1. Good Monday Morning
It’s February 1st. An order requiring the wearing of face masks by mass transit users goes into effect at midnight. Passengers traveling via bus, train, taxi, or plane could be charged criminal penalties if they refuse.
Today’s Spotlight is 904 words — about a 4 minute read.
2. News To Know Now
a) Facebook’s Oversight Board overturned four of the first five cases it considered. These cases concerned Uyghur Muslims in China, breast cancer images in context, an erroneous quote attributed to Joseph Goebbels, and misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. (Board announcement)
b) The Oversight Board is also seeking public comment as it considers the company’s suspension of former president Donald Trump’s account, after he encouraged terrorists to gather in Washington and attack the U.S. Capitol. Click through to leave your comments.
c) Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft all reported strong quarterly financials. Apple climbed closer to $200 billion in cash on hand and reached $100 billion in quarterly revenues for the first time. Amazon and Alphabet report after tomorrow’s bell.
3. COVID-19 Tech News
Overview — Johns Hopkins
Community Mobility — Google
Vaccine Distribution — Washington Post
Risk Calculator — Brown
NEW: New York Times tracker that allows you to customize a daily email with multiple places that you’re monitoring: Click here for more.
Coronavirus & Tech News
Amazon Algos Can Reinforce Vax Misinfo — Seattle Times
Anti-Vaxxers Mounting Internet Campaigns — US News & World Report
COVID Apps Get Second Chance Under Biden — MIT Technology Review
Facebook Still Making Money From Anti-Vax Sites — The Guardian
How We’re Helping Vaccination Efforts — Google
4. Search Engine News
Google will now allow websites to use rich data to announce that they have a product on sale. The effort is through the internet standard Schema.org and its “Offer” code. You’ve seen the rich results created by Schema when you see star ratings or images within a search engine listing.
Google also said that embedding a video from another site instead of hosting it on your own site creates no SEO penalty.
Yes, but you should always store a local copy of videos pertaining to your organization or brand. You are dependent on YouTube or another platform when you rely on a video uploaded elsewhere. You should absolutely embed videos from YouTube to speed up your site, but you should also monitor your pages to make sure the videos are working.
5. In The Spotlight — Apple & Facebook Continue Advertising Cookies War
This is a big deal coming down the pike, and we need to be specific about our vocabulary:
Advertising cookies help a website remember personal information like your password or items that are in your shopping cart.
Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) is similar to cookies, but it is Apple’s way of identifying users. It’s a very long and unique number assigned only to Apple iOS devices.Apple introduced IDFA about five years ago, allowing Apple device owners to completely opt out, which about twenty percent do. Apple recently announced it would make advertising opt-in rather than opt-out. It’s a big deal since you can imagine consumers not flocking to activate a feature that makes online tracking easier.
Facebook warned advertisers during the winter holidays, saying targeting users would be more difficult and result in lower conversion rates. Apple countered by announcing IDFA would be made opt-in during “early spring.” Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about the issue during a privacy conference last week. Cook did not mention Facebook directly, but criticized companies that exploit users’ data, mislead users, and promote extremist content to them. The speech was important, albeit easy for a non-advertising executive to make.
Now Google, still using advertising cookies and Apple’s IDFA, says it has invented a way to organize users into cohorts with similar interests. The company announced last week that its FLoC system is superior to cookie-based tracking because it also protects individuals’ privacy.
Advertising cookies won’t go away, but they may be replaced by other technical solutions. The online advertising industry is worth more than $300 billion in the United States each year, and that buys lots of innovation and influence.
6. Debunked — UK Nurses
A viral Facebook video claims that five UK nurses have died after receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. Reuters debunks this nonsense.
7. Following Up — Google Suspends Second Ethicist
We’ve written about Google firing AI ethicist Timnit Gebru after she refused to remove the company’s name from a research paper submitted to a peer-review journal. Now a second senior ethicist has been locked out of her accounts. CNBC has coverage.
8. Protip — Were Your Flickr Photos Used To Build Facial Recognition?
Exposing.AI is a great new website which searches six large facial recognition databases to see if your Flickr photos appear in them to help train the algorithm. MegaFace, the largest database, has 3.5 million images downloaded from Flickr.
9. Screening Room – Leica’s Witnesses
10. Coffee Break – Playing Music on (Yes) Watermelon Slices
To be fair, the musician also uses kiwi for percussion. You can do the same with this music controller that creates a circuit between your body and the fruit. Read, watch, and listen.