“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
The Republican push to eliminate Obama-era consumer data protections is sparking a new national debate over online privacy, and putting internet companies on the defensive.
The measure blocking the online privacy rules is on the desk of President Trump, who is expected to sign it.
But the firestorm of controversy shows no signs of easing. Broadband titans such as AT&T and Comcast and web giants like Google and Facebook now find themselves under growing pressure over their privacy policies.
“We’ll definitely make it pretty clear what right was given away and the extent that it was given way,” vowed Ernesto Falcon, legislative analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission would have restricted internet service providers from selling consumer data deemed “sensitive,” including app usage information and web browsing history, without consent. That data is used for targeted ads directed at consumers.
The rules passed in 2015 with little fanfare, the result of the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which brought internet providers under the agency’s authority.
Critics, though, said the FCC rules treated broadband providers such as cable and phone companies tougher than internet companies such as Yahoo or Facebook, which are able to sell their consumer data under the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy framework.
Republicans moved quickly to kill off the FCC privacy rules that were slated to take effect later this year.
Dozens of Chipotle restaurants in Washington and Oregon are temporarily closing due to an outbreak of E. coli. Health officials have linked 19 cases in Washington and three in Oregon to Chipotles in those states. Eight people have been hospitalized: Seven from Washington, one from Oregon.
According to the Washington State Department of Health, though the outbreak appears to be connected to food served at Chipotle, the specific source of contamination has yet to be determined and is still under investigation. The restaurants have closed voluntarily while awaiting updated information.
In a statement, State Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist implored anyone who thinks they may have fallen sick from eating at Chipotle within the past three weeks should consult a healthcare provider, particularly “the elderly and very young children,” who “are more likely to become severely ill from this kind of E. coli infection.”
The investigation is being conducted by local and state health officials along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Washington State Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The addition of the ad-free option has made it a TV and film obsessive’s dream.
If you can only afford a subscription to one streaming service right now, it should be Hulu without ads. It’s the best one going.
Netflix, the long-running champion, has the hype, and Amazon Prime has the massive amounts of cash necessary to mount a challenge to Netflix. But Hulu has what really counts: programming. I subscribe to all three and spend far, far more time watching Hulu than the other two. It’s turned itself into a service for true TV and film obsessives.
Let’s take a look at what I mean.
Hulu’s list of TV series to watch is second to none
Here’s the thing about Netflix’s TV library: It’s not terribly deep. Certainly, the service has the benefit of some of the best shows in TV history, like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Louie. But if you’ve already seen the shows the service has had on offer — for years now! — then you’re likely scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Where Netflix is struggling is in adding new acquired shows to the list of series it already has. Yes, its partnerships with AMC and The CW have added exciting new programs like Better Call Saul, The Flash, andJane the Virgin to its library in recent months. But more and more TV programmers seem to be trying to make deals with other services, in order to level the playing field a bit.
“We had a concerted effort not to only sell to Netflix,” he said. “Ultimately, we sold Justified and The Americans to Amazon, and now we’ve made an output deal with Hulu.” And indeed, FX sold some of its series to Netflix in the past, but it hasn’t since Louie, which debuted in 2010.
For a time, it seemed like this shift would be to Amazon’s benefit. That service scooped up exclusive deals for shows like Orphan Black and Hannibal, in addition to the FX series Landgraf mentioned and a good chunk of HBO’s back catalog.But in recent months, the momentum has swung toward Hulu, which has acquired show after show after show, and every one among the best TV has to offer.
If it’s debuted in the last three years or so, it’s far likelier to have an exclusive deal with Hulu than with Netflix. And if you’re someone who’s reasonably up to date with recent classics (as I am), that makes Hulu a much more attractive option.
But wait, as they say, there’s more.
Hulu still offers something no other streaming service has
If you subscribe to Hulu, you can watch brand new episodes of TV shows from four of the five major broadcast networks the day after they originally air, to say nothing of many cable networks. You can also do this on Amazon, but you have to pay a per-episode fee for the privilege. Because Hulu is owned in a joint venture between ABC, NBC, and Fox, watching the episode is rolled into your subscription fee.
Yes, it’s a huge headache how the various networks handle availability. Fox generally makes all episodes of a current season available, while ABC seems content with only a handful. And CBS, the biggest broadcast network, keeps its own shows segregated into its own streaming service (though its sister networks, The CW and Showtime, both have Hulu deals).
But this is not something Netflix or Amazon offers. Really, the only comparable services are those offered by various cable networks, like HBO Go or FX Now. And both of those feature only that network’s content and are tied directly to your cable subscription. Hulu is limited by what networks and studios will allow it to do, but it’s the closest anybody’s yet come to putting all of last night’s TV in one convenient place.
Hulu’s library of classic and foreign TV is also second to none
Netflix has gotten lots of attention in recent years for its overseas imports, shows like Black Mirror, Peaky Blinders, and Witnesses. And those are all terrific shows, well worth watching if you haven’t yet gotten to them on your Netflix crawl.
But Hulu, thanks to partnerships with other providers like DramaFever, bests Netflix in this arena as well. It has massive amounts of content from overseas, including a bunch of unheralded classics, like Rev., a British sitcom about an inner-city pastor, and Braquo, a dark French cop drama. And that’s to say nothing of the massive amounts of foreign-language dramas DramaFever brings to the site. Honestly, in this regard, Hulu may offer too many options, which could be why it seems to downplay this side of itself.
Finally, Hulu is your best option for classic TV shows, too — and I don’t mean recent classics. I mean classic classics. Sure, there are plenty of shows that are on essentially all of the major streaming services, like Cheers, but thanks to its connection with Shout! Factory, Hulu has some gems that nobody else does, like shows from MTM Productions (Mary Tyler Moore, The Bob Newhart Show, etc.) and Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Netflix still has advantages in a few areas — but the gap is closing
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is lobbying hard to stay off the U.S. Trade Representative’s blacklist after coming under renewed pressure this year over suspected counterfeits sold on its shopping platforms.
Re-inclusion on the USTR’s annual list of the world’s most “notorious markets” for sales of pirated and counterfeit goods, while not carrying direct penalties, would be a blow to the company’s efforts to shed perceptions that its sites are riddled with fakes and that its anti-piracy policies are inadequate. It could also hurt Alibaba’s beleaguered share price.
Two Alibaba sites – the business-to-business platform Alibaba.com and the hugely popular Taobao Marketplace – were on the USTR’s “Notorious Markets” list from 2008. Alibaba.com was removed in 2011. Taobao was taken off in 2012 for its “notable efforts” to work with rightholders to clean up the site.
On September 10, the USTR called for public input as it formulates its latest list, expected in the coming months. At least three industry bodies have publicly responded with criticism of Alibaba, alleging counterfeits remain widespread on its sites and that the company is difficult to work with or inefficient when seeking redress.
The company’s new government affairs chief, Eric Pelletier, who took up the post in June, has sent two formal letters to the USTR this month, including a rebuttal of the industry group criticism.
Last week, Pelletier and an Alibaba lawyer met with an inter-agency working group coordinated by the USTR to discuss Alibaba’s anti-counterfeit efforts, a source with knowledge of the matter said.
In his letters, Pelletier says Alibaba has gone above and beyond in dealing with the problem, but that primary responsibility for policing and deterring infringements rests with brand owners, according to copies seen by Reuters.
He said the company had made it easier this year for brands to remove listings of suspected fakes while toughening penalties for merchants who violate company policies.
“When you step back and look at our overall efforts to combat illicit activities, our track record is clear. We are certainly not perfect, and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us…we will continue to do everything we can to stop these activities,” he wrote.
Others think Alibaba should do more.
The American Apparel and Footwear Association pressed the USTR to re-instate Taobao on the blacklist due to Alibaba’s “unwillingness to make serious reforms” and failure to address the organization’s concerns.
BETWEEN June 2014 and February 2015 the price Americans paid for petrol fell by a third. Economists predicted this would boost growth by causing consumers, newly flush with cash, to spend more on other goods and services. Instead, the economy seemed to slow, with early estimates putting annualised growth in the first half of the year at a paltry 1.4%. Many claimed Americans were saving the windfall, or using it to pay down debts. Estimates of growth in the first half of the year have since been revised up sharply, to 2.3% annualised. Reinforcing this turnaround, a report released today argues that Americans are spending most of the oil-price windfall after all.
Researchers at the JPMorgan Institute, a think-tank tied to the bank, examined anonymised data from one million of the bank’s credit- and debit-card customers. The number-crunchers divvied up customers according to how much they spent on fuel before prices fell. Gas-guzzlers gain the most when fuel gets cheaper; reluctant-refuelers benefit less. Comparing the two groups’ spending before and after the price collapse can reveal how much of a dollar saved at the pump is spent elsewhere.
To mitigate the problem of mean reversion—high spenders spend less over time by virtue of being outliers to begin with—customers were categorised as gas-guzzlers or otherwise based on average spending on fuel by their zip-code neighbours. The researchers found that for every extra dollar those in gas-guzzling neighbourhoods saved at the pump, their spending elsewhere rose by 73 cents. This increased to 89 cents after adjusting for the fact that fuel is more likely to be bought with a debit or credit card than other expenses.
If this estimate is right, low oil prices are significantly boosting American consumption after all. This should reassure those who fret that low prices have reduced investment in oil and gas extraction without boosting consumer spending by much. The finding also contradicts recent survey evidence: one conducted by Gallup, a pollster, for instance, found that only 24% of Americans say they are spending their savings from cheaper gas.
The analysis, though, is not definitive. In particular, it relies on the similarity of gas-guzzlers and reluctant-refuelers along dimensions other than fondness for petrol (lest some other difference between the group be driving their divergent spending patterns). In support of this assumption, the authors point to the similar demographics of the two groups. For instance, both have a median monthly income of around $5,300. The two groups’ spending also follows a similar patterns before the oil price fall.
Much variation in fuel spending is driven by geography: gas-guzzlers are concentrated in spacious south, whereas almost three-quarters of low spenders are in the more metropolitan north-east. Divergent economic fortunes for different regions could, therefore, distort the results. In addition, there is a wide statistical margin of error around the estimates.
But the findings are still important, for three reasons. First, they provide some reassurance that boosting consumers’ disposable income does help the economy. The report’s authors note that the average household will gain $700 in 2015 from cheaper fuel—more than tax rebates issued in 2008 as a stimulus measure. Second, they suggest that consumers cannot always give pollsters an accurate picture of their budgets, especially when the question is complex. Even low earners spend only about 6% of their income on gas, so working out what they are doing with the savings is difficult. Finally, they show the potential for banks’ large data sets on individual behaviour to help answer big macroeconomic questions.
So, let’s start with the basic premise: Consumers are not economists.
This means that normal people who have a job and then decide what to do with their hard-earned money often make decisions that economists don’t expect.
The latest example is when, how much, and why people save money. In short, too much saving means not enough spending means a lack of aggregate demand in the economy, the thinking goes. “Secular stagnation” is another term that might apply.
In a note to clients last week, Deutsche Bank’s Binky Chadha looked at the relationship between interest rates and savings rates, finding that — of course — consumers aren’t exactly acting the way the economists at the Federal Reserve might expect.
Namely, people are saving money despite low interest rates when many economists expected or hoped these folks would spend that money to buy stuff or put it in assets that actually earn some return.