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Last Week Online #19 – The cost of violating 50 million people's privacy? $5 billion

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
3 min read

After a well deserved Easter break, you might wonder what happened online the last week?

Sri Lanka shut down social media platforms following the Easter terrorist attacks

When a wave of terrorist attacks killed over 350 people, in Sri Lanka last weekend, the Sri Lankan government blocked Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat among other social media platforms. According to Harindra Dassanayake, a presidential adviser in Sri Lanka, officials acted out of fear that misinformation and hate speech surrounding the attacks could spread, provoking more violence.

Sri Lanka has previously had problems with false rumours spreading via Facebook leading to mob violence and murder. Indonesia, India and Mexico have had similar issues. However, there seems to be little evidence that blackouts are a proper response in the event of a terrorist attack.

A 2018 report by Human Rights Watch found that there was “no substantive data or evidence to prove that internet shutdowns can scale down violence.” Instead, Jan Rydzak at Stanford’s Global Digital Policy Incubator show in his research – analysing internet shutdowns India – that shutdowns correlated with increased violence as days passed. Also, he states that “governments of more than 40 countries have already used shutdowns as a tool to generally prevent or halt the spread of violence or riots, and not a single one has given us a report of success.”

Is $5 billion cheap for violating the privacy of 50 million people?

On Wednesday, Facebook said they expect to be fined up to $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations. The penalty would be the largest ever against a big tech company, the previous record being a $22 million fine against Google in 2012 for misrepresenting how it used some online tracking tools.

After an F.T.C. investigation in 2011 that concluded that Facebook's handling of data had harmed consumers, Facebook promised to improve measures to protect its users’ privacy. The F.T.C. opened a new investigation last year after it became clear how Facebook had not protected its users’ data from being harvested without their consent by Cambridge Analytica and a data breach that exposed the personal information of nearly 50 million Facebook users.

Facebook and F.T.C. have been in negotiations for months, and Facebook said that “the matter remains unresolved, and there can be no assurance as to the timing or the terms of any final outcome.” However, $5 billion is a fraction of Facebook’s $56 billion in annual revenue.

Screen-time control app companies punished by Apple

Launching its screen-time control app last year, Apple is making life hard for other app makers in this category. According to The New York Times and Sensor Tower, Apple has removed or restrained at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps, forcing several app makers with thousands of paying customers have shut down.

Apple required some companies to remove features allowing parents to control their children’s devices, or that prevented children from accessing certain apps and adult content. In other cases, they pulled the apps from its App Store altogether. Amir Moussavian, CEO of OurPact, a popular iPhone app for parental-control, said Apple had removed his company’s app from the App Store, disabling their business.

The companies making screen-time apps are only the latest in a row of niches who suddenly find themselves competing against Apple while depending on their platform. This dependability problem is one of the issues presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is trying to come at with her suggestions to limit the power of "big tech".

Tool of the week: Kapwing

Kapwing is a browser-based video making tool. It's straightforward to use, and you don't need to install anything on your machine. Upload your material directly and create videos, gifs or images. The combination of great results and simple to use are not a common combination in the world of video production.

I also believe it's one of the easiest ways to add subtitles to any video clip. Also, while it's not perfect yet, their automatic subtitle-tool based on Machine Learning is often a pretty good as a helping hand in your process.

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

Thinker and doer. Loves running, wine, and human behaviour.

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