Facebook moves to shrink its legal liabilities under GDPR

Facebook has another change in the works to respond to the European Union’s beefed up data protection framework — and this one looks intended to shrink its legal liabilities under GDPR, and at scale.

Late yesterday Reuters reported on a change incoming to Facebook’s T&Cs that it said will be pushed out next month — meaning all non-EU international are switched from having their data processed by Facebook Ireland to Facebook USA.

With this shift, Facebook will ensure that the privacy protections afforded by the EU’s incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — which applies from May 25 — will not cover the ~1.5BN+ international Facebook users who aren’t EU citizens (but current have their data processed in the EU, by Facebook Ireland).

The U.S. does not have a comparable data protection framework to GDPR. While the incoming EU framework substantially strengthens penalties for data protection violations, making the move a pretty logical one for Facebook’s lawyers thinking about how it can shrink its GDPR liabilities.

Reuters says Facebook confirmed the change to it, though the company played down the significance — repeating its claim that it will be making the same privacy “controls and settings” available everywhere. (Though, as has been previously pointed out, this does not mean the same GDPR principles will be applied by Facebook everywhere.)

At the time of writing Facebook had not responded to a request for comment on the change.

Critics have couched the T&Cs shift as regressive — arguing it’s a reduction in the level of privacy protection that would otherwise have applied for international users, thanks to GDPR. Although whether these EU privacy rights would really have been enforceable for non-Europeans is questionable.

According to Reuters the T&Cs shift will affect more than 70 per cent of Facebook’s 2BN+ users. As of December, Facebook had 239M users in the US and Canada; 370M in Europe; and 1.52BN users elsewhere.

It also reports that Microsoft -owned LinkedIn is one of several other multinational companies planning to make the same data processing shift for international users — with LinkedIn’s new terms set to take effect on May 8, moving non-Europeans to contracts with the U.S.-based LinkedIn Corp.

In a statement to Reuters about the change LinkedIn also played it down, saying: “We’ve simply streamlined the contract location to ensure all members understand the LinkedIn entity responsible for their personal data.”

One interesting question is whether these sorts of data processing shifts could encourage regulators in international regions outside the EU to push for a similarly extraterritorial scope for their data protection laws — or face their citizens’ data falling between the jurisdiction cracks via processing arrangements designed to shrink companies’ legal liabilities.

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Another interesting question is how Facebook (or any other multinationals making the same shift) can be entirely sure it’s not risking violating any of its EU users’ fundamental rights if it accidentally misclassifies an individual as an non-EU international users — and processes their data via Facebook USA.

Keeping data processing processes properly segmented can be difficult. As can definitively identifying a user’s legal jurisdiction based on their location (if that’s even available). So while Facebook’s T&C change here looks intended to shrink its legal liabilities under GDPR, it’s possible the change will open up another front for individuals to pursue strategic litigation in the coming months.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/19/facebook-moves-to-shrink-its-legal-liabilities-under-gdpr/

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Facebook has a new job posting calling for chip designers

Facebook has posted a job opening looking for an expert in ASIC and FPGA, two custom silicon designs that companies can gear toward specific use cases — particularly in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

There’s been a lot of speculation in the valley as to what Facebook’s interpretation of custom silicon might be, especially as it looks to optimize its machine learning tools — something that CEO Mark Zuckerberg referred to as a potential solution for identifying misinformation on Facebook using AI. The whispers of Facebook’s customized hardware range depending on who you talk to, but generally center around operating on the massive graph Facebook possesses around personal data. Most in the industry speculate that it’s being optimized for Caffe2, an AI infrastructure deployed at Facebook, that would help it tackle those kinds of complex problems.

FPGA is designed to be a more flexible and modular design, which is being championed by Intel as a way to offer the ability to adapt to a changing machine learning-driven landscape. The downside that’s commonly cited when referring to FPGA is that it is a niche piece of hardware that is complex to calibrate and modify, as well as expensive, making it less of a cover-all solution for machine learning projects. ASIC is similarly a customized piece of silicon that a company can gear toward something specific, like mining cryptocurrency.

Facebook’s director of AI research tweeted about the job posting this morning, noting that he previously worked in chip design:

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While the whispers grow louder and louder about Facebook’s potential hardware efforts, this does seem to serve as at least another partial data point that the company is looking to dive deep into custom hardware to deal with its AI problems. That would mostly exist on the server side, though Facebook is looking into other devices like a smart speaker. Given the immense amount of data Facebook has, it would make sense that the company would look into customized hardware rather than use off-the-shelf components like those from Nvidia.

(The wildest rumor we’ve heard about Facebook’s approach is that it’s a diurnal system, flipping between machine training and inference depending on the time of day and whether people are, well, asleep in that region.)

Most of the other large players have found themselves looking into their own customized hardware. Google has its TPU for its own operations, while Amazon is also reportedly working on chips for both training and inference. Apple, too, is reportedly working on its own silicon, which could potentially rip Intel out of its line of computers. Microsoft is also diving into FPGA as a potential approach for machine learning problems.

Still, that it’s looking into ASIC and FPGA does seem to be just that — dipping toes into the water for FPGA and ASIC. Nvidia has a lot of control over the AI space with its GPU technology, which it can optimize for popular AI frameworks like TensorFlow. And there are also a large number of very well-funded startups exploring customized AI hardware, including Cerebras Systems, SambaNova Systems, Mythic, and Graphcore (and that isn’t even getting into the large amount of activity coming out of China). So there are, to be sure, a lot of different interpretations as to what this looks like.

One significant problem Facebook may face is that this job opening may just sit up in perpetuity. Another common criticism of FPGA as a solution is that it is hard to find developers that specialize in FPGA. While these kinds of problems are becoming much more interesting, it’s not clear if this is more of an experiment than Facebook’s full all-in on custom hardware for its operations.

But nonetheless, this seems like more confirmation of Facebook’s custom hardware ambitions, and another piece of validation that Facebook’s data set is becoming so increasingly large that if it hopes to tackle complex AI problems like misinformation, it’s going to have to figure out how to create some kind of specialized hardware to actually deal with it.

A representative from Facebook did not yet return a request for comment.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/18/facebook-has-a-new-job-posting-calling-for-chip-designers/

Data experts on Facebook’s GDPR changes: Expect lawsuits

Make no mistake: Fresh battle lines are being drawn in the clash between data-mining tech giants and Internet users over people’s right to control their personal information and protect their privacy.

An update to European Union data protection rules next month — called the General Data Protection Regulation — is the catalyst for this next chapter in the global story of tech vs privacy.

A fairytale ending would remove that ugly ‘vs’ and replace it with an enlightened ‘+’. But there’s no doubt it will be a battle to get there — requiring legal challenges and fresh case law to be set down — as an old guard of dominant tech platforms marshal their extensive resources to try to hold onto the power and wealth gained through years of riding roughshod over data protection law.

Payback is coming though. Balance is being reset. And the implications of not regulating what tech giants can do with people’s data has arguably never been clearer.

The exciting opportunity for startups is to skate to where the puck is going — by thinking beyond exploitative legacy business models that amount to embarrassing blackboxes whose CEOs dare not publicly admit what the systems really do — and come up with new ways of operating and monetizing services that don’t rely on selling the lie that people don’t care about privacy.

 

More than just small print

Right now the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation can take credit for a whole lot of spilt ink as tech industry small print is reworded en masse. Did you just receive a T&C update notification about a company’s digital service? Chances are it’s related to the incoming standard.

The regulation is generally intended to strengthen Internet users’ control over their personal information, as we’ve explained before. But its focus on transparency — making sure people know how and why data will flow if they choose to click ‘I agree’ — combined with supersized fines for major data violations represents something of an existential threat to ad tech processes that rely on pervasive background harvesting of users’ personal data to be siphoned biofuel for their vast, proprietary microtargeting engines.

This is why Facebook is not going gentle into a data processing goodnight.

Indeed, it’s seizing on GDPR as a PR opportunity — shamelessly stamping its brand on the regulatory changes it lobbied so hard against, including by taking out full page print ads in newspapers…

Can data science save social media?

The unfettered internet is too often used for malicious purposes and is frequently woefully inaccurate. Social media — especially Facebook — has failed miserably at protecting user privacy and blocking miscreants from sowing discord.

That’s why CEO Mark Zuckerberg was just forced to testify about user privacy before both houses of Congress. And now governmental regulation of Facebook and other social media appears to be a fait accompli.

At this key juncture, the crucial question is whether regulation — in concert with Facebook’s promises to aggressively mitigate its weaknesses — will correct the privacy abuses and continue to fulfill Facebook’s goal of giving people the power to build transparent communities, bringing the world closer together?

The answer is maybe.

What has not been said is that Facebook must embrace data science methodologies initially created in the bowels of the federal government to help protect its two billion users. Simultaneously, Facebook must still enable advertisers — its sole source of revenue — to get the user data required to justify their expenditures.

Specifically, Facebook must promulgate and embrace what is known in high-level security circles as homomorphic encryption (HE), often considered the “Holy Grail” of cryptography, and data provenance (DP). HE would enable Facebook, for example, to generate aggregated reports about its user psychographic profiles so that advertisers could still accurately target groups of prospective customers without knowing their actual identities.

Meanwhile, data provenance — the process of tracing and recording true identities and the origins of data and its movement between databases — could unearth the true identities of Russian perpetrators and other malefactors, or at least identify unknown provenance, adding much-needed transparency in cyberspace.

Both methodologies are extraordinarily complex. IBM and Microsoft, in addition to the National Security Agency, have been working on HE for years, but the technology has suffered from significant performance challenges. Progress is being made, however. IBM, for example, has been granted a patent on a particular HE method — a strong hint it’s seeking a practical solution — and last month proudly announced that its rewritten HE encryption library now works up to 75 times faster. Maryland-based ENVEIL, a startup staffed by the former NSA HE team, has broken the performance barriers required to produce a commercially viable version of HE, benchmarking millions of times faster than IBM in tested use cases.

How homomorphic encryption would help Facebook

HE is a technique used to operate on and draw useful conclusions from encrypted data without decrypting it, simultaneously protecting the source of the information. It is useful to Facebook because its massive inventory of personally identifiable information is the foundation of the economics underlying its business model. The more comprehensive the data sets about individuals, the more precisely advertising can be targeted.

HE could keep Facebook information safe from hackers and inappropriate disclosure, but still extract the essence of what the data tells advertisers. It would convert encrypted data into strings of numbers, do math with these strings, then decrypt the results to get the same answer it would if the data wasn’t encrypted at all.

A particularly promising sign for HE emerged last year, when Google revealed a new marketing measurement tool that relies on this technology to allow advertisers to see whether their online ads result in in-store purchases.

Unearthing this information requires analyzing data sets belonging to separate organizations, notwithstanding the fact that these organizations pledge to protect the privacy and personal information of the data subjects. HE skirts this by generating aggregated, non-specific reports about the comparisons between these data sets.

In pilot tests, HE enabled Google to successfully analyze encrypted data about who clicked on an advertisement in combination with another encrypted multi-company data set that recorded credit card purchase records. With this data in hand, Google was able to provide reports to advertisers summarizing the relationship between the two databases to conclude, for example, that five percent of the people who clicked on an ad wound up purchasing in a store.

Data provenance

Data provenance has a markedly different core principle. It’s based on the fact that digital information is atomized into 1s and 0s with no intrinsic truth. The dual digits exist only to disseminate information, whether accurate or widely fabricated. A well-crafted lie can easily be indistinguishable from the truth and distributed across the internet. What counts is the source of these 1s and 0s. In short, is it legitimate? What is the history of the 1s and 0s?

The art market, as an example, deploys DP to combat fakes and forgeries of the world’s greatest paintings, drawings and sculptures. It uses DP techniques to create a verifiable, chain-of-custody for each piece of the artwork, preserving the integrity of the market.

Much the same thing can be done in the online world. For example, a Facebook post referencing a formal statement by a politician, with an accompanying photo, would have provenance records directly linking the post to the politician’s press release and even the specifics of the photographer’s camera. The goal — again — is ensuring that data content is legitimate.

Companies such as Walmart, Kroger, British-based Tesco and Swedish-based H&M, an international clothing retailer, are using or experimenting with new technologies to provide provenance data to the marketplace.

Let’s hope that Facebook and its social media brethren begin studying HE and DP thoroughly and implement it as soon as feasible. Other strong measures — such as the upcoming implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which will use a big stick to secure personally identifiable information — essentially should be cloned in the U.S. What is best, however, are multiple avenues to enhance user privacy and security, while hopefully preventing breaches in the first place. Nothing less than the long-term viability of social media giants is at stake.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/18/can-data-science-save-social-media/

Login With Facebook data hijacked by JavaScript trackers

Facebook confirms to TechCrunch that it’s investigating a security research report that shows Facebook user data can be grabbed by third-party JavaScript trackers embedded on websites using Login With Facebook. The exploit lets these trackers gather a user’s data including name, email address, age range, gender, locale, and profile photo depending on what users originally provided to the website. It’s unclear what these trackers do with the data, but many of their parent companies including Tealium, AudienceStream, Lytics, and ProPS sell publisher monetization services based on collected user data.

The abusive scripts were found on 434 of the top 1 million websites including freelancer site Fiverr.com, camera seller B&H Photo And Video, and cloud database provider MongoDB. That’s according to Steven Englehardt and his colleagues at Freedom To Tinker, which is hosted by Princeton’s Center For Information Technology Policy.

Meanwhile, concert site BandsInTown was found to be passing Login With Facebook user data to embedded scripts on sites that install its Amplified advertising product. An invisible BandsInTown iframe would load on these sites, pulling in user data that was then accessible to embedded scripts. That let any malicious site using BandsInTown learn the identity of visitors. BandsInTown has now fixed this vulnerability.

TechCrunch is still awaiting a formal statement from Facebook beyond “We will look into this and get back to you.” After TechCrunch brough the issue to MongoDB’s attention this morning, it investigated and just provided this statement “We were unaware that a third-party technology was using a tracking script that collects parts of Facebook user data. We have identified the source of the script and shut it down.” Fiverr and BandsInTown did not respond before press time.

 

The discovery of these data security flaws comes at a vulnerable time for Facebook. The company is trying to recover from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, CEO Mark Zuckerberg just testified before congress, and today it unveiled privacy updates to comply with Europe’s GDPR law. But Facebook’s recent API changes designed to safeguard user data didn’t prevent these exploits. And the situation shines more light on the little-understood ways Facebook users are tracked around the Internet, not just on its site.

“When a user grants a website access to their social media profile, they are not only trusting that website, but also third parties embedded on that site” writes Englehardt. This chart shows that what some trackers are pulling from users. Freedom To Tinker warned OnAudience about another security issue recently, leading it to stop collecting user info.

Facebook could have identified these trackers and prevented these exploits with sufficient API auditing. It’s currently ramping up API auditing as it hunts down other developers that might have improperly shared, sold, or used data like how Dr. Aleksandr Kogan’s app’s user data ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica. Facebook could also change its systems to prevent developers from taking an app-specific user ID and employing it to discover that person’s permanent overarching Facebook user ID.

Revelations like this are likely to beckon a bigger data backlash. Over the years, the public had became complacent about the ways their data was exploited without consent around the web. While it’s Facebook in the hot seat, other tech giants like Google rely on user data and operate developer platforms that can be tough to police. And news publishers, desperate to earn enough from ads to survive, often fall in with sketchy ad networks and trackers.

Zuckerberg makes an easy target because the Facebook founder is still the CEO, allowing critics and regulators to blame him for the social network’s failings. But any company playing fast and loose with user data should be sweating.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/18/login-with-facebook-data-hijacked-by-javascript-trackers/

Why Understanding Your Customers is the Only Marketing Strategy You Need

We all want to be “successful” marketers.

But what does success in marketing even mean?

Sure, we can track analytics.

We can count how many social followers we have.

We can watch our number of website visitors grow.

But how do we know what is really successful?

When it comes down to it, there is only one judge for a successful marketing campaign.

The customers.

There are dozens of “how to” guides and “best practices” marketers can follow.

But the truth of the matter is, if your audience doesn’t connect with it, it doesn’t matter how successful it was for another company or brand.

To truly develop a “successful” marketing campaign, understanding your customers is the only thing you need to do.

What is a customer-centric marketing approach?

Customer-centric marketing uses personalized messages, products, content, and more to ensure the consumer is getting exactly what they’re looking for.

But a customer-centric approach needs to go beyond just your marketing.

It requires creating a “customer-centric organization, not just a customer-centric marketing department,” says IDC research analyst Gerry Murray.

Putting your customers’ needs first can help improve relationships with your audience and retain customers.

This is because customers like to feel like they’re being given special treatment.

In fact, 90% of consumers found personalization appealing, while 80% said they’d be more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized approaches.

the appeal of personalization

With a customer-centric marketing approach, companies stop trying to tell their shoppers what they need.

This kind of traditional marketing has become unappealing and untrustworthy.

With 2 in 10 consumers stating they don’t like online ads, it can be complicated to reach shoppers with traditional marketing.

ad sentiment

This is where a customer-centric strategy works a bit differently.

Instead of pushing products and hoping someone will buy, customer-centric businesses craft their messaging, products, and content around the unique needs of their target audience.

Let’s take a look at Southwest Airlines.

Airlines notoriously have a reputation for having poor customer service.

Southwest Airlines, however, has been able to remove themselves from this stereotype to provide a customer-centric marketing approach that their customers love.

They don’t stuff their planes full of TV screens, big seats, or fancy meals and then demand extreme prices for these unnecessary luxuries.

Instead, they offer affordable pricing and won’t charge you ridiculous fees for things like baggage or wanting to change your travel dates.

By giving them what they want – not what marketers think they want – they can gain more attention and see higher conversions.

This has put Southwest Airlines at the front of the airline industry when it comes to customer satisfaction.

customer service rankings of US airlines

Now, compare that to United Airlines – a company who hasn’t had the best year.

Who could forget the time they forcefully dragged a passenger off a plane or when they ordered a family to put their dog in an overhead compartment?

United Airlines has struggled to put their customer’s needs at the forefront of their business – and it’s definitely cost them.

Due to their scandals, 67.3% of customers feel at least somewhat negative about the airline with 53.7% feel less willing to purchase a ticket from United Airlines.

Because customers have other options and feel undervalued or even threatened by the company’s lack of attention, they’ll turn elsewhere.

The importance of knowing your customers well

There are over 82 million blog posts published each month – just on WordPress.

blog posts published each month

Month after month, more and more companies and individuals are taking advantage of blogging.

However, consumers don’t have time to waste on low-quality content they don’t connect with.

And they don’t have to.

If one article doesn’t fit their needs, there are dozens more they can turn to.

The best way to stand out is by creating unique content relevant to the needs of your target audience.

In fact, 58% of content marketers said audience relevance was the biggest contributor to success.

audience relevance biggest contributor

When you can create content that fits the unique needs of your target audience, they can develop trust and familiarity with your brand.

This can make them more loyal to your company and products.

Having loyal customers who make repeat purchases can be a major benefit to your bottom line.

And, there’s proof.

Loyal customers end up being worth ten times their original purchase.

loyal customes worth 10x more helpscout

This is because loyal customers are easier to sell to.

This dramatically reduces the amount of time that customer needs to spend being nurtured and convinced.

Instead, they can jump right back into the sales funnel.

In fact, past customers have a 65% chance of converting compared to a 13% chance for new prospects.

repeat customers easier to sell

By paying attention to your customers’ needs, you can reduce your marketing costs while bringing in more sales and profit.

Loyal customers are also more likely to support you in getting new business.

When a customer is happy with their brand, they’ll want to share their experience with their friends and family.

These recommendations can help boost your trust with new leads and can get you more sales.

In fact, 82% of Americans say they look for recommendations from friends and family when they’re considering a purchase.

why are online reviews important

When you stop trying to guess what your customers are looking for and start listening to what they’re telling you, you increase revenue while creating long-term relationships.

It’s a win-win.

Take a look at Harley-Davidson.

When you buy a Harley, you’re doing more than just buying a motorcycle. You’re becoming part of a tribe.

This kind of cult brand goes beyond simple brand loyalty.

Harley-Davidson built its reputation as a brand for individuals who don’t play by the rules, but they went beyond that to make it their mission to bring like-minded individuals together.

By introducing their Harley Owners Group chapters, local Harley fanatics could get together for rides, charity events, and more.

At its peak, HOG had over 1 million members.

Harley-Davidson didn’t simply create a brand their customers loved.

They created a lifestyle.

How to get to know your customers better

You’re not going to get to know your customers overnight.

Your customers are dynamic people.

As their needs change, you change.

Amazon’s CEO and Founder, Jeff Bezos, describes his approach to customers like this:

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

As one of the most customer-centric companies in the world, it’s safe to say Amazon knows a thing or two about getting to know their audience.

To help you pull a page from Amazon’s book, here are five tips to get to know your customers better.

1. Build out your buyer persona.

A buyer persona is a guide to the individuals you are trying to attract.

Typically, a buyer persona would describe one ideal customer or client in great detail.

Here’s a pretty basic buyer persona template from HubSpot.

hubspot buyer persona

Within this persona, you can outline some pretty basic information about your target audience.

This includes their basic demographics and background, and some unique identifiers.

However, if you really want to make your customers the focus of your marketing, you’re going to want to get much deeper than this.

Compare HubSpot’s template to this example from Iron Spring Designs.

iron springs designs buyer persona

While it still covers a lot of the same information as the basic persona, it dives much deeper into who the character really is.

Once you’ve created your basic buyer persona, think of how you can take it a bit further.

What challenges does your customer face?

What are they scared of?

Who influences their choices and how they live their life?

A lot of this information may not seem relevant to your brand and business, but getting the full picture can allow you to establish deeper connections.

Here’s another great example of a persona you can pull from.

kelli buyer persona

However, when creating your buyer personas, you can’t simply create a customer from thin air – especially if you already have a loyal customer base.

Think about Gap’s 2010 rebrand.

The clothing company, known for their basics and staples, decided to go for a younger, trendier crowd – all while neglecting their current customer base.

And people weren’t happy.

While you can use your customer persona to shape the direction you want your business to go, you can’t simply drop your old customers in favor of the new ideal clients you’ve thought up.

Instead, create multiple personas that can coexist.

Remember, creating personas shouldn’t be a one-and-done type deal.

To truly understand your target audience and who they are, you need to watch how they evolve.

Come back and revisit your buyer persona every few months, or after a major shift in your industry occurs.

2. Listen to them on social media.

Our customers’ social pages are a bit like their journals.

Except that they’re willing to display everything in public.

By properly listening to your audience on social, you can learn a lot about what they’re looking for and how they feel about your brand.

However, if you’re strictly looking at mentions, posts, and comments directed at your business, you’re missing out.

Social listening – which differs from simple social monitoring – provides businesses with insights about how they’re meeting (or missing) client expectations.

Let’s take a look at Chipotle.

The incredibly popular food chain has had a bit of a rough year, with multiple food safety scandals.

So, it’s no surprise that food safety is at the center of the majority of conversations about them on Twitter.

YouTube promises expansion of sponsorships, other monetization tools for creators

YouTube says it’s rolling out more tools to help its creators make money from their videos. The changes are meant to address creators’ complaints over YouTube’s new monetization policies announced earlier this year. Those policies were designed to make the site more advertiser-friendly following a series of controversies over video content from top creators, including videos from Logan Paul, who had filmed a suicide victim, and PewDiePie, who repeatedly used racial slurs, for example.

The company then decided to set a higher bar to join its YouTube Partner Program, which is what allows video publishers to make money through advertising. Previously, creators only needed 10,000 total views to join; they now need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of view time over the past year to join. This resulted in wide-scale demonetization of videos that previously relied on ads.

The company has also increased policing of video content in recent months, but its systems haven’t always been accurate.

YouTube said in February it was working on better systems for reviewing video content when a video is demonetized over its content. One such change, enacted at the time, involved the use of machine learning technology to address misclassifications of videos related to this policy. This, in turn, has reduced the number of appeals from creators who want a human review of their video content instead.

According to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, the volume of appeals is down by 50 percent as a result.

Wojcicki also announced another new program related to video monetization which is launching into pilot testing with a small number of creators starting this month.

This system will allow creators to disclose, specifically, what sort of content is in their video during the upload process, as it relates to YouTube’s advertiser-friendly guidelines.

“In an ideal world, we’ll eventually get to a state where creators across the platform are able to accurately represent what’s in their videos so that their insights, combined with those of our algorithmic classifiers and human reviewers, will make the monetization process much smoother with fewer false positive demonetizations,” said Wojcicki.

Essentially, this system would rely on self-disclosure regarding content, which would then be factored in as another signal for YouTube’s monetization algorithms to consider. This was something YouTube had also said in February was in the works.

Because not all videos will be brand-safe or meet the requirements to become a YouTube Partner, YouTube now says it will also roll out alternative means of making money from videos. 

This includes an expansion of “sponsorships,” which have been in testing since last fall with a select group of creators.

Similar to Twitch subscriptions, sponsorships were introduced to the YouTube Gaming community as a way to support favorites creators through monthly subscriptions (at $4.99/mo), while also receiving various perks like custom emoji and a custom badge for live chat.

Now YouTube says “many more creators” will gain access to sponsorships in the months ahead, but it’s not yet saying how those creators will be selected, or if they’ll have to meet certain requirements, as well. It’s also unclear if YouTube will roll these out more broadly to its community, outside of gaming.

Wojcicki gave updates on various other changes YouTube has enacted in recent months. For example, she said that YouTube’s new moderation tools have led to a 75-plus percent decline in comment flags on channels, where enabled, and these will now be expanded to 10 languages. YouTube’s newer social network-inspired Community feature has also been expanded to more channels, she noted.

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The company also patted itself on the back for its improved communication with the wider creator community, saying that this year it has increased replies by 600 percent and improved its reply rate by 75 percent to tweets addressed to its official handles: @TeamYouTube, @YTCreators, and @YouTube.

While that may be true, it’s notable that YouTube isn’t publicly addressing the growing number of complaints from creators who – rightly or wrongly – believe their channel has been somehow “downgraded” by YouTube’s recommendation algorithms, resulting in declining views and loss of subscribers.

This is the issue that led the disturbed individual, Nasim Najafi Aghdam, to attack YouTube’s headquarters earlier this month. Police said that Aghdam, who shot at YouTube employees before killing herself, was “upset with the policies and practices of YouTube.”

It’s obvious, then, why YouTube is likely proceeding with extreme caution when it comes to communicating its policy changes, and isn’t directly addressing complaints similar to Aghdam’s from others in the community.

But the creator backlash is still making itself known. Just read the Twitter replies or comment thread on Wojcicki’s announcement. YouTube’s smaller creators feel they’ve been unfairly punished because of the misdeeds of a few high-profile stars. They’re angry that they don’t have visibility into why their videos are seeing reduced viewership – they only know that something changed.

YouTube glosses over this by touting the successes of its bigger channels.

“Over the last year, channels earning five figures annually grew more than 35 percent, while channels earning six figures annually grew more than 40 percent,” Wojcicki said, highlighting YouTube’s growth.

In fairness, however, YouTube is in a tough place. Its site became so successful over the years, that it became impossible for it to police all the uploads manually. At first, this was the cause for celebration and the chance to put Google’s advanced engineering and technology to work. But these days, as with other sites of similar scale, the challenging of policing bad actors among billions of users, is becoming a Herculean task – and one companies are failing at, too.

YouTube’s over-reliance on algorithms and technology has allowed for a lot of awful content to see daylight – including inappropriate videos aimed a children, disturbing videos, terrorist propaganda, hate speech, fake news and conspiracy theories, unlabeled ads disguised as product reviews or as “fun” content, videos of kids that attract pedophiles, and commenting systems that allowed for harassment and trolling at scale.

To name a few.

YouTube may have woken up late to its numerous issues, but it’s not ignorant of them, at least.

“We know the last year has not been easy for many of you. But we’re committed to listening and using your feedback to help YouTube thrive,” Wojcicki said. “While we’re proud of this progress, I know we have more work to do.”

That’s putting it mildly.

 


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/18/youtube-promises-expansion-of-sponsorships-other-monetization-tools-for-creators/

Update: Virtual Instagram celebrity ‘Lil Miquela’ has had her account hacked

The Instagram account for the virtual celebrity known as Lil Miquela had been hacked, taking the virtual celebrity offline for about a day.

The multi-racial fashionista and advocate for multiculturalism, whose account is followed by nearly 1 million people, has had “her” account taken over by another animated Instagram account holder named “Bermuda.”

Welcome to the spring of 2018.

The hack of the @Lilmiquela account started earlier today, but the Bermuda avatar has long considered Miquela her digital nemesis and has taken steps to hack other of Miquela’s social accounts — like Spotify — before.

Because this is the twenty-first century — and given the polarization of the current political climate — it’s not surprising that the very real culture wars between proponents of pluralism and the Make America Great Again movement would take their fight to feuding avatars.

In posts on the Lil Maquela account, Bermuda proudly flaunts her artificial identity… and a decidedly pro-Trump message.

Unlike Miquela, whose account plays with the notion of a physical presence for a virtual avatar, Bermuda is very clearly a simulation. And one with political views that are diametrically opposed to those espoused by Miquela (whose promotion of openness and racial equality has been a feature that’s endeared the account to followers and fashion and culture magazines alike).

Miquela Sousa, a Brazilian-American from Downey, Calif., launched her Instagram account in 2016. Since the account’s appearance, Miquela has been a subject of speculation in the press and online.

Appearing on magazine covers, and consenting to do interviews with reporters, Miquela has been exploring notions of celebrity, influence and culture since her debut on Facebook’s new most popular social media site.

A person familiar with the Lil Miquela account said that Instagram was working on regaining control. Around 11 PM Pacific last night, the account was restored to its rightful owner.

 


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/17/virtual-instagram-celebrity-lil-miquela-has-had-her-account-hacked/

Russia’s Telegram ban that knocked out 15M Google, Amazon IP addresses had a precedent in Zello

Russia blocking access to Telegram after the messaging app refused to give it access to encrypted messages has picked up an unintended casualty: we’re now up to over 15 million IP addresses from Amazon and Google getting shut down by the regulators in the process, taking various other (non-Telegram) services down with it.

Telegram’s CEO Pavel Durov earlier today said that its reach in the country has yet to see an impact from the ban 24 hours on, with VPNs, proxies and third-party cloud services stepping in to pick up the slack for its roughly 14 million users in the country, and third parties refusing to buckle under requests from Roskomnadzor, the regulator, to remove the app from its stores and servers.

“Thank you for your support and loyalty, Russian users of Telegram. Thank you, Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft — for not taking part in political censorship,” Durov noted.

But Telegram’s Russia crisis is not the first time that an app banned by the Russian government has had to rely on third-party support to navigate its position with users. A recent precedent involving a much smaller communications app sheds some light on how all of this works. And ironically, its own run-in may have been the reason for why the government moved so quickly to block so many IP addresses around Telegram’s, affecting more than just the app itself.

A little over a year ago, the walkie-talkie app Zello received a notice from the Russian regulator Roskomnadzor. Zello was informed that it would be banned unless it started to host records of the conversations that were taking place on the app on Russian servers — in compliance with a hosting requirement that Russia put in place for ISPs back in 2014 as part of its efforts to tighten its control of digital information in the name of national security.

You might remember the name Zello from its bump of attention when a wave of people hit by Hurricane Harvey in Texas used it to communicate with each other when voice services went down or became too clumsy to use, but mobile internet connections stayed up. “Voice is how we most naturally communicate, and push-to-talk and radio-style communication is instant, no dialling or waiting,” said Zello CEO Bill Moore. “It can be with one person or large groups and build relationships and to solve problems.”

The startup itself is based out of Austin, Texas and has around 120 million registered users, with around four million monthly active users.

Moore — who had in the past also founded and run another Texas startup, TuneIn — said in an interview this week that Zello’s run-in with Russia started about a year ago, when the regulator started to block the application in Spring 2017, after Zello refused to cooperate with the hosting requirement, both on grounds of cost and principle.

(Cost: because it’s a small startup. And principle: because Zello is built in a way where messages are stored locally, both for direct messages and those sent in more widely-distributed channels, the feature that Moore believes might have been “why Zello annoyed Russia,” because protestors used these channels to coordinate activities.”)

Instead of buckling and leaving Russia, Zello decided to use to some software it had written years before, when the app had been issued with a block in Venezuela after it ran afoul of the government there — software “that let us change IP addresses for our service,” as Moore describes it. The change in IP addresses essentially meant that as Zello was shut down in one place, it was able to hop to another, using services from either AWS or Google Cloud.

Moore said that Zello — which originally hosted its service on IBM’s cloud before the ban — used its IP hopping tactic for nearly a year, moving first across IP addresses on Amazon and then hopping to Google Cloud when Amazon got too hot. By the time Zello started using Google Cloud, the government was well on to Zello’s ways, and it took only about 10 days before Google asked Zello to stop, Zello’s CTO and founder Alexey Gavrilov added.

“About a month ago, the press in Russia began to report that Roskomnadzor was threatening to block millions of addresses if that’s what it took to get Zello [to retreat]. That was when Amazon said, ‘you need to stop changing IP addresses,’” Gavrilov said. “We tried to get Amazon to reconsider, making the case that by asking us to stop, it is are really acting the same way that ISPs do that are controlled by Russia. Zello is not damaging, but Russia is by blocking. It’s not wise to go along with that threat.”

His argument echoes what Durov has been saying in defense of Telegram, although it didn’t appear to wash for the smaller app. “We lost that debate,” Gavrilov said.

Moore and Gavrilov say they believe Telegram may be using a similar kind of approach to move around Amazon- and Google-based IP addresses (I’ve tried to contact Durov to ask about this but have not had a reply; Google and Amazon also have not replied to my emails). However, now, with the Russian authorities well aware of the tactic, it simply decided to block large swathes of IPs to act more quickly, rather than negotiate with cloud companies to pick out which IP addresses were actually being used.

Partly because of the size of the service in question, and partly because of the blanket blocking, the difference between the IP addresses being blocked varied from just over 2,000 for Zello to more than 15 million by the time Telegram attempted its own IP hops.

Zello still believes that it was not in the wrong in its own encounters with the Russian government, although its appeals to Amazon and Google, and eventually Apple and others who host the app on their stores, ultimately didn’t wash.

“We believe that Zello doesn’t violate Russian law because originally the hosting requirement was written for ISPs, and Zello is not an ISP,” Moore said. “We cooperate with law enforcement on a consistent basis and do what we can under the law.” But like Telegram, Zello takes the view that the medium should not be attacked because of how it is used. “Terrorists drink water, but I don’t think we should outlaw water, either,” is how Moore describes his stance.

Since about two weeks ago, the only way that people in Russia can use Zello is by way of VPN proxies. Zello has a fairly even distribution of its several millon monthly active users across several countries, including the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, and Hong Kong. Russia had been one of its top markets until this happened, but the cost to Zello has been about half of its active users in the country, which now stand at 200,000.

“We don’t like to think about how we’ve lost half our users there,” Gavrilov said. “We like to think about how many we’ve managed to keep.”

Zello has always been ad-free and free to use by regular consumers. Moore said that the company is profitable, making its revenues through a premium tier for businesses to have their own private channels. So far, Zello is completely bootstrapped, although Moore said that it is likely it will want to raise money eventually to grow its consumer business.

Neither CTO nor CEO think that Russian bans impact the company’s wider business.

“In my opinion, incidents like these only help companies like Telegram and Zello on the global market,” Gavrilov (a native of Russia) said. “Realistically, Russia is a small share of the Telegram user base, and standing up to the demands in Russia just communicates to everyone else that you can trust these people. That only makes it more valuable.”


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/17/russias-telegram-ban-that-knocked-out-15m-google-amazon-ip-addresses-had-a-precedent-in-zello/