Oracle bought TikTok. Sort of. Not really.
Parent company ByteDance turned down Microsoft’s offer making Oracle the winner. Or are they? This is a more complicated deal than expected because the sale is not a sale. Instead of a clear-cut ownership transaction, Oracle is the “trusted tech partner” for TikTok’s U.S. operations. Rather than severing U.S. TikTok from Europe and Asia entirely, this deal has Oracle taking over hosting but without getting the source code or making any significant operational changes.
Here’s what this means. Well… It’s unlikely TikTok will get shut down in the U.S. The deal is enough to appease the Treasury Department ahead of the September 20 deadline which stymie other offers and transactions. But the whole thing is kind of weird. The internet is having a great time with calling out how Oracle is a strange choice for this transaction and weirder still because ByteDance will retain ownership of the intellectual property (aka: the algorithmic models fueling the platform).
Buying TikTok without the algorithm is like buying a Bic Mac without the beef
— Matthew Kobach (@mkobach) September 14, 2020
— Audrey K Solomon (@audreyksolomon) September 14, 2020
TLDR: Oracle’s vague “trusted tech partner” status is likely enough to stop the ban on TikTok in the U.S. Oracle brings deep security roots to the table which is why this might just work. But the transaction is just vague and complicated enough that if you had privacy concerns about TikTok before, you should probably still have them. For now.
Australia Swings at Facebook
Facebook cannot shake that whole Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal thing. (Quick refresher here: The massive data breach which harvested personal data without user consent and had serious political implications for the 2016 U.S. election – yeah, that scandal). Australian courts have ruled there is a case against Facebook for exposing data from more than 300,000 Australian users. In short, Australia is suing Facebook for a whole lot of money through their Privacy Act.
Here’s what this means. It’s not so much the suing here, it’s the reminder that Facebook is not great at policing its own platform. Did you know the California Consumer Protection Act was basically created because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal? Facebook decided to implement the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation in all areas of operations – not just the EU – just months after the scandal came to light. As we approach another contentious U.S. election it’s not a great reminder that Facebook is flawed when it comes to handling user data and political advertising.
Facebook + Politics = Not Good
“Slapdash and haphazard.” That’s how a Facebook data scientist described the company’s response to global political manipulation in a recent memo. Sophie Zhang claims Facebook has ignored or been too slow to act to evidence that fake accounts have been undermining elections and political affairs around the world. Her memo includes concrete examples of heads of government using fake accounts to sway public opinion. Essentially, she describes a system where the focus is on ordinary spam – a problem for sure – rather than on attempts to influence elections.
Here’s what this means. Did you read above where I called out Facebook being not that great at handling user data and political advertising? Yeah. Facebook keeps attempting to reassure the public that they’re working hard to remove fake accounts and fight against fake news. But reports like this continue. It’s pretty damning when an employee comes out with such specific examples. And this isn’t just U.S. elections. This is a worldwide problem. Is Facebook too big to handle its own platform? It certainly feels that way.
Bonus Update: Black Tech Pipeline
Pariss Chandler, better known as @ParissAthena and the heart of #BlackTechTwitter, is launching Black Tech Pipeline tomorrow. She’s pretty amazing and the Black Tech Pipeline is sure to be amazing as well. Sign up for the newsletter now or check out the launch tomorrow.
— Pariss Athena⚡️Black Tech Pipeline Founder (@ParissAthena) September 14, 2020