Are Facebook quoting different prices for the same ad based on your profile? Guest contributor Desi Velikova thinks so. In a cross-post from her own blog, she writes how the same ad campaign would have cost her employer 8 times more depending on which user account it was purchased from.
The Protection From Harrassment Act 1997 is occasionally used to prevent journalists on reporting on particular individuals. Specifically, any conduct which amounts to harassment of someone can be considered to a criminal act, for which the victim can seek an injunction (followed by arrest if broken) or damages.
Before the internet made it easier for advertisers to become publishers, they were already growing tired of the limitations (and inflated price) of traditional display advertising. In the magazine industry one of the big growth areas of the past 20 years was client publishing: helping – to varying degrees – companies create magazines which were then given or sold to customers, staff, members, or anyone interested in their field.
With some traditional advertising revenue streams dropping like a stone, newspapers belatedly started to see similar potential in their own markets. Trinity Mirror’s Media Wales are among a few newspaper publishers to sell video production services and the organisation has followed US newspapers in selling SEO services; while the FT followed Conde Nast when it recently bought an app production company.
While the execution varies, the idea behind it is consistent: this is no longer about selling content, or audiences, but expertise – and quite often expertise in distribution as much as in content production. Continue reading
Wonderful post by Tony Hirst in which he sort-of-coins* a lovely neologism in explaining how data can be “laundered”:
“The Deloitte report was used as evidence by Facebook to demonstrate a particular economic benefit made possible by Facebook’s activities. The consultancy firm’s caveats were ignored, (including the fact that the data may in part at least have come from Facebook itself), in reporting this claim.
“So: this is data laundering, right? We have some dodgy evidence, about which we’re biased, so we give it to an “independent” consultant who re-reports it, albeit with caveats, that we can then report, minus the caveats. Lovely, clean evidence. Our lobbyists can then go to a lazy policy researcher and take this scrubbed evidence, referencing it as finding in the Deloitte report, so that it can make its way into a policy briefing.”
So, perhaps we can now say “Follow the data” in the same way that we “Follow the money”?
*Although a search for “money laundering” generates thousands of results on Google, most of them seemingly influenced by serial neologist William Gibson‘s use of the term to refer to using illegally acquired data, I can’t find an example of it being used in the way that Tony means it.
The following post was originally published by Gary Herman on the NUJ New Media blog. It’s reproduced here with permission.
Here at Newmedia Towers we are being swamped by events which at long last are demonstrating that the internet is really rather relevant to the whole debate about media ethics and privacy. So this is by way of a short and somewhat belated survey of the news tsunami – Google, Leveson, Twitter, ACTA, the EU and more.
When Camilla Wright, founder of celebrity gossip site Popbitch (which some years ago broke the news of Victoria Beckham’s pregnancy possibly before she even knew about it), testified before Leveson last week (26 January 2012) [Guardian liveblog; Wright’s official written statement (PDF)] the world found out (if it could be bothered) how Popbitch is used by newspaper hacks to plant stories so that they can then be said to have appeared on the internet. Anyone remember the Drudge report, over a decade ago?
Wright, of course, made a somewhat lame excuse that Popbitch is a counterweight to gossip magazines which are full of stories placed by the PR industry.
But most interesting is the fact that Wright claimed that Popbitch is self-regulated and that it works.
Leveson pronounced that he is not sure there is ‘so much of a difference’ between what Popbitch does and what newspapers do – which is somehow off the point. Popbitch – like other websites – has a global reach by definition and Wright told the Inquiry that Popbitch tries to comply with local laws wherever it was available – claims also made more publicly by Google and Yahoo! when they have in the past given in to Chinese pressure to release data that actually or potentially incriminated users and, more recently, by Twitter when it announced its intention to regulate tweets on a country-by-country basis.
Trivia – like the stuff Popbitch trades – aside, the problem is real. A global medium will cross many jurisdictions and be accessible within many different cultures. What one country welcomes, another may ban. And who should judge the merits of each?
Confusing the internet with its applications
The Arab Spring showed us that social media – like mobile phones, CB radios, fly-posted silkscreen prints, cheap offset litho leaflets and political ballads before them – have the power to mobilise and focus dissent. Twitter’s announcement should have been expected – after all, tweeting was never intended to be part of the revolutionaries’ tool-kit.
There are already alternatives to Twitter – Vibe, Futubra, Plurk, Easy Chirp and Blackberry Messenger, of course – and the technology itself will not be restrained by the need to expand into new markets. People confuse the internet with its applications – a mistake often made by those authorities who seek to impose a duty to police content on those who convey it.
Missing the point again, Leveson asked whether it would be useful to have an external ombudsman to advise Popbitch on stories and observed that a common set of standards across newspapers and websites might also help.
While not dismissing the idea, Wright made the point that the internet made it easy for publications to bypass UK regulators.
This takes us right into the territory of Google, Facebook and the various attempts by US and international authorities to introduce regulation and impose duties on websites themselves to police them.
ACTA, SOPA and PIPA
The latest example is the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) – a shadowy international treaty which, according to Google’s legal director, Daphne Keller, speaking over a year ago, has ‘metastasized’ from a proposal on border security and counterfeit goods to an international legal framework covering copyright and the internet.
According to a draft of ACTA, released for public scrutiny after pressure from the European Union, internet providers who disable access to pirated material and adopt a policy to counter unauthorized ‘transmission of materials protected by copyright’ will be protected against legal action.
Fair use rights would not be guaranteed under the terms of the agreement.
Many civil liberty groups have protested the process by which ACTA has been drafted as anti-democratic and ACTA’s provisions as draconian.
Google’s Keller described ACTA as looking ‘a lot like cultural imperialism’.
Google later became active in the successful fight against the US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the related Protect Intellectual Proerty Act (PIPA), which contained similar provisions to ACTA.
Google has been remarkably quite on the Megaupload case, however. This saw the US take extraterritorial action against a Hong Kong-based company operating a number of websites accused of copyright infringement.
The arrest of all Megaupload’s executives and the closure of its sites may have the effect of erasing perfectly legitimate and legal data held on the company’s servers – something which would on the face of it be an infringement of the rights of Megaupload users who own the data.
Meanwhile, Google – in its growing battle with Facebook – has announced its intention to introduce a single privacy regime for 60 or so of its websites and services which will allow the company to aggregate all the data on individual users the better to serve ads.
Facebook already does something similar, although the scope of its services is much, much narrower than Google’s.
Privacy is at the heart of the current action against Google by Max Mosley, who wants the company to take down all links to external websites from its search results if those sites cover the events at the heart of his successful libel suit against News International.
Mosley is suing Google in the UK, France and Germany, and Daphne Keller popped up at the Leveson Inquiry, together with David-John Collins, head of corporate communications and public affairs for Google UK, to answer questions about the company’s policies on regulation and privacy.
Once again, the argument regarding different jurisdictions and the difficulty of implementing a global policy was raised by Keller and Collins.
Asked about an on-the-record comment by former Google chief executive, Eric Schmidt, that ‘only miscreants worry about net privacy’, Collins responded that the comment was not representative of Google’s policy on privacy, which it takes ‘extremely seriously’.
There is, of course, an interesting disjuncture between Google’s theoretical view of privacy and its treatment of its users. When it comes to examples like Max Mosley, Google pointed out – quite properly – that it can’t police the internet, that it does operate across jurisdictions and that it does ensure that there are comprehensive if somewhat esoteric mechanisms for removing private data and links from the Google listings and caches.
Yet it argues that, if individuals choose to use Google, whatever data they volunteer to the company is fair game for Google – even where that data involves third persons who may not have assented to their details being known or when, as happened during the process of building Google’s StreetView application, the company collected private data from domestic wi-fi routers without the consent or knowledge of the householders.
Keller and Collins brought their double-act to the UK parliament a few days later when they appeared before the joint committee on privacy and injunctions, chaired by John Whittingdale MP.
When asked why Google did not simply ‘find and destroy’ all instances of the images and video that Max Mosley objected to, they repeated their common mantras – Google is not the internet, and neither can nor should control the websites its search results list.
Accused by committee member Lord MacWhinney of ‘ducking and diving’ and of former culture minister, Ben Bradshaw of being ‘totally unconvincing’, Keller noted that Google could in theory police the sites it indexed, but that ‘doing so is a bad idea’.
No apparatus disinterested and qualified enough
That seems indisputable – regulating the internet should not be the job of providers like Google, Facebook or Twitter. On the contrary, the providers are the ones to be regulated, and this should be the job of legislatures equipped (unlike the Whittingdale committee) with the appropriate level of understanding and coordinated at a global level.
The internet requires global oversight – but we have no apparatus that is disinterested and qualified enough to do the job.
A new front has been opened in this battle by the latest draft rules on data protection issued by Viviane Reding’s Justice Directorate at the European Commission on 25 January.
Reding is no friend of Google or the big social networks and is keen to draw them into a framework of legislation that will – should the rules pass into national legislation – be coordinated at EU level.
Reding’s big ideas include a ‘right to be forgotten’ which will apply to online data only and an extension of the scope of personal data to cover a user’s IP address. Confidentiality should be built-in to online systems according to the new rules – an idea called ‘privacy by design’.
These ideas are already drawing flak from corporates like Google who point out that the ‘right to be forgotten’ is something that the company already upholds as far as the data it holds is concerned.
Reding’s draft rules includes an obligation by so-called ‘data controllers’ such as Google to notify third parties when someone wishes their data to be removed, so that links and copies can also be removed.
Not surprisingly, Google objects to this requirement which, if not exactly a demand to police the internet, is at least a demand to ‘help the police with their enquiries’.
The problem will not go away: how do you make sure that a global medium protects privacy, removes defamation and respects copyright while preserving its potential to empower the oppressed and support freedom of speech everywhere?
Answers on a postcard, please.
In this guest post, Damian Radcliffe highlights some recent developments in the intersection between hyper-local SoLoMo (social, location, mobile). His more detailed slides looking at 20 developments across the sector during the last two months of 2011 are cross-posted at the bottom of this article.
Facebook’s recent purchase of location-based service Gowalla (Slide 19 below,) suggests that the social network still thinks there is a future for this type of “check in” service. Touted as “the next big thing” ever since Foursquare launched at SXSW in 2009, to date Location Based Services (LBS) haven’t quite lived up to the hype.
Certainly there’s plenty of data to suggest that the public don’t quite share the enthusiasm of many Silicon Valley investors. Yet.
Part of their challenge is that not only is awareness of services relatively low – just 30% of respondents in a survey of 37,000 people by Forrester (Slide 27) – but their benefits are also not necessarily clearly understood.
In 2011, a study by youth marketing agency Dubit found about half of UK teenagers are not aware of location-based social networking services such as Foursquare and Facebook Places, with 58% of those who had heard of them saying they “do not see the point” of sharing geographic information.
Safety concerns may not be the primary concern of Dubit’s respondents, but as the “Please Rob Me” website says: “….on one end we’re leaving lights on when we’re going on a holiday, and on the other we’re telling everybody on the internet we’re not home… The danger is publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you’re definitely not… home.”
Reinforcing this concern are several stories from both the UK and the US of insurers refusing to pay out after a domestic burglary, where victims have announced via social networks that they were away on holiday – or having a beer downtown.
For LBS to go truly mass market – and Forrester (see Slide 27) found that only 5% of mobile users were monthly LBS users – smartphone growth will be a key part of the puzzle. Recent Ofcom data reported that:
- Ownership nearly doubled in the UK between February 2010 and August 2011 (from 24% to 46%).
- 46% of UK internet users also used their phones to go online in October 2011.
For now at least, most of our location based activity would seem to be based on previous online behaviours. So, search continues to dominate.
Google in a recent blog post described local search ads as “so hot right now” (Slide 22, Sept-Oct 2011 update). The search giant launched hyper-local search ads a year ago, along with a “News Near You” feature in May 2011. (See: April-May 2011 update, Slide 27.)
Meanwhile, BIA/Kelsey forecast that local search advertising revenues in the US will increase from $5.1 billion in 2010 to $8.2 billion in 2015. Their figures suggest by 2015, 30% of search will be local.
The other notable growth area, location based mobile advertising, also offers a different slant on the typical “check in” service which Gowalla et al tend to specialise in. Borrell forerecasts this space will increase 66% in the US during 2012 (Slide 22).
The most high profile example of this service in the UK is O2 More, which triggers advertising or deals when a user passes through certain locations – offering a clear financial incentive for sharing your location.
Jiepang, China’s leading Location-Based Social Mobile App, offered a recent example of how to do this. Late last year they partnered with Starbucks, offering users a virtual Starbucks badge if they “checked-in” at a Starbucks store in the Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. When the number of badges issued hit 20,000, all badge holders got a free festive upgrade to a larger cup size. When coupled with the ease of NFC technology deployed to allow users to “check in” then it’s easy to understand the consumer benefit of such a service.
Mine’s a venti gingerbread latte. No cream. Xièxiè.
What do my Facebook friends have in common in terms of the things they have Liked, or in terms of their music or movie preferences? (And does this say anything about me?!) Here’s a recipe for visualising that data…
After discovering via Martin Hawksey that the recent (December, 2011) 2.5 release of Google Refine allows you to import JSON and XML feeds to bootstrap a new project, I wondered whether it would be able to pull in data from the Facebook API if I was logged in to Facebook (Google Refine does run in the browser after all…)
Looking through the Facebook API documentation whilst logged in to Facebook, it’s easy enough to find exemplar links to things like your friends list (https://graph.facebook.com/me/friends?access_token=A_LONG_JUMBLE_OF_LETTERS) or the list of likes someone has made (https://graph.facebook.com/me/likes?access_token=A_LONG_JUMBLE_OF_LETTERS); replacing me with the Facebook ID of one of your friends should pull down a list of their friends, or likes, etc.
(Note that validity of the access token is time limited, so you can’t grab a copy of the access token and hope to use the same one day after day.)
Grabbing the link to your friends on Facebook is simply a case of opening a new project, choosing to get the data from a Web Address, and then pasting in the friends list URL:
Click on next, and Google Refine will download the data, which you can then parse as a JSON file, and from which you can identify individual record types:
If you click the highlighted selection, you should see the data that will be used to create your project:
You can now click on Create Project to start working on the data – the first thing I do is tidy up the column names:
We can now work some magic – such as pulling in the Likes our friends have made. To do this, we need to create the URL for each friend’s Likes using their Facebook ID, and then pull the data down. We can use Google Refine to harvest this data for us by creating a new column containing the data pulled in from a URL built around the value of each cell in another column:
The Likes URL has the form https://graph.facebook.com/me/likes?access_token=A_LONG_JUMBLE_OF_LETTERS which we’ll tinker with as follows:
The throttle control tells Refine how often to make each call. I set this to 500ms (that is, half a second), so it takes a few minutes to pull in my couple of hundred or so friends (I don’t use Facebook a lot;-). I’m not sure what limit the Facebook API is happy with (if you hit it too fast (i.e. set the throttle time too low), you may find the Facebook API stops returning data to you for a cooling down period…)?
Having imported the data, you should find a new column:
At this point, it is possible to generate a new column from each of the records/Likes in the imported data… in theory (or maybe not..). I found this caused Refine to hang though, so instead I exprted the data using the default Templating… export format, which produces some sort of JSON output…
I then used this Python script to generate a two column data file where each row contained a (new) unique identifier for each friend and the name of one of their likes:
import simplejson,csv writer=csv.writer(open('fbliketest.csv','wb+'),quoting=csv.QUOTE_ALL) fn='my-fb-friends-likes.txt' data = simplejson.load(open(fn,'r')) id=0 for d in data['rows']: id=id+1 #'interests' is the column name containing the Likes data interests=simplejson.loads(d['interests']) for i in interests['data']: print str(id),i['name'],i['category'] writer.writerow([str(id),i['name'].encode('ascii','ignore')])
[I think this R script, in answer to a related @mhawksey Stack Overflow question, also does the trick: R: Building a list from matching values in a data.frame]
I could then import this data into Gephi and use it to generate a network diagram of what they commonly liked:
Rather than returning Likes, I could equally have pulled back lists of the movies, music or books they like, their own friends lists (permissions settings allowing), etc etc, and then generated friends’ interest maps on that basis.
PS dropping out of Google Refine and into a Python script is a bit clunky, I have to admit. What would be nice would be to be able to do something like a “create new rows with new column from column” pattern that would let you set up an iterator through the contents of each of the cells in the column you want to generate the new column from, and for each pass of the iterator: 1) duplicate the original data row to create a new row; 2) add a new column; 3) populate the cell with the contents of the current iteration state. Or something like that…
PPS Related to the PS request, there is a sort of related feature in the 2.5 release of Google Refine that lets you merge data from across rows with a common key into a newly shaped data set: Key/value Columnize. Seeing this, it got me wondering what a fusion of Google Refine and RStudio might be like (or even just R support within Google Refine?)
PPPS this could be interesting – looks like you can test to see if a friendship exists given two Facebook user IDs.