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Big Revolution - How nutritious are these labels?

December 10 · Issue #898 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Thursday’s newsletter, and it’s a busy day for news…
— Martin from Big Revolution

Big things you need to know today
  • Facebook has been hit by two big antitrust lawsuits in the USA. Alleging anti-competitive behaviour, the lawsuits could result in Facebook being broken up, with Instagram and WhatsApp becoming independent. But if that happens, it will likely be years from now. Facebook has issued a brash response that has echoes of how some of its staff have communicated on Twitter in recent times.
  • Microsoft has confirmed it will get around Apple’s ban on its cloud-gaming app by bringing Game Pass Ultimate’s ‘X-cloud’ service to the browser on iOS in the spring. PC users will also be able to play Game Pass games in their browser.
  • Online streaming services could be encouraged to produce UK public service content in Ofcom proposals to shake up the country’s broadcasting landscape. Traditional broadcasters’ public service remits would be adjusted to emphasise online channels.
  • ‘Ethical’ UK retailer the Co-op is running facial recognition on shoppers in some of its stores with very little public awareness. In fact, it’s been happening for 18 months.
  • Robot maker Boston Dynamics has reportedly changed hands again. According to a credible report from South Korea, Hyundai has purchased the company from SoftBank, which in turn acquired it from Alphabet four years ago. Hyundai is said to have paid just shy of $1bn.
  • Adobe has released the final ever update to Flash. The much-loathed technology reaches end-of-life at the end of the month, and Adobe wants you to uninstall it before then. In fact, Flash content won’t even work in the app at all after 12 January.
The big thought
Apple's privacy 'nutrition labels,' coming to the App Store soon.
Apple's privacy 'nutrition labels,' coming to the App Store soon.
How nutritious are these labels?
Is it fair that third-party apps on iOS need to display privacy ‘nutrition labels’ in their App Store listings from next month, but users will have no easy way of seeing how that compares to the privacy offered by Apple’s own stock apps that come with iPhones and iPads?
Facebook’s WhatsApp thinks not. As Axios reports, WhatsApp isn’t happy about the disparity::
“We think labels should be consistent across first and third party apps as well as reflect the strong measures apps may take to protect people’s private information,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told Axios.
To be clear, Apple will offer the nutrition labels for the stock iOS apps, but they’ll be on the Apple website if those apps aren’t on the App Store. If you’re searching for a messaging app and decide to compare the privacy of a bunch of competing apps, you won’t be able to easily see whether they’re any better or worse than Apple’s own Messages, because who’s going to run off to the website to check? More likely you’ll just assume Messages is fine because it comes with the phone.
And even if you do hunt out Apple’s own labels, they don’t tell a complete story. Axios again:
“Our teams have submitted our privacy labels to Apple but Apple’s template does not shed light on the lengths apps may go to protect sensitive information,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said. “While WhatsApp cannot see people’s messages or precise location, we’re stuck using the same broad labels with apps that do.”
Context is important, and if it’s impossible to convey details like the use of end-to-end encryption, that risks misleading consumers and harming apps that are taking pro-privacy steps. Say what you like about Facebook’s approach to user data, WhatsApp has got a point here.
Apple is always keen to paint itself as pro-privacy, and these labels are a step in the right direction. But unless they rapidly evolve to counter developers’ concerns, in some cases they could do more harm than good.
One big read
Facebook Plans to Turn Messaging App WhatsApp Into a Moneymaking Business Facebook Plans to Turn Messaging App WhatsApp Into a Moneymaking Business
That’s all for today...
Back tomorrow, when it will be just two weeks until Christmas Day. HOW?!
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