Good Monday morning. It’s May 13th. Look for a highly publicized op-ed by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes to continue attracting attention this week. Hughes is calling for a Facebook breakup…by the FTC. He also wants a new federal agency to be formed to regulate online industry. A video of the op-ed’s highlights is below.

Today’s Spotlight takes about 4 minutes to read

Hughes proposes a Facebook breakup in this op-ed video

1. News to Know Now

  • Google Search and Maps will soon offer an incognito mode that blocks Google from receiving information about searches and locations you look for. That’s nice, but that information is still available to your Internet provider if you’re at home or on your phone or to your employer. Remember that anyone providing you Internet service can see what you access using that service.

  • A coalition of privacy groups have filed an FTC complaint over Amazon’s privacy practices regarding the Echo Dot smart speaker for kids. Consumer Reports confirmed that parents could not delete information their children provided to the device. Read their excellent coverage.

2.  Passwords, Facial Recognition & Privacy

One step closer to a world without passwords is what Microsoft Group Manager Yogesh Mehta wrote last week describing how Microsoft Windows 10 users can now use Windows Hello, a mobile phone, or security key when signing into sites and apps that previously required a password. 

Plenty of computing devices accept biometric information instead of passwords. My phone and probably yours will unlock via iris recognition, face recognition or a fingerprint match. And I’ve set things up online to require a separate physical security key (mine is from Yubico—there are others) before accessing sensitive sites or apps.

A big problem with biometrics is that they exist as data throughout the digital world. That seems unsafe  But it’s more secure than the same passwords researchers tell us keep showing up in data breaches. Cyber security researcher Troy Hunt says after each breach that he sees the “same old passwords” like 123456 and password. An index fingerprint match is much more secure for those people.

Journalist MacKenzie Fegan called attention to biometric data already being used in everyday transactions when she boarded a JetBlue flight by looking into a camera instead of her boarding pass scanned or her passport viewed. She engaged in a Twitter conversation with JetBlue where the company admitted that biometric data was sent by the federal government to a Customs and Border Protection database controlling access to the flight. Fegan didn’t separately consent to any of this, and as she wrote.

Digital privacy and security confounds experts too. ArsTechnica is reporting that a hacker collective with ties to the U.S. and Russia is selling source code and network access to three antivirus companies. The group published “strong evidence of the validity of its claims.”  You’re likely not being individually targeted by an international hacker collective, but any organization or individual can be compromised when enough resources are arrayed against it.

3.  Facebook  (Video), Google (Audio) Ranking News

Following their individual developer conferences, Google and Facebook announced new algorithm guidance for anyone whose organization publishes information online.

Hailing “a step toward making audio a first-class citizen across Google“, the company announced that users could search for and play podcasts directly in Google Search.  Google later agreed that it would be playing the audio file as uploaded by the podcaster without edits or excerpts.

Facebook, meanwhile, said that they will update algorithms to “further prioritize” original videos. They stressed past guidance such as successful videos that are at least three minutes long and average more than one minute of viewing. They also continue stressing the notion of original video. 

You’ve undoubtedly seen purported videos on Facebook that are only still images with a tiny bit of motion or short videos that loops several times. Those are likely posted by people trying to game the algorithm, and Facebook promises swift retribution for pages and providers who do this. 

4. Also in the Spotlight

  • Streamer Roku announced blockbuster financial results. The company now has nearly 30 million accounts (!) with average-revenue-per-user (ARPU) of $19.06. Year-over-year account growth was 40% and gross profit was up 60%.  Do not ignore Roku’s platform.

  • Hertz sued Accenture for $32 million in website and mobile app development fees. Ever had a tech project get out of hand? So did Hertz, and it’s a scary object lesson.  Read the mind-boggling story at The Register.

  • Facebook is tightening up ad policies for financial services, specifically blockchain, cryptocurrency, and contracts-for-difference devices. (Search Engine Journal)

5. Great Data

Creating reports about topical trends that include scientific data is tough because the presentation, not the footnotes, should convey the data. Data visualization specialist Lindsay Betzendahl created a nifty infographic that makes sense out of the current measles crisis related to vaccinations. 

She managed to incorporate definitions and facts in an engaging way next to trends and a timeline. It’s a great piece of work that helps explain the situation in today’s news and provides important context.

See The Comeback of a Supposedly Eradicated Virus

6. Coffee Break

One of the winners being honored at today’s Webby Awards are the creators of Below the Surface. A ten year metro line project in Amsterdam allowed archaeologists  to excavate the River Amstel. They cataloged and then displayed online more than 700,000 items. Some were decades old and some were centuries old.

Go exploring in the riverbed.

Good Monday morning. It’s May 6th. Sunday is Mother’s Day, which is a day we choose to celebrate all mothers, including the mothers without children. NPR’s Michel Martin called them “special envoy mothers” 10 years ago. These women are not childless or child free, she wrote, but mothers without portfolio, mothers at heart who help raise everyone’s children.

Today’s Spotlight takes about 3 minutes to read.

1. News to Know Now

Google reporting last week experienced multiple problems. At one point on May 2nd, the data from the past two days was suspect. As of late Saturday night, Google’s latest comment was “we are actively working working on correcting data from 12:01 a.m. on May 1 to 4:00 a.m. on May 2 [PDT].” 

We always use two analytics packages for exactly these reasons. This particular issue deals with Google Ads reporting, but we’ve seen Google Analytics issues in the past too. More commonplace is an internal error or typo at an organization that stops an analytics program from collecting data.

CLIENTS: Your Monday morning reports were sent. We will distribute an update this week when Google reports the ad data has been fixed.

Facebook has banned people who post extreme content or hate-related material to large audiences. The ban was already in effect for several people, but this action also removed their accounts from Facebook-owned Instagram. Whether anyone agrees with the people who were banned is irrelevant since companies like Facebook aren’t required to provide free speech protections to users. 

2.  Twitter, Amazon Rolling Out Spanish Resources

Five percent of the world’s largest websites are published in Spanish–more than any other language except English, Russian, and German. Here in the U.S., nearly 50% of Americans speak Spanish, and some states like New Mexico are rapidly approaching 50% Latinx population. In fact, 47 million U.S. citizens are Hispanic.

Twitter announced a partnership this week with Univision to better serve that community.  Twitter has been available in a Spanish interface for more than 10 years, but this programming allows the social media platform to specifically cover the community’s culture.  Univision’s Spanish-language news, sports, and entertainment content will be available as will some video programming. 

Speaking in Spanish (and German and Japanese) is old hat for Amazon’s Alexa, but there was a catch to changing her native language. Unless you also spoke that language or even in that accent, the device might have trouble understanding you.

Now Amazon is testing a U.S. Spanish-language interface for Alexa before rolling out Spanish language support in the U.S. later this year. You can read the announcement at Amazon’s developer website if you know how to read Spanish.

Your organization should be having conversations about whether Spanish resources like a website or social media channels are appropriate. Professional translators are needed for this type of initiative to work. Automated translation is a marvelous way to capture the gist of what is someone is saying, but there are too many nuances involved in language to rely on automation.

We pay careful attention to language in search engine optimization efforts. Consider issues like these in our native language:

  1. A bat is what a baseball player uses to hit a ball or that flying creature you sometimes see at night.
  2. If you do see one of those flying bats, your dog may bark at the sky even if your dog is standing next to a tree covered in bark.
  3. Don’t get us started on homophones like two, too, and to or the Internet grammarian’s favorite: your and you’re.

Hire a translator or people with real fluency.

3. In the Spotlight

  • Web ticketing service Eventbrite had revenue growth but tripled its operating loss in Q1. Financials and analysis at Music Business Worldwide.

  • Google has introduced auto-delete controls for Location History and your Google data. You get to Google Activity Controls at this link. Carefully read before making changes.

  • Four U.S. Senators are asking the IRS and Federal Trade Commission to investigate H&R Block and Turbo Tax-maker Intuit after reports surfaced that the companies hid their free options for low-income people.  We told you about this last week, and you can get caught up with CNBC’s Friday coverage.

Good Monday morning. It’s April 15th, tax day. Passover begins Friday night. Easter is on Sunday. Earth Day is one week from today.

Today’s Spotlight takes about 4 minutes to read.

News to Know Now

  • Uber has filed to become a public company. This is a big deal. The company had $11 billion in revenue during 2018. They’re profitable through financing but posted an operating loss. Want to learn more?  Here’s their S-1.
  • Google is getting unwanted attention from law enforcement. The company’s ubiquitous phone tracking is allowing law enforcement to subpoena records that show a person’s movements throughout a day, allowing police to corroborate or dismiss alibis. The NY Times has great reporting to read.
  • Alexa is listening, but so is Amazon. Employees there and at the other companies that make voice-powered apps transcribe voice input to help create better algorithms, says the company. And sometimes they hear things that consumers may not want them to hear or didn’t say to the device. Bloomberg broke the story.

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Below: The tech backlash continues in the U.S. Senate, and Google has made a big number of changes in search, Calendar, and Docs. We’ll explain them in your Spotlight Top 5 below.

1.  Tech Backlash Intensifies in the Senate

Net neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally regardless of the company providing the Internet service and the data source. Whether it’s video, phone calls, apps, or anything else, net neutrality guidelines required Internet Service Providers to treat them all equally.

The Trump administration eliminated those protections and now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that any bill attempting to restore them will be “dead on arrival” in the Senate, according to reporting in The Hill.  There are still state-level bills that are delayed because of pending court cases, and the issue isn’t going away soon. 

Senate Republicans remain angry at BigTech and accuse the companies of bias. They also suggest that the companies censor conservatives, a claim that the president often repeats. Facebook and Twitter representatives testified last week at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution. Things did not go well. 

Subcommittee chair Ted Cruz (R-TX) has threatened BigTech companies with legal actions based on antitrust and fraud violations as well as a threat to amend the Communications Decency Act that protects tech companies as platforms and generally shields them from liability regarding what users write. Learn more at WaPo’s Technology 202.

2.  Google Adds Better Date Filters, Other Enhancements

Google is rolling out a feature that will allow users of its office suite software (Docs, Sheets, and Slides) to open and edit Microsoft Office files. A plugin formerly allowed some limited editing, but this is a global change for all users and does not require a special plugin.

The company’s big search news was that users can now type the word “before” or “after” with a date to narrow search results. The commands can be used together to specify after one date and before another. One example Google demonstrated showed a search for the upcoming Avengers movie but only for content published in April.  You could previously do this by clicking down three levels in a search box and choosing dates on a calendar display, but this is much faster.

More news from Google includes a public events section being added to Google Maps. The function is designed to work on phones or tablets via the Contribute menu. It’s still rolling out but could be a huge boon for business and community leaders.

3. In the Spotlight 

  • Amazon is using search terms consumers type to create new skin care products. That sounds very smart. Vox has good coverage.
  • LinkedIn is adding Facebook-like reactions. You’ll be able to mark content there with icons that translate to celebrate, love, curious, and insightful. (TechCrunch)
  • Facebook continues receiving data about users even after they cancel their account. We’ve been telling people this for years. CNet can tell you more in a nice first-person piece about the program.

4. Great Data: Social Media Use Largely Unaffected 

NBC made news with its reporting that the majority of Americans dislike social media. More than 80% of American adults told an NBC/WSJ poll that social media is a waste of time, and 60% don’t trust Facebook to protect personal data.

Pew data also out last week shows that the share of American adults using social media is essentially unchanged since early 2018 despite scandals and controversies and the negative connotations reflected in the NBC poll.  Have a look at their charts and explanations here

5. Monday’s Coffee Break 

A young woman posted a great video about her prom experience. 17-year-old Lizbeth says she saved money from a part-time job to buy a dress and rode to the prom in a Mercedes owned by her date’s father. But it’s a really cool video and one Twitter wag joked about FAFSA (the federal student loan application people) checking out the video.

And, well, yes they did. They even posted a response and the entire thing went viral fast. It’s a fun read although Lizbeth apparently didn’t think so at first. Check it out on Buzzfeed.