The Blind Spot in Facebook’s Vision of Privacy

Insofar as Facebook’s pivot to privacy fails to reward its users for the data that has made it one of the world’s most powerful and profitable companies, I see it as a modest change that is more reactive than proactive, more inevitable than forward-thinking. It is likely that Facebook is only beginning to lay out its moves on privacy, and more ambitious changes may lie ahead. But for now, when it comes to the most pressing, fundamental ethical challenges that are inciting political fervor and increasing the likelihood that serious regulation of Big Tech is on the way, Zuckerberg is dragging his feet. With visionaries like Lanier and Zuboff raising public awareness about Facebook’s business model, the truth may just catch up with him.

Voice-Readiness Study Indicates Vast Majority of Businesses Fail Basic Listings Test

It only takes listing correct and comprehensive information on Google, Yelp, and Bing for a brand or small business to earn 90% on location management solution Uberall’s voice search readiness test. Yet only 4% of the businesses in the company’s latest study, which examined the voice preparedness of 75,000 listings, had correct info on all three of those major directories.

Government Regulation Is Marketers’ Most Common Concern About Data-Driven Initiatives

Changing political headwinds and increased media attention on data collection and privacy are apparently rattling marketers, who named government regulation as an obstacle to data-driven campaigns more than any other single factor. That’s per a survey of U.S. marketers by Winterberry Group and the Interactive Advertising Bureau, eMarketer reported.

Another Day, Another Story About Exposed Facebook User Data

While we don’t yet know if any nefarious activity took place as a result of this latest news of Facebook user information’s exposure to third parties, the bottom line, as per the pithy genie line above, is that Facebook handled user data so recklessly for so long that there’s no guarantee the company can prevent exposure going forward. That means, potential regulations for which Mark Zuckerberg is now calling notwithstanding, the end of the Facebook privacy-breach saga is likely not in sight.

Walmart Enlists Google to Power Voice-Driven Grocery Shopping

Partnerships between retailers and tech platforms will provide increasingly important benefits for local discovery as voice becomes a more established search channel. In the age of voice-driven local search, consumers looking for products and services will become accustomed to having only one option surfaced (as Assistant is unlikely to rattle off five choices), which means being a consumer’s first option will be paramount for brick-and-mortars.

online privacy

Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe Catches Heat from Privacy Advocates

Johnny Ryan, chief policy and industry officer at Brave, a privacy-first web browser, filed a complaint with the Irish Data Commission against Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe on Tuesday evening based on the latter’s alleged violation of GDPR. A statement circulated by Brave on Tuesday identified IAB Europe as a leading lobbyist for the digital tracking industry and accused the company of violating GDPR guidelines with its “cookie wall,” a message encountered by those navigating to its website that requires visitors to consent to tracking from both IAB Europe and third parties.

Toast Raises $250M, Securing Lead Position in Restaurant Management Software

Restaurant management software provider Toast announced $250 million in additional funding on Monday, valuing the firm at $2.7 billion and cementing its lead position in the SaaS market for restaurants. TCV and Tiger Global Management led the Series E round.

Within 24 Hours, Further Signs That HUD’s Facebook Probe Could Upend Digital Ad Industry

What’s at stake in the Facebook housing discrimination probe and related investigations into Google and Twitter is whether the dissemination of online content—the news, product recommendations, advertising campaigns of all kinds, and entertainment—can and should be permitted on the basis of data collected on users’ personal characteristics and past behaviors. Should organizations, in industries as varied as entertainment, apparel, tech, and education, be permitted to use evolving technology to predict whom ads should target and thus who should see the content promoting Berkeley’s MBA program, the new housing development in Long Island City, or the hip sunglasses Warby Parker will never get me to buy? How does past human behavior and long-term inequality in various groups’ access to privileged resources shape ad targeting and the technology that automates it, and can the tech industry reach beyond those limitations to open up new futures instead of capitalizing on and reinforcing historical distinctions?

The news this week of the Trump administration’s first charges filed against a major tech company is the first step on our path to finding out.

Automated Ad Targeting Ensnares Facebook in a Discrimination Lawsuit

The lawsuit is big news not just for Facebook or for housing-related ads but for the digital advertising industry as a whole. That’s because it marks the first major federal attempt to use the resources of the law to curb ad targeting on the basis of racial discrimination. As interest in regulating broad tech spreads across the country and political spectrum, the lawsuit could prove a harbinger of harsher laws to come.

Mobile Video Struggles Persist While Tolerance for Them Decreases

It looks like the quality mobile content experts say we can expect from 5G will be much appreciated by consumers. Mobile video is more popular than ever, among both consumers and digital advertisers, but the medium is plagued by slow load times and suboptimal ads. That’s per a new report out from mobile video vendor Panthera.

The Ethical Stakes of Data Collection and Ad Targeting

With politicians and everyday political partisans on both the Left and Right peeved at Big Tech (the Left for tech’s role in economic inequality and election hacking, the Right for perceived anti-conservative bias, and thinkers across the spectrum for privacy concerns), it is time for Zuckerberg and his peers to get smarter about the arguments for and against data-driven ad targeting and the business models that rely on it. Facile paeans to relevance are not going to cut it—not with the scrutiny Facebook and the rest of the tech industry are now receiving. Tech executives should be as clear-eyed as their fiercest critics about the ethical underpinnings of their businesses. Only then can innovative, far-reaching conversations about the future of advertising, data collection, privacy, and Big Tech begin.

Amazon Pursuing Mobile Video Ads, Strengthening Its Viability as Duopoly Alternative

Video advertising has been the hot thing for long enough that it’s now passé to refer to the pivot to video. It’s about time, then, that the Big Tech company hoping to break into the digital ad market dominated by Google and Facebook added video to its inventory. 

Google Finds Itself Beneath EU Regulatory Hammer Once More

Google has been fined $1.7 billion for violating Europe’s antitrust policies. Specifically, the company stands accused of compelling companies that deploy its search capabilities on their own platforms to display a disproportionately high humber of text ads that will line Google’s pockets.

Apple Strikes a Foreboding Tone with Big Ad on Privacy

Apple’s privacy-first policies should prove beneficial for the company and for the hundreds of millions of people who use its products. Still, the iPhone maker’s ad, light in tone as its soundtrack may be, strikes a decisively dark note representative of broader national anxiety about Silicon Valley and the danger of its increasingly unavoidable products. Beneath the ad’s veneer of levity, thinly constructed in the form of a small guard dog and man wary of using a urinal too close to his neighbor, the video sends a clear warning to smartphone users entrusting their private information to rival phone makers: The intimate details of your lives may already be compromised. Lean into your worries about your data’s theft and monetization, and fork over 10 Benjamins at the nearest Apple store for the sake of your own security.

Location Data Verification Firm Location Sciences Expands to Americas

As the location data and marketing industries experience heightened calls for privacy and quality control, location data verification solution Location Sciences is expanding to the Americas. The London-based firm also announced on Tuesday morning its appointment of digital marketing veteran Warren Zenna to take the helm on this side of the Atlantic.

WeQ Launches Influencer Agency, Backing up Influencers with Analytics

Global mobile advertising firm WeQ announced on Tuesday that it’s launching an agency dedicated to influencers, aiming to pair the analytical power of a broader ad tech firm with the new possibilities for branding offered by the influencer sector of the digital marketing industry.

Human Judgment, Automation, and the Future of Ad Tech

For now, I propose two major concerns—two challenges, even, for further thought—surrounding AI for the ad tech industry. The first is that the datafication of human experience that has allowed for precise ad targeting needs to be radically reconsidered, not just in terms of what can be done to obtain the consent of consumers for data collection, as the rising privacy movement has called tech companies to consider, but also in terms of what is lost and what is truly gained when the attributes of real people are transformed into consumer data. The second is that the human-machine hybrid decision-making model, while surely the best available in a hypothetical set that also includes human-only and machine-only models, will have to grapple with the bias and poor decisions of the humans who program the machines that will take on the task of regulating large platforms at scale. 

Foursquare Launches Hypertrending, A Next-Gen View of the Hot Spots in Town

Foursquare announced on Friday, coinciding with the ten-year anniversary of its launch at SXSW, a new feature called Hypertrending that shows users the most popular places where people are meeting up around them.

At Retail Conference, Google Dangles Shiny New Visual Ad Format

The visual-first ads are here. Google announced at the retail conference Shoptalk on Wednesday that it is launching shoppable ads in image search, propelling the search giant into the center of the visual zeitgeist that has made Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat hot targets for advertisers.

Native Ad Industry Booms, Capitalizing on Hunger for Ads That Don’t Look Like Advertising

Native ad firm AdYouLike is staking its reputation on the assumption that the ads you like may not look like ads. That bet appears to be paying off, as a report from the firm shows the native ad industry set to grow to $400 billion by 2025, a 372% jump from the projected size of the market in 2020.