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Last Week Online #31 – A presidential welcome

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
3 min read

Newsletters need vacations too. But being back in business, we're getting a presidential welcome.

Trump warns he is 'watching Google very closely!' after new anti-conservative bias claims

President Trump fired off a series of tweets insinuating that Google may be working to damage Trump's 2020 reelection bid. Trump has made similar anti-conservative bias claims before, and there's no evidence that Google manipulates information to stifle conservative voices. The company has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Trump stated in his tweets that he had met with Google CEO Sundar Pichai and discussed recent news about the company, including its work in China. Trump wrote that "it all sounded good" before he learned about a former Google employee, Kevin Cernekee, who has accused the tech company of having an anti-conservative bias.

"All very illegal," Trump wrote, "We are watching Google very closely!". He also tagged Google CEO Sundar Pichai in the first of the tweets.

"We go to great lengths to build our products and enforce our policies in ways that don't take political leanings into account. Distorting results for political purposes would harm our business and go against our mission of providing helpful content to all of our users" a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Instagram ad partner collected location and story data on millions of users'

Hyp3r, a trusted marketing partner of Facebook and Instagram, secretly collected and stored data on millions of users, against the policies of the social networks. Hyp3r started as a platform for advertisers to target users attending a specific event, like a concert or football game. Initially using Instagram's official API to hoover up data – the same type of data-gathering happening for years by advertising agencies and tech companies, most infamously Cambridge Analytica.

Getting an ad because you're at an event isn't too scary, but if a company keeps a record of not only your exact locations but also objects in your photos and the types of places you visit, and later combine that with other demographics to build a detailed shadow profile… well, that's a bit different.

Instagram has confirmed that Hyp3r violated its policies and has now been removed from the platform. "HYP3R's actions were not sanctioned and violate our policies. As a result, we've removed them from our platform. We've also made a product change that should help prevent other companies from scraping public location pages in this way", a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch.

The Instagram API was rigorously restricted in early 2018, limiting Hyp3r's access to location and user data. Hyp3r allegedly survived not by adapting its business model, but by sneaking around the seemingly minimal blocks, Instagram put in place to prevent scraping of location data. It's hard to see how a certified ad partner could do this for years without the platforms interfering, except if the platforms were ignorant or accepted the practice.

The fight between Netflix and Disney+

After Netflix delivered shaky results in its last report, missing its goals for subscriber growth, and losing subscribers in the U.S., Disney relieved the pricing for Disney+ launching November 12th.

Disney will bundle its Disney+ streaming service, ESPN+ and ad-supported Hulu in a single-pay package for $12.99. This gives subscribers three services for the same cost as Netflix, and $5 cheaper than if you pay for the services individually. Disney owns ESPN and has slowly gained control over Hulu, buying out various stakeholders

However, the two giants approach to content is different. Disney+ are focused on recognizable franchises and brands, with material from the Star Wars and Marvel universes, and films from Disney and Pixar. Disney even announced this week that it's going to remake Home Alone for the service.

Netflix is taking a different approach since it can't lean on historic franchises. Instead, they focus on deals with big-name creators. The company acquired comic book publisher Millarworld two years ago and have brought in TV creators like as Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal) and Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, Pose) for multi-year deals.

Tool of the week: Sheety

Sheety makes it possible to turn any Google sheet into an API instantly for free. This functionality is great for prototyping or automating simple manual asks. Basically, when you need to get your spreadsheet data from one place to another.

With a simple installation, it's possible to power websites, apps, or whatever you like, directly from a Google Spreadsheet - and changes to your spreadsheet update your API in real-time.

It works well, but the Sheety team themselves say that it might be a bad idea to use it as a base for nuclear power plants and such. So please don't.

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

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

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