Facebook has extended its controversial 'Safety Check' to let people offer help.

The Safety Check tool has been available since 2014 and is activated whenever a crisis is present, allowing people to tell their friends and family that they are

Facebook has been accussed of building a giant database of biometric information on people's faces, against their will, in court documents filed against the firm in the US.

A class action suit announced on Monday asks for redress after what is described in court documents as the largest "privately held stash" of biometric face recognition data in the world, according to the US Courthouse News Service.

The case will be heard in Illinois, where Facebook will answer questions about its database in respect of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy (BIP) Act of 2008.

Lead plaintiff Carlo Licata is concerned that his face forms part of the database, and that it was included without his prior knowledge or permission.

Facebook has a "brazen disregard for its users' privacy rights", according to Licata, and has "secretly amassed the world's largest privately held database of consumer biometrics data".

The ability to collect this sort of information came about when Facebook acquired a company called Face in 2012. The firm said at the time that the investment would make it easier for users to tag and share photos.

The BIP Act prohibits the collection of biometric information without consent. Licata is arguing that Facebook has hidden such practices from its userbase, explaining that it "actively conceals" the database and "doesn't disclose its wholesale biometrics data collection practices in its privacy policies".

V3 asked Facebook for its response to the suit. The company did not provide direct comment but pointed us towards a statement on another site which said that Facebook is ready to challenge Licata's claims. "This lawsuit is without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously," the firm said.

Licata is seeking an injunction against Facebook and its tagging and identification practices, and an end to the "surreptitious collection, use and storage" of personal details.

Facebook is piloting a version of its social network designed for business use which separates corporate information from employees' personal profiles.

Facebook for Work sports a familiar look and feel as the standard platform, and aims to offer familiar tools to allow employees to better communicate and collaborate.

The company is testing Facebook at Work with a few unnamed partners. An accompanying app for Android and iOS is also being made available.

Facebook at Work offers recognisable features, such as news feed, groups, events and messages, but is tailored for use at individual organisations, rather than larger networks.

Information shared among employees on Facebook at Work will be accessible only to people in the organisation, thus bypassing concerns over security and confidentiality in the use of standard Facebook accounts.

Facebook said that it will use feedback from the pilot to improve the service. No details have been provided about release dates or whether Facebook at Work will incur a charge.

However, given that Facebook at Work is at the pilot stage and apps are available for the two leading mobile operating systems, it is likely to launch this year.

Many companies already use Facebook for social media advertising, customer services, marketing and presenting product and brand information to existing and potential customers.

Facebook at Work could generate an alternative source of revenue for Facebook, but it will face competition from the likes of Yammer and IBM Connections, both of which are designed specifically for enterprise use.

Social networks are playing an ever more important role in business. Salesforce recently added social data monitoring to Social Studio to allow companies to use social media across their departments.

Facebook has launched a new service called Rooms, which it describes as a way for people with common interests to link up by creating their own spaces, or Rooms, and eventually their own communities.

Rooms are basically a "forum, a scrap book, or virtual social club" where people can come together and share photos, documents and other items.

"One of the magical things about the early days of the web was connecting to people who you would never encounter otherwise in your daily life," Facebook said in a blog post introducing Rooms.

 

"Forums, message boards and chatrooms were meeting places for people who didn't necessarily share geographies or social connections, but had something in common. Places where what you said mattered more than who you were and whom you knew.

"Inspired by the ethos of these early web communities and the capabilities of modern smartphones, Rooms lets you create places for the things you're into, and invite others who are into them too."

Facebook Rooms is now available to download from iTunes, and users can tweak the look and feel of their Room and create permissions for joining, posting and linking.

Facebook has worked on Rooms with a set of community builders, but is interested in seeing work done by other parties. The company acknowledged that building up communities will take time.

 

"Our initial focus is on working closely with a small set of community builders. From talking with founders of successful communities, we've learned that many of the most successful communities on the internet grew very slowly," the firm said.

"If you think your Room has the potential to be one of those, we'd love to figure out how we can help. We're committed to helping you succeed."

Rooms is currently available in the UK on iOS and Apple devices, but the firm expects to roll it out further. Facebook credentials are not needed to take on a Room, and Facebook is not linking Rooms to its social networking data.

People will also be able to use nicknames or pseudonyms in Rooms, which are invitation-only.

The European Commission has officially approved Facebook's proposed acquisition of WhatsApp, after ruling that it will not give the company a monopoly over the mobile messaging market.

The EC found that, in spite of similarities, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are not competitors, and alternative services exist for consumers.

Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp cannot therefore be considered a move by the firm to buy up a rival.

Joaquín Almunia, vice president in charge of policy at the EC, said that Europeans have a wide choice of consumer communication apps and are not limited to Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, despite the two services being the most popular in the market.

"We have carefully reviewed this proposed acquisition and come to the conclusion that it would not hamper competition in this dynamic and growing market," stated Almunia.

The EC identified services such as Google Hangouts, Telegram, iMessage and WeChat as competitors to Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

The investigation did note that Facebook could bolster its already healthy position in the online advertising sector by adding ads to WhatsApp, but decided that such a move would not hamper competition in the advertising space.

Privacy concerns over WhatsApp data also came under EC scrutiny, but it was decided that any privacy concerns regarding increased data flowing to Facebook as a result of acquisitions were "not within the scope of EU competition law".

The decision in Facebook's favour means that the $19bn acquisition of WhatsApp, which was put into process back in April, will not meet any opposition from the EC.

However, the deal did incur some opposition from European telecoms companies, such as Orange, Deutsche Telekom and Telecom Italia, which will now have the social networking giant as a rival.

V3 contacted Facebook for comment on its plans for WhatsApp in Europe, but the company has yet to respond.

The deal will be Facebook's largest, far outstripping its purchase of virtual reality headset firm Oculus Rift for $2bn.

Oversharing on Facebook is pretty much always annoying. You ate a sandwich? Great—but we don’t need to see it on our newsfeed. Those lovey-dovey posts about how handsome your hubby is, or pictures of the two of you smooching? Also annoying—but there’s more to those posts than you might think. A new study suggests that excessively posting about your relationship may be related to self-esteem—and not in a good way.

Researchers at Albright College surveyed Facebook users in romantic relationships about their motivations for using Facebook, as well as their relationship satisfaction and their personality traits. Those who were more satisfied with their relationhsip were more likely to use Facebook to share couple photos, details of their relationship, and affectionate comments on the other person’s wall.

Sounds great, right? But there’s also a downside: Posting all of those mushy statuses also reveals a higher degree of “relationship contingent self-esteem,” which basically means that the person's confidence is strongly tied to their relationship status. The study also suggested that individuals who scored higher on the personality trait neuroticism were more likely to feel the need to brag about their relationship, or even monitor their partner online, to maintain their self-esteem.

We already know that oversharing on social media can be damaging to your relationship. One study found that people who use Facebook more than once a day are more likely to see relationship conflicts arising from social media (yikes!) and another found that people who posted shamelessly about their relationships on social media were actually the least likeable.

But the researchers in the latest study say that people often overshare about their relationships to make others (and themselves) feel more secure about their bond. The big problem with this is that if your self-esteem is totally wrapped up in a relationship, it could implode if that relationship falls apart.

So how can you boost your self-esteem in a healthy way that won't annoy everyone online? Focus on things within yourself (the things that you really enjoy doing, or the talents that make you feel best about yourself) every day. Try these exercises for building self-esteem and these tips to stay true to yourself in a relationship. 

We're always warning people not to “overshare” online, lest they limit their future job opportunities,  expose themselves to fraud, or just gross us out. Now there's another reason not to share: to avoid being tricked and manipulated by the very Web services you use.

 

The revelation by university researchers that Facebook had allowed user feeds to be manipulated in order to see just how bad a day they could create for hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting people was a reminder that companies touting online services should be viewed with heaping doses of skepticism. The case has raised some serious ethical issues—human experimentation of this sort usually requires the consent of the participants—and questions about whether the Facebook psychological exploit generated any incidents of cyberbullying or suicide. But it also served as a reminder that Web services don't usually deliver what they claim they deliver--or imply that they deliver. 

 

At a talk last month at Harvard University given by researchers from several universities, the presenters reminded attendees that Facebook constantly manipulates, edits, and exploits the feeds that its users see. You are not actually allowed to see everything your friends post. Simple algorithms are at work, guessing your interests, inclinations and proclivities. Even close friends and family posts are blocked, although most people (more than half) do not realize their feeds are manipulated.

 

So Aunt Wendy, I'm not ignoring you, it's just that Facebook won't let me see your posts. Honest.

 

Taking the experimentation one step further and out into the real world, the folks who run the dating site OkCupid decided it would be interesting to intentionally set people up on terrible dates. Claiming that the site uses “math to get you dates” it actually was treating people like lab rats, purposely creating mismatched couples while telling the unwitting participants they had found their soulmates. Why? Because, in the same vein of kids who pull the wings off of flies, they wanted to see what would happen. And tweak their software accordingly.

 

All this algorithmic chicanery is in the name of targeted marketing and advertising. They are not just trying to make your life miserable without reason. If they can just push the right emotional buttons, you'll buy more things. Depressed by your Facebook feed? How about an uplifting movie and some ice cream? Disappointed by your last date? How about a mani-pedi or joining a new fitness club?

 

Neither Facebook nor OkCupid has unreservedly apologized or promised not to experiment with users again. On the contrary, the consensus among these companies and others like them is that this is how business is done; marketing is primary, users are just data. Indeed, the problem is so endemic that social and computer science researchers like those that presented at Harvard argue that these algorithms should be audited to prevent discrimination and abuse.

 

Until that begins to happen, we could share a lot less with these companies, at least until they prove they are worthy of our trust. Or, we could just remind ourselves never to trust the digital economy and feed it lots of erroneous information. I have several FB friends who use false birthdays and even maintain the charade, accepting birthday wishes on their fake birthdays. Take that, darned algorithm!

 

Or in the vein of JenniCam and the acceptance that every part of our lives will be exposed online, we could go the other way and become completely transparent. No cyber secrets, at least from your paramour. There's now a program for couples that want to go the digital see-through route and share everything with each other online. Called mCouple, the app lets your partner see your personal texts, phone calls, e-mail, FB chats, pictures, and location, 24/7. It even works if you're Android and she's iOS. Talk about trust.

 

The question is, are you willing to share and share alike and be an online guinea pig?