Facebook’s privacy dilemma
Good morning! This Monday, Facebook's complicated privacy vs. transparency debate, Twitter's attempts to get out the vote, and the latest in the TikTok and WeChat sagas.
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What everyone was talking about this weekend: Facebook demanding that a group at NYU stop collecting data about the platform's political ad targeting. The Wall Street Journal reported that the group, called NYU Ad Observatory, has recruited more than 6,500 volunteers to install a browser extension that scans their Facebook activity for political ads. Facebook said stop it:
There are two sides to this, and they can't both be right. Except ... they are both right.
On one side, it's certainly true that Facebook (and other platforms, but we like to talk about Facebook because it has 2.6 billion users) isn't nearly transparent enough about how its systems work. More, better data about its processes would be a good thing for the industry.
On the other hand, Facebook's right to clamp down on anyone collecting data about its users. The Observatory says it's only collecting information about political ads, and this group is more trustworthy than most, but there's no version of your Facebook experience that doesn't also include your personal data. And when you opt in, you're tacitly doing the same for your friends.
The industry is having this debate on a thousand different fronts, whether it's encryption or moderation or electioneering. Privacy and transparency, moderation and freedom; these things are constantly in conflict, and you can't have it both ways. There is no right answer. All you can do is decide where you land, and try to be honest and consistent about it. That's where Facebook needs to get to.
The tech industry as a whole has poured resources and energy into helping Americans vote in this year's election, but Twitter occupies a unique space in the electoral process. And not just because that's where President Trump seems to spend most of his time.
A big focus for Twitter this year has been moderation and context-adding, because making sure people get good information is more important — and harder — than pretty much anything else. But it has also made an effort to get people engaged in the election specifically.
In the run-up to the election, Twitter studied its users and found that 90% of them were already registered and planning to vote. (Proving, yet again, that Twitter is about 40 trillion times more political than the world as a whole.) So doing a "register to vote!" drive wouldn't really have helped anybody.
One of Twitter's biggest initiatives has been the U.S. Elections Moment, Coyne said, which has been in every user's Explore page since mid-September. More recently, it added a custom Like animation for anyone tweeting the #ivoted hashtag, hoping to digitally recreate the feeling of getting the I Voted sticker. Which is like 60% of the reason people vote, right?
I asked Coyne whether she knew if Twitter's efforts have worked, since she can't just point to how many people registered to vote on Twitter. She said yes, it's tricky to measure, but the feedback has been really good: "It's not just the moment, but it's the movement. You don't just open up Twitter on Election Day, you're part of the election season."
We're doing a bunch of these stories this week, looking back at how tech tried to help voters in the runup to the election. Tomorrow: Snapchat.
Vint Cerf is working on interplanetary internet, but it turns out data can still only move so fast:
The pandemic is bringing health care home, Fitbit's James Park said, and it's going to stay there:
Even with cable dying, most streaming services don't have a chance, Time Warner's Jeff Bewkes said:
Join Janko Roettgers on Wednesday at noon ET to answer the question: Has TV reached a tipping point? You will hear from industry experts including Tubi founder and CEO Farhad Massoudi, Cinedigm President Erick Opeka, Wurl CEO Sean Doherty and CBS News Digital EVP and GM Christy Tanner. The event is presented by Roku.
The next Big Tech CEO hearing is on Wednesday. Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai will all appear to talk about Section 230.
It's a bumper earnings week! Reporting this week are (deep breath) Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, AMD, Spotify, Shopify, Samsung, Pinterest, eBay, Qualcomm and apparently every other company that's ever existed.
Protocol's virtual event, on the future of TV — with folks from Tubi, CBS News, Cinedigm, Wurl and others — is on Wednesday at 9 a.m. PT. It's not too late to sign up!
Oh, and NASA's announcing an "exciting new discovery" about the moon at 9 a.m. PT today. My bet: lunar two-day Prime shipping.
This year of theater-less living has changed Hollywood's economics in a big way. And since you and I can't pay $13 to go see "No Time To Die," the latest Bond flick, in theaters, MGM's trying to get one check for … slightly more than that. Variety reported it's been shopping the movie to streamers including Apple and Netflix, looking for a price around $600 million. So far, it appears, nobody's said yes.
Introducing the OneView Ad Platform. From Roku.
A single platform for marketers and content owners to reach more cord cutters and measure performance using TV identity data from the No. 1 TV streaming platform in the US. Advertisers can manage their entire campaigns – including OTT, linear TV, omnichannel, and more – all in one place.
Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to email@example.com, or our tips line, firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.