FAANG Weekly Update
The FAANG Weekly Update consists of a comprehensive overview of the top news related to the 5 FAANG companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google). To subscribe to this weekly report and gain access to other articles exclusive tech company insights, click here.
Facebook data misuse and voter manipulation back in the frame with latest Cambridge Analytica leaks
- More details are emerging about the scale and scope of disgraced data company Cambridge Analytica’s activities in elections around the world — via a cache of internal documents that’s being released by former employee and self-styled whistleblower, Brittany Kaiser.
- The now shut down data modelling company, which infamously used stolen Facebook data to target voters for President Donald Trump’s campaign in the 2016 U.S. election, was at the center of the data misuse scandal that, in 2018, wiped billions off Facebook’s share price and contributed to a $5BN FTC fine for the tech giant last summer.
- However plenty of questions remain, including where, for whom and exactly how Cambridge Analytica and its parent entity SCL Elections operated; as well as how much Facebook’s leadership knew about the dealings of the firm that was using its platform to extract data and target political ads — helped by some of Facebook’s own staff.
- Former Cambridge Analytica business development director Kaiser, who had a central role in last year’s Netflix documentary about the data misuse scandal (The Great Hack), began her latest data dump late last week — publishing links to scores of previously unreleased internal documents via a Twitter account called @HindsightFiles. (At the time of writing Twitter has placed a temporary limit on viewing the account — citing “unusual activity”, presumably as a result of the volume of downloads it’s attracting.)
- Since becoming part of the public CA story Kaiser has been campaigning for Facebook to grant users property rights over their data. She claims she’s releasing new documents from her former employer now because she’s concerned this year’s US election remains at risk of the same type of big-data-enabled voter manipulation that tainted the 2016 result.
Amazon to showcase its transportation drive at world’s largest tech show
- Amazon plans to use the annual technology show in Las Vegas to unveil its plan to be a major player in self-driving vehicle technology, connected cars, electric vehicles and management of the torrents of data generated by automakers and drivers.
- “We really are extending ourselves more and more out in the ecosystem from manufacturing to connected car,” Jon Allen, head of professional services in Amazon Web Services’ automotive practice, said in a telephone interview. “The takeaway message on this is if you go to CES this year we really are taking it as a ‘One Amazon’ view.”
- Until now, Amazon has shown its transportation strategy to investors — and rivals — one piece at a time. Amazon has invested in self-driving software startup Aurora. It also has signed deals with automakers to deliver packages to vehicle trunks, help develop electric vehicle charging networks and use AWS to network their factories.
- A new in-car feature, using the voice command “Alexa, pay for gas,” will enable users to buy fuel at 11,500 Exxon and Mobil gas stations, Amazon said.
Apple’s Fastest 5G iPhones May Come Out Later Than Expected, Analyst Says
- Consumers — and investors — have been waiting eagerly for Apple to offer a 5G-enabled smartphone, but the fastest versions of the new iPhone may not reach the market as soon as some people expect, according to Susquehanna.
- The stock (ticker: AAPL) rose 86% last year as investors anticipated rising profitability as a result of Apple’s strategic shift to services and looked ahead to the launch of the 5G phones, which were widely expected to reach the market in late 2020. On Oct. 30, the company reported better-than-expected earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter due to strong revenue from services and sales of wearable gear like AirPods, even as iPhone sales fell 9% year over year.
- On Monday, Susquehanna semiconductor analyst Mehdi Hosseini said his recent checks with suppliers indicate that Apple will split its 5G iPhone lineup into two launches. He predicts that Apple will offer slower 5G models using sub-6ghz technology in September. The faster mmWave 5G iPhones will come out in either December or January 2021.
Netflix Faces a Potentially Make-or-Break Quarter
- One of the biggest questions on the minds of Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) investors is whether the company can maintain its growth trajectory now that Disney (NYSE:DIS) has so successfully launched its rival streaming service. The House of Mouse announced on the day after its debut that Disney+ had signed up 10 million viewers by the end of its first day of operations. While there’s been no official follow-up, some projections placed its subscriber number closer to 25 million to close out 2019.
- Shareholders will be keen to see if Disney’s success has come at the expense of Netflix when the streaming pioneer reports the results of its 2019 fourth quarter after the market close on Jan. 21.
- Despite its consistent revenue and profit growth, the investment community has long been obsessed with Netflix’s subscriber numbers. If you have any doubt about that, look back at the second quarter when Netflix lost roughly 100,000 domestic subscribers and gained 2.7 million internationally — a far cry from the 5 million additions management had forecast. In the two months that followed, Netflix stock slumped as much as 30%.
- That wasn’t the first time either. In the second quarter of 2018, Netflix reported subscriber additions of 5.15 million, more than 1 million shy of its forecast. In the weeks that followed, the stock shed more than 20% of its value, showing just how important subscriber growth is to Netflix investors.
- In its third-quarter report, Netflix acknowledged the pending arrival of some potent new competitors, admitting it wasn’t sure what the short-term impact would be on its business. “The launch of these new services will be noisy. There may be some modest headwind to our near-term growth, and we have tried to factor that into our guidance.” The company is somewhat more confident about its long-term prospects, saying that “we expect we’ll continue to grow nicely given the strength of our service and the large market opportunity.”
- For the fourth quarter, management forecast revenue of $5.44 billion, up 30% year over year, and earnings per share of $0.51, up 70%. More importantly, the company expects to add 7.6 million new customers during the quarter, including 600,000 new domestic subs and 7 million international additions. That would represent year-over-year growth of 19% overall, with less than 5% growth in the U.S. and just under 30% growth in international markets.
- A report released on Dec. 11 by market intelligence company Apptopia said that while the Disney+ app had been downloaded 22 million times in the first four weeks since its launch, “competitors remain largely unaffected in terms of their performance,” adding that rival app downloads and user sessions were “uninterrupted from their trend lines.” Focusing specifically on Netflix, the report showed that while there was a brief dip in mobile app sessions, they quickly recovered, remaining historically consistent.
- A study by Bank of America analyst Nat Schindler seemed to confirm those findings. The survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers found that 65% of early Disney+ subscribers don’t consider the service as a substitute for Netflix, and only 6.5% of users that subscribe to both said they planned to drop Netflix. In a subsequent survey, that number fell to about 5%, which is consistent with normal churn.
Google lets alleged spying app ToTok back into Play Store
- Google has made the popular chat app ToTok available again for download after the service was banned from the Play Store for reportedly functioning as an espionage tool of the United Arab Emirates.
- ToTok was pitched as a secure app that’s available where Western counterparts like WhatsApp may be restricted, and the service quickly gained millions of users after it was introduced last year. But citing classified American intelligence, The New York Times reported last month that the service was used by the UAE “to try to track every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound and image of those who install it on their phones.”
- The Times reported that the company behind the app was “most likely a front” for the Abu Dhabi-based cybersecurity and hacking company DarkMatter, which has been linked to the UAE government.
- Before the report was published, the app was pulled from both Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store. Since then, however, Google has quietly reinstated the app. The app still doesn’t appear to be available on the App Store.