Facebook, Instagram launch tools to help small businesses survive the pandemic

In a bid to help small businesses stay afloat during this turbulent time, Facebook and Instagram have launched a handful of new features that allow users to promote and support their favorites.

A digital gift card feature allows businesses to promote their gift cards directly through their Facebook Pages and News Feeds, and on Instagram by adding a sticker to their Stories or a button to their profile page.

Users, meanwhile, will be able to search for gift cards issued by local businesses – including hairdressers, restaurants, bookshops, grocery stores and more – and make purchases directly through either platform.

Pandemic support measures

The social media giants have doubled down on existing support extended to small businesses, such as the $ 100m Small Business Grants program, which will see Facebook provide cash support and ad credits to struggling firms.

Both platforms have now expanded their fundraising tools to allow businesses to create campaigns on Facebook to solicit donations from loyal customers and add a “Donate” button to Instagram Stories and profile pages.

Instagram has also rolled out a new “Support Small Business” sticker option, which lets users spotlight their most beloved businesses via their Stories. Mentioning a business directly using the sticker gives the user’s followers a preview of the account and highlights other firms the person has championed.

In an effort to make content published by small businesses more easily discoverable, Facebook has also launched a new feed called ‘Posts from Businesses Near You’ – a single destination from which users can browse the latest posts from local businesses.

“Running a company during Covid-19 is far from ‘business as usual’, and for smaller companies the impact of lockdown has hit hard,” said Steve Hatch, VP Northern Europe at Facebook.

“SMBs are the backbone of the economy, they sit at the heart of our communities and at Facebook they are part of our story as well, so we want to do all we can to support them at this challenging time,” he added.

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After backlash, Zoom ditches snooping Facebook code from iOS app

Following the revelation by Motherboard on Friday (March 27) that video calling platform Zoom was sharing user information with Facebook via its iOS app, the popular video conferencing service has rolled out an update for iOS users.

Zoom has removed the data-sharing code from the app, telling Motherboard in a statement that the 'Login with Facebook' feature was implemented "in order to provide our users with another convenient way to access our platform". 

That login feature – found on several apps – is applied by using a Facebook SDK (software development kit) that connects users of the app to Facebook's Graph API (Application Programming Interface) when the app is launched. The SDK can then share information with third parties, even if a user doesn't have a social media account with Facebook.

Facebook requires app makers to share this information with users in privacy policies, however Zoom's made no explicit mention that the social media company would have access to user data if there was no linked account.

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Zoom says it was "recently made aware that the Facebook SDK was collecting unnecessary device data" and has since removed the code and an updated version of the iOS app is now available on the App Store.

According to Zoom's statement to Motherboard, the app did not share any sensitive information, like user names, emails and phone numbers, but "included data about users’ devices such as the mobile OS type and version, the device time zone, device OS, device model and carrier, screen size, processor cores, and disk space". This coincides with Motherboard's findings from last week.

Motherboard has since tried out the updated iOS app and found that Zoom has, indeed, stopped sending data to Facebook when the app is launched. 

In the 'What's New' section of the app, Zoom says that, despite the Facebook SDK being removed, users will still be able to log in with their Facebook accounts if they have one. Users have been recommended to update the app to enable the changes.

Zoom has issued an apology for the "oversight" and the company says it "takes its users’ privacy extremely seriously".

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