PRIVACY INVESTIGATION INCOMING! [Content Made Simple]

Issue #202: How video games are becoming social spaces for all and what the antitrust suit could spell for Facebook.

PSA: There will be no email next week and maybe the week after for the Christmas holiday. Merry Christmas, all!

FTC LAUNCHING PRIVACY STUDY OF TOP PLATFORMS

The FTC uses these types of studies to gather data that can later lead to enforcement actions, should they encounter any wrongdoing.

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Quote:

The big picture: The move comes amid broader scrutiny for the industry and appears to be a wide-reaching inquiry into everything major tech companies know about their users and what they do with that data, as well as their broader business plans.

Details: The FTC is asking for a large trove of information and documents from the above platforms, plus Discord, Reddit and Snap.

  • The agency wants much of the usage and engagement data the platforms collect on their users, the metrics they use for measuring such things and short- and long-term business strategies, among many other areas of inquiry.

Background: In launching the study, the FTC is using its authority to do wide-ranging studies for no specific law enforcement purpose.

Commentary:

I am so grateful for this decision. If you’ve followed this newsletter for any amount of time, you know I have serious concerns about social media platforms and their loose handling of privacy concerns. The FTC is going to probe this issue and my hope is that it yields some good fruit.


ON THE POD

2020: The Year of TikTok

2020 was the year of TikTok. Today we look at the TikTok 100 and list our favorite videos of the year.


HITTING THE LINKS

Link #1: 2020’s most popular games were my most reliable social spaces

This is a nice companion piece to read along with Link #3, the post I wrote earlier this week. Video games have been a way to connect with friends for a long time, but in a year in which our ability to connect with others in person was jeopardized video games have become more common social spaces for all kinds of people.

I was playing games with friends and family before the pandemic began, and I play a lot of games solo, too. But Animal CrossingFall Guys, and Among Us are good-ass games that continued to get better as I enjoyed them with familiar company. They allowed me to make up for the lost time that was part of my old life.

The point of going out to bars was never the drinking. It was a common social space, and in a year where those places disappeared, we found new ones in fake islands and spaceships, and whatever the setting of Fall Guys is supposed to be. Especially in 2020, it’s not about where you are but who you’re with.

Link #2: Antitrust suits could be biggest threat yet to Facebook's business

Insightful reporting from Axios here on what the antitrust suits could spell for Facebook.

How it works: Some of the most drastic measures in the lawsuits brought by The Federal Trade Commission and 48 state and territorial attorneys general call for Facebook to sell Instagram and WhatsApp, two companies it acquired for $1 billion and $19 billion in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

  • Instagram is a financial powerhouse for the tech giant, bringing in roughly 30% of its nearly $70 billion in annual revenue last year.

  • While monetization on WhatsApp is still nascent, the company says its fastest-growing ad format is "click to message" ads, which allow advertisers to target users with ads that direct them to WhatsApp or Messenger to chat with businesses.

  • Facebook also has big plans to one day make money off of transactions from e-commerce conducted on WhatsApp.

Link #3: The Evolution of Digital Third Spaces

Something I wrote this week on how “third spaces” have evolved over the years and are now largely video games (similar to Link #1). Free for all to read.

The beginning of the internet being a “third space” comes before this time period with the earliest forms of message boards and listservs, but this is when my beginning sits when it comes to the internet as a “space” for socialization. I started messaging with friends online as early as second grade or so (around 1997), which means I don’t even really remember a world in which you had to call friends on the phone and ask their parents to speak to them in order to talk after school. Sure, we still called friends on landline phones at numbers we had memorized, miraculously, and asked if they wanted to come over and play Nintendo 64, go to the park to play baseball, or sleep over on the weekend. But pretty early on, my friends and I would hop on AOL Instant Messenger and MySpace (by middle school, around 2003) as soon as we got home from hanging out in the hallways.


THE FUNNY PART

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