Posts tagged ‘law’


Big Tech and advertising: the con is being revealed

13.11.2019

People are waking up to the fact that online advertising isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
   Last month, Bob Hoffman’s excellent The Ad Contrarian newsletter noted, ‘I believe the marketing industry has pissed away hundreds of billions of dollars on digital fairy tales and ad fraud over the past 10 years (in fact, I’m writing a book about it.) If I am right, and if the article in question is correct, we are in the midst of a business delusion unmatched in all of history.’ He linked to an article by Jesse Frederik and Mauritz Martin (also sent to me by another colleague), entitled ‘The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising’ in The Correspondent. In it, they cast doubt over the effectiveness of online ads, hidden behind buzzwords and the selection effect. If I understand the latter correctly, it means that people who are already predisposed to your offering are more likely to click on your ads, so the ads aren’t actually netting you new audiences.
   Here’s the example Frederik and Martin give:

Picture this. Luigi’s Pizzeria hires three teenagers to hand out coupons to passersby. After a few weeks of flyering, one of the three turns out to be a marketing genius. Customers keep showing up with coupons distributed by this particular kid. The other two can’t make any sense of it: how does he do it? When they ask him, he explains: “I stand in the waiting area of the pizzeria.”

   The summary is that despite these companies claiming there’s a correlation between advertising with them and some result, the truth is that no one actually knows.
   And the con is being perpetuated by the biggest names in the business.
   As Hoffman noted at the end of October:

A few decades ago the advertising industry decided they couldn’t trust the numbers they were being given by media. The result was the rise of third-party research, ratings, and auditing organizations.
   But there are still a few companies that refuse to allow independent, third-party auditing of their numbers.

   No surprises there. I’ve already talked about Facebook’s audience estimates having no relationship with the actual population, so we know they’re bogus.
   And, I imagine, they partly get away with it because of their scale. One result of the American economic orthodoxy these days is that monopolies are welcome—it’s the neoliberal school of thinking. Now, I went through law school being taught the Commerce Act 1986 and the Trade Practices Act 1974 over in Australia, and some US antitrust legislation. I was given all the economic arguments on why monopolies are bad, including the starvation of innovation in their sector.
   Roger McNamee put me right there in Zucked, essentially informing me that what I learned isn’t current practice in the US. And that is worrisome at the least.
   It does mean, in places like Europe which haven’t bought into this model, and who still have balls (as well evidence), they’re happy to go after Google over their monopoly. And since our anti-monopoly legislation is still intact, and one hopes that we don’t suddenly change tack (since I know the Commerce Act is under review), we should fight those monopoly effects that Big Tech has in our country.
   What happens to monopolies? Well, if past behaviour is any indication, they can get broken up. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is simply recounting American history when she suggests that that’s what Facebook, Google and Amazon should endure. There was a time when Republicans and Democrats would have been united on this prospect, given the trusts that gave rise to their Sherman Act in 1890, protecting the public from market failures like these. Even a generation ago, they’d never have allowed companies to get this influential.
   Also a generation ago, we wouldn’t swallow the BS an advertising platform gave us without something to back it up. Right now, it seems we don’t have anything—and the industry is beginning to cry foul.


Lorie Shaull/Creative Commons Attribution–Share Alike 2·0

Regardless of your political stripes, Sen. Elizabeth Warren calling for the break-up of Big Tech made sense as recently as a generation ago.

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Facebook is getting away with it again—even though it knew about Cambridge Analytica

25.07.2019

Thanks to my friend Bill Shepherd, I’ve now subscribed to The Ad Contrarian newsletter. Bob Hoffman is one of the few who gets it when it comes to how insignificant the FTC’s Facebook fine is.
   Five (American) billion (American) dollars sounds like a lot to you and me, but considering Facebook’s stock rose on the news, they’ve more than covered the fine on the rise alone.
   Bob writes: ‘The travesty of this settlement guarantees that no tech company CEO will take consumer privacy or data security seriously. Nothing will change till someone either has to pay personally or go to jail. Paying insignificant fines with corporate money is now an officially established cost of doing business in techland and—who knows?—a jolly good way to boost share prices.’
   There’s something very messed up about this scenario, particularly as some of the US’s authorities are constantly being shown up by the EU (over Google’s monopoly actions) and the UK’s Damian Collins, MP (over the questions being asked of Facebook—unlike US politicians’, his aren’t toothless).
   The US SEC, meanwhile, has released its report on Facebook, showing that Facebook knew what was happening with Cambridge Analytica in 2015–16, and that the company willingly sold user data to the firm. SEC’s Stephanie Avakian noted, ‘As alleged in our complaint, Facebook presented the risk of misuse of user data as hypothetical when they knew user data had in fact been misused.’ You can read the entire action as filed by the SEC here.

In its quarterly and annual reports filed between January 28, 2016 and March 16, 2018 (the “relevant period”), Facebook did not disclose that a researcher had, in violation of the company’s policies, transferred data relating to approximately 30 million Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica. Instead, Facebook misleadingly presented the potential for misuse of user data as merely a hypothetical investment risk. Moreover, when asked by reporters in 2017 about its investigation into the Cambridge Analytica matter, Facebook falsely claimed the company found no evidence of wrongdoing, thereby reinforcing the misleading statements in its periodic filings.

   As I have been hashtagging, #Facebooklies. This is standard practice for the firm, as has been evidenced countless times for over a decade. The settlement: US$100 million. Pocket change.

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More Facebook lies in its ad preferences’ manager?

21.04.2019

As I’ve often said, it’s wise to keep an eye on your Facebook ad preferences’ page. Even if you’ve opted out of Facebook targeting, Facebook will still keep compiling information on you. I see no other purpose for this other than to target you with advertising, contrary to what you expect.
   Facebook also tells you which companies have uploaded their marketing lists to them, and this has been very interesting reading. A load of US politicians whom I have never heard of somehow have this information, and today’s crop is no different.

   I’ve written to Old Mout Cider, which I was surprised to find is part of the Dutch conglomerate Heineken NV, and await an answer, but the biggie here has to be Über.
   Many years ago, I tried the app but could never get it to work. Neither could my partner. Then we started hearing from Susan Fowler and Pando Daily, and that helped confirm that we would never support the company.
   Basically, Über would never let me log in, saying I had exhausted my password attempts after the grand total of one, despite sending a password reset link. My partner could log in but we could never figure anything out beyond that (it had credit card details she had never entered and said we lived next door).
   Concerned about this, I went to Über’s website to request deletion of my personal details, but this was the screen I got.

   Now, either Big Tech One is lying or Big Tech Two is lying.
   To its credit, Über New Zealand responded very quickly on Twitter (on Good Friday, no less) and said it would look into it. Within minutes it was able to confirm that I do not have an account there (presumably it was deleted with a lack of use, or maybe I went and did it back when they wouldn’t let me log in?) and my email address doesn’t appear anywhere.
   Therefore, we can likely again conclude that Facebook lies and we have to bring into question its advertising preferences’ management page.
   We already know Facebook has lied to advertisers about the number of people it can reach (namely that it exceeds the number of people alive in certain demographics), that there is a discrepancy between what it reports in the preferences and what a full download of personal data reveals, so I have to wonder what the deception is here.
   Is it allowing these advertisers to reach us even when (as Über claims) they have no information on us? (Heineken’s response will seal the deal when they get back to me after Easter.) In that case, it will be very hard for Facebook to argue that we have given them consent to do this.
   Heineken, incidentally, is a major advertiser on Instagram, as I see their advertisements even after opting out of all alcohol advertising on the Facebook ad preferences’ page (as instructed by Instagram). When we establish contact next week, I will be more than happy to tell them this. Who knows? While I doubt they will cease advertising on the platforms on my say-so, sometimes you have to plant the seed so that they are aware their ads are not being filtered out from those people who do not want to see booze promoted in their feeds.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, technology, USA | No Comments »


EU copyright: as far as we’re concerned, link away

13.04.2019


European Unionwww.europarl.europa.eu/downloadcentre/en/visual-identity, Public Domain; link

I’m reading more about this EU copyright directive that was voted in last month.
   Without doing a full analysis, I can say that we won’t go after anyone who links to our publications.
   We presently don’t care if you use a brief snippet of our content and link back to the rest. I can’t see our position changing on this.
   We do care if you take entire chunks (e.g. the text of an entry on Autocade, since they’re only a paragraph long). In some cases we only have the rights to photos appearing on our own site so we may want those removed if they’ve been copied from us.
   Over the years I’ve just contacted publishers and asked them politely. Only a tiny handful actually respond; quite a few sites are bot-driven with feedback forms that no one checks. They get DMCAed.
   But I don’t have a problem with the systems that are in place today.
   It seems the EU is going to wind up creating a segregated internet: one where Big Tech and large media corporations can afford to do everything and smaller publishers can’t. This is already happening, thanks to Google’s own actions with favouring mainstream media sources rather than the outlet that had the guts to break the news item. Big companies are flexing their muscles and lawmakers are bending over backwards to serve them ahead of their own citizens. (Incidentally, I can’t see the UK doing anything differently here post-Brexit.)
   Smaller publications might band together and share among themselves by some sort of informal agreement.
   So for us, when it comes to linking and excerpting, keep doing it. Unless something happens that forces me to change my mind, I’m all for the status quo ante in the EU.

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Navigating the Julian Assange arrest

12.04.2019

I’m finding it disturbing that some of the talking heads here we’ve seen are giving the Julian Assange story the same bias that much of the US mainstream media are. To me, it’s dangerous territory: it either shows that our media wish to be complicit with Anglo-American interests, that they do little more than repeat the UK Government’s official statements, that they lack any originality, or that they lack basic analytical skills expected of professional journalists. Or all of the above.
   You don’t have to like Assange. You can find him rapey [even if the evidence doesn’t support this—link added] or creepy [and that’s subjective]. You don’t even have to respect Wikileaks. We can all disagree with whether we believe Wikileaks is a publication and Assange a journalist. But you should be also aware of how stories are being reported to paint a one-sided picture, and how this has been going on for seven years, with blatantly obvious factual omissions in all that time.
   Jonathan Cook sums it up incredibly well on his blog, and I recommend his piece.
   The only major media outlet I have come across that is allowing commentators defending Assange is the Russian government-backed Russia Today.
   Some of what Patrick Henningsen said in the wake of Assange’s arrest is already coming to pass, and confirms his suspicions that Assange will not get a fair trial.

   The occident, especially the Anglosphere, cannot hold its head up high as a defender of basic human rights. It hasn’t been able to for quite some time with its interference over others’ sovereignty and its yielding to globalist multinationals at the expense of its own citizens. Now the rest of the world is watching this event and seeing how it’s desperate to crush one of its own to keep its wrongdoings from coming out. China, with its kidnappings of publishers and booksellers critical of the Communist Party, will simply say that the US and UK are pots calling the kettle black when this issue is raised in the future.
   And given their willingness to join the throng, some of our media won’t be able to complain if any of our journalists are silenced using the same techniques in future.

PS.: It’s worth quoting Suzie Dawson on the word rapey and I now regret using it: ‘The term “rapey” is itself, offensive. With its use, the definition of rape is being willfully expanded into borderline meaninglessness and obscurity. As if there can be “racisty” or “sexisty” or “homophobicy”. There cannot. Rape is an absolute, and a serious crime against humanity. The term should not be callously invoked; watered down for the social convenience of he or she exercising the privilege inherently wielded when bastardising the language of the violated.’

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Posted in media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, UK, USA | 1 Comment »


Bypassing the media, Carlos Ghosn tells it as it is

10.04.2019

I haven’t blogged much about Carlos Ghosn, though I’ve Tweeted aplenty since his arrest last November. Earlier this week, his lawyers released a video of Ghosn stating his position, and it echoes much of what I had Tweeted. He couldn’t make a personal appearance at a press conference himself, thanks to some conveniently timed (for Nissan) evidence that prompted another arrest by the Japanese authorities.
   The way the original exposé was done and the way the Japanese mainstream media lapped up the one-sided story and propagated it verbatim told me immediately that something was rotten inside Nissan. A lack of investigation should always tell you that not all is what it seems.

   While it’s true that Nissan is worth more than Renault now, we can’t forget what a terrible shape it was in at the time the alliance was forged. While Nissan could have declared the Japanese equivalent of Chapter 11, it’s interesting to speculate how it would have emerged: would it have saved face or would consumers have lost confidence, as they have with Mitsubishi? And in the wake of Ghosn’s arrest, stories in the western media began appearing: Nissan’s performance was faltering (‘mediocre,’ says Ghosn). It had had a recent scandal and a major recall. More likely than not, it meant that certain heads were going to roll. To save themselves, they rolled their leader instead.
   We’ll see if there has been financial impropriety as things proceed, but to me there’s an element of xenophobia in the way the story has developed; and it was a surprise to learn at how ill-balanced the Japanese legal system is.
   I’ve been vocal elsewhere on how poorly I think elements of both companies have been run, but Ghosn does have a valid point in his video when he says that leadership can’t be based solely on consensus, as it’s not a way to propel a company forward.
   I’m keeping an open mind and, unlike some of the reporting that has gone on, maintaining that Ghosn is innocent till proved guilty. It’s dangerous to hop on to a bandwagon. It’s why I was a rare voice saying the Porsche Cayenne would succeed when the conventional wisdom among the press was that it would fail; and why I said Google Plus would fail when the tech press said it was a ‘Facebook-killer’. Ghosn deserves to be heard.

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Posted in business, cars, culture, France, leadership, media | No Comments »


Facebook: Kiwi lives don’t matter

10.04.2019

As someone who read Confucius as a young man, and was largely raised on his ideas, free speech with self-regulation is my default position—though when it becomes apparent that people simply aren’t civilized enough to use it, then you have to consider other solutions.
   We have Facebook making statements saying they are ‘Standing Against Hate’, yet when friends report white nationalist and separatist groups, they are told that nothing will be done because it is ‘counter-speech’. We know that Facebook has told the Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, that it has done absolutely nothing despite its statements. This is the same company that shut off its ‘View as’ feature (which allowed people to check how their walls would look from someone else’s point-of-view) after share price-affecting bad press, yet when it comes to actual humans getting killed and their murders streamed live via their platform, Facebook, through its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, essentially tells us, ‘There are no problems, nothing to see here.’


   We may differ on where we draw the line on what is permitted speech and what isn’t, but where we can agree is that Facebook, once again, has said one thing and done another, leading Edwards to say on Twitter, ‘Facebook cannot be trusted. They are morally bankrupt pathological liars.’
   He is right. Just as Facebook said it would support the drag community while kicking off its members, just as Facebook forced highly suspicious downloads on people after false claims of malware detection, just as Facebook says you can opt-out of its ad targeting while collecting more data on you, its latest feel-good announcement was a blatant lie, to make unquestioning sheeple believe it was a good corporate citizen. More people will have seen the Facebook announcement than Edwards’ Tweet, so it would have weighed up the consequences of doing nothing or getting bad press.
   Basically, as far as Facebook is concerned, Kiwi lives don’t matter, because it believes it can ride the negative press. Apparently, however, getting accused by Wired for questionable downloads does matter, hence they stopped doing them after getting exposed. The priorities are massively screwed up.
   I would actually respect Facebook and Zuckerberg more if their pronouncements were in line with their real intent:

We’re just a platform
We take no responsibility at all for what gets shared through us. You can say what you like, but we think we can weather this storm, just as we weathered the last one, and just as we’ll weather the next.

Kiwi lives don’t matter
White nationalist groups make for great sharing. And sharing is caring. So we won’t shut them down as we did with Muslim groups. The engagement is just too good, especially when we’re only going to upset fewer than five million New Zealanders.

Hate is great
Hate gets shared and people spend more time on Facebook as a result. Whether it’s about New Zealanders or the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, we’ll be there to help distribute it. Genocide’s fine when it doesn’t affect our share price.

Facebook users are ‘dumb fucks’
Our founder said it, and this is still our ongoing policy at Facebook. We’ll continue to lie because we know you’re addicted to our platform. And no matter which country summons our founder, we know you won’t have the guts to issue a warrant of arrest.

   Actions speak more loudly than words, and in Facebook’s case, their words are a form of Newspeak, where they mean the opposite to what everyone else understands.

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More reminders that Google lies

21.02.2019


Nest/Creative Commons

We’ve been here countless times before since last decade. Funny how many of these “errors” Google has, and funny how they only admit to these “errors” after they get busted. How many more “errors” are there?

The link that Grady features is here.
   Just how many times do I need to remind people that this is “business as usual” for Google?
   If I lied to you this often, and spied on you through different gadgets, wouldn’t you stop trusting me? So why trust Google?

Hat tip to Vincent Wright.

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Posted in internet, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


They only found one set of dentures, so how’s my Dad supposed to eat these solids?

16.12.2018

You’d think that after the Bupa nurse said Dad’s dentures were found, that would be the end of it.
   I headed there this afternoon to discover that they only found his upper set. The lower ones are missing.
   Again, no one there thought of putting him on soft or purée food till my partner and I got there.
   No one knows where these lower dentures are and the only communiqué from Bupa is that they are now ‘confirmed to be missing’ and I am ‘welcome to write a formal complaint so it will be investigated fully.’
   I shouldn’t need to write a formal complaint for a full investigation to take place and for the dentures to be replaced.
   I have never seen Dad this weak in his life and he is severely depressed as a direct result.
   I hold all parties who put him in this position responsible, and as of Monday some sharp formal action will take place.
   My GP has been in touch and he will try to get an urgent referral to the psychogeriatrician.
   Allies on Twitter have been remarkable and Jane suggests the health and disability commissioner should get involved. I couldn’t agree more, but first I need to get him out of there, into somewhere safer and more professional, and get dentures made urgently.
   I don’t think you need a law degree to see that the ingredients of a case in negligence are now met.

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Posted in New Zealand, Wellington | 3 Comments »


Google exposed private user data between 2015 and 2018

09.10.2018

Big Tech isn’t afraid of the law, but it is afraid of bad press that could affect its stock price. The Murdoch Press has, refreshingly, stayed on Google’s case, revealing that there had been another exposure of user data, allowing developers access to private information between 2015 and March 2018.
   The company sent a memo warning executives not to disclose this, fearing ‘regulatory interest’.
   The access was available via Google Plus, which the company says it will permanently close.
   In 2011 I predicted Plus would be a flop, while tech journalists salivated at the prospect, calling it, among other things, a Facebook killer. A few years later, you couldn’t find much support among the tech press, but no one admitting they were wrong.
   I had warned regularly on this blog of privacy holes that I had found on Google, with inexplicable mystery parties among my Circles or on Google Buzz, as well as strange entries in my Google account. I’ve talked often about what I discovered with Google’s ad preferences (something it got away with for up to two years), but I’ve also found YouTube and search history settings turned on without my consent. Murdochs had revealed Google hacked Iphones, which led to a lawsuit. To learn that Google has had a privacy problem, one that it let slip for three years, does not surprise me one bit.

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Posted in internet, media, technology, USA | 2 Comments »