UK tries to reduce tech addiction

Hot on the heels of the UK’s plan to force platforms to be responsible for removing hateful content, the country has unveiled a new 16-rule code designed to ban privacy dark patterns. 

The rules target a number of areas, requiring apps to ‘make privacy settings high by default’ and going as far as requiring platforms to visually indicate if parental controls are tracking the user. 

It also targets the type of dopamine-inducing techniques social media is famous for: Snapchat streams, which track the number of consecutive days you message a friend, would be banned, and the ‘like’ button on Facebook could face restrictions.

The idea here is rather simple, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO): the rules target reducing patterns that exploit “human susceptibility to reward-seeking behaviours in order to keep users online.”

It’s the first time I’ve seen a law like this so specifically calling out problems with technology habit-building, and targeting teenagers who are susceptible to it (and likely to be affected for years to come) seems like a logical start.

With a documented global rise in anxiety among young people, the time seems right to ask questions about the ways we use technology and what a ‘normal’ relationship with it might look like for children. Have we failed to build something that considers their well-being? 

Generally, most of these types of regulation seem like an afterthought; nice in theory but difficult to implement in practice. This set of rules, however, is carefully designed to avoid those pitfalls, while allowing exemptions for smaller startups to compete with the giants.

If they’re successful in pushing the law through a consultation period running through 31 May, the law would likely go into effect sometime next year. For companies in breach, they’ll face fines of up to 20 million euros, or 4% of their worldwide turnover through the use of GDPR’s legal structure.

Will it help? It’s hard to say. While digital wellbeing tools became vogue in 2018, most of their features are rather toothless, designed in pursuit of appearing as if they’re helping us use our devices less, but stopping short of much more than that. 

Putting an actual cost on the price of not paying attention to wellbeing, however, is a first that I hope to see more of.

Hulu buys itself back

The TV/movie streaming space continues to heat up as the big players realize that now’s the time to act. With Disney+ on the horizon, Hulu just purchased back AT&T’s stake in the company for $1.43 billion.

This is a curious move, particularly given the timing here and who owns Hulu: Disney now has clear majority control of the service after initially owning 30%, then acquiring Fox, which owned a 30% stake in Hulu. It previously faced dealing with other partners with major stakes, but now controls 66% of the company with Comcast owning the remaining 33%. 

Will Hulu continue to get access to shows from Comcast, AT&T’s new video empire, and other networks? Or will the streaming service players view it as a threat alongside Disney+? It certainly seems like Hulu may become a pawn in the streaming wars that others use against Disney as it pulls its own content from all but Disney+ later this year.

Hulu was one of the last cross-network streaming platforms in the game, other than Netflix. Consumer streaming looks to be fragmenting into walled gardens of content in the near future, and that isn’t to benefit you, dear viewer .

Tab Dump

Microsoft to overhaul how it handles HR disputes
The company has been infamous for how poorly it handles HR disputes, to the point that employees have openly commented about how they didn’t report harassment because it wouldn’t be taken seriously. Microsoft wants to change that perception, planning to publish stats on how frequently concerns are raised, what their outcomes are and will train its managers better.

Microsoft wants a piece of AirPods hype, as it plans ‘Surface Buds’ competitor

The European Union gave final approval to devastating copyright laws
What’s next from here is anyone’s guess: member countries have up to two years to implement these laws, and startups have two years to flee the continent, I guess.

Hackers could break into Outlook for months... by abusing support practices at the company

Rumor: iOS 13 will get dark mode, fonts, new gestures and much more