Google has begun auto-deleting new users’ search data and location history on a rolling 18-month basis to tighten privacy settings. This was disclosed by the Chief Executive Officer, Sundar Pichai, in a blog post published by the tech giant.
The initiative, which was introduced on Wednesday, is the latest attempt by a big online firm to boost public trust after hefty fines were levied against Facebook and Google for privacy violations in recent years.
Pichai said, “We believe that products should keep your information for only as long as it’s useful and helpful to you. The changes were designed to keep less data by default.
“When creating a new Google account, your activity data will be automatically and continuously deleted after 18 months, rather than kept until you choose to delete it.”
Current users can already opt in to auto-delete their data every three or 18 months — a setting that has not changed, although existing users will be reminded of the option to do so.
Smartphone location technology has been in the spotlight as governments study or implement app-based initiatives to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, despite concerns over privacy and civil liberties.
Pinchai, also head of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, asserted that “privacy is at the heart of everything we do” in his blog post.
He detailed other changes including easier access to privacy settings within apps and to the more secure “incognito” mode.
“New users of Google’s subsidiary YouTube will also have their search data auto-deleted after 36 months,” Pinchai added.
Facebook bans racist ads, in response to ad boycotts by big brands
Nearly 100 brands resolved to pull their ads in support of the #StopHateForProfit movement.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has announced a change in the company’s policies to now prohibit hate speech and racist content in its advertisement.
Speaking over the weekend, Zuckerberg explained that the new policy will ban advertisements “that claim people from a specific race, ethnicity, nationality, caste, gender, sexual orientation or immigration origin are a threat to the physical safety or health of anyone else”
Also, Facebook will do more to protect immigrants, migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers from ads that suggest they are inferior to other groups of people or from ads that express contempt, dismissal or disgust directed at them.
In a Bloomberg interview, the CEO had noted that the company will ensure that Facebook remains a place where everyone can use their voice to discuss important issues, but that any attempt to incite violence, suppress voting, or discriminate a group of people, will be checked.
Why the policy change?
This change in policy comes after a weeklong tussle with advertisers with nearly 100 brands resolving to pull their ads from Facebook for the month of July or longer, as part of the #StopHateForProfit movement.
The movement is being backed by organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color of Change, Free Press and Common Sense.
We will join #StopHate4Profit and stop posting on @Facebook for the month of July. We are taking this action to protest the platform’s irresponsible propagation of hate speech, racism, and misleading voter information. We encourage clients and our own people to join us.
— Goodby Silverstein (@GSP) June 24, 2020
Although Zuckerberg made no mention of these boycotts, it would appear that this is a move to pacify advertisers, and prevent competitor platforms like Pinterest, Amazon and —- from swooping in to take advantage of the situation.
That movement protests “Facebook’s repeated failure to meaningfully address the vast proliferation of hate on its platforms.”
The brands boycotting the platform includes big spenders like Unilever, Coca-cola and Verizon, as well as some other smaller companies like Patagonia, REI, Lending Club and The North Face, according to a running list from Sleeping Giants.
It is not certain how much impact this would have on the company’s finances, given that Facebook has over 8 million advertisers on its platform, the bigger brands may soon influence more companies to join the movement.
The companies had explained during the week that Facebook was not the target of the movement but to drive home a message on the moderation of bigoted and prejudiced contents.
Remember that the #StopHateForProfit campaign is not about damaging Facebook’s bottom line, it’s about a broader reckoning around the platform’s lack of moderation of hate and disinformation.
Advertisers don’t want to sponsor violent, bigoted content or lies.
— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) June 26, 2020
There is yet no hint as to whether the brands are pleased with Facebook’s new move, but it is clear that if the boycotts continue, the brands will likely shift their ad spending to other companies.
While announcing its decision to stop ads on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S. for the rest of the year, Luis Di Como, EVP of Global Media, said in a statement;
“We are actively engaging with all digital platforms to make meaningful change and impact trust and transparency,” the statement said. “We have made substantial progress, and we acknowledge the efforts of our partners, but there is much more to be done, especially in the areas of divisiveness and hate speech during this polarized election period in the U.S.”
He added that the company will explore other media options for its ads in the U.S. in a bid to discourage “divisiveness and hate speech during this polarized election period in the U.S.”
According to marketing analytics firm Pathmatics, Unilever has spent more than $11.8 million in the U.S. this year on Facebook ads alone .
Coca-Cola CEO and Chairman, James Quincey, said in his statement that the company was not joining the official boycott like other big brands, but was only pausing ads on all social media platforms globally for the month of July.
“We will take this time to reassess our advertising policies to determine whether revisions are needed. We also expect greater accountability and transparency from our social media partners” he said.
Google to pay online publishers for high quality contents
Google will also offer to pay for free access for users to read paywalled articles on a publisher’s site.
Google has on Thursday announced a new licensing program that will allow publishers earn money on high-quality content published on their sites.
This program will help participating publishers monetize their content through an enhanced storytelling experience that will provide readers an in-depth and factual analysis of current news.
According to a post on the Google blog, this becomes necessary in the midst of a global pandemic and concerns over the spread of misinformation and curated contents.
The program will start later this year with publishers in a number of countries across the globe.
“Alongside other companies, governments and civic society organizations, we’re committed to playing our part to support news businesses. Today’s undertaking exemplifies that, and we look forward to what we can all achieve together,” the company said in its post.
The company has already signed partnerships with local and national publications in German, Australia and Brazil.
“We are always keen to explore innovative ways to attract readers to our high-quality content,” says Stephan Ottlitz, managing director of Germany’s SPIEGEL Group, one of the publishing partners said.
“This interesting new partnership with Google will allow us to curate an experience that will bring our award-winning editorial voice into play, broaden our outreach and provide trusted news in a compelling way across Google products.”
Where available, Google will also offer to pay for free access for users to read paywalled articles on a publisher’s site. This will let paywalled publishers grow their audiences and open an opportunity for people to read content they might not ordinarily see.
This is only the most recent move of Google to support the news media as the Google news initiative had provided funding to more than 5300 local publications globally via a journalism emergency fund relief coma and ad-serving fee waiver on Google ad manager, among others.
App developers can now challenge Apple store guidelines
Tim Cook stated that App developers can now challenge guidelines on the Apple store.
App developers can now challenge guidelines on the Apple store when their app is disapproved or flagged for violating a guideline.
Before this change, developers were only able to appeal guidelines whenever their app was disapproved for violating guidelines.
Going forward, however, they can now challenge the guideline itself.
Apple CEO Tim Cook stated this while delivering the keynote address during the 2020 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) at Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California on Monday.
These changes come shortly after developers raised dust over approval policies and rules which were causing hiccups for them.
Apple had threatened to remove the email app Hey after they submitted a bug fix update, on the grounds that their app violated Apple’s rules.
The app, they said, offered a subscription through the maker’s website and not the App store, thus depriving Apple the 30% cut that should be due to them when subscriptions are done via the store.
The makers of the Hey App made a public complaint which spurred other developers to voice theirs as well.
Apple eventually approved the Hey’s bug fix update over the weekend, but without the in-app purchases.
Developers can also address fix bug updates in their next major submissions without delays.
Cook stated in his address that all of the changes will be implemented this summer, after holding additional sessions about the app review process at its developer conference, and surveying developers for feedback.
This quick response marks a point in favour of Apple Inc, after its competitors, iPhone maker alleged that the company wields too much control over its platform.