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Facebook Wielded Data to Reward, Punish Rivals, Emails Show

Is anyone surprised?

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Facebook Inc. wielded user data like a bargaining chip, providing access when that sharing might encourage people to spend more time on the social network — and imposing strict limits on partners in cases where it saw a potential competitive threat, emails show.

A trove of internal correspondence, published online Wednesday by U.K. lawmakers, provides a look into the ways Facebook bosses, including Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, treated information posted by users like a commodity that could be harnessed in service of business goals. Apps were invited to use Facebook’s network to grow, as long as that increased usage of Facebook. Certain competitors, in a list reviewed by Zuckerberg himself, were not allowed to use Facebook’s tools and data without his personal sign-off.

In early 2013, Twitter Inc. launched the Vine video-sharing service, which drew on a Facebook tool that let Vine users connect to their Facebook friends. Alerted to the possible competitive threat by an engineer who recommended cutting off Vine’s access to Facebook data, Zuckerberg replied succinctly: “Yup, go for it.”

A spokeswoman for Twitter declined to comment.

In other cases Zuckerberg eloquently espoused the value of giving software developers more access to user data in hopes that it would result in applications that, in turn, would encourage people to do more on Facebook. “We’re trying to enable people to share everything they want, and to do it on Facebook,” Zuckerberg wrote in a November 2012 email. “Sometimes the best way to enable people to share something is to have a developer build a special purpose app or network for that type of content and to make that app social by having Facebook plug into it. However, that may be good for the world but it’s not good for us unless people also share back to Facebook and that content increases the value of our network.”

Break up Facebook (and while we’re at it, Google, Apple and Amazon)

Reich concludes “We must resurrect antitrust” – yes and we need to do that very fast.

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Big tech has ushered in a second Gilded Age. We must relearn the lessons of the first, writes the former US labor secretary

Last week, the New York Times revealed that Facebook executives withheld evidence of Russian activity on their platform far longer than previously disclosed. They also employed a political opposition research firm to discredit critics.

There’s a larger story here.

America’s Gilded Age of the late 19th century began with a raft of innovations – railroads, steel production, oil extraction – but culminated in mammoth trusts owned by “robber barons” who used their wealth and power to drive out competitors and corrupt American politics.

We’re now in a second Gilded Age – ushered in by semiconductors, software and the internet – that has spawned a handful of giant hi-tech companies.

Facebook and Google dominate advertising. They’re the first stops for many Americans seeking news. Apple dominates smartphones and laptop computers. Amazon is now the first stop for a third of all American consumers seeking to buy anything.

“Amazon the first stop..” — The main reason is that they have allowed illegal predatory pricing to drive out competition. And Amazon is usually never a good deal. Check it out carefully: Prime products are always more expansion than elsewhere even on the Amazon site. With Prime you pay twice. Brilliant!

This consolidation at the heart of the American economy creates two big problems.

First, it stifles innovation. Contrary to the conventional view of a US economy bubbling with inventive small companies, the rate at which new job-creating businesses have formed in the United States has been halved since 2004, according to the census.

A major culprit: big tech’s sweeping patents, data, growing networks and dominant platforms have become formidable barriers to new entrants.

The second problem is political. These massive concentrations of economic power generate political clout that’s easily abused, as the New York Times investigation of Facebook reveals. How long will it be before Facebook uses its own data and platform against critics? Or before potential critics are silenced even by the possibility?

America responded to the Gilded Age’s abuses of corporate power with antitrust laws that allowed the government to break up the largest concentrations.

President Teddy Roosevelt went after the Northern Securities Company, a giant railroad trust financed by JP Morgan and John D Rockefeller, the nation’s two most powerful businessmen. The US supreme court backed Roosevelt and ordered the company dismantled.

In 1911, President William Howard Taft broke up Rockefeller’s sprawling Standard Oil empire.

It is time to use antitrust again. We should break up the hi-tech behemoths, or at least require they make their proprietary technology and data publicly available and share their platforms with smaller competitors.

There would be little cost to the economy, since these giant firms rely on innovation rather than economies of scale – and, as noted, they’re likely to be impeding innovation overall.

But is this politically feasible? Unlike the Teddy Roosevelt Republicans, Trump and his enablers in Congress have shown little appetite for antitrust enforcement.

Republicans rhapsodize about the “free market” but have no qualms about allowing big corporations to rig it at the expense of average people. Yet as the late Robert Pitofsky, former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, once noted: “Antitrust is a deregulatory philosophy. If you’re going to let the free market work, you’d better protect the free market.”

But the Democrats, for their part, have shown no greater appetite for antitrust – especially when it comes to big tech.

In 2012, the staff of the FTC’s bureau of competition submitted to the commissioners a 160-page analysis of Google’s dominance in the search and related advertising markets, and recommended suing Google for conduct that “has resulted – and will result – in real harm to consumers and to innovation”.

But the commissioners, most of them Democratic appointees, chose not to pursue the case.

The Democrats’ recent “better deal” platform, which they unveiled a few months before the midterm election, included a proposal to attack corporate monopolies in industries as wide-ranging as airlines, eyeglasses and beer. But, notably, the proposal didn’t mention big tech.

Maybe the Democrats are reluctant to attack the industry because it has directed so much political funding to Democrats. In the 2018 midterms, the largest recipient of big tech’s largesse, ActBlue, a fundraising platform for progressive candidates, collected nearly $1bn, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

As the New York Times investigation makes clear, political power can’t be separated from economic power. Both are prone to abuse.

Antitrust law was viewed as a means of preventing giant corporations from undermining democracy. “If we will not endure a king as a political power,” thundered Ohio’s Senator John Sherman, the sponsor of the nation’s first antitrust law in 1890, “we should not endure a king over the production, transportation and sale” of what the nation produced.

In the second Gilded Age as in the first, giant firms at the center of the American economy are distorting the market and our politics.

We must resurrect antitrust.

U.S. Lawmaker Says Facebook Cannot Be Trusted to Regulate Itself

No shit Sherlock

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WASHINGTON — Democratic U.S. Representative David Cicilline, expected to become the next chairman of House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, said on Wednesday that Facebook Inc cannot be trusted to regulate itself and Congress should take action.

Cicilline, citing a report in the New York Times on Facebook’s efforts to deal with a series of crises, said on Twitter: “This staggering report makes clear that @Facebook executives will always put their massive profits ahead of the interests of their customers.”

“It is long past time for us to take action,” he said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said a year ago that the company would put its “community” before profit, and it has doubled its staff focused on safety and security issues since then. Spending also has increased on developing automated tools to catch propaganda and material that violates the company’s posting policies.

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“We’ve known for some time that @Facebook chose to turn a blind eye to the spread of hate speech and Russian propaganda on its platform,” said Cicilline, who will likely take the reins of the subcommittee on regulatory reform, commercial and antitrust law when the new, Democratic-controlled Congress is seated in January.

“Now we know that once they knew the truth, top @Facebook executives did everything they could to hide it from the public by using a playbook of suppressing opposition and propagating conspiracy theories,” he said.

“Next January, Congress should get to work enacting new laws to hold concentrated economic power to account, address the corrupting influence of corporate money in our democracy, and restore the rights of Americans,” Cicilline said.

B.S. — Facebook can never put “community” before profits because its that community and the rape of their privacy that is the core Facebook business model. Who they kidding?

Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis

A great article worth a full read! Here we have Facebook creating their own Fake News to cover up their disgusting unethical behavior. This is a long and excellent read and highly recommended. It shows clearly facebook’s pattern of covering up its faults with lobbyists, misinformation, and outright lies.

Note to advertises: Withdraw all advertising on Facebook. Let them die.
Note to Facebook users: Delete your account now

Some brief excerpts…but again, read entire article to see how this disgusting company operates.

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While Mr. Zuckerberg has conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook’s critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, lobbying a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitic? Need any other proof of the amoral unethical behavior of Facebook? Disgusting. It is behavior that likes that leads to more anti-semitism. Shame!

In Washington, allies of Facebook, including Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader, intervened on its behalf. And Ms. Sandberg wooed or cajoled hostile lawmakers, while trying to dispel Facebook’s reputation as a bastion of Bay Area liberalism.

This account of how Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg navigated Facebook’s cascading crises, much of which has not been previously reported, is based on interviews with more than 50 people. They include current and former Facebook executives and other employees, lawmakers and government officials, lobbyists and congressional staff members. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed confidentiality agreements, were not authorized to speak to reporters or feared retaliation.

And now let’s see how they use misinformation to combat critics. It is clear that Facebook learned well from their Russian propaganda teachers.

In March, The Times, The Observer of London and The Guardian prepared to publish a joint investigation into how Facebook user data had been appropriated by Cambridge Analytica to profile American voters. A few days before publication, The Times presented Facebook with evidence that copies of improperly acquired Facebook data still existed, despite earlier promises by Cambridge executives and others to delete it.

Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg met with their lieutenants to determine a response. They decided to pre-empt the stories, saying in a statement published late on a Friday night that Facebook had suspended Cambridge Analytica from its platform. The executives figured that getting ahead of the news would soften its blow, according to people in the discussions.

They were wrong. The story drew worldwide outrage, prompting lawsuits and official investigations in Washington, London and Brussels. For days, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg remained out of sight, mulling how to respond. While the Russia investigation had devolved into an increasingly partisan battle, the Cambridge scandal set off Democrats and Republicans alike. And in Silicon Valley, other tech firms began exploiting the outcry to burnish their own brands.

“We’re not going to traffic in your personal life,” Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said in an MSNBC interview. “Privacy to us is a human right. It’s a civil liberty.” (Mr. Cook’s criticisms infuriated Mr. Zuckerberg, who later ordered his management team to use only Android phones — arguing that the operating system had far more users than Apple’s.)

Facebook scrambled anew. Executives quietly shelved an internal communications campaign, called “We Get It,” meant to assure employees that the company was committed to getting back on track in 2018.

Then Facebook went on the offensive. Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. While the NTK Network does not have a large audience of its own, its content is frequently picked up by popular conservative outlets, including Breitbart.

Mr. Miller acknowledged that Facebook and Apple do not directly compete. Definers’ work on Apple is funded by a third technology company, he said, but Facebook has pushed back against Apple because Mr. Cook’s criticism upset Facebook.

If the privacy issue comes up, Facebook is happy to “muddy the waters,” Mr. Miller said over drinks at an Oakland, Calif., bar last month.

Note to Sandberg: Take your money and retire from public life. The world will be a better place without your sleazy input.

‘No Morals’: Advertisers React to Facebook Report

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Several top marketers were openly critical of the tech giant, a day after The New York Times published an investigation detailing how Facebook’s top executives — Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg — made the company’s growth a priority while ignoring and hiding warning signs over how its data and power were being exploited to disrupt elections and spread toxic content. The article also spotlighted a lobbying campaign overseen by Ms. Sandberg, who also oversees advertising, that sought to shift public anger to Facebook’s critics and rival tech firms.

The revelations may be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” said Rishad Tobaccowala, chief growth officer for the Publicis Groupe, one of the world’s biggest ad companies. “Now we know Facebook will do whatever it takes to make money. They have absolutely no morals.”

Marketers have grumbled about Facebook in the past, concerned that advertisements could appear next to misinformation and hate speech on the platform. They have complained about how the company handles consumer data and how it measures ads and its user base. But those issues were not enough to outweigh the lure of Facebook’s vast audience and the company’s insistence that it was trying to address its flaws.

And after this article was published online, Mr. Tobaccowala called The New York Times to add to his comments.

“The people there do,” he said, referring to possessing morals, “but as a business, they seem to have lost their compass.”

“So far, the track record basically has been that regardless of what Facebook does, they keep getting more money,” Mr. Tobaccowala said. “The question simply is, will this make people wake up?”

Good question! The stupidity of their user base and the equal stupidity, well actually complicity of their advertisers is a disgrace. What it may take is people to boycott those companies that advertise on Facebook. Maybe in this manner, the final nails can be put into the Facebook coffin.

Facebook Tells Advertisers It Can Reach Many Young People. Too Many

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Facebook faced criticism on Wednesday after an analyst pointed out that the company’s online advertising tools claim they can reach 25 million more young Americans than the United States census says exist.

The analyst, Brian Wieser at Pivotal Research, said in a note Tuesday that Facebook’s Ads Manager says it can potentially reach 41 million 18- to 24-year-olds in the United States and 60 million 25- to 34-year-olds. The catch, according to Mr. Wieser: the census counted just 31 million 18-to-24-year-olds last year and 45 million 25-to-34-year-olds.

“The buyers and marketers I talked to were unaware of this and they are using it for planning purposes,” Mr. Wieser said in an interview. “Buyers are still going to buy from them and plan for them, but this is something that doesn’t need to be an error and puts every other metric they might provide into question.”

The criticism over audience figures comes as Facebook disclosed on Wednesday that hundreds of fake accounts apparently based in Russia had purchased $100,000 worth of political advertising during the American presidential election last year; the tech firm said it had shut down the accounts.

The census figure discrepancy is likely to be a setback for Facebook with advertisers and a boon for outside measurement companies like Nielsen and ComScore, particularly as Facebook vies to make video advertising a bigger part of its business, Mr. Wieser said. Mr. Wieser is one of two analysts with a “sell” rating on Facebook shares, compared to 42 “buy” recommendations and three “hold” ratings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Unethical disgusting company that deserves to be kicked to the curb. Delete your facebook account now.

Facebook mass hack last month was so totally overblown – only 30 million people affected

Abusing privacy is Facebook’s number one business!

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Good news: 20m feared pwned are safe. Bad news: That’s still 30m profiles snooped…

Facebook users can relax and get back to interacting with quality content and authentic individuals on the social network.

Last month’s deliberate theft of private account records from the internet giant, initially believed to affect 50 million or maybe 90 million accounts, turns out to be nowhere near that bad. Cough.

On Friday, the data-harvesting biz said a mere 30 million people were robbed of their authentication tokens – which could and were used to log into their Facebook accounts. That’s only 1.34 per cent of Facebook’s total active users – which says more about the out-of-control size of the antisocial network than anything else.

“We now know that fewer people were impacted than originally thought,” said Guy Rosen, VP of product management, during a conference call for the media on Friday morning, Pacific Time.

Initial worries that the token pilfering might have led to the compromise of third-party apps implementing Facebook Login turn out to be completely unfounded. Rosen said Messenger, Messenger Kids, Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, Workplace, Pages, payments, third-party apps, advertising and developer accounts were not affected. Bullet dodged.

For one million of the token deprived, the attackers took no information. For 15 million, they obtained names, phone numbers, and email addresses, if present in their profiles. For the remaining 14 million, they accessed not only profile data fields, but quite a bit more:

Username, gender, locale/language, relationship status, religion, hometown, self-reported current city, birthdate, device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or Pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches.
Facebook users can relax and get back to interacting with quality content and authentic individuals on the social network.

Last month’s deliberate theft of private account records from the internet giant, initially believed to affect 50 million or maybe 90 million accounts, turns out to be nowhere near that bad. Cough.

On Friday, the data-harvesting biz said a mere 30 million people were robbed of their authentication tokens – which could and were used to log into their Facebook accounts. That’s only 1.34 per cent of Facebook’s total active users – which says more about the out-of-control size of the antisocial network than anything else.

“We now know that fewer people were impacted than originally thought,” said Guy Rosen, VP of product management, during a conference call for the media on Friday morning, Pacific Time.

Initial worries that the token pilfering might have led to the compromise of third-party apps implementing Facebook Login turn out to be completely unfounded. Rosen said Messenger, Messenger Kids, Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, Workplace, Pages, payments, third-party apps, advertising and developer accounts were not affected. Bullet dodged.

For one million of the token deprived, the attackers took no information. For 15 million, they obtained names, phone numbers, and email addresses, if present in their profiles. For the remaining 14 million, they accessed not only profile data fields, but quite a bit more:

Username, gender, locale/language, relationship status, religion, hometown, self-reported current city, birthdate, device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or Pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches.

….

“People’s privacy and security is incredibly important and we’re sorry this happened,” said Rosen.

That sorrow has limits. The Register asked Facebook whether it intends to pay for identity theft monitoring for the 30 million people affected, a common act of contrition following data thefts.

A Facebook spokesperson said, “Not at this time; the resources we are pointing people toward are based on the actual types of data accessed – including the steps they can take to help protect themselves from suspicious emails, text messages, or calls.”

Nonetheless, Facebook may end up opening the corporate coffers to make things right. The company offered no details about how many of those affected reside in the EU where the data protection regime (GDPR) allows for penalties that bring tears to the eyes of accountants.

“We’ll have to see what Facebook discloses about potential liability if any exists,” said Pravin Kothari, CEO of CipherCloud, in an email to The Register. “The calculations of the potential fines under GDPR are a bit mind-boggling with any possible impact to millions of users.

Made and Distributed in the U.S.A.: Online Disinformation

with Facebook’s help of course!

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SAN FRANCISCO — When Christine Blasey Ford testified before Congress last month about Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault, a website called Right Wing News sprang into action on Facebook.

The conservative site, run by the blogger John Hawkins, had created a series of Facebook pages and accounts over the last year under many names, according to Facebook.

After Dr. Blasey testified, Right Wing News posted several false stories about her — including the suggestion that her lawyers were being bribed by Democrats — and then used the network of Facebook pages and accounts to share the pieces so that they proliferated online quickly, social media researchers said.

The result was a real-time spreading of disinformation started by Americans, for Americans.

What Right Wing News did was part of a shift in the flow of online disinformation, falsehoods meant to mislead and inflame. In 2016, before the presidential election, state-backed Russian operatives exploited Facebook and Twitter to sway voters in the United States with divisive messages. Now, weeks before the midterm elections on Nov. 6, such influence campaigns are increasingly a domestic phenomenon fomented by Americans on the left and the right.

“There are now well-developed networks of Americans targeting other Americans with purposefully designed manipulations,” said Molly McKew, an information warfare researcher at the New Media Frontier, a firm that studies social media.

Politics has always involved shadings of the truth via whisper campaigns, direct-mail operations and negative ads bordering on untrue. What is different this time is how domestic sites are emulating the Russian strategy of 2016 by aggressively creating networks of Facebook pages and accounts — many of them fake — that make it appear as if the ideas they are promoting enjoy widespread popularity, researchers said. The activity is also happening on Twitter, they said.

Reverb Press’s logo on its Facebook page shows that it has been verified by the social network.

The shift toward domestic disinformation raises potential free speech issues when Facebook and Twitter find and curtail such accounts that originate in the United States, an issue that may be sensitive before the midterms. “These networks are trying to manipulate people by manufacturing consensus — that’s crossing the line over free speech,” said Ryan Fox, a co-founder of New Knowledge, a firm that tracks disinformation.

This month, Twitter took down a network of 50 accounts that it said were being run by Americans posing as Republican state lawmakers. Twitter said the accounts were geared toward voters in all 50 states.

On Thursday, Facebook said it had identified 559 pages and 251 accounts run by Americans, many of which amplified false and misleading content in a coordinated fashion. The company said it would remove the pages and accounts. Among them were Right Wing News, which had more than 3.1 million followers, and left-wing pages that included the Resistance and Reverb Press, which had 240,000 and 816,000 followers.

Facebook said this amounted to the most domestic pages and accounts it had ever removed related to influence campaigns. The company said it had discovered the activity as part of its broader effort to root out election interference. Also, the pages had become more aggressive in using tactics like fake accounts and multiple pages to make themselves appear more popular.

“If you look at volume, the majority of the information operations we see are domestic actors,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security. He added that the company was struggling with taking down the domestic networks because of the blurry lines between free speech and disinformation.

Mr. Gleicher said that the accounts and pages that Facebook took down on Thursday violated its rules about online spam and that many of the domestic organizations probably had financial motivations for spreading disinformation. The organization can make money by getting people to click on links in Facebook that then direct users to websites filled with ads. Once someone visits the ad-filled website, those clicks means more ad revenue.

But while traditional spam networks typically use celebrity gossip or stories about natural disasters to get people to click on links that take them to ad-filled sites, these networks were now using political content to attract people’s attention.

Just say no to Facebook

Soldiers in Facebook’s War on Fake News Are Feeling Overrun

Facebook – the sharp tool of mob psychology

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MANILA — The fictional news stories pop up on Facebook faster than Paterno Esmaquel II and his co-workers can stamp them out.

Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, debated a Catholic bishop over using violence to stop illegal drugs — and won. Pope Francis called Mr. Duterte “a blessing.” Prince Harry and his new wife, Meghan Markle, praised him, too. None were true.

False news is so established and severe in the Philippines that one Facebook executive calls it “patient zero” in the global misinformation epidemic. To fight back in this country, the Silicon Valley social media giant has turned to Mr. Esmaquel and others who work for Rappler, an online news start-up with experience tackling fake stories on Facebook.

While Rappler’s fact checkers work closely with Facebook to investigate and report their findings, they believe the company could do much more.

Right – Facebook do more? Never – they rely on eyeballs for their advertising revenue. The best way to get more eyeballs/revenue is to allow spreading of sensationalist fake news.

“It’s frustrating,” said Marguerite de Leon, 32, a Rappler employee who receives dozens of tips each day about false stories from readers. “We’re cleaning up Facebook’s mess.”

On the front lines in the war over misinformation, Rappler is overmatched and outgunned — and that could be a worrying indicator of Facebook’s effort to curb the global problem by tapping fact-checking organizations around the world. Civil society groups have complained that Facebook’s support is weak. Others have said the company doesn’t offer enough transparency to tell what works and what doesn’t.

Facebook says it has made strides but acknowledges shortcomings. It doesn’t have fact checkers in many places, and is only beginning to roll out tools that would scrutinize visual memes, like text displayed over an image or a short video, sometimes the fastest ways that harmful misinformation can spread.

Paterno Esmaquel II, a Rappler reporter, said the false stories on Facebook just kept coming. “We kill one,” he said, “and another one crops up.”CreditJes Aznar for The New York Times

“This effort will never be finished, and we have a lot more to do,” said Jason Rudin, a Facebook product manager.

For fact checkers themselves, the work takes a toll. Members of Rappler’s staff have received death and rape threats. Rappler brought in a psychologist. It debated bulletproofing the windows and installed a second security guard.

The way to end this is to end Facebook and the way to end Facebook is to delete your account.

Facebook targets ads using phone numbers submitted for security purposes

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If you sometimes — or often — wonder how or why you’re seeing a certain ad online, here’s a possible answer.

Most Facebook users know the company targets ads based on information they willingly give the company, but researchers have found that the social media giant also targets ads based on information users may not know is being used to target them — or information they did not explicitly give the company.

For example, phone numbers provided for two-factor authentication are also being used to target ads on Facebook, according to a new report that cites a study, titled “Investigating sources of PII used in Facebook’s targeted advertising,” by researchers from Northeastern and Princeton universities.

When a user gives Facebook a phone number for two-factor authentication or for the purpose of receiving alerts about log-ins, “that phone number became targetable by an advertiser within a couple of weeks,” Gizmodo reported.

A company spokeswoman told Gizmodo that “we use the information people provide to offer a more personalized experience, including showing more relevant ads.” The spokeswoman pointed out that people can set up two-factor authentication without offering their phone numbers.

However, the study also shows — and Gizmodo tested, by successfully targeting an ad at a computer science professor using a landline phone number — that contacts of Facebook users can be targeted without their consent. Facebook users who share their contacts are exposing those contacts to potential ad targeting.

This means that, as a Facebook spokeswoman told Gizmodo, “We understand that in some cases this may mean that another person may not be able to control the contact information someone else uploads about them.”

A Facebook spokeswoman told this news organization Thursday: “We are clear about how we use the information we collect, including the contact information that people upload or add to their own accounts. You can manage and delete the contact information you’ve uploaded at any time.”

In the study, the researchers said Facebook’s use of personally identifiable information in this way is to be expected, given that it’s the business the company is in. “This incentive is exacerbated with the recent introduction of PII-based targeting, which allows advertisers to specify exactly which users to target by specifying a list of their PII,” they said.