Good Monday morning. It’s December 10th. Look for Google CEO Sudar Pichai to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Citing no proof, some lawmakers and the President have accused the search company of presenting results with political bias.

Today’s Spotlight takes about 4 minutes to read.


    • We’ve been telling you that Facebook wasn’t doing illegal things regarding data privacy, merely sleazy things. That issue came home to roost when the UK Parliament dumped 250 pages of unredacted emails that were seized a week ago. Sleazy, but not illegal is the industry consensus, and you can read for yourself in this HUGE PDF.


    • More data breaches were reported, the biggest at question-and-answer site Quora, where hackers stole 100 million passwords. We’re linking to a new, well done guide called “The Wired Guide to Data Breaches” that is worth your time.


Breaking news this weekend: BuzzFeed is reporting that it has seen two subpoenas from the FBI to third party companies regarding millions of fake comments opposing net neutrality that were posted with the names and addresses of Americans who did not make them. FCC Chair Ajit Pai acknowledged this week that “millions of Russian and fake comments” influenced the repeal of net neutrality.

Visual Social Media


Facebook garners most of the attention when social media is discussed but its Instagram subsidiary and Alphabet’s YouTube subsidiary are where almost all growth and innovation are occuring. The top 50 accounts at each platform all have more than 20 million followers. And they’re not all celebrity accounts either.

About 85% of all U.S. adults online use YouTube–and one quarter of adults use YouTube more than once per day.  At the same time, the number of active Instagram accounts grew from 800 million to 1 billion in the last 14 months. Analysts expect that U.S. and worldwide growth will continue increasing at a 20% plus rate for the next several years.

Don’t ask who is doing all of this. Instead, understand that it’s just about everyone.

And people are making money.

Vox interviewed Viral Nation co-founder Joe Gagliese who admittedly has every reason to hype the markets he serves but claims that influencers with 10,000-50,000 subscribers can charge “a few thousand dollars for a post”.  Keep the numbers quoted as anecdotal and enjoy that interview here.

This week also featured Forbes’ annual ranking of the Highest-Paid YouTube stars. Seven-year-old Ryan (with no last name publicized) is the face of Ryan ToysReview and a new line of toy collectibles sold at Walmart. Ryan TR generated $22 million in revenue this year to go along with last year’s $11 million.

Ryan also has 17 million subscribers. When this was written during the weekend, a two day old post of his about riding a bike with no training wheels was viewed nearly 2 million times. That was followed the next day by a 6 1/2 minute post that generated 388,000 more views.

All told, Ryan has 26 billion-with-a-b views, including at least one video on YouTube’s list of all-time Top 50 viewed videos. Most of the videos feature Ryan getting new toys which he unboxes and plays with as a “review”. He’s got the former CEO of Nickelodeon guiding his channel now. For context, that traditional kids television network has about 1.2 million daily viewers.

Ryan moves merch for toy companies. The video showing him unboxing and playing with “Pet Dinosaur Jurassic World Alpha Training Blue” has received 2 million views since it was posted 10 days ago. The toy’s cost: $229.

Check out the video.

What Does All This Mean For You?

Instagram has been Facebook’s ace-in-the-hole for the six years since its been acquired. The same people often frequent Facebook and Instagram but behave differently on each. Meanwhile YouTube continues to be Google’s stake-in-the-ground for consumer living rooms. Amazon’s Alexa has entered the fray with deep discounts on its TV Fire Stick that adds functionality and big Prime Viewing library.

Organizations that advertise are going to have to develop video and visual display advertising.

Consumers will eventually be migrated to primarily video advertising such as the 6 second short form and in-video commercials that spark complaints but are no different than a television network would air.

The biggest difference: when I watched Ryan’s channel to write this, I saw ads for things that interested me specifically like advertising and music. Those aren’t what would air on Nickelodeon or someone buying space on Ryan’s channel. Personalized targeting makes markets more efficient than ever.

Fun read: NY Times technology writer Brian Chen is out this week with a fun piece called “I Tried to Make My Dog an Instagram Celebrity. I failed.




  • The National Health Service in the U.K. has now been forbidden from buying fax machines and must stop using its existing ones within the next two years. Presumably 1996 called and wants its technology back.


  • And during this holiday season, you need to be aware of BrainGate, a project from researchers at Brown University and Boston University. To quote WBUR’s great story, they are “using a tiny brain implant to allow severely paralyzed or ‘locked-in’ patients to move a computer cursor with their minds.”  With. Their. Minds.  It’s not science fiction. It’s fantastic.

Good Monday morning. It’s December 3rd.  #GivingTuesday was a hit last week. Thank you for supporting our friends at SPARC. They reached their goal. Overall, donors gave $320 million to charity, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. More than a third of that was on Facebook.

Also, Hanukkah started at sundown local time yesterday. Chag Sameach!

Today’s Spotlight takes about 3 minutes to read.



  • Marriott’s data breach of 500 million records got the headlines, but the USPS also had a slip up that caused them to expose the records of 60 million people.  Meanwhile, the EU’s Data Protection Commissioner accused LinkedIn of misusing 18 million email addresses to target individuals with ads.


  • Akami reports that 45,000 older routers have been compromised by a known vulnerability. Those routers connect behind the scenes to millions of devices. The best way to protect yourself is to have new hardware or ask your Internet service provider to help you determine if your router has up-to-date firmware.


  • Google is now providing answers without any search results in some cases. Google confirmed to Search Engine Roundtable that they would display calculations or information without any links to web pages when they have a “high degree of confidence” that the searcher wants a calculation, unit conversion, or local time. Details and samples here.

Facebook’s Empty Chair Problem

We ran down Facebook’s latest scandals last week. Although everyone knew that Mark Zuckerberg would not be testifying to Parliament last week the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee tweeted out this image of an empty chair with Zuckerberg’s name in front.

No one is happy with Zuckerberg, but he is the founder, CEO, and most importantly, controlling shareholder of Facebook.  Prominent tech journalist Kara Swisher has been a vocal critic. “He’s 33 years old and has two children,” she famously said earlier this year. ” I think this idea that we sort of juvenilize these men from Silicon Valley as if they don’t have responsibility is kind of ridiculous.”

Facebook’s Black People Problem

That’s the subtitle of a 2,500 word memo that black Facebook exec Mark Luckie sent to all Facebook employees on November 8th. Luckie, who was planning to leave his role as Strategic Partner Manager for Global Influencers, wrote that the company’s staffing and treatment of many of its black employees is lacking.

Luckie cites data that black employees only make up about 4% of Facebook’s employee base. “In some buildings, there are more ‘Black Lives Matter’ posters than there are actual black people,” he writes before describing anecdotal but pain-filled examples like seeing employees tap or hold their wallet or put their hands in their pockets when he passed by.

What Does All This Mean For You?

Inertia exists in any enterprise that serves a double-digit percentage of the planet’s population. But Facebook also faces strong opposition from product-oriented tech companies like Apple, the EU and U.S. governments, and a growing chorus of tech voices including Swisher, Jaron Lanier, and Tristan Harris.

We expect there to be data privacy regulations in the next 2-3 years. Facebook execs already support that idea. Getting industry-wide engagement will be more difficult, but we know that the federal government wants to create advertising regulations beyond what the Federal Trade Commission currently manages.

Smart consumer-centric organizations won’t leave Facebook, and they shouldn’t. Whether business or government-facing organizations leave is a judgment call based on whether a Facebook presence increases the organization’s profits.

If you’re looking at the issue from a strictly consumer perspective, this is probably the most open your data will be on the site. But even this week, a press release arrived touting new availability for third party data to be used to target you, friendly reader, on Facebook based on your offline purchases.




  • Google employees are airing their anger at their employer working with the Chinese government to build a censored search engine called Dragonfly. More than one thousand of them signed an open letter to the company in August. A new open letter to the company says that Google will be complicit in human rights abuses if it allows some features like identifying searchers to be launched. You can read the letter here.


  • Another letter to a tech company started gaining momentum this weekend when eight Democratic lawmakers wrote to Amazon over concerns about its facial recognition software. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) says it’s the third time he’s asked the company for answers. NBC has details.


  • Can you tell the difference between a computer generated image and a photograph? I joined nearly 60% of people in failing to get half the answers correct in an online test from software company AutoDesk. Try your hand at their Fake or Foto quiz.

Good Monday morning. It’s November 26th. #GivingTuesday is tomorrow. We’re supporting SPARC, a Virginia organization that helps adult with disabilities, and we’re asking you to do the same. Thank you in advance for being generous.

Today’s Spotlight takes about 3 minutes to read.


    • Facebook tried a news dump the day before Thanksgiving, but had even more problems as the week went on, especially in London.


    • More than 500,000 people downloaded malware posing as racing games from the Google Play store. Get details here.


    • YouTube is now offering ad-supported full length movies for no additional fee. Congratulations to YouTube’s parent company, Alphabet, for reinventing broadcast television.


Facebook vs. Parliament

Choose wisely: do you think a social media network that allows people to play Farmville can triumph over a legislative body that has helped govern a country for 803 years?

The Serjeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons escorted a Facebook contractor to Parliament last week. The businessman was advised that he was subject to fines and imprisonment if he failed to surrender documents related to how Facebook handles user data.

He complied with the order, and Facebook is unhappy. Among their arguments falling on deaf ears was a California court order sealing those records.

MP Damian Collins released the text of a message to Facebook VP Richard Allan, who is due to testify in Europe tomorrow. You can read Collins’ message here.

This is still fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal that was made public earlier this year. Another current scandal that is still developing relates to Facebook hiring a public relations firm that used normal but ethically questionable techniques to smear Facebook competitors and critics.

Facebook released a message from an outgoing exec on Wednesday that was apparently intended to provide cover for #2 exec Sheryl Sandberg.

Recode has an excellent explainer about this latest scandal.




  • Amazon continues disrupting retail markets. Whiskey is the latest as it sells an exclusive 19-year-old Bowmore single malt. “Amazon has decided to compete against us” are words you don’t want to tell your Board. Oh, and advertising. It’s selling an awful lot of advertising. Not Google-levels yet, but give them time.


  • Think hard before you agree to run a Flash plugin on your browser. That means whether you use Safari, Chrome, Firefox, or something else. The once-necessary Flash has only 13 months of official life left before Adobe officially discontinues the software.  Quoting Lifehacker, “Flash has some major security issues that are incredibly easy to take advantage of, and as time went on, Flash became notoriously known as the entry point for many a security breach. Annoying ads, backdoor malware installation, and data collection have found their ways onto many a PC thanks to the holes in Flash’s security.”


  • And because Internet users band together for really nice things, here is the story of two college-aged women reunited after they were friends on a cruise their families took 12 years ago. Story at Elite Daily.