Meta slapped with 5.5 mn euro fine for EU data breach

Thursday’s Whatsapp fine was also far lower because it did not relate to targeted advertising. (AFP/File)
Thursday’s Whatsapp fine was also far lower because it did not relate to targeted advertising. (AFP/File)
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Updated 19 January 2023

Meta slapped with 5.5 mn euro fine for EU data breach

Meta slapped with 5.5 mn euro fine for EU data breach
  • Penalty follows a far larger 390-million-euro fine for Meta’s Instagram and Facebook platforms earlier in January
  • DPC said Meta acted “in breach of its obligations in relation to transparency”

DUBLIN: Social media giant Meta has been fined an additional 5.5 million euros ($5.9 million) for violating EU data protection regulations with its instant messaging platform WhatsApp, Ireland’s regulator announced Thursday.
The penalty follows a far larger 390-million-euro fine for Meta’s Instagram and Facebook platforms two weeks ago after they were found to have flouted the same EU rules.
In its new decision, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) found the group acted “in breach of its obligations in relation to transparency,” the watchdog said in a statement.
In addition, Meta relied on an incorrect legal basis “for its processing of personal data for the purposes of service improvement and security,” the DPC added, giving the group six months to comply.
The fine was imposed by the Irish regulator because Meta — along with other US tech firms — has its European headquarters in Dublin.
In response on Thursday, Meta said it was opposed to the DPC decision and would look to overturn it.
“We strongly believe that the way the service operates is both technically and legally compliant,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.
“We disagree with the decision and we intend to appeal.”
The breaches are similar to those explained in the regulator’s action against Meta earlier in January.
But the earlier decision also accused the Meta platforms of breaking rules over the processing of personal data for the purpose of targeted advertising.
In that instance the company, co-founded by social media magnate Mark Zuckerberg, was given only three months to respond to comply with the Irish regulator.
Meta announced its intention to appeal the 4 January decision, adding the regulatory ruling did not prevent targeted or personalized advertising.
The DPC said its more recent fine was considerably less because of a 225 million euro fine imposed on WhatsApp for “for breaches of this and other transparency obligations over the same period of time.”
Thursday’s Whatsapp fine was also far lower because it did not relate to targeted advertising.
The Irish regulator had fined Meta 405 million euros in September for failures in handling the data of minors, and 265 million euros in November for not sufficiently protecting users’ data.
This latest round of fines follows the adoption of three binding decisions by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), the EU’s data protection regulator, in early December.
The Vienna-based privacy group NOYB, which brought the three complaints against Meta in 2018, had accused the social media behemoth of reinterpreting consent as a civil law contract, which stopped users from refusing targeted advertising.
In reaction to Thursday’s news, NOYB criticized the “tiny” size of the latest fine — and slammed the DPC for ignoring how WhatsApp shares data within the group for advertising purposes.
“We are astonished how the DPC simply ignores the core of the case after a 4.5-year procedure,” said NOYB founder Max Schrems.
In October 2021, the Irish authority had proposed a draft decision that validated the legal basis used by the group and suggested a fine of up to 36 million euros for Facebook and up to 23 million euros for Instagram, over their lack of transparency.
France’s CNIL regulator and other European bodies disagreed with the draft sanction, which they considered to be far too low.
They asked the EDPB to judge the dispute with the EU data regulator deciding in their favor.
The EDPB has also asked the Irish regulator to investigate Meta’s use of personal data.
However in its statement the DPC pushed back saying the EU body does not have the power to “direct an authority to engage in open-ended and speculative investigation.”
The regulator said it will seek to annul the EDPB’s request before the European Union’s Court of Justice.


Taliban close women-run Afghan station for playing music

Taliban close women-run Afghan station for playing music
Updated 01 April 2023

Taliban close women-run Afghan station for playing music

Taliban close women-run Afghan station for playing music
  • Sadai Banowan, which means women’s voice in Dari, is Afghanistan’s only women-run station and started 10 years ago
  • Moezuddin Ahmadi, the director for Information and Culture in Badakhshan province, said the station violated the “laws and regulations"

JALALABAD, Afghanistan: A women-run radio station in Afghanistan’s northeast has been shut down for playing music during the holy month of Ramadan, a Taliban official said Saturday.
Sadai Banowan, which means women’s voice in Dari, is Afghanistan’s only women-run station and started 10 years ago. It has eight staff, six of them female.
Moezuddin Ahmadi, the director for Information and Culture in Badakhshan province, said the station violated the “laws and regulations of the Islamic Emirate” several times by broadcasting songs and music during Ramadan and was shuttered because of the breach.
“If this radio station accepts the policy of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and gives a guarantee that it will not repeat such a thing again, we will allow it to operate again,” said Ahmadi.
Station head Najia Sorosh denied there was any violation, saying there was no need for the closure and called it a conspiracy. The Taliban “told us that you have broadcast music. We have not broadcast any kind of music,” she said.
Sorosh said at 11:40 a.m. on Thursday representatives from the Ministry of Information and Culture and the Vice and Virtue Directorate arrived at the station and shut it down. She said station staff have contacted Vice and Virtue but officials there said they do not have any additional information about the closing.
Many journalists lost their jobs after the Taliban takeover in August 2021. Media outlets closed over lack of funds or because staff left the country, according to the Afghan Independent Journalists Association.
The Taliban have barred women from most forms of employment and education beyond the sixth grade, including university. There is no official ban on music. During their previous rule in the late 1990s, the Taliban barred most television, radio and newspapers in the country.


106-year-old Kalinga tattooist becomes Vogue’s oldest cover star

106-year-old Kalinga tattooist becomes Vogue’s oldest cover star
Updated 01 April 2023

106-year-old Kalinga tattooist becomes Vogue’s oldest cover star

106-year-old Kalinga tattooist becomes Vogue’s oldest cover star
  • Apo Whang-Od from the Philippines is the oldest person to appear on a Vogue Magazine cover

LONDON: A 106-year-old tattoo artist featured in the April issue of Vogue Philippines is the oldest person ever to appear on the magazine’s cover.

Apo Whang-Od is also believed to be the oldest traditional Kalinga tattooist, known as a mambabatok, in the Philippines, CNN reported.

“Heralded as the last mambabatok of her generation, she has imprinted the symbols of the Kalinga tribe — signifying strength, bravery, and beauty — on the skin of thousands of people who have made the pilgrimage to Buscalan,” wrote Vogue Philippines in an Instagram post revealing the new cover.

Once prized by indigenous warriors who protected local villages, the hand-tapped tattoos are created using a bamboo stick, a thorn from a pomelo tree, water and coal.

Whang-Od, who lives in the mountain village of Buscalan, north of Manila, learned the art of hand-tapping tattoos from her father during her teenage years.

Today, tourists seeking Whang-Od’s signature geometric designs make up much of her clientele.

The traditional art is passed down only to blood relatives, and Whang Od has been instructing her two grandnieces for years now.

“The tradition will continue as long as people keep coming to get tattoos,” she told CNN in 2017, adding that she would persevere until her vision gets blurry.

“We felt she represented our ideals of what is beautiful about our Filipino culture,” said Bea Valdes, Vogue Philippines editor-in-chief.

Staff at the publication were in complete agreement that Whang-Od should go on April’s cover, she added.

“We believe that the concept of beauty needs to evolve, and include diverse and inclusive faces and forms. What we hope to speak about is the beauty of humanity,” Valdes said.

The magazine’s previous oldest cover star was British actress Judi Dench, who featured in British Vogue in 2020 at the age of 85.


2018 Musk tweet unlawfully threatened workers’ union organizing efforts, court rules

2018 Musk tweet unlawfully threatened workers’ union organizing efforts, court rules
Updated 01 April 2023

2018 Musk tweet unlawfully threatened workers’ union organizing efforts, court rules

2018 Musk tweet unlawfully threatened workers’ union organizing efforts, court rules
  • Also upheld was the board’s order that Tesla reinstate and provide back pay to an employee who was fired for union-organizing activity

NEW ORLEANS: A 2018 Twitter post by Tesla CEO Elon Musk unlawfully threatened Tesla employees with the loss of stock options if they decided to be represented by a union, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a March 2021 order by the National Labor Relations Board, which ordered that the tweet be deleted. The case arose from United Auto Workers’ organizing efforts at a Tesla facility in Fremont, California.
Also upheld was the board’s order that Tesla reinstate and provide back pay to an employee who was fired for union-organizing activity.
Musk tweeted on May 20, 2018: “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues and give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets health care.”
The ruling said that “because stock options are part of Tesla’s employees’ compensation, and nothing in the tweet suggested that Tesla would be forced to end stock options or that the UAW would be the cause of giving up stock options, substantial evidence supports the NLRB’s conclusion that the tweet is as an implied threat to end stock options as retaliation for unionization.”
The UAW, and Richard Ortiz, the worker whose reinstatement was ordered, praised the ruling. “I look forward to returning to work at Tesla and working with my co-workers to finish the job of forming a Union,” Ortiz said in a UAW email.
“This a great victory for workers who have the courage to stand up and organize in a system that is currently stacked heavily in favor of employers like Tesla who have no qualms about violating the law,” said UAW Region 6 Director Mike Miller.
Tesla had not responded to emailed requests for comment Friday afternoon.


‘Only journalism can save journalism,’ FII Priority panel told

Faisal Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News, talks to Justin Smith, co-founder and CEO of global news platform Semafor at the FII
Faisal Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News, talks to Justin Smith, co-founder and CEO of global news platform Semafor at the FII
Updated 01 April 2023

‘Only journalism can save journalism,’ FII Priority panel told

Faisal Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News, talks to Justin Smith, co-founder and CEO of global news platform Semafor at the FII
  • News subscriptions grew by nearly 58 percent between 2019 and 2020
  • Social media platforms have grown up and are now being held responsible by governments and regulators, panel discusses

MIAMI: Trust in news has fallen in almost half of 46 countries surveyed by the Reuters Institute. Other studies show that only 8 percent of people in the US trust what they read, see and hear.

These numbers do not surprise Faisal Abbas, the editor-in-chief of Arab News. Speaking at the FII Priority conference, he said: “We’re living in an era where we are bombarded by information left, right and center so for people to distrust the information that they are receiving is not unusual.”

Abbas said there was a silver lining in this situation, which is the increase in subscriptions.

“People, for the first time since the expansion of the internet, are willing to actually pay money for professional, quality journalism.”

There was a median increase of nearly 58 percent in active subscribers between 2019 and 2020, according to data from analytics firm Piano.

Given anyone now has the “ability to disseminate and receive information unfiltered instantly,” professional quality journalism is more important than ever.

Faisal Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News, and Justin Smith, co-founder and CEO of global news platform Semafor discuss falling trust in news media

Justin Smith, former CEO of Bloomberg Media and current CEO and co-founder of global news platform, Semafor, who moderated the panel, said that Semafor believes the best way of “attacking trust is to rethink the actual format”.

Semafor’s articles are therefore broken down into sections featuring the news, analysis, different perspectives on the topic, and other articles on the topic.

In the Middle East, unlike America, there isn’t a first amendment that protects the free speech of the press and people. However, and particularly in Saudi Arabia, “we’re living in a positive climate of reforms,” said Abbas.

While he acknowledged “we’re not there yet,” he added that since “the whole vision is focused on setting targets, KPIs, and transparency for government officials and bodies, it is unthinkable that we will not get there in the end.”

Arab News itself has seen 500 percent growth in traffic and audience and a large rise in newsletter subscriptions, so “we must be doing something right,” he added.

Moreover, when it comes to quality journalism, Saudi media continues to dominate the media scene, Abbas said.

This is, in part at least, due to the diligence and responsibility of media outlets to maintain editorial integrity, which “can’t be promised or pledged, it has to be proven with every story.

“Reputation arrives on foot and leaves on horseback, so it only takes one mistake. It’s not a responsibility we take lightly and neither does our management.”

Abbas pressed on how social media is impacting the truth and discussed the recent pressure social media companies are facing from governments and regulators.

He likened social media platforms to someone entering their teenage years — “whatever they did before was cute,” or “they were too young to know what they’re doing,” Abbas said.

But now, regulation is catching up and platforms are being held accountable, and treated as publishers who are liable for the content on their sites, he added.

Beyond news dissemination, Abbas drew attention to the problem of commercialization.

“We’re a victim of a situation whereby you are penalized to do professional journalism, and rewarded if you do lazy fake news.”

News media organizations incur multiple costs from commissioning a story, to legal reviews, to copyediting. They then end up sharing revenue with social platforms or Google, which is unfair, Abbas said.

Often, fake news stories go viral on social media platforms garnering millions of clicks, “and that is just a classic model of how easy it is and how social media will reward you if you are publishing fake news.”

It is important to remember that “big tech companies weren’t founded by journalists or publishers; they were founded by engineers who didn’t quite understand the impact that fake news has,” Abbas said.

Ultimately, he concluded, “it’s up to us, only journalism can save journalism.”


Nobel-winning Russian editor: “I know Gershkovich, he’s no spy“

Nobel-winning Russian editor: “I know Gershkovich, he’s no spy“
Updated 31 March 2023

Nobel-winning Russian editor: “I know Gershkovich, he’s no spy“

Nobel-winning Russian editor: “I know Gershkovich, he’s no spy“
  • Dmitry Muratov told Reuters the case against Gershkovich was part of a wider trend to make journalism a "dangerous profession" in Russia
  • More than 260 publications have been closed, blocked or de-registered since then, he said

MOSCOW: A Nobel prize-winning Russian journalist said on Friday he did not believe that arrested American reporter Evan Gershkovich was a spy, and that he hoped diplomacy could bring about his quick release.
Dmitry Muratov told Reuters the case against Gershkovich — a Wall Street Journal reporter facing espionage charges that carry up to 20 years in jail — was part of a wider trend to make journalism a “dangerous profession” in Russia.
“I know Gershkovich. I’ve met him two or three times over the last year. I know the practice exists of using journalists as spies, intelligence officers and ‘illegals’ (undeclared spies) — this is not that kind of case,” Muratov said.
“He was no kind of so-called deep-cover operative — using being a journalist and his journalist’s accreditation as a cover for espionage ... Gershkovich was not a spy,” said Muratov, a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for his efforts to defend press freedom in Russia.
He was speaking outside a closed court hearing in Moscow on Friday in the case of Vladimir Kara-Murza, an opposition politician facing charges including state treason and spreading false information about the armed forces.
Muratov also cited the case of Ivan Safronov, a former journalist sentenced to 22 years in jail for treason last year.
“At every turn, we’re being charged with espionage and treason. It’s a trend — to show that journalism is a dangerous profession ... both for Russian and other journalists.”
Muratov was editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which has seen several of its reporters killed in the last two decades, and had its registration revoked last year after Russia went to war in Ukraine. More than 260 publications have been closed, blocked or de-registered since then, he said.
“I don’t really understand how, given that trend and the lack of media competition, you can hold the elections that President Vladimir Putin announced for 2024,” he said.
“Does it mean they’ll go ahead without difficult topics, discussions, candidate programs? I’m starting not to understand how that can work.”
Muratov said he was aware of the “popular theory” that Gershkovich had been seized as a bargaining chip for Moscow to use in a prisoner exchange with the United States, though he did not say if he believed that himself.
He said he very much hoped that “through back-channel diplomacy,” Gershkovich would soon be freed.