Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:
1. Facebook's plan to minimize information operations. Facebook caught a lot of flak last year for amplifying misinformation about the U.S. presidential election, such as the Pope endorsing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton selling weapons to the so-called Islamic State group. In a white paper released this week, Facebook acknowledges that state and non-state actors use its platform to spread misinformation and collect data about specific users to shape public perceptions in the United States and elsewhere. To combat these efforts, the paper outlines a mix of existing Facebook policies, such as notifying users their accounts may be compromised, and newer measures, like better detecting bots and working with fact checkers to identify false content. Over time, Facebook hopes that these measures will stem the tide of false content and promote "authentic" interactions on its platform.
2. No more spying on Paul to learn about Pytor. The New York Times reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) will end its practice of collecting the communications of U.S. persons communicating with people outside of the United States who mention targets of foreign surveillance, a practice known as "about collection." Although the NSA defends the practice as lawful, it has attracted significant criticism from privacy advocates who argue that it effectively amounts to warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens and people in the United States. According to the Daily Beast, the NSA was forced to shut down the program following the result of an unfavorable Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court ruling.
3. Fancy Bear packed its bags and moved to Paris. Cybersecurity company Trend Micro released a report covering the recent activities of Fancy Bear, widely believed to be a Russian state-sponsored cyber actor. Turns out the bear has been spotted in France targeting the campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron. The phishing attempts on the Macron campaign reportedly resemble those that led to the compromise of the U.S. Democratic National Party, as well as several other incidents attributed to Fancy Bear in 2016. The Macron campaign first reported hacking attempts back in February, but Trend Micro says it is unclear whether the incidents are distinct or part of a protracted Fancy Bear cyber operation to influence another election.
4. Do people feel safer online? The answer: yes, marginally. According to a new Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) survey on trust and the internet, 57 percent of respondents expressed concern about their online privacy, down from 64 percent in 2014. Governments were not the primary source of concern--they ranked fourth in terms of what people feared most. Instead respondents expressed more anxiety about cyber criminals, internet companies, and their fellow citizens.
5. Let’s make a deal. Australia and China reached a new bilateral agreement, in which both countries pledged to neither conduct nor support the cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property for commercial gain. That language is similar to pledges China made with the United States in 2015, the United Kingdom, and at the G20.