Weekly output: world leaders on Facebook, Facebook phone-number privacy

This week is ending with a dubious first: I’ve had a tweet taken down in response to a groundless Digital Millennium Copyright Act request. After a couple of decades of covering digital-intellectual-property foolishness, it’s interesting to have the shoe on my own foot.

4/10/2019: Trump is 2nd most liked current world leader on Facebook, Yahoo Finance

I wrote up a study that found that America’s authoritarian president ranked behind Brazil’s authoritarian president in terms of their effectiveness at coaxing interactions out of Facebook.

USAT Facebook phone-number privacy post4/14/2019: Facebook, lose my digits: Here’s how to unlist your phone number, USA Today

I spent more than a month researching this post–by which I meant, I kept asking Facebook to answer what I thought reasonably simple questions about how it lets advertisers and other users try to look you up by a phone number you first provided as a two-step verification method. Said research finally ended with Facebook saying it would stop letting advertisers target numbers newly added for that purpose.

In case you’re wondering why it’s been a month since my last appearance at USAT, this long wait to get a straight answer out of the social network is one reason. Another is that people above my editor’s pay grade have cut back on the freelance budget–have I mentioned that this is a tough time in my industry?–and one way to deal with that for now is to run half as many pieces from me.

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Weekly output: Facebook ads, tech policy in Washington, Facebook tracking

My tweets the past few days have been coming at weird times because I was in Rome from Thursday through this morning for the IFA Global Press Conference. That’s a small spring event hosted by the organizers of the IFA tech trade show that runs in Berlin each summer. They invite a few hundred journalists and analysts–covering their travel costs–and put on a program of product introductions and a panel discussion or two. I’m not quite sure about how this works for the hosts as a business model, but for me it affords an advance look at some interesting gadgets (look for my writeup of Sharp’s pitch for 8K television soon) and quality networking. And, sure, the chance to spend a few days in a pleasant location.

4/16/2018: How advertisers target you on Facebook, Yahoo Finance

I’ve been meaning to write a longer explanation of how exactly Facebook lets an advertiser target its users (you’ve read short versions of that here), and the confusion many members of Congress expressed in their questions to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave this topic a handy news peg. I also used this story to get some firsthand acquaintance with Facebook’s “Custom Audiences” feature, which lets you upload a customer list and have Facebook show ads to users it matches up with the data in your list.

4/18/2018: Tech News in Washington, D.C. with Rob Pegoraro, Tech Policy Institute

I was a guest on this think tank’s Two Think Minimum podcast, discussing the history of tech policy and tech lobbying in D.C. with TPI communications director Chris McGurn and TPI fellows Scott Wallsten and Sarah Oh.

4/18/2018: Facebook tracking at other sites, Al Jazeera

The Arabic news channel had me do a Skype interview from home about how Facebook tracks people–and in particular, those who don’t have Facebook accounts–at other sites. My takeaway: While Facebook tracking people who aren’t on Facebook can sound creepy, that’s what every ad network does.

Updated 4/23/2018 to add TPI’s podcast. I’m blaming jet lag on making me forget to include that yesterday.