Newsletter: Facebook And Instagram Introduce Labels & Amazon Echo Security Shenanigans

Newsletter: Facebook And Instagram Introduce Labels & Amazon Echo Security Shenanigans



“Technologists provide tools that can improve people’s lives. But I want to be clear that I don’t think technology by itself improves people’s lives since often I’m criticized for being too pro-technology. Unless there are commensurate ethical and moral improvements to go along with it, it’s for naught.” ~ Jaron Lanier



Facebook & Instagram is in with all hands and feet for upcoming elections in the US.


Facebook has taken an intelligent decision to not block all the political ads as it would be wrong for the candidates who can’t afford to pricey TV ads, indirectly favoring other opponents.

Facebook has prior announced that it will launch “paid for by” labels on political & issue ads on both Facebook and Instagram in the US. Now it is happening. Moreover, it is also making the publicly searchable archive available of the political ads of the US. All the ads by News publishers which have political content for promotion are included in the archives.

The labels are not limited to candidates and ads, instead, it will also apply to related to the political affairs such as guns, foreign policy and more.

Labels that comes on top of News Feed will direct you to the archives, which will show ads from May 2018 and after.

These ads will be stored in an archive for seven years and you can search them on Page which owns them or by using suitable keywords. Furthermore, you can see ad’s budget, people who view it and other details of the viewers such as comprehensive data based on their gender, age and location.

An advertiser who likes to run political ads has to go through Facebook’s authorization that they will have to disclose their identity and location. Facebook has also given a one-week deadline to get the authorization done. After that, the company will stop ads from an unauthorized advertiser.


Facebook has taken a stern lesson and is trying to use every preventive measure in the book to not let history be repeated. Facebook is going to monitor political ads and has a task force of 3000 to 4000 ad reviewers combined with artificial intelligence.

The combination of AI and ad reviewers will inspect ads’ text, images, and other political content to make sure they are not promoting anything that could cause trouble. Moreover, users can also report unlabeled ads, which would be inspected, paused and archived if found political. To un-pause the ads, their buyers would need to follow the authorization process.

Facebook will provide the database through an imminent API which will allow academics, researchers, and others to evaluate how ads are being used.

The tools will be soon available to other countries in the coming months. Moreover, the company is launching a tool in June with the aim to make all ads visible to all. Currently, the tool is being tested in Canada and Ireland.

Facebook’s chief product officer Chris Cox says, “We hope that in aggregate these changes will be a big step to improve the quality of civic engagement in our products, and to keep the public discourse strong.”


Well, it is a good step on the part of Facebook after all debacles it faced in early 2018. However, there are issues with the launched programs. Everyone in the world knows, what a political party can or have done during the campaigns. They can use misleading or confusing names to conceal their real motive. By adding them to “Paid for by” archive or labels would not help the cause and not provide users enough information about the advertisers or people behind the scenes unless they put some efforts to dig about them on the internet.

One of the major concerns, who all will have access to the archiving API, so no researcher accessing data could turn into another scandal.

“Any ad that has political content on Facebook going forward will require authorization, labeling, and archiving regardless of who’s running it,” said Facebook Director of Public Policy Steve Satterfield, who notes Facebook is in dialogue with different ad buyers “including news publishers.”

Sure, there are issues with tools but this could be sort things a bit. Facebook has recommended the tools in 2018, which it should have done years ago but it’s better late than never.



Amazon Echo shows how vulnerable we are in front of technology.


Every time you want to be proud of technology and its advancement around you, these security vulnerabilities and flaws of latest technology made you think again. One of such incidents happened with a woman, Danielle in Portland, Oregon. According to her, Amazon Echo, the smart speaker device sends an audio recording of her family’s private conversation to one of her husband’s employees who happened to be in their address book. She panicked and her family asked her to unplug the device at that instant.

When she contacted Amazon customer support, the representative empathized and apologized several times. They offered to “de-provision” Danielle’s calling and messaging feature, so she could use the device for other things. However, Danielle is stern on getting a refund for the product.


Amazon explained that Danielle was not hacked, as one of her Echo devices mistakenly interpreted the private conversation as a wake sound or a voice command. Amazon Echo comes with a microphone which wakes up with a word set by users such as Computer, Echo, Alexa. When you say the wake word, the blue ring light on the top of the device appears.

In an emailed statement, an Amazon spokesperson explained, “Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like ‘Alexa,’ and the next conversation was heard as ‘send a message.’ Then, when Alexa said out loud, ‘To whom?’ the device interpreted the background conversation as a name in the customer’s contact list. Alexa then responded, ‘[Contact name], right?’ Alexa again interpreted the background conversation as, ‘Right.'”

“As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely,” the spokesperson said.

Amazon has addressed the issue and also told that it was a rare occurrence and the team is working on not letting it happen again in future.

Amazon’s representative also mentioned, “Amazon takes privacy very seriously. We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future.”


Well, this seems to be a serious issue as it attacks our privacy. No matter what happened or did that private conversation actually activated Echo’s Messaging and Calling feature or was that a silent command. According to Amazon, to enable the feature a user has to say, Alexa, send a message to Susie or Alexa, Call Susie, and the former was said by the Oregon family.

If you have issues with the Calling and Messaging feature, you can disable the feature or can block contacts from messaging and calling by saying “Don’t disturb me,”

Well, this is not an ultimate solution but you can secure your privacy with it.

In future, Amazon should work on making it possible to alert the users that smart speakers are active to avoid the confusion. In the meantime, the “Don’t disturb,” command should be used as a workaround.

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