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Data sneaks blocked
“Sensor Tower, a popular analytics platform for tech developers and investors, has been secretly collecting data from millions of people who have installed popular VPN and ad-blocking apps for Android and iOS,” according to a BuzzFeed News investigation, Craig Silverman writes. “These apps, which don’t disclose their connection to the company or reveal that they feed user data to Sensor Tower’s products, have more than 35 million downloads.”
BuzzFeed’s reporting got some of the apps in trouble, while others had already been banned. “Apple removed Adblock Focus and Google removed Mobile Data after being contacted by BuzzFeed News,” Silverman notes. Keep reading here.
Whisper? More like shout
“Whisper, the secret-sharing app that called itself the ‘safest place on the Internet,’ left years of users’ most intimate confessions exposed on the Web tied to their age, location and other details,” The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell reports, “raising alarm among cybersecurity researchers that users could have been unmasked or blackmailed.”
The paper notes that “the data exposure, discovered by independent researchers and shown to The Washington Post, allowed anyone to access all of the location data and other information tied to anonymous ‘whispers’ posted to the popular social app, which has claimed hundreds of millions of users. ... A Post reporter was able to freely browse and search through the records, many of which involved children: A search of users who had listed their age as 15 returned 1.3 million results.”
In more innocent times, it’s hard to imagine an app being able to survive such a massive privacy screw-up—but these days, of course, sloppy data handling among supposedly security-minded tech companies is almost taken for granted. Still, as the headline on the Post’s report makes clear, this breach is particularly disturbing: “Secret-sharing app Whisper left users’ locations, fetishes exposed on the Web.” (In the story’s subhead, the paper notes its role in getting the data pulled: “Hundreds of millions of users’ intimate messages, tied to their locations, were publicly viewable until after the company was contacted by The Washington Post.”)
And the rose goes to ...
ABC’s long-running reality hit “The Bachelor” was the top time-shifted TV show in February, according to research shared exclusively with Datacenter Weekly by Inscape.tv, the TV data company with glass-level insights (based on a pixel-by-pixel analysis) from a panel of more than 12 million smart TVs.
By “time-shifted,” we mean shows that aired on broadcast or cable and which viewers DVR’d to watch later—as opposed to non-scheduled streaming shows from the likes of Netflix. And to qualify as binge-watching in Inscape’s study, viewers had to watch three or more episodes of a given show. Based on total minutes binged (as a percent of all binged shows that Inscape tracked), “The Bachelor” triumphed, followed by two procedurals, “Criminal Minds” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”—both of which, of course, get plenty of airings, particularly in the form of syndicated reruns, that can quickly swamp your DVR watchlist. “The Bachelor” was the top time-shifted, binge-watched show in January too, by the way.
P.S. “Everything you missed on the shocking season finale of ‘The Bachelor,’” via “Good Morning America.”
P&G vs. Amazon
Procter & Gamble topped the most recent Ad Age World’s Largest Advertisers report, released in December, and it’s been No. 1 every year since Ad Age began the global ranking in 1987—with the exception of the 2018 report (based on 2017 spending), when Samsung grabbed first place.
Now it looks like P&G will lose its top spot once again, thanks to Amazon. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant ranked No. 5 in our December report based on its 2018 ad and promotion spending. Datacenter’s Bradley Johnson noted at the time: “Based on Amazon’s spending growth … Amazon could rank as the world’s biggest advertiser when Ad Age produces its next global ranking a year from now” (in December 2020).
Brad says we now can change “could” to “likely will.” Amazon has disclosed 2019 ad and promotion spending of $11 billion, up 34 percent. We won’t know P&G’s spending (for the fiscal year ending June 30) for some months. But P&G spent an estimated $10.1 billion on advertising and other marketing costs in the year ended June 2019, and spending in the current fiscal year is likely to come in below Amazonian levels. (Brad adds that Samsung’s 2019 ad and sales promotion spending came in at $9.7 billion, down 4 percent.)
• “Xandr partners with AMC, Disney and WarnerMedia to improve TV audience targeting,” per Ad Age’s Jeanine Poggi.
• “Buy or sell? Investors navigate coronavirus data fog,” via Reuters.
• “The 10 most innovative data science companies of 2020,” via Fast Company.
This section of Datacenter Weekly is intended to highlight upcoming data-centric events, but as we noted last week, we’ve paused that “community calendar” function as the coronavirus crisis has escalated. For now, we’re directing your attention to Ad Age’s Coronavirus Industry Event Tracker for the latest word on canceled or rescheduled conferences and other get-togethers.
The newsletter is brought to you by Ad Age Datacenter, the industry’s most authoritative source of competitive intel and home to the Ad Age Leading National Advertisers, the Ad Age Agency Report: World’s Biggest Agency Companies and other exclusive data-driven reports. Access or subscribe to Ad Age Datacenter at AdAge.com/Datacenter.
Ad Age Datacenter is Kevin Brown, Bradley Johnson and Catherine Wolf. This newsletter is compiled and written by Simon Dumenco.
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