TIME facebook

Why a French Court Could Disrupt Facebook’s Global Ambitions

Facebook is trying to defend its right to ban a man for posting an image of an erotic work of art but the implications could be much greater

In a case that could have far-reaching implications for U.S. tech companies, French lawyers were back in court on Thursday, arguing over whether Facebook could refuse a French teacher the right to post a famous French Romantic nude painting — raising again the crucial legal battle over how Internet users assert their rights against global companies whose headquarters are thousands of miles away.

The case has wound its way through the French courts for years. It began in 2011, when a French teacher (unnamed in the lawsuit) posted a photo on his Facebook page of the painting “l’Origine du Monde,” by the 19th-century artist Gustave Courbet, depicting a close-up view of a woman’s genitals. Facebook deactivated the teacher’s account, on the grounds that it violated the company’s policy forbidding users from posting naked or explicit material. The teacher sued the company for €20,000 (about $22,300) in damages, saying Facebook had failed to distinguish pornography from art; indeed, Courbet’s erotic painting is one of the most famous works in the Orsay Museum in Paris.

Last January, Facebook’s lawyer argued that its “Terms of Service” contract — that long block of text on which users click ‘agree’ when they set up accounts — clearly states that the company’s jurisdiction lies in California, and that France has no right to rule on its business decisions. But earlier this year the high court in Paris rejected the company’s argument, saying that the rule was “abusive,” since it violated French consumer-protection laws, by making it effectively impossible for French users to sue the company. Facebook has appealed that ruling. Thursday’s court was a largely procedural hearing, intended to set the timetable and parameters of the case.

The case might seem trivial of itself: It concerns only one person’s Facebook page, and a 150-year-old painting. But it could have impact beyond France, with the potential to challenge the business models of multibillion-dollar tech companies, which depend in good part on the ability to exercise wide control over users’ data and online activity.

With U.S. tech giants increasingly dominant in Europe, the legal wrangle, in the eyes of many, is a battle of wills over who ultimately will control the digital lives of the E.U.’s 500 million people — the world’s richest consumer market. The plaintiff’s lawyer Stéphane Cottineau called the ruling by Paris’s high court “a victory by David against Goliath.” He told TIME by phone this week that the notion that French Facebook users could not sue the company in their own country was “ridiculous.”

The French Facebook case comes as U.S. tech giants are already embroiled in long, expensive legal battles with different governments in Europe, and with the E.U. in Brussels. The list of cases is long, and growing: In 2013 the E.U. imposed a “right to be forgotten” law, allowing Europeans to demand that Google and other search engines delete information about themselves — a battle against which Google waged a fierce fight. Last year the French government forced Twitter to delete the anti-Semitic tweets of French users, which it said violated the country’s hate-speech laws. E.U. regulators charged Google last month with elbowing out its competitors on its shopping site, in a case that could result in hefty fines for the company. The regulators in Brussels are also considering laying charges against Android for noncompetitive practices for pushing Google apps on its smartphones, and they say they are investigating whether Apple, Amazon and Starbucks have engaged in tax avoidance, by stashing billions in profits in low-tax E.U. countries like the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

But in France, the current battle boils down to one essential question: Can a private company force its customers to abide by its rules, no matter what? That, say lawyers, is not clear, since Facebook’s terms of service might violate French laws, which state that customers are allowed to sue a company. “One of the rules says you cannot include a clause that prevents a person going to court easily,” says Laetitia Guillet, a French attorney with the U.S. law firm Keller and Heckman in Paris. Facebook argues that users freely create accounts, and click on ‘agree’ to its terms, including that its jurisdiction is in California. But, says Guillet, “Nobody reads the terms of service. Even though I am a lawyer, I have never read it.”
In fact, the issue of which governments global Internet companies obey is still deeply unclear. Companies fear that if its users, like the French teacher, win cases against them, it could require them to tailor-make their sites for each specific country’s laws — an expensive task even in the E.U., which has 28 member states. That makes the issue of jurisdiction key to many cases. “This question that is on everyone’s minds right now, not only for Facebook but also Google and Twitter, because all these entities have international scope and reach,” says Adam Holland, project coordinator for the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. “We don’t want to let local laws dictate global policy, because where will that end?”

TIME remembrance

Watch Eric Clapton Thank B.B. King ‘For All the Inspiration and Encouragement’

"I want to thank him for all the inspiration and encouragement"

Eric Clapton remembered his friend and colleague B.B. King in a video posted to Facebook Friday morning, saying he wanted to express his sadness.

“He was a beacon for all of us who love this kind of music,” Clapton said in the video below. “If you’re not familiar with his work, I would encourage you to go out and find an album called B.B. King Live at the Regal, which is where it all really started for me as a young player.”

Clapton and King collaborated on the 2000 album Riding With the King. King died Thursday night; he was 89.

TIME Companies

Facebook Is Wading Into the Minimum Wage Debate in a Huge Way

Facebook Inc. signage is displayed outside the company's campus in Menlo Park, Calif.
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Facebook Inc. signage is displayed outside the company's campus in Menlo Park, Calif.

The company is raising its contractors' minimum wage to $15/hour

The ongoing Fight for $15 has a new hero: Facebook.

The social network is requiring some of its vendors to increase their workers’ pay and benefits. Facebook’s new standard calls for contractors who do a substantial amount of work for the social network to pay their employees—janitors, security guards, food service staff—at least $15 per hour and receive at least 15 paid days off.

The rules went into effect at Facebook’s largest vendors on May 1.

It’s unclear how much this will raise the pay for specific workers at the company—Facebook did not immediately respond to a question about what these workers earned prior to this effort—but it’s certain that $15 per hour is well above the median hourly pay these occupations garner nationally.

Those wide discrepancies serve as testament to the power that private employers can exert over raising workers’ pay. Facebook’s move is aimed at trying to shrink the growing economic divide in Silicon Valley, but it’s similar to those made by other corporations, including Ikea, Gap, Wal-Mart, Target, and T.J. Maxx. These employers have given their hourly workers higher minimum wages amid pressure from labor advocates and in the absence of a boost to the federal minimum wage, which has stood at $7.25 since 2009. Facebook’s effort to secure paid time off for its vendors’ employees mimics Microsoft’s announcement in March that it would require some employees at its suppliers to have at least 15 days of paid time off.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME apps

Your Favorite Apps Know More About You Than You Realize

Candy Crush
Philippe Huguen—AFP/Getty Images A person plays on his tablet with Candy Crush Saga games developed by British King Digital Entertainment, on March 6, 2014, in Lille, northern France.

Apps like 'Candy Crush' get access to lots of personal data

Earlier this week, a long-lost co-worker sent me a request on Trivia Crack. The message flashed on my iPhone’s screen, and then later popped up in my Facebook notifications. Hours later, an old barfly friend of mine sent another one. And then after a few days passed, a high school classmate sent one as well.

Something had to be up, because not only was I not a big Trivia Crack player, I didn’t even have the app on my phone anymore. So I dropped my classmate a note via Facebook, asking what prompted her to prod me on a game I only played twice, months ago. “You sent me a spin, I thought I returned the favor,” she replied.

Immediately, my mind went racing. It was bad enough this game was doing things in my name without my permission, but what does Trivia Crack know about me? One thing’s for certain: it knows who my Facebook friends are. To learn more, I turned to PrivacyGrade, a website funded by the National Science Foundation that rates apps based on how invasive they are, compared to how people expect them to behave.

“For example, according to studies we have conducted, most people don’t expect games like Cut the Rope to use location data, but many of them actually do,” explains the site. “This kind of surprise is represented in our privacy model as a penalty to an app’s overall privacy grade.” Trivia Crack, despite my experience with it, got a B.

According to Jason Hong, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon’s school of computer science and the head of the team running PrivacyGrade, most apps that collect personal user data do so to make in-app advertising more relevant, similar to how interactive marketing works on the web. For instance, if the app sees that you’re in New York, it will serve you ads for businesses based in the city, rather than Los Angeles.

“We have seen some unusual apps — and these are pretty rare — ones that try to get your contact list information, or also your microphone data so they can record some of the data that’s going around,” Hong says. “As you can imagine, that’s very sensitive, and hugely surprising to a lot of people.”

According to PrivacyGrade’s research, around 70% of the apps they’ve analyzed take very little or no information from users. In fact, when data like my Trivia Crack account is used, it’s not actually the apps themselves that are to blame. Instead, it’s something called a third-party library.

“If you think of an app being made out of a lot of LEGO pieces, some of these pieces were actually offered by other people,” says Hong. For example, Facebook has a library that makes it easy to access their services. So rather than having to write new code to access Facebook, developers just download the code that’s already been prepared for this purpose. These pieces of code are third-party libraries. “If you linked your Trivia Crack to your Facebook account, then they can get a lot more data about you,” says Hong.

For instance, Trivia Crack requests full network access from its users, a necessity for running the game engine, gathering mobile analytics, linking to social networks and serving targeted ads. It also can approximate the user’s location using GPS or Wi-Fi, so it can deliver geographically relevant ads. And curiously, it can both write to your phone’s USB storage and retrieve information on other currently and recently running apps on your phone — two features PrivacyGrade has yet to analyze.

But those are only the things the app can do on its own. The third-party libraries that Trivia Crack uses include Flurry, which provides data such as how frequently the game is used. Its Twitter and Facebook libraries can pull all sorts of personal data that you’ve fed into your social networks, like your list of friends, posts, and demographic information like your name and hometown.

While that may all sound pretty invasive to the casual user, the app gets a passing grade because it’s up-front with asking for this data — and most every user obliges. “Most app developers aren’t trying to creep you out — they’re not evil, they’re just trying to make some money off their work,” says Hong. “The important thing is that you usually get a notification and you have to approve it.”

But there are some bad apples out there in the app marketplace trying to get your data. “The ones with the low grades was a relatively small percentage, and the reason they get this is because they’re usually trying to collect lots of data, and are sharing it with lots of third parties,” says Hong. For instance, some well-known apps have scored Ds on PrivacyGrade’s tests, including Flashlight — Torch LED Light (which is able to record audio using the phone’s microphone), popular game Tiny Tower (which can figure out your phone carrier and even your phone number), and the CVS Pharmacy app (which can connect to your Bluetooth device, among other things).

But the most troubling thing is these apps’ access to third-party libraries, not only because of what personal data these libraries can share, but what high-powered apps can figure out from that information. “They could probably infer things like what kinds of interests you have,” says Hong. In addition to where you are and who you know, some apps can determine what you like, what kind of stores you go to, and more.

Now that I know that, I’ll be even more careful when signing up for apps — and I was already careful before. But it seems like the mystery of my Trivia Crack attack stems from the fact that my Facebook account is still connected to the app. Or, I should say, was connected to it, since I’ve gone into my Facebook settings and severed the link — along with dozens of others. But not all is lost. Trivia Crack taught me something new after all.

TIME Social Networking

You’re About to Get News on Facebook in a Whole New Way

Facebook Announces New Launcher Service For Android Phones
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A Facebook employee holds a laptop with a "like" sticker on it during an event at Facebook headquarters during an event at Facebook headquarters on April 4, 2013 in Menlo Park, California.

News outlets will start publishing stories directly to Facebook

Facebook users are no strangers to seeing and sharing news stories in their News Feed, especially on mobile devices. But they’re about to experience them in a whole new way.

The social networking giant will begin publishing articles from nine partner publications directly onto its mobile platform starting Wednesday, the company announced. Instant Articles, as the long-rumored new product is called, will include content from the New York Times, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Guardian, The Atlantic, National Geographic, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild.

“As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook,” product manager Michael Reckhow wrote in an introduction. “People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook. Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles.”

Facebook says the platform will offer a rich multimedia experience including high-resolution photos and auto-play videos. However, the deal has also raised questions and concerns about whether the new publication method will undercut media partners’ business models.


Making a Charitable Donation? 20% of Firms Will Match Your Gift

charity donation boxes
Getty Images

After the Nepal earthquake, Facebook matched $2 million in donations made through its site.

When Nigel Glennie saw the images coming out of Nepal after the earthquake in late April, he just had to do something.

When he heard that his company, Cisco Systems, was offering a dollar-for-dollar match on donations (up to $1 million), he figured his money could do twice as much.

“It’s a multiplier effect,” says the 41-year-old Australian communications executive who lives in San Francisco. “I donated a little more on behalf of my family, because we knew we were getting that extra match.”

Matching programs for charitable donations have proliferated after the Nepal quake. A number of major companies like Cisco announced lavish matches: Facebook matched $2 million of donations made through its site, while Google gave $1 million and another $750,000 in matches for employee contributions.

In fact, 20% of U.S. firms match charitable contributions, a 2014 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management shows. Another 1% planned to do so in the next 12 months.

“Research has found that it does tend to motivate people,” says Holly Hall, features editor at The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Big names can prompt more action, says Eric Friedman, author of Reinventing Philanthropy. If Facebook has selected a Nepal charity for a match, for instance, then donors assume that Facebook has done its due diligence, and that the charity is an effective one.

Matching programs can make plenty of sense for individual donors: If every $1 you give can be matched by $1, or even $2 or $3, then you have automatically amplified your potential impact.

However, a whopping $3-for-$1 match does not generate any more contributions than a simple dollar-for-dollar match, Hall says.

Nonprofits have discovered that matches can provide a shot of adrenalin. Microfinance site Kiva, for instance, handles a daily average of about $300,000 in loans to small-scale entrepreneurs around the world. But on days when loans are matched, “loan volume can go up to $3 million,” spokesperson Hania Abu-Eid says. “So we are talking about a match day being 9-10 times more than a standard day.”

David Nelson, a former wide receiver for the NFL’s New York Jets, has witnessed the power of matching programs first-hand at the charitable organization he runs, I’m ME, which cares for 10 orphans at a facility in Haiti.

Every time there is a matching promotion, “we’ll see people who were going to donate $50, decide to give $100, making a total of $200,” he says. “It also encourages people who weren’t going to give at all, to give a little, because that gift is being doubled.”

Other observers, however, inject a note of caution about all the charity matching offers that are filling your inbox. Just because your dollar is being doubled, does not necessarily mean that the cash is being used wisely.

“It can be like getting a two-for-one deal on a terrible car,” says Dean Karlan, a Yale University economics professor who has studied the effectiveness of matching programs. “The matching offer isn’t really what donors should be paying attention to. They should be paying attention to whether the charity is doing effective work, and getting evidence of their impact.”

One way to do that: Visiting a site like Charity Navigator, which rates nonprofits based on factors like how much cash is being gobbled up by administration costs. There are sites that narrow down the choices as well, like GiveWell, which spotlights a handful of specialized charities like the Against Malaria Foundation that it deems the most effective.

The latest updates are found on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s site, which compiles corporate aid roundups for everything from the Nepal quake to the Syrian refugee crisis.

As for Cisco’s program, employees have donated about a quarter of the company’s $1 million goal so far, Glennie says. “The images are so tragic. You hear about all these personal stories from family and friends in Nepal, and you have to help.”

TIME social networks

Facebook Has a New Way to Keep You Off Google

TIME.com stock photos Social Apps iPhone Facebook
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

It will let you find links without having to visit a search engine

Some mobile users on Facebook’s iPhone app are now being offered an “Add a Link” option when they post status updates. After selecting the button, users can type in keywords and see search results listing articles on a given topic that have already been shared on Facebook.

A company spokesperson said the option is simply a pilot for now.

The feature is another step in Facebook’s continued expansion of the uses of its massive trove of more than one trillion indexed user posts. Last year, the company made it easier for users to use keywords to pull up old posts about any topic, but the results often appear haphazardly and in seemingly random order. This new functionality seems to provide a more focused application of Facebook’s search feature by focusing on links to other content online.

The “Add a Link” option, if rolled out fully, could pose a threat to Google. If Facebook can keep people within its walls even when they’re looking for stories, it will have more opportunities to have them engage with more content, including ads in the News Feed. The company can also use the feature to nudge people toward sharing the kinds of “high-quality” articles that Facebook gives a preference to in the News Feed over meme images and similar content.

Read next: Check Out How Much Fancier Facebook’s New Digs Are

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Social Media

Check Out How Much Fancier Facebook’s New Digs Are

Facebook's sprawling new building takes the open workspace to a whole new level

Correction appended

Facebook started in a college dorm room, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems to be trying to recapture the kind of spontaneous collaboration that can happen in those spaces with the social networking giant’s new building.

Dubbed by the company as the “largest open floor plan in the world,” the new 430,000-square-foot, single story facility in Menlo Park, Calif. places thousands of workers — Zuckerberg included — in a single giant room. Product teams are clustered together throughout the sprawling space, which resembles an aircraft hangar. Atop the building is a 9-acre park with walking trails and seats to host outdoor meetings.

The design of the new workspace, intended to encourage collaboration, is also supposed to reenforce Facebook’s overall mission of connecting the world. “We wanted our space to create the same sense of community and connection among our teams that we try to enable with our services across the world,” Zuckerberg said back in March when he and his employees moved in.

The building, called MPK 20 and designed by celebrated architect Frank Gehry, is a far cry from the more pedestrian office complex that used to be the base of their operations — although the company still uses that building as part of its campus. Here, we offer some comparison shots between the older and newer spaces.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly described the purpose of Facebook’s new facility. It is an extension of its headquarters.


TIME Innovation

Why It Might Be Time to Rethink Motherhood

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Motherhood is a cultural invention. It might be time to rethink it.

By Kathleen McCartney in the Boston Globe

2. You should want Facebook to give away your data.

By Tara E. Buck in EdTech

3. Do we have Alzheimer’s completely wrong?

By Turna Ray at Science Friday

4. On the brink of becoming Ebola-free, Liberia should embrace its survivors.

By AllAfrica

5. Can an app improve America’s crumbling infrastructure?

By Ashley Tate in NationSwell

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Social Media

How to Turn Off Everything You Hate About Facebook

Facebook logo on an iPhone 5s.
Lukas Schulze—picture-alliance/dpa/AP Facebook logo on an iPhone 5s.

Because we all need a break

Facebook can be a real hassle. It lets your friends spam you with annoying app invites, tells all your contacts when you’re online so they can harrass you, and bugs you about your old coworkers’ birthdays even though you haven’t seen them in three years. Facebook is a classic oversharer.

The good news is there’s a way to get Facebook to quiet down. The bad news is, well, there isn’t any bad news. In fact, all of these things might get you to love Facebook; it’s really an invaluable utility for most of us—and one that can be enlightening, funny, and interesting. But before it can be those things, you have to turn off all the things that annoy you. Luckily, that’s just a click of a few buttons away, so let’s get started.

App invites

Invitations to install apps or join games are the number one most frustrating feature of Facebook. Depending on how addicted your friends have become to the time-sucking titles on the site, you could be bombarded with invites on a daily basis, and most apps make it way too easy to spam an entire friends list with annoying alerts. It’s time to put an end to this nightmare.

Open your Settings screen on the Facebook Web client and click on the “Blocking” tab on the left sidebar. Under the heading “Block App Invites,” type in the name or names of anyone on your friends list who needs their app invite privileges revoked. You may also laugh maniacally while doing this, though that is entirely optional.

You can use this same page to block specific apps from contacting you entirely (goodbye forever, Mafia Wars!), and even prevent your friends from sending you event invitations, though those are typically far less frequent than the app invites we all know and loathe.

This story was originally published at the The Kernel, the Daily Dot’s Sunday magazine. Read the rest of the story at The Kernel.

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