage — to silently collect profile information. “This allowed information to cross over domains — essentially meaning that if a user visits a particular website, an attacker can open Facebook and can collect information about the user and their friends,” said Masas. The malicious website could open several Facebook search queries in a new tab, and
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Snapchat launches Bitmoji merch and comic strips starring your avatar

Snapchat is doubling down on its biggest differentiator by turning its personalized avatar Bitmoji into a revenue stream and a new source of content. Snapchat is launching a Bitmoji merchandise store you can customize with you and your friends’ cartoonified faces, Bitmoji Stories comic strips featuring you and friends’ avatars in fun scenes, and a new Friendship profile that collect all the content you and a friend have saved from your Snap message thread.

The new features could help earn Snapchat money to reduce its still-massive quarterly losses, get Snap’s brand out in public, and give people new ways to spend more time on Snapchat when it’s otherwise been losing users.

Snapchat, The Ecommerce Company

The Bitmoji merchandise store opens Thursday in the US on iOS only with $2 stickers, $15 coffee mugs, $16 standard t-shirts and notebooks, $22 triblend t-shirts $27 sweatshirts and more that you can personalize by
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Tinder to roll out expanded set of gender options in India

Tinder is preparing to roll out more gender options in its app in India. The company will announce shortly that users will be able to edit their profile in order to choose a different option for their gender identity, instead of just “Man” or “Woman,” as well as toggle a setting that will display their gender on their profile in Tinder’s app.

These same options have been live in the U.S. since November 2016, when the dating app added options for transgender and gender non-conforming people. The news was published earlier today to Tinder’s blog ahead of a planned announcement, a spokesperson said. It plans to share more information later tonight, they noted. (We’ll update if that’s the case). In the post Tinder published, the company admits it hasn’t always “had the right tools” to serve its community in the past, and is now trying to learn to
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Chappy, the Bumble-backed dating app for gay men, inks partnership with GLAAD

Chappy, the dating app for gay men, has today announced a partnership with GLAAD. As part of the partnership, Chappy will make a donation to GLAAD for each conversation initiated on the dating app, from now throughout 2019.

The company won’t disclose the amount of the donation, but said that it hopes to raise “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Chappy launched in 2017 to give gay men an authentic, discrimination-free way to connect with one another. The app uses a sliding scale to let users indicate what they’re looking for in a relationship, ranging from “Cute” to “Sexy.” The app has more than 650,000 registered users, and has seen more than 1 billion swipes. Chappy is backed by Bumble and controlled by Bumble shareholders, falling under the Badoo umbrella of dating apps. Last month, Bumble named Chappy its official dating app for gay men. As part of
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Facebook Portal needs more. At least it just added YouTube

To offset the creepiness of having Facebook’s camera and microphone in your house, its new Portal video chat gadget needs best-in-class software.  Its hardware is remarkably well done, plus Messenger and the photo frame feature work great. But its third-party app platform was pretty skimpy when the device launched this week.

Facebook is increasingly relying on its smart display competitors to boost Portal’s capabilities. It already comes with Amazon Alexa inside. And now, Google’s YouTube is part of the Portal app platform. “Yes, YouTube.com is available through an optional install in the ‘Portal Apps’ catalog” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. You can open it with a “Hey Portal” command, but there currently seems to be no way to queue up specific videos or control playback via voice.

The addition gives Portal much greater flexibility when it comes to video. Previously it could only play videos from Facebook Watch,
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Facebook simulates itself up a better, more gradual product launch

When you’re launching a new social media product, like an image-sharing app or niche network, common wisdom is to make it available to everyone as soon as it’s ready. But simulations carried out by Facebook — and let’s be honest, a few actual launches — suggest that may be a good way to kneecap your product from the start.

It’s far from a simple problem to simulate, but in the spirit of the “spherical cow in a vacuum” it’s easy enough to make a plausible model in which to test some basic hypotheses. In this case the researchers crafted a network of nodes into which a virtual “product” could be seeded, and if certain conditions were met it would either spread to other nodes or “churn” permanently, meaning this node deleted the app in disgust. If you’re familiar with Conway’s Game of Life it’s broadly similar but not so elegant.
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Limiting social media use reduced loneliness and depression in new experiment

The idea that social media can be harmful to our mental and emotional well-being is not a new one, but little has been done by researchers to directly measure the effect; surveys and correlative studies are at best suggestive. A new experimental study out of Penn State, however, directly links more social media use to worse emotional states, and less use to better.

To be clear on the terminology here, a simple survey might ask people to self-report that using Instagram makes them feel bad. A correlative study would, for example, find that people who report more social media use are more likely to also experience depression. An experimental study compares the results from an experimental group with their behavior systematically modified, and a control group that’s allowed to do whatever they want. This study, led by Melissa Hunt at Penn State’s psychology department, is the latter — which
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Facebook launches Lasso, its music and video TikTok clone

Done cloning Snapchat, Facebook is now chasing Chinese short-form video sensation TikTok with the launch of its knock-off Lasso. Available now for iOS and Android, Lasso is Facebook’s answer to the zany mobile lipsyncing playground that’s gained ground with young users, both in China and in the West.

The release confirms TechCrunch’s scoop from last month that the company was building an app called Lasso to let people share short videos with soundtracks. With TikTok looking like the next big thing, it’s not surprising to see Facebook playing chase, much like it did, successfully, when Snapchat posed an existential threat. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the launch of Lasso on iOS and Android is in the U.S. only for now, telling us “Lasso is a new standalone app for short-form, entertaining videos — from comedy to beauty to fitness and more. We’re excited about the potential here, and we’ll be
Lasso, Facebook's TikTok clone
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Listen to the music of a Martian sunrise

Two researchers, Dr. Domenico Vicinanza of Anglia Ruskin University and Dr. Genevieve Williams, have “sonified” a video of the 5,000th Martian sunrise captured by the Mars rover, Opportunity. The music is a representation of the experience of seeing the sun rise over the red dunes as light pierces the planet’s atmosphere.

It’s beautiful. From the release:
Researchers created the piece of music by scanning a picture from left to right, pixel by pixel, and looking at brightness and colour information and combining them with terrain elevation. They used algorithms to assign each element a specific pitch and melody. The quiet, slow harmonies are a consequence of the dark background and the brighter, higher pitched sounds towards the middle of the piece are created by the sonification of the bright sun disk.
Given that you are literally watching the sun rise over the sands of Mars thanks to the efforts of
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LinkedIn Learning now includes 3rd party content and Q&A interactive features

LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned social network for the working world with some 580 million users, took a big step into professional development and education when it acquired Lynda.com for $1.5 billion and used it as the anchor for LinkedIn Learning. Now, with 13,000 courses on the platform, LinkedIn is announcing two new developments to get more people using the service. It will now offer videos, tutorials and courses from third parties such as Treehouse and the publishing division of Harvard Business School. And in a social twist, people who use LinkedIn learning — the students and teachers — will now be able to ask and answer questions around LinkedIn Learning sessions, as well as follow instructors on LinkedIn, and see others’ feedback on courses.

Unlimited access to LinkedIn Learning comes when a person pays for LinkedIn’s Premium Career tier which costs around $30/month, or when a company
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Children are being “datafied” before we’ve understood the risks, report warns

A report by England’s children’s commissioner has raised concerns about how kids’ data is being collected and shared across the board, in both the private and public sectors.

In the report, entitled Who knows what about me?, Anne Longfield urges society to “stop and think” about what big data means for children’s lives. Big data practices could result in a data-disadvantaged generation whose life chances are shaped by their childhood data footprint, her report warns. The long term impacts of profiling minors when these children become adults is simply not known, she writes. “Children are being “datafied” – not just via social media, but in many aspects of their lives,” says Longfield. “For children growing up today, and the generations that follow them, the impact of profiling will be even greater – simply because there is more data available about them.” By the time a child is 13
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Facebook Dating arrives in Canada and Thailand

On the heels of Tinder’s plans to go more casual, Facebook is today expanding access to its own dating service, Facebook Dating. First launched two months ago in Colombia for testing purposes, the social network is today rolling out Facebook Dating to Canada and Thailand. The company is also adding a few new features to coincide with the launch, including the ability to re-review people you passed on and take a break by putting the service on pause, among other things.

If that latter feature sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also something dating app Bumble recently announced, as well. Bumble in September launched a Snooze button for its own app, which addressed the problem many online daters have – the need for a detox from dating apps for a bit. Sometimes that’s due to frustration or just being busy; while other times it’s because they’ve matched with someone and
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So I sent my mom that newfangled Facebook Portal

“Who am I going to be worried about? Oh Facebook seeing? No, I’m not worried about Facebook seeing. They’re going to look at my great art collection and say they want to come steal it? No, I never really thought about it.” That’s my 72-year-old mother Sally Constine’s response to whether she’s worried about her privacy now that she has a Facebook Portal video chat device. The gadget goes on sale and starts shipping today at $349 for the 15.6-inch swiveling screen Portal+, $199 for the 10-inch Portal, and $100 off for buying any two.

The sticking point for most technology reporters — that it’s creepy or scary to have a Facebook camera and microphone in your house — didn’t even register as a concern with a normal tech novice like my Mom. “I don’t really think of it any different from a phone call” she says. “It’s not

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White House shares manipulated Infowars video to justify CNN press ban

Read this slowly: The White House’s press secretary has tweeted a manipulated video shared by the editor-at-large of conspiracy theorist outlet Infowars to attempt to justify its decision to suspend the press credentials of CNN’s chief white house correspondent.

CNN’s Jim Acosta had his press pass pulled by the White House earlier today after press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed he had “plac[ed] his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job”. Acosta disputes this.

The journalist had being trying to continue asking president Trump questions during a contentious exchange at a White House press briefing. During this exchange Trump cut over him verbally — saying “that’s enough” — at which point a female White House intern moved towards Acosta and attempted to take the microphone out of his hands. The journalist dodged and then blocked

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Tinder doubles down on its casual nature, as Match invests in relationship-focused Hinge

Tinder has never really shaken its reputation among consumers as a “hook up” app, instead of one designed for more serious dating. Now, it seems Tinder is planning to embrace its status as the default app for younger users who aren’t ready to settle down. According to Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg, speaking to investors on its Q3 earnings call this morning, Tinder is preparing to launch its first-ever brand marketing campaign that will promote the “single lifestyle” with billboard campaigns and other digital initiatives.

The move is something of an admission that Tinder isn’t working for helping people find long-term relationships. “Tinder was such a phenomenon when it launched and spread so quickly that the market defined th brand, versus the business defining the brand,” said Ginsberg, referring to its “hook up app” reputation. “Tinder’s brand particularly resonated with 18 to 25 year-olds because it provides a fun and easy
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Facebook is facing an EU data probe over fake ads

The UK’s privacy watchdog has asked Facebook’s lead EU regulator to look into ongoing data protection concerns about its ad platform — including how its platform is being used to target and spread fake adverts to try to manipulate voters.

Facebook’s international HQ is in Ireland so the regulator in play here is the Irish Data Protection Commission. The ICO noted the action in a 113-page report to parliament yesterday giving an update on its long-running investigation into the use of data analytics in political campaigns — writing:
We have referred our ongoing concerns about Facebook’s targeting functions and techniques that are used to monitor individuals’ browsing habits, interactions and behaviour across the internet and different devices to the to the IDPC. Under the GDPR, the IDPC is the lead authority for Facebook in the EU. We will work with both the Irish regulator and other national data protection authorities
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Where’s the accountability Facebook?

Facebook has yet again declined an invitation for its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to answer international politicians’ questions about how disinformation spreads on his platform and undermines democratic processes.

But policymakers aren’t giving up — and have upped the ante by issuing a fresh invitation signed by representatives from another three national parliaments. So the call for global accountability is getting louder. Now representatives from a full five parliaments have signed up to an international grand committee calling for answers from Zuckerberg, with Argentina, Australia and Ireland joining the UK and Canada to try to pile political pressure on Facebook. The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee has been asking for Facebook’s CEO to attend its multi-month enquiry for the best part of this year, without success…

In its

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Facebook connects Russia to 100+ accounts it removed ahead of mid-terms

The 115 accounts Facebook took down yesterday for inauthentic behavior ahead of the mid-term elections may indeed have been linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, according to a new statement from the company. It says that a site claiming association with the IRA today posted a list of Instagram accounts it had made which included many Facebook had taken down yesterday, and it also has since removed the rest. The IRA was previously llabeled as responsible for using Facebook to interfere with US politics and the 2016 Presidential election.

Facebook’s head of cyber security policy Nathaniel Gleicher issued this statement to TechCrunch:

“Last night, following a tip off from law enforcement, we blocked over 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts due to concerns that they were linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) and engaged
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Facebook must change and policymakers must act on data, warns UK watchdog

The UK’s data watchdog has warned that Facebook must overhaul its privacy-hostile business model or risk burning user trust for good.

Comments she made today have also raised questions over the legality of so-called lookalike audiences to target political ads at users of its platform. Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham was giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee in the UK parliament this morning. She’s just published her latest report to parliament, on the ICO’s (still ongoing) investigation into the murky world of data use and misuse in political campaigns. Since May 2017 the watchdog has been pulling on myriad threads attached to the Cambridge Analytica Facebook data misuse scandal — to, in the regulator’s words, “follow the data” across an entire ecosystem of players; from social media firms to data brokers to political parties, and indeed beyond to other still unknown actors with an interest in also
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