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Last week a class action lawsuit commenced in the Ontario Superior Court alleges that Facebook illicitly intercepted and scanned its users’ private messages without their knowledge or consent.
The lawsuit alleges that the URLs (website addresses) in users’ private messages were harvested by Facebook in violation of users’ privacy. Facebook did this in order to inflate its web presence and attract increased advertising revenue.
The practice was only stopped in October 2012, when an investigation by security researchers that was published in the Wall Street Journal exposed what Facebook was doing. Facebook did not acknowledge its actions nor apologize to users, but quietly shelved the practice.
“Facebook intercepted its users’ private messages for its own commercial gain and has never acknowledged or apologized for its behaviour,” said Joel Rochon, partner at Rochon Genova LLP, who is representing the class members. “Social networking sites such as this need to be held publicly accountable. Surreptitious surveillance of private communications cannot be tolerated in a democratic society.”
Private messages on Facebook function in a similar way to email. Facebook’s Data Use Policy provides that private messages are just that – private. None of Facebook’s policies disclosed to users that their private messages would be systematically intercepted and scanned, and the contents of those messages treated as “Likes” for other sites via the social plug-in function.
By engaging in this behaviour, Facebook was able to gather more user data which it could then use to enhance the reach and accuracy of its targeted advertising – its chief source of revenue. Users were in fact more likely to share personal information by private message because they mistakenly believed the messages (unlike public postings) were truly private.
The class action lawsuit includes all Canadian resident Facebook users who sent or received private messages containing URLs up to October 2012. There are more than 18 million Facebook users in Canada – and around three-quarters of them log on to Facebook at least once a day.
The lawsuit alleges that Facebook’s actions were a violation of class members’ privacy rights and s. 184(1) of the Criminal Code. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Facebook has announced plans to purchase Oculus VR, the company behind the Rift headset, for around $2 billion in cash and stock. This includes $400 million, and 23.1 million Facebook shares. An additional $300 million earnout will be paid in cash and stock if Oculus hits certain unspecified milestones.
“I’m excited to announce that we’ve agreed to acquire Oculus VR, the leader in virtual reality technology,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a statement today.
Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. For the past few years, this has mostly meant building mobile apps that help you share with the people you care about. We have a lot more to do on mobile, but at this point we feel we’re in a position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences.
This is where Oculus comes in. They build virtual reality technology, like the Oculus Rift headset. When you put it on, you enter a completely immersive computer-generated environment, like a game or a movie scene or a place far away. The incredible thing about the technology is that you feel like you’re actually present in another place with other people. People who try it say it’s different from anything they’ve ever experienced in their lives.
Zuckerberg says that their efforts with Oculus will continue to focus on gaming initially, and that the company will continue to operate independently of Facebook. But after gaming, Zuckerberg says, they’re going to expand into a variety of other arenas.
“After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home,” he says. “This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.”
At first glance, it might not seem obvious why Oculus is partnering with Facebook, a company focused on connecting people, investing in internet access for the world and pushing an open computing platform. But when you consider it more carefully, we’re culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step.
Most important, Facebook understands the potential for VR. Mark and his team share our vision for virtual reality’s potential to transform the way we learn, share, play, and communicate. Facebook is a company that believes that anything is possible with the right group of people, and we couldn’t agree more.
Facebook, of course, found early success with games. Social gaming is responsible for a lot of the growth and spread of Facebook as a platform, rather than just a social service. Acquiring Oculus could signal a variety of things, but being able to tap into what is potentially the next big gaming trend is likely one of them. In addition, Facebook has been aggressive about understanding and supporting mobile use cases — but only after an initial period of foot-dragging and desktop focus. If VR is “what’s next” then Facebook will want to tap the market early to avoid any transitional gaffes this time around.
The purchase is expected to close in Q2 of 2014. Oculus has taken over 75K orders for its virtual reality headset so far. Those headsets have been developer editions designed to get developers interested in playing around with VR technology. The most recent “Crystal Cove” prototype features a full 1080p display and more sensors to detect and position users in virtual environments.
Of course, if you pull the thread of virtual reality out really really far, you could see a future where we’re not talking about the percentage of time people spend on mobile vs. desktop. Instead, we’re talking about the amount of time that people spend in virtual reality versus actual reality. In that kind of landscape, Facebook starting in on VR early makes painfully obvious sense.
The company has received a total of $93.4 million in funding so far from Spark, Matrix, Founders Fund, Formation 8, BIG Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. Oculus got a big boost in legitimacy recently when one of the founding fathers of 3D gaming, John Carmack, left id Software to become its CTO.
“Over the next 10 years, virtual reality will become ubiquitous, affordable, and transformative,” concludes the Oculus post, “and it begins with a truly next-generation gaming experience. This partnership ensures that the Oculus platform is coming, and that it’s going to change gaming forever.”
Wow. Facebook is spending a lot of money! $19 billion to be exact. When I heard this yesterday I couldn’t believe my ears. Is WhatsApp really worth this much? What I’m really wondering is how Facebook is going to get any kind of ROI out of this still potential purchase. Of course a purchase of this magnitude has to go through a lot of approval processes and legal footwork before it can be considered a done deal.
Currently WhatsApp allows the first year free then .99 cents per year afterwards. So doing some simple math means that 450 million users returns about $450 million per year. Now Facebook doesn’t have too many options to increase revenue here since if they raise the rates another open source solution will pop up and lure users with zero fees. Neither can Facebook advertise on the platform as the .99 cent fee is supposed to bypass that. I suppose Facebook could integrate the platform directly into its own, however many people would prefer to keep their text messages separate from Facebook’s prying eyes.
My other thought is that perhaps Facebook is buying Whatsapp simply to quash the competition. In other words, if eyes are on Whatsapp, they aren’t on Facebook right?
UPDATE: according to some sources, namely CNN Money, Mark Zuckerberg (CEO Facebook) predicts that Whatsapp is on target for a billion users, “Whatsapp is on the path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable.” So that being said, what Facebook does with the acquisition is the important question. If they simply leave it to forge its own path I think the ROI could be huge. However if Facebook integrates completely with it own platform I wouldn’t expect the ROI to be nearly as high, however eyes wouldn’t be on a competing product.
Facebook WhatsApp Press Release
Facebook announced that it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire WhatsApp, a rapidly growing cross-platform mobile messaging company, for a total of approximately $16 billion, including $4 billion in cash and approximately $12 billion worth of Facebook shares. The agreement also provides for an additional $3 billion in restricted stock units to be granted to WhatsApp’s founders and employees that will vest over four years subsequent to closing.
WhatsApp has built a leading and rapidly growing real-time mobile messaging service, with:
Over 450 million people using the service each month;
70% of those people active on a given day;
Messaging volume approaching the entire global telecom SMS volume; and
Continued strong growth, currently adding more than 1 million new registered users per day.
According to the vendors website, “WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia and yes, those phones can all message each other! Because WhatsApp Messenger uses the same internet data plan that you use for email and web browsing, there is no cost to message and stay in touch with your friends.”
“WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO. “I’ve known Jan for a long time and I’m excited to partner with him and his team to make the world more open and connected.”
Jan Koum, WhatsApp co-founder and CEO, said, “WhatsApp’s extremely high user engagement and rapid growth are driven by the simple, powerful and instantaneous messaging capabilities we provide. We’re excited and honored to partner with Mark and Facebook as we continue to bring our product to more people around the world.”
Facebook fosters an environment where independent-minded entrepreneurs can build companies, set their own direction and focus on growth while also benefiting from Facebook’s expertise, resources and scale. This approach is working well with Instagram, and WhatsApp will operate in this manner. WhatsApp’s brand will be maintained; its headquarters will remain in Mountain View, CA; Jan Koum will join Facebook’s Board of Directors; and WhatsApp’s core messaging product and Facebook’s existing Messenger app will continue to operate as standalone applications.
Upon closing of the deal, all outstanding shares of WhatsApp capital stock and options to purchase WhatsApp capital stock will be cancelled in exchange for $4 billion in cash and 183,865,778 shares of Facebook Class A common stock (worth $12 billion based on the average closing price of the six trading days preceding February 18, 2014 of $65.2650 per share). In addition, upon closing, Facebook will grant 45,966,444 restricted stock units to WhatsApp employees (worth $3 billion based on the average closing price of the six trading days preceding February 18, 2014 of $65.2650 per share). As of February 17, 2014, Facebook had 2,551,654,996 Class A and B shares outstanding plus approximately 139 million dilutive securities primarily consisting of unvested RSUs. The Class A common stock and RSUs issued to WhatsApp shareholders and employees upon closing will represent 7.9% of Facebook shares based on current shares and RSUs outstanding.
In the event of termination of the Merger Agreement under certain circumstances principally related to a failure to obtain required regulatory approvals, the Merger Agreement provides for Facebook to pay WhatsApp a fee of $1 billion in cash and to issue to WhatsApp a number of shares of Facebook’s Class A common stock equal to $1 billion based on the average closing price of the ten trading days preceding such termination date.
Facebook was advised by Allen & Company LLC and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP; and WhatsApp was advised by Morgan Stanley and Fenwick & West, LLP.
Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.
WhatsApp is a personal real-time messaging network allowing millions of people around the world to stay connected with their friends and family.
Forward Looking Statements This press release may be deemed to contain forward-looking statements, which are subject to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including the expected completion of the acquisition, the time frame in which this will occur, the expected benefits to Facebook and WhatsApp from completing the acquisition, and the expected financial performance of Facebook following completion of the acquisition. Statements regarding future events are based on the parties’ current expectations and are necessarily subject to associated risks related to, among other things, regulatory approval of the proposed acquisition or that other conditions to the closing of the deal may not be satisfied, the potential impact on the business of WhatsApp due to the announcement of the acquisition, the occurrence of any event, change or other circumstances that could give rise to the termination of the definitive agreement, and general economic conditions. Therefore, actual results may differ materially and adversely from those expressed in any forward-looking statements. For information regarding other related risks, see the “Risk Factors” section of Facebook’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for 2013. The forward-looking statements included herein are made only as of the date hereof, and neither party undertakes an obligation to revise or update any forward-looking statements for any reason.
If you’ve been thinking about disconnecting from the social media behemoth Facebook you should take a look at the Facebook rehab bestseller “Forty Days Off Facebook”. This book recently hit #1 on Amazon and is a great resource for anyone wishing to distance themselves from what can become a connecting yet isolating technology. Ryan Beale chronicles his journey to Facebook recovery when his life hits the tipping point.
Thirteen days after his divorce was finalized, Beale suffered the tragic loss of his older brother to suicide. Always looking toward his big brother to push him further than he would push himself, Beale was forced to confront his new reality. He resolved to look inward in order to regain control of the chaos that was engulfing his life. However, he, like many others, was stuck in a holding pattern. He continued to use social media to keep his mind occupied.
“For me, Facebook has always been a love/hate relationship,” Beale said. “Having an understanding of the technology, I see how relationships via social media can play into a very delicate part of the human psyche. Reality is, I was using Facebook as a coping mechanism from confronting my own anxiety.”
He decided to take the next 40 days away from the social media site, and what began as a therapeutic experiment turned into a life-changing experience—an experience that has now begun to rip the conversation wide open on how a fast-paced, social-technology engulfed landscape is harming our ability to connect with ourselves and one another. “I am concerned for the next generation and for my
future child. I am concerned that they are learning poor coping skills from us which will absolutely affect their ability to emotionally cope with life’s stresses,” says Beale.
“This was something I never expected when sitting to write this book, but certainly appreciate it,” Beale said. “The letters and touching responses from readers revealing how my struggle has opened their minds to living with more purpose has reinforced the reason that I decided to share my story. That’s such a reward to me.”
Now recovered from his personal turmoil, Beale is happily married to a young woman he met during his 40 days off. They are expecting their first child this week.
If you’re seriously considering a Facebook rehab program this is the book for you. It’s an easy read and one that will encourage you as you walk towards recovery. You can purchase the book from Amazon.
A recent article looks at whether or not Facebook is making us miserable. Daniel Gulati notes that “Facebook and social media are major contributors to career anxiety. It creates a den of comparison asusers have a strong bias toward sharing positive milestones and avoid mentioning the more humdrum, negative parts of their lives.”
It’s a good point actually as how often have you signed into Facebook to someone tooting their own horn again. Perhaps your close friend has just acquired another piece of property or won the lottery when they don’t need the money. Do you really care? Perhaps they are doing even more ridiculous things like telling you what coffee shop they frequent or what they ate for breakfast. Who cares? Well we all do apparently.
With the recent announcement of Facebook’s new feature, Timeline, here is another example that further support Gulati’s argument.
Facebook Timeline according to CBC.ca is “designed to be an online scrapbook that emphasizes “important life events” throughout users’ lives, filed by year.”
“You will be able to timeline immediately, but they can also opt to stay with their current profiles, which mainly showcase a user’s most recent activity on Facebook, for now. Facebook has not indicated when timeline will completely replace existing profiles.”
Users will have seven days to review everything that appears on their new timeline profiles before they automatically become visible to other people. Users can also choose to make their timeline public earlier if they like.
Now I don’t know about you but I am not sure if I could take only seven days to reduce my life to the most important events that fit into a timeline. Better yet am I going to feel that I must emphasize only the positive achievements in my life? Often its the negative and challenging experiences that cause us to grow and change and define who we are. Life is a continuing journey that forces us to navigate many twists and turns. To reduce it to a series of events marking only achievements is a bit of stretch.
I wonder whether Facebook is perhaps interested in looking at how these events are easy targets for marketers and advertisers. Sure it would help them sell more products to people as a result of these experiences. Recapture how you felt when you finished university and got that first full time job. If you haven’t then here is a product that will help you re capture that feeling. How many times have you been bombarded by advertisements on Facebook. Has it gotten worse since you started using the application?
Gulati notes that its possible to stem the tide of Facebook and the amount that we use it. He is not saying simply delete your profile, although comments on his post say otherwise.
“We can still take measures to alter our usage patterns and strengthen our real-world relationships. Some useful tactics I’ve seen include blocking out designated time for Facebook, rather than visiting intermittently throughout the day; selectively trimming Facebook friends lists to avoid undesirable ex-partners and gossipy coworkers; and investing more time in building off-line relationships.”
Gulati’s points then are realistic and it’s extreme to expect people to just simply eliminate their Facebook account. I don’t have any plans to eliminate my own and nor should anyone else. It’s best to recognize the good points about Facebook and attempt to limit your usage and keep your self esteem in tact.
Today we welcome Della Smith. I met Della at one of her workshops in September where she discussed Twitter and the role it can play in companies and organizations who incorporate it as part of their Communications strategy.
Della is someone has worked with organizations in virtually every sector over the past 25 years. Her unique style and ability to quickly understand complex subjects or situations ensure high quality workshops that net results.
She closed her company Quay Strategies in August of 2009. She is now writing a book and dedicating her client time to facilitation, workshops and media training. Quay Strategies, a strategic public relations and communications firm, was established in 1995 and is based in Vancouver, BC.
I am a self-admitted Twitter junkie. I spend tons of time following interesting people and connecting to links of all sorts. However, I don’t tweet right now because it is not strategic for me.
Twitter can be a powerful and effective communications vehicle for organizations and individuals with interesting information to share. The key for most businesses to be successful in this arena is to ensure their reason for tweeting is strategic.
Making sure the use of Twitter is part of an overall communications strategy that fits your organization is the first step. The next is quality information. Content matters more than ever as people can gloss over your 140 characters in less than a second. Your tweet needs to stand out in between the scads of news about Demi Moore splitting with Ashton Kutcher or other such titillating gossip.
Traditional news values still apply whether you are tweeting or writing full- page editorials. Here are the quintessential eight news values you need to consider when entering the Twitterverse:
1. Humanity – people connect to information about people or opinions that impact them.
2. Conflict – disagreement or challenging points of view sparks interest.
3. Immediacy – now really means now, new stuff gets stale fast and it looks bad if you are reporting something that happened yesterday.
4. Novelty – the wacky and weird of the day.
5. Celebrity – Demi and AplusK make news just because of their profile. You can create your own celebrity news value based on the quality of your information.
6. Pix – pictures and videos can be great if you can intrigue me enough with your words to click.
7. Peril – anything in danger is news.
8. Locality – geographically pertinent news can trigger interest as much as information that is relevant to “people like me”.
So tweet away to your heart’s content, just please don’t be boring. Have at least one news value to keep us coming back for more. And, I’ll be tweeting soon, when I have a strategic reason. Stay tuned @dellasdeck
You all got those lectures as a kid. Mind your manners at the table, watch your P’s and Q’s, sit up straight, hold the door open for others. If you had parents like I did then you definitely got lots of guidance on how to conduct proper social etiquette and manners when dealing with others.
With social media becoming a primary means by which we interact with others, its good remember that common things we practice when dealing with others face to face should be practiced online, manners and etiquette then are no exception.
I may sound like a broken record but follow your Facebook News Feed these days or at least mine and I sometimes wonder if etiquette has gone straight out the window. I’m not saying i am offended here or that I’d remove these people as friends but something are better left offline all together. I have always guided myself by the golden rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. I apply this to social media as well. Continue reading Mind your manners….
With the bitter taste of the Stanley Cup final lost to the Bruins, Vancouverites are grappling with a bigger disappointment today as thousands of “fans” choose to riot in downtown Vancouver last night following the game.