Kids joined our USA TODAY tech panel and told us they had no interest whatsoever in Facebook.
Here at Talking Tech, we’ve spent 2018 keeping you up to date on the latest trends and news from the world of tech.
The year that’s just about to close was notable for new iPhone models that appear to have stalled with the public for the first time, the continued adoption of smart speakers as the fastest growing category in tech, no really hot new app for the first time in many years and cameras on phones that are now as good as the DSLRs I paid $1,000 and more for 10 years ago.
But let’s face it, all pales compared to Facebook.
The Social Network seems to put its foot in it week after week, with new reports of how it shared our personal information with other app makers and media partners and engaged in political style semantic games with the public by denying things — and then admitting — they were uncomfortable to have revealed. Like hiring a Republican associated political operative firm to dig up dirt on liberal financier George Soros, at first not recalled, then fessed up to.
The backlash began in March, when Facebook did admit that a rogue app developer had grabbed personal information of 87 million members after users signed up for a personality prediction app called “thisisyourdigitallife.”
There have been reports for two years about how Russians manipulated the social network to help get Donald Trump elected. This week, a bombshell report given to Congress that showed how Russian interference was even more widespread than at first believed.
Several advocacy groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and Moveon.org called for co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg to step down from the Facebook board of directors in response to how the network allowed other entities to target civil rights groups.
And Bobby Rush, a Democratic congressman from Illinois called on Facebook to fire Zuckerberg altogether. “The American people are tired of the excuses, the lies, and the deliberate evasion.”
Influential tech columnist Walt Mossberg quit Facebook this week, saying its actions made him feel uncomfortable.
Hey, as an avid Facebook user, I don’t disagree with Mossberg, but I’m not about to quit Facebook — nor do I think you are. I like posting photos and videos and hearing from friends that they enjoyed them, finding out what’s up with old friends, using the network as a service to keep family up to date on comings and goings, and, of course, promoting and distributing my latest USA TODAY work — or latest personal guitar video.
And face it, most everyone we know is on Facebook. What are the alternatives? Instagram? Well, that’s owned by Facebook, too. I love the Japanese app Line, which is colorful and fun to use, but it won’t keep me up to date on friends and news like Facebook, nor does it have the access to meet like-minded people in groups.
I’ve heard from many of you that you, too, don’t like the way Facebook operates, but you’re not willing to walk away. “It’s like a negative codependent relationship that nobody ever leaves,” wrote James Sama on Facebook this week.
The business model makes us the product — the more we like, share, check in, search and turn on our camera, the more Facebook knows about us, and thus is able to sell targeted ads based on our ZIP code, income and likes to advertisers.
Despite the controversy, as I noted this week, Facebook has more members now than it did at the beginning of the year — just over 2.2 billion, and it’s on track to beat 2017’s ad revenues, over $55 billion. It’s taken a hit on Wall Street — but so have many other tech companies as the Dow has gone south at the end of 2018.
So clearly Facebook’s main problem is perception and the messaging. This is a public relations nightmare that has the press and politicians concerned and consumers seemingly not. But eventually, this could catch up to Facebook’s business model if it doesn’t change course in 2019.
In talking with many of you this week, it’s clear that we don’t mind being marketed to, we just want Facebook to be upfront and honest about it.
“I think most people know free sites like Google and FB do targeted ads,” noted tech investor Peter Pham of Science, Inc. on Twitter this week. Being targeted secretly is a different story. Tell people what’s really going on and people will say, “I’m OK with it if you tell me,” he says.
Readers, what’s your take? Are you willing to delete Facebook? What changes would you like to see from the social network in 2019?
In other tech news this week
Tech wunderkind Elon Musk gave reporters a sneak peek at his underground tunnel in Los Angeles, his alternative to subways that saw the press driving around underneath Hawthorne, California, in a Tesla. “There is a path to alleviate traffic congestion in cities,” Musk said at the event.
On Friday AT&T turn on its mobile super-fast 5G network for the public in 12 cities: Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, San Antonio and Waco, Texas. Unlike Verizon, which launched its first 5G network earlier this year as a home broadband replacement, AT&T’s 5G network will be more traditional to mobile wireless networks. The first device for the network will be a 5G mobile hotspot from Netgear called the Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot. Other 5G phones are expected in 2019.
Alexa, play Apple Music for me. The unthinkable happened this week, as Amazon opened up its Echo smart speakers to rival Apple. The iconic iPhone maker joined Amazon Music, and other services like Pandora and Spotify.
This week’s Talking Tech podcasts
And that’s this week’s Talking Tech news wrap. Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter: http://technewsletter.usatoday.com, listen to the daily Talking Tech podcast on Apple Podcasts, follow me (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
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