Facebook “Clear History” issue; programmatic “clawbacks” are under fire; and early returns on CCPA.
Facebook made an announcement on “Data Privacy Day” in regard to the rollout of an Off-Facebook Activity tool that supposedly allows Facebook users to monitor and manage connections to their off-platform activity. The tool provides a summary of the apps and websites that send off-Facebook information about a user’s activity, and enable users to clear this information from their account.
But critics are already saying this is misleading. The tool purports to offer a one-shop-stop to opt-out of any ties between sites and services that utilize any sort of Facebook software or data regarding your activity on Facebook or Instagram. But in reality, critics say the tool only separates data into two different buckets that were otherwise mixed together. In short, the only thing you’re clearing is a connection Facebook made between its data and the data it gets from third parties, not the data itself. Those with Facebook profiles can use the new tool to disconnect their Facebook data from the data the company receives from third parties. Facebook still has that third party-collected data and it will continue to collect more data. That bucket of data, however, won’t be connected to your Facebook identity.
Publishers are worried “sequential liability” will eventually leave publishers unpaid for ads, if and when some of the larger ad tech companies flame out. It’s just another doomsday scenario that publishers now must worry about. So far, it’s not a major problem. Multiple publishers have reported the amount of money they’ve been asked to forfeit is small. The mere introduction of “clawbacks” as a business possibility is pushing publishers to revisit contacts with supply-side platform providers that facilitate their programmatic ad sales.
An early report card on the effect the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is having on users and ad-tech firms operating in the state—opt-outs are low; the government isn’t doing much to clear confusion, and there are attempts to exploit the system. According to a recent survey by FormAssembly, the law is raising public awareness about how personal data is used as currency, transactionally, but businesses are still grappling with how to move forward. So far, California opt-out rates are in the range of 0.3 percent of total traffic. These are people choosing the “Do Not Sell My Data” option on a publisher’s website. One ad tech firm told AdWeek the adoption rate is “low but increasing” for the IAB’s CCPA framework. CCPA affects businesses that possess data on the Golden State’s nearly 40 million residents. The law went into effect on Jan. 1, and experts believe the challenges are likely to get steeper.
One of the world’s richest men and a steadfast lover of newspapers has decided his newspaper business is unsustainable. Billionaire investor Warren Buffet has sold all of his newspapers to Lee Enterprises Inc. for $140 million. Lee Enterprises was already managing all of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s newspapers except the Buffalo News. But the Buffalo News is part of this deal along with papers such as the Tulsa World in Oklahoma, the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, and the Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska (Mr. Buffet’s hometown).
Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway very rarely sell businesses but this sale is a rare admission by Buffet that the newspaper business has declined faster than expected. In 2019, Berkshire’s newspapers (excluding the Buffalo News) earned $373.4 million in revenue and $14.9 million in net income. But those earnings have been declining in recent years. Berkshire will still have a financial hand in the newspaper business. It is lending Lee $576 million for the sale in which Lee will use to finance the transaction and refinance debt. Lee will also be closing its current credit facility.
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