💸 Pay up, kids
Study shows social media companies made billions in ad revenue from underage users. And Facebook has a new sneaky method for tracking us.
We all see a plethora of ads while browsing, commenting, and sharing on social media. There’s money to be made from online advertising and the companies behind the social platforms will sell anything to make a buck or a few billion—even if that means making bank from underage users.
The big social media platforms collectively made over $11 billion in ad revenue from users under 18 in 2022, according to a study released last week by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The Harvard Gazette says this is the first study “to offer estimates of the number of youth users on these platforms and how much annual ad revenue is attributable to them.”
The study looked at two age groups and estimated the ad revenue for youth.
In this study, we obtained data from a business marketing source and from public survey data to conduct a novel simulation analysis to provide the first known estimates of the number of users and the annual advertising revenue generated from U.S.-based child users (ages 0–12 years) and adolescent users (ages 13–17 years) for six major social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube) in 2022.
This comes at a time when lawmakers in “New York and Utah introduced or passed legislation that would curb social media use among kids, citing harms to youth mental health and other concerns,” notes the AP.
Federal lawmakers, too, have been reviewing options for social media use among teens and children. Despite no real change yet, it’s still a concern among many parents, privacy experts, and lawmakers.
“As concerns about youth mental health grow, more and more policymakers are trying to introduce legislation to curtail social media platform practices that may drive depression, anxiety, and disordered eating in young people,” Bryn Austin, the report’s senior author told the Harvard Gazette. “Although social media platforms may claim that they can self-regulate their practices to reduce the harms to young people, they have yet to do so, and our study suggests they have overwhelming financial incentives to continue to delay taking meaningful steps to protect children.”
However, this isn’t the most shocking statistic when it comes to social media and youth. After all, teens and kids see advertising on TV, online, and just about everywhere else. So the fact that social media companies make ad profits from youth doesn’t raise any more red flags that traditional marketing. But the Harvard study does show the need for more transparency. Amanda Raffoul, the study’s lead author and an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, says there’s a need for more regulations and improved transparency.
“Our finding that social media platforms generate substantial advertising revenue from youth highlights the need for greater data transparency as well as public health interventions and government regulations,” she said.
🔗 As if Facebook needs a new way to track us across the web! Well, let me tell you about Link History, the company’s new ploy to track us.
Facebook’s new Link History is a feature that keeps track of all the links we click on through the platform’s mobile app. We can think of it like an automatic bookmark feature, but you know, one that’s used to track us.
But oh, “you’ll never lose a link again,” says Facebook. That may be, but by using this feature, we’re giving in to the company’s invasive practices.
And while this “feature” is not required, it’s definitely something Facebook is pushing on its users, says Gizmodo.
You can opt out if you’re proactive, but the company is pushing Link History on users, and the data is used for targeted ads. As lawmakers introduce tech regulations and Apple and Google beef up privacy restrictions, Meta is doubling down and searching for new ways to preserve its data harvesting empire.
Gizmodo also makes a good point in stating that “Meta has always kept track of the links you click on, and this is the first time users have had any visibility or control over this corner of the company’s internet spying apparatus.”
But we can’t give Facebook all the credit for this type of link tracking practice. TikTok also collects this type of data but most of us just don’t know about it.
Be smart: We should try to remind ourselves to open links in our default browser anytime we want to navigate to a link outside of our apps.
🧒 🤳 Come, child. Let’s let Google scan your face. In what sounds like the opening scene of an episode of Black Mirror, 404 Media is reporting on Google’s project to have parents record multiple short videos of their kid wearing hats and sunglasses, in an attempt to collect data from kids, including eyelid shape and skin tone.
“Canadian tech conglomerate TELUS, which says it is working on Google’s behalf, is offering parents $50 to film their children wearing various props such as hats or sunglasses as part of the project…” according to a report by 404 Media.
🍎🤑 Meanwhile, it has become blatantly obvious that Apple has become a greedy company that just wants their share of any small developer’s revenue. The company has once again rejected an app from the iOS Store do to the lack of in-app purchases (which Apple conveniently takes either a 15 or 30 percent cut). The app in question is the new HEY Calendar app from the makers of the popular HEY Email service. An Apple representative told HEY’s executives that the Calendar app doesn’t “do anything” and that an in-app purchase option should be built in.
Apple Insider notes that this “rejection seems contrary to stated App Store rules.”
There are explicit rules in the App Store Review Guidelines that state that "free apps acting as a standalone companion to a paid web based tool (eg. VIP Cloud Storage, Email Services, Web Hosting) do not need to use in-app purchase, provide there is no purchasing inside the app or calls to action for purchase outside of the app."
HEY also initially had their email app rejected by Apple, but was eventually able to get approval. Hopefully the same will happen for their new Calendar app.