Facebook is facing a new round of criticism for its (in)ability to keep users' information private.

An AFP story over the weekend states that both Germany's Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner and Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger were highly critical of Facebook after it emerged in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine that a sign-in flaw could allow non-Facebook users to access the contact list of Facebook users.

When a new user signs up for Facebook, he or she must enter their email address. However, the Frankfurter Allgemeine reported that if that person instead enters an existing Facebook user's email address, it is then possible to see that user's contact list. Given that there are some 500 million Facebook users (or about 25% of all Internet users), it wouldn't take too much effort to exploit the flaw.

Minister Aigner is quoted in the Frankfurter Allgemeine as describing the flaw as one in a "series of dubious practices" that shows "Facebook's lack of respect for the privacy of Internet users," while Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger is quoted in the newspaper as saying the flaw showed Facebook "lacked consideration in the management of personal data."

In April, Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger called on Facebook to upgrade its privacy settings, saying at the time that the company did not respect the privacy wishes of its users. This latest Facebook glitch has no doubt made her unhappy, as will a story that has appeared in today's Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reports that "Many of the most popular applications, or "apps," on the social networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information - in effect, providing access to people's names and, in some cases, their friends' names - to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies."

The problem even affects those with Facebook's strictest security settings, the WSJ says.

Facebook, when informed of the problem, told the WSJ that it would now be taking steps to limit the exposure of such information.

I also wonder if advertisers and Internet tracking companies have been secretly exploiting the flaw that the Frankfurter Allgemeine reported.

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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