Lawmakers Call On FTC To Regulate Apple And Google; Biz Journalism Bounces Back

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Supremely Disturbing

Apple and Google (although primarily Apple) have been roiling developers with anti-tracking policies and initiatives, like the AppTrackingTransparency framework on iOS and the Android Privacy Sandbox.

But that hasn’t kept them out of the regulatory spotlight. Au contraire.

Lawmakers are calling for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google and Apple over allegations of mobile tracking.

On Friday, four Democratic senators (Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden, Sara Jacobs and Cory Booker) wrote a letter to FTC Commissioner Lina Khan calling the mobile OS duopoly’s respective solutions too little too late, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Mobile identifiers are ostensibly anonymous, but “it’s often possible to easily identify a particular customer in a data set of ‘anonymous’ location records by looking to see where they sleep at night,” the letter reads. Identifiers, even if stripped of personal information, can still be used to identify a particular device and, from there, that device’s owner.

The senators argue this constitutes “unfair and deceptive practices,” the legal cue for the FTC to step up.

The senators also warned of new implications for mobile identifiers now that the Supreme Court has officially overturned Roe v. Wade. “Prosecutors in states where abortion becomes illegal will soon be able to obtain warrants for location information about anyone who has visited an abortion provider,” they wrote.

The Business Of News

News startup Semafor is launching in the fall with a journalist-friendly set of incentives and a goal to break into the business-and-politics power corridor now dominated by the likes of Politico, Axios and Quartz.

The company is founded by ex-Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith and Ben Smith, longtime BuzzFeed executive editor and a New York Times media columnist, and it’s added big-name talent in news reporting and monetization to its ranks.

Part of Semafor’s pitch is to “cultivate direct relationships” between readers and reporters, The New York Times reports. A reporter’s byline will be as prominent as headlines. And, more substantively, reporters will retain IP rights for movies, shows or book deals – a key differentiator from, say, The Times or Washington Post. Semafor will also hire agents to represent and promote reporters and editors.

“I think the business model conditions for global news media are better in 2022 than they’ve ever been since before the internet arrived,” Smith tells his former employer, The Times. “It has to do with the ubiquitous broad adoption of subscriptions and the loosening grip of tech platforms on global ad markets.

(Hmmm, perhaps this interview occurred before the latest market crash.)

Analyze This

The dominoes continue to fall for Google Analytics in Europe.

The latest domino was knocked over by the Italian data protection authority, the GPDP, which said late last week that all Italian site operators must cease their use of Google Analytics. Sites that collect “the IP address of the user’s device and information relating to the browser, the operating system, the screen resolution, the selected language, as well as the date and time of the visit to the website” (which is to say practically every site) must drop GA. 

It’s an intractable problem for Google, which already announced that Google Analytics will no longer collect or even log IP addresses beginning next July. That’s a huge, disruptive change for its customer base. But it’s likely not enough.

The issue for Google is that it’s not in a position to fix the problem. European sites aren’t collecting IP addresses without consent or illegally using the data to target ads. But Google is an American company, which means that any data it collects or processes is subject to US government surveillance practices that are illegal in Europe. Google can’t simply tighten its consent language – it needs to change US law and FBI practice. 

Good luck with that.

But Wait, There’s More!

YouTube influencer marketing CPMs are on the rise … [Morning Brew]

… but even so, the creator economy’s growth is slowing down. [Insider]

Mark Nottingham: What would (or will) a Chromium-only web look like? [blog]

Cross-platform listeners are boosting the potential of audio advertising. [Ad Age]

Amazon faces an ad staffer exodus over complaints of bloat and bureaucracy. [The Information]

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