WhatsApp plans transfer of data between Android, iOS devices

whatsapp


 

WhatsApp chat could now be transferred between Android and iOS devices after the Meta-owned messaging app  plans to roll out a new update. 

This was revealed by the found source code  of WhatsApp 22.74 Beta for iOS. However, the migration process would not be easy and would require both devices to have the app installed and would likely involve a wired or  private WiFi connection. In comparison, other messaging apps store and sync user data with Google Drive, iCloud or their own cloud service.

 WhatsApp recently added new features to its desktop and Android apps. The Android app will get new pencil and drawing  tools in a future update, while WhatsApp Desktop will get new chat bubble colors. The desktop app  also gets a new dark blue color that is only visible in dark theme mode.

The instant messaging app is also testing a new emoji message reaction info tab and new  message reaction notification settings. WhatsApp feature tracker WABetaInfo said that WhatsApp is introducing new drawing tools to its Android app. 

You get two pens, including one thinner and one thicker than the existing pen. The app is also working on a blur  tool that may be added  in the future. 

The new features appeared in the WhatsApp Beta for Android 2.22.5 update, but they are disabled by default. 

These features are still under development and may be made available to WhatsApp beta testers soon.

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EXCLUSIVE TikTok owner ByteDance’s revenue growth slowed to 70% in 2021 – sources

tiktok
Tik Tok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

TikTok owner ByteDance saw its  revenue grow  70% year on year to about $58 billion in 2021,  slower growth than a year earlier as China tightens its regulation of big tech companies.

According to two people familiar with the matter the numbers were revealed to a small group of employees at an internal meeting of the social media giant this week .

In 2020, the Beijing-based company’s total revenue grew by over 100% to $34.3 billion, Reuters has reported. ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chinese tech companies from Tencent to Alibaba have reported slowing growth amid a sweeping crackdown by the country’s regulators, who have rolled out new rules for how they operate and interact with their users. 

According to a recent report by market research firm Interactive Marketing Lab Zhongguancun, 

ByteDance held its second position in China’s online advertising market last year with a 21% market share.

The number one position was still held by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group (9988.HK), and third place went to gaming giant Tencent Holdings (0700.HK), according to the report.


The overall growth of online ad sales in China declined to 9.3% in 2021 from 13.8% a year earlier, the report says.


Tech news website The Information last November reported that ByteDance’s 2021 revenue was on track to rise about 60% to 400 billion yuan ($63.07 billion).


ByteDance is one of the world’s biggest private tech companies with recent trades in the private-equity secondary market valuing it at about $300 billion, Reuters has reported.


Following Beijing’s antitrust efforts, ByteDance has recently been downsizing its powerful investment arm. read more

In November, ByteDance reorganised itself into six business units in its biggest organizational change since ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming said in May he would step down as CEO. 

Besides TikTok, ByteDance’s other apps include its Chinese equivalent Douyin, news aggregator Jinri Toutiao and video-streaming platform Xigua.

In 2021, users spent approximately $2.3 billion in TikTok and the iOS version of Douyin, a 77% jump year-over-year, according to app tracker Sensor Tower.


 

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WHATSAPP FOR ANDROID, DESKTOP TO GET NEW FEATURES

WhatsApp

The Android app will get new pencil and drawing  tools in a future update, while WhatsApp Desktop will get new chat bubble colors. The desktop app  also gets a new dark blue color that is only visible in dark theme mode.

The instant messaging app is also testing a new emoji message reaction info tab and new  message reaction notification settings.

 WhatsApp feature tracker WABetaInfo said that WhatsApp is introducing new drawing tools to its Android app. You get two pens, including one thinner and one thicker than your existing pen. The app is also working on a blur  tool that may be added  in the future. 

The new features appeared in the WhatsApp Beta for Android 2.22.5 update, but they are disabled by default. These features are still under development and may be made available to WhatsApp beta testers soon.

The WABetaInfo report said the app is also introducing new colour to its Windows and macOS apps with WhatsApp beta for Desktop 2.2201.2.0 update. The new colour scheme will be visible in the dark theme and the chat bubbles seem to be greener compared to the existing colour.

Other elements of the app will also see colour changes with chat bar and background colour now reportedly have a blue tinge.

#social

WhatsApp inches forward on bringing Reactions to its app

WhatsApp, owned by Meta, is actively developing its app and working on new features. The app’s latest beta  on iOS reveals that a new feature may be coming soon worked on reactions to iMessage-like messages. 

In their latest findings, they discovered that a relevant setting has appeared in the new beta  on iOS. WABetaInfo shared that WhatsApp version 22.72  on iOS adds a new Reactions Notifications toggle to app settings. 

With this toggle  visible to beta users, the feature may come to the platform fairly quickly. Alternatively, the company may have accidentally revealed this setting and may remove it in future betas if the Reactions feature is not yet ready.

In 2020, Mark Zuckerberg shared that Meta (Facebook at the time) planned to merge the messaging systems of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. He said plans won’t materialize until 2022. With WhatsApp likely to add reactions to messages soon, the gap between it and Facebook/Instagram direct messages (DMs) is narrowing even further. 

The merger between Facebook and Instagram DMs has already happened, as both platforms support the same messaging features (for the most part). WhatsApp is still far from becoming similar to either of these two services. It remains to be seen whether the merger of the three will take place this year. It is also possible that the company is prevented from making this potential move for monopoly reasons.

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Reddit taps Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs for IPO – source

Reddit
Reddit app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Social media platform Reddit Inc, whose message boards became the center of the stock trading frenzy in 2021, relies on Wall Street banks Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and Goldman Sachs Group (GS. N) for its initial public offering, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday. 

Reddit had confidentially filed for an IPO in December and is aiming for a valuation of more than $15 billion at the time of its listing. It was valued at $10 billion in a private fundraiser led by Fidelity Management in August. 

A second source familiar with the matter said JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N) is also one of the top underwriters on the deal.

Goldman Sachs and Reddit did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment. Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase declined to comment. Reddit, founded in 2005 by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, has over 50 million daily active users and over 100,000 communities. 

Its message boards, most notably the WallStreetBets thread, have been at the center of a pitched battle between small traders and large hedge funds, and have helped make big gains in very short stocks of companies like GameStop (GME. N) and AMC (AMC .N), while popularizing the term  meme stocks. 

Globally, IPOs  raised a record $594 billion in 2021, in the wake of stock rallies, with technology and healthcare  the biggest sectors driving IPO volumes in stock exchange.

There were 426 technology IPOs last year and 332 healthcare-related deals, collectively accounting for almost 42% of IPO proceeds raised by companies globally, according to Refinitiv

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Facebook parent’s head of communications leaves company

Meta verse
A 3D printed Facebook’s new rebrand logo Meta is placed on laptop keyboard in this illustration taken on November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Head of communications for Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms Inc (FB.O), John Pinette, will be leaving the company, the social media company said  on Friday. 

Chris Norton, vice president of international communications, will fill the acting role, a Meta spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Reuters. 

“John Pinette has left Meta. We are grateful for his positive contributions during an intense and significant time in the company’s history and  wish him well,” the statement said.


The spokesperson declined to say the reason for Pinette’s departure, citing Meta’s policy of not commenting on personnel matters. The Wall Street Journal first reported the departure of Pinette on Friday.Pinette was appointed vice president of global communications in April 2019, according to the company’s website. 


Before Joining the company, Pinette led communications for Gates Ventures, Bill Gates’ private office and innovation lab, for five years and was  Asia Pacific Communications Manager for Google. Corp (MSFT.O).

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This is how WhatsApp plans to change the way you receive your messages


WhatsApp has reportedly started rolling out the first beta feature of 2022 for iOS users. According to a report by WABetaInfo, with the new feature, iPhone users will also be able to see the sender’s profile photos as well as message notifications. 

According to the screenshot shared with the report, the new feature will allow you to see small photos of the sender in the notification when you receive a new message from a single user or group.

The report also reveals that the feature is only available to  a few beta testers running the iOS 15 operating system because the feature uses iOS 15 APIs. 

The Facebook-owned platform is reportedly releasing the feature for more users with the upcoming updates.As the feature is still in beta, WhatsApp may experience  issues showing profile photos on specific notifications, but these issues will likely be resolved whenever the feature is rolled out to the public.

Last week WhatsApp also started rolling out a 2.22.1.1 beta update  for iOS users. The update supposedly contains hidden references to a feature that will allow users to create communities in future updates. 

A similar hidden notice was also discovered in the beta update released two weeks ago for Android smartphones. For those of you who don’t know, Facebook’s own messaging platform has been working on a community feature for a while.

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HBO Max shows growth despite industry slowdown

The logo for HBO is pictured during the HBO presentation at the Cable portion of the Television Critics Association Summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California August 1, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser







WarnerMedia’s HBO Max streaming service gained subscribers over the holidays, defying the slowing pace of growth of some competing services, with lineup that included the rebirth of its popular “Sex and the City” series and new films such as “The Matrix”Resurrections.

HBO ended the year with 73.8 million subscribers to its streaming service and its eponymous cable network, up from 69.4 million in September. 

Those gains, coupled with the addition of nearly 900,0000 monthly paid phone subscribers, pushed the stock up 3% to $ 26.46. in the midday exchanges. 

“I think the  streaming service’s cap is much higher than what we’ve seen to date,”  WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said in an interview. 

“This will quickly become a three-way race for storytelling companies.


HBO Max still has a long way to go to capture market leader Netflix Inc, with  214 million subscribers, and Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) Disney +, with 118 million. Disney’s growth slowed  in the company’s fiscal fourth quarter, prompting a banker to downgrade the stock. Disney + added just 2.1 million in the October quarter. Netflix, which slowed sharply in the first half of 2021, saw its subscriptions increase in October, adding 4.4 million during the quarter, driven by the global sensation “Squid Game”.

 WarnerMedia’s HBO Max logged gains as it expanded the server reach from a single market, the United States, to 46 countries. Kilar said global expansion will continue this year,  eventually targeting 190 countries. 

AT&T (T.N) announced last May that it would split its WarnerMedia unit and merge it with Discovery (DISCA.O). The deal is expected to be finalized in the middle of this year.

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Tumblr is at war with Apple over ‘mature’ content on its app again

Tumblr banned tags


 Tumblr users looking to view adult content on the platform must avoid the iOS app as the company says it hides “sensitive content” so as not to violate Apple’s sensitivities.

 “In order to remain available in the Apple App Store,” says Tumblr, “we need to expand the definition of  sensitive content and access to it in order to meet its guidelines.” Apple are available. 

The company says it will display the above overlay on blogs “marked as explicit” and when “you see search results or tags for specific words or phrases”. 

However, users will have to guess what has leaked as Tumblr will not “currently” reveal this information.


It probably won’t be  hard to guess what leaked, but the new definition of “sensitive content” goes beyond what some would expect. 

Tumblr says  users “may also notice” that:

  •  Images they receive through blog direct messages that they don’t follow can’t be viewed in the app. 
  • Explicitly marked blog likes and reblogs  are hidden from notes. 
  • The images of the  reblogs that appear in the post notes are blurry unless you follow the Tumblr that added the image.
  •  Your dashboard (the “Next” and the “Materials For You” tab), search results, and tag results will no longer display content that contains certain words or phrases. 
  • Certain words and phrases have been removed from  search (sometimes called search suggestions). 
  • We have excluded blogs from search results and tags that may contain or create sensitive content.

Continue reading

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TikTok replaces Google as world’s most popular website

 

Tiktok


TikTok become the  most popular domain on the internet by 2021 on Tuesday, by replacing Google  according to  cybersecurity company Cloudflare.

TikTok is a video-focused social media site from the Chinese company ByteDance.

“It was  February 17, 2021 when TikTok took first place for one day,” write Joao Tome and Sofia Cardita  in a blog post for Cloudfare.

“TikTok got a few more days in March and May too, but  after August 10, TikTok took over most of the days.” There were a few days that Google was number one, but October and November were mostly TikTok days, including Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
Facebook fell back from second place. in 3rd place, followed by Microsoft in 4th place, Apple in 5th place, and Amazon 6th  and Netflix on No 7.
YouTube, who belongs to Google Parent Alphabet, was eight, Twitter was ninth and Whatsapp Lasth.Instagram gave up the top 10 of  this year.

Cloudfare added that even though TikTok receives more traffic, Facebook still has more  users on social websites around the world.

In 2020, TikTok and ByteDance opposed a print campaign by former President Donald Trump’s administration to sell their US business  over alleged national security threats.

A federal judge eventually prevented the White House from banning the TikTok app for US users.

#social

Elon Musk’s ex Grimes sparks new pregnancy rumours with cryptic post: See here

 

Elon musk & Singer Grim
Elon Musk’s ex, singer Grimes, has sent rumour mills in overdrive with her latest Instagram 

Elon Musk’s ex-singer Grimes got the rumors going with her latest Instagram post showing her with a prominent belly.
Grimes fans continued to speculate on Tuesday after the Player of Games singer’s new photo showing an animated form of her. At one stroke, she repeated her first pregnancy announcement with Musk’s chid.

Comments on the post ranged from “The Queen is Pregnant” to “OMG, pregnant again?” However, Grimes has yet to respond to speculation. in May 2020 after  two years of dating.


The couple has since split and the Tesla CEO confirmed the split to Page Six in September 2021.

We’re half apart, but we still love each other, see each other often, and have a very good relationship, “said Musk.

#social

Twitter testing an easier way to switch to your reverse-chronological feed

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Twitter is testing a new way to switch to your reverse-chronological feed a bit more easily, the company announced Tuesday. Right now, when you tap the three-star icon at the top of your feed to switch between the Home feed (which sorts tweets for you) or the Latest feed (which shows them in reverse chronological order), a small menu shows up that prompts you to switch to whichever feed you’re not on. For some users on iOS, though, when you tap the three-star icon, Twitter is testing new Home or Latest tabs at the top of your screen instead.

Here’s what the change will look like, according to Twitter. If you’ve pinned lists, the tabs should look familiar:

This change does feel like it will be an improvement since it will mean fewer taps to switch between feeds and make it easier to know at a glance which feed you’re looking at. That said, it’s unclear if Twitter plans to roll this test out more broadly and, if so, when that might happen.

#social

WhatsApp’s underdeveloped feature leaked

 

whatsapp


Photo by Anton from Pexels



WhatsApp had been planning to introduce a feature called “Community”; however, someone leaked the underdevelopment, WABetainfo reported Monday.

“We wanted to wait for some screenshots to introduce it,” it said on its official Twitter handle.

 According to WABetaInfo, the community feature is a way for users to organise their WhatsApp groups better.

However, addressing the rumours that this feature is like Twitter,

WABetaInfo — the main independent portal where you can discover the news and real-time updates about WhatsApp — said: “It is not something like Twitter and Facebook.”

The portal added that more details of the feature will be revealed soon.

#social

WhatsApp to introduce ‘pause voice recordings’ feature

 

whatsapp



The popular WhatsApp messaging app is currently developing a new feature of the app that will allow users to “pause” while voice messaging.

WhatsApp is working on an update to improve in-app messaging performance, according to WABeta.

What is special about this function?



The expected update will be very useful for WhatsApp users as they will no longer have to pause, delete and re-record new messages.

Instead, the new feature allows users to stop the audio recording by tapping the pause button and resume recording from where they left off. This feature has been observed in the development of WhatsApp updates for iOS. This app is now also available for Android.

#social

Where does Facebook go from here?

Let’s be really generous to Facebook and assume that 50% of what Frances Haugen just testified to before Congress was misconstrued in some way.

Regardless, Facebook will argue their case (as they always do), deny everything (as they always do) and claim that no one really understands them (as they always do). Everyone will view whatever they say with extreme skepticism, and nothing will change.

Maybe Facebook doesn’t care. Maybe the possibility of a repeal of their liability protection from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the threat of antitrust prosecutions, the implementation of a U.S. privacy framework akin to what exists in Europe and the inability to get Washington to authorize Libra (Facebook’s digital payment system) all don’t matter.

Facebook is rich and powerful. They may think they can handle anything that comes their way. But the United States government and the media combined are a lot more powerful. And that’s why Facebook needs to change their strategy on just about everything related to politics, regulation and media.

While Facebook’s lawyers and lobbyists dig in for the next phase of an epic, costly confrontation, they should instead be charting an alternative course of humility, introspection and transparency as their best and only strategy for sustaining growth.

What does this look like? Well, it starts with an apology.

It’s incredible that someone as smart as Mark Zuckerberg can have so much difficulty expressing genuine contrition when it’s called for. Not every mistake will obligate the CEO to drag himself over the coals. But right now? He’s got to change his posture and start accepting responsibility and then actually implement real change.

For example, take Haugen’s testimony about an internal study finding that Instagram has a negative impact on teenage girls’ mental health.

That’s a problem Facebook has to own. They should want to own it. Because even if the federal government is unlikely to step in and censor Instagram, parents probably will. As much as my wife and I try to let our teenage daughter make her own decisions, the more we know about Instagram, the more convinced we are that its negative effects vastly outweigh any useful purpose it serves in her life. And we’re not alone. At some point soon, we could be the majority.

Second, it’s time for Facebook to be a lot more straightforward about its underlying business model. Consumers aren’t stupid; we know we don’t get something for nothing. So rather than pretend they don’t monetize people’s data in every way possible, Facebook should just be honest about it.

“If you want to keep using Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp for free, we’re going to sell ads based on your data.” And then give the public an alternative: “If you want your data protected, then you have to pay the platform a monthly fee to make up for the lost revenue.” People may not like that at first, but they’ll understand it and they’ll appreciate being treated like adults.

Third, Facebook needs to admit the truth about content moderation: “We thought we knew better than everyone else about everything; we dug in when we should have been honestly examining and changing our practices and policies. We’re genuinely, truly sorry for it. We’re willing to change.”

Some of that may mean sharing oversight responsibilities with third parties like regulators and academics. It probably means eliminating some content that generates clicks and ad revenue. It may even mean removing some of the top executives responsible for doggedly implementing the deny-reality strategy over the past 10 years. Of course, that will hurt. They still need to do it.

Finally, if Facebook is going to engage in federal legislation around issues like privacy restrictions, new antitrust standards or the repeal of Section 230, they should stop trying to outsmart and outspend everyone.

Instead, Facebook should engage with their critics — in both parties and in both chambers of Congress — to work toward a solution that embraces the ideals of existing privacy frameworks like Europe’s GDPR and California’s CCPA and recognizes that having full immunity from anything said on your platform has to change. Be part of the change, not the roadblock to it.

This isn’t China. Our government won’t just one day outlaw Facebook or Instagram. But that doesn’t mean Facebook won’t be subjected to new laws, regulations, standards and social norms.

Facebook has alienated the media. They’ve lost the progressives. They’ve lost the conservatives. They’ve infuriated the center. And even if revenue keeps growing, they’ve lost the faith and trust of the public, too.

Executives may worry that once the legislative flywheel starts turning, it will never stop. But we’re way beyond that point. If Facebook doesn’t start expressing remorse, accountability and openness to change, they’re at risk of losing everything else they’ve built, too.

#social

Ben Rubin, who founded Houseparty, Meerkat and Slashtalk, will peer into the future of social at Disrupt

Ben Rubin understands where social is going. In fact, he understands it so well, he’s always there early.

Rubin is the current CEO and co-founder of Slashtalk and an angel investor who scouts for Sequoia Capital. He previously founded Houseparty and Meerkat — apps that pioneered group video chat and mobile livestreaming, respectively — shaping massive social trends in their earliest stages.

In 2015, Meerkat took SXSW by storm. The app seemed to have captured lightning in a bottle, and entrenched players in social noticed. Twitter was early to the trend too, having bought Periscope earlier that year, and leveraged Meerkat’s momentum to attract people to its own product. Half a year later, Facebook vaulted into the space with Facebook Live.

Meerkat didn’t keep up, but it did transform. In 2016, the same team launched Houseparty, a group video chat app geared toward connecting established friends in casual virtual hangouts rather than streaming to the masses. Three years later, in a world not yet ravaged by the pandemic, it sold to Fortnite maker Epic Games.

With people driven indoors and away from IRL social interactions, Houseparty boomed. In a single month during the pandemic’s early phase, the app saw 50 million new signups and hit the top of the charts across the iOS App Store and Google Play. But Houseparty struggled to retain users, and by fall of 2021 Epic announced that it would unceremoniously wind down the project and pull Houseparty from app stores.

Only time will tell if Houseparty’s technology will play a role in Epic’s vision for the metaverse — an interconnected series of seamless virtual worlds for people to explore and socialize in. But regardless of the app’s eventual fate, Houseparty’s take on social spontaneity and casual group video was ahead of its time.

If anyone is well positioned to know where social networks are going in the near future, it’s probably Rubin. He’s now working on Slashtalk, “an anti-meeting tool for fast, decentralized conversations.” Slashtalk’s ethos echoes both Meerkat and Houseparty’s belief in social serendipity, but this time Rubin is focused on the workplace rather than consumer social.

Rubin will join us onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 to talk about his new company and the trends powering current upheavals in social networking, from decentralization and ownership to the future of a connected post-pandemic world.

#ben-rubin, #epic-games, #events, #facebook, #house-party, #houseparty, #ios-app-store, #meerkat, #periscope, #sequoia-capital, #slashtalk, #social, #social-networking, #social-networks, #tc, #tc-disrupt-2021

Study finds half of Americans get news on social media, but percentage has dropped

A new report from Pew Research finds that around a third of U.S. adults continue to get their news regularly from Facebook, though the exact percentage has slipped from 36% in 2020 to 31% in 2021. This drop reflects an overall slight decline in the number of Americans who say they get their news from any social media platform — a percentage that also fell by 5 percentage points year-over-year, going from 53% in 2020 to a little under 48%, Pew’s study found.

By definition, “regularly” here means the survey respondents said they get their news either “often” or “sometimes,” as opposed to “rarely,” “never,” or “don’t get digital news.”

The change comes at a time when tech companies have come under heavy scrutiny for allowing misinformation to spread across their platforms, Pew notes. That criticism has ramped up over the course of the pandemic, leading to vaccine hesitancy and refusal, which in turn has led to worsened health outcomes for many Americans who consumed the misleading information.

Despite these issues, the percentage of Americans who regularly get their news from various social media sites hasn’t changed too much over the past year, demonstrating how much a part of people’s daily news habits these sites have become.

Image Credits: Pew Research

In addition to the one-third of U.S. adults who regularly get their news on Facebook, 22% say they regularly get news on YouTube. Twitter and Instagram are regular news sources for 13% and 11% of Americans, respectively.

However, many of the sites have seen small declines as a regular source of news among their own users, says Pew. This is a different measurement compared with the much smaller percentage of U.S. adults who use the sites for news, as it speaks to how the sites’ own user bases may perceive them. In a way, it’s a measurement of the shifting news consumption behaviors of the often younger social media user, more specifically.

Today, 55% of Twitter users regularly get news from its platform, compared with 59% last year. Meanwhile, Reddit users’ use of the site for news dropped from 42% to 39% in 2021. YouTube fell from 32% to 30%, and Snapchat fell from 19% to 16%. Instagram is roughly the same, at 28% in 2020 to 27% in 2021.

Only one social media platform grew as a news source during this time: TikTok.

In 2020, 22% of the short-form video platform’s users said they regularly got their news there, compared with an increased 29% in 2021.

Overall, though, most of these sites have very little traction with the wider adult population in the U.S. Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans regularly get their news from Reddit (7%), TikTok (6%), LinkedIn (4%), Snapchat (4%), WhatsApp (3%) or Twitch (1%).

Image Credits: Pew Research

There are demographic differences between who uses which sites, as well.

White adults tend to turn to Facebook and Reddit for news (60% and 54%, respectively). Black and Hispanic adults make up significant proportions of the regular news consumers on Instagram (20% and 33%, respectively.) Younger adults tend to turn to Snapchat and TikTok, while the majority of news consumers on LinkedIn have four-year college degrees.

Of course, Pew’s latest survey, conducted from July 26 to Aug. 8, 2021, is based on self-reported data. That means people’s answers are based on how the users perceive their own usage of these various sites for newsgathering. This can produce different results compared with real-world measurements of how often users visited the sites to read news. Some users may underestimate their usage and others may overestimate it.

People may also not fully understand the ramifications of reading news on social media, where headlines and posts are often molded into inflammatory clickbait in order to entice engagement in the form of reactions and comments. This, in turn, may encourage strong reactions — but not necessarily from those worth listening to. In recent Pew studies, it found that social media news consumers tended to be less knowledgeable about the facts on key news topics, like elections or Covid-19. And social media consumers were more frequently exposed to fringe conspiracies (which is pretty apparent to anyone reading the comments!)

For the current study, the full sample size was 11,178 respondents, and the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 1.4 percentage points.

 

#americans, #computing, #facebook, #instagram, #like-button, #linkedin, #media, #news, #news-media, #pew, #pew-research, #reading, #reddit, #snapchat, #social, #social-media, #software, #tiktok, #twitch, #twitter, #united-states, #website, #world-wide-web, #youtube

Cameo launches Cameo Calls, a service for fans to video chat with celebs

If you really want to video chat tonight with William Hung of retro American Idol fame… got twenty bucks to spare? Yesterday, Cameo launched its Cameo Calls products, which lets fans video chat for up to 15 minutes one-on-one with their favorite influencers and celebrities. The talent sets the duration, time, and price of their call, which Cameo says averages around $31.

To book a call, users can go to Cameo’s website or app to see a schedule of upcoming Cameo Calls that they can buy. These also appear on individual talent’s Cameo pages. When you purchase a Cameo Call, you get a unique ticket code that you enter on the app to join your call.

In June 2020, Cameo enabled users to book Zoom calls with celebrities as lockdown became a global norm, but Cameo phased out that feature in April. Instead, Cameo Calls now offers a native experience in the app, rather than relying on third-party software. The downside for consumers, though, is that this makes it more difficult to invite your favorite reality star to your office’s Zoom happy hour. But on the bright side, the Cameo Calls includes a dedicated photo opp at the end of the call, so you can get your celebrity selfie without dealing with the awkwardness of asking to take a photo.

Experiences like Cameo Calls make sense in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, when celebrity meet-and-greets might not be safe in many places. But Cameo also thinks this product can stand in for a typical meet and greet even in “normal” times. Often, celebrity meet-and-greets require waiting in a long line to only have 5 or 10 seconds of time with the talent. Even though many Cameo Calls sessions are only a few minutes long, you might be able to get a more personal experience than if you were the 100th fan in a long line in person.

“We foresee Cameo Calls replacing meet and greets at music festivals and world tours, fan conventions, sporting events, and more,” said Cameo Co-founder & CEO Steven Galanis.

Cameo says it tested this product with over 3,000 calls — during testing, talent-hosted themed meet-and-greets, coffee chats, private concerts, and tarot card readings. Some performers who tested the feature include James and Oliver Phelps, who played the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter movies, and David Henrie, a former Disney Channel star.

#apps, #calls, #cameo, #celebs, #hollywood, #messaging, #mobile, #social, #social-media, #stars, #steven-galanis

Facebook revamps its business tool lineup following threats to its ad targeting business

Facebook today is announcing the launch of new products and features for business owners, following the threat to its ad targeting business driven by Apple’s new privacy features, which now allow mobile users to opt out of being tracked across their iOS apps. The social networking giant has repeatedly argued that Apple’s changes would impact small businesses that relied on Facebook ads to reach their customers. But it was not successful in getting any of Apple’s changes halted. Instead, the market is shifting to a new era focused more on user privacy, where personalization and targeting are more of an opt-in experience. That’s required Facebook to address its business advertiser base in new ways.

As the ability to track consumers declines — very few consumers are opting into tracking, studies find — Facebook is rolling out new features that will allow businesses to better position themselves in front of relevant audiences. This includes updates that will let them reach customers, advertise to customers, chat with customers across Facebook apps, generate leads, acquire customers and more.

The company earlier this year began testing a way for customers to explore businesses from underneath News Feed posts by tapping on topics they were interested in — like beauty, fitness, and clothing, and explore content from other related businesses. The feature allows people to come across new businesses that may also like, and would allow Facebook to create its own data set of users who like certain types of content. Over time, it could possibly even turn the feature into an ad unit, where businesses could pay for higher placement.

But for the time being, Facebook will expand this feature to more users across the U.S., and launch it in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, and the U.K.

Image Credits: Facebook

Facebook is also making it easier for businesses to chat with customers. They’re already able to buy ads that encourage people to message them on Facebook’s various chat platforms — Messenger, Instagram Direct, or WhatsApp. Now, they’ll be able to choose all the messaging platforms where they’re available, and Facebook will default the chat app showcased in the ad based on where the conversation is most likely to happen.

Image Credits: Facebook

The company will tie WhatsApp to Instagram, as well, as part of this effort. Facebook explains that many businesses market themselves or run shops across Instagram, but rely on WhatsApp to communicate with customers and answer questions. So, Facebook will now allow businesses to add a WhatsApp click-to-chat button to their Instagram profiles.

This change, in particular, represents another move that ties Facebook’s separate apps more closely together, at a time when regulators are considering breaking up Facebook over antitrust concerns. Already, Facebook interconnected Facebook’s Messenger and Instagram messaging services, which would make such a disassembly more complicated. And more recently, it’s begun integrating Messenger directly into Facebook’s platform itself.

Image Credits: Facebook

In a related change, soon businesses will be able to create ads that send users directly to WhatsApp from the Instagram app. (Facebook also already offers ads like this.)

Separately from this news, Facebook announced the launch of a new business directory on WhatsApp, allowing consumers to find shops and services on the chat platform, as well.

Another set of changes being introduced involve an update to Facebook Business Suite. Businesses will be able to manage emails through Inbox and sending remarketing emails; use a new File Manager for creating, managing, and posting content; and access a feature that will allow businesses to test different versions of a post to see which one is most effective.

Image Credits: Facebook

Other new products include tests of paid and organic lead generation tools on Instagram; quote requests on Messenger, where customers answer a few questions prior to their conversations; and a way for small businesses to access a bundle of tools to get started with Facebook ads, which includes a Facebook ad coupon along with free access to QuickBooks for 3 months or free access to Canva Pro for 3 months.

Image Credits: Facebook

Facebook will also begin testing something called “Work Accounts,” which will allow business owners to access their business products, like Business Manager, separately from their personal Facebook account. They’ll be able to manage these accounts on behalf of employees and use single-sign-on integrations.

Work Accounts will be tested through the remainder of the year with a small group of businesses, and Facebook says it expects to expand availability in 2022.

Other efforts it has in store include plans to incorporate more content from creators and local businesses and new features that let users control the content they see, but these changes were not detailed at this time.

Most of the products being announced are either rolling out today or will begin to show up soon.

#advertising-tech, #app-store, #australia, #canada, #canva, #computing, #facebook, #instagram, #ireland, #malaysia, #messenger, #new-zealand, #philippines, #private-message, #singapore, #social, #social-media, #software, #south-africa, #technology, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #whatsapp

TikTok is hiding a viral challenge that has kids stealing their school’s soap dispensers

It’s back to school season and on TikTok, that means students are inexplicably stealing everything that isn’t bolted down.

The latest TikTok trend to generally wreak social havoc sees students pulling off “devious licks” — small-scale heists of everything from soap dispensers, Covid test kits and hand sanitizer to high value items like classroom tech.

The videos are set to an edited version of Lil B’s “Ski Ski BasedGod,” which had appeared in around 100,000 videos on TikTok by Monday, according to Mashable, with the tag #deviouslick collecting more than 175 million views.

TikTok cracked down on Wednesday, limiting search results for the viral stunt, removing videos with the tag and encouraging users to “please be kind” to teachers.

“We expect our community to stay safe and create responsibly, and we do not allow content that promotes or enables criminal activities,” a TikTok spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We are removing this content and redirecting hashtags and search results to our Community Guidelines to discourage such behavior.”

While it’s hard to know which videos are staged and which are legitimate, the trend is real enough to have teachers and parents across the country stressed out. At a middle school in Las Vegas, school administrators report students swiping speed limit signs, fire alarms, soap dispensers and classroom projectors. And in Portland, Oregon at least one high school saw an entire building’s worth of soap dispensers go missing — not a great start to another school year in the throes of a global pandemic.

#social, #students, #tc, #tiktok, #viral-trends

Clubhouse hires a head of news from NPR to build out publisher relationships

Clubhouse has hired a veteran editor from NPR to lead news publishing for the app. Nina Gregory will serve as Clubhouse’s Head of News and Media Publishers, working as a liaison between news publishers and the Clubhouse’s ecosystem of audio-based communities.

Gregory led NPR’s Arts Desk for the last seven years, shaping the news outlet’s culture and entertainment coverage. “As an audio journalist, [Clubhouse] aligned with what I’ve always believed is the best medium for news,” Gregory told CNN. “You don’t need to know how to read to be able to hear radio news. You don’t need to have an expensive subscription. You don’t need cable.”

Helping publishers and other brands get plugged in is one path toward maturation for Clubhouse. Online media properties from USA Today to TechCrunch have built a presence on the app, which exploded in growth as the pandemic limited in-person social interactions. But with competition from more entrenched competitors looming, Clubhouse may need to get creative to stay in the game.

Clubhouse’s quick ascent saw Twitter, Spotify, Facebook and other established tech companies scramble to integrate live audio rooms into their own products. Twitter quickly launched Spaces, while Spotify launched a standalone Clubhouse clone known as Greenroom. Facebook first announced its own live audio rooms in April, opening them to U.S. users two months later.

The kind of viral attention that Clubhouse enjoyed over the last year is almost impossible to maintain, but the company has added features, introduced an Android app and opened its doors to everyone. Clubhouse might not be able to top its February peak, but the app still notched 7.7 million global monthly downloads after expanding to Android this summer, and continues to build out its vision for audio-first social networking.

#broadcasting, #clubhouse, #mobile-applications, #npr, #social, #social-audio, #spotify, #tc, #usa-today

The FDA should regulate Instagram’s algorithm as a drug

The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported Silicon Valley’s worst-kept secret: Instagram harms teens’ mental health; in fact, its impact is so negative that it introduces suicidal thoughts.

Thirty-two percent of teen girls who feel bad about their bodies report that Instagram makes them feel worse. Of teens with suicidal thoughts, 13% of British and 6% of American users trace those thoughts to Instagram, the WSJ report said. This is Facebook’s internal data. The truth is surely worse.

President Theodore Roosevelt and Congress formed the Food and Drug Administration in 1906 precisely because Big Food and Big Pharma failed to protect the general welfare. As its executives parade at the Met Gala in celebration of the unattainable 0.01% of lifestyles and bodies that we mere mortals will never achieve, Instagram’s unwillingness to do what is right is a clarion call for regulation: The FDA must assert its codified right to regulate the algorithm powering the drug of Instagram.

The FDA should consider algorithms a drug impacting our nation’s mental health: The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act gives the FDA the right to regulate drugs, defining drugs in part as “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals.” Instagram’s internal data shows its technology is an article that alters our brains. If this effort fails, Congress and President Joe Biden should create a mental health FDA.

Researchers can study what Facebook prioritizes and the impact those decisions have on our minds. How do we know this? Because Facebook is already doing it — they’re just burying the results.

The public needs to understand what Facebook and Instagram’s algorithms prioritize. Our government is equipped to study clinical trials of products that can physically harm the public. Researchers can study what Facebook privileges and the impact those decisions have on our minds. How do we know this? Because Facebook is already doing it — they’re just burying the results.

In November 2020, as Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel report in “An Ugly Truth,” Facebook made an emergency change to its News Feed, putting more emphasis on “News Ecosystem Quality” scores (NEQs). High NEQ sources were trustworthy sources; low were untrustworthy. Facebook altered the algorithm to privilege high NEQ scores. As a result, for five days around the election, users saw a “nicer News Feed” with less fake news and fewer conspiracy theories. But Mark Zuckerberg reversed this change because it led to less engagement and could cause a conservative backlash. The public suffered for it.

Facebook likewise has studied what happens when the algorithm privileges content that is “good for the world” over content that is “bad for the world.” Lo and behold, engagement decreases. Facebook knows that its algorithm has a remarkable impact on the minds of the American public. How can the government let one man decide the standard based on his business imperatives, not the general welfare?

Upton Sinclair memorably uncovered dangerous abuses in “The Jungle,” which led to a public outcry. The free market failed. Consumers needed protection. The 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act for the first time promulgated safety standards, regulating consumable goods impacting our physical health. Today, we need to regulate the algorithms that impact our mental health. Teen depression has risen alarmingly since 2007. Likewise, suicide among those 10 to 24 is up nearly 60% between 2007 and 2018.

It is of course impossible to prove that social media is solely responsible for this increase, but it is absurd to argue it has not contributed. Filter bubbles distort our views and make them more extreme. Bullying online is easier and constant. Regulators must audit the algorithm and question Facebook’s choices.

When it comes to the biggest issue Facebook poses — what the product does to us — regulators have struggled to articulate the problem. Section 230 is correct in its intent and application; the internet cannot function if platforms are liable for every user utterance. And a private company like Facebook loses the trust of its community if it applies arbitrary rules that target users based on their background or political beliefs. Facebook as a company has no explicit duty to uphold the First Amendment, but public perception of its fairness is essential to the brand.

Thus, Zuckerberg has equivocated over the years before belatedly banning Holocaust deniers, Donald Trump, anti-vaccine activists and other bad actors. Deciding what speech is privileged or allowed on its platform, Facebook will always be too slow to react, overcautious and ineffective. Zuckerberg cares only for engagement and growth. Our hearts and minds are caught in the balance.

The most frightening part of “The Ugly Truth,” the passage that got everyone in Silicon Valley talking, was the eponymous memo: Andrew “Boz” Bosworth’s 2016 “The Ugly.”

In the memo, Bosworth, Zuckerberg’s longtime deputy, writes:

So we connect more people. That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs someone a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people. The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is de facto good.

Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg made Bosworth walk back his statements when employees objected, but to outsiders, the memo represents the unvarnished id of Facebook, the ugly truth. Facebook’s monopoly, its stranglehold on our social and political fabric, its growth at all costs mantra of “connection,” is not de facto good. As Bosworth acknowledges, Facebook causes suicides and allows terrorists to organize. This much power concentrated in the hands of one corporation, run by one man, is a threat to our democracy and way of life.

Critics of FDA regulation of social media will claim this is a Big Brother invasion of our personal liberties. But what is the alternative? Why would it be bad for our government to demand that Facebook accounts to the public its internal calculations? Is it safe for the number of sessions, time spent and revenue growth to be the only results that matters? What about the collective mental health of the country and world?

Refusing to study the problem does not mean it does not exist. In the absence of action, we are left with a single man deciding what is right. What is the price we pay for “connection”? This is not up to Zuckerberg. The FDA should decide.

#column, #facebook, #food-and-drug-administration, #government, #health, #instagram, #joe-biden, #mark-zuckerberg, #opinion, #policy, #section-230, #sheryl-sandberg, #social, #social-media, #the-wall-street-journal

Beware the hidden bias behind TikTok resumes

Social media has served as a launchpad to success almost as long as it has been around. The stories of going viral from a self-produced YouTube video and then securing a record deal established the mythology of social media platforms. Ever since, social media has consistently gravitated away from text-based formats and toward visual mediums like video sharing.

For most people, a video on social media won’t be a ticket to stardom, but in recent months, there have been a growing number of stories of people getting hired based on videos posted to TikTok. Even LinkedIn has embraced video assets on user profiles with the recent addition of the “Cover Story” feature, which allows workers to supplement their profiles with a video about themselves.

As technology continues to evolve, is there room for a world where your primary resume is a video on TikTok? And if so, what kinds of unintended consequences and implications might this have on the workforce?

Why is TikTok trending for jobs?

In recent months, U.S. job openings have risen to an all-time high of 10.1 million. For the first time since the pandemic began, available jobs have exceeded available workers. Employers are struggling to attract qualified candidates to fill positions, and in that light, it makes sense that many recruiters are turning to social platforms like TikTok and video resumes to find talent.

But the scarcity of workers does not negate the importance of finding the right employee for a role. Especially important for recruiters is finding candidates with the skills that align with their business’ goals and strategy. For example, as more organizations embrace a data-driven approach to operating their business, they need more people with skills in analytics and machine learning to help them make sense of the data they collect.

Recruiters have proven to be open to innovation where it helps them find these new candidates. Recruiting is no longer the manual process it used to be, with HR teams sorting through stacks of paper resumes and formal cover letters to find the right candidate. They embraced the power of online connections as LinkedIn rose to prominence and even figured out how to use third-party job sites like GlassDoor to help them draw in promising candidates. On the back end, many recruiters use advanced cloud software to sort through incoming resumes to find the candidates that best match their job descriptions. But all of these methods still rely on the traditional text-based resume or profile as the core of any application.

Videos on social media provide the ability for candidates to demonstrate soft skills that may not be immediately apparent in written documents, such as verbal communication and presentation skills. They are also a way for recruiters to learn more about the personality of the candidate to determine how they’d fit into the culture of the company. While this may be appealing for many, are we ready for the consequences?

We’re not ready for the close-up

While innovation in recruiting is a big part of the future of work, the hype around TikTok and video resumes may actually take us backward. Despite offering a new way for candidates to market themselves for opportunities, it also carries potential pitfalls that candidates, recruiters and business leaders need to be aware of.

The very element that gives video resumes their potential also presents the biggest problems. Video inescapably highlights the person behind the skills and achievements. As recruiters form their first opinions about a candidate, they will be confronted with information they do not usually see until much later in the process, including whether they belong to protected classes because of their race, disability or gender.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) concerns have had a major surge in attention over the last couple of years amid heightened awareness and scrutiny around how employers are — or are not — prioritizing diversity in the workplace.

But evaluating candidates through video could erase any progress made by introducing more opportunities for unconscious, or even conscious, bias. This could create a dangerous situation for businesses if they do not act carefully because it could open them up to consequences such as damage to their reputation or even something as severe as discrimination lawsuits.

A company with a poor track record for diversity may have the fact that they reviewed videos from candidates used against them in court. Recruiters reviewing the videos may not even be aware of how the race or gender of candidates are impacting their decisions. For that reason, many of the businesses I have seen implement an option for video in their recruiting flow do not allow their recruiters to watch the video until late in the recruiting process.

But even if businesses address the most pressing issues of DE&I by managing bias against those protected classes, by accepting videos there are still issues of diversity in less protected classes such as neurodiversity and socioeconomic status. A candidate with exemplary skills and a strong track record may not present themselves well through a video, coming across as awkward to the recruiter watching the video. Even if that impression is irrelevant to the job, it could still influence the recruiter’s stance on hiring.

Furthermore, candidates from affluent backgrounds may have access to better equipment and software to record and edit a compelling video resume. Other candidates may not, resulting in videos that may not look as polished or professional in the eyes of the recruiter. This creates yet another barrier to the opportunities they can access.

As we sit at an important crossroads in how we handle DE&I in the workplace, it is important for employers and recruiters to find ways to reduce bias in the processes they use to find and hire employees. While innovation is key to moving our industry forward, we have to ensure top priorities are not being compromised.

Not left on the cutting room floor

Despite all of these concerns, social media platforms — especially those based on video — have created new opportunities for users to expand their personal brands and connect with potential job opportunities. There is potential to use these new systems to benefit both job seekers and employers.

The first step is to ensure that there is always a place for a traditional text-based resume or profile in the recruiting process. Even if recruiters can get all the information they need about a candidate’s capabilities from video, some people will just naturally feel more comfortable staying off camera. Hiring processes need to be about letting people put their best foot forward, whether that is in writing or on video. And that includes accepting that the best foot to put forward may not be your own.

Instead, candidates and businesses should consider using videos as a place for past co-workers or managers to endorse the candidate. An outside endorsement can do a lot more good for an application than simply stating your own strengths because it shows that someone else believes in your capabilities, too.

Video resumes are hot right now because they are easier to make and share than ever and because businesses are in desperate need of strong talent. But before we get caught up in the novelty of this new way of sharing our credentials, we need to make sure that we are setting ourselves up for success.

The goal of any new recruiting technology should be to make it easier for candidates to find opportunities where they can shine without creating new barriers. There are some serious kinks to work out before video resumes can achieve that, and it is important for employers to consider the repercussions before they damage the success of their DE&I efforts.

#column, #diversity, #glassdoor, #human-resource-management, #labor, #linkedin, #opinion, #recruitment, #resume, #social, #social-media, #social-media-platforms, #startups, #tc, #tiktok

Ireland probes TikTok’s handling of kids’ data and transfers to China

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) has yet another ‘Big Tech’ GDPR probe to add to its pile: The regulator said yesterday it has opened two investigations into video sharing platform TikTok.

The first covers how TikTok handles children’s data, and whether it complies with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation.

The DPC also said it will examine TikTok’s transfers of personal data to China, where its parent entity is based — looking to see if the company meets requirements set out in the regulation covering personal data transfers to third countries.

TikTok was contacted for comment on the DPC’s investigation.

A spokesperson told us:

“The privacy and safety of the TikTok community, particularly our youngest members, is a top priority. We’ve implemented extensive policies and controls to safeguard user data and rely on approved methods for data being transferred from Europe, such as standard contractual clauses. We intend to fully cooperate with the DPC.”

The Irish regulator’s announcement of two “own volition” enquiries follows pressure from other EU data protection authorities and consumers protection groups which have raised concerns about how TikTok handles’ user data generally and children’s information specifically.

In Italy this January, TikTok was ordered to recheck the age of every user in the country after the data protection watchdog instigated an emergency procedure, using GDPR powers, following child safety concerns.

TikTok went on to comply with the order — removing more than half a million accounts where it could not verify the users were not children.

This year European consumer protection groups have also raised a number of child safety and privacy concerns about the platform. And, in May, EU lawmakers said they would review the company’s terms of service.

On children’s data, the GDPR sets limits on how kids’ information can be processed, putting an age cap on the ability of children to consent to their data being used. The age limit varies per EU Member State but there’s a hard cap for kids’ ability to consent at 13 years old (some EU countries set the age limit at 16).

In response to the announcement of the DPC’s enquiry, TikTok pointed to its use of age gating technology and other strategies it said it uses to detect and remove underage users from its platform.

It also flagged a number of recent changes it’s made around children’s accounts and data — such as flipping the default settings to make their accounts privacy by default and limiting their exposure to certain features that intentionally encourage interaction with other TikTok users if those users are over 16.

While on international data transfers it claims to use “approved methods”. However the picture is rather more complicated than TikTok’s statement implies. Transfers of Europeans’ data to China are complicated by there being no EU data adequacy agreement in place with China.

In TikTok’s case, that means, for any personal data transfers to China to be lawful, it needs to have additional “appropriate safeguards” in place to protect the information to the required EU standard.

When there is no adequacy arrangement in place, data controllers can, potentially, rely on mechanisms like Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) or binding corporate rules (BCRs) — and TikTok’s statement notes it uses SCCs.

But — crucially — personal data transfers out of the EU to third countries have faced significant legal uncertainty and added scrutiny since a landmark ruling by the CJEU last year which invalidated a flagship data transfer arrangement between the US and the EU and made it clear that DPAs (such as Ireland’s DPC) have a duty to step in and suspend transfers if they suspect people’s data is flowing to a third country where it might be at risk.

So while the CJEU did not invalidate mechanisms like SCCs entirely they essentially said all international transfers to third countries must be assessed on a case-by-case basis and, where a DPA has concerns, it must step in and suspend those non-secure data flows.

The CJEU ruling means just the fact of using a mechanism like SCCs doesn’t mean anything on its own re: the legality of a particular data transfer. It also amps up the pressure on EU agencies like Ireland’s DPC to be pro-active about assessing risky data flows.

Final guidance put out by the European Data Protection Board, earlier this year, provides details on the so-called ‘special measures’ that a data controller may be able to apply in order to increase the level of protection around their specific transfer so the information can be legally taken to a third country.

But these steps can include technical measures like strong encryption — and it’s not clear how a social media company like TikTok would be able to apply such a fix, given how its platform and algorithms are continuously mining users’ data to customize the content they see and in order to keep them engaged with TikTok’s ad platform.

In another recent development, China has just passed its first data protection law.

But, again, this is unlikely to change much for EU transfers. The Communist Party regime’s ongoing appropriation of personal data, through the application of sweeping digital surveillance laws, means it would be all but impossible for China to meet the EU’s stringent requirements for data adequacy. (And if the US can’t get EU adequacy it would be ‘interesting’ geopolitical optics, to put it politely, were the coveted status to be granted to China…)

One factor TikTok can take heart from is that it does likely have time on its side when it comes to the’s EU enforcement of its data protection rules.

The Irish DPC has a huge backlog of cross-border GDPR investigations into a number of tech giants.

It was only earlier this month that Irish regulator finally issued its first decision against a Facebook-owned company — announcing a $267M fine against WhatsApp for breaching GDPR transparency rules (but only doing so years after the first complaints had been lodged).

The DPC’s first decision in a cross-border GDPR case pertaining to Big Tech came at the end of last year — when it fined Twitter $550k over a data breach dating back to 2018, the year GDPR technically begun applying.

The Irish regulator still has scores of undecided cases on its desk — against tech giants including Apple and Facebook. That means that the new TikTok probes join the back of a much criticized bottleneck. And a decision on these probes isn’t likely for years.

On children’s data, TikTok may face swifter scrutiny elsewhere in Europe: The UK added some ‘gold-plaiting’ to its version of the EU GDPR in the area of children’s data — and, from this month, has said it expects platforms meet its recommended standards.

It has warned that platforms that don’t fully engage with its Age Appropriate Design Code could face penalties under the UK’s GDPR. The UK’s code has been credited with encouraging a number of recent changes by social media platforms over how they handle kids’ data and accounts.

#apps, #articles, #china, #communist-party, #data-controller, #data-protection, #data-protection-commission, #data-protection-law, #data-security, #encryption, #europe, #european-data-protection-board, #european-union, #general-data-protection-regulation, #ireland, #italy, #max-schrems, #noyb, #personal-data, #privacy, #social, #social-media, #spokesperson, #tiktok, #united-kingdom, #united-states

The network effect is anti-competitive

A U.S. federal judge last week struck down Apple rules restricting app developers from selling directly to customers outside the App Store.

Apple’s stock fell 3% on the news, which is being regarded as a win for small and midsize app developers because they’ll be able to build direct billing relationships with their customers. But Apple is just one of many Big Tech companies that dominate their sector.

The larger issue is how this development will impact Amazon, Facebook, Grubhub and other tech giants with online marketplaces that use draconian terms of service to keep their resellers subservient. The skirmish between Apple and small and midsize app developers is just a smaller battle in a much larger war.

App makers pay up to 30% on every sale they make on the Apple App Store. Resellers on Amazon pay a monthly subscription fee, a sales commission of 8% to 15%, fulfillment fees and other miscellaneous charges. Grubhub charges restaurants 15% of every order, a credit card processing fee, an order processing fee and a 10% delivery commission.

Like app developers, online resellers and social media influencers are all falling for the same big lie: that they can build a sustainable business with healthy margins on someone else’s platform. The reality is the App Store, online marketplaces and even social networks that dominate their sectors have the unilateral power to selectively deplatform and squeeze their users, and there’s not much to be done about it.

Healthy competition exists inside the App Store and among marketplace resellers and aspiring social media influencers. But no one seems to be talking about the real elephants in the room, which are the social networks and online marketplace providers themselves. In some respects, they’ve become almost like digital dictators with complete control over their territories.

It’s something every small and midsize business that gets excited about some new online service catering to their industry should be aware of because it directly impacts their ability to grow a stable business. The federal judge’s decision suggests the real goal in digital business is a direct billing relationship with the end user.

On the internet, those who are able to lead a horse to water and make them drink — outside the walled gardens of digital marketplace operators like Uber, Airbnb and Udemy — are the true contenders. In content and e-commerce, this is what most small and midsize companies don’t realize. Your own website or owned media, at a top-level domain that you control, is the only unfettered way to sell direct to end users.

Mobile app makers on Apple’s App Store, resellers on Amazon and aspiring content creators on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok are all subject to the absolute control of digital titans who are free to govern by their own rules with unchecked power.

For access to online marketplaces and social networks, we got a raw deal. We’re basically plowing their fields like digital sharecroppers. Resellers on Amazon are forced to split their harvest with a landlord who takes a gross percentage with no caps. Amassing followers on TikTok is building an audience that’s locked inside their venue.

These tech giants — all former startups that built their audiences from scratch — are free to impose and selectively enforce oppressive rules. If you’re a small fry, they can prohibit you from asking for your customer’s email address and deplatform you for skimming, but look the other way when Spotify and The New York Times do the same thing. Both were already selling direct and through the App Store prior to Friday’s ruling.

How is that competitive? Even after the ruling, Big Tech still gets to decide who they let violate their terms of service and who they deplatform. It’s not just their audience. It’s their universe, their governance, their rules and their enforcement.

In the 1948 court case United States v. Paramount Pictures, the Supreme Court ruled that film studios couldn’t own their own theaters because that meant they could exclusively control what movies were screened. They stifled competition by controlling what films made it to the marquee, so SCOTUS broke them up.

Today, social networks control what gets seen on their platforms, and with the push of a button, they can give the hook to whoever they want, whenever they want. The big challenge that the internet poses to capitalism is that the network effect is fundamentally anti-competitive. Winner-take-all markets dominated by tech giants look more like government-controlled than free-market economies.

On the one hand, the web gives us access to a global marketplace of buyers and sellers. On the other, a few major providers control the services that most people use to do business, because they don’t have the knowledge or resources to stand up a competitive website. But unless you have your own domain and good search visibility, you’re always in danger of being deplatformed and losing access to your customers or audience members with no practical recourse.

The network effect is such that once an online marketplace becomes dominant, it neutralizes the competitive market, because everyone gravitates to the dominant service to get the best deal. There’s an inherent conflict between the goals of a winner-takes-all tech company and the goals of a free market.

Dominant online marketplaces are only competitive for users. Meanwhile, marketplace providers operate with impunity. If they decide they want to use half-baked AI or offshore contractors to police their terms of service and shore up false positives, there’s no practical way for users to contest. How can Facebook possibly govern nearly 3 billion users judiciously with around 60,000 employees? As we’ve seen, it can’t.

For app makers, online resellers and creators, the only smart option is open source on the open web. Instead of relying on someone else’s audience (or software for that matter), you own your online destination powered by software like WordPress or Discord, and you never have to worry about getting squeezed when the founders go public or their platform gets bought by profit-hungry investment bankers. Only then can you protect your profit margins. And only then are the terms of service the laws of the land.

Politics aside, as former President Donald Trump’s deplatforming demonstrated, if you get kicked off Facebook and Twitter, there’s really nowhere else to go. If they want you out, it’s game over. It’s no coincidence Trump lost his Facebook and Twitter accounts on the same day the Republicans lost the Senate. If the GOP takes back the Senate, watch Trump get his social media accounts back. Social networks ward off regulators by appeasing the legislative majority.

So don’t get too excited about the new Amazon Influencer Program. If you want to build a sustainable digital business, you need an owned media presence powered by software that doesn’t rake commissions, have access to your customer contact information and has an audience that can’t be commandeered with an algorithm tweak.

#airbnb, #amazon, #apple, #apple-app-store, #apple-inc, #column, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #facebook, #online-marketplace, #opinion, #social, #social-media, #social-networks, #tc, #tiktok, #uber

TikTok expands mental health resources, as negative reports of Instagram’s effect on teens leak

TikTok announced this morning that it is implementing new tactics to educate its users about the negative mental health impacts of social media. As part of these changes, TikTok is rolling out a “well-being guide” in its Safety Center, a brief primer on eating disorders, expanded search interventions, and opt-in viewing screens on potentially triggering searches.

Developed in collaboration with International Association for Suicide PreventionCrisis Text LineLive For TomorrowSamaritans of Singapore, and Samaritans (UK), the new well-being guide offers more targeted advice toward people using TikTok, encouraging users to consider how it might impact them to share their mental health stories on a platform where any post has the potential to go viral. TikTok wants users to think about why they’re sharing their experience, if they’re ready for a wider audience to hear their story if sharing could be harmful to them, and if they’re prepared to hear others’ stories in response.

The platform also added a brief, albeit generic memo about the impact of eating disorders under the “topics” section of the Safety Center, which was developed with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). NEDA has a long track record of collaborating with social media platforms, most recently working with Pinterest to prohibit ads promoting weight loss.

Already, TikTok directs users to local resources when they search for words or phrases like #suicide,* but now, the platform will also share content from creators with the intent of helping someone in need. The platform told TechCrunch that it chose this content following consultation with independent experts. Additionally, if someone enters a search phrase that might be alarming (TikTok offered “scary makeup” as an example), the content will be blurred out, asking users to opt-in to see the search results.

As TikTok unveils these changes, its competitor Instagram is facing scrutiny after The Wall Street Journal leaked documents that reveal its parent company Facebook’s own research on the harm Instagram poses for teen girls. Similar to the Gen Z-dominated TikTok, more than 40% of Instagram users are 22 or younger, and 22 million teens log into Instagram in the U.S. each day. In one anecdote, a 19-year-old interviewed by The Wall Street Journal said that after searching Instagram for workout ideas, her explore page has been flooded with photos about how to lose weight (Instagram has previously fessed up to errors with its search function, which recommended that users search topics like “fasting” and “appetite suppressants”). Angela Guarda, director for the eating-disorders program at Johns Hopkins Hospital, told The Wall Street Journal that her patients often say they learned about dangerous weight loss tactics via social media.

“The question on many people’s minds is if social media is good or bad for people. The research on this is mixed; it can be both,” Instagram wrote in a blog post today.

As TikTok nods to with its advice on sharing mental health stories, social media can often be a positive resource, allowing people who are dealing with certain challenges to learn from others who have gone through similar experiences. So, despite these platforms’ outsized influence, it’s also on real people to think twice about what they post and how it might influence others. Even when Facebook experimented with hiding the number of “likes” on Instagram, employees said that it didn’t improve overall user well-being. These revelations about the negative impact of social media on mental health and body image aren’t ground-breaking, but they generate a renewed pressure for these powerful platforms to think about how to support their users (or, at the very least, add some new memos to their security center). 

*If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.

#apps, #instagram, #mental-health, #mobile, #social, #social-media, #tiktok

Twitter reopens its account verification process after another pause

Twitter has again restarted its account verification process, the company said on Monday evening by way of a post to its Twitter Verified account, where it publishes updates about the system’s status. Since launching the revamped verification program this spring, Twitter had hit a few snags which have forced it to shut down verifications more than once. The most recent of these pauses was announced on August 13, when the company said it need to make improvements to both the application and review process.

Twitter has struggled with account verifications for years. Everyone wanted the coveted blue badge that was previously doled out to public figures and other accounts of high public interest who have confirmed they are who they say they are — like a government official, journalist, celeb, brand or business, or another notable name.

But while the original system was meant to communicate only account authenticity, many viewed Twitter verification badgeholders as having some sort of elevated status. This issue came to a head when it was discovered in 2017 Twitter had verified the account belonging to Jason Keller, the person who organized the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Shortly thereafter, Twitter officially paused verifications, but continued to quietly verify certain individuals including candidates running for public office, elected public officials, journalists, and others.

Image Credits: Twitter

Finally, the company rebooted the system in May 2021, saying it had been rebuilt and would now have a dedicated team. It also issued new rules that more explicitly spelled out who could request verification and who could not. But demand for verification was so great that Twitter had to temporarily pause verification only 8 days after it launched so the team could catch up with the number of requests.

After it restarted, Twitter again put the system on pause in August, explaining it needed more time to get things right. It’s not clear how well verifications were going at this point, as social media consultant Matt Navarra pointed out that Twitter had accidentally verified a fake account for Rockstar Games. And earlier this summer, Twitter had admitted that it had permanently suspended some fake accounts that it had mistakenly verified, as well.

Now, Twitter says users who are looking to be verified should keep checking their account settings screen for access to the in-app application. It didn’t detail what, specifically had changed — but hopefully the system will now remain open for good.

#apps, #social

LinkedIn is launching its own $25M fund and incubator for creators

When LinkedIn first launched Stories format, and later expanded its tools for creators earlier this year, one noticeable detail was that the Microsoft-owned network for professionals hadn’t built any kind of obvious monetization into the program — noticeable, given that creators earn a living on other platforms like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, and those apps had lured creators, their content, and their audiences in part by paying out.

“As we continue to listen to feedback from our members as we consider future opportunities, we’ll also continue to evolve how we create more value for our creators,” is how LinkedIn explained its holding pattern on payouts to me at the time. But that strategy may have backfired for the company — or at least may have played a role in what came next: last month, LinkedIn announced it would be scrapping its Stories format and going back to the proverbial drawing board to work on other short-form video content for the platform.

Now comes the latest iteration in that effort. To bring more creators to the platform, the company today announced that it would be launching a new $25 million creator fund, which initially will be focused around a new Creator Accelerator Program.

It’s coming on the heels of LinkedIn also continuing to work on one of its other new-content experiments: a Clubhouse-style live conversation platform. As we previously reported, LinkedIn began working on this back in March of this year. Now, we are hearing that the feature will make an appearance as part of a broader events strategy for the company.

Notably, in a blog post announcing the creator fund, LinkedIn also listed a number of creator events coming up. Will the Clubhouse-style feature pop up there? Watch this space. Or maybe… listen up.

In any case, the creator accelerator that LinkedIn is announcing today could help feed into that wider pool of people that LinkedIn is hoping to cultivate on its platform as a more dynamic and lively set of voices to get more people talking and spending time on LinkedIn.

Andrei Santalo, global head of community at LinkedIn, noted in the blog post that the accelerator/incubator will be focused on the whole creator and the many ways that one can engage on LinkedIn.

“Creating content on LinkedIn is about creating opportunity, for yourselves and others,” he writes. “How can your words, videos and conversations make 774+ million professionals better at what they do or help them see the world in new ways?”

The incubator will last for 10 weeks and will take on 100 creators in the U.S. to coach them on building content for LinkedIn. It will also give them chances to network with like-minded individuals (naturally… it is LinkedIn), as well as a $15,000 grant to do their work. The deadline for applying (which you do here) is October 12.

The idea of starting a fund to incentivize creators to build video for a particular platform is definitely not new — and that is one reason why it was overdue for LinkedIn to think about its own approach.

Leading social media platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, and YouTube all have announced hundreds of millions of dollars in payouts in the form of creator funds to bring more original content to their platforms.

You could argue that for mass-market social media sites, it’s important to pay creators because competition is so fierce among them for consumer attention.

But on the other hand, those platforms have appeal for creators because of the potential audience size. At 774 million users, LinkedIn isn’t exactly small, but the kind of content that tends to live on there is so different, and maybe drier — it’s focused on professional development, work, and “serious” topics — that perhaps it might need the most financial incentive of all to get creators to bite.

LinkedIn’s bread and butter up to now has been around professional development: people use it to look for work, to get better jobs, to hire people, and to connect with people who might help them get ahead in their professional lives.

But it’s done so in a very prescribed set of formats that do not leave much room for exploring “authenticity” — not in the modern sense of “authentic self”, and not in the more old-school sense of just letting down your guard and being yourself. (Even relatively newer initiatives like its education focus directly play into this bigger framework.)

With authenticity becoming an increasing priority for people — and maybe more so as we have started to blur the lines between work and home because of Covid-19 and the changes that it has forced on us — I can’t help but wonder whether LinkedIn will use this opportunity to rethink, or at least expand the concept of, what it means to spend time on its platform.

#clubhouse, #coach, #enterprise, #facebook, #linkedin, #recruitment, #snapchat, #social, #social-media, #social-media-platforms, #social-networks, #software, #stories, #tiktok, #united-states

Twitch sues two users for harassing streamers with hate raids

Twitch filed a lawsuit late last week against two people on its own platform for running automated hate and harassment campaigns.

The harassment, often targeted at Black and LGBTQ streamers, manifests in a unique Twitch phenomenon as a “hate raid.” On Twitch, creators regularly point viewers toward another friendly account after their stream concludes to boost their audiences, a practice known as a “raid.” Hate raids invert that formula, sending swarms of bots to harass streamers who have inadequate tools at their disposal to block the influx of abuse.

The hate raids leverage Twitch’s new tagging system, which many transgender users had requested to make it easier to build community and to discover content that resonates. In May, Twitch added more than 350 new tags to help viewers sort streams by “gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, ability, mental health, and more.” Accounts spreading abuse now use those tags to target racist, sexist, transphobic and homophobic harassment toward streamers, another unfortunate misuse of a tool explicitly designed to give creators a boost.

In the suit, Twitch described hate raiders as “highly motivated” malicious individuals who improvise new ways to circumvent the platform’s terms of service. Twitch named two users, “CruzzControl” and “CreatineOverdose,” in the suit but the company was unable to obtain their legal names. The users are based in the Netherlands and Austria, respectively, and their activity began in August of this year. Twitch alleges that CruzzControl alone has been linked to 3,000 bot accounts involved in hate raids.

While it’s possible that Twitch won’t be able to identify the real identities of individuals behind the recent harassment campaigns, the lawsuit could act as a deterrent for other accounts directing waves of abuse on the streaming platform.

“While we have identified and banned thousands of accounts over the past weeks, these actors continue to work hard on creative ways to circumvent our improvements, and show no intention of stopping,” the lawsuit reads. “We hope this Complaint will shed light on the identity of the individuals behind these attacks and the tools that they exploit, dissuade them from taking similar behaviors to other services, and help put an end to these vile attacks against members of our community.”

“This Complaint is by no means the only action we’ve taken to address targeted attacks, nor will it be the last,” a Twitch spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Our teams have been working around the clock to update our proactive detection systems, address new behaviors as they emerge, and finalize new proactive, channel-level safety tools that we’ve been developing for months.”

Prior to Twitch’s legal action, some Twitch creators organized #ADayOffTwitch to protest the company’s failure to offer solutions for users targeted by hate raids. People participating in the protest demanded that Twitch take decisive actions toward protecting streamers from hate raids, including letting creators deny incoming raids and screen out chat participants with newly made accounts. They also drew attention to Twitch policies that allow unlimited accounts to be linked to a single email address, a loophole that makes it easy to create and deploy armies of bot accounts.

#content-creators, #content-moderation, #online-harassment, #social, #streaming-video, #tc, #twitch

Instagram is building a ‘Favorites’ feature so you don’t miss important posts

Instagram confirmed it’s developing a new feature called “Favorites,” which would allow users to select certain accounts whose posts they would like to see higher in their feed. A similar feature already exists on Facebook where it gives users a bit more control over the News Feed algorithm. On Facebook, users can select up to 30 friends or Facebook Pages whose posts get shown higher in the News Feed. It’s unclear what limit an Instagram Favorites feature would have, however.

The Instagram Favorites feature was recently spotted in development by reverse engineer Alessandro Paluzzi, who found a new pushpin icon for Favorites in the Instagram Settings menu, and other details about how the feature may work.

According to screenshots Paluzzi posted on Twitter, users will be able to search across the Instagram accounts they are currently following to create a list of Favorites. This list can be edited at any time, and Instagram notes that users would not be notified when they’re added to someone’s Favorites.

This is a similar level of privacy as offered by Instagram’s several years-old “Close Friends” feature, which instead focuses on allowing users to create a separate list of followers so they can share their more private and personal Instagram Stories with a select group of their own choosing.

Paluzzi tells us he was able to add contacts to the Favorites list, but didn’t yet notice any changes to the Instagram feed after doing so. That implies the feature is still being built and a launch is not imminent.

“This feature is an internal prototype that’s still in development, and not testing externally,” an Instagram spokesperson told TechCrunch. They declined to share any other specifics about the feature.

A Favorites feature could play into Instagram’s larger plans to better establish itself as a home for creator content. In other leaks, Paluzzi had also found the company was building out “Fan Subscriptions,” which would allow users to pay for elevated access to creator content — like exclusive live videos or Stories, for example. Paid subscribers may also be given a special badge that would highlight their name when they commented, DM’ed, or viewed the creator’s Stories.

Given that users who were paying for content would not want to miss a moment, it would make sense to give them tools to designate those creators as “Favorites” whose posts were also more highly ranked in their Feed.

A Favorites feature could also be useful to those who had taken a break from Instagram and would rather see the important photos and videos they missed from favorite accounts upon their return, rather than just the most recent or interesting updates from across all of the accounts they follow.

And while not likely the main goal, the new feature could help to address users’ complaints about the algorithmic feed in general.

Today, there are still a number of people who want to be able to see Instagram posts in chronological order, preferring to not have posts re-ordered by an algorithm they can’t control. Favorites wouldn’t give in to this demand (though Instagram has tested a chronological feed in the past). But it would at least give users the ability to ensure they weren’t missing the posts from those whose updates they wanted to see the most.

Though Instagram did say it’s working on the development of Favorites, it doesn’t necessarily mean such a feature will launch to the public. Companies of Instagram’s size often prototype new ideas, but only some of those tests make it to a general release.

#apps, #computing, #facebook, #instagram, #like-button, #news-feed, #operating-systems, #social, #social-media, #social-software, #software, #spokesperson

WhatsApp will finally let users encrypt their chat backups in the cloud

WhatsApp said on Friday it will give its two billion users the option to encrypt their chat backups to the cloud, taking a significant step to put a lid on one of the tricky ways private communication between individuals on the app can be compromised.

The Facebook-owned service has end-to-end encrypted chats between users for more than a decade. But users have had no option but to store their chat backup to their cloud — iCloud on iPhones and Google Drive on Android — in an unencrypted format.

Tapping these unencrypted WhatsApp chat backups on Google and Apple servers is one of the widely known ways law enforcement agencies across the globe have been able to access WhatsApp chats of suspect individuals for years.

Now WhatsApp says it is patching this weak link in the system.

“WhatsApp is the first global messaging service at this scale to offer end-to-end encrypted messaging and backups, and getting there was a really hard technical challenge that required an entirely new framework for key storage and cloud storage across operating systems,” said Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a post announcing the new feature.

Store your own encryption keys

The company said it has devised a system to enable WhatsApp users on Android and iOS to lock their chat backups with encryption keys. WhatsApp says it will offer users two ways to encrypt their cloud backups, and the feature is optional.

In the “coming weeks,” users on WhatsApp will see an option to generate a 64-digit encryption key to lock their chat backups in the cloud. Users can store the encryption key offline or in a password manager of their choice, or they can create a password that backs up their encryption key in a cloud-based “backup key vault” that WhatsApp has developed. The cloud-stored encryption key can’t be used without the user’s password, which isn’t known by WhatsApp.

(Image: WhatsApp/supplied)

“We know that some will prefer the 64-digit encryption key whereas others want something they can easily remember, so we will be including both options. Once a user sets their backup password, it is not known to us. They can reset it on their original device if they forget it,” WhatsApp said.

“For the 64-digit key, we will notify users multiple times when they sign up for end-to-end encrypted backups that if they lose their 64-digit key, we will not be able to restore their backup and that they should write it down. Before the setup is complete, we’ll ask users to affirm that they’ve saved their password or 64-digit encryption key.”

A WhatsApp spokesperson told TechCrunch that once an encrypted backup is created, previous copies of the backup will be deleted. “This will happen automatically and there is no action that a user will need to take,” the spokesperson added.

Potential regulatory pushback?

The move to introduce this added layer of privacy is significant and one that could have far-reaching implications.

End-to-end encryption remains a thorny topic of discussion as governments continue to lobby for backdoors. Apple was reportedly pressured to not add encryption to iCloud Backups after the FBI complained, and while Google has offered users the ability to encrypt their data stored in Google Drive, the company allegedly didn’t tell governments before it rolled out the feature.

When asked by TechCrunch whether WhatsApp, or its parent firm Facebook, had consulted with government bodies — or if it had received their support — during the development process of this feature, the company declined to discuss any such conversations.

“People’s messages are deeply personal and as we live more of our lives online, we believe companies should enhance the security they provide their users. By releasing this feature, we are providing our users with the option to add this additional layer of security for their backups if they’d like to, and we’re excited to give our users a meaningful advancement in the safety of their personal messages,” the company told TechCrunch.

WhatsApp also confirmed that it will be rolling out this optional feature in every market where its app is operational.  It’s not uncommon for companies to withhold privacy features for legal and regulatory reasons. Apple’s upcoming encrypted browsing feature, for instance, won’t be made available to users in certain authoritarian regimes, such as China, Belarus, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, and the Philippines.

At any rate, Friday’s announcement comes days after ProPublica reported that private end-to-end encrypted conversations between two users can be read by human contractors when messages are reported by users.

“Making backups fully encrypted is really hard and it’s particularly hard to make it reliable and simple enough for people to use. No other messaging service at this scale has done this and provided this level of security for people’s messages,” Uzma Barlaskar, product lead for privacy at WhatsApp, told TechCrunch.

“We’ve been working on this problem for many years, and to build this, we had to develop an entirely new framework for key storage and cloud storage that can be used across the world’s largest operating systems and that took time.”

#apple, #apps, #facebook, #google, #google-drive, #icloud, #mark-zuckerberg, #privacy, #signal, #social, #tc, #telegram, #whatsapp