Facebook to test new business discovery features in U.S. News Feed

Facebook announced this morning it will begin testing a new experience for discovering businesses in its News Feed in the U.S. When live, users to tap on topics they’re interested in underneath posts and ads in their News Feed in order to explore related content from businesses. The change comes at a time when Facebook has been arguing how Apple’s App Tracking Transparency update will impact its small business customers — a claim many have dismissed as misleading, but nevertheless led some mom and pop shops to express concern about the impacts to their ad targeting capabilities, as a result. This new test is an example of how easily Facebook can tweak its News Feed to build out more data on its users, if needed.

The company suggests users may see the change under posts and ads from businesses selling beauty products, fitness or clothing, among other things.

The idea here is that Facebook would direct users to related businesses through a News Feed feature, when they take a specific action to discover related content. This, in turn, could help Facebook create a new set of data on its users, in terms of which users clicked to see more, and what sort of businesses they engaged with, among other things. Over time, it could turn this feature into an ad unit, if desired, where businesses could pay for higher placement.

“People already discover businesses while scrolling through News Feed, and this will make it easier to discover and consider new businesses they might not have found on their own,” the company noted in a brief announcement.

Facebook didn’t detail its further plans with the test, but said as it learned from how users interacted with the feature, it will expand the experience to more people and businesses.

Image Credits: Facebook

Along with news of the test, Facebook said it will roll out more tools for business owners this month, including the ability to create, publish and schedule Stories to both Facebook and Instagram; make changes and edits to Scheduled Posts; and soon, create and manage Facebook Photos and Albums from Facebook’s Business Suite. It will also soon add the ability to create and save Facebook and Instagram posts as drafts from the Business Suite mobile app.

Related to the businesses updates, Facebook updated features across ad products focused on connecting businesses with customer leads, including Lead Ads, Call Ads, and Click to Messenger Lead Generations.

Facebook earlier this year announced a new Facebook Page experience that gave businesses the ability to engage on the social network with their business profile for things like posting, commenting and liking, and access to their own, dedicated News Feed. And it had removed the Like button in favor of focusing on Followers.

It is not a coincidence that Facebook is touting its tools for small businesses at a time when there’s concern — much of it loudly shouted by Facebook itself — that its platform could be less useful to small business owners in the near future, when ad targeting capabilities becomes less precise as users vote ‘no’ when Facebook’s iOS app asks if it can track them.

#advertising-tech, #facebook, #mobile, #news-feed, #social, #social-media, #social-network, #social-software, #software, #targeted-advertising, #united-states

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Building customer-first relationships in a privacy-first world is critical

In business today, many believe that consumer privacy and business results are mutually exclusive — to excel in one area is to lack in the other. Consumer privacy is seen by many in the technology industry as an area to be managed.

But the truth is, the companies who champion privacy will be better positioned to win in all areas. This is especially true as the digital industry continues to undergo tectonic shifts in privacy — both in government regulation and browser updates.

By the end of 2022, all major browsers will have phased out third-party cookies — the tracking codes placed on a visitor’s computer generated by another website other than your own. Additionally, mobile device makers are limiting identifiers allowed on their devices and applications. Across industry verticals, the global enterprise ecosystem now faces a critical moment in which digital advertising will be forever changed.

Up until now, consumers have enjoyed a mostly free internet experience, but as publishers adjust to a cookie-less world, they could see more paywalls and less free content.

They may also see a decrease in the creation of new free apps, mobile gaming, and other ad-supported content unless businesses find new ways to authenticate users and maintain a value exchange of free content for personalized advertising.

When consumers authenticate themselves to brands and sites, they create revenue streams for publishers as well as the opportunity to receive discounts, first-looks, and other specially tailored experiences from brands.

To protect consumer data, companies need to architect internal systems around data custodianship versus acting from a sense of data entitlement. While this is a challenging and massive ongoing evolution, the benefits of starting now are enormous.

Putting privacy front and center creates a sustainable digital ecosystem that enables better advertising and drives business results. There are four steps to consider when building for tomorrow’s privacy-centric world:

Transparency is key

As we collectively look to redesign how companies interact with and think about consumers, we should first recognize that putting people first means putting transparency first. When people trust a brand or publishers’ intentions, they are more willing to share their data and identity.

This process, where consumers authenticate themselves — or actively share their phone number, email or other form of identity — in exchange for free content or another form of value, allows brands and publishers to get closer to them.

#advertising-tech, #column, #consumer-privacy, #digital-advertising, #ec-column, #ec-marketing-tech, #identity-management, #marketing, #media, #online-advertising, #operating-system, #privacy, #targeted-advertising

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We need universal digital ad transparency now

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg, Mr. Dorsey, Mr. Pichai and Mr. Spiegel: We need universal digital ad transparency now!

The negative social impacts of discriminatory ad targeting and delivery are well-known, as are the social costs of disinformation and exploitative ad content. The prevalence of these harms has been demonstrated repeatedly by our research. At the same time, the vast majority of digital advertisers are responsible actors who are only seeking to connect with their customers and grow their businesses.

Many advertising platforms acknowledge the seriousness of the problems with digital ads, but they have taken different approaches to confronting those problems. While we believe that platforms need to continue to strengthen their vetting procedures for advertisers and ads, it is clear that this is not a problem advertising platforms can solve by themselves, as they themselves acknowledge. The vetting being done by the platforms alone is not working; public transparency of all ads, including ad spend and targeting information, is needed so that advertisers can be held accountable when they mislead or manipulate users.

Our research has shown:

  • Advertising platform system design allows advertisers to discriminate against users based on their gender, race and other sensitive attributes.
  • Platform ad delivery optimization can be discriminatory, regardless of whether advertisers attempt to set inclusive ad audience preferences.
  • Ad delivery algorithms may be causing polarization and make it difficult for political campaigns to reach voters with diverse political views.
  • Sponsors spent more than $1.3 billion dollars on digital political ads, yet disclosure is vastly inadequate. Current voluntary archives do not prevent intentional or accidental deception of users.

While it doesn’t take the place of strong policies and rigorous enforcement, we believe transparency of ad content, targeting and delivery can effectively mitigate many of the potential harms of digital ads. Many of the largest advertising platforms agree; Facebook, Google, Twitter and Snapchat all have some form of an ad archive. The problem is that many of these archives are incomplete, poorly implemented, hard to access by researchers and have very different formats and modes of access. We propose a new standard for universal ad disclosure that should be met by every platform that publishes digital ads. If all platforms commit to the universal ad transparency standard we propose, it will mean a level playing field for platforms and advertisers, data for researchers and a safer internet for everyone.

The public deserves full transparency of all digital advertising. We want to acknowledge that what we propose will be a major undertaking for platforms and advertisers. However, we believe that the social harms currently being borne by users everywhere vastly outweigh the burden universal ad transparency would place on ad platforms and advertisers. Users deserve real transparency about all ads they are bombarded with every day. We have created a detailed description of what data should be made transparent that you can find here.

We researchers stand ready to do our part. The time for universal ad transparency is now.

Signed by:

Jason Chuang, Mozilla
Kate Dommett, University of Sheffield
Laura Edelson, New York University
Erika Franklin Fowler, Wesleyan University
Michael Franz, Bowdoin College
Archon Fung, Harvard University
Sheila Krumholz, Center for Responsive Politics
Ben Lyons, University of Utah
Gregory Martin, Stanford University
Brendan Nyhan, Dartmouth College
Nate Persily, Stanford University
Travis Ridout, Washington State University
Kathleen Searles, Louisiana State University
Rebekah Tromble, George Washington University
Abby Wood, University of Southern California

#advertising-tech, #column, #digital-advertising, #digital-marketing, #facebook, #google, #media, #online-advertising, #opinion, #snapchat, #social, #targeted-advertising, #tc, #twitter

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Drive predictable B2B revenue growth with insights from big data and CDPs

As the world reopens and revenue teams are unleashed to meet growth targets, many B2B sellers and marketers are wondering how they can best prioritize prospect accounts. Everyone ultimately wants to achieve predictable revenue growth, but in uncertain times — and with shrinking budgets — it can feel like a pipe dream.

Slimmer budgets likely mean you’ll need more accurate targeting and higher win rates. The good news is your revenue team is likely already gathering tons of prospect data to help you improve account targeting, so it’s time to put that data to work with artificial intelligence. Using big data and four essential AI-based models, you can understand what your prospects want and successfully predict revenue opportunities.

Big data and CDPs are first steps to capturing account insights

Capturing and processing big data is essential in order to know everything about prospects and best position your solution. Accurately targeting your campaigns and buyer journeys necessitates more data than ever before.

Marketers today rely on customer data platforms (CDPs) to handle this slew of information from disparate sources. CDPs let us mash together and clean up data to get a single source of normalized data. We can then use AI to extract meaningful insights and trends to drive revenue planning.

That single source of truth also lets marketers dive into the ocean of accounts and segment them by similar attributes. You can break them down into industry, location, buying stage, intent, engagement — any combination of factors. When it’s time to introduce prospects to your cadence, you’ll have segment-specific insights to guide your campaigns.

AI realizes data-based insights

You might find that your data ocean is much deeper than you expected. While transforming all that data into a single source to drive actionable insights, you’ll also need the right resources and solutions to convert raw data into highly targeted prospect outreach.

This is where AI shines. AI and machine learning enable revenue teams to analyze data for historical and behavioral patterns, pluck out the most relevant intent data, and predict what will move prospects through the buyer journey.

#artificial-intelligence, #big-data, #column, #customer-data-platform, #customer-relationship-management, #ecommerce, #finance, #machine-learning, #marketing, #online-advertising, #product-marketing, #targeted-advertising, #tc

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Cosmose, a platform that analyzes foot traffic in physical stores, gets $15 million Series A

Cosmose, a platform that tracks foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores to help companies predict customer behavior, announced today it has raised a $15 million Series A. The round was by Tiga Investments, with participation from returning investors OTB Ventures and TDJ Pitango, who co-led Cosmose’s seed round last year. The company said its valuation is now more than $100 million.

The Series A will be used for product development and geographic expansion, starting with Southeast Asian markets this year, followed by the Middle East and India. Chief executive officer Miron Mironiuk, who founded Cosmose in 2014, said its goal is to break even and generate profit by 2021.

Cosmose has offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong, New York and Warsaw, where is software engineering team is based. Most of the stores its tech is currently use in are in China and Japan, and its clients include companies like Walmart, Marriott, Samsung, and LVMH.

As companies try to recover from the impact of COVID-19, Mironiuk said Cosmose’s platform has helped clients make decisions about when to reopen stores and what kind of inventory to stock, and how to increase revenue. For example, ‘some shops wanted to connect with customers who used to shop in their physical locations and encourage them to buy online,” he said. “Hotels in Japan were focused on promoting their in-house restaurants to local residents to make up for the lost revenue.” The company is also working with Boston Consulting Group on a report called “COVID-19 offline retail recovery traffic in China” for publication next week.

Mironiuk said that a PwC audit of the platform’s accuracy completed in December 2019 confirmed its ability to track customers within 1.6 meters of their location in a store, and that its data ecosystem now comprises of more than one billion smartphones and 360,000 stores. Cosmose’s plan is to grow that to two billion smartphones and 10 million stores by 2022.

The company offers three main products: Cosmose Analytics, which tracks customers’ movements inside brick-and-mortar stores; Cosmose AI, a data analytics and prediction platform to help retailers create marketing campaigns and increase sales; and Cosmose Media, for targeting online ads.

Cosmose does not require hardware installation, which means no regular maintenance is required after Cosmose maps a store, and helps it differentiate from rivals.

There are other companies that also analyze foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores, including RetailNext and ShopperTrak, but being tracked might alarm customers who are concerned about their privacy. Mironiuk said all of the smartphone data Cosmose AI gathers is anonymized, so the company doesn’t know who shoppers are. The platform uses alphanumeric IDs called OMNIcookies, does not collect personal data like phone MAC addresses, mobile numbers, or email addresses, and follows data privacy laws in each of the countries it operates in. It also allows shoppers to opt-out of tracking.

In a press statement about the investment, Raymond Zage, the CEO and founder of Tiga Investments, said “I was attracted by the strong results Cosmose is already achieving for some of the world’s recognizable brands, while simultaneously ensuring user privacy is protected. Cosmose team is saving stores while enhancing consumer experience.”

#adtech, #asia, #brick-and-mortar, #china, #cosmose, #cosmose-ai, #europe, #fundings-exits, #hong-kong, #poland, #retail-tracking, #startups, #targeted-advertising, #tc

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UK eyeing disclosure labels for online political campaigning

The UK government is considering changes to the law that would require online political campaign material to carry labels disclosing who is promoting and funding the messaging.

The proposal, which is being put through a public consultation until November, follows years of warnings over the lack of regulation around online political ads.

The government said the measures would mean voters get the same transparency from online campaign material as they do from leaflets posted through their letterbox.

A variety of platforms would be covered, per the current proposal, including social media and video sharing apps, general websites and apps, online ads, search engines, some forms of email, digital streaming services and podcasts.

“There is growing concern about the transparency of the sources of political campaigning online, which is starting to have a negative impact on trust and confidence in our elections and democracy,” the minister for the constitution & devolution, Chloe Smith, writes. “The Government committed in its last manifesto to protect the integrity of our democracy. That is why this Government will refresh our election laws so that citizens are empowered to make informed decisions in relation to election material online.”

Commenting in a press statement, she added: “People want to engage with politics online. That’s where campaigners connect with voters and is why, ahead of elections, almost half of political advertising budgets are now spent on digital content and activity. But people want to know who is talking. Voters value transparency, so we must ensure that there are clear rules to help them see who is behind campaign content online.

“The measures we have outlined today are a big step forward towards making UK politics even more transparent and would lead to one of the most comprehensive set of regulations operating in the world today.”

The government is calling for digital imprints to apply to all types of campaign content, regardless of the country it is being promoted from, and across a variety of digital platforms.

The requirement for imprints would also apply all year round, not only during election or referenda periods.

Imprints would be required to be displayed as part of the digital content — or where that’s not possible located in an “accessible alternative location linked to the material”, per the proposal.

The government argues that the requirement for digital imprints on political campaign material will help existing regulators better monitor who is promoting election material and enforce spending rules.

The UK’s 2016 EU referendum vote was mired by the Election Commission’s finding, after the fact of Brexit, of improper spending by the official Vote Leave campaign. The campaign channeled money to a Canadian data firm, AggregateIQ, to use for microtargeting political advertising on Facebook’s platform, via undeclared joint working with another Brexit campaign, BeLeave.

As we said at the time, more stringent regulations and transparency mechanisms were needed to prevent powerful social media platforms from quietly absorbing politically motivated money and messaging without recognizing any responsibility to disclose the transactions, let alone carry out due diligence on who or what may be funding the political spending.

But whether the government’s current proposal goes far enough in updating regulations looks questionable.

UK parliamentarians on the DCMS committee have been calling for “urgent action” to update national election laws for years — warning in a report back in 2018 that democratic integrity and trust in democratic processes are at risk from rampant data-fuelled digital manipulation.

Damian Collins, who was chair of the DCMS committee during a multi-month investigation into the impact of online disinformation, criticized the government for continued delay in taking action — also attacking the proposals for not going far enough.

“This is important but there have already been government consultations and multiple inquiries which have recommended transparency for who is running political ads online. We should legislate to make this happen now,” he said via Twitter, in response to news of the consultation.

“We need to go much further to protect our elections: Clamp down on deepfakes, foreign donation loopholes, and generally bring in line political ads with the standards of the rest of ad-land,” he added.

Political broadcasts on UK television and radio are very heavily regulated — with stringent limits placed on the length and frequency of such broadcasts. Paid political ads simply aren’t permitted there. But no such limits are being proposed for online political ads, where it’s trivially easy and cheap to deploy glossy video ads targeted at specific, niche groups of voters.

Meanwhile, some tech firms have voluntarily deleted this type of advertising from their platforms in response to concerns about how it can be used to hijack, manipulate and skew genuine democratic debate.

Last year some of Facebook’s own employees raised public concerns that its advanced targeting and behavioral tracking tools make it “hard for people in the electorate to participate in the public scrutiny that we’re saying comes along with political speech”, as congressman David Cicilline noted during the third meeting of the International Grand Committee on Disinformation.

Given all that, the UK government’s proposal for digital imprints on political ads looks like an enabling framework for digital campaigning — and one that risks glossing over the democratic threat inherent in allowing voters to be treated as just so many online consumers to be profiled and targeted in the same way as Internet users are spied upon to sell a holiday, fitness gear or a particular shampoo brand.

In 2018 the UK’s data watchdog called for an ethical pause on behavioral targeting of voters. In a report entitled Democracy Disrupted? Personal information and political influence, the regulator warned: “Without a high level of transparency – and therefore trust amongst citizens that their data is being used appropriately – we are at risk of developing a system of voter surveillance by default. This could have a damaging long-term effect on the fabric of our democracy and political life.”

Its warnings then fell on deaf ears — with the Conservative party going on to use some very similar looking data-grabbing campaign techniques for last year’s general election as were deployed to target voters during the Brexit referendum. (Vote Leave’s campaign director, Dominic Cummings, is now PM Boris Johnson’s chief advisor.) So, tl;dr, the UK’s governing party is fully in bed with big data for election campaigns.

(Not to mention flush with Russian money, per a more recent UK parliamentary committee report, which appears to have encouraged ministers to look the other way vis-a-vis democratic threats posed by foreign-funded online disOps.)

In a statement accompanying the government’s press release, Facebook’s head of UK public policy, Rebecca Stimson, sounded pleased with the government’s enabling approach to regulating political ads — taking the opportunity to promote steps it’s taken toward what she couched as “online transparency” by highlighting a platform requirement, introduced in the wake of the Brexit Facebook ad scandal, which means political ads on Facebook need to be badged with a ‘paid for by’ disclaimer (and retained in an ad archive for a set number of years).

“We look forward to further engaging with the government on this important consultation,” she added.

The UK proposal suggests two tests for determining when digital content should require an imprint: Either where it’s “intended to achieve the electoral success of registered political parties and candidates, or the material relates to a referendum”; or where paid and organic digital content is being promoted by either: Registered political parties, registered third party campaigners, candidates, holders of elected office and registered referendum campaigners.

For other types of campaigners the digital imprint requirement will only apply to paid digital content (i.e. ads). “Imprint rules will… not apply to unregistered campaigners that are not paying to promote content, so that members of the public remain able to exercise their right to free speech,” the government notes on that.

It looks as if the latter will open up a loophole for unofficial campaign content to slip under the imprint radar — i.e. if manufactured opinion content can be passed off as ‘individual’ speech. In much the same way as Russia was able to pass off disinformation targeting the US election by seeding it through a network of fake profiles controlled by its bot agents.

Platforms remain terrible at identifying and labelling bots, and continue to be allowed to choose their own adventure when it comes to making fake account disclosures. So dark political messaging that’s natively hidden from regulatory oversight will continue to flourish without far closer regulation of these tech giants.

#aggregateiq, #boris-johnson, #brexit, #conservative-party, #damian-collins, #dcms-committee, #europe, #european-union, #facebook, #general-election, #government, #international-grand-committee, #marketing, #online-disinformation, #political-ads, #political-advertising, #russia, #social, #social-media-platforms, #targeted-advertising, #uk-government, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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TikTok found to have tracked Android users’ MAC addresses until late last year

Until late last year social video app TikTok was using an extra layer of encryption to conceal a tactic for tracking Android users via the MAC address of their device which skirted Google’s policies and did not allow users to opt out, The Wall Street Journal reports. Users were also not informed of this form of tracking, per its report.

Its analysis found that this concealed tracking ended in November as US scrutiny of the company dialled up, after at least 15 months during which TikTok had been gathering the fixed identifier without users’ knowledge.

A MAC address is a unique and fixed identifier assigned to an Internet connected device — which means it can be repurposed for tracking the individual user for profiling and ad targeting purposes, including by being able to re-link a user who has cleared their advertising ID back to the same device and therefore to all the prior profiling they wanted to jettison.

TikTok appears to have exploited a known bug on Android to gather users’ MAC addresses which Google has still failed to plug, per the WSJ.

A spokeswoman for TikTok did not deny the substance of its report, nor engage with specific questions we sent — including regarding the purpose of this opt-out-less tracking. Instead she sent the below statement, attributed to a spokesperson, in which company reiterates what has become a go-to claim that it has never given US user data to the Chinese government:

Under the leadership of our Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Roland Cloutier, who has decades of experience in law enforcement and the financial services industry, we are committed to protecting the privacy and safety of the TikTok community. We constantly update our app to keep up with evolving security challenges, and the current version of TikTok does not collect MAC addresses. We have never given any US user data to the Chinese government nor would we do so if asked.

“We always encourage our users to download the most current version of TikTok,” the statement added.

With all eyes on TikTok, as the latest target of the Trump administration’s war on Chinese tech firms, scrutiny of the social video app’s handling of user data has inevitably dialled up.

And while no popular social app platform has its hands clean when it comes to user tracking and profiling for ad targeting, TikTok being owned by China’s ByteDance means its flavor of surveillance capitalism has earned it unwelcome attention from the US president — who has threatened to ban the app unless it sells its US business to a US company within a matter of weeks.

Trump’s fixation on China tech, generally, is centered on the claim that the tech firms pose threats to national security in the West via access to Western networks and/or user data.

The US government is able to point to China’s Internet security law which requires firms to provide the Chinese Communist Party with access to user data — hence TikTok’s emphatic denial of passing data. But the existence of the law makes such claims difficult to stick.

TikTok’s problems with user data don’t stop there, either. Yesterday it emerged that France’s data protection watchdog has been investigating TikTok since May, following a user complaint.

The CNIL’s concerns about how the app handled a user request to delete a video have since broadened to encompass issues related to how transparently it communicates with users, as well as to transfers of user data outside the EU — which, in recent weeks, have become even more legally complex in the region.

Compliance with EU rules on data access rights for users and the processing of minors’ information are other areas of stated concern for the regulator.

Under EU law any fixed identifier (e.g. a MAC address) is treated as personal data — meaning it falls under the bloc’s GDPR data protection framework, which places strict conditions on how such data can be processed, including requiring companies to have a legal basis to collect it in the first place.

If TikTok was concealing its tracking of MAC addresses from users it’s difficult to imagine what legal basis it could claim — consent would certainly not be possible. The penalties for violating GDPR can be substantial (France’s CNIL slapped Google with a $57M fine last year under the same framework, for example).

The WSJ’s report notes that the FTC has said MAC addresses are considered personally identifiable information under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act — implying the app could also face a regulatory probe on that front, to add to its pile of US problems.

Presented with the WSJ’s findings, Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) told the newspaper that Google should remove TikTok’s app from its store. “If Google is telling users they won’t be tracked without their consent and knowingly allows apps like TikTok to break its rules by collecting persistent identifiers, potentially in violation of our children’s privacy laws, they’ve got some explaining to do,” he said.

We’ve reached out to Google for comment.

#android, #apps, #bytedance, #china, #chinese-communist-party, #encryption, #european-union, #federal-trade-commission, #france, #general-data-protection-regulation, #google, #josh-hawley, #mac-address, #privacy, #security, #social, #targeted-advertising, #tc, #tiktok, #trump-administration, #united-states, #us-government

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Accessing social groups through referrals

We’ve aggregated many of the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of startup founders and heads of growth. You can participate by joining Demand Curve’s marketing training program or its Slack group.

Without further ado, on to our community’s advice.


Accessing social groups through referrals

Excerpt from Demand Curve’s Growth Training.

A surprising benefit of referrals is how they often lead to social partnership opportunities.

Consider this process:

  1. Find your happiest users.
  2. Figure out what social groups they belong to. This could be anything from a female founders group, to university alumni networks, to a restaurant management trade association.
  3. How do you find out? Just ask them what groups they belong to. Don’t be afraid of conversation.
  4. Ask the happy user to connect you with the heads of those groups. Solve a problem they collectively have — even if it’s only tangentially related to your business. What matters is that more of these ideal customers know and trust you. You can also refer speakers, offer deals, write content for them or offer free office hours.
  5. Down the road, these people inevitably send you referrals.
  6. Reach out cold to people in other, similar groups. Reference the endorsement of the original group and provide a case study (with their permission).

Going through groups can be a high-leverage way to land and expand into ideal audiences.

Pixel-sharing tactics

#column, #extra-crunch, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #online-advertising, #social-media, #social-media-marketing, #startups, #targeted-advertising, #tc, #verified-experts

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What brands need to do if they want to break up with Facebook

With more than 90 major advertisers and counting announcing plans to dump Facebook, a significant question lingers: Where will brands go next for their digital marketing needs?

The case for the breakup is clear: Brands want to distance themselves from third-party business practices that do not align with their values. Specifically, they are disenchanted by what even some members of Congress are calling Facebook’s “lackadaisical” approach to enforcing community standards, allowing an epidemic of paid political misinformation and hate speech to persist on the user-driven platform.

However, with Google, Facebook and Amazon representing just under 70% of global digital ad revenue, a clean break from the tech giants is easier said than done. Advertisers, like anyone facing a breakup, must look within. After all, they don’t want to make the same mistakes and they cannot just throw newly freed up advertising dollars at a new social network ad platform, where similar conflicts could easily follow.

With introspection, advertisers will see that this is more than just a war on disinformation and hate speech. A data war is brewing, pressuring businesses to diversify data sources. As brands compete to understand the needs and preferences of today’s consumers, consumers are concurrently responding with more guarded protection of their online data.

To win this war, brands must reclaim data autonomy and infuse their digital media strategy with more diversified data. But they cannot do it alone and they cannot do it within the current system.

Time to brandish holistic data

Whether Facebook adjusts its community standards to appease dismayed advertisers has yet to be seen. But in the interim, as advertisers walk out the door, it’s worth noting that Facebook’s reliance on online data may soon be obsolete anyway.

One of the key differentiators for Facebook’s ad platform has been its ability to help level the playing field for smaller brands by cost-effectively captivating the right audiences. But the platform primarily draws insights from audiences’ behaviors online. The next wave of data-based marketing must employ tools that blend first-party data and qualified third-party data to offer a holistic view of customer behaviors, both online and offline.

Offline data sets, which include location intelligence, interactions, purchase history, contact information and demographics are lynchpins in the next digital media wave because they allow brands to develop a more human view of consumer data and create meaningful marketing moments. For example, location intelligence, an extremely potent tool that is currently helping brands pivot during COVID-19 disruptions and is even protecting public health, can drive personalized, alluring marketing campaigns with massive ROI opportunities.

The leading integrated data providers are managing extremely rich datasets, which increase in value daily as consistent tracking yields higher quality data. Such powerful and enriched data stacks offers brands visitor insights based on a specific location after an ad is interacted with on any device — requiring no guesswork for the marketing team. Brands are able to pinpoint exactly which messages resonate with which segments of their audience at which time. This precision ultimately helps them craft the right message for the target consumer — and deliver it at the exact right moment.

Marching orders for combat

Brands want to cut Facebook loose but where do they go next? How do they achieve data autonomy and make omnichannel strides in digital marketing? If the boycott movement is to succeed, revolutionary changes to the digital marketplace are needed.

A newly imagined system must be organized outside the proprietary grasp of any one single tech conglomerate. Otherwise, advertisers will lack ownership of the data they need to reach new audiences. Or they’ll once again get mixed up with similar paid political disinformation and hate speech across user-generated platforms, sending them straight back into the arms of Facebook.

Rather than rely on a single centralized social media platform, transparent media partners and publishers must come together on a shared central system that takes an omnichannel approach to building lookalike (LAL) audiences. A LAL puts advertisers in front of new audiences by finding users that, while they may be unfamiliar with their brand, are very similar to the buyer personas of their current customers. The LAL for each advertiser would be constantly tested and refined to keep pace with the rapidly changing marketplace.

Facebook currently operates on a LAL model but it is almost exclusively generated by online data from their users. The next step is expanding on this model and infusing offline and third-party data with a company’s first-party data, putting them in front of a LAL across a range of media partners and platforms. This will help build a core conversion audience, while constantly scaling new LALs for each brand.

Such a system would require collaboration, enlisting many players in a co-op style undertaking. For example, to get it off the ground, it would be helpful if about 20 of the large brands boycotting Facebook invest some of their newly freed advertising dollars to establish the data and publisher sharing co-op network.

Once the advertiser framework is set, the co-op would need to identify media outlet partners such as news websites, blogs, apps, podcasts and social media outlets. The co-op would negotiate a performance-based publisher relationship for every player, effectively increasing content monetization for publishers’ content channels.

Reinventing the digital media landscape

This would be a transformational movement, galvanizing brands with data autonomy and increasing customer engagement across an entire network of media platforms — not just one platform. Each advertiser’s first-party data, which they’ve already given to Facebook, would be analyzed to isolate data overlaps within the co-op. This would essentially lay the foundation for building a core conversation audience, helping each advertiser tap new LALs.

Brands advertising with the co-op would gain access to more enriched, robust insights on consumers than Facebook could ever offer, leading to a higher return on investment for the $336 billion spend on digital advertising annually.

Most importantly, it would help brands future-proof their digital marketing efforts and grant them greater freedom in choosing where their advertising dollars are being spent.

That is how the war is won.

#artificial-intelligence, #column, #digital-marketing, #facebook, #google, #marketing, #media, #online-advertising, #opinion, #social, #social-media, #targeted-advertising, #tc

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Data from Dutch public broadcaster shows the value of ditching creepy ads

For anyone interested in the contested question of how much ‘value’ — or, well, how little — publishers derive from the privacy-hostile practice of tracking web users to behaviorally target them with ads, pro-privacy browser Brave has published some interesting data, obtained (with permission) from the Netherland’s public broadcaster, NPO.

The data shows the NPO grew ad revenue after ditching trackers to target ads in the first half of this year — and did so despite the coronavirus pandemic landing in March and dealing a heavy blow to digital advertising globally (contributing, for example, to Twitter reporting Q2 ad revenues down nearly a quarter).

The context here is that in January the broadcaster switched to serving contextual ads across its various websites, where it has an online video audience of 7.1M per month, and display reach of 5.8M per month.

Brave has just published an analysis of six months’ worth of data which shows NPO’s ad revenue increased every month over this period. Year-over-year increases after the broadcaster unplugged the usual morass of background adtech that makes surveillance capitalism ‘function’ are as follows:

  • January: 62%; February 79%; March 27%; April 9%; May 17%; June 17%;

Earlier this month Brave published five months’ worth of the NPO ad revenue data. So this is actually an update on an earlier blog post on the topic. The updated figures from Ster, the NPO’s ad sales house, slightly amend the earlier amounts, revising the reported figures further upwards. So, in short, non-tracking ad revenue bump has been sustained for half a year. Even amid a pandemic.

Now the idea that switching from behavioral to contextual targeting can lead to revenue growth is not a narrative you’ll hear from the ad tracking industry and its big tech backers. Aka the platform giants whose grip on the Internet’s attention economy and the digital infrastructure used for buying and selling targeted ads has helped them to huge profits over the past half decade or so (even as publisher revenues have largely stagnated or declined during this boom period for digital ad spending).

The adtech industry prefers to chainlink tracking and targeting to ad revenue — claiming publisher revenues would tank if content producers were forced to abandon their reader surveillance systems. (Here’s Google’s VP of ad platforms, last year, telling AdExchanger that the impact of tracker blocking on publishers’ programmatic ad revenues could cut CPMs in half, for example.)

Yet it’s not the first time there’s been a report of (surprise!) publisher uplift after ditching ad trackers.

Last year Digiday reported that the New York Times saw its ad revenue rise in Europe after it switched off creepy ads ahead of a major regional regulatory update, shifting over to contextual and geographical targeting.

The NYT does have a certain level of brand cache which not every publisher can claim. Hence the tracking industry counterclaims that its experience isn’t one that can be widely replicated by publishers. So the NPO data is additionally interesting in that it shows revenue uplift for a public broadcaster even across websites that aren’t dominant in their particular category, per Brave’s analysis.

Here’s its chief policy & industry relations officer, Dr Johnny Ryan, who writes:

NPO and its sales house, Ster, invested in contextual targeting and testing, and produced vast sales increases even with sites that do not appear to dominate their categories. This may be a tribute to Ster’s ability to sell inventory across NPO’s media group as a collective, but this benefit would have applied in 2019 and does not account for the revenue jump in 2020. A publisher does not therefore need to have market dominance to abandon 3rd party tracking and reproduce NPO’s vast revenue increase.

And here’s Ryan’s take on why “legitimate” (i.e. non junk/clickbait) publishers of all sizes should be able to follow the NPO’s example:

Although it is a national broadcast group, NPO websites do not dominate the web traffic rankings in the Netherlands. Only one of NPO’s properties (Nos.nl) ranks in the top 5 in its category in the Netherlands, according to Similar Web. None of the other NPO properties are in the Netherland’s top 100. The other NPO websites for which Similar Web provides a traffic rank estimation (versus other websites in the Netherlands) range from 180th to 5,040th most popular in the Netherlands. NPO properties’ popularity or market position in each content category are not correlated with increases in impressions sold. Country site rank, category site rank, and numbers of page views, vary widely between the properties, whereas the increases in impression sold are all above 83%, with one explicable exception [due to technical difficulties over the tracked period which prevented ads being served against one of its most popular programs].

Brave has its own commercial iron in the fire here, of course, given its approach to monetizing user eyeballs aligns with an anti-tracking marketplace ethos. But that hardly takes away from the NPO’s experience of — surprise! — revenue growth from ditching creepy ads.

Joost Negenman, NPO’s privacy officer, told TechCrunch they had certainly not expected to see ad revenue uplift from making the switch. The decision to move to contextual ads was made mid last year, as a result of the public broadcaster becoming “convinced” the programmatic targeting ad system it was using wasn’t compatible with its “public task”, as he tells it.

“We expected a rather dramatic drop in revenue,” says Negenman, noting that at that time the NPO was only getting a consent rate from users of around 10% for the ad cookies Ster needed for its programmatic ad system — down from 75%+ prior to GDPR (“probably” because its Cookie Consent Module at the time had been based on “implicit instead of explicit consent”; whereas GDPR mandates for consent to be legally valid it must be specific, informed and freely given).

“We also expected a drop because advertisers could completely ignore us when NPO and Ster turned away from this market adtech standard together, at a time when there was no sophisticated alternative in place,” he continues. “This fortunate misjudgment on our side was also fuelled by the strong belief (and preaches) in programmatic ad-solutions by online marketeers and companies.”

Negenman attributes the surprise revenue bounty from selling contextual ads to a couple of factors: Namely the “A-brand” pull of NPO and its affiliate broadcasters, meaning advertisers still wanted to be able to reach their users. And, well, to having the pro-privacy zeitgeist on its side.

“We’re all aware of the growing scrutiny on the adtech business, no explanation needed!” he says.

It’s worth noting the NPO’s switch to contextual ads did require some investment to pull off. The publisher shelled out for technology to enable contextual targeting across its web properties — such as building out descriptive metadata to enable more granular contextual targeting on video content. And the level of investment required to achieve similarly sophisticated contextual ad targeting might not be available to every publisher.

Yet the sustained revenue bump NPO experienced post-switch means it very quickly earned back what it spent — so for publishers that can afford to invest up front in transitioning away from tracking it looks like a very compelling case study.

“It paid for itself within a month or so!” confirms Negenman. “Considering all the money Ster didn’t have to share with Google and other in-betweens. From 1 advertisement Euro, 1 Euro goes to Ster!”

Though he also notes the broadcaster was helped by Dutch law placing an obligation on it to have subtitles for over 90% of its assets — meaning some of the leg work to build out contextual targeting had already been done.

“Subtitles data of course provides valuable descriptive metadata. So those tools where already in place,” he says. “But beside subtitles — that are nowadays easier to automate — standard program information like (sub)genre, titles of actors are of great value as well to add context on a video asset.”

Brave’s Ryan posits that the role of NPO’s sales house is also important to its success with contextual ads. “Smaller publishers may benefit from engaging with reputable sales houses that can aggregate supply as Ster does for NPO’s various properties,” he suggests. “Publishers of all sizes will benefit according to their reputations — unless advertisers and agencies purchase from sales houses with poor reputations.”

Asked whether he believes the switch would work for all publishers, Negenman does not go that far. “For all A-brands I definitely see this approach working, also news outlets have the perfect (meta)data needed to feed such a system,” he says, arguing there’s a place in the market for both contextual and targeted ads.

“Not all online advertising is the same,” he argues. “A shoe annoyingly following you online is something other than creating (A-)brand awareness. Perhaps the contextual system can start by creating privacy friendly ‘lagoons’ where a person is not tracked or followed by a shoe. There the system gets time to prove its worth in revenue and respect for its audience.”

“For other public broadcasters I believe they have more or less an (moral) obligation to at least start testing contextual ads,” he adds. “The adtech system’s use of personal and behavioral data has become so un-explainable that the GDPR information obligation is almost impossible to meet.”

As we’ve said before, the evidence of viable alternatives to privacy-torching surveillance capitalism is stacking up — even as harms linked to adtech platforms’ exploitation of people’s information keep piling up.

And while contextual ads may not sum to a revenue boom for every type of publisher, the notion that it’s tracking or nothing is clearly bogus.

(You could also make a pretty compelling case that abusive exploitation of people’s data that sustains low grade publishing is not at all a net societal good and so supporting a system that supports bottom feeding clickbait (and massive levels of ad fraud) is simply bad for everyone — well, other than the bottom feeders… )

Ryan goes so far as to call conventional adtech “a cancer eating at the heart of legitimate publishers”. And having worked inside the beast he’s castigating, via an earlier stint at anti-ad-blocking adtech company called PageFair, his critique is all the more hard hitting.

He’s used his insider knowledge to file a number of complaints with European regulators — most notably against the real-time bidding (RTB) practice programmatic advertising can rely on, drawing in vast quantities of Internet users’ personal information and scattershotting it back out again.

He contends this high velocity trading of personal data can’t possibly be compliant with Europe’s data protection framework — which, conversely, mandates that people’s information be securely handled, not spread around like confetti. (Though he believes RTB can work fine if you strip out personal data and only use it for contextual ads.)

European data protection regulators agree there’s a ‘lawfulness’ problem with current adtech practices. But have so far sat on their hands rather than taking enforcement action, given how widespread the problem is.

(Interestingly, Negenman says the NPO investigated continuing using programmatic RTB but with personal data stripped out. Though, in the event, he says this idea never got past the production stage. “Personally I can imagine a compliant combination,” he notes, adding: “Most importantly, the personal data must not leave the trusted data partner [and be shared with] the advertisers.”)

Turning a tanker clearly takes time. But the more publishers that see not pushing creepy ads on their users as an opportunity to experiment with alternatives, the more chance there will be for the market to shift wholesale for privacy — a shift that can be a huge win for publishers and users alike, as the NPO experience illustrates. 

Competition regulators, meanwhile, are closing in on big (ad)tech’s market power — and the conflicts of interest that arise from the “vertically integrated chain of intermediaries” which work to funnel the lion’s share of digital ad spend into platform coffers. So it’s not hard to conceive of an intervention to force market reform by breaking up Google’s business empire — to separate the ‘ad’ bits from its other ‘tech’.

The self-interested forces that underpin surveillance capitalism made their fortunes when no one was really looking at how their methods exploit people’s data. Now, with many more eyes trained on them, they are operating on borrowed time. It’s no longer a question of whether change is coming. The sands are shifting, with platforms themselves now moving to limit access to third party tracking cookies.

Savvy publishers would do well to get out ahead of the next round of platform power moves — and skate to where the puck’s headed.

#adtech, #advertising-tech, #brave, #digital-advertising, #digital-marketing, #europe, #gdpr, #google, #johnny-ryan, #marketing, #media, #netherlands, #online-advertising, #privacy, #real-time-bidding, #rtb, #targeted-advertising, #tc, #the-new-york-times

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TikTok is a marketers’ shiny new toy, but how do you optimize campaigns?

TikTok is a rising star in the social media category. Since its launch three years ago, the company has secured 800 million active users worldwide. That makes TikTok ninth in terms of social network sites, ahead of LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat. As more people start using the platform and remain engaged, it goes without saying that TikTok is an increasingly desirable destination for marketers.

But outside the sheer numbers, is there any real sustenance to the platform from a marketing perspective, or is this just a temporary fad brands are flocking to? Here’s a look into what makes TikTok unique through a marketer’s lens, and a few things the platform can improve on to make it a permanent option for brands looking to explore mobile.

Better user experiences lead to more unique advertising

Digital advertising is only as effective as a platform’s user experience — that fact presents a unique differentiator for TikTok. Being in 2020, where content creators continue to blossom, TikTok provides an opportunity for literally anyone to reach millions of people with their content. It is a “platform for the people,” as the algorithm sends user content to groups of 5-10 people, and based on the engagement, it will continue sending it out to the masses. What’s interesting here is that it resembles an early era of Instagram, where all content was user-generated.

Additionally, unlike other leading social media channels, a user is focused on one piece of content at a time. TikTok videos take up the entire screen, which leads to more engagement and genuine interest from the viewer. That said, creative plays an incredibly important role in every campaign you run on the platform, especially when trying to grab the user amid a mass of alternative entertainment options. The TikTok audience is hyperfocused on viewing organic, visually stimulating content that could be the next big meme or viral sensation.

Creative is the key

#apps, #bytedance, #column, #extra-crunch, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #marketing, #mobile, #online-advertising, #targeted-advertising, #tc, #tiktok, #verified-experts

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Google is now publishing coronavirus mobility reports, feeding off users’ location history

Google is giving the world a clearer glimpse of exactly how much it knows about people everywhere — using the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to repackage its persistent tracking of where users go and what they do as a public good in the midst of a pandemic.

In a blog post today the tech giant announced the publication of what it’s branding ‘COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports‘. Aka an in-house analysis of the much more granular location data it maps and tracks to fuel its ad-targeting, product development and wider commercial strategy to showcase aggregated changes in population movements around the world.

The coronavirus pandemic has generated a worldwide scramble for tools and data to inform government responses. In the EU, for example, the European Commission has been leaning on telcos to hand over anonymized and aggregated location data to model the spread of COVID-19.

Google’s data dump looks intended to dangle a similar idea of public policy utility while providing an eyeball-grabbing public snapshot of mobility shifts via data pulled off of its global user-base.

In terms of actual utility for policymakers, Google’s suggestions are pretty vague. The reports could help government and public health officials “understand changes in essential trips that can shape recommendations on business hours or inform delivery service offerings”, it writes.

“Similarly, persistent visits to transportation hubs might indicate the need to add additional buses or trains in order to allow people who need to travel room to spread out for social distancing,” it goes on. “Ultimately, understanding not only whether people are traveling, but also trends in destinations, can help officials design guidance to protect public health and essential needs of communities.”

The location data Google is making public is similarly fuzzy — to avoid inviting a privacy storm — with the company writing it’s using “the same world-class anonymization technology that we use in our products every day”, as it puts it.

“For these reports, we use differential privacy, which adds artificial noise to our datasets enabling high quality results without identifying any individual person,” Google writes. “The insights are created with aggregated, anonymized sets of data from users who have turned on the Location History setting, which is off by default.”

“In Google Maps, we use aggregated, anonymized data showing how busy certain types of places are—helping identify when a local business tends to be the most crowded. We have heard from public health officials that this same type of aggregated, anonymized data could be helpful as they make critical decisions to combat COVID-19,” it adds, tacitly linking an existing offering in Google Maps to a coronavirus-busting cause.

The reports consist of per country, or per state, downloads (with 131 countries covered initially), further broken down into regions/counties — with Google offering an analysis of how community mobility has changed vs a baseline average before COVID-19 arrived to change everything.

So, for example, a March 29 report for the whole of the US shows a 47 per cent drop in retail and recreation activity vs the pre-CV period; a 22% drop in grocery & pharmacy; and a 19% drop in visits to parks and beaches, per Google’s data.

While the same date report for California shows a considerably greater drop in the latter (down 38% compared to the regional baseline); and slightly bigger decreases in both retail and recreation activity (down 50%) and grocery & pharmacy (-24%).

Google says it’s using “aggregated, anonymized data to chart movement trends over time by geography, across different high-level categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential”. The trends are displayed over several weeks, with the most recent information representing 48-to-72 hours prior, it adds.

The company says it’s not publishing the “absolute number of visits” as a privacy step, adding: “To protect people’s privacy, no personally identifiable information, like an individual’s location, contacts or movement, is made available at any point.”

Google’s location mobility report for Italy, which remains the European country hardest hit by the virus, illustrates the extent of the change from lockdown measures applied to the population — with retail & recreation dropping 94% vs Google’s baseline; grocery & pharmacy down 85%; and a 90% drop in trips to parks and beaches.

The same report shows an 87% drop in activity at transit stations; a 63% drop in activity at workplaces; and an increase of almost a quarter (24%) of activity in residential locations — as many Italians stay at home, instead of commuting to work.

It’s a similar story in Spain — another country hard-hit by COVID-19. Though Google’s data for France suggests instructions to stay-at-home may not be being quite as keenly observed by its users there, with only an 18% increase in activity at residential locations and a 56% drop in activity at workplaces. (Perhaps because the pandemic has so far had a less severe impact on France, although numbers of confirmed cases and deaths continue to rise across the region.)

While policymakers have been scrambling for data and tools to inform their responses to COVID-19, privacy experts and civil liberties campaigners have rushed to voice concerns about the impacts of such data-fuelled efforts on individual rights, while also querying the wider utility of some of this tracking.

Contacts tracing is another area where apps are fast being touted as a potential solution to get the West out of economically crushing population lockdowns — opening up the possibility of people’s mobile devices becoming a tool to enforce lockdowns, as has happened in China.

“Large-scale collection of personal data can quickly lead to mass surveillance,” is the succinct warning of a trio of academics from London’s Imperial College’s Computational Privacy Group, who have compiled their privacy concerns vis-a-vis COVID-19 contacts tracing apps into a set of eight questions app developers should be asking.

Discussing Google’s release of mobile location data for a COVID-19 cause, the head of the group, Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, gave a general thumbs up to the steps it’s taken to shrink privacy risks. Although he also called for Google to provide more detail about the technical processes it’s using in order that external researchers can better assess the robustness of the claimed privacy protections. Such scrutiny is of pressing importance with so much coronavirus-related data grabbing going on right now, he argues.

“It is all aggregated; they normalize to a specific set of dates; they threshold when there are too few people and on top of this they add noise to make — according to them — the data differentially private. So from a pure anonymization perspective it’s good work,” de Montjoye told TechCrunch, discussing the technical side of Google’s release of location data. “Those are three of the big ‘levers’ that you can use to limit risk. And I think it’s well done.”

“But — especially in times like this when there’s a lot of people using data — I think what we would have liked is more details. There’s a lot of assumptions on thresholding, on how do you apply differential privacy, right?… What kind of assumptions are you making?” he added, querying how much noise Google is adding to the data, for example. “It would be good to have a bit more detail on how they applied [differential privacy]… Especially in times like this it is good to be… overly transparent.”

While Google’s mobility data release might appear to overlap in purpose with the Commission’s call for EU telco metadata for COVID-19 tracking, de Montjoye points out there are likely to be key differences based on the different data sources.

“It’s always a trade off between the two,” he says. “It’s basically telco data would probably be less fine-grained, because GPS is much more precise spatially and you might have more data points per person per day with GPS than what you get with mobile phone but on the other hand the carrier/telco data is much more representative — it’s not only smartphone, and it’s not only people who have latitude on, it’s everyone in the country, including non smartphone.”

There may be country specific questions that could be better addressed by working with a local carrier, he also suggested. (The Commission has said it’s intending to have one carrier per EU Member State providing anonymized and aggregated metadata.)

On the topical question of whether location data can ever be truly anonymized, de Montjoye — an expert in data reidentification — gave a “yes and no” response, arguing that original location data is “probably really, really hard to anonymize”.

“Can you process this data and make the aggregate results anonymous? Probably, probably, probably yes — it always depends. But then it also means that the original data exists… Then it’s mostly a question of the controls you have in place to ensure the process that leads to generating those aggregates does not contain privacy risks,” he added.

Perhaps a bigger question related to Google’s location data dump is around the issue of legal consent to be tracking people in the first place.

While the tech giant claims the data is based on opt-ins to location tracking the company was fined $57M by France’s data watchdog last year for a lack of transparency over how it uses people’s data.

Then, earlier this year, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) — now the lead privacy regulator for Google in Europe — confirmed a formal probe of the company’s location tracking activity, following a 2018 complaint by EU consumers groups which accuses Google of using manipulative tactics in order to keep tracking web users’ locations for ad-targeting purposes.

“The issues raised within the concerns relate to the legality of Google’s processing of location data and the transparency surrounding that processing,” said the DPC in a statement in February, announcing the investigation.

The legal questions hanging over Google’s consent to track people likely explains the repeat references in its blog post to people choosing to opt in and having the ability to clear their Location History via settings. (“Users who have Location History turned on can choose to turn the setting off at any time from their Google Account, and can always delete Location History data directly from their Timeline,” it writes in one example.)

In addition to offering up coronavirus mobility porn reports — which Google specifies it will continue to do throughout the crisis — the company says it’s collaborating with “select epidemiologists working on COVID-19 with updates to an existing aggregate, anonymized dataset that can be used to better understand and forecast the pandemic”.

“Data of this type has helped researchers look into predicting epidemics, plan urban and transit infrastructure, and understand people’s mobility and responses to conflict and natural disasters,” it adds.

#california, #china, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #data-protection, #europe, #european-commission, #european-union, #france, #google, #gps, #italy, #mobile, #mobile-devices, #privacy, #smartphone, #spain, #targeted-advertising, #tc, #united-states, #yves-alexandre-de-montjoye

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