Social media giant Facebook has announced the recipients of £626,000 in grants under its Secure the Internet programme, even as the company itself awaits a £500,000 fine from the Information Commissioner's Office for its failure to protect users' personal data.

Announced during last year's Black Hat USA security conference, the Secure the Internet programme sees Facebook handing out cash grants to researchers and developers from universities, non-profits, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) focusing on six key areas: Cryptography and encrypted messaging; online and offline safety, post-password authentication including behavioural biometrics; privacy for emerging markets; perceptual hash algorithms; and analysis of malicious activity, including hijacked Facebook accounts.

Late last night, the company named the recipients of the cash grants as follows: £78,000 to Galois Inc. for a project to build a verification toolchain for C++ cryptographic libraries; £78,000 to the Social Media Exchange Association for a research project on enhancing online and offline safety during internet disruptions in times of war; £72,000 to University College London for a study on understanding the use of hijacked Facebook accounts in-the-wild; £63,000 to Cornell University for a research project to advance digital privacy and security for novice internet users in the global south, focusing initially on Bangladesh; £63,000 to Clarkson University for a study on using behavioural biometrics for authentication; £63,000 to the University of California at San Diego for evaluating security outcomes when applying evidence-based security to improve cybersecurity risk; £63,000 to the City College of New York for an evaluation of private perceptual hash algorithms; £52,000 to Michigan State University for a study into mobile users' understanding and management of privacy on social media in South Africa; and £50,000 to Northeastern University the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems for a research project into privacy-protecting aggregate statistics for targeted advertising use.

'We gave out the awards at a ceremony last night in Las Vegas, where other Facebook security leaders and I had a chance to meet and talk with the winners about their projects. It was really interesting to hear from these people and the research they’re doing to help secure the internet,' writes Facebook's Aanchal Gupta in a blog post. 'While this is the first time we have offered the Secure the Internet Grants, we are continuing to award the Internet Defence Prize, which will provide an additional $200,000 to researchers on August 15 at the USENIX Security Symposium. We are considering other investments in the future. This program has been a great success, and it’s encouraging to see so much research being directed toward defence-based security to help better secure the internet.'

Facebook has not confirmed whether it plans to launch a new round of Secure the Internet funding next year.

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October 14 2021 | 15:04