Apple told some developers that it will delay the enforcement of an anti-tracking feature that’s being implemented in iOS 14, reports The Information.
In iOS 14, Apple is requiring apps to seek customer consent before the IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) can be used to track user behavior and preference across apps and websites for ad targeting purposes.
Major app developers and ad networks like Facebook have spoken out against the feature, with Facebook warning advertisers on its platform that the new feature could cause a more than 50 percent drop in Audience Network publisher revenue due to the loss of personalization from ads within apps.
Facebook and other advertisers expect that customers will not want to share their IDFA’s for ad targeting purposes and will therefore decline consent for the ad blocking popups that Apple has implemented in iOS 14.
Mobile developers that spoke to The Information said that they’ve had little time to prepare for Apple’s change, which was announced in June alongside iOS 14. Apple has also not provided a way for them to target ads without using the IDFA.
If Apple does end up delaying the anti-tracking features in iOS 14, customers who upgrade to iOS 14 will not see the prompts to decline sharing their device IDFA with third-party apps.
According to The Information, if Apple does decide to delay, the anti-tracking features could be held until next year.
Eric Seufert, an ads industry analyst, said it „simply wasn’t possible for developers to adapt their advertising infrastructure“ to Apple’s proposed IDFA change in time for the public release of iOS 14, which Apple usually makes available in September. He called delaying enforcement of the new IDFA prompt „the right thing for Apple to do, even if those privacy restrictions are well intentioned and ultimately best for consumers.“
Apple’s App Store team has apparently been asking gaming firms for details on how the change might impact their businesses, as these kinds of targeted ads are important to free-to-play games, and their responses may determine Apple’s plan to implement or delay the feature.
Update 10:02 a.m.: In a statement to TechCrunch, Apple confirms that it is pushing back the change to „early next year.“
We believe technology should protect users’ fundamental right to privacy, and that means giving users tools to understand which apps and websites may be sharing their data with other companies for advertising or advertising measurement purposes, as well as the tools to revoke permission for this tracking. When enabled, a system prompt will give users the ability to allow or reject that tracking on an app-by-app basis. We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes, and as a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year.
As iOS 14 betas continue to roll out and the software’s full release grows near, more people are noticing just how revolutionary some of its privacy and security features appear to be.
There’s some exciting stuff there, but one of the most interesting – and, until recently, overlooked – features is called “Approximate Location.”
It means enormous changes for location-based services on iOS, and could affect many third-party apps in ways that aren’t entirely clear yet. Here are the significant points all iPhone users should know.
Approximate Location Will Hide Your Exact Location
Based on the details that Apple has given, Approximate Location is a new tool that can be enabled in iOS. Instead of switching off location-based data, this feature will make it…fuzzy. Apple reports that it will limit the location data sent to apps to a general 10-mile region.
You could be anywhere in that 10 miles, doing anything, but apps will only be able to tell that your device is in that specific region. This is going to change several important things about apps that want to know your location, but is a big boon for privacy while still enabling various app services.
Limited Data About Movement Will Be Shared
Not all the details are certain yet, but we do know that apps will be able to track when a device moves from one region to another. Apps will probably be able to extrapolate on that data and know that you were somewhere along a particular border between one region and another.
However, companies still won’t be able to tell what exactly you were doing near the border, or how long you stayed near the border before crossing over. If you cross over the same borders a lot, then apps will probably be able to make some basic guesses, like you’re commuting to work, dropping kids off at school, or visiting a preferred shopping center, but that’s basically all they will be able to tell.
Some Apps Won’t Have a Problem with This
For many third-party app services, these new 10-mile Approximate Location Regions won’t pose much of a problem. Apps that are recommending nearby restaurants you might like, parks you can visit, available hotels, and similar suggestions don’t need to know your exact location to be accurate – the 10-mile zone should work fine. The same is true of weather apps, and a variety of other services.
But not all third-party apps are interested in location data just to offer services. They also want to use it for their own ends…and that’s where things get more complicated.
Location-Based Advertising Is up for a Challenge
A whole crowd of third-party apps want to track your exact location, not for services, but to collect important data about their users. Even common apps like Netflix tend to do this! They are tracking behavior and building user profiles that they can use for advertising purposes, or provide to advertisers interested in building these profiles themselves.
Apple has already changed other types of tracking to require permission from app users. But turning on Approximate Location is another hurdle that blocks apps from knowing exactly what users are doing. Not only does this make it more difficult to build behavioral profiles, but it also makes it hard or impossible to attribute a user visit to any specific online campaign.
There are solutions to this, but it will be a change of pace for advertisers. Apps can use Wi-Fi pings, check-in features, and purchase tracking to still get an idea of what people are doing, and where. That’ll require a lot more user involvement than before, which puts privacy in the hands of the customer.
It’s Not Clear How This Will Affect Apps That Depend on Location Tracking
Then there’s the class of apps that needs to know precise locations of users to work properly.
For example, what happens when an app wants to provide precise directions to an address after you have chosen it? Or – perhaps most likely – will alerts pop up when you try to use these services, requiring you to shut off Approximate Location to continue? We’ve already seen how this works with Apple Maps, which asks you to allow one “precise location” to help with navigation, or turn it on for the app entirely.
Then there’s the problem with ridesharing and food delivery apps. They can’t offer some their core services with Approximate Location turned on, so we can expect warnings or lockouts from these apps as well.
But even with this micromanaging, more privacy features are probably worth it.
While it may have slipped the attention of many consumers, online businesses around the world were rocked by Apple’s June 2020 decision to make the IDFA fully opt-in. What does that mean exactly?
Well, IDFA stands for Identifier for Advertisers, and it’s a protocol that creates an ID tag for every user device so that device activity can be tracked by advertisers for personalized marketing and ad offers.
While IDFA made it easy to track online behavior without actually knowing a user’s private info, the practice has come under some scrutiny as the importance of online privacy continues to increase.
While Apple still provides the IDFA, it’s now entirely based on direct permission granted by users. In other words, if an app wants to track what a device is doing through an IDFA, a big pop-up will show up that says, roughly, “This app wants to track what you’re doing on this device so it can send you ads. Do you want to allow that?” Users are broadly expected to answer no.
So, what does that mean for advertisers and for your personal user experience going forward? Continue reading to learn what it means for you.
You Will Still Get Online Ads
Apple’s change is a big one for mobile advertisers, but it doesn’t mean that ads will disappear from your iPhone. Consumers will still get ads in all the usual places on their phones. That includes in their internet browsers, and in some of the apps that they use.
The big difference is that those ads will be far less likely to be 1) personalized based on what you like doing on your phone and 2) retargeted based on the products and ads you’ve looked at before. So the ads will still appear, but they will tend to be more general in nature.
Big Platforms Will Need to Get More Creative with Tracking
IDFA option, advertising platforms face a need for more innovation. Advertising
lives off data, and Apple’s move encourages smarter data strategies.
What’s that going to look like? We’ll have to wait and see, but one potential solution is “fingerprinting” a device, or making a device profile, a lot like marketers make buyer personas. This involves gathering ancillary data about a device’s IP addresses, location, activity periods, Bluetooth, and other features, then combining it into a profile that shows how the device is being used and what that says about the user.
option is to develop more ways to track “events” instead of devices. An app
event could be anything from logging on for the first time to reaching the
first level of a game, etc. By looking at events across the entire user base,
advertisers can divide users into different groups of behavior and target ads
based on what that behavior says about them.
Developers and Advertisers Will Design New Ways to Monitor Apps
still need app data from iOS to make effective decisions about ads. Since
individual device data is now largely out of reach for them, we’re going to
start seeing more innovation on this side, too. Companies are going to start
focusing on broad data that they do have to make plans based on what they do
know – in other words, what users are doing directly on the app itself, instead
of on the entire device.
Apple is helping with this, too: The company has announced a new SKAdNetwork platform that is essentially designed to replace some of what the IDFA program used to do. It doesn’t track individual device activity, but it does track overall interaction with apps, so creators will still know things like how many people are downloading apps, where they are downloading from, and what features are getting the most use, etc. The key will be finding ways to make intelligent ad decisions from that collective data, and looking for synergistic ways to share it with partners – something advertisers traditionally haven’t done much in the past.
Retargeting Will Refocus on Contact Information
is the ad tactic of showing a user products and ads they have already viewed in
the past, which makes a purchase more likely. It’s a very important part of the
sales process, but becomes more difficult when device activity can’t be
directly monitored. However, there’s another highly traditional option for retargeting:
Getting a customer’s contact information. Depending on how active someone is on
the Web, something like an email address or phone number can provide plenty of
useful retargeting data. Expect a renewed focus on web forms and collecting
contact information within apps.
Online Point of Sale Will Become Even More Important
The online shopping cart is already a locus of valuable information: Every time you add a product, look at shipping prices, abandon a shopping cart, pick a payment method, choose an address, and complete an order – all of it provides companies with data they can use for retargeting, customer profiles, personalized ads and discounts, and so on.
Nothing Apple is doing will affect online POS data, so we can expect it to become even more important. However, most POS data currently stays in house, so the big question is if – and how – large ad platforms might use it in the future. Which brings us to another important point: auctioning data.
Auctioning Mobile User Data Is Less Viable Than Ever
A big secondary market for mobile advertising is selling device data to other advertisers (it’s also technically a black market when it happens on the dark web with stolen data, but there’s a legitimate version, too). Now bids for iOS data don’t really have anywhere to go – how can you bid on a list of device use information when that data isn’t being collected anymore? And if someone is selling that data, how do you know if it’s not outdated or just fake?
These secondary auction markets and “demand-side platforms” (DSPs) have been facing pressure in recent years over fears they aren’t exactly healthy for the industry. Apple nixing the IDFA won’t end them, but it will refocus the secondary selling on top-level data (the kind we discussed in the points above) and less on more personal user data.
This Is Just the Beginning
The era of
device tracking has only begun to change. Apple’s decision about IDFA was expected,
and is only the beginning of the shift away from this tactic. Google is also expected
to make a similar change with its own version of the technology, GAID (Google
Ad Identifier). Meanwhile, major web browsers like Safari and Chrome are
dropping support for third-party cookies as well.
This is great
for customer privacy, which is clearly a new core concern for the big tech
names. It’s also ushering in a new age of marketing where advertisers will have
to grapple with unseen data – and find new ways to move ahead. In some ways, it’s
an analyst’s dream come true.
Should Google’s Ad Market Be Regulated Like the Stock Market?
A leading antitrust scholar says yes. Congress may be listening.
The days of suit-clad men shouting out orders on the bustling floors of stock exchanges are mostly gone, replaced by windowless rooms full of servers, but the stock market is still a busy place. On the 13 US stock exchanges combined, around 50 million trades happen every day. And yet there’s another digital marketplace out there that processes tens of billions of transactions daily, one whose complexity makes the NASDAQ look like a lemonade stand: online advertising.
It may sound odd to refer to advertising as a market, but that’s what it is. The industry’s own terminology provides a hint: Publishers selling ad space, and advertisers buying it, do business on so-called “ad exchanges”; one of the biggest companies involved is called the Trading Desk. Whenever you load a web page, advertisers compete in an automated process called real-time bidding to show you their ad. Multiply that by billions of internet users around the world, loading many different pages and apps per day, and you can start to appreciate the scope. As antitrust scholar Dina Srinivasan puts it in a forthcoming paper, online advertising “is likely the most sophisticated of all electronic trading markets.” And yet, despite the market’s size and complexity—and unlike other markets—online advertising is almost completely unregulated.
A former digital advertising executive, Srinivasan gained attention last year for her paper “The Antitrust Case Against Facebook,” which laid out a novel theory of why Facebook’s market dominance can be bad for users even as it offers a free product. Now she aims to do something similar for Google—specifically, for the sprawling advertising empire that accounts for the vast majority of the company’s revenue. In her new paper, which will be published in the Stanford Technology Law Review, Srinivasan takes a deep dive into the inner workings of the digital ad market. The details are astoundingly complex, but the broad argument is straightforward. When you see an ad online, the odds are very high that the advertiser used Google to buy it, the website used Google to put the space up for sale, and Google’s exchange matched them together. In other words, Google both runs the largest exchange and competes as the biggest buyer and seller on that exchange. On top of that, it also owns YouTube, one of the biggest suppliers of ad inventory, meaning it competes against publishers on its own platform. And yet there are no laws governing any of it.
That regulatory vacuum, Srinivasan argues, has allowed Google to dominate the industry by doing things that are prohibited in other parts of the economy. “In the market for electronically traded equities, we require exchanges to provide traders with fair access to data and speed, we identify and manage intermediary conflicts of interest, and we require trading disclosures to help police the market,” she writes. Her proposal flows naturally from that observation: Apply those regulatory principles to digital advertising.
The resemblance between securities and ad markets first occurred to Srinivasan back in 2014. That’s when Michael Lewis published Flash Boys, which documented the extensive mischief created by high-frequency trading and other modern tricks of the digital securities market—and which helped spur a wave of investigations, fines, and regulatory action. At the time, Srinivasan saw similar issues arising in her own industry.
“When Flash Boys came out, it was comical. That book was being passed from executive to executive,” she said in an interview. “People would laugh about how there were operatives who were arbitraging between ad exchanges too. People were just laughing at the parallels.”
Over the past year, as she researched the paper, Srinivasan realized that the resemblance went even further than she thought, sometimes uncannily so. Lewis describes high-frequency traders seeking an edge by placing their computers as physically close as possible to the stock exchange servers to shave microseconds off trade times. Srinivasan relays a similar anecdote from the world of ad tech: Last year, OpenX, one of the largest non-Google ad tech companies, announced a five-year, $110 million deal to move its exchange to Google Cloud. OpenX was open about the fact that being on Google’s servers would give it a speed edge. “You have to operate at speed, efficiency, closeness to the publisher and the demand side of Google,” one executive said. It’s almost an exact copy of high-speed traders’ tactics. The difference, Srinivasan notes, is that “in financial markets, co-location practices are tightly regulated” to make sure everyone has equal access to speed. In advertising, they aren’t.
Speed is crucial in online advertising because the auctions occur in milliseconds. If an ad buying platform submits its bid too slowly, the exchange might exclude it from the auction entirely. This gives a leg up to a platform that shares infrastructure with the exchange—in other words, to Google. Google advertises this fact. “Since Google Ads and Display & Video 360 run on servers in the same data centers as Ad Exchange, they can respond faster to Ad Exchange bid requests compared to other exchange requests,” says a Google help page. “There are no network latency or timeout issues between either Google Ads or Display & Video 360 and Ad Exchange.” When the buying platform isn’t the same as the exchange, on the other hand, latency issues “can prevent buyers from successfully submitting a bid on up to 25% of bid requests.”
Srinivasan also explores the way Google benefits from unequal access to information. Modern digital advertising is all about being able to target users with the most precision. When someone arrives on a website using Google’s DoubleClick ad server, Google’s exchange “hashes” the ID, passing a different one along to the ad buying platforms. Those buyers then must match their ID with the hashed one to make sure they’re targeting the right person—a process called “cookie syncing.” But cookie syncing, Srinivasan writes, “is inherently inefficient.” Some percent of the time, the platform will fail to match the user. In those situations, she writes, advertisers aren’t willing to pay as much, or anything, because they aren’t guaranteed to reach the right audience.
Google doesn’t have this problem, because it allows its own exchange, and its own ad buying platform, to see the DoubleClick ID. That means it automatically knows who the user is. Google says it shares the DoubleClick ID only with its own platforms to protect user privacy. But another result is to put a thumb on the scale of Google’s own properties: If you want to make sure you’re targeting the right user, you have an extra incentive to buy ads using Google. Google advertises this advantage as well.
While securities law has its share of problems, it does broadly curtail the kind of flagrant information and speed imbalances that Srinivasan describes in the ad market. Indeed, the contrast between the digital advertising regulatory vacuum and the world of financial markets is striking.
“It’s a highly, highly regulated system,” said Kevin Haeberle, a professor at William & Mary Law School who specializes in securities law. Only registered brokers are allowed to execute trades, and those brokers must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission. “You’ve got to take tests, you’ve got to be registered, you have to be supervised in certain ways, you’ve got to pay into various insurance mechanisms to make sure the trades actually do settle.” He added, “There’s this whole regulatory regime, it’s very complex, and it applies to regulating these exchanges that run this important market for our society. In the ad market, we don’t have that.”
Why does that matter? At the broadest level, when one entity is allowed to both run a market and participate in it, and when there are no rules requiring it to let everyone else participate on equal terms, there’s nothing stopping it from enriching itself at the expense of the other buyers and sellers. In digital advertising, that means Google could be inflating prices advertisers pay, or depressing the amount of money publishers receive, or both. Google, of course, denies this characterization. It says its ad tools benefit both advertisers and publishers, no regulation necessary. To Srinivasan, believing that claim would be like trusting J.P.Morgan to run the New York Stock Exchange.
Srinivasan is particularly worried about the publishers who rely on digital advertising for revenue. “From a very big-picture perspective, we are a democracy and we want a healthy and robust economy of news,” Srinivasan said. “We want the news business as a sector in our economy, we want to make sure that it works. And so we should make sure that the market is not rigged for the middleman, so that entrepreneurs are encouraged to enter the business of news.” (In the paper, she discloses that she is “advising and consulting on antitrust matters, including for news publishers whose interests are in conflict with Google’s.”)
Her argument may be catching on. At the tech CEO hearing held by the House antitrust subcommittee in July, Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic congresswoman from Washington state, cited Srinivasan’s paper directly as part of her questioning of Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
“The problem is that Google controls all of these entities,” she said. “So it’s running the marketplace, it’s acting on the buy side, and it’s acting on the sell side at the same time, which is a major conflict of interest. It allows you to set rates very low as a buyer of ad space for newspapers, depriving them of their ad revenue, and then also to sell high to small businesses who are very dependent on advertising on your platform. It sounds a bit like the stock market. Except, unlike the stock market, there’s no regulation on your ad exchange market.”
In an interview after the hearing, Jayapal said she was looking into developing legislation that would address that regulation gap. She suggested that the underlying principles of any regulation would be straightforward. “It seems to me that the simplest thing to do is say, you can’t control the market and engage as a buyer and seller. Those two things have to be separated. And then, if you’re buying and selling, then you’re regulated by insider trading rules.” She added, “I think it’s just an unregulated marketplace that should be relatively easy to do something about.”
The warrants, which draw on an enormous Google database employees call Sensorvault, turn the business of tracking cellphone users’ locations into a digital dragnet for law enforcement. In an era of ubiquitous data gathering by tech companies, it is just the latest example of how personal information — where you go, who your friends are, what you read, eat and watch, and when you do it — is being used for purposes many people never expected. As privacy concerns have mounted among consumers, policymakers and regulators, tech companies have come under intensifying scrutiny over their data collection practices.
The Arizona case demonstrates the promise and perils of the new investigative technique, whose use has risen sharply in the past six months, according to Google employees familiar with the requests. It can help solve crimes. But it can also snare innocent people.
BERKELEY, Calif. — A job at Facebook sounds pretty plum. The interns make around $8,000 a month, and an entry-level software engineer makes about $140,000 a year. The food is free. There’s a walking trail with indigenous plants and a juice bar.
But the tone among highly sought-after computer scientists about the social network is changing. On a recent night at the University of California, Berkeley, as a group of young engineers gathered to show off their tech skills, many said they would avoid taking jobs at the social network.
“I’ve heard a lot of employees who work there don’t even use it,” said Niky Arora, 19, an engineering student, who was recently invited to a Facebook recruiting event at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. “I just don’t believe in the product because like, Facebook, the baseline of everything they do is desire to show people more ads.”
Emily Zhong, 20, a computer science major, piped up. “Surprisingly, a lot of my friends now are like, ‘I don’t really want to work for Facebook,’” she said, citing “privacy stuff, fake news, personal data, all of it.”
“Before it was this glorious, magical thing to work there,” said Jazz Singh, 18, also studying computer science. “Now it’s like, just because it does what you want doesn’t mean it’s doing good.”
As Facebook has been rocked by scandal after scandal, some young engineers are souring on the company. Many are still taking jobs there, but those who do are doing it a little more quietly, telling their friends that they will work to change it from within or that they have carved out more ethical work at a company whose reputation has turned toxic.
Facebook, which employs more than 30,000 full-time workers around the world, said, “In 2018, we’ve hired more engineers than ever before.” The company added, “We continue to see strong engagement and excitement within the engineering community at the prospect of joining our company.”
The changing attitudes are happening beyond Facebook. Across Silicon Valley, tech recruiters said job applicants in general were asking more hard questions during interviews, wanting to know specifically what they would be asked to do at the company. Career coaches said they had tech employees reaching out to get tips on handling moral quandaries. The questions include “How do I avoid a project I disagree with?” and “How do I remind my bosses of the company mission statement?”
“Employees are wising up to the fact that you can have a mission statement on your website, but when you’re looking at how the company creates new products or makes decisions, the correlation between the two is not so tightly aligned,” said David Chie, the head of Palo Alto Staffing, a tech job placement service in Silicon Valley. “Everyone’s having this conversation.”
When engineers apply for jobs, they are also doing it differently.
“They do a lot more due diligence,” said Heather Johnston, Bay Area district president for the tech job staffing agency Robert Half. “Before, candidates were like: ‘Oh, I don’t want to do team interviews. I want a one-and-done.’” Now, she added, job candidates “want to meet the team.”
“They’re not just going to blindly take a company because of the name anymore,” she said.
Yet while many of the big tech companies have been hit by a change in public perception, Facebook seems uniquely tarred among young workers.
“I’ve had a couple of clients recently say they’re not as enthusiastic about Facebook because they’re frustrated with what they see happening politically or socially,” said Paul Freiberger, president of Shimmering Careers, a career counseling group based in San Mateo, Calif. “It’s privacy and political news, and concern that it’s going to be hard to correct these things from inside.”
Chad Herst, a leadership and career coach based in San Francisco since 2008, said that now, for the first time, he had clients who wanted to avoid working for big social media companies like Facebook or Twitter.
“They’re concerned about where democracy is going, that social media polarizes us, and they don’t want to be building it,” Mr. Herst said. “People really have been thinking about the mission of the company and what the companies are trying to achieve a little more.”
He said one client, a midlevel executive at Facebook, wanted advice on how to shift her group’s work to encourage users to connect offline as well. But she found resistance internally to her efforts.
“She was trying to figure out: ‘How do I politic this? How do I language this?’” Mr. Herst said. “And I was telling her to bring up some of Mark Zuckerberg’s past statements about connecting people.”
On the recent evening at the University of California, Berkeley, around 2,200 engineering students from around the country gathered for Cal Hacks 5.0 — a competition to build the best apps. The event spanned a weekend, so teenage competitors dragged pillows around with them. The hosts handed out 2,000 burritos as students registered.
It was also a hiring event. Recruiters from Facebook and Alphabet set up booths (free sunglasses from Facebook; $200 in credit to the Google Cloud platform from Alphabet).
In the auditorium, the head of Y Combinator, a start-up incubator and investment firm, gave opening remarks, recommending that young people avoid jobs in big tech.
“You get to program your life on a totally different scale,” said Michael Seibel, who leads Y Combinator. “The worst thing that can happen to you is you get a job at Google.” He called those jobs “$100,000-a-year welfare” — meaning, he said, that workers can get tethered to the paycheck and avoid taking risks.
The event then segued to a word from the sponsor, Microsoft. Justin Garrett, a Microsoft recruiter who on his LinkedIn profile calls himself a senior technical evangelist, stepped onstage, laughing a little.
“So, Michael’s a tough guy to follow, especially when you work for one of those big companies,” Mr. Garrett said. “He called it welfare. I like to call it tremendous opportunity.”
Then students flooded into the stadium, which was filled with long tables of computers where they would stay and compete. In the middle of the scrum, three friends joked around. Caleb Thomas, 21, was gently made fun of because he had accepted an internship at Facebook.
“Come on, guys,” Mr. Thomas said.
“These are the realities of how the business works,” said Samuel Resendez, 20, a computer science student at the University of Southern California.
It turned out Mr. Resendez had interned at Facebook in the summer. Olivia Brown, 20, head of Stanford’s Computer Science and Social Good club and an iOS intern at Mozilla, called him out on it. “But you still worked at Facebook, too,” she said.
Previously, the page said „with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.“
Now, the page says, „This setting does not affect other location services on your device,“ adding that „some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.“
The quiet changing of false information is a major violation of users‘ trust.
In 2011, Google agreed to forfeit $500 million after a criminal investigation by the Justice Department found that Google illegally allowed advertisements from online Canadian pharmacies to sell their products in the US.
In 2012, Google circumvented the no-cookies policy on Apple’s Safari web browser and paid a $22.5 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission as a result.
Ultimately, Google came out of all of these incidents just fine. It paid some money here and there, and sat in a few courtrooms, but nothing really happened to the company’s bottom line. People continued using Google’s services.
It was later revealed that Cambridge Analytica had collected the data of over 87 million Facebook users in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election in favor of the Republican candidate, Donald Trump.
One month later, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was summoned in front of Congress to answer questions related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal over a two-day span.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, takes a drink of water while testifying before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 10, 2018, about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election.AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Many users felt like their trust was violated. A hashtag movement called „#DeleteFacebook“ was born.
And yet, nothing has really changed at Facebook since that scandal, which similarly involved the improper collection of user data, and the violation of users‘ trust.
Facebook seems to be doing just fine. During its Q2 earnings report in late July, Facebook reported over $13 billion in revenue — a 42% jump year-over-year — and an 11% increase in both daily and monthly active users.
In short, Facebook is not going anywhere. And neither is Google.
Too big — and too good — to fail
Just like Facebook has no equal among the hundreds of other social networks out there, the same goes for Google and competing search engines.
According to StatCounter, Google has a whopping 90% share of the global search engine market.
The next biggest search engine in the world is Microsoft’s Bing, which has a paltry 3% market share.
In other words, a cataclysmic event would have to occur for people to switch search engines. Or, another search engine would have to come along and completely unseat Google.
But that’s probably not going to happen.
For almost 20 years now, Google dominated the search engine game. Its other services have become similarly prevalent: Gmail, and Google Docs, have all become integral parts of people’s personal and work lives. Of course, there are similar mail and productivity services out there, but using Google is far more convenient, since most people use more than one Google product, and having all of your applications talk to each other and share information is mighty convenient.
This isn’t meant to cry foul: Google is one of the top software makers in the world, but it has earned that status by constantly improving and iterating on its products, and even itself, over the past two decades. But one does wonder what event, if any, could possibly make people quit a service as big and convenient and powerful as Google once and for all.
The fact is: That probably won’t happen. People likely won’t quit Google’s services, unless there’s some major degradation of quality. But Google, as a leader in Silicon Valley, should strive to do better for its customers. Intentional or not, misleading customers about location data is a bad thing. Google failed its customers: It let users think they had more control when they did, and they only corrected their language about location data after a third-party investigation. But there was no public acknowledgement of an error, and no mea culpa.
Google will introduce an ad blocker to Chrome early next year and is telling publishers to get ready.
The warning is meant to let websites assess their ads and strip any particularly disruptive ones from their pages. That’s because Chrome’s ad blocker won’t block all ads from the web. Instead, it’ll only block ads on pages that are determined to have too many annoying or intrusive advertisements, like videos that autoplay with sound or interstitials that take up the entire screen.
Sridhar Ramaswamy, the executive in charge of Google’s ads, writes in a blog post that even ads “owned or served by Google” will be blocked on pages that don’t meet Chrome’s guidelines.
Instead of an ad “blocker,” Google is referring to the feature as an ad “filter,” according toThe Wall Street Journal, since it will still allow ads to be displayed on pages that meet the right requirements. The blocker will work on both desktop and mobile.
Google is providing a tool that publishers can run to find out if their sites’ ads are in violation and will be blocked in Chrome. Unacceptable ads are being determined by a group called the Coalition for Better Ads, which includes Google, Facebook, News Corp, and The Washington Post as members.
The feature is certain to be controversial. On one hand, there are huge benefits for both consumers and publishers. But on the other, it gives Google immense power over what the web looks like, partly in the name of protecting its own revenue.
First, the benefits: bad ads slow down the web, make the web hard and annoying to browse, and have ultimately driven consumers to install ad blockers that remove all advertisements no matter what. A world where that continues and most users block all ads looks almost apocalyptic for publishers, since nearly all of your favorite websites rely on ads to stay afloat. (The Verge, as you have likely noticed, included.)
By implementing a limited blocking tool, Google can limit the spread of wholesale ad blocking, which ultimately benefits everyone. Users get a better web experience. And publishers get to continue using the ad model that’s served the web well for decades — though they may lose some valuable ad units in the process.
There’s also a good argument to be made that stripping out irritating ads is no different than blocking pop ups, which web browsers have done for years, as a way to improve the experience for consumers.
But there are drawbacks to building an ad blocker into Chrome: most notably, the amount of power it gives Google. Ultimately, it means Google gets to decide what qualifies as an acceptable ad (though it’s basing this on standards set collectively by the Coalition for Better Ads). That’s a good thing if you trust Google to remain benign and act in everyone’s interests. But keep in mind that Google is, at its core, an ad company. Nearly 89 percent of its revenue comes from displaying ads.
The Chrome ad blocker doesn’t just help publishers, it also helps Google maintain its dominance. And it advantages Google’s own ad units, which, it’s safe to say, will not be in violation of the bad ad rules.
This leaves publishers with fewer options to monetize their sites. And given that Chrome represents more than half of all web browsing on desktop and mobile, publishers will be hard pressed not to comply.
Google will also include an option for visitors to pay websites that they’re blocking ads on, through a program it’s calling Funding Choices. Publishers will have to enable support for this feature individually. But Google already tested a similar feature for more than two years, and it never really caught on. So it’s hard to imagine publishers seeing what’s essentially a voluntary tipping model as a viable alternative to ads.
Ramaswamy says that the goal of Chrome’s ad blocker is to make online ads better. “We believe these changes will ensure all content creators, big and small, can continue to have a sustainable way to fund their work with online advertising,” he writes.
And what Ramaswamy says is probably true: Chrome’s ad blocker likely will clean up the web and result in a better browsing experience. It just does that by giving a single advertising juggernaut a whole lot of say over what’s good and bad.
GOOGLE OPERATES WHAT is surely the largest computer network on Earth, a system that comprises custom-built, warehouse-sized data centers spanning 15 locations in four continents. But about six years ago, as the company embraced a new form of voice recognition on Android phones, its engineers worried that this network wasn’t nearly big enough. If each of the world’s Android phones used the new Google voice search for just three minutes a day, these engineers realized, the company would need twice as many data centers.
At that time, Google was just beginning to drive its voice recognition services with deep neural networks, complex mathematical systems that can learn particular tasks by analyzing vast amounts of data. In recent years, this form of machine learning has rapidly reinvented not just voice recognition, but image recognition, machine translation, internet search, and more. In moving to this method, Google saw error rates drop a good 25 percent. But the shift required a lot of extra horsepower.
Rather than double its data center footprint, Google instead built its own computer chip specifically for running deep neural networks, called the Tensor Processing Unit, or TPU. “It makes sense to have a solution there that is much more energy efficient,” says Norm Jouppi, one of the more than 70 engineers who worked on the chip. In fact, the TPU outperforms standard processors by 30 to 80 times in the TOPS/Watt measure, a metric of efficiency.
A Neural Network Niche
Google first revealed this custom processor last May, but gave few details. Now, Jouppi and the rest of his team have a released a paper detailing the project, explaining how the chip operates and the particular problems it solves. Google uses the chip solely for executing neural networks, running them the moment when, say, someone barks a command into their Android phone. It’s not used to train the neural network beforehand. But as Jouppi explains, even that still saves the company quite a bit. It didn’t have to build, say, an extra 15 data centers.
The chip also represents a much larger shift in the world of computer processors. As Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and other internet giants build more and more services using deep neural networks, they’ve all needed specialized chips both for training and executing these AI models. Most companies train their models using GPUs, chips that were originally designed for rendering graphics for games and other highly visual applications but are also suited to the kind of math at the heart of neural networks. And some, including Microsoft and Baidu, the Chinese internet giant, use alternative chips when executing these models as well, much as Google does with the TPU.
The difference is that Google built its own chip from scratch. As a way of reducing the cost and improving the efficiency of its vast online empire, the company builds much of its own data center hardware, including servers and networking gear. Now, it has pushed this work all the way down to individual processors.
In the process, it has also shifted the larger market for chips. Since Google designs its own, for instance, it’s not buying other processors to accommodate the extra load from neural networks. Google going in-house even for specialized tasks has wide implications; like Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, it’s among the biggest chip buyers on Earth. Meanwhile the big chip makers—including, most notably, Intel—are building a new breed of processor in an effort to move the market back in their direction.
Focused But Versatile
Jouppi joined Google in late 2013 to work on what became the TPU, after serving as a hardware researcher at places like HP and DEC, a kind of breeding ground for many of Google’s top hardware designers. He says the company considered moving its neural networks onto FPGAs, the kind of programmable chip that Microsoft uses. That route wouldn’t have taken as long, and the adaptability of FPGAs means the company could reprogram the chips for other tasks as needed. But tests indicated that these chips wouldn’t provide the necessary speed boost. “There’s a lot overhead with programmable chips,” he explains. “Our analysis showed that an FPGA wouldn’t be any faster than a GPU.”
In the end, the team settled on an ASIC, a chip built from the ground up for a particular task. According to Jouppi, because Google designed the chip specifically for neural nets, it can run them 15 to 30 times faster than general purpose chips built with similar manufacturing techniques. That said, the chip is suited to any breed of neural network—at least as they exist today—including everything from the convolutional neural networks used in image recognition to the long-short-term-memory network used to recognize voice commands. “It’s not wired to one model,” he says.
YouTube is the second most powerful search engine on the planet, and holds the top spot as the largest video network in existence.
The video site continues to grow more pervasive with the maturation of smartphone technology. Today, half of YouTube video views stem from mobile devices.
For this reason, and many others, YouTube is the master of reaching across generational boundaries to impact and engage members of GenX, GenY and GenZ. For example, YouTube currently reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any U.S cable network currently broadcasting.
Because of the popularity of the platform, influencers have spawned from the network and continually leave lasting impressions on their dedicated viewers. Studies suggest that recommendations from influencers are trusted 92% more than from celebrities or advertisements.
The trust factor brought forth by influencers is one of the most notable reasons as to why influencer marketing is so effective.
It’s not as simple as it looks
Leveraging influencers on YouTube is not as simple as it sounds. Because there are many performance and brand risks associated with YouTubers that need to be managed in order to deliver rockstar results.
YouTubers are legitimate masters of their craft and make their living by presenting themselves authentically. This means that brand interference regarding their voice or image is not normally welcomed.
Despite the challenges, brands and YouTubers can get along famously when the right partnership is forged.
The balancing act
By way of example, Google recently recruited famed YouTube influencer Lewis Hilsenteger from the channel Unbox Therapy to help make some noise about Android Pay.
The video depicted Lewis travelling throughout New York City, visiting destinations that accept the form of payment to prove that you could survive solely with Android Pay. This is a prime example of recruiting an influencer that expresses a brand’s message while maintaining their authenticity.
The video generated 1.7 million views while showing off the real-world capabilities of Android Pay.
No doubt successful collaborations like these and the significant revenue generation potential spurred Google to recently acquire influencer marketplace Famebit.
The 9 key steps to get millions of views on YouTube
Below you’ll find nine steps that fast-casual restaurant chain Qdoba Mexican Eats took when engaging the YouTube audience for the first time.
The results were phenomenal (and, in full disclosure, delivered under the direction of, as well as executed by digital marketing agency Evolve!, Inc.).
If you’re planning on diving into YouTube to help grow your business, use this campaign as a model – it delivered 3 million views, 84K social engagements, and 200M potential impressions, all while adhering to strict brand guidelines and beating aggressive price targets.
1. Set your goals and success criteria
As with any marketing campaign, align your influencer marketing campaign with your overall marketing and sales goals.
Define success using quality metrics, such as messaging and how the brand is portrayed, as well as quantifiable targets such as cost per video view, average length of video view, number of targeted views, and cost per conversion.
2. Set a budget
The cost per view charged for YouTube sponsorships varies WIDELY, depending on factors such as audience size, reach, demographics, engagement, their industry vertical and genre, the type of sponsorship and length of integration, the YouTuber’s desire to work with a particular brand, and whether the talent is represented by an agency.
Brands should also set aside budget for content generation (landing pages, blog posts, prizes and and/or promotions), analytics software for tracking, a promotional ad budget, and manpower.
3. Create a theme and campaign messaging that supports your goals
It can be something as simple as capturing people’s excitement as they try delicious Qdoba entrees for the first time (#QdobaUnbox), or reveling in the occasions when More is Better (#MoreIsBetter), including indulging in Qdoba’s generous array of delicious toppings (#MoreFlavorIsBetter).
Evolve even created a contest celebrating Qdoba’s key differentiating factor: Free Guacamole (#FreeGuac).
Develop brand, and campaign-specific messaging, but leave ample room for YouTubers to exercise their creative license.
Remember, integrations are NOT advertisements. Videos that come off as too commercial tend to get panned in the comments and generate lower-than-expected view counts.
4. Establish your selection criteria
What constitutes a brand match?
Start with genres, industries and channel demographics, including age, sex and geography.
Does the campaign theme fit their interests? Do they create content that would resonate with or offend your audience?
Identify any influencers that meet this criteria, fall within the audience size that you are looking to engage, and begin the outreach process.
5. Develop a pitch letter
Be clear about the campaign requirements, and set expectations: Are you looking for an integration or a dedicated video? What four or five key messages do YouTubers need to address in the video? And what is your timeline?
Basically, what are the promotional requirements and is there any additional information you need from them when they respond to your proposal.
But bear in mind that people who have built sizeable, engaged followings can afford to be choosy about which brands they want to work with. You may want to excite them with something that’s unique about your brand.
Qdoba offered vloggers a summer of free food, in addition to the paid sponsorship.
6. Recruit enthusiastic YouTubers
This is perhaps the most time-consuming step, and the most critical to the success of your campaign.
You know you’ve hit gold when you’ve identified YouTubers who meet your brand criteria, like your brand and offer creative story lines, and sometimes bonus promotions in their response.
There are 3 routes to recruit YouTubers:
Outreach directly to the people you want to work with via the email listed on their YouTube channel
Work with talent agencies you know and trust
Solicit proposals through influencer marketplaces like Famebit, Grapevine Logic or Reelio
7. Spell out everything in the contract
Flush out the creative before finalizing the contract, and include the type of integration, key messages, project timeline, the reviews process and video promotions.
YouTubers tend NOT to want the brand to weigh in on things like the Video Title or storyline outside the integration. On the same token, it is vital to be somewhat flexible when working with influencers on the creative direction of the content. These folks have built substantial followings that are enchanted by their unique voice. Setting too rigid of a structure that is outside the norm for influencers could result in a deal going south or a video not receiving the attention it deserves.
8. A/B test everything. Measure, tweak and repeat
Test various genres, campaign themes, messaging, calls to action, and amplification strategies. At this stage, we generally prefer to partner with YouTubers that have small but engaged audiences. This will allow you to get the most bang for your buck while simultaneously minimizing any potential losses for creatives that do not resonate with audiences.
Measure campaign performance, focusing on actual video views, social engagements and cost per conversions, if that’s relevant. Pivot as needed and update projected outcomes.
We use several tools simultaneously, including Simply Measured, to monitor multiple channels to gain the most clear and comprehensive picture possible.
Once the campaign has been optimized, turn up the volume. Contract larger YouTube channels, and consider using contests or launching several videos at once to support product launches.
These introduce an added layer of complexity because they need to adhere to strict timelines and you potentially need to manage multiple videos at once. On the flipside, they also generally produce much more significant results, so while efforts will become more intricate, they will also become much more fruitful.
Qdoba A/B tested several concepts before running a two week #FreeGuac campaign, which drove 2.4 million video views. Participating YouTube vloggers invited their viewers to enter into a scavenger hunt contest for the chance to win cash prizes, free food and cool SWAG.
Contests like these are ideal for scaling a campaign as almost any marketing element that engages an audience on a participatory level is going to garner more attention compared to content that is merely observed through comments and shares. The contest subsequently resulted in Qdoba collecting over 10K contest submissions.
As video continues to grow, YouTube is quickly transitioning into the premier influencer marketing channel. The power of video content is unmatched by its predecessors and influencer marketing, when managed properly, has the ability to permeate and engage an audience in unparalleled fashion.
The most challenging aspect of this discipline is that the rules of engagement are constantly in flux, meaning that for the best results, it is advisable to collaborate with specialty digital marketing agencies that work day-in and day-out crafting influencer strategies on YouTube that resonate, sell, and make a brand’s efforts worthwhile.