Today's word count is 1,309, or ~5 minutes.
Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Tuesday's news (via Bloomberg) that Facebook had contractors listen to users' private recorded messages to provide transcription quality control was hardly surprising.
The big picture: What's surprising is how little Facebook's playbook around privacy violations has changed, even after 18 months of controversy and a recent $5 billion settlement over the issue with the Federal Trade Commission.
After everything the company has been through, Facebook nonetheless:
Flashback: The first lesson in Crisis Management 101 is get everything out on the table at once, as fast as you can. Instead, since the Cambridge Analytica data scandal first rocked Facebook in March 2018, the company has hopped from one privacy revelation to the next, having to rewind the apology tape to the start each time:
The bottom line: As a result, despite CEO Mark Zuckerberg's protestations that Facebook has turned over a new leaf when it comes to protecting users' information, the impression the company has given the world is that Facebook will never change.
Our thought bubble: When a company in this sort of crisis is serious about putting controversy behind it, it can come clean, conduct a thorough top-to-bottom audit, report the results, and — maybe — move on. But it might be too late for Facebook to accomplish that.
Go deeper: What Facebook knows about you
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Monitoring social media feeds is a common practice for major brands and companies trying to keep up with consumer sentiment and tastes. City governments are now tapping into those data streams to keep tabs on residents' chatter and complaints about what's happening around town, Axios' Kim Hart reports.
Why it matters: Twitter and Facebook posts, when combined with other city tip-lines and data collection tools, can be a gold mine of information about what citizens really think.
The big picture: Social media creates a wide-ranging sensor network of sorts that helps cities direct resources to what residents actually care about. But it can also be surprising for users who don't expect city staff to be paying attention.
What's happening: ZenCity, a Tel Aviv-based, Microsoft-backed startup, sells an AI-powered sentiment analysis tool designed to track citizen opinions so cities can gauge how they are performing. ZenCity works with 75 communities and collects more than 1.5 million social media interactions each month.
How it works: ZenCity provides a dashboard that aggregates data points including social media posts, local news stories, messages received by cities' 311 portals, and online feedback forms. ZenCity collects more than 1.5 million interactions each month, CEO Eyal Feder-Levy said. AI is used to identify and sort trends, anomalies and public sentiment.
For example, Houston works with ZenCity to gauge how residents are responding to changes in city services, such as a recent garbage pick-up schedule change, and a project equipping free WiFi on public buses and trains.
The big picture: Cities naturally want to take advantage of the troves of information citizens are sharing on social media, but some people may not be expecting to be "listened to" when blowing off steam about a traffic jam or venting about a snow plow.
Twitter revealed yesterday in a gathering with journalists that’s it’s planning to roll out a feature that lets users follow specific topics on the service.
What's happening: The social network is testing a bevy of new features like conversation moderation, search for private messages, and more, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.
Yes, but: The company also used the event to discuss some of its work and processes in areas like user safety, the “health” of the service, and security — areas in which Twitter has been heavily criticized for failing to take swift or clear action to solve problems.
The impending 10% tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports targeted by President Trump will be delayed from Sept. 1 to Dec. 15 for some products, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced yesterday.
Details: Certain products will also be taken off the list based on "health, safety, national security and other factors," Axios' Zachary Basu reports.
Why it matters: The delay — for items like cellphones, laptops, video game consoles, certain toys, computer monitors, and certain items of footwear and clothing — will help accommodate the holiday rush to ship products from China, easing the financial burden on U.S. importers.
Between the lines: The threat of a crashing stock market and higher Christmas shopping prices appears to have spooked the Trump administration, despite the president's false insistence that China pays the cost of tariffs directly into the U.S. Treasury.