LinkedIn Test Raises Ethics Questions Over Parsing Big Data

LinkedIn’s experiments on users have drawn scrutiny from a new study that says the platform may have crossed a line into “social engineering.” The tests, over five years from 2015 to 2019, involved changing the “People You May Know” algorithm to alternate between weak and strong contacts when recommending new connections. Affecting an estimated 20 million users, the test was designed to collect insight to improve the Microsoft-owned platform’s performance, but may have impacted people’s career opportunities. The study was co-authored by researchers at LinkedIn, Harvard Business School, MIT and Stanford and appeared this month in Science. Continue reading LinkedIn Test Raises Ethics Questions Over Parsing Big Data

California Governor Signs Online Child Protection Bill into Law

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act into law last week, making his state the first in the nation to adopt online child safety measures. The bipartisan legislation requires online platforms to default to privacy and safety settings that protect children’s mental and physical health. The new law, cosponsored by Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks (D-15th District) and Jordan Cunningham (R-35th District), prohibits companies that provide online services and products in California from using a child’s personal information and forbids collecting, selling, or retaining a child’s geolocation, among other things. Continue reading California Governor Signs Online Child Protection Bill into Law

TikTok on the Hot Seat at Senate Homeland Security Hearing

Executives from four social media giants defended the privacy, security and content moderation protocols of their platforms to the Senate Homeland Security Committee Wednesday. In her first appearance before Congress, TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas was grilled on whether the short-form video app shares data about American citizens with the Chinese government. ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is based in Beijing, and its potential censorship of user content was another area of concern. Questions for the group — which included representatives from Meta Platforms, YouTube and Twitter — ranged from extremists to biometrics. Continue reading TikTok on the Hot Seat at Senate Homeland Security Hearing

FTC Explores New Rules Surrounding Data Collection and AI

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to create rules that would protect the digital privacy of teens. Human Rights Watch is asking the FTC for safeguards to prevent education companies from selling minors’ personal information to data brokers and a ban on data-driven advertising targeting children. Both groups were represented at the FTC’s first public forum to explore adopting new rules around data collection and AI training on personal data. Practices the FTC is examining include the timeframe in which companies can retain consumer data and mandating audits of automated decision-making systems. Continue reading FTC Explores New Rules Surrounding Data Collection and AI

Internal Meta Study Shows Reels Struggling Against TikToks

Instagram seems to be having a hard time gaining traction against TikTok, whose users collectively spend 197.8 million hours daily on the platform, compared to the 17.6 million hours a day Instagram users spend viewing Reels, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal sourcing Meta Platforms internal research. The August report, “Creators x Reels State of the Union 2022,” indicates that Reels engagement was down 13.6 percent “over the previous four weeks — and that ‘most Reels users have no engagement whatsoever.’” Of about 11 million U.S. creators on Instagram, only 2.3 million, or 20.7 percent, post Reels monthly. Continue reading Internal Meta Study Shows Reels Struggling Against TikToks

Apple Passkey Implementation Begins This Month via iOS 16

The world is preparing for a passwordless future, which Apple provides with the September 12 launch of iOS 16 and macOS Ventura next month. Known as passkeys, the password replacement will work across iPhones, iPads, and Macs, letting users log in to apps and websites and create new accounts without having to store a password. Made from a cryptographic key pair, the passkey is synced across iCloud’s Keychain. Google, Microsoft, Meta Platforms and Amazon are also in various stages of developing passkeys using standards created by the FIDO Alliance, which means they’ll all likely be interoperable. Continue reading Apple Passkey Implementation Begins This Month via iOS 16

Big Tech Lobbying and Midterms Could Impact Antitrust Bill

This past year, Big Tech has invested more than $95 million in lobbying initiatives designed to kill the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which seeks to rebalance the power between consumers and major technology companies such as Amazon, Alphabet, Apple and Meta Platforms. In two years, the bill has advanced further than any similar U.S. legislative effort, but time is running out before midterm elections and the unknown of a potential shift in control of the House and/or Senate. Supporters of the measure say they currently have the votes needed for passage. Continue reading Big Tech Lobbying and Midterms Could Impact Antitrust Bill

Twitter Circle Goes Wide with Tweets for 150 of Your Friends

Twitter is rolling out Twitter Circle globally on iOS, Android and on Twitter.com. The feature, which emulates Instagram’s Close Friends, lets people tweet to a select circle of up to 150 connections. “With Twitter Circle, people now have the flexibility to choose who can see and engage with their content on a tweet-by-tweet basis,” the company said, couching it as a way to “have more intimate conversations and build closer connections with select followers.” Before posting on Twitter, users will now see an option to share tweets with either their circle or full followers list. Continue reading Twitter Circle Goes Wide with Tweets for 150 of Your Friends

California’s Online Child Safety Bill Could Set New Standards

A first of its kind U.S. proposal to protecting children online cleared the California Legislature Tuesday and was sent to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom. The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act will require social media platforms to implement guardrails for users under 18. The new rules will curb risks — such as allowing strangers to message children — and require changes to recommendation algorithms and ad targeting where minors are concerned. The bill was drafted following Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s 2021 congressional testimony about the negative effects of social media on children’s mental health. Continue reading California’s Online Child Safety Bill Could Set New Standards

Meta Tentatively Settles the Cambridge Analytica Privacy Suit

Meta Platforms has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by users who accused its Facebook platform of improperly sharing personal data with third parties including, most notoriously, the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica. Financial details were not disclosed, but on Friday both Meta and the plaintiffs said in a joint filing in San Francisco federal court that the parties reached a tentative settlement. The UK-based Cambridge Analytica shuttered in 2018 after a scandal involving use of Facebook data to influence voters in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Continue reading Meta Tentatively Settles the Cambridge Analytica Privacy Suit

Researcher Says TikTok Can Track User Data via Keystrokes

Popular short-form video platform TikTok is garnering more unwanted attention, this time for tracking users’ keystrokes via a the ByteDance-owned video app’s browser. The feature was discovered by privacy researcher Felix Krause, a former Google engineer, who reported the Chinese company embeds the tracking capability within the in-app browser that opens when someone clicks an external link. Krause noted his research is limited to the Apple iOS platform. Krause did not speculate as to how TikTok is using the capability, but suggests he finds it troubling because it indicates TikTok is able to track users’ online activity if it so chooses. Continue reading Researcher Says TikTok Can Track User Data via Keystrokes

Technology Firms Offer Users More Control Over Advertising

Tech companies are giving consumers more control over the type of advertising they see online, a feature that customers frequently request. Meta Platforms, Mozilla, Google and the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) have been actively exploring ad-blocking options. Now ByteDance’s TikTok and others are joining in. While the increased control may make some consumers happy, the effect it will have on Big Tech’s already ailing ad sector is as yet undetermined. While the various techniques let consumers limit exposure to ads, proponents argue the ultimate effect will be positive, ensuring ads are served to an interested audience. Continue reading Technology Firms Offer Users More Control Over Advertising

Plex Goes Social for Content Discovery, Adds Music Channels

Free streaming media service Plex is testing a new community-oriented feature called Discover Together that lets users add friends and keep tabs on their favorite programs, viewing their ratings and bookmarks. In addition to enhancing engagement by prompting online discussions, Plex hopes the crowd-sourced community data can eventually help power its recommendation engine. The idea is for Discover Together to launch with a high degree of privacy, inviting users to fill out Plex profiles with their geographic location and Plex Pass status, extending individual friend invites using a Plex username or email. The feature is currently in beta for web, iOS and Android users. Continue reading Plex Goes Social for Content Discovery, Adds Music Channels

Meta Expands Advantage Program with AI-Powered Ad Tools

Meta Platforms is expanding its Meta Advantage advertising automation program, an effort to mitigate fallout from Apple’s consumer privacy measures, which have substantially constrained its ability to target and personalize ads. Launched in March, Meta Advantage bundles AI and ad automation tools to simplify the process for advertisers. This week the company added Advantage+ Shopping, assisting in campaign creation, simultaneously offering up to 150 automated creative combinations. The update offers more options to e-commerce brands and is geared toward optimizing the presence of Facebook or Instagram storefronts. Continue reading Meta Expands Advantage Program with AI-Powered Ad Tools

Biden Signs Bill to Boost Chip Production and Supply Chains

President Biden signed the expansive $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act into law yesterday. The legislation includes $52.7 billion in subsidies and tax credits to help strengthen U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, research and workforce development. In addition to revitalizing domestic manufacturing efforts, the package intends to “create good-paying American jobs, strengthen American supply chains, and accelerate the industries of the future,” explains the White House. The measure is also part of larger effort by the federal government to combat the growing influence of China, especially involving tech sectors and the potential impact to security and privacy. Continue reading Biden Signs Bill to Boost Chip Production and Supply Chains