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FB knew about Snapchat’s slowing growth before the public #sneaky

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Have you ever wondered how Facebook seems to have the inside knowledge on just about everything? Let us introduce you to Onavo, Facebook’s not-so-secret weapon.

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Us too!

If Facebook had a theme song, I think it would be “Anything You Can Do” from 1946 Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun, because if there’s an app out there that’s starting to circulate hype, Facebook “can do better.”

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Snap Inc., the flagship company of Snapchat recently announced a lag in the amount of new users it’s been able to bring on board as of late. The thing is, Facebook comes out like, “Yeah, we know. You guys saw Instagram Stories, right?”

Wait, what?

So how is Facebook able to keep up and at such close proximity to their competition? Onavo, that’s how.

Onavo Protect is an Israeli mobile-analytics company that was acquired by Facebook in 2013 which offers a VPN service to consumers as a way to “keep you and your data safe” by encrypting information over a secure network.

The disclosure is laid out by Onavo in their Terms of Service, but the likelihood of consumers carefully reading through the wall-o-text is slim.

If you were to look over Onavo’s TOS under “IP Ownership” you will find this little disclaimer toward the bottom:

Installing or using the Services on your mobile device transmits to Onavo certain information about your device and how you use it in connection with the services. For example, we may receive information such as the type of device you use, its operating system, your mobile carrier, your device identifier, applications you have installed, your usage of applications and their data consumption and the activities you have undertaken in relation to the Services.

Goin’ through your phone

So through the use of this application, Onavo anonymously sends aggregated user data to Facebook with details of what people do on their phones beyond the Facebook app itself such as what apps they’re using, how often and how long along with personal identifying information such as gender and what side of the world you’re on and how many pictures you take a day.

This kind of aggressive data consumption allows Facebook to monitor upcoming trends in their users in order to “shape their own product acquisition as strategy” as per those familiar with the issue.

All is fair and love and war, but startups may not feel the same way. It’s hard to compete with the ultimate one-upper, some say this forces the best entrepreneurs to be more creative.

Choke out

Early investor in Google and Facebook and founder of the investment firm Elevation Partners, Roger McNamee felt the dominance of companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple were “choking off the startup world.” Many feel that copying is fair game and part of how business is done historically, but it’s clear to see with an advantage of real-time data gathering like Onavo by a giant like Facebook competition can easily be matched and then snuffed out.

For Onavo use on iPhones, it’s been reported that Facebook could be violating Apple’s developer agreement that allows apps to use data “only to provide a service or function that is directly relevant to the use of the Application, or to serve advertising” whereas Facebook is gathering this information to better Facebook.

Competitive intelligence

Should there be a limit to the amount of what independent researcher and former chief technologist for the FTC Ashkan Soltani calls “competitive intelligence?”

Do consumers want to see Facebook’s version of every new innovation that comes around strictly for convenience of use or is Facebook really creating better options? At what point does the copy-cat game become offputting?

#Onavo

Ashe Segovia is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Southwestern University. A huge film nerd with a passion for acting and 80’s movies and synthpop; the pop-cultural references are never-ending.

Social Media

Facebook wants your nudes now to protect you from revenge porn later

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook, attempting to get in front of revenge porn, is requesting that users send in all of their nudes.

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In a heroic and totally innovative attempt to combat revenge porn, Facebook has come up with the following solution: “PM US UR NUDEZ.”

No seriously. They want your nudes.

But don’t worry, they’re only going to be viewed by a small group of people for manual confirmation of said nudes, and then stored temporarily… for reasons.

That part gets a little fuzzy. Some sources report that Facebook isn’t actually storing the images, just the links. This is meant to convert the image to a digital footprint, known as a hash, which is supposed to prevent the content from being upload to Facebook again.

Others say Facebook only stores the images for a short period of time and then deletes them.

What we do know, is this is a new program being tested in Australia where Facebook has partnered with a small government agency known as e-Safety and is requesting intimate or nude photos that could potentially be used for revenge porn in an effort to pre-emptively prevent such an incident.

Revenge porn is basically when someone uploads your personal and private photos online without your consent. Rather than address the issue of whether or not it’s such a good idea to take photos on a mobile, hackable device, it’s better to just send a large corporation all your nudes… through their Messenger app. /sarcasm

For your protection.

According to the commissioner of the e-Safety office, Julie Inman Grant, however, they’re using artificial intelligence and photo-matching technologies… and storing the links!

If this isn’t convincing enough, British law firm Mishcon de Reya LLP wrote in a statement to Newsweek, “We would expect that Facebook has absolutely watertight systems to guard the privacy of victims. It is quite counter-intuitive to send such intimate images to an unknown recipient.”

Oh, she wasn’t joking.

I’m not sure how many people still hold onto old intimate photos of themselves, but I am doubtful that it’s enough for this to really be effective as it only prevents intimate photos from being shared on Facebook. At least that’s the plan.

Reactions to this announcement have largely been met with amusement and criticism ranging from commentary on Mark Zuckerberg and Co. being total pervs, and theories of shared Facebook memories: “”Happy Memories: It’s been 1 Year since you uploaded 47 pictures of you in your birthday suit”!

Either way, I can only imagine someone’s inbox is flooded with crotch shots right now, and Zuckerberg has a potential new industry in the works.

Just sayin’.

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Social Media

Twitter might make a profit for the first time… ever

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter seems to be very popular but it may surprise you to know that this is the very first time they might make a profit.

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Twitter reports that after a year of slashing expenses and putting itself in a position to sell data to other companies, it’s expected to be profitable. What’s surprising (considering how #huge Twitter is) is that this the first time that it will be profitable based on “generally accepted accounting principles” – #GAAP!.

In the 11 years since Twitter took to the field, it has never once met this standard, operating at a loss of nearly 2.5 billion dollars since its inception.

Twitter has struggled of a number of reasons, but particularly after going public in 2013 it suffered declining user growth, the rise of the #twittertrolls (coincidentally, Troll’s are discussed in my favorite TIME piece about the internet – located here), and competition from Facebook for the tough realm of advertising.

Since 2013, shares fell steadily, but things have increased thanks to some optimistic changes – the promise to crack down on harassment and abuse, a feed arranged by algorithm instead of time, and Twitter’s most vocal fan of late, President Donald Trump.

For the numbers fans, Reuters provides some input: Twitter’s loss narrowed to about 21 million down from 103 million this year. They have worked to cut a great deal of expenses -16 percent across the board broadly impacting sales, marketing, and R&D.

This kind of focused core improvement (can) help tip the balance sheet on the expenses side – but generating revenues remains a challenge due to slow growth. Twitter hopes to relieve this by working out some deals to sell data – the currency of the 21st century.

Several months ago, TechCrunch made perhaps the most important observation – that despite the fact Twitter has changed the world, changed our marketing, and empowered us to connect with other people, it has remained unprofitable. Many small and large businesses profit from Twitter, but in these 11 years the company hasn’t #sharedinthewealth.

Twitter is touching every realm of business and for American’s, is touching every aspect of their lives given its new form as the preferred medium of the political sphere. Given that, they have much to do to change.

Facebook commands an audience five times the size of Twitter – and their ability to reach success for the future seems #questionable. And how Twitter’s success changes the scape of influence, outreach, and entrepreneurship is something else to be seen.

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Social Media

Is Facebook a potential Slack killer?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook’s steady ascent from social networking into the business world is giving Slack a run for their money.

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When it comes to the business realm, Facebook has steadily been increasing their reputation. Though Facebook is pinned as the social network, they are now proving to everyone that they can dominate in the professional sector as well.

Last year, Facebook launched an ad-free version of the site meant for the office called Workplace. Initially, 1,000 companies were signed on to try out this “Facebook for the office” in its starter phase.

As of last week, Facebook announced that 30,000 organizations currently use Workplace. These aren’t just small time companies. Some of Workplace’s users include Starbucks, Lyft, Spotify, Heineken, Delta and most recently Walmart.

It seems that overnight it grew from another side project to a valid rival for other professional communication tools like Slack.

Slack is the go-to site for business professionals. With over 6 million users and acquiring more every day, Slack is the place for teams to collaborate in real-time. It has virtually replaced email and external software when it comes to internal communication.

Slack has been successful at acquiring small corporations to use their service.

The problem is that Slack has yet to join forces with larger clients that have now turned to other applications. Just last year, Uber left Slack because they could not handle their large-scale communication needs.

In addition to being able to handle the needs of large companies, Facebook also offers cheaper services than Slack. A premium account with Workplace costs $3 per user each month while Slack charges double at $6.67 per user each month.

With the rapid growth and major reputation of Facebook behind it, many predict that Workplace will replace Slack, and other sites like it, in the not so distant future.

Recently, Facebook also launched the Workplace desktop app and plan to include group video chat. The biggest obstacle Workplace faces is the association with Facebook. It is ironic, since it is also their greatest strength.

The truth remains that many people think of Facebook solely as a social media network. Many companies forbid the use of it at work so the transition from the personal to the professional realm is still an uphill battle.

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