More New Year’s resolutions for 2013 and sacrifices for Lent involve cutting down on Facebook.

More than a quarter of US Facebook users said they planned to spend less time on the social network in the coming year, according to new survey results released Tuesday. And almost two-thirds said they have taken a “Facebook Vacation” in the past, logging off the social network for several weeks at a time to get a break from their friends’ gossip and dinner reports.

Being “too busy” was the number one reason for taking the hiatus, while concerns about privacy and advertising ranked low in the explanations offered to surveyors from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Read more

US privacy advocates are urging US government officials not to “stand in the way” of European efforts to strengthen privacy laws in Europe.

On Monday, 18 American consumer and privacy NGOs sent a letter addressed to the US attorney general, secretary of state, and other top Obama administration officials, asking them to pull back on an intense lobbying campaign led by the US technology industry, and instead collaborate on the development of privacy laws in Europe and the US that give consumers more control over the collection and use of personal data over the internet. Read more

Turns out people’s obsession with photographing their food is worth millions of dollars.

Foodspotting, a three-year old mobile app that allows people to post photos and reviews of dishes, has been acquired by OpenTable, the online reservation system, for $10m in cash.

Foodspotting’s catalogue of 3m photos is small compared to the number of food images on Instagram, the Facebook-owned mobile photo-sharing site with more than 100m users. Instagram could prove a formidable force for the new partnership to battle if Facebook ever decides to build an advertising tool linking food photos with restaurants. Read more

Wall Street is predicting a good showing from Facebook on Wednesday when it reports financial results for the fourth quarter of 2012, and the full year.

Investor sentiment towards Facebook appears to have shifted towards a cautious optimism in the last quarter, with the company’s stock price rising back above $30 for the first time since its initial public offering in May, when shares were priced at $38, then quickly fell below $20.

Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group predicts the stock will pop after the next couple of earnings reports, then “come back to earth” as the market better understands the company.

This quarter, Facebook’s revenues will reflect advertising purchases related to the November presidential election and the holiday shopping season. Analysts are expecting the social network to report earnings per share of 15 cents on $1.53bn of revenue. For the full year, estimates average at 52 cents earnings per share on $5.03bn in revenue. Read more

Aaron Swartz, a computer programmer and ardent internet activist who played a key role opposing 2011 anti-piracy legislation, was found dead on Friday at age 26.

His family confirmed that he hanged himself in his apartment in Brooklyn, New York.

Friends and fans of Mr Swartz’ work flooded social media feeds and web sites over the weekend with grief-stricken tributes to a coder they considered a “genius” and a “hero”. Many offered lengthy defences of his activist work to make legal and academic documents available for free online – work that garnered the attention of government prosecutors and led to criminal charges still outstanding at the time of his death. Read more

Facebook’s push for more frictionless sharing is now reaching into the depths of photo albums past and future.

The social network is promoting Photo Sync, a new feature for its mobile app that allows people to automatically upload every picture taken with their mobile phones to a private Facebook album. They then choose which photos to share on Facebook, but the automatic upload makes that process much faster and easier.

Turning Facebook into a catch-all photo repository also gives the company a new glut of information about its users from the geo-location data attached to the photos. The company can now tell where you are, when, and with whom, even if you don’t make the images public. Read more

Flooding in New York

A monumental presidential election in 2008, social revolutions in the Middle East last year, and now Hurricane Sandy.

Photos of water lapping at the base of the Brooklyn carousel and spindly trees crashed upon car roofs have, er, flooded social media channels.

Just as Facebook burst into the mainstream during Barack Obama’s first presidential election campaign, today Instagram, the photo-sharing app now owned by Facebook, is finding widespread use as the preferred storytelling medium of the biggest storm in decades to hit the east coast. Read more

In the 2002 film Minority Report, John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, walks through a shopping mall of the future, where a storefront camera equipped with facial recognition technology recognises him and delivers a real-time, hyper-personalised ad: “John Anderton! You could use a Guinness right now.”

That future is now, with digital billboards able to determine a passer-by’s age, gender, and racial background, and even in some instances, an individual’s exact identity.

US regulators are anticipating the spread of these technical capabilities, attempting to protect consumer privacy before it gets breached. The Federal Trade Commission issued a set of recommendations on Monday for the evolution of facial recognition technology, beseeching companies that use it, like Facebook and Kraft, to design such features with a privacy-first approach. Read more

The increasing number of people using Facebook on mobile phones is driving revenues for the operators of the mobile networks, as people accumulate charges on their phone bills by scrolling through their newsfeed, and then calling their friends.

Vaughan Smith, Facebook’s vice president for mobile partnerships and corporate development, said that the company’s analyses show that Facebook users make 40 per cent more phone calls than non-Facebook users, and that the primary reason people are signing up for data connections on their mobile devices is to use Facebook. Read more

The Federal Trade Commission finalised its settlement agreement with Facebook over charges that the social network deceived consumers by repeatedly making public information users believed would be kept private.

The settlement was first reached last November, and requires Facebook to take several steps to ensure it “lives up to its promises” on privacy, including: obtaining express permission from users before sharing information beyond their privacy settings; maintaining a comprehensive privacy programme; and undergoing independent privacy audits once every two years. Read more