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EU: Wants Tighter Privacy on Social Networks

24 06 2009 – Are social networks such as Facebook and MySpace doing enough to protect their users’ privacy? In the European Union, they might need to do more. A panel of European regulators has laid out operating guidelines for social networks, which will ensure their compliance with strict – albeit sometimes vague – online privacy laws in the European Union.

image These laws mostly stem from the European Union Directive on Data Protection of 1995, which, among other regulations, prohibits collection of personal information without consumers’ permission, forbids employers to read workers’ private e-mail, and doesn’t allow companies to share personal information on users without their permission.

However, according to data-privacy lawyer Jan Dhont at Lorenz in Brussels, these regulations aren’t always very clear. For example, the companies that collect personal information must use it for “legitimate purposes,” which can be interpreted in many different ways.

Nevertheless, the guidelines that were laid out will require quite a bit of effort from sites such as Facebook and MySpace, who cannot neglect their European user base and will therefore surely at least try to comply to avoid clashing with the EU regulators.

According to the guidelines, social networks must set security settings to high by default; they must allow users to limit data disclosed to third parties, and they must limit the use of sensitive information (race, religion, political views) in behavioral advertising.

Furthermore, social networks must delete accounts that have been inactive for long periods, as well as discard users’ personal information after they delete their accounts; an interesting regulation in view of the recent Facebook scandal, in which Facebook claimed ownership of all the content you’ve ever uploaded even if you quit the service. Facebook later apologized and restored their previous Terms of Service, even letting users be part of the decision process in creating the new ToS. However, it must be noted that even if this sounds like democracy, it’s a frail one, as Facebook still sets up the stage and has the last word on every decision.

It is therefore good that there’s an overseer, looking over our online privacy and security. These latest guidelines from the European Union will definitely make life harder for social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, but will most likely have a positive impact on user privacy in the long run.

You can read the entire set of guidelines created by the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party in PDF format here.

Source: mashable.com

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NASA To Fire a Rocket Into the Moon: Follow it on Twitter and Facebook

18 06 2009 – NASA has always done cool things, but its latest mission is really a sci-fi geek’s dream come true, as it includes flying a rocket into the moon, triggering a huge explosion.

image The purpose of the mission is to discover whether there’s frozen water in the craters near the moon’s south pole. If water is indeed found, it could have very important implications for further human missions on the moon, as a potential source for oxygen (you know why we need that) and hydrogen (for rocket fuel).

You can read about the mission in detail here, here, and here, but here’s a very short version: LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) will send the Centaur rocket which helped it out of Earth’s orbit into the moon at a high speed, ejecting debris from the surface of one of moon’s craters. LCROSS’ specialized instruments will then analyze the debris for the presence of water, before impacting the moon itself.

Higher Res photo of #Atlas V #LRO #LCROSS trip to launch pad. on TwitpicLCROSS’ launch date is today; it’s scheduled to launch at about 08:30 PDT. What’s especially cool about this mission is the fact that NASA is providing us with a variety of ways to follow the launch and the mission during the next four months.

First, you can watch the launch live at NASA TV. You can also follow LCROSS on Facebook and Twitter. Finally, for pictures related to the mission, check out NASA’s Twitpic account.

If everything goes well, LCROSS should impact the moon in about 111 days. NASA promises the moon won’t be damaged (much), but you never know with these scientist types. We’ll be watching closely.

Source: mashable.com

Σύλληψη για παραβίαση προσωπικών δεδομένων στο Facebook

15 06 2009 – Η πρώτη σύλληψη στην Ελλάδα για παραβίαση προσωπικών δεδομένων μέσα από το δημοφιλές Facebook, έγινε χθες στα Χανιά. Αστυνομικοί του Τμήματος Ασφαλείας Χανίων συνέλαβαν έναν 22χρονο φοιτητή ύστερα από καταγγελία γυναίκας για παραβίαση προσωπικών δεδομένων.

Σύμφωνα με όσα έγιναν γνωστά, ο 22χρονος έμενε σε σπίτι που του ενοικίαζε η γυναίκα η οποία είναι αξιωματικός στο Πολεμικό Ναυτικό. Για κάποιο λόγο ο νεαρός σταμάτησε να νοικιάζει το συγκεκριμένο σπίτι και λίγους μήνες μετά, έφτιαξε στο facebook ιστοσελίδα με το όνομα και το προφίλ της γυναίκας και ανέβαζε αποκαλυπτικές φωτογραφίες.

Εκείνη ενημερώθηκε από γνωστούς της και έκανε καταγγελία  στην Αστυνομία η οποία συνέλαβε τον 22χρονο ο οποίος τώρα κατηγορείται για συκοφαντική δυσφήμιση και παραβίαση προσωπικών δεδομένων.

Πηγή: enet.gr

Video: Russian Internet investment company has invested $200 million into the US social networking giant Facebook

28 05 2009 – Another video news about, Russian Internet investment company has invested $200 million into the US social networking giant Facebook. Its also hoped Russian experts will help to turn traffic into cash and make the website profitable.

Source: Russian News

Video: Mark Zuckerberg And Yuri Milner Talk About Facebook’s New Investment $ 200 m

26 05 2009 – by Michael Arrington – I had a chance to sit down this afternoon with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner, the Founder and CEO of new investor Digital Sky Technologies.

Digital Sky Technologies is the new owner of just less than 2% of Facebook, paying a whopping $200 million for the privilege. But it’s still a bargain compared to what Microsoft and others paid – this current round values Facebook at a third less than the $15 billion valuation they accepted in October 2007. We live blogged the press call on the announcement earlier today.

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One thing that isn’t clear is why Facebook took the money. Late last year Zuckerberg said he’d be willing to raise more, but only at the $15 billion valuation. Now they’ve raised money at $10 billion, even though they still say they’re approaching profitability and don’t really need it. We discuss that in the interview, but the answer still eludes us.

Milner is a colorful character. He was the first Russian to get an American MBA – he graduated from Wharton Business School in 1992. Instead of taking a U.S. investment banking job he returned to Russia “to take advantage of the developing free markets,” he said, adding “My idea is to be in the most useful place in the proper time.”

Milner’s DST has made investments in Mail.ru, the “Yahoo of Russia,” and Vkontakte.ru, the largest Russian social network with 34 million users. Vktontakte, by the way, looks a lot like Facebook.

It hasn’t been all roses and champagne for Milner. He was an executive at Bank Menatep, the company that had an indirect controlling interest in Yukos Oil Company and was involved in the $4.8 billion diversion of International Monetary Fund funds. That entity was accused of having ties to organized crime, and some of Milner’s colleagues are still in prison (there have never been any accusations against Milner at all). His time at Bank Menatap is not mentioned on his DST bio.

One thing Milner doesn’t seem bothered by is the lack of a board seat at Facebook, a sticking point for the company.

Transcript:

Michael Arrington: I’m here with Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Founder of Facebook and new investor Yuri Millner from Digital Sky technologies. Hey guys. First of all congratulations to both of you, you’ve got some more money Mark, and Yuri, you’ve got a piece of facebook. How much do you own?

Yuri Milner: 1.96%

MA: 1.96% Plus there will be more when you buy common stock in a couple of months

YM: Yes, depends, you know, we’ll see how much.

MA: Why did you invest in Facebook?

YM: Because it’s a great business

MA: You’re comfortable with the $10B valuation?

YM: Absolutely. And, you know, I can repeat the reasons why. Basically, I think they have a very unique perspective on social network monetization, that other investors don’t necessarily see. You see how social networks have been monetized in our part of the world, and we’re just doing our math and coming up with numbers that we feel very comfortable with going forward. We don’t really value this business on (fee?) basis 2009 but rather on a longer term, based again on our experience, and we’re very confident that, you know, those numbers can be achieved.

MA: And what revenue numbers are you looking at for 2009

YM: Well we…you know, it’s a question for Mark. We’ve done our due diligence but I’m not sure I can disclose that.

MA: Is it $550M Mark, is that what you’re telling investors?

Mark Zuckerberg: You know, I mean like anyone who’s doing diligence on the company gets to see the forecast, and we’ve said three things, (I’m so confused about whether to look into the camera…)

MA: Camera’s best

MZ: We’ve said three things publicly about our finances for this year. And one is that we’ve been cash flow positive for 5 quarters. Another is that revenue is growing 70% year over year at least and that you know, we’re really happy with just given the economic climate. And the third is that we expect that on our forecast we’ll be cash flow positive in 2010, along the cash level that we had before doing this investment.

So, that really made it so that when we were thinking about doing this we had a lot of optionality as to pick the partner that would be best for us and find the terms that would make the most sense for us and a lot of the investments in the portfolio that Yuri and DST have were really attractive for us in terms of the insight and understanding that they have in this space, so you were just talking about this a bit, but it’s really interesting how all of the different Russian social networks, and he has stakes in all of them, monetize in different ways, but all very effectively. Right so, we’re not looking at that and saying we want to do any of those specific models right now, but it is a very directional, it is an interesting directional indicator of how far we can expect things to scale and I think when coming up with valuation analysis, that’s why it was so simple for you to do, and that’s kind of how we were thinking.

MA: Would you have paid a higher valuation? What was your top price?

MZ: So that’s the question that you never ask after it’s done. I don’t want to know the answer to that.

MA: But I’d love to know the answer .

MA: Yuri, are you a FB user?

YM: Yes

MA: When did you create your account?

YM: It was not an extremely active account but it will be more active now

MA: You’re going to be clicking those ads. And, do you have many friends?

YM: I’ve been using more local networks in Russia

MA: You’re going to stop doing that as much.

YM: I will just use more.

MA: You’re going to social network a lot more.

YM: Yes, I’m just a big fan of social networks

MA: How popular is FB in Russia, just on the streets talking to people. Is FB THE thing?

YM: You know among people who kind of travel a lot and have exposure to the United States and some other countries, they do have accounts, but you know, Russia is not exactly the place with multiple language skills so local networks kind of have an edge. But I mean, going forward, it’s not inconceivable that people would be members of two social networks. I mean, that’s what we see in Russia, I mean, between our properties I think about 30% of people have multiple accounts. And they’re not really migrating, which is interesting.

MA: How do you feel about that? People on two different social networks? Does that work for you?

MZ: It’s interesting and it’s evolving pretty quickly but (sorry gotta look at the camera now) .

MA: Just do whatever’s comfortable.

MZ: A lot of times people ask us about, this comes up a lot when we’re talking about our platform strategy, right because, people ask us how we see the system evolving to become more open and the way that I think about is that in the early days of an industry, take for example Apple with the PC, it really makes sense to have one company doing the whole thing to kind of birth the concept and bring it out to the market, but over time if it’s a really important industry, then what will happen is people will specialize and people will do different aspects of it. Just like what happened with the pc and you get companies that focused on chips, companies that focused on other parts of hardware, companies that focused on software applications, operating systems, etc. I think we’re going to see more and more of that with social networking as well. So what started off as one monolithic thing will end up becoming a more decentralized model, and that’s a lot of what we’re trying to do with FB connect. Now, I think a big implication of that is that people will use different services.

MA: FB connect, is that the intel, the Microsoft, or the Dell in your analogy?

MZ: That’s taking analogies too far.

MA: So we’ll stick with the Apple analogy to start

MZ: There are any number of examples of the start of industries starting off centralized and becoming more decentralized and I think that one of the natural implications of that is that people will use multiple services and that the services will interoperate, and I think that’s kind of the world that we’re moving towards.

MA: Yeah, and FB will be the plumbing.

MZ: Hopefully we’ll provide a lot of utility in being people’s, in helping people share their identity and communicating with friends and the people around them.

MA: So kind of a combined Microsoft, Intel. (MZ laughs) I don’t expect an answer. I do have one question that’s sort have been on the top of my mind. We met late last year November, December and we talked about funding at that time, and you had said, look, we’re open to investing more, the $15 B valuation, we’re not really actively looking, we’re talking to some people, I don’t want to misquote you but basically what you said was: open to raising more at that valuation. Now clearly things have changes, and there’s no reason things wouldn’t change, but can you just talk me through the difference between now and then because you talk about If anything, your financial situation has gotten significantly stronger. You almost didn’t need to raise this money based on what you’re saying.

MZ: We did this to increase our option value for the future. We have no plans to use this money immediately and we may never use it. We may use it to make an acquisition or to open up data centers, if some strategic option makes itself avail and now we might be able to do it whereas otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to , that’s the option value that we gain through this investment. Just to clarify where we were before, what I was trying to kind of explain was our approach to the follow-ons after Microsoft. Right so there was the Microsoft investment of the $15 B valuation and then there were a series of other investments that we did afterwards at the same terms. And that was basically an analogous approach to us where we weren’t going out saying ok we need this money, we want to find money on whatever terms it comes on we’ll get it. We kind of said, if people want to invest at these terms that we think are good terms, and we’re really comfortable with the people, then we’ll go ahead do that. And that’s really similar to where we are now. And obviously the market is at a lower position so the terms aren’t exactly the same but fundamentally, this wasn’t a financing where we said we need to go out and raise the money to make our operating plan work, it was more one where people started approaching us and these conversations have been going on for a while, right. I don’t remember the last time that we talked about this but basically we’ve been talking to folks for a while. Recently it kind of got to the stage where we realized we have good caliber of people that we’re talking to the terms are in a good range, let’s actually go do this thing and we kind of finalized that we wanted to work with Yuri and DST and then we nailed it all down.

MA: How close did you get with General Atlantic and Silverlake?

MZ: We talked to a number of firms earlier in the process, as I was just saying, and just because things are going really well and growing quickly. I think a number of different firms…

MA: Things are definitely growing. How many, 30m users a month you’re adding, is that right? It’s about 30.

MZ: It’s growing quickly.

MA: Comscore’s over 300 million now. It’s the whole internet, there’s no one left.

MZ: Our internal numbers are lower than Comscore’s because Comscore is tracking all the unique visitors but we’re focusing on active users. But it’s growing really quickly.
so a bunch of folks just approached us to do different things and as time went on we kind of zeroed in on where we wanted to be and that’s when we really started talking seriously about what the final terms would be, and that’s where we are now.

MA: How many acquisitions will you make this year, if you just had to guess. I mean, you’re clearly going to get more active in that.

MZ: So unless I’m missing something, we’ve made one acquisition and it was this talent acquisition which in my mind was one of the coolest things that we’ve done. We got two exceptionally bright guys. Blake Ross, who is now one of the key folks on the product side at FB and Joe Hewitt, who has single handedly built out much of our mobile stuff including the iphone app by himself and just really cool. Our track record I guess you could say is we’re one for one. Might make us want to explore more of that. Honestly, to me, being cash flow positive is also really important. So I’m not looking to take this money and go do a bunch of things with it immediately. We will continue looking at talent acquisition just as we had over the last period of time and if any make a lot of sense, then we’ll surely go ahead and do it , and this money might make it more possible for that to happen, but the plan isn’t to use it for that.

MA: Yuri, more investments to come in the US?

YM: Well I have Stage 2 coming. So let’s complete this one and then have a look.

MA: Ok great, thanks very much for your time guys.

Mark Zuckerberg imageMark Zuckerberg

Companies:Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg is the founder and CEO of Facebook, which he started in his college dorm room in 2004 with roomates Dustin Moskovitz and… Learn More

 

Yuri Milner imageYuri Milner  Birthplace:Russia

Companies: The World Bank, Alliance-Menatep, Digital Sky Technologies

Russian investor and entrepreneur. Key investments include Mail.ru, Forticom, Vkontakte.ru, and Astrum Online Entertainment.

In May 2009, his investment company,… Learn More

Facebook

Website:facebook.com

Location:Palo Alto, California, United States

Founded: February 1, 2004

Funding: $716M

On February 4th, 2004 Mark Zuckerberg launched The Facebook, a social network that was at the time exclusively for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 weeks, half of the schools in the… Learn More

Digital Sky Technologies imageDigital Sky Technologies

Website: dst-global.com

Investments: Facebook, Mail.ru, Forticom, Vkontakte.ru

DST is an Internet holding company with a focus in the Russian-speaking markets. DST-held companies comprise over 70% of all pageviews in the Russian speaking Internet.

DST holdings include social networking and communications, e-payment… Learn More

Source: TechCrunch

Iran blocks access to Facebook

Facebook25 05 2009 – Facebook expressed disappointment over the ban. Iran has blocked access to social networking site Facebook ahead of June’s presidential elections, Iran’s Ilna news agency and web users say.

Ilna says the move is aimed at stopping supporters of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi from using the site for his campaign.

Facebook, which says it has 175m users worldwide, expressed its disappointment over the reported ban.

So far there has been no comment from the Tehran authorities.

‘Access not possible’

"Access to the Facebook site was prohibited several days ahead of the presidential elections," Ilna reported.

Mousavi registers at the interior ministry in Tehran

Mr Mousavi was Iran’s prime minister when the post was abolished in 1989

It said that "according to certain Internet surfers, the site was banned because supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi were using Facebook to better disseminate the candidate’s positions".

CNN staff in Tehran reported that people attempting to visit the site received a message in Farsi that said: "Access to this site is not possible."

Facebook expressed disappointment that its site was apparently blocked in Iran "at a time when voters are turning to the Internet as a source of information about election candidates and their positions".

Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister, is seen as one of the leading challengers to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 12 June elections.

His page on Facebook has more than 5,000 supporters.

Source: bbc

Hackers attack Facebook users

Photo14 05 2009 – Hackers launched an attack on Facebook’s 200 million users on Thursday, successfully gathering passwords from some of them in the latest campaign to prey on members of the popular social networking site.

Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said on Thursday that the site was in the process of cleaning up damage from the attack.

He said that Facebook was blocking compromised accounts.

Schnitt declined to say how many accounts had been compromised.

The hackers got passwords through what is known as a phishing attack, breaking into accounts of some Facebook members, then sending e-mails to friends and urging them to click on links to fake websites.

Those sites were designed to look like the Facebook home page. The victims were directed to log back in to the site, but actually logged into the one controlled by the hackers, unwittingly giving away their passwords.

The purpose of such attacks is generally identify theft and to spread spam.

The fake domains include http://www.151.im, http://www.121.im and http://www.123.im. Facebook has deleted all references to those domains.

Schnitt said that Facebook’s security team believes the hackers intended to collect a large number of credentials, then use those accounts at a later time to send spam hawking fake pharmaceuticals and other goods to Facebook members.

The site fought off a similar attack two weeks ago, he said.

Privately held Facebook and rival social network MySpace, which is owned by News Corp, require senders of messages within the network to be members and hide user data from people who do not have accounts. Because of that, users tend to be far less suspicious of messages they receive.

Hackers used a phishing attack last year to spread a malicious virus known as Koobface (a reference to Facebook). It was downloaded onto Facebook members’ PCs when they clicked on a link sent to them in an email that looked like it had been sent by a friend on Facebook.

Source: Reuters