Australia’s privacy watchdog has opened an investigation into Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal.
Yesterday Facebook revealed that more users than previously thought could have had their personal information passed to the company back in 2014 — saying as many as 87 million Facebook users could have had their data “improperly shared”, thereby confirming the testimony of ex-Cambridge Analytica employee, Chris Wylie, who last month told a UK parliamentary committee he believed that substantially more than 50M Facebook users had had their information swiped.
And while most of these Facebook users are located in the US, multiple millions are not.
The company confirmed the international split yesterday in a blog post — including that 1 million+ of the total are UK users; more than 620k are Canadian; and more than 300k are Australian.
Though in tiny grey lettering at the bottom of the graphic Facebook caveats that these figures are merely its “best estimates” of the maximum number of affected users.
After the US, the largest proportion of Facebook users affected by the data leakage were in the Philippines and Indonesia.
In a statement today the Australian watchdog (OAIC) said it has opened a formal investigation into Facebook.
“The investigation will consider whether Facebook has breached the Privacy Act 1988(Privacy Act). Given the global nature of this matter, the OAIC will confer with regulatory authorities internationally,” it writes. “All organisations that are covered by the Privacy Act have obligations in relation to the personal information that they hold. This includes taking reasonable steps to ensure that personal information is held securely, and ensuring that customers are adequately notified about the collection and handling of their personal information.”
We’ve reached out to the National Privacy Commission in the Philippines for a reaction to the Cambridge Analytica revelations.
Indonesia does not yet have a comprehensive regulation protecting personal data — and concerned consumers in the country can but hope this latest Facebook privacy scandal will act as a catalyst for change.
Elsewhere, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada announced that it was opening a formal investigation into Facebook on March 26. In an op-ed, privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien also wrote that the Cambridge Analytica scandal underscored deficiencies in the country’s privacy laws.
“At the moment, for example, federal political parties are not subject to privacy laws,” he said. “This is clearly unacceptable. Information about our political views is highly sensitive and therefore particularly worthy of protection. We must take action in the face of serious allegations that democracy is being manipulated through analysis of the personal information of voters. Bringing parties under privacy laws would be a step in the right direction.”
Back in Europe, the UK’s data watchdog, the ICO, was already investigating Facebook as part of a wider investigation into data analytics for political purposes which it kicked off in May 2017.
We’ve asked if the agency intends to also open a second investigation into Facebook in light of the 1M+ UK users affected by the CA data mishandling — and will update this post with any response. Update: A spokesperson for the ICO said is investigating 30 organizations, including Facebook, as part of its probe into the use of personal data and analytics by political campaigns, parties, social media companies and other commercial actors.
“The ICO is looking at how data was collected from a third party app on Facebook and shared with Cambridge Analytica. We are also conducting a broader investigation into how social media platforms were used in political campaigning.
The UK’s information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, added in a statement: “Facebook has been co-operating with us and, while I am pleased with the changes they are making, it is too early to say whether they are sufficient under the law.
“This is an important time for privacy rights. Transparency and accountability must be considered, otherwise it will be impossible to rebuild trust in the way that personal information is obtained, used and shared online. This is why, besides my investigation, which could result in enforcement action, I will also be making clear public policy recommendations to help us understand how our personal data is used online and what we can do to control how it’s used.”
Late last month Denham revealed the watchdog had been looking into Facebook’s partner category service as part of its political probe, examining how the company used third party data to inform targeted advertising.
In a statement then she said she had raised the service as “a significant area of concern” with Facebook — and welcomed Facebook’s decision to shutter it.
And last month the ICO was also granted a warrant to enter and search Cambridge Analytica’s offices.
Reacting to the Cambridge Analytica scandal last month, Andrea Jelinek, chair of the European Union’s influential data protection body, the Article 29 Working Party — which is made up of reps of all the national DPAs — said the group would be supporting the ICO’s investigation.
“As a rule personal data cannot be used without full transparency on how it is used and with whom it is shared. This is therefore a very serious allegation with far-reaching consequences for data protection rights of individuals and the democratic process,” she said in a statement. “ICO, the UK ́s data protection authority, is conducting the investigation into this matter. As Chair of the Article 29 Working Party, I fully support their investigation. The Members of the Article 29 Working Party will work together in this process.”
Also last month the European Commission’s justice and consumer affairs commissioner, Vera Jourova, told the BBC that the executive body would like to see new legislation in the US to strengthen data protection.
In Europe the incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) beefs up the enforcement of privacy rules with tighter requirements on how data is handled and a new regime of tougher fines for violations.
“We would like to see more robust and reliable legislation on American side,” said Jourova. “Something similar or comparable with the GDPR. And I believe that one day it will happen also in United States and that’s why I am now so curious how American society will react on this scandal — and other scandals which might come.”
The EC has a specific lever to press the US on this point — in the form of the Privacy Shield arrangement which simplifies the process of authorizing personal data flows between the EU and the US by allowing companies to self-certify their adherence to a set of privacy principles.
Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are signatories to Privacy Shield — and are currently listed as ‘active participants’ in the framework (for now).
I welcome the FTC decision to launch an investigation into #Facebook following the recent revelations and taking into account the #PrivacyShield in their enforcement actions! I will continue to monitor the developments. https://t.co/F3UCm7lD05
— Věra Jourová (@VeraJourova) March 26, 2018
A spokesman for Jourova confirmed that listed companies can be removed by the FTC — although he also noted that the Cambridge Analytica data misuse pre-dates Privacy Shield (which was signed in August 2016).
“The FTC has made use of this possibility already a number of times under the Privacy Shield,” he added of the possibility of listed companies being removed from the framework.
The Privacy Shield mechanism was negotiated as a direct replacement for Safe Harbor after Europe’s top court struck down that earlier arrangement, in 2015, in the wake of the Snowden disclosures about US government mass surveillance programs.
The Privacy Shield arrangement has its critics. It also includes a regime of annual reviews. In the BBC interview Jourova made a point of reminding the US that the arrangement — which thousands of companies rely on to keep their data flows moving — remains under constant review.
She also said she would be writing to Facebook seeking answers about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. “What we want from Facebook is to obey and to respect the European laws,” she added.
For its part Facebook caused confusion about its commitment to raising data protection standards on its platform this week after founder Mark Zuckerberg told a Reuters journalist that it will not be universally applying GDPR for all its users — given the law applies for all Facebook’s international users that essentially means the company intends to apply a lower privacy standard for North American users (whose data is processed in the US, rather than in Ireland where its international HQ is located, within the EU).
However in a follow up conference call with journalists Zuckerberg made some carefully worded remarks that seem to further fog the issue — saying: “We intend to make all the same controls available everywhere, not just in Europe” yet going on to caveat that statement with: “Is it going to be exactly the same format? Probably not. We’ll need to figure out what makes sense in different markets with different laws in different places.”
At this stage it remains unclear whether Facebook will universally apply GDPR or not. Zuckerberg’s remarks suggest there will indeed be some discrepancies in how it handles data protection for different users — what those differences will be remains to be seen.
In remarks made on Twitter today, Jourova described the growing scale of the data misuse scandal as “very worrying” — and said the Commission “will watch closely” how the company’s application of GDPR “will work in practice”.
The UK’s digital minister, Matt Hancock, has also tweeted about the data misuse scandal — saying he will be meeting Facebook representatives next week and expects the company “to explain why they put the data of over a million of our citizens at risk”. “This is completely unacceptable, and they must demonstrate this won’t happen again,” Hancock added.
Yesterday the Facebook founder also revealed that search tools on the platform had made it possible for “malicious actors” to discover the identities and collect information on most of its 2 billion users worldwide — essentially confessing to yet another massive data leak.
He said Facebook had now disabled the tool.
As with the millions of Facebook users whose data was improperly passed to Cambridge Analytica, the company is unlikely to be able to precisely confirm the full extent of how the search loophole was exploited to leak personal data.
Nor will it be able to delete any of the personal information that was maliciously swiped.
This report was updated with additional comment
Autonomous cars gather up tons of data about the world around them, but even the best computer vision systems can’t see through brick and mortar. But by carefully monitoring the reflected light of a laser bouncing off a nearby surface, they might be able to see around corners — that’s the idea behind recently published research from Stanford engineers. Read More
Axa Venture Partners, the venture capital arm of insurance company Axa, is raising an early-stage fund. Today’s new $150 million fund (€130 million) is called AVP Early Stage II.
Previously, Axa Venture Partners had raised a $110 million early-stage fund back in 2015. So far, it has invested in 40 companies, such as Hackajob, K4Connect, Futurae or Zenjob and Happytal.
When it comes to investment strategy, Axa Venture Partners plans to invest in early startups based in Europe, North America and Israel with this new fund. The firm will invest as much as $6 million per company.
Axa Venture Partners also operates a growth fund and invests in other funds through a fund of funds. And the firm has offices in Paris, London, San Francisco and New York.
WP Standard – formerly called Whipping Post Leather – makes rugged leather bags, totes, and briefcases and their Rucksack is one of my favorites. Designed to look like something a Pony Express rider would slip on for a visit to town, this $275 satchel is sturdy, handsome, and ages surprisingly well.
There are some trade-offs, however. Except for two small front pouches there are no hidden nooks and crannies in this spare 15×15 inch sack. The main compartment can fit a laptop and a few notebooks and the front pouches can hold accessories like mice or a little collection of plugs. There is no fancy nylon mesh or gear organizers here, just a brown expanse of full grain leather.
I wore this backpack for a few months before writing this and found it surprisingly comfortable and great for travel. Because it is so simple I forced myself to pare down my gear slightly and I was able to consolidate my cables and other accessories into separate pouches. I could fit a laptop, iPad Pro, and a paperback along side multiple notebooks and planners and I could even overstuff the thing on long flights. As long as I was able to buckle the front strap nothing fell out or was lost.
This bag assumes that you’re OK with thick, heavy leather and that you’re willing to forgo a lot of the bells and whistles you get with more modern styles. That said, it has a great classic look and it’s very usable. I suspect this bag would last decades longer than anything you could buy at Office Depot and it would look good doing it. At $275 it’s a bit steep but you’re paying for years – if not decades – of regular use and abuse. It’s worth the investment.
In addition to plans to launch its own Netflix rival, Disney+, next year, the company says it also plans to increase investment in its other streaming service, Hulu. Thanks to its buyout of 21st Century Fox, Disney now own 60 percent of the TV streaming service, which it gives it “considerable say” in how Hulu is run, noted Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger on this week’s earnings call with investors. He said the plan now is to invest in more original content for Hulu and expand the service internationally.
Disney would also be open to acquiring more of a stake in Hulu, the CEO later said.
Disney sees the value in both Hulu’s IP and talent, particularly on the television and movies side, Iger told investors. And it plans to use the television production capabilities of the now-combined company to “fuel Hulu with a lot more original programming,” he added. This, Disney believes, will help make Hulu more competitive in the marketplace.
“Given the success of Hulu so far in terms of subscriber growth and the relative brand strength and other things too like demographics, we think there’s an opportunity to increase investment in Hulu notably on the programming side,” Iger said.
Currently, Hulu has had only a handful of breakout original hits — most notably, the timely dystopian spectacle that was “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But its originals output has paled in comparison with Netflix, which projected it would spend $8 billion on content this year, with plans to increase that in 2019. Hulu has spent considerably less — around $2.5 billion, per analyst estimates.
With Fox, however, Disney gains access to the Fox studio and FX, and more, which will help it fuel Hulu with more original content. Iger declined to say if that content would be exclusive to Hulu in the future, but did confirm the studios are part of Disney’s plans for Hulu.
Iger also spoke of other changes ahead for Hulu, including possible adjustments to Hulu’s pricing, and its plan to bring Hulu to more international markets.
“After the deal closes and after we have the 60 percent ownership, we’ll meet with the Hulu management team and the board, and discuss what the opportunities are in terms of both global growth and investing more in content. But that’s something that we have to do after the deal closes,” Iger added.
The acquisition is expected to close in 2019.
In a follow-up interview with CNBC, Iger also said that Disney would be interested in acquiring more shares of Hulu, if the opportunity arose.
“It is premature really except to say that if Comcast is interested in divesting, or if Time Warner or AT&T Time Warner is interested in divesting, we certainly would be interested in buying their stake. But with 60 percent, which is what we will own, we’ll have enough control to manage Hulu in a way that is consistent with the strategy the company is deploying,” he said.
It’s Oscar night! Do you care? If you’re me, and/or the statistically average watcher, the answer is: a whole lot less than you used to. Last year’s viewership hit an all-time low. Whither Hollywood, which just does not dominate the cultural conversation the way it used to?
Oh, at first glance it’s doing just fine — last year the total US box office hit almost $12 billion, the highest ever. But look a little deeper and the numbers are more troubling. Most of that gain is from higher ticket prices. The total number of movie tickets sold in the USA has fallen by more than 10% over the last 20 years, despite population growth.
“Netflix!” you say, and yes indeed, and even more than you think. “Hollywood is now irrelevant,” says no less an authority than onetime Hollywood mogul Barry Diller, now chairman of IAC. “Netflix has won this game.” Streaming is the future, despite the studios’ attempt to promote “cloud lockers” for movie ownership, one of which (UltraViolet) closed down last year, while others, such as Disney’s Movies Anywhere (disclaimer/disclosure: I did some ancillary work for MA at my dayjob a couple of years ago) have not exactly conquered the landscape.
In fact, perhaps the keenest-eyed industry analyst alive, Matthew Ball, former head of strategy at Amazon Studios, argues that Netflix has so transcended Hollywood that its real competition is another, and surprising, entity entirely:
Fortnite is Netflix's most threatening competitor.
— Matthew Ball (@ballmatthew) December 6, 2018
He unpacks that in a fascinating piece which is then surpassed by his four–parts–and–counting deep dive into “Netflix Misunderstandings,” composed last summer and since then required reading for every armchair media analyst worldwide. Some highlights:
This cash loss only exists because Netflix is funding next year’s content against this year’s revenue. Netflix could have chosen to stabilize its 2018 content offering at 2017 levels … and had the company done this, it would have generated $700MM in cash, not lost $2B.[…]At a time in which most tech companies need to be bullied into admitting they’re also media companies, Netflix’s tech identity is often glossed over. It is as much a technology and product company as Google, Apple or Amazon.[…]Hastings knows that if Netflix falls short of, say, 250MM subscribers, his business will buckle. His spend is predicated upon achieving this degree of scale … Even at the low end, Netflix would have achieved greater dominance than the media business has ever seen.[…]The company boasts that it will launch 700 total original series in 2018 (or 14 per week) and offer more than 1,000 by the end of the year. This raises the question of what, exactly, is an “Original” … Understanding this difference is critical for any attempt to benchmark SVOD services
We can conclude that Netflix’s (and, to a lesser extent, Amazon Prime’s) reshaping of the visual media industry has only just begun; the repercussions of the first few tremors are still rippling through Hollywood, but we can expect ever bigger quakes in the years to come.
The saving grace is that the rest of the world is getting wealthier, and spending more on Hollywood … although the studios only pull in roughly 25% of what their releases in China gross, compared to 50% back home. Still, 25% of a huge number is still very large, and China is huge. Two of last year’s top 15 worldwide movies made essentially all of their money in China. It seems plausible that The Wandering Earth, which has pulled in $557 million in China only two weeks, will make more money there this year than presumed 2019 #1 Avengers:Endgame will in the USA. (Infinity War earned $679 million domestically.)
So where does that leave Hollywood? Being slowly disrupted back home by technical superiors in the form of Netflix and Amazon Prime, while racing to make up their losses overseas. But it’s not like Netflix doesn’t have a robust international strategy. Hollywood’s studios aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but, with the possible exception of Disney, they’ll soon have to get used to being mid-level players rather than the kings of the world they once were.
In what amounts to be an amazingly nefarious bit of malware, hackers have created an exploit that watches 2.3 million high-value crypto wallets and replaces the addresses in the Windows clipboard with an address associated with the hackers. In other words, you could paste your own wallet address – 3BYpmdzASG7S6WrpmrnzJCX3y8kduF6Kmc, for example – and the malware would subtly (or unsubtly) change it to its own private wallet. Because it happens in the clipboard most people wouldn’t notice the change between copying and pasting.
Security researchers at BleepingComputer have found similar hijackers in the wild but this latest version is actively watching valuable wallets and trying grab bitcoin as they enter the accounts. Below is an example of the malware at work.
The malware runs a massive, 83MB DLL file that masquerades as a Direct X service. Inside the DLL is a 2.5 million line text file full of bitcoin addresses. In the above test when cutting and pasting from an HTML page into WordPad you’ll notice that the accounts are subtly modified in each case while leaving the beginning of the address unchanged.
Multiple anti-virus engines are now tagging this DLL as dangerous and you should be safe as long as you keep your virus protection up to date. But, as BleepingComputer notes, the only way to be sure your BTC is safe is to meticulously check each address you paste. They write:
As malware like this runs in the background with no indication that it is even running, is it not easy to spot that you are infected. Therefore it is important to always have a updated antivirus solution installed to protect you from these types of threats.
It is also very important that all cryptocurrency users to double-check any addresses that they are sending cryptocoins to before they actually send them. This way you can spot whether an address has been replaced with a different one than is intended.
An attempt to bring a class-action style litigation in the UK to claim up to £3BN in compensation from Google for ignoring iPhone user privacy settings has been blocked after the High Court judge ruled the case cannot proceed.
The case pertains to actions by Google between 2011 and 2012 when it allegedly harvested personal data from Safari users without their permission, via the use of tracking cookies.
In the US, Google settled with the FTC over the same cookie tracking issuing — agreeing in 2012 to pay $22.5M to settle the charge that it bypassed Safari’s privacy settings to serve targeted ads to consumers.
In the UK a civil legal action was filed last year by one named iPhone user, Richard Lloyd — the former director of consumer group, Which? — who was seeking to represent millions of UK users, whose Safari settings the complaint alleged were similarly ignored by Google’s tracking technologies, via a representative legal action.
Lawyers for the claimants argued that sensitive personal data such as iPhone users’ political affiliation, sexual orientation, financial situation and more had been gathered by Google via a ‘Safari Workaround’ that operated between August 2011 and February 2012, and used for targeted advertising without their consent.
The suit sought compensation for Google’s improper use of people’s data — with a proposed amount of £750 per claimant, which could have resulted in a bill of up to £3BN for the company (based on representing ~4.4 million UK iPhone users).
While the judge did not disagree “it is arguable that Google’s alleged role in the collection, collation, and use of data obtained via the Safari Workaround was wrongful, and a breach of duty”, the ruling was based on legal questions related to the merit of the case’s compensation claims, and whether the court should allow a representative action in this case.
In a judgement issued today Mr Justice Warby ruled that the claimants had not been able to demonstrate a basis for bringing a compensation claim.
UK law in this area requires claimants to be able to demonstrate they suffered damage as a result of violation of the relevant data protection rules. And in this instance the claimants had not been able to show damage, the judge ruled.
“I do not believe that the authorities show that a person whose information has been acquired or used without consent invariably suffers compensatable harm, either by virtue of the wrong itself, or the interference with autonomy that it involves. Not everything that happens to a person without their prior consent causes significant or any distress. Not all such events are even objectionable, or unwelcome. Some people enjoy a surprise party,” wrote Warby in the judgement, going on to state that “the question of whether or not damage has been sustained by an individual as a result of the non-consensual use of personal data about them must depend on the facts of the case”.
“The bare facts pleaded in this case, which are in no way individualised, do not in my judgment assert any case of harm to the value of any claimant’s right of autonomy that amounts to “damage” within the meaning of DPA s 13,” he concluded.
On a second legal point, the judge also ruled that the case would not have been allowed to proceed as a class-action style suit, asserting that “the essential requirements for a representative action are absent” — owing to individuals in the group not all having the “same interest” in the claim, and the difficulty of reliably defining a class for the purposes of this case.
In a statement after the ruling was announced, Google said: “The privacy and security of our users is extremely important to us. This claim is without merit, and we’re pleased the Court has dismissed it.”
BigID announced a big $30 million Series B round today, which comes on the heels of closing their $14M A investment in January. It’s been a whirlwind year for the NYC data security startup as GDPR kicked in and companies came calling for their products.
The round was led by Scale Venture Partners with participation from previous investors ClearSky Security, Comcast Ventures, Boldstart Ventures, Information Venture Partners and SAP.io.
BigID has a product that helps companies inventory their data, even extremely large data stores, and identify the most sensitive information, a convenient feature at a time where GDPR data privacy rules, which went into effect at the end of May, require that companies doing business in the EU have a grip on their customer data.
That’s certainly something that caught the eye of Ariel Tseitlin from Scale Venture Partners. “We talked to a lot of companies, how they feel more specifically about GDPR, and more broadly about how they think about data within in their organizations, and we got a very strong signal that there is a lot of concern around the regulation and how to prepare for that, but also more fundamentally, that CIOs and chief data officers don’t have a good sense of where data resides within their organizations,” he explained.
Dimitri Sirota, CEO and co-founder, says that GDPR is a nice business driver, but he sees the potential to grow the data security market much more broadly than simply as a way to comply with one regulatory ruling or another. He says that American companies are calling, even some without operations in Europe because they see getting a grip on their customer data as a fundamental business imperative.
BigID product collage. Graphic: BigID
The company plans to expand their partner go-to market strategy in the coming the months, another approach that could translate to increased sales. That will include global systems integrators. Sirota says to expect announcements involving the usual suspects in the coming months. “You’ll see over the next little bit, several announcements with many of the names that you’re familiar with in terms of go-to market and global relationships,” he said.
Finally there are the strategic investors in this deal, including Comcast and SAP, which Sirota thinks will also ultimately help them get enterprise deals they might not have landed up until now. The $30 million runway also gives customers who might have been skittish about dealing with a young-ish startup, more confidence to make the deal.
BigID seems to have the right product at the right time. Scale’s Tseitlin, who will join the board as part of the deal, certainly sees the potential of this company to scale far beyond its current state.
“The area where we tend to spend a lot of time, and I think is what attracted Dimitri to having us as an investor, is that we really help with the scaling phase of company growth,” he said. True to their name, Scale tries to get the company to that next level beyond product/market fit to where they can deliver consistently and continually grow revenue. They have done this with Box and DocuSign and others and hope that BigID is next.
A new London-based travel-industry startup is slowly coming out of stealth mode, but although it’s releasing it’s funding round, it’s keeping the actual product close to its chest. For now.
Y Combinator -backed travel startup Duffel says it is working on “a new way to book travel online, aiming at the booking experience “end to end”. A hint at what this might mean is the fact that the team contains alumni from GoCardless and is objectively very experienced in the FinTech world.
So far, that’s all we’re getting. But what we do know is that Duffel is today announcing an investment round of $4.7 million.
Blossom Capital is the lead investor in the round and has built a syndicate with other major investors: The Crankstart Foundation and Index Ventures. Crankstart is the charitable investment vehicle of Michael Moritz .
It’s also revealed that it’s currently participating in the Y Combinator S18 Cohort.
The UK headquartered company was founded by two former early GoCardless employees: Steve Domin and Tom Bates, as well as Vincent Pastor. Steve and Tom join the list of GoCardless-alumni startups, which include the founders of Monzo and Nested. They say the money will be used to expand their engineering team in London.
Steve Domin, founder of Duffel said: “We are building a platform from scratch that will completely redefine the nature of travel experiences booked on web or mobile. The travel industry hasn’t evolved its technology to service the demand and behaviours of its most important customers and the providers – airlines, hotels, transport companies – and their customers are hurting as a result. Travel agents still work on terminals that look like they’re from the 70s and travel buyers still have to browse 10 websites before finding that perfect fare. This shouldn’t be the case any more and we’re planning to solve this issue from the ground up.”
Commenting Blossom Capital founder Ophelia Brown said: “The Duffel team have very ambitious plans to completely reinvent the travel space, so we are very excited to support them in their mission. Similar to payments, before the emergence of next-gen companies like Adyen or Stripe, this is an industry that hasn’t witnessed innovation in decades, still running on antiquated rails and infrastructure. We see huge opportunity for innovation in this multi-trillion dollar industry.”
This is the second firm London-based Blossom has invested in straight out of Y Combinator. Recent investments include Fat Llama, an online marketplace for renting belongings like audio, video, sound and DJ equipment.
Heiliger Strohsack! Holy smokes — Disrupt Berlin 2018 kicks off in exactly one week! We’re beyond excited to welcome thousands of startup movers, shakers and makers to Europe’s premier tech startup conference.
We’ve packed a ton of top-notch programming into 29-30 November, and we can’t wait for you to arrive in Berlin and get the party started. And for any last-minute decision makers out there, we’ve got you covered. Pull the trigger and buy your pass today.
Here’s just some of the glorious startup action in store for you at Disrupt Berlin. For a pure adrenaline rush, you can’t beat Startup Battlefield, our renowned pitch competition. We’ve selected a cohort of exceptional early-stage startup founders to compete head-to-head for a shot at the coveted Disrupt Cup and a $50,000 non-equity cash prize. On top of that, all Battlefield competitors bask in a potentially life-changing spotlight of media and investor attention. Don’t miss your chance to be in the audience and see it all happen live and in person.
Let’s talk speakers and panels. The Disrupt Main Stage is home to some of the best minds in the startup, tech and investment worlds, and you’ll get to hear them share their entrepreneurial experiences, their insights and their take on critical issues facing the startup community. Be sure to check out the conference agenda here.
If you’re hungry for interactive discussions that delve deeper, you’ll want to attend our Q&A Sessions. These are smaller, more intimate panels moderated by a TechCrunch editor, and many Main Stage speakers will be on hand to answer questions from the audience. Get to the Sessions early to secure your seat, because we don’t record or live-stream these events. The only way to hear the discussions is to be in the room.
Of course, no trip to Disrupt is complete without spending time in Startup Alley, the expo floor, where you’ll find more than 400 early-stage startups showcasing the very latest in technology products, services and platforms. While you’re there, be sure to check out our TC Top Picks — a group of exceptional startups representing 12 tech categories.
No matter where you roam or who you want to meet, Disrupt Berlin is networking nirvana — a trove of opportunity. With thousands of attendees, we figured you could use some help connecting with the right people, so we’ve made CrunchMatch — our free business-networking service — available to all Disrupt Berlin attendees. Registered attendees will receive an email explaining how to access and use the service. It’ll help you find the right people quickly and efficiently. Networking made simple!
Only one week left until Disrupt Berlin 2018 rocks your startup world. If you don’t already have a pass, buy your ticket today. Heiliger Strohsack, people! Come to Berlin and connect with your community. Opportunity awaits!
Instagram users were missing 70 percent of all posts and 50 percent of their friends’ posts before the app ditched the reverse chronological feed for an algorithm in July 2016. Despite backlash about confusing ordering, Instagram now says relevancy sorting has led to its 800 million-plus users seeing 90 percent of their friends’ posts and spending more time on the app.
Yet Instagram has never explained exactly how the algorithm chooses what to show you until today. The Facebook-owned company assembled a group of reporters at its under-construction new San Francisco office to take the lid off the Instagram feed ranking algorithm.
Instagram product lead Julian Gutman explains the algorithm
Instagram’s feed ranking criteria
Instagram relies on machine learning based on your past behavior to create a unique feed for everyone. Even if you follow the exact same accounts as someone else, you’ll get a personalized feed based on how you interact with those accounts.
Three main factors determine what you see in your Instagram feed:
Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.
Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.
Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.
Beyond those core factors, three additional signals that influence rankings are:
Frequency: How often you open Instagram, as it will try to show you the best posts since your last visit.
Following: If you follow a lot of people, Instagram will be picking from a wider breadth of authors so you might see less of any specific person.
Usage: How long you spend on Instagram determines if you’re just seeing the best posts during short sessions, or it’s digging deeper into its catalog if you spend more total time browsing.
Instagram’s team also responded to many of the most common questions and conspiracy theories about how its feed works. TechCrunch can’t verify the accuracy of these claims, but this is what Instagram’s team told us:
Instagram is not at this time considering an option to see the old reverse chronological feed because it doesn’t want to add more complexity (users might forget what feed they’re set to), but it is listening to users who dislike the algorithm.
Instagram does not hide posts in the feed, and you’ll see everything posted by everyone you follow if you keep scrolling.
Feed ranking does not favor the photo or video format universally, but people’s feeds are tuned based on what kind of content they engage with, so if you never stop to watch videos you might see fewer of them.
Instagram’s feed doesn’t favor users who use Stories, Live, or other special features of the app.
Instagram doesn’t downrank users for posting too frequently or for other specific behaviors, but it might swap in other content in between someone’s if they rapid-fire separate posts.
Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach.
Shadowbanning is not a real thing, and Instagram says it doesn’t hide people’s content for posting too many hashtags or taking other actions.
Today’s Instagram whiteboard session with reporters, its first, should go a long way to clearing up misunderstandings about how it works. When people feel confident that their posts will reach their favorite people, that they can reliably build a public audience, and that they’ll always see great content, they’ll open the app more often.
Yet on the horizon looms a problem similar to what Facebook’s algorithm experienced around 2015: competition reduces reach. As more users and businesses join Instagram and post more often, but feed browsing time stays stable per user, the average post will get drowned out and receive fewer views. People will inevitably complain that Instagram is trying to force them to buy ads, but it’s a natural and inevitable consequence of increasingly popular algorithmic feeds.
The more Instagram can disarm that problem by pushing excess content creation to Stories and educating users about how the feed operates, the less they’ll complain. Facebook is already uncool, so Instagram must stay in our good graces.