Online giant Amazon has finally made public the list of government requests for data. The lack of transparency from the company has been a source of criticism from the American Civil Liberties union, and citizen watchdog groups that claim they have a right to know how companies disclose their information to governments. Amazon is notoriously secretive about its data, and the move has surprised insiders with its timing. Nothing that Amazon does in public is without a reason, and the question many have is whether or not the release is part of a push to boost its new gaming arm.
What the reports show
While Facebook has been subject to 10s of thousands of request for personal user data by governments, Amazon has had less than a thousand requests in a six month period. Of those request, barely 40 involved warrants. Of those with warrants, only 13 were responded to. In all, this is a strikingly different picture than is presented by the transparency reports from other social media networks. Facebook’s rate of request and fulfillment is much higher when you place the numbers on a scale. Not only does Amazon look like it is not a hot bed of governmental concern, but that they have been very successful in protecting their member information against disclosure. That they have only answered less than half of the warrants speaks volumes about the legal machine that powers Amazon.
The real question is why Amazon chose to release the transparency report now. Insiders believe it is part of a push to appeal to the demographic they are courting with their new gaming service. The fact that they can show themselves as more strident protectors of demands for information – even from public sources – may play well in the gaming community. Amazon is known for being to take on other tech giants and carve out a niche for their products, if not a leading edge. Just look to the Kindle for evidence of that. Google may be teaming up with YouTube to take on their gaming arm, but nothing Google has a good reputation for looking out for member privacy.
Does the recent transparency signal a shift in culture at Amazon?
Don’t get excited thinking that the release of the report is a signal that the company is going to become more open and friendly. Amazon’s business culture remains markedly closed, and that won’t change anytime soon. It shouldn’t, as it has proven to work successfully for them. As the released report shows, the close-lipped approach seems to also be benefiting the protection of its customers too. Business will probably continue as always, although the door is now open for regular transparency accounting too.
Third party computer support and app developers are under the gun to meet the fast approaching deadline for UDID compliance that Apple set out earlier in the year. Miss the deadline and they face a ban from the iTunes App store. There is big business at stake for both sides, and many independent developers feel like they have been caught in between the two giants.
On one hand, Apple owes respect to their customers
The revelation that the PATH app was tracking UDIDs and using the information to lift contact books off Apple products shook consumers. With a rise in mobile hacking and issues of privacy still at the fore of the news – the knowledge that their friendly and free apps were tracking the equivalent of their social security numbers did not sit well with consumers. Apple responded swiftly issuing a moratorium on app acceptance that actively tracks UDID, and issuing a deadline for removal from the store of any apps that currently track the number.
Why do apps need your UDID?
Your UDID is the unique signifier on your iPhone that is often referred to as its social security number. It allows developers to see where you go and what you do. It can also allow them access to your private data that may be stored on the phone which can contain identifying information and financial information. On one hand it is easy to say they have no need for this information, but from a developing and marketing standpoint that information is vital to understanding consumer behavior. Poor PATH got caught in the middle because they were doing something that everyone was doing for reputable reasons, but got caught in the storm of customer awareness of just how their information can be used of illegal purposes.
What happens next?
Apple knows that tracking consumer behavior is essential to apps so they have offered up a compromise. App developers can no longer track UDIDs, but they can track the CFDID. That number is not as unique to the specific phones, but it also does not allow access to any of the user’s information. That sounds like a decent compromise until you figure the cost of converting apps to track this number. For many small developers, there is no budget for creating an update so their app can meet these standards. Consumers may also get the unpleasant surprise of seeing more apps start to charge fees in order to cover these revised development costs.
Still an issue is left standing
The real issue has been missed in this event. The issue isn’t that apps were tracking UDIDs, but that some apps exist for the sole purposes of capturing unique identifying information for sale to the highest bidder. Apple may have made a wiser choice to placate the consumer while investigating more stringent application processes to weed our malapps from their store, but that would have cost the company money. Better for them to push the cost on the consumer and 3rd part developer while getting the press that they did good by all.
Jack Dorsey has been tapped to be the interim CEO of the troubled Twitter replacing outgoing CEO Dick Costolo. Costolo is resigning after only a brief time at the helm of Twitter. Months of disappointment to investors have prompted the change. Dorsey is coming in from Square, which he leaves with a solid track record of success. The question for everyone is whether Twitter faces realistic expectations from its investors, and can it play catch-up with the giants?
The little bird that keeps refusing to leave the nest
Twitter hasn’t been a disappointment to just investors, during its first heady years it captured the imagination of just about everyone. It promised a fast and easy way to send mass communications across global networks that could revolutionize how we do business like this company for SEO in Winnipeg, experience world events and socialize. News reporting has caught on to a degree, but not in the high monied markets of the West. Socialization on Twitter still remains the realm of hipsters, and it is mostly a communication forum for links to longer articles on better networks – such as its once rival, Facebook. With one billion users, Facebook has stepped far beyond Twitter’s reach.
What can Dorsey do?
With Twitter stock having plummeted another 35 percent in recent months it looks like it may take a miracle to make the company a contender again. Then again, with Dorsey at the helm, the solution may prove to be easier. As all of the industry experts point out the main failing of Twitter is it failed to integrate user experience. It tried through a failed adoption of video and multimedia, but that could be revisited. Dorsey’s experience with Square has shown that he can combine several aspects under one social network media and retain a viable business structure. The Square market has grown greatly under his lead and it now considered to be a merchant option for anchor stores as well as food market vendors and SEO providers.
What is the demographic for Twitter?
One of the issues that Dorsey faces is that the potential demographic for Twitter has muddied greatly under Costolo. While it is strong with the hipster crowd, the millennials and baby boomers have drifted away. It remains a go-to with a broad appeal when there is breaking news events, and that can be capitalized. One thing for certain, the worst thing he could do is keep everything has it is. Twitter has started to fall so fast it won’t take much change to create an upswing. Whether or not that upswing can translate into a long term rise is the challenge for Dorsey.