Welcome one, welcome all to a very warm Wednesday. Not only have we reached the week’s halfway point, but we’re one day away from the official start of summer here in Boston.
This Wednesday also brings another edition of “Unriddled”: the HubSpot Marketing Blog’s mid-week digest of the tech news you need to know. We’ve sifted through the vast pool of tech news items to help you decrypt what’s happening.
It’s our Wednesday tech news roundup, and we’re breaking it down.
Unriddled: The Tech News You Need
1. A Big Departure and New Ads From Facebook
Last week, Facebook’s now former head of public policy and communications, Elliot Schrage, announced that he would be leaving the social media giant.
“Leading policy and communications for hyper growth technology companies is a joy,” Schrage wrote in his official statement, “but it’s also intense and leaves little room for much else.”
In his announcement, Schrage also said that he would stay on just long enough to find and assist with the on-boarding of a replacement. It comes after months of criticism toward Facebook — from lawmakers, consumers, and others — not only for the Cambridge Analytica crisis, but also, for how the company responded to it.
Schrage’s looming departure is followed by a recent announcement that Facebook will display ads in more places, the latest being Messenger. While ad space has been sold within Messenger for about a year and a half, users will now see autoplay video ads.
The changes provide another means of ad revenue for Facebook, but how well-received they are by all users remains to be seen. Read more about the new autoplay video ads from Recode‘s Kurt Wagner. Read full story >>
2. Aleksandr Kogan Appears Before Senate Sub-Committee
Aleksandr Kogan — the Cambridge University professor who developed the app blamed for improperly obtaining Facebook user data that would later be exploited by voter profiling firm Cambridge Analytica — appeared yesterday before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security.
Very little new information emerged from the hearing, where Kogan was joined by witnesses John Battelle (CEO of NewCo) and Ashkan Soltani (former CTO of the FTC).
In his written testimony, Kogan discounted the effectiveness of any data obtained by his app in “a political campaign,” but did comment on what he sees as flaws in Facebook’s approach to terms and user consent, as well as what can be done to prevent similar events or crises. Alfred Ng of CNET writes more on today’s events and Kogan’s commentary. Read full story >>
3. Apple Closes the Data Transfer “Backdoor”
Apple is making it harder for law enforcement to hack iPhones, announcing a future software update that would disable the phone’s charging and data port — the port used by authorities to transfer the phone’s data to another device — if it’s been inactive for an hour since it was last locked.
The announcement comes after a 2016 high-profile disagreement between Apple and the FBI, when the former refused to provide what it called “backdoor” methods of accessing a locked iPhone. which it cited as potential violations of “basics of digital security.”
At the time, the FBI eventually enlisted a third-party that discovered a loophole — which is what Apple is seeking to close with this latest update. Jack Nicas of the New York Times has the full report. Read full story >>
4. Apple + Public Safety
Meanwhile, Apple has announced more consumer-friendly, public-safety-oriented features within the yet-to-be-released iOS 12. When an iPhone user makes a call to 911, the public emergency telephone number in North America, the device will automatically and securely share its location with first responders.
The feature addresses the growing number of emergency calls made from mobile devices — about 80%, Apple says — that previously could not be traced to a precise location. And while the FCC requires wireless carriers to locate 911 callers “within 50 meters at least 80% of the time by 2021,” Apple says that’s not soon enough — and wants to provide a more immediate solution. Read full announcement >>
5. The App Store and Antitrust
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from Apple to a lower court’s ruling that would allow a class-action lawsuit by iPhone customers.
The plaintiffs seeking the suit claim that Apple has an unfair monopoly on mobile apps, which leads to prices that are more “inflated” than they would be if apps were available for purchase from other outlets. And while developers determine a price point for a given app, Apple charges them 30% commission for every purchase. Andrew Chung of Reuters explains more. Read full story >>
6. Login With Snapchat
Snapchat announced last week that it would launch a brand-new “Snap Kit” for developers, which contains — among other items — a “Login Kit” that allows users to log into certain sites with their Snapchat accounts.
The Snap Kit launch comes at a time when social networks, like Facebook, are dealing with particularly high scrutiny for the way these login APIs can be misused, such as the improper sharing of personal user data, even if unintentional. But Snapchat’s Login Kit shares far less information — only the user’s display name and Bitmoji avatar — with third parties than Facebook Login does. Read full announcement >>
That’s all for today. Until next week, feel free to weigh in on Twitter to ask us your tech news questions, or to let us know what kind of events and topics you’d like us to cover.