News You Can Use: Facebook and Google data breaches, Apple plans original programming

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Hello, and welcome to your favorite recurring segment on the CallRail blog: News You Can Use. We review the latest marketing and technology news, and break down what it all could mean for your business.

In our crazy and constantly changing world, it’s already hard enough to stay on top of the news, so we’re here to lighten your load a little. Because (as is our mantra) staying on top of the latest news isn’t just good civics — it’s good for business.

1) Facebook breach exposes personal data for millions of accounts (NY Times)

Facebook has revealed that the personal data of up to 50 million accounts was accidentally exposed due to a security flaw in the platform.

Coming just months after the furor over the company’s handling of the Cambridge Analytica data-leaking scandal, this latest breach is reportedly the largest in the company’s history. But unlike previous Facebook data breaches, this vulnerability actually allowed hackers to compromise and take control of the affected accounts, rather than just harvest personal data from them.

Facebook has come under intense criticism over the past 2 years for its handling of previous data-leaking scandals, as well as how foreign governments and extremist groups have exploited the platform in order to spread propaganda and misinformation.

US and European lawmakers have begun calling for additional inquiries into the incident — marketers and businesses should expect to see a renewed push for regulation of the tech industry. It remains to be seen how much more bad news can be weathered by tech’s major players before we start to see a concerted push for serious regulation of online platforms, including digital marketing services.

2) Amid bear market rumblings, investors eye Netflix as tech stock bellwether (Reuters)

As one of the illustrious and high-performing FANG (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google) tech stocks, Netflix has always been something of a weathervane for the market performance of the wider tech industry. Traditionally, FANG and other technology stocks have been a safe bet for investors due to high growth and rate of return.

But after the last few bouts of market volatility, investors are starting to shy away from FANG’s major players in favor of a more diversified approach to tech investment. At root is the declining performance of bond yields on Netflix’s debt — investors are becoming concerned that the company will not be able to sustain its current level of growth, and that the huge debts amassed by the company will eventually become worthless.

Investors expect that Netflix’s bond values will begin to flatten out in the coming months, presaging a wider correction among tech stocks. However, it’s important to note that this correction is only expected for tech’s big players, like FANG, due to overheated bond values — analysts expect that the tech industry will generally continue to show sustained growth in the months to come.

3) Apple to release original content and programming for device owners (CNBC)

In a surprise announcement, Apple revealed that they will be unveiling a new digital video service in early 2019 that will combine original programming, á la Netflix, along with subscription services from legacy TV and media companies, such as HBO.

The original content will be free to owners of Apple devices, while individual subscriptions will allow users to pay for programming from channels like Starz and Showtime. Apple is spending a reported $1 billion on original content in 2018, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that 24 shows are in development.

The success or failure of this venture will depend largely on the quality of programming Apple is able to publish, just as it was with the Stranger-Things-driven success of Netflix. With streaming services becoming an increasingly lucrative channel for ad revenue — especially when compared to traditional TV — marketers will want to keep a close eye on Apple’s latest venture.

4) Google Plus to shut down after failing to disclose massive data leak (Wall Street Journal)

Hot on the heels of the latest Facebook breach, Google has revealed that it will be shutting down Google Plus after the service suffered a massive data leak for hundreds of thousands of users.

A bug in the service’s API allowed app developers to access data not just for users who had granted it permission, but also for all of their friends. (If this sounds familiar, it’s the exact same kind of vulnerability that Cambridge Analytica exploited during the previous Facebook data-leaking scandal.)

Google has come under intense criticism for its handling of the leak: The breach took place in early 2018, but the company waited months before finally informing users, reportedly in order to avoid a public relations nightmare similar to Facebook’s troubles.

As with the previous scandals, investors and marketers should brace for further calls for additional oversight and regulation of the tech industry, including digital ad tech platforms.

5) Amazon scraps secret AI recruiting tool due to gender bias (Reuters)

After secretly deploying AI-powered software that can scan incoming resumes to highlight qualified applicants, Amazon has discontinued its use of the program due to patterns of gender bias that appeared in its results.

With automation driving so much Amazon’s success — and with similar resume-screening software in use across many top companies worldwide — this technology was touted inside Amazon as a potential ‘holy grail’ for personnel management.

The program functioned by screening a decade’s worth of resumes that had previously been sent to Amazon, and then weighing future applicants against the data gathered on the best-performing candidates. But since a disproportionate number of resumes came from men, the algorithm learned to favor male candidates over females, and penalize work experience categorized as ‘feminine.’

“In effect, Amazon’s system taught itself that male candidates were preferable,” Reuters reported. Men vastly outnumber women in the technology industry, and most top tech companies are putting serious effort into hiring more women and building more diverse workforces.

Here at CallRail, we’re bullish about the prospects of our AI-driven future, and we don’t exactly try to hide it. Still and all, we like to think that Amazon’s example will serve as a cautionary tale that more tech companies should follow as we enter a world increasingly dominated by AI, machine learning, and algorithms. It’s not just enough to build great technology — you have to put in the effort to ensure that your technology is actually making people’s lives better.

Do you have concerns about how this technology news could affect the wider business landscape? Head to the CallRail Community to connect with other marketing professionals and share your thoughts.

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