California Cracks Down, France Wants Tax Revenue – Spotlight #285

Good Monday morning. It’s March 11th. The Youth Climate Strike is this Friday. Expect tens of thousands of young adults and children marching to call attention to climate change.  Read their platform.


News You Need To Know Now


  • Senator Elizabeth Warren is now the most prominent politician to call for breaking up Big Tech companies, including Facebook, Google, and Amazon, after a policy announcement Friday.


  • The California Consumer Privacy Act may be getting even tougher. State leaders have introduced an amendment to include protections for biometric and passport data. The bill takes effect January 1.


  • France takes another turn at revenue generation via tech with a bill that will tax 3% of revenue created by the 30 largest companies that do not sell products online. This includes Facebook and Google.


  • Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that Facebook would change to temporary, private messages was met with resounding yawns in the digital marketing industry. No one we’ve spoken with knows how or when such an initiative would take place. Our take is that things could change tomorrow and not dissuade Senator Warren or the French government.


Hidden Nest Surprise

Rumors about your devices listening
 to you may not be as far-fetched as you think. Google now admits that its Nest Secure home security device includes a microphone that wasn’t previously disclosed.

Google says that the plan had always been to enable Nest Secure to work with voice commands via Google Assistant. They just didn’t disclose that future plan and built the mic in. My thermostat says that’s pretty standard.

iPhone apps also had a nasty surprise for users, who learned last month that their screens were being recorded without their knowledge.  Apple demanded that app developers remove or disclose the functionality or be removed from the App Store.

Facebook’s security teams got a lot of attention this week for their cool-sounding executive security work that includes rumors of a “panic chute” to get Mark Zuckerberg out of the building in an emergency, but the company’s use of a Be On the Lookout (BOLO) list of security threats worries some privacy advocates. CNBC reporting tells of a global list that can include people who simply send an irate email with threats or expletives to Facebook.

The people on that list can be tracked if Facebook is on their mobile device OR if they are using an app that reports data to Facebook. We told you about those apps–some of the world’s biggest–weeks ago.

  • There are undoubtedly credible threats to the only organization we know with nearly 3 billion accounts. But the ability to create a quasi-law enforcement agency with undisclosed surveillance capabilities is something that lawmakers will have to wrestle with in the coming months.

Also In The Spotlight


Worth your time this week:

  • “Verified Licenses” on Yelp are a new paid service, writes local expert Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land. They’re available for state-issued licenses in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, Texas, and Washington.
    • Google announced local changes that highlight budget options on its map display.  That’s just in time for spring vacations. Read the announcement.


  • Which TeleTubby are you? Facebook filed suit against two Ukrainian men who created quizzes that injected malware on user computers. The quizzes went by the names “SuperTest” and “Megatest” although not the one I’m most familiar with: Stop Sending Me This Garbage, Uncle Ralph!
    • Bottom line: if you take a quiz or survey and need to allow the system to access your Facebook account, your most recent info is almost certainly harvested.


  • Another 150 Facebook accounts were deleted last week for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” coming from Romania and the UK. That follows a suit Facebook announced that it  filed the previous week against companies “selling fake accounts, likes, and followers“.
    • But if you remember that a committee in the UK’s Parliament has a trove of Facebook documents, you’ll be interested in learning that Facebook “promised politicians investments and incentives while seeking to pressure them into lobbying on Facebook’s behalf against data privacy legislation.”

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