This week we’re following a range of stories at the intersection of technology, policy and society. Here are the highlights:
1. People are growing sour on social media, even if it is difficult to break the addiction. The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of American behaviors finds adults see platforms like Facebook and Twitter as divisive and generally a waste of time, despite the fact that they visit these sites regularly. No wonder that a new study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry based on observations of more than 3,000 seventh to 10th graders in the greater Montreal area over a period of four years found that social media use and screen time can lead to an increase in depression and anxiety among teens.
2. Speaking of misgivings about social media, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, came down hard on Facebook in particular this week at her weekly press conference. Pelosi said Facebook executives are “accomplices for misleading the American people with money from god-knows where,”
and said Facebook cares about profits above all else. “All they want are their tax cuts and no antitrust action against them.”
3. Dating platforms are a privacy disaster, two new reports suggest. The Norwegian Consumer Council has issued a report claiming popular dating services like Grindr, OkCupid and Tinder are exposing user information including dating choices and precise location to advertising and marketing companies in potential violation privacy laws, including sharing data about sexual orientation. Days after the release of the Norwegian report, the news site Gizmodo published a report stating that “more than 70,000 photos of Tinder users are being shared by members of an online cyber-crime forum”. The breach raises “concerns about the potential for abusive use of the photos. Ominously, only women appear to have been targeted,” reports Gizmodo.
4. The advocacy group Avaaz published a report claiming that “YouTube is driving its users to climate misinformation and the world’s most trusted brands are paying for it.” In an interview with Time magazine, report coauthor Fadi Quran said “we’ve found that it’s very likely that at least one in five users who search for a term like global warming or climate change could be sent down this type of misinformation rabbit hole. Scientists are working so hard to educate people about the existential threat we face and YouTube is allowing bad actors among us the last word on this issue for many people.”
5. In a blog post, Google announced that by 2022 it will phase out the use of third party cookies for ad tracking in a bid to improve user security across the web. Cookies enable websites to log user activity. Getting rid of them will help users better protect their privacy, according to Google. It will also advantage Google, reports recode, since Google does not have to reply on third party trackers to do business. So, this decision may be good for users, but it will also reinforce Google’s dominance. Its Chrome browser has more users than all of its rivals combined, says Bloomberg.