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 exclusive tech company insights, click here.
Consumer Data and Privacy
- Facebook has told advertisers it doesn’t need to make changes to its web-tracking services to comply with California’s new consumer-privacy law, setting up a potential early clash over how the closely watched law will be enforced once it goes into effect.
- Facebook is one of several companies in the $130 billion U.S. digital-ad industry that maintains that routine data transfers about consumers may not fit the law’s definition of “selling” data.
- Once the California Consumer Privacy Act takes effect Jan. 1, websites with third-party trackers must add to their home page a button that says “Do Not Sell My Personal Information.” If a consumer clicks that button, the site is barred from transactions that send data to hundreds of third parties.
- Those transfers have underpinned the digital-ad market for more than a decade, and are a core component of Facebook’s and Google’s powerful tools for collecting data on consumers and delivering relevant ads to them online.
- Facebook, however, has told advertisers that its trackers’ data collection doesn’t constitute “selling” data under the California law and that it therefore doesn’t believe it is required to make changes.
- In private conference calls with major advertisers in October, Facebook stated its data collection qualified for the law’s exemption for sending data to “service providers” and didn’t count as a “sale” of data under the law, according to a person who listened to one of the calls.
Facebook Dispute with Aljazeera
- Facebook is set to begin labeling some media organizations as “state-controlled,” and Al Jazeera Media Network is asking for clarification from the company.
- The social media network began taking steps to beef-up transparency on its site in the wake of the 2016 US presidential election and announced these upcoming initiatives in October.
- Al Jazeera fears that labeling it as being editorially controlled by its government “will cause irreparable harm to the network,” according to a letter sent to Facebook from AJMN.
Facebook Ads Bribery Scandal
- A Facebook contractor was paid thousands of dollars in bribes by a shady affiliate marketer to reactivate ad accounts that had been banned due to policy violations, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found.
- A company spokesperson confirmed that an unnamed worker was fired after inquiries from BuzzFeed News sparked an internal investigation. The person in question was based in the company’s Austin office, according to information obtained by BuzzFeed News.
- “This behavior is absolutely prohibited under our policies and the individual is no longer working with Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We’re continuing to investigate the allegations and will take any further necessary action.”The individual was paid to reactivate ad accounts connected to Ads Inc., a San Diego–based marketing firm BuzzFeed News previously revealed was running a sophisticated Facebook scam that involved placing more than $50 million in ads that typically made false claims about celebrities. The ads were part of a scheme that tricked consumers into signing up for an expensive monthly subscription for a product that was initially marketed as a free trial. Ads Inc. announced it was shutting down in October as a result of the BuzzFeed News investigation.
Strike in Germany
- Two of Amazon Inc.’s logistics centers in Germany face pre-Christmas strikes after the labor union Verdi called for higher pay and a recognition of collective wage agreements.
- The union urged staff at the company’s locations in Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld to stop working during the next work week to “disrupt” Amazon’s Christmas sales, it said in press releases on Sunday.
- The calls from Verdi follow similar actions targeted at Amazon last year. The U.S. retail company said at the time that the strikes wouldn’t impact deliveries over the holiday period.
Amazon is Accused of “Strip-Mining”
- By lifting other people’s innovations, trying to poach their engineers and profiting off what they made, Amazon is choking off the growth of would-be competitors and forcing them to reorient how they do business, the companies said.
- All of this has fueled scrutiny of Amazon and whether it is abusing its market dominance and engaging in anticompetitive behavior. The company’s tactics have led several rivals to discuss bringing antitrust complaints against it. And regulators and lawmakers are examining its clout in the industry.
- “People are afraid that Amazon’s ambitions are endless,” said Matthew Prince, chief executive of Cloudflare, an A.W.S. competitor that protects websites from attacks.
- A.W.S. is just one prong of Amazon’s push to dominate large swaths of American industry. The company has transformed retailing, logistics, book publishing and Hollywood. It is rethinking how people buy prescription drugs, purchase real estate and build surveillance for their homes and cities.
North Carolina officials hint that Apple may still build new campus there
- Throughout 2018, there were continued reports that Apple was planning to build a new campus in North Carolina’s Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill “Research Triangle” area. Now, a year after those plans were seemingly cancelled in favor of Austin, Texas, local officials have confirmed that Apple does own land there.
- As previously reported by AppleInsider, the land was bought in December 2018 by a firm called Acute Investments. Based on staffing, it was believed to be a holding company front for Apple, but neither the company nor the state would comment. Speaking to local radio station WRAL this week, however, Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland said that this 281 acre site in Wake County is “controlled by Apple.”
- The state still will not release details of the deal, and continues to say that it is standard procedure to not comment on issues such as incentives paid to attract companies to the region.
Apple Acquires UK Startup with Infared Lens Capabilities
- Apple has acquired Spectral Edge, a UK-based startup whose technology could be used to improve photos taken on iPhones, according to filings made public on Thursday and reported by Bloomberg.
- Spectral Edge was spun out from research done the University of East Anglia, and it has developed computational photography tech that could blend data from a standard lens and an infrared lens to enhance photo quality. With the continued mobile phone arms race to see who can make the better camera, it’s easy to see why Apple wanted to buy a company with tech that can improve photos this dramatically.
- There’s always the chance a future iPhone could have one. But sometimes, Apple acquires companies just for the talent, and perhaps Apple has put the Spectral Edge team to work on some other photo-enhancing project. The company rarely (actually, almost never) explains why it acquires smaller companies, and the eventual results of such deals can sometimes take years to manifest.
Netflix sends journalists on pricey trips, raising questions and angering rivals
- When the Critics’ Choice Awards, an annual Hollywood ceremony reflecting the taste of hundreds of critics, announced its nominees last Sunday, one company rose above the others.
- Netflix received 61 film and television nominations, nearly double the amount of its nearest competitor. The streaming giant also had the movie with the most nominations, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” and nearly half of the film best-actor field.
- The accolades weren’t surprising given the praise drawn by some of Netflix’s recent releases. But it came with an asterisk: The Post has learned that Netflix had flown journalists from the voting body, which includes some 400 critics from outlets around the country, to Los Angeles and New York on pricey trips. The streamer’s critics say that marks a potential breach of both awards etiquette and journalism ethics.
Google’s Real-Time Translation Mode Arrives on Mobile
- After rolling out on smart speakers and displays earlier this year, Google’s interpreter real-time translation mode is finally landing on mobile. A far more handy application for such functionality, the feature arrives on both Android and iOS handsets globally, starting today.
- The feature works in tandem with Assistant. Say something like, “Hey Google, be my German translator” or “Hey Google, help me speak Thai,” and the feature kicks in, offering up a real-time translated transcript and audio. The feature also offers some Smart Replies à la Gmail, to help keep the conversation going.
- The feature is now available in 44 languages (full list here), up from the 29 available on the smart displays/speakers. It’s integrated directly into the Google Assistant app, negating the need to download an additional translation app. Between this and Lens, Google’s apps have quickly become a necessary part of traveling abroad.
Google Turkey suspends services for upcoming phones over fine
- Google has suspended its services for new Android smartphones in Turkey unless the country backtracks from its decision to fine the company for violating competition law, the company announced Sunday.
- The decision will not affect current users or current phone models already existing on the market. The move will only suspend Google services for Android devices yet to be released.
- Turkey’s Competition Authority last September announced it had fined Google some TL 93 million for violating competition laws with its mobile software sales. The watchdog said in March this year that it was launching a broader investigation into Google based on preliminary findings.