This Week in Tech: From Facebook to Facial Recognition

Happy Friday … We’ve successfully made to the end of week 12 of 2019. Here’s what grabbed our attention over the past seven days in B2B tech:

In plain sight

In security news, Facebook acknowledged it had stored millions of user passwords in a plain text file, affecting logins for Facebook, Facebook Lite and Instagram. Organizations typically store user passwords using a cryptographic method called hashing; as its description implies, the plain text file found on a Facebook server could have been read by anyone who accessed it. First reported by security reporter Brian Krebs, the plain text file was accessible by thousands of Facebook’s employees and was easy pickings for any bad actors, though the company said the file was not breached.

Ironically, the breach that Facebook suffered in September (which resulted in the loss of 30 million users’ data) led to the security review that uncovered the plain text password file. This week’s security blunder was just the latest in a string of bad news for the social network.

At face value

Cnet’s Albert Ng posted a thoughtful long-read this week on the ethical use and potential regulation of AI-enabled facial recognition programs to combat shoplifters. While it describes a few over-the-top worst-case scenarios “… with facial recognition, getting caught in one store could … be shared across the country … One mistake could mean never being able to shop again” – the article clearly lays out the fine line between using technology for good and potentially violating the privacy of unsuspecting individuals.

Privacy advocates, legislators and technology think tanks are calling for different levels of regulation, laws and ethical standards. Facial-recognition software vendors, on the other hand, acknowledge the potential misuse and say they have established rules around what organizations they would allow to use their platforms. But some also admitted they don’t monitor if their customers might be using the collected data properly.
With a potential revenue of $10 billion by 2025, facial recognition technologies will only become more prevalent. It will be interesting to see if the industry has learned anything from the rapid rise of social media and its unexpected impact on societies when determining how to manage facial recognition’s potential downside.

Square’s open source project

Payments processing platform Square plans to hire a team to work on an open source cryptocurrency project. CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted this week that the development of the Square platform benefitted from the open source community, and this is the company’s way of contributing to an accessible, Internet-based financial system. According to the tweet the four engineers and designers will “will focus entirely on what’s best for the crypto community and individual economic empowerment, not on Square’s commercial interests. All resulting work will be open and free.”

Related pro tip

Concerned that your organization or client is unprepared for a potential data breach? There are a ton of resources on the SHIFT blog that can help. Try starting with Crisis Planning for Data Security Issues, which provides an overview of how to create a crisis management plan. Or, just give us a call!

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