Content Is King Content is King to quote Sumner Redstone. At CEORater we spend a fair amount of time thinking about content. Over the past 24 months we have considered the following for our platform: 1.) video streaming of earnings calls with associated analytics 2.) employee video reviews 3.) business news (original and third-party) and…
Disruption Rarely Announces Its Arrival Ask Curtis Stevens – the gentleman who was knocked on his posterior by Gennady Golovkin in our header image – if he saw the punches coming. Ask former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer if back in the early 2000’s he knew SaaS/cloud-based service delivery models would dominate the software landscape. Ask…
The Facebook uproar – wow! I’m shocked that people are shocked. We put our lives online for the world to see – the temptation for nefarious actors to act is there. We can’t be surprised at the result.
What happened? Facebook and UK-based Cambridge Analytica (“CA”) are at the eye of the storm. What occurred was NOT a data breach. It was NOT a cyber-attack. It was a case of poor supervision on the part of Facebook with regard to how a 3rd party developer accessed and used Facebook member data.
Who is Cambridge Analytica? Other than dead in the water, CA is a data mining/data analytics firm. There are thousands of companies like CA that aggregate and analyze data for various purposes.
What did CA do wrong? CA’s sin was that the firm misrepresented itself and how it would access and use Facebook member data. CA positioned itself as a personality survey application. Approximately 300,000 Facebook members downloaded the app. CA designed the app to capture your data and that of your Facebook friends. So for every person that downloaded the application, CA captured data not only on the 300,000 people that downloaded the app, but also on an additional 166 people for every one person – or 50 million people in total. While you may have provided consent, your Facebook friends did not. That’s strike one against CA.
Second, CA used this data to inform the Trump campaign’s political targeting effort. The Facebook members who gave their consent did so never knowing that their data would be used for a political campaign, much less their friends whom never consented to anything.
By the way, the Obama campaign did something similar. It too created an app for political purposes. It too captured Facebook data not only for those members who provided consent, but also for Facebook members who were friends of those who consented but never provided content themselves. So CA and the Obama campaign had strike one in common.
What should Facebook do? I believe Facebook should create a sandbox environment where 3rd party applications are tested to see how they would behave on FB’s platform – a proving ground of sorts – where Facebook could compare 3rd party application behavior to Facebook’s usage terms. However, this won’t happen as Facebook is not commercially motivated to provide this type of expensive preventative measure. It would be a waste of time and taxpayer dollars for the Federal Government to mandate this type of measure as it would be ill-equipped to audit such a process.
What should you do? There is nothing you can do to remove your digital footprint from the world. At the extreme, delete your social media accounts after you have purged your data from the respective platforms. A more practical approach would be to set your privacy provisions to “closed” or “private” across all applications and Websites that you use. Don’t volunteer to share your personal data and that of your contacts when you download apps.
This Facebook CA scandal is hardly news. Guess who else knows much about who you are? Your bank. Visa. Amex. MasterCard. Your local supermarket. Your doctor. Other companies that know or can infer much of what makes you “you” are many. Here are a few:
- Google: Google scans your email and knows what you store in the cloud. It knows your browsing history. Your search history.
- Amazon: Your Amazon order history. Your Amazon search history. Your credit cards stored with Amazon. Amazon provides auto insurance in the UK. Amazon will soon provide healthcare in conjunction with JP Morgan and Berkshire. AmazonGo grocery stores.
- LinkedIn/Microsoft: MSFT’s LinkedIn has your career history and professional network.
- Twitter: TWTR knows your personal and professional interests and who/what you’re connected to.
- Oracle: Oracle owns LiveRamp and other MarTech businesses that infer or know bits and pieces about who you are through deterministic and/or probabilistic analysis. Drawbridge also plays in this space. Acxiom. Experian. There are hundreds of these Analytics firms.
- Apple: Apple knows much about who you are based upon how you use your phone – particularly if your privacy settings are set to “open”.
- Travel & Hospitality: various airlines and airline reservation systems, hotel and restaurant reservation systems, rental car providers – all store personal data elements and preferences.
Here’s our recent CEORater Podcast covering this subject:
Human Capital is Key
“It’s people! Soylent Green is people!” shouted Charlton Heston’s Robert Thorn in 1973’s Soylent Green. Fast forward 45 years and people remain central to the process. Although the process we refer to isn’t recycled human foodstuff but rather the global economy where Intellectual Capital provides economic sustenance and Human Capital is the key ingredient (Intellectual Capital = Human Capital + Structural Capital + Relationship Capital).
Grist for the Mill
It’s only a matter of time before Technology giants begin to reach into public schools in an effort to identify and recruit top-tier talent in an Intellectual Capital-driven global economy.
Technology’s Four Horsemen – Alphabet, Apple, Amazon and Facebook – hired 247,714 net new employees in 2017, up 89% from the previous year’s figure of 131,196. Amazon alone accounted for 91% of 2017’s total and 84% of 2016’s total (this makes sense given the nature of Amazon’s retail-centric, distribution-heavy business model).
Technology companies require an enormous amount of human capital and brainpower. This is especially true of large technology companies that work to define new market opportunities and use cases. Waiting for the U.S. K-12 public education and university systems to produce inadequately trained professionals is both a suboptimal outcome and supply chain bottleneck. Therefore, we expect for companies such as the Four Horsemen to become increasingly aggressive and systematic in their approach to training and recruiting young people.
We have experienced early green shoots of this phenomenon with Peter Thiel’s “Thiel Fellowship” a foundation that awards $100,000 grants to high potential young people. Those accepted (104 fellows and alumni, 2,800 application last year), to the two-year program learn how to write code and build companies. Young people skip or step out of college to become Thiel Fellows where in addition to grant proceeds, Fellows receive support from the foundation’s network of entrepreneurs, investors and operators.
Another example comes from my personal experience in China 2006-2011 where a number of the large China-based IT Services companies set up company-owned “universities” to train recent college graduates in an effort to better prepare them for the type of work that they would perform on behalf of clients. My view is that these companies will reach further back into the student supply chain and begin to recruit and train students during their junior high and high school years.
A misconception that many have is that an engineer fresh out of college can hit the ground running at optimal efficiency and drive massive value for companies. That’s hardly the case. Universities do a poor job of preparing students for life in the real world. It makes enormous sense for companies to actively invest in the U.S educational system both at the K-12 and university levels. Short-term operating profit margin dilution will pay dividends over the long-term in the form of new differentiated products and services. To ensure a worthwhile outcome it is paramount that companies take a systematic approach to execution. If nothing else Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook excel in measuring outcomes and re-calibrating where necessary.
No Teachers Required
Given what we have posited it would make sense for the Four Horsemen and others to get involved in public education early in students’ academic careers. Further, it would be logical for companies to seek to influence the academic experience as much as is necessary to maximize the probability of optimal outcomes for both students and companies. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect that the Four Horsemen and a few select others will eventually shape student curriculum — particularly in Math and Science. This may range from content creation to teaching methodologies to the act of teaching itself. Teachers’ Unions ought to be concerned. From a technology standpoint it would not be difficult to replace public school teachers nor college professors with machine learning platforms wrapped in friendly AI skins. AmazonGo is already doing this with retail checkout lines. It’s less a question of “how?” and more a question of public will.
Yes if You Ask Us While AT&T moving to acquire Time Warner and Disney (and Comcast?) moving to acquire Fox are interesting deals, it’s more interesting to us what the next chess move may be in a world that increasingly values content (live sports and premium original content in particular). We recently wrote about and…
What Is A LiDAR System? Light Detection And Ranging (“LiDAR”) sensors are detection and survey systems to estimate the proximity of a target object. LiDAR sensor systems consist of four primary elements: 1.) Lasers 2.) Scanners 3.) Photodetector receivers 4.) GPS navigation systems. LiDAR systems enable autonomous vehicles (or robots), to observe the world with: a.) Continuous 360…
Everyone Wants Their 15 Minutes of Fame
It’s a primary reason why Instagram “Stories” are so popular. That and the feature’s ease-of-use. Instagram has created an engaging, almost frictionless user experience that enables anyone to vlog their life in a series of micro videos with a 24-hour shelf life – i.e “Stories”. Stories is the platform feature that single-handedly kneecapped Snap before its March 2017 IPO (we reviewed in our piece about CEO overreach). We covered the “Stories” topic in episodes 58 and 67 of our CEORater Podcast.
Snap recently countered by opening its Stories feature to platforms outside of snapchat whereas Instagram remains within Facebook’s walled garden. Were the two platforms equal, Snap’s counter move likely would have provided an advantage. However, the two platforms are not equal. Instagram continues to enjoy the ease-of-use advantage over snapchat (a powerful advantage) and Facebook’s walled garden is an expansive one with 2 billion-plus monthly active users (“MAUs”).
Mobile Devices that Best Leverage Social Media Platforms Will Win
The “Stories” feature matters not only for social media companies but also for mobile phone OEMs as consumers increasingly record and consume mobile video. Therefore, mobile phone camera features, in-phone storage (external storage devices add friction to the user experience) and battery life will increasingly matter.
Here’s a look at four mobile phones across attributes:
Platform Cloud Vendors Also Win
Facebook stores Instagram videos. Google stores Snap’s content. Expect cloud service leader AWS (Netflix on AWS) to make its mark as companies that were built on top of AWS roll out video content (Amazon/Open Tube?)
The mobile video phenomenon extends beyond user-generated content to professional content. For example, Steven Soderbergh’s forthcoming theatrical feature – “UNSANE” – was recorded entirely on an iPhone.
We published CEORater Podcast episode 120 subsequent to posting this article.
It’s fun to speculate. What if Google parent company Alphabet were to acquire Walmart in an effort to better compete with Amazon? One of the advantages that Amazon has in an AI-driven world is a fully integrated retail experience. Amazon customers may speak buy orders into their Alexa-powered smart device – “re-order paper towels” -…
Chronicle vs. AWS
One of Alphabet’s Moonshot projects was released into the world last week. The company is named Chronicle – read more about it here. In short, Chronicle is a CyberSecurity company whose value proposition is to sell its machine learning-driven offering to large enterprises. We believe this could be a difficult sale for reasons articulated in our recent podcast episode.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s AWS unit is the company that’s best positioned to deliver a CyberSecurity offering to the market at scale. Why? Many companies are built on top of AWS (start-ups like CEORater to Netflix) – thus AWS already has the installed customer base. The heavy lifting is done. Offering new turnkey services to the installed customer base is substantially easier than winning new customers.
Welcome to Apple Health Apple recently announced that this spring it will release an update to its iOS for iPhones and iPads that will include a new “Health Records” feature that will provide access to personal medical records covering allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vitals. Given the ubiquity of the iPhone we…