Google Incognito Lawsuit – Spotlight #343

Good Monday morning. It’s June 8th. Please don’t forget that we are living through a pandemic. Keep social distancing, wearing masks, and diligently washing your hands. More than 110,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 in only four months, and we’re all numb and raw from that. But you can still infect people or get sick yourself.

We’ve created new pricing during this crisis for nonprofits and small businesses that need help maintaining their online presence on websites, email, and social media.  Let us know if  you’re interested or forward to someone who you think might need help.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,250 words, about a 4 1/2 minute read.

1. News to Know Now

a. Google is facing a class-action lawsuit regarding tracking of  people who use Chrome incognito mode. We would ordinarily consider this a minor matter, but the suit is asking for $5 billion and class status. 

We’ve told you that incognito mode only hides your activity from your browser. It’s great for shopping for a present for someone in your household who snoops or keeping a celebration secret. Chrome incognito mode does not now nor has it ever stopped your internet provider or the websites that you visit from seeing your activity.  (Justia link to Brown vs. Google et al)

Separately the Arizona Attorney General also filed suit against Google for tracking user locations in its Android mobile operating system. The AG says that Google changed policy defaults and opt-out processes without appropriate notice. (Read at The Washington Post)

b. Zoom generated $328 million in its Q1 2020 revenue. COVID-19 closures created demand for the videoconferencing service, especially its free tier, but Zoom also added big customers and now has 265,000 customers with more than 10 employees. The company may be looking to monetize even more because its new end-to-end encryption security will only be accessible to paying users.

c. Facebook users can now bulk delete messages using a new feature called “Manage Activity.” There’s even an option to archive messages that you want to keep but don’t want the public to see. With more than forty million people out of work, there has never been a better time to clean up your social media profile. (Read the announcement)

2. COVID-19 Online Resources and News

Great Trackers

Johns Hopkins — added state level and other data.
ProPublica Reopening Tracker — State by state measures
DC Metro Tracker spreadsheet by WTOP editor Alejandro Alvarez

Tech News

Demonstrating 15 contact tracing and other tools built to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 –> at TechCrunch

Schools Turn to Surveillance Tech to Prevent Covid-19 Spread –> at Wired

Publishers Sue Internet Archive Over Free E-Books –> at The New York Times

Visualizing Layoffs at Prominent Startups Triggered by COVID-19 –> at Visual Capitalist

3. Search Engine Optimization News

Google will now highlight any featured snippets that appear in search results for your website’s pages. Refresher: A featured snippet is the highlighted response in Google’s result page that appears before the others. 

Now you’re asking how to get those on your website, and I have to admit that I don’t know because I’m writing this instead of traveling between my weekend private island and my weekday private island. But Google kindly provided opt-out instructions for websites that don’t want all that free traffic. Here’s the announcement.

Bing Webmaster Tools, which are a consistently excellent and free resource, have added a new SEO analysis that checks your website for compliance with best practices twice a month. It’s a rudimentary form of software tools we use that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year. This is a nice option if you have a small website and don’t have dedicated marketing resources. Here’s a sample report:

Don’t worry if that’s all gobbledygook to you. Even Google misses out on technical SEO issues sometimes. Top local search expert Andrew Shotland detailed with screenshots how Google had made a mistake in producing the UK and US versions of the same page in the same results.

4. Also in the Spotlight — Snapchat No Longer Recommends Trump

Two weeks after a Bloomberg analysis described how the Trump reelection campaign was courting young voters on Snapchat, the company removed the president’s account from its recommended “Discover” category.  As many as 500,000 Snap users turn 18 each month and are a highly sought after audience for political advertisers. 

Snapchat released a statement that read in part, “We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover. Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality, and justice in America.”

Reminder: neither Snapchat nor Twitter have stopped the president from posting on their platforms. In Snapchat’s case, they simply no longer include his account in a list of accounts that users may want to follow.

5. Following Up: Complying with California’s Data Privacy Law

We’ve written a lot about the California Consumer Privacy Act that affects companies with more than $25 million in annual revenue, houses data from 50,000 or more households, or operates as a data broker.

Now the Interactive Advertising Bureau has set up a technical solution that allows companies to create an automated notice to all of its data partners when a consumer clicks an opt-out button.

Read more about the technology at Ad Age.

6. Debugging: Protest & Protester Misinformation

The Annenberg Public Policy Center is maintaining an updated list of misinformation and disinformation circulating online about protests regarding police practices. Do yourself a favor and bookmark it so that you can easily find it when something pops up in your feeds.

Images of a darkened White House and false claims about protests abound.

7. ProTip: Blur Faces & Remove Your Data from Photos

There are many reasons to blur a face or remove a photo’s data showing the date and place a photo was taken. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do either, but remember, you may want to know years from now if you took that picture in 2020, 2018, or 2021. 

Have fun, but don’t delete for the heck of it.

8. Great Data: Mapping Civil Unrest Animation

We’ve looked at animated graphs before, but an animated map still has a gee-whiz factor to it that will impress your audience. Here’s one by Visual Capitalist of a very important and topical issue.

Hint: take a look at the static maps and see how easy it is to simulate the animation.

Screening Room: Brawny Giants Initiative

Brawny’s new outreach initiative is supporting local community heroes.
The tone is note perfect for these times.

10. Coffee Break:  Remote Tour the Faroe Islands

Sometimes you want to get away from it all. This tourism site acknowledges that you’re not traveling there, but you can watch remotely and even control the action yourself for one minute.

This is a heckuva pivot for the tourism board.

The next trip is Wednesday morning Eastern Time. There is also a video to watch.


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