Privacy policies are still too horrible to read in full

A year on from Europe’s flagship update to the pan-EU data protection framework the Commission has warned that too many privacy policies are still too hard to read and has urged tech companies to declutter and clarify their T&Cs. (So full marks to Twitter for the timing of this announcement.)

Announcing the results of a survey of the attitudes of 27,000 Europeans vis-a-vis data protection, the Commission said a large majority (73%) of EU citizens have heard of at least one of the six tested rights guaranteed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force at the end of May last year. But only a minority (30%) are aware of all their rights under the framework.

The Commission said it will launch a campaign to boost awareness of privacy rights and encourage EU citizens to optimise their privacy settings — “so that they only share the data they are willing to share”.

In instances of consent-based data processing, the GDPR guaranteed rights include the [...]  read more

Facebook collected device data on 187,000 users using banned snooping app

Facebook obtained personal and sensitive device data on about 187,000 users of its now-defunct Research app, which Apple banned earlier this year after the app violated its rules.

The social media giant said in a letter to Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s office — which TechCrunch obtained — that it collected data on 31,000 users in the U.S., including 4,300 teenagers. The rest of the collected data came from users in India.

Earlier this year, a TechCrunch investigation found both Facebook and Google were abusing their Apple-issued enterprise developer certificates, designed to only allow employees to run iPhone and iPad apps used only inside the company. The investigation found the companies were building and providing apps for consumers outside Apple’s App Store, in violation of Apple’s rules. The apps paid users in return for collecting data on how participants used their devices and to understand app habits by gaining access to all of the network data in and out of their device.

Apple [...]  read more

Apple’s new ecosystem world order and the privacy economy

Apple’s splashy new product announcements at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose also ushered in new rules of the road for its ecosystem partners that force hard turns for app makers around data ownership and control. These changes could fundamentally shift how consumers perceive and value control over the data they generate in using their devices, and that shift could change the landscape for how services are bought, consumed and sold.

A lot of privacy advocates have posited a future wherein we ascribe value to the data of individuals and potentially compensate people directly for its use. But others have also rightly pointed out than in isolation, a single individual’s data is precisely value-less, since it’s only in aggregate that this data is worth anything to the companies that currently harvest it to inform their marketing and drive their product decisions.

There are many reasons why it seems [...]  read more

Apple attacks Facebook by becoming the asocial network

Sharing with everyone is passé and more than a little bit scary these days. We want to send photos to friends without posting them publicly. We want to reminisce without being permanently defined by our timelines. And we want the utility of apps without giving away our contact info to developers.

The problem is that this philosophy is hard to monetize for a social network that needs to maximize broadcasted content and engagement to score ad views. But it’s easy to monetize if you sell the phone and then let people be as private as they want on it. That’s why today at WWDC, Apple showed off changes that turn iOS into the asocial network — software that mimics the tools of Facebook but without the pressure to overshare.

Most stunningly, Apple will require apps that offer third-party login options like those from [...]  read more

Startups net more than capital with NBA players as investors

Mary Ann Azevedo covers startups and tech at Crunchbase News.

More posts by this contributor

If you’re a big basketball fan like me, you’ll be glued to the TV watching the Golden State Warriors take on the Toronto Raptors in the NBA finals. (You might be surprised who I’m rooting for.)

In honor of the big games, we took a shot at breaking down investment activities of the players off the court. Last fall, we did a story highlighting some of the sport’s more prolific investors. In this piece, we’ll take a deeper dive into just what having an NBA player as a backer can do for a startup beyond the capital involved. But first, here’s a chart of some startups funded by NBA players, both former and current.

In February, we covered how digital sports media startup Overtime had raised $23 million [...]  read more

D.C. case against Facebook over Cambridge Analytica will proceed

Early Friday, a judge sided with Facebook shareholders who demanded the company hand over emails and records related to its handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Later in the day, the company was denied again in court, as Reuters reports that Judge Fern Flanagan Saddler denied its motion to dismiss or stay a lawsuit filed by the Washington D.C. attorney general over the same incident.

D.C. AG Karl Racine is suing Facebook over many failures, including a claim that it knew Cambridge Analytica had obtained user data over two years before the leak was revealed. According to the district’s lawsuit, the CA cache contained info on 340,000 of its residents.

A court filing in this case revealed there’s an email between senior managers indicating they knew about the company’s “improper data-gathering practices” as early as September 2015, years before it blew up in 2018. Whatever happens in this case, a deal [...]  read more

Targeted ads offer little extra value for online publishers, study suggests

How much value do online publishers derive from behaviorally targeted advertising that uses privacy-hostile tracking technologies to determine which advert to show a website user?

A new piece of research suggests publishers make just 4% more vs if they were to serve a non-targeted ad.

It’s a finding that sheds suggestive light on why so many newsroom budgets are shrinking and journalists finding themselves out of work — even as adtech giants continue stuffing their coffers with massive profits.

Visit the average news website lousy with third party cookies (yes, we know, it’s true of TC too) and you’d be forgiven for thinking the publisher is also getting fat profits from the data creamed off their users as they plug into programmatic ad systems that trade info on Internet users’ browsing habits to determine the ad which gets displayed.

Yet while the online ad market is massive and growing — $88BN in revenues in the US in 2017, per IAB [...]  read more

Delane Parnell’s plan to conquer amateur esports

Most of the buzz about esports focuses on high-profile professional teams and audiences watching live streams of those professionals.

What gets ignored is the entire base of amateurs wanting to compete in esports below the professional tier. This is like talking about the NBA and the value of its sponsorships and broadcast rights as if that is the entirety of the basketball market in the US.

Los Angeles-based PlayVS (pronounced “play versus”) wants to become the dominant platform for amateur esports, starting at the high school level. The company raised $46 million last year—its first year operating—with the vision that owning the infrastructure for competitions and expanding it to encompass other social elements of gaming can make it the largest gaming company in the world.

I recently sat down with Founder & CEO Delane Parnell to talk about his company’s formation and growth strategy. Below is the transcript of our conversation (edited for length and clarity):

Founding PlayVS

Eric [...]  read more

Facebook takes down more fake accounts from Iran

In total, the pages had about 21,000 followers. The groups had nearly 2,000 members, and approximately 2,600 people followed one or more of the Instagram accounts. US-based cybersecurity firm FireEye alerted Facebook to the inauthentic behavior, and the company followed up with its own internal investigation.

It’s not uncommon for Facebook to remove fake accounts and pages, and this isn’t the first time the coordinated inauthentic behavior has come from Iran. Ahead of India’s election in April, Facebook removed more than 1,000 accounts flagged for coordinated inauthentic behavior. In March, it pulled [...]  read more