Monthly Archives: October 2018
We wanted a better pulse on what attributes brands consider the most important things when working with an agency, as well as the things they wish their agencies were better at. So we asked! Click through for the results.
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Facebook has confirmed it has hired the former leader of the UK’s former third largest political party — Nick Clegg of the middle ground Liberal Democrats — to head up global policy and comms.
The news was reported earlier by the Financial Times.
— Financial Times (@FinancialTimes) October 19, 2018
Clegg is also a former UK deputy prime minister, after the Lib Dems entered government in the 2015 coalition with the Conservative party.
Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch that Clegg’s title will be VP, global affairs and communications, and that he starts on Monday — and will be moving with his family to California in the New Year.
Its prior global policy and communications chief, Elliot Schrage, who has been in post for a decade is staying on as an advisor, according to Facebook, and in a post announcing Clegg’s hire COO Sheryl Sandberg thanked Schrage for his “leadership, tenacity, and wise counsel ‑- in good times and bad”.
Facebook also told us that Sandberg and founder Mark Zuckerberg were both deeply involved in the hiring process, beginning discussions with Clegg over the summer — as fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal continued to rain down — and emphasizing they have already spent a lot of time with him.
The company also made a point of noting that Clegg is the most senior European politician to ever take up a senior executive leadership role in Silicon Valley.
The hire certainly looks like big tech waking up to the fact it needs a far better relationship with European lawmakers.
In a post on Facebook announcing his new job, Clegg says as much, writing: “Having spoken at length to Mark and Sheryl over the last few months, I have been struck by their recognition that the company is on a journey which brings new responsibilities not only to the users of Facebook’s apps but to society at large. I hope I will be able to play a role in helping to navigate that journey.”
“Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, Oculus and Instagram are at the heart of so many people’s everyday lives – but also at the heart of some of the most complex and difficult questions we face as a society: the privacy of the individual; the integrity of our democratic process; the tensions between local cultures and the global internet; the balance between free speech and prohibited content; the power and concerns around artificial intelligence; and the wellbeing of our children,” he adds.
“I believe that Facebook must continue to play a role in finding answers to those questions – not by acting alone in Silicon Valley, but by working with people, organizations, governments and regulators around the world to ensure that technology is a force for good.”
In her note about Clegg’s hire, Sandberg lauds Clegg as “a thoughtful and gifted leader who… understands deeply the responsibilities we have to people who use our service around the world” — before also discussing the big challenges ahead.
“Our company is on a critical journey. The challenges we face are serious and clear and now more than ever we need new perspectives to help us though this time of change,” she writes. “The opportunities are clear too. Every day people use our apps to connect with family and friends and make a difference in their communities. If we can honor the trust they put in us and live up to our responsibilities, we can help more people use technology to do good.
“That’s what motivates our teams and from all my conversations with Nick, it’s clear that he believes in this as well. His experience and ability to work through complex issues will be invaluable in the years to come.”
One former Facebook policy staffer we spoke to for an insider perspective on Clegg’s hire, couched it as a sign Facebook is finally taking Europe seriously — i.e. as a regulatory force with the ability to bring big tech to rule.
“When I started at fb there were two people in a Regus office doing EU policy,” the person told us, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Now they have an army, and they’re still hiring.”
In Europe, the region’s new data protection framework, GDPR, which came into force at the end of May, has put privacy and security at the top of the tech agenda. And more regulations are coming — with the EU’s data protection supervisor warning today that GDPR is not enough.
“The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica revelations are still under investigation in Europe and America, but they are only the tip of the iceberg, a sign of a much wider problem and a symptom of many more problems still unnoticed,” writes Giovanni Buttarelli in a blog entitled: The urgent case for a new ePrivacy law.
Reshaping regional rules to account for and rebalance monopolistic platform power is where EU lawmakers are increasingly turning their attention. It looks like Facebook has finally caught on that they’re serious.
“They didn’t take it seriously and they’re catching up now. I think it also just sends a strong signal that they’re not a U.S. centric company,” the former Facebooker added of the company’s attitude to EU policy, dating their dawning realization that a new approach was needed to around 2016.
That was also, of course, the year that domestic election interference came home to roost for Zuckerberg, after Kremlin meddling in the US presidential elections. And after his famous failure to judge that detail important.
So no more ‘pretty crazy ideas’ from Zuckerberg where politics is concerned — Nick Clegg instead.
For Brits, though, this actually is a pretty crazy idea, given Clegg is the awkwardly familiar face of middle ground, middler performance politics.
And, more importantly, the sacrificial lamb of political compromise, after his party got punished for its turn in coalition government with David Cameron’s Brexit triggering Conservatives.
Our ex-Facebooker source said they’d heard rumors linking the former Labour MP, David Miliband, and the Conservatives’ former chancellor, George Osborne, to the global policy position too.
Whatever the truth of those rumors, in the event Facebook went with Clegg’s third way — which of course meshes perfectly with the company’s desire to be a platform for all views; be that conservative, liberal and Holocaust denier too.
In Clegg it will have found a true believer that compromise can trump partisan tribalism.
Though Facebook’s business will probably test the limits of even Clegg’s famous powers of accommodation.
The current state of the Lib Dem political animal — a party with now just a handful of MPs (12) left in the UK parliament — does also hold a cautionary message for Facebook’s mission to be all things to all men.
A target some less machiavellian types might judge ‘mission impossible’.
Add to that, given Facebook’s now dire need to win back user trust — i.e. in the wake of a string of data scandals, such as the Cambridge Analytica affair (and indeed ongoing attempts by unknown forces to use its platform for voter manipulation) — Clegg is rather an odd choice of hire, given he’s the man who led a political party that fatally burnt the trust of its core supporters and convinced them to punish it with near political oblivion at the ballet box.
Still, at least Clegg knows how to say sorry in a way that can be turned into a hip and shareable meme …
Security researchers have found flaws in four popular connected storage drives that they say could let hackers access a user’s private and sensitive data.
The researchers Paulos Yibelo and Daniel Eshetu said the software running on three of the devices they tested — NetGear Stora, Seagate Home and Medion LifeCloud — can allow an attacker to remotely read, change and delete data without requiring a password.
Yibelo, who shared the research with TechCrunch this week and posted the findings Friday, said that many other devices may be at risk.
The software, Hipserv, built by tech company Axentra, was largely to blame for three of the four flaws they found. Hipserv is Linux-based, and uses several web technologies — including PHP — to power the web interface. But the researchers found that bugs could let them read files on the drive without any authentication. It also meant they could run any command they wanted as “root” — the built-in user account with the highest level of access — making the data on the device vulnerable to prying eyes or destruction.
We contacted Axentra for comment on Thursday but did not hear back by the time of writing.
A Netgear spokesperson said that the Stora is “no longer a supported product… because it has been discontinued and is an end of life product.” Seagate did not comment by our deadline, but we’ll update if that changes. Lenovo, which now owns Medion, did not respond to a request for comment.
The researchers also reported a separate bug affecting WD My Book Live drives, which can allow an attacker to remotely gain root access.
A spokesperson for WD said that the vulnerability report affects devices originally introduced in 2010 and discontinued in 2014, and “no longer covered under our device software support lifecycle.” WD added: “We encourage users who wish to continue operating these legacy products to configure their firewall to prevent remote access to these devices, and to take measures to ensure that only trusted devices on the local network have access to the device.”
In all four vulnerabilities, the researchers said that an attacker only needs to know the IP address of an affected drive. That isn’t so difficult in this day and age, thanks to sites like Shodan, a search engine for publicly available devices and databases, and similar search and indexing services.
Although the researchers described the bugs in moderate detail, they said they have no plans to release any exploit code to prevent attackers taking advantage of the flaws.
Their advice: If you’re running a cloud drive, “make sure to remove your device from the internet.”
Facebook hopes detailing concrete examples of fake news it’s caught — or missed — could improve news literacy, or at least prove it’s attacking the misinformation problem. Today Facebook launched “The Hunt for False News,” in which it examines viral B.S., relays the decisions of its third-party fact-checkers and explains how the story was tracked down. The first edition reveals cases where false captions were put on old videos, people were wrongfully identified as perpetrators of crimes or real facts were massively exaggerated.
The blog’s launch comes after three recent studies showed the volume of misinformation on Facebook has dropped by half since the 2016 election, while Twitter’s volume hasn’t declined as drastically. Unfortunately, the remaining 50 percent still threatens elections, civil discourse, dissident safety and political unity across the globe.
In one of The Hunt’s first examples, it debunks that a man who posed for a photo with one of Brazil’s senators had stabbed the presidential candidate. Facebook explains that its machine learning models identified the photo, it was proven false by Brazilian fact-checker Aos Fatos, and Facebook now automatically detects and demotes uploads of the image. In a case where it missed the mark, a false story touting NASA would pay you $ 100,000 to study you staying in bed for 60 days “racked up millions of views on Facebook” before fact-checkers found NASA had paid out $ 10,000 to $ 17,000 in limited instances for studies in the past.
While the educational “Hunt” series is useful, it merely cherry-picks random false news stories from over a wide time period. What’s more urgent, and would be more useful, would be for Facebook to apply this method to currently circulating misinformation about the most important news stories. The New York Times’ Kevin Roose recently began using Facebook’s CrowdTangle tool to highlight the top 10 recent stories by engagement about topics like the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.
Top performing Kavanaugh-related posts on Facebook over the last 24 hours (per @crowdtangle) come from:
2. Fox News
3. Franklin Graham
4. Fox News
6. NRA Institute for Legislative Action
8. Ben Shapiro
9. The Sage Page
— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) October 7, 2018
If Facebook wanted to be more transparent about its successes and failures around fake news, it’d publish lists of the false stories with the highest circulation each month and then apply the Hunt’s format explaining how they were debunked. This could help dispel myths in society’s understanding that may be propagated by the mere abundance of fake news headlines, even if users don’t click through to read them.
But at least all of Facebook’s efforts around information security — including doubling its security staff from 10,000 to 20,000 workers, fact checks and using News Feed algorithm changes to demote suspicious content — are paying off:
- A Stanford and NYU study found that Facebook likes, comments, shares and reactions to links to 570 fake news sites dropped by more than half since the 2016 election, while engagements through Twitter continued to rise, “with the ratio of Facebook engagements to Twitter shares falling by approximately 60 percent.”
- A University of Michigan study coined the metric “Iffy Quotient” to assess the how much content from certain fake news sites was distributed on Facebook and Twitter. When engagement was factored in, it found Facebook’s levels had dropped to nearly 2016 volume; that’s now 50 percent less than Twitter.
- French newspaper Le Monde looked at engagement with 630 French websites across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Reddit. Facebook engagement with sites dubbed “unreliable or dubious” has dropped by half since 2015.
Of course, given Twitter’s seeming paralysis on addressing misinformation and trolling, they’re not a great benchmark for Facebook to judge by. While it’s useful that Facebook is outlining ways to spot fake news, the public will have to internalize these strategies for society to make progress. That may be difficult when the truth has become incompatible with many peoples’ and politicians’ staunchly held beliefs.
In the past, Facebook has surfaced fake news-spotting tips atop the News Feed and bought full-page newspaper ads trying to disseminate them. The Hunt for Fake News would surely benefit from being embedded where the social network’s users look everyday instead of buried in its corporate blog.
A decade ago, it was almost inconceivable that nearly every household item could be hooked up to the internet. These days, it’s near impossible to avoid a non-smart home gadget, and they’re vacuuming up a ton of new data that we’d never normally think about.
Thermostats know the temperature of your house, and smart cameras and sensors know when someone’s walking around your home. Smart assistants know what you’re asking for, and smart doorbells know who’s coming and going. And thanks to the cloud, that data is available to you from anywhere — you can check in on your pets from your phone or make sure your robot vacuum cleaned the house.
Because the data is stored or accessible by the smart home tech makers, law enforcement and government agencies have increasingly sought data from the companies to solve crimes.
And device makers won’t say if your smart home gadgets have been used to spy on you.
For years, tech companies have published transparency reports — a semi-regular disclosure of the number of demands or requests a company gets from the government for user data. Google was first in 2010. Other tech companies followed in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations that the government had enlisted tech companies’ aid in spying on their users. Even telcos, implicated in wiretapping and turning over Americans’ phone records, began to publish their figures to try to rebuild their reputations.
As the smart home revolution began to thrive, police saw new opportunities to obtain data where they hadn’t before. Police sought Echo data from Amazon to help solve a murder. Fitbit data was used to charge a 90-year old man with the murder of his stepdaughter. And recently, Nest was compelled to turn over surveillance footage that led to gang members pleading guilty to identity theft.
Yet, Nest — a division of Google — is the only major smart home device maker that has published how many data demands it receives.
As first noted by Forbes last week, Nest’s little-known transparency report doesn’t reveal much — only that it’s turned over user data about 300 times since mid-2015 on over 500 Nest users. Nest also said it hasn’t to date received a secret order for user data on national security grounds, such as in cases of investigating terrorism or espionage. Nest’s transparency report is woefully vague compared to some of the more detailed reports by Apple, Google and Microsoft, which break out their data requests by lawful request, by region and often by the kind of data the government demands.
As Forbes said, “a smart home is a surveilled home.” But at what scale?
We asked some of the most well-known smart home makers on the market if they plan to release a transparency report, or disclose the number of demands they receive for data from their smart home devices.
For the most part, we received fairly dismal responses.
What the big four tech giants said
Amazon did not respond to requests for comment when asked if it will break out the number of demands it receives for Echo data, but a spokesperson told me last year that while its reports include Echo data, it would not break out those figures.
Facebook said that its transparency report section will include “any requests related to Portal,” its new hardware screen with a camera and a microphone. Although the device is new, a spokesperson did not comment on if the company will break out the hardware figures separately.
Google pointed us to Nest’s transparency report but did not comment on its own efforts in the hardware space — notably its Google Home products.
And Apple said that there’s no need to break out its smart home figures — such as its HomePod — because there would be nothing to report. The company said user requests made to HomePod are given a random identifier that cannot be tied to a person.
What the smaller but notable smart home players said
August, a smart lock maker, said it “does not currently have a transparency report and we have never received any National Security Letters or orders for user content or non-content information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA),” but did not comment on the number of subpoenas, warrants and court orders it receives. “August does comply with all laws and when faced with a court order or warrant, we always analyze the request before responding,” a spokesperson said.
Roomba maker iRobot said it “has not received any demands from governments for customer data,” but wouldn’t say if it planned to issue a transparency report in the future.
Both Arlo, the former Netgear smart home division, and Signify, formerly Philips Lighting, said they do not have transparency reports. Arlo didn’t comment on its future plans, and Signify said it has no plans to publish one.
Ring, a smart doorbell and security device maker, did not answer our questions on why it doesn’t have a transparency report, but said it “will not release user information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us” and that Ring “objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.” When pressed, a spokesperson said it plans to release a transparency report in the future, but did not say when.
Spokespeople for Honeywell and Canary — both of which have smart home security products — did not comment by our deadline.
And, Samsung, a maker of smart sensors, trackers and internet-connected televisions and other appliances, did not respond to a request for comment.
Only Ecobee, a maker of smart switches and sensors, said it plans to publish its first transparency report “at the end of 2018.” A spokesperson confirmed that, “prior to 2018, Ecobee had not been requested nor required to disclose any data to government entities.”
All in all, that paints a fairly dire picture for anyone thinking that when the gadgets in your home aren’t working for you, they could be helping the government.
As helpful and useful as smart home gadgets can be, few fully understand the breadth of data that the devices collect — even when we’re not using them. Your smart TV may not have a camera to spy on you, but it knows what you’ve watched and when — which police used to secure a conviction of a sex offender. Even data from when a murder suspect pushed the button on his home alarm key fob was enough to help convict someone of murder.
Two years ago, former U.S. director of national intelligence James Clapper said the government was looking at smart home devices as a new foothold for intelligence agencies to conduct surveillance. And it’s only going to become more common as the number of internet-connected devices spread. Gartner said more than 20 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020.
As much as the chances are that the government is spying on you through your internet-connected camera in your living room or your thermostat are slim — it’s naive to think that it can’t.
But the smart home makers wouldn’t want you to know that. At least, most of them.
Twilio is hosting its Signal developer conference in San Francisco this week. Yesterday was all about bots and taking payments over the phone; today is all about IoT. The company is launching two new (but related) products today that will make it easier for IoT developers to connect their devices. The first is the Global Super SIM that offers global connectivity management through the networks of Twilio’s partners. The second is Twilio Narrowband, which, in cooperation with T-Mobile, offers a full software and hardware kit for building low-bandwidth IoT solutions and the narrowband network to connect them.
Twilio also announced that it is expanding its wireless network partnerships with the addition of Singtel, Telefonica and Three Group. Unsurprisingly, those are also the partners that make the company’s Super SIM project possible.
The Super SIM, which is currently in private preview and will launch in public beta in the spring of 2019, provides developers with a global network that lets them deploy and manage their IoT devices anywhere (assuming there is a cell connection or other internet connectivity, of course). The Super SIM gives developers the ability to choose the network they want to use or to let Twilio pick the defaults based on the local networks.
Twilio Narrowband is a slightly different solution. Its focus right now is on the U.S., where T-Mobile rolled out its Narrowband IoT network earlier this year. As the name implies, this is about connecting low-bandwidth devices that only need to send out small data packets like timestamps, GPS coordinates or status updates. Twilio Narrowband sits on top of this, using Twilio’s Programmable Wireless and SIM card. It then adds an IoT developer kit with an Arduino-based development board and the standard Grove sensors on top of that, as well as a T-Mobile-certified hardware module for connecting to the narrowband network. To program that all, Twilio is launching an SDK for handling network registrations and optimizing the communication between the devices and the cloud.
The narrowband service will launch as a beta in early 2019 and offer three pricing plans: a developer plan for $ 2/month, an annual production plan for $ 10/year or $ 5/year at scale, and a five-year plan for $ 8/year or $ 4/year at scale.
First let me ask you: how many unread emails are in the “promotions,” “updates,” and “other” tabs of your inbox? When I got to work on Monday morning, there were 248. How many of those did I read, you ask? Three at best, and only because they were already my favorite news roundups. The others? Didn’t stand a chance. “Marked as read,” “deleted,” and otherwise wholeheartedly, happily ignored.
Long story short, consumers these days are drowning in emails. We have promotions, “we’ve missed you!”s, “rate our product!”s, and 100 other types of unread newsletters pouring from our inboxes and never getting close to our attention.
For a long time, it was businesses seeking out consumers
And while that obviously is still at play, the tides are shifting. It’s just too much content to keep tabs on. More and more, consumers are ignoring the bombardment and seeking out businesses on their own terms — when and where they want to look.
For a long time, SEO was a small group of nerds (*experts) sitting in a corner doing their thing, trying to convince everyone that search mattered and that there were ways to improve rankings.
For a long time, people kind of let them do their thing while not understanding what SEO actually was or fully grasping their value.
But now, the amount of content is suffocating. I don’t want to read 248 “other” emails to find the information I need. I want it know.
Where do I go? The place where 93% of online journeys begin: I search.
Now, businesses need to be found by searching consumers
As often happens when tech goes mainstream, all of a sudden businesses care a lot more about that group of nerds in the corner.
The question now turns to, “how can I make sure my business is found when and where my customers are looking?”
In a world of customer experience, I don’t want to bother consumers — I want them to happen “serendipitously” upon my product or service. I want to be there when they’re ready.
These days, customer journeys start not when a consumer walks into a store, or lands on my web page. Customer journeys start the second a consumer opens a search engine.
Desktop to mobile to voice
And to top it all off, the stakes keep getting higher. When I search on desktop, I probably look at the first ten results. On mobile, maybe I consider five. On voice? One gold spot at the top.
Exciting times for SEO and search marketing.
Topics to consider in search marketing
We’ll be covering all of these and more:
- The new customer journey
- Blockchain and the decentralized economy, and what they mean for search
- Optimizing for voice search
- Amazon and Amazon Marketing Services
- Visual search and ecommerce
- Strategies for search transformation
Needless to say, we’re pretty jazzed about the event. Speakers include some brilliant minds from SAP, Google, Microsoft, Adobe, LEGO, Hertz, Pinterest, Hilton, Conde Nast, and many more.
Mostly, we’re excited to see the continued rise of search marketing and how businesses adapt to better at being found by consumers.
This post also appeared on ClickZ.
In June 2017, the EU Commission sentenced Google to pay a fine of 2.4 billion euros. Now, up to 5% of Google’s daily revenue is at stake if they fail to make their Google Shopping channel more competitive. Google is taking aggressive measures to adhere to the EU’s ruling…
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Americans looking to reduce their reliance on products from tech’s most alarmingly megalithic companies might be surprised to learn just how far their reach extends.
Privacy-minded browser company DuckDuckGo conducted a small study to look into that phenomenon and the results were pretty striking.
“… As Facebook usage wanes, messaging apps like WhatsApp are growing in popularity as a ‘more private (and less confrontational) space to communicate,’” DuckDuckGo wrote in the post. “That shift didn’t make much sense to us because both services are owned by the same company, so we tried to find an explanation.”
DuckDuckGo gathered a random sample of 1,297 adult Americans who are “collectively demographically similar to the general population of U.S. adults” (i.e. not just DuckDuckGo diehards) using SurveyMonkey’s audience tools. The survey found that 50.4 percent of those surveyed who had used WhatsApp in the prior six months (247 participants) did not know the company is owned by Facebook.
Similarly, DuckDuckGo found that 56.4 percent of those surveyed who had used Waze in the past six months (291 participants) had no idea that the navigation app is owned by Google. A similar study conducted back in April found the same phenomenon when it came to Facebook/Instagram and Google/YouTube, though for Instagram the effect was even stronger (wow).
If you’re reading TechCrunch it’s probably almost impossible to imagine that average people aren’t tracing the lines between tech’s biggest companies and the products scooped up or built under their wings. And yet, it is so.
Even as companies like Google and Facebook suffer blowback from privacy crises, it’s clear that they can lean on the products they’ve picked up along the way to chart a path forward. If this survey is any indication, half of U.S. consumers will have no idea that they’ve jumped ship from a big tech product into a lifeboat captained by the very same company they sought to escape.
And for the biggest tech companies, it’s at least one reason that keeping satellite products at arm’s length from their respective motherships is advantageous for maintaining trust — especially while aggressive data sharing happens behind the scenes.
- 5 Things That Matter To Brands When Working with An Agency
- Facebook hires former UK Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, as global policy chief
- Buggy software in popular connected storage drives can let hackers read private data
- 4 Reasons I Prefer Facebook Ads over Google Ads
- Facebook launches ‘Hunt for False News’ debunk blog as fakery drops 50%