Ofcom and Protecting UK Content

Ofcom, a British media regulator has been appointed by the government to legally regulate harmful content over media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration has targeted content such as child-abuse, terrorism, and self-harm as key areas to be regulated. Especially in a time when media usage has skyrocketed, media content needs to be scrutinized on all platforms.

Last year, the British government thought to create a branch of the government to directly enforce content regulations. Instead, the government has decided to fund Ofcom to protect the internet from harmful content. They even held a conference with over 2,400 companies to see which company would be the best fit for the job.

According to the British government, Ofcom will have the power to give out fines, warnings, and block off internet service providers. Ofcom can also make the senior management of social media companies responsible. The government also has to make sure that the enforcement powers are to be used fairly.

There have been critics of this new proposal, because content creators are concerned this could backfire. Ofcom could use their powers to censor too much content, restricting freedom of speech and free content creation. In response to this, the government ensured it would use this power only to censor malicious and harmful content. They ensured their will be a code of violation that will be strictly enforced, but not to overdue their own powers.

The idea of content restrictions are welcomed all over the World. Giant tech companies such as Facebook welcome the idea of the government intervening to provide safe web browsing. However, other companies such as IBM, Google, and Microsoft suggest using artificial intelligence to weed out harmful content.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/12/uk-watchdog-ofcom-to-impose-duty-of-care-on-social-media-firms.html


Google Fiber Kills Traditional TV In Favor of Streaming

As of today traditional television is on its last leg. Most of the best content to watch is already online. Websites such as Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, now Disney plus, with Peacock on standby, streaming will dominate the decade. Google Fiber sees the trend and is opting to change it’s perspective as a company. After the change to drop traditional television methods comes with partnerships of Youtube TV and FuboTv. FuboTV distributes lives sports, offers over 35,000 live sports events yearly. Now new Fiber customers have two options on how they want to receive live and on demand programming.

The Commercial That Stole The Show On Football’s Biggest Night


It’s quite evident that football’s biggest night is the perfect opportunity for companies to persuade all who are watching to utilize/buy their products through the use of captivating commercials. In saying that, this year’s Superbowl had commercials that ranged from happy, to humorous, to serious/emotional, to completely strange and seemingly pointless.

To get a professional opinion on these commercials, KDKA sat down with Shannon Baker–the president of a local ad agency to get her opinion on which spots were the winners and the losers on football’s biggest night. Baker is president of the Gatesman Agency in Pittsburgh and has 18 years of experience in the ad business (so she knows a good bit about how companies and clients can accurately convey a message that resonates with audiences and further persuades them to either adopt an idea, utilize a software, or buy a product.)

According to Baker, she believes that if you craft a story that is short, tight, and memorable, it is going to make people feel something–which is critical to the success of the commercial.

She says Google set the bar very high with its emotional “Loretta” ad, and many others would agree. Millions of people were raving about the heartfelt tearjerking ad that was based on a true story. For those who didn’t get to see the commercial, it begins with a man typing into Google “how to not forget,” and then asking his Google Assistant device to show him photos of his late wife named Loretta. The man continues to ask Google to remember certain things about her, like the fact that she hated his mustache, loved going to Alaska, and always snorted when she laughed. In the end, Google recites all of the things the man had asked the device to remember. It closed out with the man saying, “remember I’m the luckiest man in the world.”

Overall, Baker and many others believe that Google set the bar very high with their ‘Loretta’ ad because not only did it tug on the emotional heartstrings of audiences, but it also marketed the product in a simple yet compelling way.


Pittsburgh Ad Agency Says Which Super Bowl Commercials Were The Most And Least Impressive



Google Buys Fitbit and its Data


Article: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/17/people-getting-rid-of-fitbits-after-google.html

Image: https://www.gadgetbytenepal.com/google-fitbit-acquisition-privacy-at-risk/

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.

Google Cracks Down

Google, which is known by its employee as a company that provides an open and transparent company morale is now cracking down on policies and procedures which is causing backlash from its employees. Google recently had to fire one employee and put two others on leave because the company feel they went against their privacy policy. The first employee was let go from the company because they leaked employee names and other personal information to media outlet, which the media outlets that the information was leaked to has yet to be released to the public. The second employee was put on leave because they continuously accessed documents that they were asked not to on multiple occasions because the documents were related to their job. Lastly, the third employee was put on leave because they were tracking other employee calendars that were in other departments which ultimately made those employees feel unsafe at work and out of work.

“The firing and employee suspensions have been the subject of intense discussion within the company in recent weeks, as employees worry that Google — which has traditionally been known for its open and transparent culture — is attempting to crack down on dissent by punishing those who openly disagree with management.”

This situation at Google is concerning because this is invading these employee’s security and privacy. Privacy and security are issues that these large companies such as Google and also Facebook are constantly struggling with. These concerns cause the public and employees to rethink about such as: if they are comfortable at their workplace or if they should continue using these platforms.

YouTube and Channel Operators Sued Over Children’s Privacy: The Fight Against Targeted Ads


Image Source: Getty Images, BBC News

It is no secret in the modern digital age that tracking our data while online is happening. Many describe this process so sophisticated and in depth that data collectors essentially can create a digital identity of all online consumers from the information they are capable of collecting. The advertising industry is no stranger to these kind of tracking methods often paying large amounts of money to receive information from data mining companies in order to better target consumers on the web.

Recently, YouTube and a multitude of some of its biggest channel operators including Hasbro, Mattel, and Cartoon Network are being hit with a new lawsuit claiming these organizations have illegally tracked young children to serve them with targeted ads on the platform.

California resident Nichole Hubbard filed a class action complaint last week claiming her child who was a frequent consumer of Hasbro’s “My Little Pony Office” on YouTube has fallen victim to this tracking.

Google and the channel operators collected my son’s personal information for the purposes of tracking, profiling, and targeting him with advertisements” (Hubbard, U.S. District Court San Jose).

This is far from the first lawsuit filed by concerned parents claiming that giant media companies and data collectors have actively and “fraudulently” tried to hide their acts of tracking children of a certain age and using their data to target them with advertisements on popular platforms online. Researchers have expressed their findings that companies like Google use their algorithms to collect “ill-gotten” data from billions of children’s YouTube video views.

These allegations if proven true are a direct violation of The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act which “prohibits companies from knowingly collecting personal information — including web-browsing data that is used to target ads — from children under 13, without their parents’ permission” (FTC). Google has been a long time promoter of YouTube to children’s companies such as Mattel and Hasbro as a top platform to reach the eyes of young children.

While the investigation is ongoing, two months ago Google was involved in a similar lawsuit when they agreed to pay 170 million to settle allegations against the FTC and New York Attorney General when YouTube was found guilty for collecting data from children under the age of 13 on the platform.

Personally, I believe these lawsuits and arising issues are far from over in the new digital age that is arising, especially towards specific platforms that some field executives deem to be the most powerful influences in the world. Big data and the concerns behind it are only growing as countless companies are finding more precise and intrusive ways to not only target specific users, but sell it for high profit to third party vendors looking to use strategic advertising.

We are at a point in digital media and data information where a breaking point is on the rise. We essentially have two specific identities in the modern era that will follow us forever which is our physical entity, and our identity online. Media companies and data collectors are recognizing the ways they can now reach and impact our lives through the online network, therefore extremely strict and proper regulations/penalties must be set in motion by our governments to essentially save humans basic rights especially when it comes to children.






Your Privacy does not matter when you Stream

Recent deals involving Roku and other companies have expanded the surveillance infrastructure that operates in the background of streaming services.

Welcome to the 21st century, where soon there will be more than just Netflix or Hulu streaming content to us. Coming very soon many different corporations and media tech companies will be unveiling their “new” streaming service, Disney+, Apple TV Plus, and Peacock just to name a few. What is creating all these streaming services is not the desire to share their content with you on their platform, it’s to make money, and the main way these companies do that is through advertising and data collection but the methods used to get the ad to you is coming from a dangerous place. 

Data collection is becoming the new currency for these streaming giants. They are able to collect data based on what shows you are watching, what device you are using to watch, your location, and so many other factors that create a pretty clear internet footprint of who you are and what interests you. These streaming companies collect all this data and use it to target you with widely specific advertisements. With streaming service becoming more and more popular, advertising companies now have a real-time data stream on their users that has never existed before with traditional television but with all this information being tracked and all the money the data is worth sometimes our privacy takes a back-seat for these companies so they can make some extra money. 

Advertisers are starting to shift spending from traditional television to streaming services by the tune of 3.8 billion dollars and many companies are trying to get on the money. With this rise in advertising within the streaming industry, many users of the streaming services are at risk of having their data taken without their knowledge. In recent years, tech giants such as Vizio TV and Samba TV has been accused of gathering and selling your data without your knowledge just by using your TV but even just knowing that these companies are doing this is not enough because this is such new ground, there are no laws or regulations in this data collection industry. Trackers and other software that collect our data on these platforms happen without us knowing and behind our backs only to target with super specific ads and without and rules data collection is only going to become more corrupt.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/25/business/media/streaming-data-collection-privacy.html

Google Unveils New Privacy Changes

Google has just released its new privacy tools to help users hide their digital footprint online. In an attempt to maintain their user traffic, Google is now offering a bunch of new changes relating to Google maps, Password saves, and YouTube.

Storing Passwords, while convenient, is one of the main reasons people get hacked and their data becomes breached according to Google. In addition to that, an estimated 59% of people reuse or recycle old passwords, creating an increased risk of a data breach. In attempt to combat these bad practices, Google is now recommending its users to change their passwords and advising them to make definitive changes once they create one using Chrome.

Along with this heightened awareness towards stronger passwords, Google is now deleting past searches from its Google Assist extension on Chrome and Google Home devices. Google Assist, Google’s voice-functioned helper, similar to Alexa, will now automatically delete questions it was asked the week prior in an attempt to make users feel more secure when using it.

One thing that Google offers in their Chrome browser is an “incognito mode”, a mode that does not record your search history and does not track the websites you visit. Due to the success of this mode, Google has made a version for YouTube and Google Maps. Plans of releasing this for Android and IOS are also in the works to bring this mode to the applications.

While all of this seems nice, I think the reasoning behind these added functions is very interesting. I get the impression that Google only did this to make sure its users continue to use Google products instead of actually wanting to limit the data tracking. According to the article, a heightened awareness of tracking appeared when Apple updated its IOS and notifications appeared on a user’s iPhone. While I appreciate to idea, I still question if the incognito mode actually stops tracking all together. I think this trend of technology companies releasing modes that ban tracking is only going to become stronger as data becomes a more popular topic.  

Article: https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/google-just-upped-its-privacy-game-will-allow-users-delete-n1061486

Three Years of Misery Inside Google: The Happiest Company in Tech

Image and Text: https://www.wired.com/story/inside-google-three-years-misery-happiest-company-tech/

WIRED spoke with 47 current and former Google employees and put together a groundbreaking report on the hardships and obstacles the company has been facing since the 2016 election. The article presents us with an amazing amount of information that condemns Google’s internal practices in relation to the privacy of their employees, shining a light on the reality that not everyone working at the Silicon Valley tech giant abides to the integrity rules. Readers will learn about the “period of growing distrust and disillusionment inside Google that echoed the fury roaring outside the company’s walls,” reflecting the rapid growth of conservative right-wing politics we have been witnessing over the past few years. 

Google hosts many meetings with their employees that are specifically designed for them to openly discuss and oftentimes challenge executive decisions. It was in one of those meetings that James Damore heard about the idea of providing more job interviews and a more welcoming environment to female and underrepresented minority candidates that did not form a high percentage in the company’s demographics. For many people, including Damore, this idea went against its said purpose of inclusion and Google’s meritocratic hiring process, therefore ‘lowering the bar’ on hiring and showing discrimination toward men. He proceeded to write what later became a famous 10-page memo elaborating on his anti-diversity reasoning. After much pressure from other employees, executives decided to fire him due to his blatant attack on the company’s core principles.

The firing of Damore caused a huge commotion inside the company among conservatives that did not agree with the decision, and who decided to attack their co-workers by leaking information from Google’s hundreds of discussion forums. On a pro-Trump subreddit, a collage appeared that showed the full names, profile pictures, and Twitter bios of eight Google employees, most of them queer, transgender, or people of color. Each bio featured phrases that would make the employees instant targets for harassment: “polyamorous queer autistic trans lesbian” and “just another gay communist site reliability engineer.” Days after Damore was fired, a former tech editor at Breitbart shared the Reddit collage image with 2 million Facebook followers. “Look at who works for Google, it all makes sense now,” he wrote, as if these eight employees had been the ones who made the decision to fire Damore.

There have been many other instances in which Googlers were being named personally and started being publicly attacked for things they said in private company forums. The situation only got worse when it became clear that leakers were protected from being prosecuted by “protected concerted activity” and would not suffer any consequences even if they were discovered. The article was extremely interesting to read since it provided information about the inner workings of a tech giant and how typical principles of freedom of expression and Google’s famous “obligation to dissent” concept turned against them when they started being attacked from the inside. The company has been fighting a dirty war on the issue of diversity since the 2016 election. As WIRED wrote, “Googlers on both sides of the battle lines had become adept at working the refs—baiting colleagues into saying things that might violate the company’s code of conduct, then going to human resources to report them. But Googlers on the right were going further, broadcasting snippets of the company’s uncensored brawls to the world, and setting up their colleagues for harassment.”

Levi’s Denim Jacket Goes “Smart”

As we all know, technology is constantly around us and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Levi and Google’s Jacquard platform has decided to work together and create a “smart’” denim jacket. The two companies will be working together to recreate Levi’s classic trucker jacket and the Sherpa trucker jacket. Although this is the second time that the two are working together, the technology is different this time because its small and nearly impossible to tell that the jacket is a smart jacket. The jackets will include a tag that goes into the cuff of the jackets and allows the jacket to pair with the phone. The cuff will be used very similar to how we use touchpad so you can leave your device in the pocket of the jacket. When an individual does different hand gestures, it control the different features of the jacket. Some features include: directions, ETA, traffic reporting, answer phone call, control your music, and receive notifications. Google’s Jacquard platform also worked with YSL on a “smart” backpack recently.

I found this extremely interesting because this isn’t something that we have seen before but its something that if the jacket becomes a hit then we will see more “smart” clothing. I feel that this technology is one of those products that we don’t realize we need until we have it.