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Libraries by the yard for Zoom backgrounds make a rise in demand for second hand books

The year of 2020 has been quite the year of ‘strange and unprecedented’ times as the saying goes and 2021 looks set to keep hold of that tradition. As the slow realisation that life will never return to quite how it once was, we continue to find ourselves adapting to life in this ‘new normal’. 

Zoom is one company that has dominated headlines this year as making mega-profits from the uptake in sales of their platform from users stuck at home due to the pandemic. The company has truly lucked out from a worldwide tragedy with a staggering rise in profits from $5.5 million to $185.7 million for the same period last year. 

Yet it’s not just the company Zoom that has profited from the rise in digital conferencing software usage. Zoom has become a new word in our shared vocabulary, changing culture with effects such as detailed neckline and slouchy waistline as Zoom influenced fashion trends that emerged in late 2020. The brand name software has even coined its own term of ‘zoomers’ – a play on the word ‘boomers’ to describe older generations, ‘zoomers’ describes those of Gen Z born into this time. 

Other unpredictable consequences of the rise in videoing into work from home is the increasing demand for second hand books. Some large scale companies such as Random House offer free digital zoom backgrounds including their publications, whilst other more boutique companies such as Bookbarn International offer bespoke services. The UK based book store describes the growing interest in their library by the yard service, which aims to help customers looking to improve their home office decor. The second hand book retailer will then help to tailor make the bookshelf into a selection uniquely tailored for each customer. The aim of the retailer is to help customers find books that reflect and expand upon their individual interests and specialities.

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US government investigating how 9 social media companies collect and use data

The Federal Trade Commission, which enforces US antitrust and consumer protection laws, has issued orders to nine social media companies demanding information about how and for what purposes they collect and store user data. The FTC is also wants to know about the companies’ advertising and user engagement practices, specifically as they relate to child and adolescent users.

The list of targeted companies is a rogues gallery of digital malefactors: Amazon, ByteDance (owner of TikTok), Discord, Facebook, Reddit, Snap, Twitter, WhatsApp, and YouTube. They have 45 days to respond to the order. I’m not sure, but I don’t believe that any of them have 1300 numbers.

On its webpage, the FTC writes that the objective is to gain a fuller understanding of:

  • how social media and video streaming services collect, use, track, estimate, or derive personal and demographic information;
  • how they determine which ads and other content are shown to consumers;
  • whether they apply algorithms or data analytics to personal information;
  • how they measure, promote, and research user engagement; and
  • how their practices affect children and teens.

“The FTC wants to understand how business models influence what Americans hear and see, with whom they talk, and what information they share,” explained the FTC in a press statement. “And the FTC wants to better understand the financial incentives of social media and video streaming services.”

As CNBC reports, there’s a clause in the FTC Act that enables the FTC to conduct wide-reaching probes that are separate from law enforcement. These are known as “6(b) studies.” The FTC carried one out earlier this year in which it reviewed various takeovers by some of the major US monopolies, namely, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft.

Of course, Bill Gates’ Microsoft was the subject of a major antitrust lawsuit in 2001. In that case, Microsoft was confirmed as a corporate outlaw operating in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. Now Facebook finds itself faced with a similar lawsuit filed just this month by the FTC along with 48 attorneys general. In that suit, Facebook is alleged to have taken over Instagram and WhatsApp after determining that, if left alone, they could pose a threat to Facebook’s hegemony.

Thus, Facebook is accused of unlawfully crushing competition and subsequently harming consumers by limiting their range of options, particularly with regard to privacy. Facebook plans to use the fact that the FTC approved its takeovers of Instagram and WhatsApp as the main pillar of its defense.