Corporate Profile Timelines

  • US government agencies are considering a range of tracking and surveillance technologies as part of efforts to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. These include: geolocation tracking and facial recognition systems to analyse photos, both to enable contact tracing. Palantir is working with
  • In December 2018, we revealed how some of the most widely used apps in the Google Play Store automatically send personal data to Facebook the moment they are launched. That happens even if you don't have a Facebook account or are logged out of the Facebook platform (watch our talk at the Chaos
  • In January 2019, the British transparency NGO WhoTargetsMe, Mozilla, and the US investigative journalism site Pro Publica reported that recent changes in the social network's code were restricting their ability to monitor political ads on Facebook. The company said the changes were part of a
  • In December 2018 Facebook revealed that over a 12-day period in September a software bug may have wrongly allowed about 1,500 third-party apps to access 6.8 million users' photos, including some that people began uploading to the social network but didn't go on to finish posting. EPIC executive
  • The UK's Information Commissioner's Office announces it intends to fine Facebook the maximum amount possible for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
  • 30 million users had their accounts breached, with a total of 90 million accounts reset after Facebook's "view as" feature leaked unique user account access tokens, allowing attackers to not only trivially impersonate any other user on the platform, but also to potentially automate the attack on a
  • In 2018, experiments showed that despite the company's denials, ads could be targeted at specific Facebook users via information that the users had never given Facebook, such as phone numbers. The reason: Facebook allows advertisers to upload their own lists of phone numbers of email addresses, and
  • In 2018, WhatsApp founder Brian Acton responded to the Cambridge Analytica scandal by tweeting "It is time. #deletefacebook." He also left the company, walking away from $850 million in unvested stock rather than accede to Facebook's plans to add advertising and commercial messaging, a purpose at
  • After a series of scandals, in the year up to September 2018 54% of American Facebook users had changed their privacy settings and 42% had skipped visiting the platform for several weeks or more. About 26% said they had deleted the Facebook app from their smartphone. Some 74% of Facebook users had
  • Facebook-owned Onavo VPN (adertised as a way to block harmful websites, and keep a user's data safe) is pulled from the Apple App Store due to tracking, collecting, and analysing customers' usage data, including from other unrelated apps. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/08/facebook-violates
  • In 2018, changes to Apple's rules for data collection led Facebook to withdraw its Onavo Protect VPN app from the app store. The app's function was to warn users when they were visiting potentially harmful websites and protected their data when using public wifi. However, the app also collected data
  • In July 2018, Facebook announced it was investigating whether the Boston-based company Crimson Hexagon had violated the company's policies on surveillance. Crimson Hexagon markets itself as offering "consumer insights". Its customers include a Russian non-profit with ties to the Kremlin, and
  • In June 2018 Facebook announced it would install new controls to improve members' understanding of how companies targeted them with advertising, including letting them know if a data broker supplied the information. This was the second update to the company's policies in 2018; in March it attempted
  • Even after 2015, when Facebook said it had walled off user records from third parties, inside sources and court documents showed that the company went on maintaining a whitelist of companies that were allowed customised access to information about users' Friends, phone numbers, and a "friend link"
  • In May 2018, Facebook said that as part of its investigation into how Cambridge Analytica had abused personal data on the social network, it had investigated thousands of apps on its platform and suspended about 200 of them. The company said it was investigating further to identify every app that
  • In May 2018 Facebook announced it would partner with organisations in places such as Myanmar and South Sudan in order to develop more "context-specific" knowledge about how its platform is being abused to create real risks of harm and violence. In Myanmar, where telephone companies allowed Facebook
  • Users downloading their Facebook histories have been startled to find that the company has been collecting call and SMS data. The company has responded by saying users are in control of what's uploaded to Facebook. However, the company also says it's a widely used practice when users first sign in
  • In March 2018, Facebook announced it was scrapping plans to show off new home products at its developer conference in May, in part because revelations about the use of internal advertising tools by Cambridge Analytica have angered the public. The new products were expected to include connected
  • In 2015, Facebook removed a feature that had been in place for some years that allowed developers to access information about Friends who had also signed up for their app. During that time, about 270,000 people downloaded and installed an app that was portrayed as part of an online personality quiz
  • A former Facebook insider explains to Wired Magazine why it's almost certain that the Trump campaign's skill using the site's internal advertising infrastructure was more important in the 2016 US presidential election than Russia's troll farm was. The first was the ads auction; the second a little
  • As of early 2018, Facebook's friends recommendations (People You May Know) are based on the address books users give them. However, Facebook has been filing patent applications for a new generation of technologies for collecting more information about its users and matching them more accurately. One
  • Research from ProPublica in December 2017 found that dozens of companies, including Verizon, Amazon, and Target are using Facebook to target job ads to exclude older workers. Excluding older workers is illegal under US law, but Facebook's system allows advertisers to specify precisely who should see
  • In December 2017, the German cartel office presented preliminary findings in an investigation of Facebook, ruling that the company had abused its dominant position by requiring access to third-party data (including data from subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram) when an account is opened and tracking
  • A mistake in Facebook's machine translation service led to the arrest and questioning of a Palestinian man by Israeli police. The man, a construction worker on the West Bank, posted a picture of himself leaning against a bulldozer like those that have been used in hit-and-run terrorist attacks, with
  • In September 2017, the Spanish national data protection regulator fined Facebook €1.2 million, alleging that the company collected personal information from Spanish users that could then be used for advertising. The investigation, which took place alongside others in Belgium, France, Germany, and
  • In May 2017, the European Commission fined Facebook $122 million for providing incorrect or misleading information during its 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp. At the time of the acquisition, Facebook assured the EC that it would not be able to link its accounts database to that of WhatsApp. After the
  • Facebook has come under fire after leaked documents revealed the social media site has been targeting potentially vulnerable children. The allegations suggest the company is gathering information on young people who “need a confidence boost” to facilitate predatory advertising practices
  • When journalist Alex Hern needed to set up a Facebook account in order to manage the Guardian's technology page and other work-related things, he locked down its privacy settings so that the account's profile would not appear in searches and only Friends of Friends could add him as a friend. In
  • In 2016, Facebook gave conflicting accounts of whether the service uses location data in order to recommend prospective Friends in its "People You May Know" feature. When the company first admitted - for publication - that location data was indeed one of the signals it used, many users felt this
  • In 2016, Facebook and Google began introducing ways to measure the effectiveness of online ads by linking them to offline sales and in-store visits. Facebook's measurement tools are intended to allow stores to see how many people visit in person after seeing a Facebook campaign, and the company
  • In what proved to be the first of several years of scandals over the use of personal data in illegal, anti-democratic campaigning, in 2015 the Guardian discovered that Ted Cruz's campaign for the US presidency paid at least $750,000 that year to use tens of millions of profiles of Facebook users
  • In 2015, Facebook created the "Free Basics" programme, in which the company partnered with telephone carriers in various countries to offer free access to Facebook - that is, using Facebook would not count against their data plan. While critics argued the plan is anti-competitive, violates the
  • In June 2015, the Belgian data protection regulator, Commission for the Protection of Privacy, launched a complaint that Facebook indiscriminately tracked internet users when they visited Facebook pages or clicked Like or Share, even when they are not Facebook members. In November 2015, the Court of
  • In 2015, Facebook's AI lab announced that its researchers had devised an experimental algorithm that could recognise people in photographs even when their faces are hidden or turned away. The researchers trained a sophisticated neural network on a dataset of 40,000 photographs taken from Flickr
  • Nearly 700,000 Facebook users were subjects of a research study where researchers changed randomly selected users' newsfeeds to be more positive or negative to study whether those users then displayed a more positive or negative affect in response. The experiment showed the power of Facebook's control over the News Feed and the algorithms that determine which of the possible pieces of content shows up at the top at any given moment.
  • In 2013, Edward Snowden, working under contract to the US National Security Agency for the consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton, copied and leaked thousands of classified documents that revealed the inner workings of dozens of previously unknown surveillance programs. One of these was PRISM, launched in
  • In January 2013, Facebook upgraded its search tool to enable the site to answer more complex questions. Called Graph Search, the new tool aimed to make it possible for users to find businesses and each other based on location, personal history, personal interests, and mutual friends. The site
  • In 2012, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's sister, Randi, tweeted to fellow Twitter user Callie Schweitzer that Schweitzer had violated her privacy by posting a picture taken in her kitchen. Randi Zuckerberg, the former head of Facebook's marketing department, had posted the picture, which was taken in
  • In November 2011, the US Federal Trade Commission charged Facebook with repeatedly breaking the privacy promises it made to users. Among the list of deceptive practices and incidents in the FTC's complaint were December 2009 changes Facebook made to its site that publicly exposed information users
  • Facebook's new "Download your Information" feature provides only a fraction of the personal information held by Facebook.
  • In June 2011, Facebook enabled an automatic facial recognition called "Tag Suggestions" based on its research project DeepFace, requiring users who objected to opt out. The feature scanned the faces in newly uploaded photographs and compared them to those in the billions of images already on the
  • In early 2011, Facebook launched "Sponsored Stories", an advertising product that used content from members' posts inside ads displayed on the service. Drawing on Likes, check-ins, and comments, a Sponsored Story might use a member's photograph and their comments from a coffee shop to create an ad
  • Over the years from 2005, when Facebook was still known as "Thefacebook" and its membership was still limited to verifiable Harvard students, to 2010, Facebook changed its privacy policies many times. Over that time, the default circle of who could view users' data widened over time, first to
  • In October 2010, the Wall Street Journal discovered that apps on Facebook were sending identifying information such as the names of users and their Friends to myriad third-party app advertising and internet tracking companies. All of the ten most popular Facebook apps, including Zynga's FarmVille
  • In April 2010, Facebook launched a set of tools to enable websites to add a social layer by adding a Facebook frame to their pages. The company's three launch partners, Microsoft's Docs.com, Yelp, and Pandora, had access to a more comprehensive tool, Instant Personalization, which allowed them to
  • In July 2009 after an in-depth study of the site spurred by complaints from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa, Canada's Privacy Commissioner issued a ruling that Facebook was in direct violation of the country's privacy laws. Among the regulator's
  • In May 2009, University of Cambridge computer science researcher Joseph Bonneau discovered as part of his research that many social network respond to user requests to delete photographs by hiding them while remaining them on their servers. Among the worst offenders were Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and
  • In February 2008, users discovered that deleting their account from Facebook does not entirely remove it. Instead, the company's servers retained copies of the information in those accounts indefinitely even after those users telephoned the company to request full removal. The company argued that
  • In November 2007, Facebook launched Beacon, an advertising programme that allowed third-party sites to include a script that passed Facebook notifications about users' activities on their sites such as purchases, auction bids, reviews, and game-playing. The service as originally designed offered no
  • In September 2007, Facebook, which from its 2004 founding had stressed the privacy of its user profiles and interactions, opened up its profiles to public search engines such as Google and Bing. Facebook's new "public listing search" allowed anyone to search for a particular person; such searches
  • In 2006, Facebook redesigned its system to add News Feed and Mini-Feed features, which the company said were intended to give users information about their social world. The News Feed was designed to provide a constantly updated stream of stories including updates from each user's Friends and
  • The first iteration of Facebook, which then-student Mark Zuckerberg launched at Harvard University in 2003, was known as "Facemash", and was based on a popular website of the day, Am I Hot or Not? Using photographs of students scraped from those collected by the university's houses of residence, the