Covid App Problems Increasing – Spotlight #387

1. Good Monday Morning

It’s June 21. The made-up shopping holiday known as Amazon Prime Day begins today and ends tomorrow. We found you a well regarded web app that lets you check a product’s price history on Amazon. You have to click the product’s name in the search result to get to the history.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,073 words — about a 4 minute read.

2. News To Know Now

Quoted: “We do not allow hate speech on Facebook, even in the context of satire, because it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion, and in some cases, may promote real-world violence.”a Facebook statement regarding a ruling by its Oversight Board that required the company to reinstate a satirical post.

a) Texas power officials triggered jokes galore last week when residents were asked to set their thermostats to 82 while sleeping. Some residents had that choice made for them because they signed up for a program called “Smart Savers Texas.” That program gave Texans a free sweepstakes entry in exchange for allowing their thermostats to be remotely controlled during high energy demand. From the reactions, many people did not think that would happen. (KHOU)

b) Zillow says that its algorithms’ accuracy have improved. Having improved its Zestimate house price estimate by 6.9%, Zillow plans to increase the number of homes it will offer to purchase by 30%. (WGCL)

c) Nielsen is putting perspective around the size of streaming audiences that is upending conventional wisdom. The company released a new visualization called The Gauge (below). The infographic compares streaming, broadcast, and even DVD viewing against each other rather than comparing individual programs. Netflix and YouTube streaming each make up 6% of viewing and contribute to streaming’s 26% of total viewing.

3. Search Engine News — New Ranking Method Rolling Out

Google’s Page Experience ranking update began rolling out last week. We’ve been telling you about this impending change since last year. Google advises that the new methodology won’t be completed for at least two months.

Factors influencing how a website page ranks include its mobile friendliness and encryption. A group of other page speed and technical metrics that Google calls Core Web Vitals also factor into the algorithm.

The change is significant. Business leaders will want to spend the next several months carefully monitoring the volume of search traffic. Even if your website isn’t directly affected yet, there could very well be changes to your competitors’ websites.

4. In The Spotlight — Covid App Problems Continuing

We’ve all read about the difficulty that contact tracing efforts met from the beginning of the pandemic. Even when states began putting human resources in place, too many people refused to cooperate. Community leaders hoped that digital contact tracing would help.

MIT Technology Review concluded that they really didn’t in large part because of a lack of user trust and the federal government’s failure to create a national app. Experts also cite the sidelining of the CDC, considered one of the best in the world at contact tracing, as a problem.

Digital apps were supposed to be an answer. Americans turned to food delivery, streaming media, and the internet for a year, but widely refused to cooperate with human or digital contact tracers. Two dozen states developed their own exposure notification apps, but the adoption rates in the U.S. mainland ranged from abysmal (only 1% each in Arizona and North Dakota) to low (37% in Connecticut). 

There were reports this weekend of Android phones in Massachusetts automatically receiving an installation of MassNotify, a Covid tracking app. The app still requires a user to opt-in and turn on exposure notices, but some reports suggest that the app is difficult to remove.

User privacy concerns may have been justified. Gizmodo reported last week that police in Western Australia accessed private data from that state’s Covid app at least twice during criminal investigations. Police claim that their use was legal and justified although they concede that people may have been unaware that their information could be checked.

5. Debunked — Hillary Clinton in Cuba

A QAnon site shared fake, graphic details of the alleged execution of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Guantánamo Bay last week. Needless to say, Secretary Clinton is alive and appeared last week with Lin-Manuel Miranda in New York. The graphic details were so disturbing to some that USA Today ran a fact check.

The FBI issued a threat assessment June 4 that warned that some QAnon followers could become violent when the conspiracy theory’s predictions fail to occur.

6. Following Up — Amazon Bigger Than 9 Competitors Combined

We published a deep dive into Amazon Retail just two weeks ago to get you ready for Prime Day. eMarketer released data after our report that shows Amazon’s e-commerce sales in the U.S. exceed the combined sales of the rest of its Top 10 competitors. Included on that list are Walmart, Apple, and Target.

7. Protip — Yes, You Can Fax On A Computer

Some entity still using Windows 3.1 and firmly entrenched in the 1990s is going to insist you fax something to them one day. Maybe it will be a small government agency or someplace similar. Save this How-To Geek roundup of three services that will let you do just that rather than arguing with them.

Screening Room — Internova Travel Group

How do you compete against highly automated competitors? This travel agency says you should make fun of ’em.

9. Science Fiction World — Wirelessly Charge Vehicles On the Road

Cornell researchers say they’ve developed an approach to create a charging lane on a roadway that would allow travel to become even more sustainable. They’ve even figured out how to bill you for that energy so I smell a public-private partnership being formed right about now.

10. Coffee Break — Nature’s Great Pics of the Month

I didn’t know that this feature existed before this month, but I’ll be checking it out in the future. Nature’s photo team selects the science pictures of the month, and they’re stunning.

11. Sign of the Times

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