"Unriddled" is HubSpot's weekly digest of the tech headlines you need to know. We give you the top tech stories in a quick, scannable way and break it all down. It's tech news: explained.
1. A Year of Facebook Headlines
If keeping up with all the news about Facebook in 2018 has seemed like a tall order, you're not alone. That's why BuzzFeed News published "Literally Just A Big List Of Facebook’s 2018 Scandals," which is, frankly, exactly what it sounds like. The list starts with Facebook's major January News Feed algorithm change and extends to the Washington, D.C. attorney general filing a lawsuit against the company for allowing a voter profiling firm to improperly harvest personal user data. BuzzFeed News's timeline provides a comprehensive guide to Facebook's 2018. Read full story >>
2. Meanwhile, in Recent Facebook Headlines
The Deal With Data
The New York Times last week published a report that sheds more light on how Facebook uses data, and how it allegedly grants "intrusive" access to it for companies like Netflix and Microsoft. That data sharing may, according to some, be rooted in a vision to create a highly personalized experience across the entirety of the web -- that is, the more companies and sites have access to personal Facebook user data, the more they can personalize content and the overall browsing experience.
But Facebook allowed that data to be misused in some cases (see above), and much of the time, users weren't even aware of how data was being used even when that access was categorized as "proper." Facebook published its own response to the report, saying that "this work [the data access] was about helping people." Read full story >>
Location, Location, Location
A recent report from Gizmodo says that turning off all location-tracking options in Facebook -- this includes shutting off location history in the Facebook app, adjusting mobile device settings, and never allowing the app to access to location -- doesn't actually stop the social network from tracking users' location data.
This discovery came from USC assistant professor Aleksandra Korolova, who observed that she was still seeing personalized Facebook ads appearing to be based on where, geographically, she was at a given time (e.g., ads that are targeted to “people who live or were recently near Los Angeles”). Facebook responded by indicating that, despite certain settings, location data is indeed collected via "IP [address] and other information such as check-ins and current city from your profile," going on to point out that "we explain this to people, including in our Privacy Basics site and on the About Facebook Ads site.” Read full story >>
3. The Snapchat Lens Challenge
Snapchat Lens is a library of augmented reality (AR) overlays -- essentially, three-dimensional visual effects that people can place on top of the physical environment being viewed or captured through a mobile device's camera (read more about AR here). In Instagram, similar effects are known as filters.
Now, Snapchat has introduced the Lens Challenge: a series of content creation challenges, each with a different theme, in which users create visual contents using a particular Lens that they'll share with others. And, for a lucky few, their content will also be featured across the Snapchat community. The first challenge launched last week and, naturally, was holiday-themed, allowing users to create videos of themselves performing their own interpretations of singer Gwen Stefani's cover of the seasonal tune "Jingle Bells." Read full story >>
4. Uber Resume Self-Driving Car Tests in Pennsylvania
In March, Uber suspended testing of its self-driving cars on public roads after a tragic accident involving one of its autonomous vehicles in Arizona. Now, Pennsylvania transportation authorities have approved Uber's request to resume testing its self-driving cars Pittsburgh, where the company's Advanced Technologies Group is located. And while the state's Department of Transportation has given Uber the go-ahead for this testing, Uber hasn't quite started yet. A company spokesperson told the Verge, "We received our letter of authorization ... but we haven’t put cars back on the road yet." Read full story >>
5. AT&T Launches 5G
AT&T took a big step toward 5G becoming accessible for general users last Friday, when it launched a 5G mobile service in about 12 U.S. cities. This marks the first mobile service provider to do so. However, at the moment, the service is only available in dedicated mobile hotspots, as its 5G-capable phones are not slated to be released until 2019.
5G is a type of wireless technology that you may have heard about over the course of 2018 -- such as when Verizon selected Samsung as the provider for its 5G commercial launch. The "G" stands for generation, in that this is the fifth generation of this type of mobile connectivity. Read full story >>
6. The Facebook Perception Problem
When presented with a list of Facebook's missteps of 2018, most users say these issues would be enough to leave the network -- but far fewer people actually have. Is it an issue of Facebook's far-reaching public perception, or are people simply unprepared to close their account? Read full story >>
7. Million-Dollar Mindfulness: How Many People Use Meditation Apps?
At the height of a time that might be described as "frenzied" at best, these mobile apps seek to provide a mindfulness oasis -- and a million-dollar business. Read full story >>
8. The 48-Hour Instagram Cleanse
I had one job: To cease using all social media -- including my favorite app, Instagram -- for two days. Here's how it went, and what it can teach us about the psychology of social media. Read full story >>