Архив метки: Cambridge Analytica

Google beats expectations again with $31.15B in revenue

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, reported another pretty solid beat this afternoon for its first quarter as it more or less has continued to keep its business growing substantially — and is growing even faster than it was a year ago today.
Google said its revenue grew 26% year-over-year to $31.16 billion in the first quarter this year. In the first quarter last year, Google said its revenue had grown 22% between Q1 of 2016 and Q1 of 2017. All this is a little convoluted, but the end result is that Google is actually growing faster than it was just a year ago despite the continued trend of a decline in its cost-per-click — a rough way of saying how valuable an ad is — as more and more web browsing shifts to mobile devices. Last year, Google said it recorded $24.75 billion in the first quarter.
Once again, Alphabet’s “other bets” — its fringe projects like autonomous vehicles and balloons — showed some additional health as that revenue grew while the losses shrank. That’s a good sign as it looks to explore options beyond search, but in the end it still represents a tiny fraction of Google’s overall business. This was also the first quarter that Google is reporting its results following a settlement with Uber, where it received a slice of the company as it ended a spat between its Waymo self-driving division and Uber.
Here’s the final scorecard:
Revenue: $31.16 billion, compared to $30.36 billion Wall Street estimates and up 26% year-over-year.
Earnings: $9.93 per share adjusted, compared to $9.28 per share from Wall Street
Other Revenues: $4.35 billion, up from $3.27 billion in Q1 last year
Other Bets: $150 million, up from $132 million in Q1 2017
Other Bets losses: $571 million, down from $703 million in the first quarter last year
TAC as a % of Revenue: 24%
Effective tax rate: 11%, down from 20% in Q1 2017
In the end, it’s a beat compared to what Wall Street wanted, and it’s getting a very Google-y response. Investors were looking for earnings of $9.35 per share on $30.36 billion in revenue. Google’s stock is up around 2% in extended trading, which for Google is adding more than $10 billion in value as it races alongside Microsoft and Amazon to chase Apple as the most valuable company in the world by market cap. Google jumped as much as 5% in extended trading, though it’s flattened out
Google’s traffic acquisition cost, or TAC, appears to also remain stable as a percentage of its revenue. This is a little bit of a sticking point for observers for the company and a potential negative signal for investors as more and more web browsing shifts to mobile. It’s ticked up very slowly over the past several years, but is now sitting at around 24% of its total revenue.

Google, at its core, is an advertising company that is going to make money off its billions of users across all of its properties. But as everything goes to mobile devices, the actual value of those ads is going to drop off over time simply because mobile browsing has a different set of behaviors. Google’s business has always been to offset that cost-per-click with a growing number of impressions — and, indeed, it seems like the status quo is sticking around for this one.

While Google’s advertising business continues to chug along, that diversification of revenue streams is going to be increasingly important for the company as a hedge against any potential threats to its advertising income. Already there is some chaos when it comes to what’s happening with user data following a massive scandal where information on as many as 87 million Facebook users ended up with a political research firm, Cambridge Analytica. That backlash centered around user privacy may end up tapping Google, which dominates most of how information travels across the web with Gmail and Search among its other products.
But that still comes at a pretty significant cost. It’s made major investments into tools like Google Cloud (or GCP), but tucked into the earnings report is a line item that shows its “purchases of property and equipment” more than doubled year-over-year to around $7.3 billion, up from $2.5 billion in the first quarter this year. Of course this can encompass a ton of things, but Google still has to actually buy servers if it’s going to run a cloud platform that can compete with AWS or Microsoft’s Azure.
All that feeds into its “other income” stream, which grew from $3.2 billion in Q1 last year to $4.35 billion in the first quarter this year. Amazon’s cloud business is already more than a $10 billion business annually, and that first-mover advantage has served it well as it began a huge shift to how businesses operate on cloud servers. But it also exposed a massive business opportunity for Google, which continues to invest in that.

Google beats expectations again with $31.15B in revenue

Zuckerberg’s boring testimony is a big win for Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg ran his apology scripts, trotted out his lists of policy fixes and generally dulled the Senate into submission. And that constitutes success for Facebook.
Zuckerberg testified before the joint Senate judiciary and commerce committee today, capitalizing on the lack of knowledge of the politicians and their surface-level questions. Half the time, Zuckerberg got to simply paraphrase blog posts and statements he’d already released. Much of the other half, he merely explained how basic Facebook functionality works.
The senators hadn’t done their homework, but he had. All that training with D.C. image consultants paid off.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a joint hearing of the US Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Sidestepping any gotcha questions or meme-worthy sound bites, Zuckerberg’s repetitive answers gave the impression that there’s little left to uncover, whether or not that’s true. He made a convincing argument that Facebook is atoning for its sins, is cognizant of its responsibility and has a concrete plan in place to improve data privacy.
With just five minutes per senator, and them each with a queue of questions to get through, few focused on the tougher queries, and even fewer had time for follow-ups to dig for real answers.
Did Facebook cover up the Cambridge Analytica scandal or decide against adding privacy protections earlier to protect its developer platform? Is it a breach of trust for Zuckerberg and other executives to have deleted their Facebook messages out of recipients’ inboxes? How has Facebook used a lack of data portability to inhibit the rise of competitors? Why doesn’t Instagram let users export their data the way they can from Facebook?
The public didn’t get answers to any of those questions today. Just Mark’s steady voice regurgitating Facebook’s talking points. Investors rewarded Facebook for its monotony with a 4.5 percent share price boost.

That’s not to say today’s hearing wasn’t effective. It’s just that the impact was felt before Zuckerberg waded through a hundred photographers to take his seat in the Senate office.
Facebook knew this day was coming, and worked to build Zuckerberg a fortress of facts he could point to no matter what he got asked:
Was Facebook asleep at the wheel during the 2016 election? Yesterday it revealed it had deleted the accounts of Russian GRU intelligence operatives in June 2016.
How will Facebook prevent this from happening again? Last week it announced plans to require identity and location verification for any political advertiser or popular Facebook Page, and significantly restricted its developer platform.
Is Facebook taking this seriously? Zuckerberg wrote in his prepared testimony for today that Facebook is doubling its security and content moderation team from 10,000 to 20,000, and that “protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.”
Is Facebook sorry? “We didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is and that was a huge mistake. That was my mistake,” Zuckerberg has said, over and over.
Facebook may never have made such sweeping changes and apologies had it not had today and tomorrow’s testimony on the horizon. But this defensive strategy also led to few meaningful disclosures, to the detriment of the understanding of the public and the Senate — and to the benefit of Facebook.
WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 10: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg, 33, was called to testify after it was reported that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
We did learn that Facebook is working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller on his investigation into election interference. We learned that Zuckerberg thinks it was a mistake not to suspend the advertising account of Cambridge Analytica when Facebook learned it had bought user data from Dr. Aleksandr Kogan. And we learned that the senate will “haul in” Cambridge Analytica for a future hearing about data privacy.
None of those are earth-shaking.
Perhaps the only fireworks during the testimony came when Senator Ted Cruz laid into Zuckerberg over the Gizmodo report citing that Facebook’s trending topics curators suppressed conservative news trends. Cruz badgered Zuckerberg about whether he believes Facebook is politically neutral, whether Facebook has ever taken down Pages from liberal groups like Planned Parenthood or MoveOn.org, if he knows the political leanings of Facebook’s content moderators and whether Facebook fired Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey over his [radical conservative] political views.
Zuckerberg maintained that he and Facebook are neutral, but that last question was the only one of the day that seemed to visibly perturb him. “That is a specific personnel matter than seems like it would be inappropriate…” Zuckerberg said before Cruz interrupted, pushing the CEO to exasperatedly respond, “Well then I can confirm that it was not because of a political view.” It should be noted that Cruz has received numerous campaign donations from Luckey.

Full exchange between Senator @tedcruz and Mark Zuckerberg where Senator Ted Cruz questions the Facebook CEO about the censorship of Conservatives on his platform. pic.twitter.com/c6d7jwDbnJ
— The Columbia Bugle (@ColumbiaBugle) April 10, 2018

This was the only time Zuckerberg seemed flapped, because he knows the stakes of the public perception of Facebook’s political leanings. Zuckerberg, many Facebook employees and Facebook’s home state of California are all known to lean left. But if the company itself is seen that way, conservative users could flee, shattering Facebook’s network effect. Yet again, Zuckerberg nimbly avoided getting cornered here, and was aided by the bell signaling the end of Cruz’s time. He never noticeably raised his voice, lashed back at the senators or got off message.
By the conclusion of the five hours of questioning, the senators themselves were admitting they hadn’t watched the day’s full testimony. Viewers at home had likely returned to their lives. Even the press corps’ eyes were glazing over. But Zuckerberg was prepared for the marathon. He maintained pace through the finish line. And he made it clear why marathons aren’t TV spectator sports.
The question is no longer what revelations would come from Mr. Zuckerberg going to Washington. Tomorrow’s testimony is likely to go similarly. It’s whether Facebook can coherently execute on the data privacy promises it made leading up to today. This will be a “never-ending battle” as Zuckerberg said, dragging out over many years. And again, that’s in Facebook’s interest. Because in the meantime, everyone’s going back to scrolling their feeds.

Zuckerberg’s boring testimony is a big win for Facebook

Facebook retracted Zuckerberg’s messages from recipients’ inboxes

You can’t remove Facebook messages from the inboxes of people you sent them to, but Facebook did that for Mark Zuckerberg and other executives. Three sources confirm to TechCrunch that old Facebook messages they received from Zuckerberg have disappeared from their Facebook inboxes, while their own replies to him conspiculously remain. An email receipt of a Facebook message from 2010 reviewed by TechCrunch proves Zuckerberg sent people messages that no longer appear in their Facebook chat logs or in the files available from Facebook’s Download Your Information tool.
When asked by TechCrunch about the situation, Facebook claimed it was done for corporate security in this statement:
“After Sony Pictures’ emails were hacked in 2014 we made a number of changes to protect our executives’ communications. These included limiting the retention period for Mark’s messages in Messenger. We did so in full compliance with our legal obligations to preserve messages.”
However, Facebook never publicly disclosed the removal of messages from users’ inboxes, nor privately informed the recipients. That raises the question of whether this was a breach of user trust. When asked that question directly over Messenger, Zuckerberg declined to provide a statement.
Tampering With Users’ Inboxes
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that users can only delete messages their own inboxes, and that they would still show up in the recipient’s thread. There appears to be no “retention period” for normal users’ messages, as my inbox shows messages from as early as 2005. That indicates Zuckerberg and other executives received special treatment in being able to pull back previously sent messages.
Facebook chats sent by Zuckerberg from several years ago or older were missing from the inboxes of both former employees and non-employees. What’s left makes it look the recipients were talking to themselves, as only their side of back-and-forth conversations with Zuckerberg still appear. Three sources asked to remain anonymous out of fear of angering Zuckerberg or burning bridges with the company.
[Update: Recent messages from Zuckerberg remain in users’ inboxes. Old messages from before 2014 still appear to some users, indicating the retraction did not apply to all chats the CEO sent. But more sources have come forward since publication, saying theirs disappeared as well.]
None of Facebook’s terms of service appear to give it the right to remove content from users’ accounts unless it violates the company’s community standards. While it’s somewhat standard for corporations to have data retention policies that see them delete emails or other messages from their own accounts that were sent by employees, they typically can’t remove the messages from the accounts of recipients outside the company. It’s rare that these companies own the communication channel itself and therefore host both sides of messages as Facebook does in this case, which potentially warrants a different course of action with more transparency than quietly retracting the messages.
Facebook’s power to tamper with users’ private message threads could alarm some. The issue is amplified by the fact that Facebook Messenger now has 1.3 billion users, making it one of the most popular communication utilities in the world.

Zuckerberg is known to have a team that helps him run his Facebook profile, with some special abilities for managing his 105 million followers and constant requests for his attention. For example, Zuckerberg’s profile doesn’t show a button to add him as a friend on desktop, and the button is grayed out and disabled on mobile. But the ability to change the messaging inboxes of other users is far more concerning.
Facebook may have sought to prevent leaks of sensitive corporate communications. Following the Sony hack, emails of Sony’s president Michael Lynton who sat on Snap Inc’s board were exposed, revealing secret acquisitions and strategy.
Mark Zuckerberg during the early days of Facebook
However, Facebook may have also looked to thwart the publication of potentially embarrassing personal messages sent by Zuckerberg or other executives. In 2010, Silicon Valley Insider published now-infamous instant messages from a 19-year-old Zuckerberg to a friend shortly after starting The Facebook in 2004. “yea so if you ever need info about anyone at harvard . . . just ask . . . i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns” Zuckerberg wrote to a friend. “what!? how’d you manage that one?” they asked. “people just submitted it . .  i don’t know why . . . they “trust me” . . . dumb fucks” Zuckerberg explained.
The New Yorker later confirmed the messages with Zuckerberg, who told the publication he “absolutely” regretted them. “If you’re going to go on to build a service that is influential and that a lot of people rely on, then you need to be mature, right? I think I’ve grown and learned a lot” said Zuckerberg.
If the goal of Facebook’s security team was to keep a hacker from accessing the accounts of executives and therefore all of their messages, they could have merely been deleted on their side the way any Facebook user is free to do, without them disappearing from the various recipients’ inboxes. If Facebook believed it needed to remove the messages entirely from its servers in case the company’s backend systems we breached, a disclosure of some kind seems reasonable.
Now as Facebook encounters increased scrutiny regarding how it treats users’ data in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the retractions could become a bigger issue. Zuckerberg is slated to speak in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees on April 10 as well as the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 11. They could request more information about Facebook removing messages or other data from users’ accounts without their consent. While Facebook is trying to convey that it understands its responsibilities, the black mark left on public opinion by past behavior may prove permanent.
If you have more info on this situation, including evidence of messages from other Facebook executives disappearing, please contact this article’s author Josh Constine via open Twitter DMs, josh@techcrunch.com, or encrypted Signal chat at (585)750-5674.
For more on Facebook’s recent troubles, read our feature pieces:

Highlights and audio from Zuckerberg’s emotional Q&A on scandals

Facebook restricts APIs, axes old Instagram platform amidst scandals

The real threat to Facebook is the Kool-Aid turning sour

 

Facebook retracted Zuckerberg’s messages from recipients’ inboxes

Highlights and audio from Zuckerberg’s emotional Q&A on scandals

“This is going to be a never-ending battle” said Mark Zuckerberg . He just gave the most candid look yet into his thoughts about Cambridge Analytica, data privacy, and Facebook’s sweeping developer platform changes today during a conference call with reporters. Sounding alternately vulnerable about his past negligence and confident about Facebook’s strategy going forward, Zuckerberg took nearly an hour of tough questions.
You can listen to the entire on-the-record call here, which I recorded with Facebook’s consent:

The CEO started the call by giving his condolences to those affected by the shooting at YouTube yesterday. He then delivered this mea culpa on privacy:
We’re an idealistic and optimistic company . . . but it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough. We didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse and thinking through how people could use these tools to do harm as well . . . We didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is and that was a huge mistake. That was my mistake.
It’s not enough to just connect people. We have to make sure those connections are positive and that they’re bringing people together.  It’s not enough just to give people a voice, we have to make sure that people are not using that voice to hurt people or spread misinformation. And it’s not enough to give people tools to sign into apps, we have to make sure that all those developers protect people’s information too.
It’s not enough to have rules requiring that they protect the information. It’s not enough to believe them when they’re telling us they’re protecting information. We actually have to ensure that everyone in our ecosystem protects people’s information.”
This is Zuckerberg’s strongest statement yet about his and Facebook’s failure to anticipate worst-case scenarios, which has led to a string of scandals that are now decimating the company’s morale. Spelling out how policy means nothing without enforcement, and pairing that with a massive reduction in how much data app developers can request from users makes it seem like Facebook is ready to turn over a new leaf.
Here are the highlights from the rest of the call:
On Zuckerberg calling fake news’ influence “crazy”: “I clearly made a mistake by just dismissing fake news as crazy — as having an impact . . . it was too flippant. I never should have referred to it as crazy.

Facebook and the endless string of worst-case scenarios

On deleting Russian trolls: Not only did Facebook delete 135 Facebook and Instagram accounts belonging to Russian government-connected election interference troll farm the Internet Research Agency, as Facebook announced yesterday. Zuckerberg said Facebook removed “a Russian news organization that we determined was controlled and operated by the IRA”.
On the 87 million number: Regarding today’s disclosure that up to 87 million people had their data improperly access by Cambridge Analytica, “it very well could be less but we wanted to put out the maximum that we felt it could be as soon as we had that analysis.” Zuckerberg also referred to The New York Times’ report, noting that “We never put out the 50 million number, that was other parties.”

Facebook admits Cambridge Analytica hijacked data on up to 87M users

On users having their public info scraped: Facebook announced this morning that “we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped” via its search by phone number or email address feature and account recovery system. Scammers abused these to punch in one piece of info and then pair it to someone’s name and photo . Zuckerberg said search features are useful in languages where it’s hard to type or a lot of people have the same names. But “the methods of react limiting this weren’t able to prevent malicious actors who cycled through hundreds of thousands of IP addresses and did a relatively small number of queries for each one, so given that and what we know to day it just makes sense to shut that down.”
On when Facebook learned about the scraping and why it didn’t inform the public sooner: This was my question, and Zuckerberg dodged, merely saying Facebook had looked more closely at it in the last few days.”
On implementing GDPR worldwide: Zuckerberg refuted a Reuters story from yesterday saying that Facebook wouldn’t bring GDPR privacy protections to the U.S. and elsewhere. Instead he says, “we’re going to make all the same controls and settings available everywhere, not just in Europe.”

Zuckerberg says Facebook will offer GDPR privacy controls everywhere

On if board has discussed him stepping down as chairman: “Not that I’m aware of” Zuckerberg said happily.
On if he still thinks he’s the best person to run Facebook: “Yes. Life is about learning from the mistakes and figuring out what you need to do to move forward . . . I think what people should evaluate us on is learning from our mistakes . . .and if we’re building things people like and that make their lives better . . . there are billions of people who love the products we’re building.”
On the Boz memo and prioritizing business over safety: “The things that makes our product challenging to manage and operate are not the tradeoffs between people and the business. I actually think those are quite easy because over the long-term, the business will be better if you serve people. I think it would be near-sighted to focus on short-term revenue over people, and I don’t think we’re that short-sighted. All the hard decisions we have to make are tradeoffs between people. Different people who use Facebook have different needs. Some people want to share political speech that they think is valid, and other people feel like it’s hate speech . . . we don’t always get them right.”

The real threat to Facebook is the Kool-Aid turning sour

On whether Facebook can audit all app developers: “We’re not going to be able to go out and necessarily find every bad use of data” Zuckerberg said, but confidently said “I actually do think we’re going to be be able to cover a large amount of that activity.
On whether Facebook will sue Cambridge Analytica: “We have stood down temporarily to let the [UK government] do their investigation and their audit. Once that’s done we’ll resume ours … and ultimately to make sure none of the data persists or is being used improperly. And at that point if it makes sense we will take legal action if we need to do that to get people’s information.”

Cambridge Analytica denies accessing data on 87M Facebook users…claims 30M

On how Facebook will measure its impact on fixing privacy: Zuckerberg wants to be able to measure “the prevalence of different categories of bad content like fake news, hate speech, bullying, terrorism. . . That’s going to end up being the way we should be held accountable and measured by the public . . .  My hope is that over time the playbook and scorecard we put out will also be followed by other internet platforms so that way there can be a standard measure across the industry.”
On whether Facebook should try to earn less money by using less data for targeting “People tell us if they’re going to see ads they want the ads to be good . . . that the ads are actually relevant to what they care about . . On the one hand people want relevant experiences, and on the other hand I do think there’s some discomfort with how data is used in systems like ads. But I think the feedback is overwhelmingly on the side of wanting a better experience. Maybe it’s 95-5.”

Facebook rewrites Terms of Service, clarifying device data collection

On whether #DeleteFacebook has had an impact on usage or ad revenue: “I don’t think there’s been any meaningful impact that we’ve observed…but it’s not good.”
On the timeline for fixing data privacy: “This is going to be a never-ending battle. You never fully solve security. It’s an arms race” Zuckerberg said early in the call. Then to close Q&A, he said “I think this is a multi-year effort. My hope is that by the end of this year we’ll have turned the corner on a lot of these issues and that people will see that things are getting a lot better.”
Overall, this was the moment of humility, candor, and contrition Facebook desperately needed. Users, developers, regulators, and the company’s own employees have felt in the dark this last month, but Zuckerberg did his best to lay out a clear path forward for Facebook. His willingness to endure this question was admirable, even if he deserved the grilling.
The company’s problems won’t disappear, and its past transgressions can’t be apologized away. But Facebook and its leader have finally matured past the incredulous dismissals and paralysis that characterized its response to past scandals. It’s ready to get to work.

Highlights and audio from Zuckerberg’s emotional Q&A on scandals

Snapchat brings back GIPHY after removal due to racist GIF

After a racial slur GIF caused Snapchat to remove its GIPHY sticker feature, Snapchat confirms to TechCrunch it’s reinstated its integration. GIPHY has apologized, fixed the bug that let the objectionable GIF slip through, and reviewed its GIF sticker library four times in an effort to guarantee that offensive content won’t end up in apps that embed it. Instagram had also removed GIPHY, but reinstated it last week with Snapchat saying it had nothing to share yet.
A Snap spokesperson told TechCrunch that over the past several weeks, the Snap team worked with GIPHY to revamp its moderation systems. Now Snap is confident that the fresh approach will protect users, so its brought the GIF stickers back. They let people embellish their photos and videos with overlaid animated illustrations and video clips.
So ends a month-long ordeal that started when a U.K. user spotted a GIF containing a racial slur for people of color. Snapchat removed the GIPHY feature as press backlash in the U.K. mounted. Instagram wasn’t aware of the issue until informed by TechCrunch, leading it to remove the GIPHY feature within an hour.
Warning: We’ve shared a censored version of the GIF below, but it still includes graphic content that may be offensive to some users.

The situation highlights the risks of working with outside developers that aren’t entirely under a platform’s control. Piping in external utilities lets apps quickly expand their offering to users. But if developers misuse people’s data, deliver broken functionality, or let objectionable content through, it can reflect poorly on the app hosting them. Facebook is currently dealing with this backlash surrounding Cambridge Analytica. Meanwhile, Instagram just severely restricted its APIs without warning, breaking many developers’ apps in what’s believed to be part of Facebook’s push to shore up data privacy.
Favoring news publishers, Snapchat historically never actively embraced developers, banning use of outside apps that require your Snapchat credentials. It’s more recently started letting devs build and promote their own augmented reality lenses. But after this set-back, we’ll have to see if Snapchat becomes any more reluctant to work with partners.

Snapchat brings back GIPHY after removal due to racist GIF