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Facebook’s Removing a Range of Location Tracking Tools as Data Regulations Continue to Evolve

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Could this be another victim of Apple’s iOS data tracking change?

Meta is quietly changing the way that it uses Location Services in Facebook, with the depreciation of several local-based functions in the app, including Nearby Friends, weather alerts and Location History.

As you can see in this example notification, shared by social media expert Matt Navarra, users are now being alerted to the update in their Facebook notifications stream.

In a more detailed explanation of the change, Meta says that these services will no longer be available after May 31st, 2022, at which point, Meta will stop collecting the information used to power these elements, even if you’d previously enabled them. Meta says that all of your previously logged information relating to these functions will be deleted on August 1st.

So why the change?

We asked Facebook for some more insight into the shift, and it provided this statement:

“While we’re deprecating some location-based features on Facebook due to low usage, people can still use Location Services to manage how their location information is collected and used.”

So low usage is the cause – people don’t really care about these features, so Meta’s removing them.

Makes sense – but then again, Meta’s not known for giving up user data so easily, and it seems unlikely that it’s simply chosen to depreciate these additional insights of its own accord.

It could be that it will help Meta reduce the size of these notifications, which are now shown to all Facebook users on iOS.

Facebook app tracking alert prompt

Maybe, with the removal of these less essential data tracking tools, Meta can scratch some of these elements from the ATT prompts, which will then make people less likely to switch off data tracking entirely.

Or maybe, it has to do with ever-increasing data privacy regulations in Europe, and the way in which the trends are headed on such.

Late last year, it was reported that Facebook had started using device accelerometer data as an alternate means of pinpointing user location, even if a user had opted out of location tracking via Apple’s ATT update. Because the accelerometer is used for alternate purposes than device tracking, Facebook engineers had apparently found a way to use that information to match up location info, even when a person had told the app to stop tracking them, and maybe the company is now under pressure to end that practice also, as a kind of workaround to avoid the restrictions of the Apple change.

Meta and Google have both faced significant fines over user data tracking, and maybe a new push is now growing to limit Meta’s efforts to subvert these measures, which is why it’s getting on the front foot and removing the options entirely now, ahead of any legal challenges.

Or it could be as Facebook says – people don’t really use these services, and they’re more of a headache than they’re worth, given these ongoing changes.

Whatever the reason, Facebook is about to lose another swathe of data, which it could use to power its almighty ads platform.

Again, it seems unlikely that Meta would do this voluntarily, but we don’t have any further info as to why it’s making this move now. My guess would be that new regulations are coming soon, which will clarify this.

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Pinterest Focuses on Travel Inspiration and Education for Black History Month

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Pinterest Focuses on Travel Inspiration and Education for Black History Month

Pinterest is taking a unique approach to Black History Month, with a new ‘Find Your Routes’ Black Travel Hub initiative, which aims to highlight places that have strong connections to Black history, while also showcasing Black-owned businesses.

As explained by Pinterest:

“Find Your Routes” is inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book aka “The Green Book”. The Green Book was a guidebook for Black travelers during the Jim Crow era that provided a list of accessible hotels, boarding houses, taverns, restaurants, service stations and other establishments throughout the country that served Black Americans patrons.”

The Black Travel Hub, which you can find here, will present a range of travel options, along with their history, with creators from the US, Colombia, Jamaica, Brazil and more, all taking part in presenting their city.

It could be a good way to provide education alongside inspiration in the app, while also helping people to connect, and support highlighted communities.

Pinterest will also be showcasing Black-owned businesses on Pinterest TV, while internally, it’s also hosting a company-wide event ‘to help employees gain knowledge about the history, present, and future of Black travel through the lens of Black Pinployees’.

As noted, it could be a good way to both spark important conversations, and inspire new travel journeys, which include an extra level of cultural understanding and education, along with a leisure break.

It’s an interesting take on the celebration either way, and it’ll be worth noting what sort of reaction the initiative gets, and whether it inspires more travel as a result.

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Snap Tumbles On Weak Revenue, Gloomy Outlook

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Snap Tumbles On Weak Revenue, Gloomy Outlook

Snap shares plunged after missing analyst expectations in Q4, while forecasting a year-over-year revenue decline.

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Snapchat Adds 12 Million Users in Q4, Posts Lower Than Expected Revenue Result

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Snapchat Adds 12 Million Users in Q4, Posts Lower Than Expected Revenue Result

Snapchat added 12 million more active users in Q4 2022, and Snapchat+ subscriptions continue to rise, but company revenue missed market estimates, in another mixed result for the private social app.

First off, on users – as noted, Snap added 12 million more actives, taking it to 375 million DAU.

As you can see, North American user growth is still flat, while European users saw a slight uptick. But it’s the ‘Rest of the World’, specifically India, which is driving Snap growth.

Which is helping to boost the overall usage numbers, and expand opportunity. But on the revenue side, it’s not pushing things forward in a significant way.

Snap Q4 2022

As you can see in this chart, Snapchat’s revenue has increased, but a key problem here is that it’s still reliant on the US and Canada for the majority of that spend, with other markets trailing well behind on the revenue front.

Snap Q4 2022

In this chart, you can see that Snap’s Revenue Per User has actually declined year-on-year – so while it is growing, it’s not bringing in revenue at equivalent scale, and it’s even going backwards in some respects.

Which is why its stagnant growth in North America is a problem – though Snap has also seen take-up of its Snapchat+ subscription service increase.

“In Q4, our subscription service Snapchat+ reached over 2.0 million paying subscribers. Snapchat+ offers exclusive, experimental, and pre-release features, and in Q4 we launched new features such as Custom Story Expiration and Custom Notification Sounds, providing subscribers with over 12 exclusive features.”

That’s a handy additional revenue stream, but as with all social media subscription services (including Twitter Blue), take-up is generally limited, and at 2 million subscribers, that’s still only 0.5% of Snapchat’s active user base that’s been willing to pay extra for these add-on elements.

Snap has also faced challenges in rebuilding its ad business, in the wake of Apple’s iOS 14 update, which has impacted data collection, and Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says they still have some way to go on this yet:

“We continue to face significant headwinds as we look to accelerate revenue growth, and we are making progress driving improved return on investment for advertisers and innovating to deepen the engagement of our community.”

Snap has seen improvement in its commerce integrations, which includes digital items for Bitmoji avatars which Snap is eventually looking to translate into real-world item sales as well. Snap also says that it’s facilitated over than 161 million product trials by over 35 million Snapchatters for Walmart, leveraging its Catalog-Powered Shopping Lenses at-scale.

Snapchat AR shopping

Those point to bigger opportunities, but right now, amid the broader economic downturn, and restrictions on data collection and targeting, Snapchat is in a tough spot, and will be for some time yet.

Essentially, then, you’re banking on Snap’s future, and its advanced tools that could help it better align with expanded AR and VR use. And Snap is seemingly in a good position on this front – though again, the impacts of the last year, which also forced Snap into lay-offs, will also have some effect.

Really, then, the results here are relative to your perspective.

For advertisers, more Snap users means more potential reach – but most of Snap’s growth is coming from outside the US. More advanced AR activations could become a bigger deal in future, but it depends on how you’re looking to connect, and product fit.

Investors won’t be overly happy with the numbers, but there are positive signs on the horizon. It’s just that the horizon, in this respect, remains well in the distance at this stage.

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