The UpStream

Brand Safety Score, coming to Twitch, rates channels for advertisers

posted Saturday Mar 27, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Brand Safety Score, coming to Twitch, rates channels for advertisers

Twitch has had some issues over the past year or so. Most notably, the brand has had trouble being open with its community of content creators about what they are working on behind the scenes. Most notably, they came under fire when they deleted videos with little to no explanation. Later, the company apologized for how poorly they handled the situation, which surrounded a large influx of DMCA requests. Now, a new feature is coming, for which there was once again no communication - Brand Safety Score.

In fact, the only reason why information about the score is available at all is that it was exposed, either purposefully or accidentally, through the platform's internal API. Twitter user tayariCS showed off the documentation, exposing the new fields that would be added to the profiles in the future. The idea appeared to be a score that was either automatically generated or manually entered (there was evidence for both theories), that shows how advertiser friendly the channel is.

Of course, there are other indicators already available, such as whether or not the channel is set top mature content. The Brand Safety Score seems to revolve around violations of the already nebulous community standards. In fact, the documentation shows the current relationship with Twitch (active, suspended, banned, etc.), reason for suspension/ban, and past issues. It also includes custom data points which might be of value to potential advertisers.

After word hit the street of this potential change to the way channels are evaluated, Twitch responded with a statement saying,

We are exploring ways to improve the experience on Twitch for viewers and creators, including efforts to better match the appropriate ads to the right communities. User privacy is critical on Twitch, and, as we refine this process, we will not pursue plans that compromise that priority. Nothing has launched yet, no personal information was shared, and we will keep our community informed of any updates along the way.

So, as of right now, Brand Safety Score is a feature that is being considered, not one that is being implemented. However, if the API endpoint is already stood up, then the likelihood is that this is coming soon er rather than later. Having a way for advertisers to determine the value proposition for their interaction with a channel is a good thing. However, any time a company that relies on user generated content starts creating policies with dark data about its users, things are about to get complicated.

People are too lax with giving permission to their mic and camera

posted Saturday Mar 27, 2021 by Scott Ertz

People are too lax with giving permission to their mic and camera

Data breaches happen all the time, companies misuse the data they have access to, and hackers want access to everything you do. Because of all of these threats, personal privacy and security should be a major focus of people online. However, a lot of people don't put any thought into their security or privacy online, and those who do, leave major holes in their plan. This has been made even more apparent thanks to the Kaspersky Consumer IT Security Risks Report 2021.

The report highlights a number of issues. This includes 80% of people using personal computers for business purposes, which can give your employer access to your personal data and expose proprietary data to the open internet. In addition, 53% of people who are victims of ransomware paid the ransom, and 17% of those people still didn't get their data back.

More importantly, though, is the major difference between thoughts and actions on access to users' cameras and microphones. 60% of users are concerned that access to their webcam and microphone could be gained by nefarious actors, or could be used outside of their intended purposes. However, 23% of all online users grant access to their webcam and microphone in every case it is requested. Even when using platforms you expect to be safe, they can expose your webcam without permission. With Zoom, external access to your cam was available even after uninstalling the software.

But, for those who are always giving access, they are asking for trouble. Very few apps and websites require access to your mic or camera. If you're not there to share your cam or mic, don't share your cam or mic. The same applies to location access - if it isn't going to give you a benefit, don't grant access. And, on your webcam, you should cover the lens when it is not in use. It might sound like a conspiracy theory, but it's true. Even Mark Zuckerberg, who is often portrayed as the bringer of the end of privacy, covers his camera with a sticky note.

The takeaway: stay vigilant online and protect your privacy and security by thinking about the permissions you give to apps and cameras.

Xbox Live is now Xbox network as free-to-play games drop requirement

posted Saturday Mar 27, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Xbox Live is now Xbox network as free-to-play games drop requirement

In the console wars, one of the biggest arguments against Xbox has been the requirement for Xbox Live Gold for online gaming. In the early days, Gold for all games was an easy argument because the cost of managing XBL was high, and all communication ran through Microsoft's system. But, in recent years, more of the communication has happened off-network because of cross-platform gameplay. So, as times are changing, so is Xbox Live.

This week, the most recent Alpha build for Xbox Insiders shows "Multiplayer in Free-to-play games, Looking 4 Groups and Party Chat on Xbox no longer requires an Xbox Live Gold membership." This move brings Xbox Live requirements inline with Sony and Nintendo when it comes to free-to-play games. It is also in line with the actual value that Xbox Live is providing to gamers playing these particular games. Fortnite players put little load on the system compared to Halo.

Along with the change to Gold policies, another big change seems to have come along with the update: a name change. Rather that being referred to throughout the system as Xbox Live, all references now show "Xbox network" with a lowercase n. The Verge received a statement from Microsoft saying,

Xbox network' refers to the underlying Xbox online service, which was updated in the Microsoft Services Agreement. The update from 'Xbox Live' to 'Xbox network' is intended to distinguish the underlying service from Xbox Live Gold memberships.

So, going forward, the actual technology will be referred to as Xbox network, while the paid subscription will retail the original name of Xbox Live Gold. For longtime gamers, the naming change is going to take some getting used to. Xbox Live and its name (while not the logo) have been around for 18 years - since the original Xbox. Like when a sports field changes names, many people will continue to use the original name for years. It is likely that the same will be true about Xbox Live.

LG, after years of struggling, is ready to exit the smartphone market

posted Saturday Mar 27, 2021 by Scott Ertz

LG, after years of struggling, is ready to exit the smartphone market

LG has a lot of product categories that might be in your home. Refrigerators, ranges, and microwaves are everywhere. Their smart TVs are also one of the big categories for the company. However, one category that people don't currently think of when they think of LG is smartphones. Because of this shift in market share, the company is thinking about abandoning the market entirely.

A decade ago, LG was one of the major players in smartphones. Before Apple got involved, they were one of the big names, along with HTC and Motorola. Today, none of those companies play a major role in the industry. Motorola has changed hands a couple of times over the past few years, currently part of Lenovo. HTC has suffered a similar fate, once considering abandoning the market, later changing course and selling most of the business to Google (who sold Motorola to Lenovo).

Now, LG is in a similar position. Recently, the company was rumored to be considering a sale of the smartphone division to another interested company. However, new reports suggest that LG is now considering simply shuttering the division entirely and moving on. This could be because there are simply no interested parties, or because the amount of work or time involved in the process of a sale would exceed the value of the brand. Sometimes the best course of action is to walk away and cut your losses, which might be where LG is headed.

Now, this is not to say that LG would be entirely absent from the smartphone world. The company is one of the major manufacturers of components like screens for other bands, including Apple. There is no suggestion that LG is considering abandoning that aspect of its business, which makes sense. They have consistently held a position of quality in the component space, so continuing with that aspect of the business is a way to keep participating while not trying to follow the bizarre trends of the smartphone space, which they have struggled to understand.

NFL reaches $100 billion agreement with broadcasters for next decade

posted Saturday Mar 20, 2021 by Scott Ertz

NFL reaches $100 billion agreement with broadcasters for next decade

2020 was a bad year for most of us, but the National Football League (NFL) had a particularly difficult season. Despite people being at home nearly 24/7, the league saw a significant drop in viewership. The slump culminated in a Super Bowl whose ratings were the lowest in almost 15 years. Even with these issues, the NFL has managed to address them at least with broadcasters, as the company has reached a major broadcast deal for the next decade.

The biggest change to the agreement is the heavy addition of streaming services. Most interestingly, Amazon has obtained exclusive rights for Thursday Night Football. This marks the first time that a flagship brand will move exclusively to an online platform. Amazon will pay $1 billion per year from 2023 through 2033 for this right - the least expensive of the deals (TNF traditionally has the lowest ratings).

Last season, Amazon streamed TNF games from Fox on its primary streaming platforms: Amazon Prime Video and Twitch. Both had unique capabilities, with Prime getting alternate commentary options, and Twitch included the traditional social interaction. For its singular exclusive game, it even featured a casual chat with ex-NFL players. It is possible that we can expect more of this now that TNF will be exclusive to Amazon's platforms, though Amazon has other fish to fry. Originally Amazon viewers were treated to Fox's coverage in simulcast, but this season Amazon is going to have to do its own production.

Under the deal, the NFL's traditional broadcast partners will also be able to add the content to their streaming services. NBC Universal (Comcast) can stream games on its Peacock services, CBSViacom can stream games on Paramount+, and Fox Sports can stream through Tubi. The only future in question is that of NFL Sunday Ticket. It has long been part of DirecTV's offerings, but with the brand in financial trouble and recently jettisoned from AT&T, it seems likely that a streaming service will end up with those rights.

Zuckerberg changes stance on Apple's upcoming privacy feature

posted Saturday Mar 20, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Zuckerberg changes stance on Apple's upcoming privacy feature

Ever since Apple announced that iOS 14 would eventually add a new feature called App Tracking Transparency (ATT), Facebook has fought the change. The feature allows users to deny an app's request to track their behavior on and off of the app. Facebook, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in particular, have argued that the feature will be bad for Facebook and its users, since day 1.

This week, Zuckerberg changed his tune somewhat, focusing on what this will do for the company. During a session on the social conference call platform Clubhouse, Zuckerberg said,

The reality is that I'm confident that we're gonna be able to manage through that situation well and we'll be in a good position. I think it's possible that we may even be in a stronger position if Apple's changes encourage more businesses to conduct commerce on our platforms.

While the previous argument was that Facebook was being targeted specifically with the feature and that it would significantly harm the company's business, now they believe (or Zuckerberg is saying) that the end result will be more users being driven to the Facebook apps directly. It's an interesting argument, believing that more users will go to Facebook and Instagram because the apps are not tracking their web behavior anymore.

On the other hand, the argument that ATT could harm small developers is a decent argument. Many small developers rely on highly targeted ads for the bulk of their revenue. Individuals creating projects or early-stage apps are only possible because of these ads. With less targeted ads comes less revenue for the apps. This could, potentially, lead to fewer free, ad-supported apps, and more 99 cent apps showing up in the App Store.

On the other hand, it's not as if all users are going to go into privacy mode. Many users will continue with business as usual, allowing the apps and platforms to do as they please. Only time will tell if Facebook has a point, or if Apple's move will be better for the little guy.

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