Visual Search, Social Take Over – Spotlight #304

Good Monday morning. It’s August 5th. A national test of the Emergency Broadcast System is scheduled across television and radio on Wednesday at 2:20 Eastern Time. There will not be push notifications on mobile phones, but don’t worry if there is an emergency message on every station.

2. News To Know Now

1.  We told you last week about Amazon sharing your Alexa recordings with consultants and permanently storing them. Now Amazon says that you can opt out by following the prompts in the Alexa App under “Alexa Account / Alexa Privacy”. 

2. The FCC announced that municipalities may not extend their oversight of cable television providers to include broadband connectivity.  

3. Louisiana declared a state of emergency after ransomware began cropping up in school districts. The move allows state security experts to help local school systems protect their networks. 

3.  Google, Facebook Launch More Visuals

Videos shown in Google search results will now play on the same page without redirecting users to YouTube. The move is part of Google’s ongoing initiative to make visual search results a place that answers fact-based queries without requiring the user to go elsewhere. Google also provides whimsical images of some animals in augmented reality (AR) for viewers on mobile phones. 

Google’s other products also bet big on visuals led by the company’s Google Photos service, which has now been downloaded one billion times. Even with unlimited free storage, that’s a lot of users for a company that botched a photo app with its Picasa service. 

New research shows that the way consumers interact with visual search results is influenced by the number of photos shown in a Google My Business Listing. Those with more photos get more clicks, more requests for directions, and more phone calls. Even Google Chrome’s next version is widely expected to be released with video controls in the omnibox where URLs are typed and displayed.

Facebook is making similar moves that include shrinking the size of ads displayed on mobile and rebranding Instagram and WhatsApp to include the Facebook name. Facebook has also approached Disney and Netflix about partnering on Catalina, a TV chat device Facebook plans to launch this year. (The Information-paywall)

Disturbing videos continue to be a problem across the Internet as this weekend’s mass killings showed. Facebook has taken a great step to combating those visuals by making some of its internal software available free so that graphic and other harmful videos can be detected. The two software projects complement an industry-wide effort including a Microsoft program called PhotoDNA and Google software called “Content Safety API”. (NDTV)

4.  Location Data’s Privacy Nightmare

Enterprising crooks used the early craze around “checking in” to places to check out what could be robbed. Posting to the general public about gathering the family for a week at a theme park defeats the purpose of setting timers to automatically turn the lights on and off. 

Foursquare, an app pioneer in this space, continues to be a major player although its focus these days is on brands like Target, Coca-Cola, and Subway instead of consumer users. The company tells clients that it tracks over 100 million devices in the U.S., which means that it may not publicize your vacation plans to the world, but it will sure tell jetBlue.

Your location data is such big business that New York City is considering legislation that would ban the sale of location data to third parties. That addresses aggregators like Foursquare but doesn’t do much for brands like The Weather Channel, which was caught misusing individual location data it said was only for weather reporting.

Another process–a 911 emergency call–may also soon be fodder for location brokers. Amazon has reportedly asked police departments for access to 911 computerized dispatch feeds so that it can curate crime news for its Ring-based app called Neighbors. Gizmodo got their hands on one of the requests, and it’s a doozy that you can read about here.

Who’s in Town is also a new app that uses your Instagram data to tell you about nearby friends, similar to old Facebook functionality.  Like Facebook, this app updates in realtime, but also allows people to easily see a map of all the times and places from which the person posted to Instagram. Read more at Wired.

5. Debugged: Satire vs. Snopes

The Babylon Bee is one of the more recent publishing companies creating satire disguised as news. This is all ground broken years ago by The Onion, even in print form. 

A recent story in the Bee featured a Georgia legislator claiming that she had been told to go back to her country. To do so he used the code phrase “My pleasure”. The joke wasn’t especially funny, but Snopes debunked it as satire anyway. The two organizations began feuding when Snopes questioned the intent of the Christian-based satire site.

The New York Times unpacks the god-awful mess.

6. Also in the Spotlight

Visual sites not named Google or Facebook had a big week. Pinterest is now up to 300 million users, Snapchat reported a new record of 203 million daily active users (DAU), and visual news aggregator SmartBoard closed a financing round that values the company at $1.1 billion. 

7. Food for Thought: Not reading the article

Annie Reneau has been on my mind for days.

She wrote an Upworthy article nearly two weeks ago that got a lot of comments and shares. Last weekend, the article minus all of its words was published again to Facebook with a phrase saying “Don’t Publish This” before the headline.

Anyone clicking the link on Facebook went to an error page. Again, there was no article.

Annie surmises that someone was testing the website and used her article. (Look, Sue, someone else uses Don’t Publish This besides me.)  

So, there was a headline published with an Upworthy logo but no image. There was no article attached to the headline which read, “Don’t Publish This–Most domestic terrorists come from white supremacists, FBI tells lawmakers.”

More than 2,000 people shared the article-that-wasn’t-an-article. And there were comments. Not nice, helpful comments like “Hey, the link is broken.” These were full-on debates, according to Annie.

Read her article and then contemplate the times you’ve liked, commented, or shared an article that you haven’t read.

8. Protip:  Re-open a closed tab

Don’t worry if you’ve accidentally closed a browser tab. We’ve got you covered.

Chrome desktop: Press Ctrl+Shift+T
Chrome Android: Press the 3-dot menu and select “Recent Tabs”

Firefox desktop: Ctrl+H brings up a sidebar
Firefox Android:  Press the 3-dot menu and open your browser history

Safari: Press and hold the “New tab” button until the recent tabs link shows.

9. Great Data: Ad Spending 

Axios has put together a good looking chart that shows the trend line of radio and the painful looking one in print. The chart also shows the growth of Google and other large tech channels.  Click the chart or this link to read more.

The data is great because it shows time, the trend of different mediums, and then breaks out Internet companies on the same scale. There are multiple stories in this excellent chart that makes clever use of subtly changing colors.

10. Coffee Break: Seeing Color in a Black & White Photo

A thin colored grid will make your mind insist that it sees color in a black and white photo. 

See for yourself.

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