Google Buys Fitbit and its Data




Fitbit is one of the biggest smartwatch companies in the US with their main competitor being Apple and their line of watches. On November first, Fitbit was acquired by Google which means all the health data that Fitbit recorded, will belong to Google. Many users are uncomfortable with this merger because they fear Google will sell their health data to insurance companies or other companies. Jennifer Elias of CNBC wrote an article about Fitbit users getting rid of their devices in lieu of this merger. She wrote about how Fitbit was bought for $2.1 billion and backlash from users and privacy advocates, the concerns may possibly stop the acquisition. Elias wrote about how users were fine with Google buying Nest Labs and integrating Google to home assistants and security. Their concerns are now that Google has access to all the data from the cameras in people’s homes and whatever data is collected from Google Home and health data. Elias quoted from a Fitbit user, “I like your product and have enjoyed it many years, but I value my privacy much, much more. The aggregation of data possible makes me extremely uncomfortable” (Elias, 2019). Elias used multiple tweets from users about the discomfort they feel having their data moved to Google. Many users are now considering using Apple’s watches because they feel more comfortable that Apple won’t sell their data or send it to insurance companies.

I found this article interesting because of the rise of privacy. More and more people are becoming concerned about where their data is going and who has access to it. Facebook has been dealing with a lot of backlash from users demanding better privacy and various lawsuits. Google has also been paying violation fees for Europe when the EU changed their privacy policies. It could be dangerous for Google to have people’s health information because these large companies don’t always keep their promises on privacy and data use. If I had a Fitbit, I would probably get rid of my device as well. I’ve been weary about the smart watches because I never wanted a company to have the ability to track my movement throughout the day and track how I sleep. It made me uncomfortable because these companies aren’t always transparent about what they plan to do with my data and I wouldn’t want an insurer to be able to up-charge me because they somehow have access to my health records from my phone. I also found it interesting that users from this article are completely fine with Google being in their home and recording their property, but health data is where they draw the line. I agree that one company having all that data is dangerous because they can build a profile on you that knows more about you than you do. I wonder if this merger will go through or if users and privacy advocates can stop it.


Account Sharing is Now Piracy




Netflix paved the way with their streaming platform and was synonymous with account and password sharing. Personally, I share an account with my sister and have been able to enjoy content that way. With the new development of Disney+, HBO Max, NBC, and Apple TV, Netflix is trying to cut down on password sharing. At first, Netflix tended to turn a blind eye at password sharing because their revenue came from views an they had more enough accounts to have a profitable income. Jason Aten at talks about how Netflix will now consider account sharing as piracy. Aten says that Netflix has hit a saturation point of subscribers so they really need users to stop freeloading accounts in order for them to make a profit. At this point, Netflix is probably losing money from the number of people sharing single accounts. With Disney+ taking to the market soon, Netflix has to figure a way to make a profit from their platform. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment is the group behind this movement, they are made up of Warner Bros, Disney, Netflix, Sony and Paramount. Their plan to target the technology, not the users for “pirating”. Their goal is to create a solution that could track location of the device and device tracking itself. This is a huge concern of privacy, so it’s interesting to see where ACE will take this.
I found this article interesting because there are so many platforms to pay for now. People are cutting cable and now continuing to pay for services that add up to a monthly bill the size of a cable package. I’ve seen opinion pieces on how piracy will probably come back since it is becoming more and more difficult to stream things on a budget. This move could bring real privacy issues if major companies are able to track the location of devices we watch their content on. It’s a bit scary that ACE is advocating for Creativity and Entertainment is major studios actively making it hard for people to reach content. It is also scary that account sharing is considered piracy now because that can needlessly put people in prison for sharing their passwords. I know it’s frustrating when a company has such hard competition and needs to up the ante but eliminating the ability to share accounts seems like they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. Maybe DVDs and physical media will make a comeback from all the legal hoops streaming sites are making their customers jump through.

Will Facebook Ban Political Ads?




No, Facebook will not ban the ads. With the 2020 election is coming up very quickly and with local elections being on November 5th this year, people are starting to look into candidates. Twitter just said it will be banning political ads from their website because of the type of influence the ads can have on voters. This move got people talking and now people are asking if Facebook will ban political ads too. Brian Feldman from NY Mag quotes Zuckerberg, “it is not the role of Facebook, according to Mark Zuckerberg, to limit the speech of politicians or candidates for political office” (Feldman 2019). Zuckerberg believes that candidates who aren’t well known need his platform to reach people to ensure their voices are heard too. With millions of Americans being on Facebook, politicians have a very easy way to access these people online. They can share and influence and even attack other politicians. It is interesting that Twitter banned ads altogether while Facebook believes that banning the ads hinder free speech.

I found this article interesting because Facebook was a very heavy influence in the 2016 election. One would think to avoid something like that happening again, Zuckerberg would ban the ability for politicians to reach voters through his website. Personally, I would like to see less political ads online because millions and even billions of tax payers’ money are used for these ads. Along with the group that has the most money to pay for advertisements is the person who gets talked about more. Money drives our elections more than anything and politicians with the most money are the ones that run the nation. I find this to be a very bad way to approach voting because the rich politicians are not concerned about what the middle-class and lower-class want, they are concerned with what companies and rich people want. Twitter has been a massive platform for politicians, especially Donald Trump. To see that Twitter won’t allow him to advertise on their site is amazing because this allows people to form their own voting opinions and lessens the ability for fake news and slander to spread. I understand that Zuckerberg will not ban political ads, but I’m curious to see how the future of social media and voting turns out. Will Facebook be forced to ban political ads one day? If they ever do, they will lose a massive amount of earnings, but maybe the issue of fake news on Facebook would diminish for politicians.

Sony’s Vue Up for Sale




Along with AT&T, Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, Sony had their own platform to stream video content from. Sony used their PlayStation platform to create Vue, a service that cuts the chord with cable, but allows users to still watch live television and have a DVR service. The service was rather popular and has about 500,000 active users. Vue is a one-of-a-kind service that has differentiated itself from its competitors, but they have significantly less subscribers than the rest. According to Jon Porter of the Verge, a sports-focused streaming service called FuboTV is the only company that has seriously considered purchasing Vue from Sony. This summer Sony hiked the price of Vue by $5 a month and said they are still struggling to keep it profitable even with the price increase. Porter says that Vue doesn’t have a large library of its own, so besides its live television feature, it’s a bit hard to compete with others. Vue is one of the only internet television services available and they refused to allow YouTube TV, Sling TV, or Hulu’s live TV service on their platform. Porter also says that if Vue is sold, then users could see a change in the type of services Vue can offer.

I found this article interesting because it touches into the competition that AT&T and Disney+ have created, an extremely competitive market and consolidation is making the market even more hard to break into. I thought it was interesting in this article\\\ the author said that selling Vue is probably a good idea for Sony as the streaming business becomes more aggressive. Many people in media hypothesized that once Netflix paved the way for streaming, that everyone else would catch on and make streaming the new cable package. I found this interesting because in 2013, streaming wasn’t huge and there were only a handful of companies that advertised their services. With the growth of Netflix and Hulu, Disney is creating Disney+, Apple TV has created Apple TV+ and AT&T acquired HBO who plans to launch HBO Max in 2020. Along with NBCUniversal planning to launch their service, Peacock in upcoming months. Each service is also focusing on exclusive content to ensure they can hook their viewers. This is really interesting to watch because instead of paying Comcast or Verizon hundreds of dollars a month, users are “saving money” by having four or five streaming services that cost $12.99 to $20 a month.

Facebook Loses $35 Billion Lawsuit Over User Data Privacy and Transparency


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Facebook has been a company that everyone is talking about for the past two years. Each report comes out with an action against the company and how much control and data they have mined and sold from their users. This week’s report follows a lawsuit against Facebook for $35 billion in a class action lawsuit that addressed misuse of facial recognition. Josh Constine of Tech Crunch reported on this lawsuit as it is one of the largest FTC class action lawsuits, “breaking the previous largest lawsuit at $5 billion” (Constine, 2019). Facebook makes about $55 billion a year in revenue, so this lawsuit put a dent in their earnings and forced the company’s stock to drop 2.25%. The lawsuit focused on Facebook suggesting people to tag in photos. For instance, if I uploaded a new profile picture with myself and a friend and didn’t tag my friend, Facebook would suggest if I wanted to tag the person and addressed them by their profile name. Meaning, the company can recognize user’s faces and use them for things beyond tagging on social media. Facebook claimed that they were very transparent with their use of this technology, but this lawsuit proves otherwise.

I chose this article this week because this is a major lawsuit that actually asked for a large amount of money from this major website. I have been curious about Facebook because they are trying desperately to make sure they are still relevant, throwing new services out and hoping that one of them catches on. These services being streaming with Netflix, a new dating app, and even a cryptocurrency. The public is finally understanding that huge sites like Google and Facebook are collecting a lot of data on people and aren’t using the data for app improvements or to let users know about themselves. No, they are collecting data, creating in-depth profiles and selling that data to advertisers and third parties for revenue. These profiles would probably tell you more about you than you even know. They predict shopping trends and political trends. The profiles even know where you were three years ago on your trip to Europe down to the time you spent at a café and how much you traveled. Facebook started face mapping in 2011, so this has been eight years of facial recognition that has been saved since 2011. Learning that Facebook is being held accountable for their data misuse makes me feel better about the future since people are getting outraged at how much data websites and apps keep on us without our knowledge and with little transparency.

Apple Notifies When Their Users’ Location is Being Used

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Third-party app tracking has been an issue for the past 5 to 7 years. As our technology becomes more connected, people start to see the dangers this connectivity can pose. Todd Haselton of CNBC wrote an article talking about how Apple’s new iOS software will alert its users when an app is tracking the user’s location. Many phone users keep their location services turned on because it gives them easier access to map and GPS services, they get alerts for the area they are in, and some apps have filters for the user’s location. Haselton urges users iPhone users to pay attention to this alert because location services is how apps like Facebook or Uber target ads to you, they sell all your data to third-parties and allowing them to have your location means they will track you all day and understand what a user does day-to-day. How much time one spends at work, do they buy lunch or pack lunch? Do they eat lunch at all? Do they use public transport? etc. Apps that can track a user’s location can learn all this information and Apple warning users is a great step towards better privacy.

Another interesting point brought up in this article is the use of Bluetooth as a mode of tracking. Android and Apple phones are both making a big push towards wireless everything. Anyone with an iPhone 10 now has airpods, which are headphones that require the use of Bluetooth. Hasleton talks about how apps like, “Dunkin’ Donuts, ESPN Fantasy, GroupMe, CVS, Amazon and others had access to Bluetooth, which could give them the ability to track my location through Bluetooth beacons on storefronts and in other public venues” (Hasleton 2019). Personally, I did not know that Bluetooth connectivity could help track location. It is a bit scary that storefronts have receptors to collect your data while you shop. This phenomenon is not new, but this is a new way to track customers. I knew that apps automatically turn on every permission, but it is a bit annoying that phones do that without the user’s knowledge and then bury the app permissions, so the user has to dig to stop this. It is good on Apple for reminding the users that these apps are using their information and location past when the user allows the app to use it. Although there are so many more steps to take for users to feel safe, this move from Apple will hopefully have users (not just Apple users also) wake up that their data is always being collected.

A.I. Music Making Black Mirror Come True




This article comes from Digital Trends and is written by Luke Dormehl. The focus of the article is A.I. musicians and their popularity. It isn’t about vocaloids or computer-generated personalities, it’s about computers, A.I. personalities, creating music. Auxuman is the name of this A.I. personality and September 27th, the A.I. released its first album and promises to create a full-length album every month. Computer engines create the words, melodies, and voices and creates lyrics through poems and expressions it learned online. Dormehl quotes, “Yona and her Auxuman friends are, in a sense, a reflection of human life on the internet. Expression on each song comes from stories we have told, ideas we have generated, and opinions we have shared” (Dormehl 2019). One of the reasons Auxuman was created was not to fulfill people’s need to always have new content, but rather to speed up the process of creating new genres. This article discussed how new music has a tendency to sound the same because humans stick to what is successful, they don’t want to create new genres because they like the current ones. This is why Auxuman is so different. It can create brand new types of genres and its feelings won’t be hurt if a song does poorly.

I found this article to be interesting because it was a subject that black mirror touched in June of 2019 in the episode called Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too. The premise of the episode was a popstar falls into a coma and her manager created a new album from the singer’s subconscious and used A.I. to create a holographic recreation of the singer and to generate new music and recreate the singer’s voice. This idea of A.I. personalities creating music is very interesting because it takes out the human part in music. As mentioned above, the computers learn from poetry and what they learn from human expression online. A.Is. have been used before to try and create a realistic computer that one can talk to. The outcome of those were that the internet is very hateful and these A.Is become very harsh and adapt the speech patterns of whoever talks to it the most. I listened to one of the songs from Auxuman’s first album and it was bizarre. The A.I. didn’t sing, it talked with a hum at the end and the lyrics didn’t make much sense. From their song “One” the beginning lyrics were, “I never felt alone, you never said a word. I fell from my throne, you didn’t want me there”. Coming from a computer, those lyrics are a bit chilling. This concept is very interesting and new genres can come from these A.I. personalities, but how would it feel to say the next best genre was created by a computer? Having The Beatles known as a group that shaped the genre of their time, what does it mean when the next “voice of a generation” is an artificial intelligent personality?

“Disney is mining nostalgia to make Disney+ a success”.

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This article is written by Edgar Alvarez of Endgadget. The article discusses the content available on Disney’s new streaming service and how they’re gathering a very large following of people who would use their platform. Alvarez discusses how Disney is sealing the deal to make their platform a huge success and lock in the views. He says Disney is doing this by ensuring all of their content is available to watch. They struck a deal with Pixar and will have every Pixar movie on Disney+ along with every Marvel movie and Lucasfilm productions. Alvarez quotes, “Never [has so much of] our content been previously available, whether you’re nostalgic for your childhood favorites or simply need Baby Groot”. By November 12th, Disney+ will offer over 500 feature films and more than 7,000 show episodes. The other way Disney is attracting even more audiences by rebooting their old TV shows, they rebooted That’s So Raven and just released the promotional clips for their new show Lizzie McGuire, a reboot of their show by the same title from 2001.

I found this article interesting because Disney has a very interesting marketing scheme. They understand the power they have and how much they can produce and their expansive library. By rebooting these d-comm classic shows, they are appealing to millennial’s and gen-z’s. Along with having all their movies from the past and their classic Disney princess films. While reading this article I even found myself thinking, “that’s a really good deal”, because they have so much content that their competitors won’t. They are successfully using nostalgia to sell their new platform because baby boomers will appreciate their nostalgia for Steamboat Willie and other classics, while Gen X, Y, Millenial’s, and Gen Z will appreciate the 90s classic films and the shows they grew up with. They have successfully created a platform every age group will enjoy, which is mind-boggling. It brings up the concern about any competitors although. How will independent artists get found? Will every show and filmmaker have to go through Disney to get their content out to the masses? It’s really interesting to see how competitive these platforms are going to get to ensure they have the most viewers. It also brings a fear about how limited entertainment will get with this much consolidation.

I’ve talked about Disney+ on this blog before but hearing more and more about how Disney+ will be the only streaming service a person needs and that is their goal, is very interesting. Alvarez also mentioned about how Disney might run into huge problems because the sheer scale of their content library might overwhelm their site. I too am curious to see how Disney+ will change Disney and streaming services since if one is to compete with Disney+, they probably have to own their own channel/content conglomerate.

Taking Plastic Straws and Making Records

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In light of the climate change protest that happened on Friday, Bacardi spirits has teamed up with Lonely Whale to combat single use plastic straws. Their proposition? Taking old and used plastic straws and making vinyl records. Melissa Locker wrote this article and discussed how these two companies plan to create and produce these “vinyl’s”. Locker writes about how Major Lazer is one of the artists who will have their music pressed onto the limited-edition vinyl records in early December. She also mentioned that this weekend, Bacardi will set up a booth at a music festival in Las Vegas and show people their new idea. In November, 55 partnering bars will set up collection bins for straws and send them to Bacardi. It is Bacardi and Lonely Whale’s goal to rid the world of one billion single-use plastic straws by 2020.

What’s interesting about this article is the idea of up-cycling in a really creative way. Single use drinking straws have been a hot topic in the news for the past few months. Using reusable straws has become a very big craze because it’s a new way a person can reduce their carbon footprint in an immediate way. The idea of taking those straws and making records out of them is very innovative. Up-cycling is becoming more popular and even though many bars and restaurants use paper straws, it hasn’t stopped the issue fully. Taking the straws from the bars and making them something new is a good way to help the problem. I also find it interesting that vinyl records have become more popular in the past decade, so much so that Bacardi can create these records knowing that there will be a market for them. I think Bacardi is taking some positive steps to help resolve an issue that drinking straws have created. As mentioned, the cardboard straws aren’t the most favorable straw because they become soggy and hard to use after a short amount of time. Personally, I like this idea because it brings awareness to the issue drinking straws have created for the environment, while reminding people that there are creative ways to make something new out of single-use products. It helps to reinforce that one person’s trash can be another person’s treasure.

Facebook Proposes A Smart-TV Device.


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Facebook has a track record for being untrustworthy and having a scary amount of information on its users and even its non-users. Now, Facebook might be working on a smart-TV device of their own to distribute to consumers.

Shawn M. Carter of Fox Business reports about the recent development from Facebook. Carter says, “Facebook is reportedly preparing to launch a streaming device that, much like Amazon’s Fire Stick, would plug into a TV and offer access to a library of online content”. An interesting thing about this new TV plug-in is that Facebook would provide it as a bundle, with something called a portal family, which would give the people smart tablets, enabling users to video chat with each other. The thing that sets apart Facebook’s device from Apple and Amazon is their device might have a camera and microphones that link to the platform’s video service. Carter says that this, “might allow the company to tap into fun extras, like augmented reality (AR), face effects and interactive stories”. Although, the biggest issue for this streaming platform would be Facebook getting an agreement from Disney or Netflix to stream their content.

I wanted to discuss this article this week because this is an interesting technological development. As stated above, Facebook has not been known for protecting its users from data collecting. Facebook also tried to launch their own streaming service, which never really caught on. The whole premise of Facebook, which already has targeted ads and collects browser data to sell to other companies, creating another platform where they can gather your interests is mind-boggling. Facebook already asks you to connect your account to other apps like Spotify, Instagram, and online games, which grants them further access to how a person spends their time on various devices. I find this interesting because in 2014, smart TVs were under fire for using microphones to survey their users. Facebook has also gone to court on multiple accounts for their privacy issues, and Amazon Alexa is also in trouble for saving conversations its users have when the device is supposed to be dormant. Allowing another device with cameras and microphones seems crazy because people are just bugging their homes and letting Facebook and Amazon know almost everything about them. It feels more dystopian than innovative at this point. I wouldn’t want Facebook to monitor multiple streaming services on top of everything else it monitors. There’s a point where a company knows too much about a person and I don’t want Facebook knowing more about me than I do. I believe it is an important discussion to have about Facebook and invasion of privacy and allowing Facebook-owned cameras/microphones into a person’s house. I’m curious to see if this actually is launched and if there will be any large privacy scandals from it.