SocialANGLE News Round-up: Who Can See What Videos You Watch on Facebook?

In today’s SocialANGLE news round-up:  Facebook users can now share videos they have viewed, Proposed EU data protection laws could force free services to make users pay, Chinese WeChat app censors users, and Twitter evolving as a a real-time advertising platform

Facebook users can now share videos they have viewed


President Obama signed a bill on Thursday to allow users of Facebook and other social media sites to opt in to automatically share which videos they have watched on sites like Netflix. Facebook users could already choose to automatically reveal which songs they listened to and which articles they read. But the Video Privacy Protection Act banned the sharing of any video history information without written consent by the consumer for each video or a warrant from the police. Netflix and other companies argued the law was dated and that users should be able to share their viewing habits with their friends without having to manually approve each video. The House and Senate approved H.R. 6671, the Video Privacy Protection Act Amendments Act, late last year without opposition.

Proposed EU data protection laws could force free services to make users pay


A legal expert has warned Facebook, Gmail and other ad-supported online services would need to start charging users if proposed changes to EU data protection laws go forward. A draft called the European Data Protection Regulation contains substantial restrictions on how companies handle personal data. The draft will be presented to the European Parliament soon. The proposals would severely limit the ability of services to claim they have legitimate grounds for collecting, analyzing or selling the personal data of their users. They also make it far more difficult for services to claim they have a user’s consent for processing their data, even where a user has signed up to a site’s terms and conditions.

Eduardo Ustaran, head of the privacy and information law group at Field Fisher Waterhouse, said services like Facebook and Gmail, which use information obtained from user data to generate ad revenue, would have to abandon their ad-supported models if the proposals became law. He said, “If they weren’t able to use your data in the way that is profitable or useful for them for advertising purposes, then either the user has to pay for it or stop using the service.”

Chinese WeChat app censors users


The Chinese messaging app, WeChat, which has almost 300 million registered users is apparently being forced by Chinese authorities to censor certain ‘sensitive’ words. Right now, the Chinese name of an outspoken magazine is censored in Chinese on WeChat. But the restriction is not just affecting users in China, allegedly typing that name in the Chinese language is now blocked globally. The restriction notice back to the sender says, “The message you sent contains restricted words. Please check it again.”

The folks over at have made a number of tests by sending messages containing the magazine name in Chinese from users in China to Thailand and vice-versa, where it was blocked both ways, and even Thailand to Singapore was also blocked. The prohibited words are not sent at all. However, the name of the magazine can be sent in English which translates to read “Southern Weekend”.

While some things, such as certain cult groups, are already blocked on WeChat, this is the first major case of topical censorship seen on WeChat. This could have a serious impact on the app in overseas markets if users feel uncomfortable over these kinds of restrictions – even if it doesn’t affect English words or phrases.

All media outlets in mainland China are required to operate a form of self-censorship to keep themselves in line with what authorities don’t want being discussed. This is often highly visible on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular Twitter-like social site, where ‘sensitive’ words or phrases are blocked on a very regular basis.

Twitter evolving as a a real-time advertising platform


Twitter has released a twenty-page booklet for advertisers on trends in television viewing and Twitter use in the UK. The Twitter TV Book, which requires registration, contains data gathered by Twitter as well as its analytics and advertising partners. Not only does it show how ordinary people use Twitter together with other media, it tips how TV programmers, networks, and advertisers are going to drive the Twitter experience in the future.

Twitter performed case studies that showed for Downton Abbey, Twitter use fell off during commercial breaks, as viewers changed the channel or shifted attention; but for Dynamo: Mission Impossible, tweet volume picked up on breaks. The lesson appears to be that advertising against or during these shows needs to be microtargeted to the specific behavior profiles of their fans. On the plus side, if you’re an advertiser, the data now exists to assist you with that.

See the entire segment with Kristin Feledy on the Morning NewsDesk Show.