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Instagram pushes back on Apple’s iOS ad tracking change

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Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said the company will push back on a planned change to Apple’s iPhone operating system that would impact how it and other mobile advertisers track users. But, he said, “I don’t think we have much influence over Apple,” and pointed to the power Apple has as the sole gatekeeper for apps across about 1 billion of its devices in use today. 

The change affecting Apple’s identifier for advertisers, or IDFA, was previously planned as a feature in iOS 14, the version of the iPhone operating system that will be released to the public this fall. But Apple said last week it is delaying the rollout until 2021 “to give developers time to make necessary changes.”  

In June, Apple said iPhone users would be given the option to block tracking when opening an app. Advertisers use that identifier to better target ads to individual users and estimate how well they work. But whereas the option to turn off the tracking is usually buried in a user’s options today, many expect having it be front-and-center would encourage most users to opt out.

On CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday, Mosseri said Instagram’s advertising business requires certain data to show users relevant ads and to provide value for its advertisers, the majority of which are small and medium-sized businesses.

“If the ecosystem changes in a way that advertisers can’t really measure their return on investment, that’s really going to be, yes, somewhat problematic for our business, but it’s going to be problematic for all the big ad platforms roughly equally, so I’m not that worried about it over the long run,” he said.

“It’s going to be much, much more problematic for all the small businesses,” he said. “There are millions of them out there that rely on us to target customers and to reach those customers. Particularly during a pandemic when they’re hurting.” 

He argued that Instagram wants its users to have control over their data and understand what data it has.

“We believe that there’s a way to be really responsible and give people control over their data and transparency into their data but without cutting off our understanding and therefore operating blind,” he said.  

Instagram parent Facebook has also been outspoken about the change, saying it will “severely impact publishers’ ability to monetize through Audience Network on iOS 14.” 

Mosseri said the company will need to “make our case as strongly as we can” to Apple, the public, policymakers, influencers and academics but said the company does “own the majority of the market here in the U.S.” and “[controls] the ecosystem end to end.” 

“They have an immense amount of power,” he said. “They can just decide we can’t launch new apps at any given moment. We’ve seen a series of articles and even some lawsuits and their influence and power over developers over the last couple months.” 

Apple has been in a protracted battle with Fortnite creator Epic Games since Aug. 13, when Epic Games published a version of Fortnite to the Apple App Store that included a method for users to pay for in-game content without giving Apple its usual 30% cut. Apple removed the app from the App Store, and Epic Games sued Apple later in the day. 

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The best culture you may have missed in 2020 | Culture

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Film

Southern Journey (Revisited)
In the dark days of lockdown, it’s hard to believe the big outdoors actually exists. But that’s what you get with this lovely music documentary, which followed in the footsteps of celebrated musicologist Alan Lomax and British folk singer Shirley Collins on their landmark 1959 odyssey, recording rural American folk music in the field just as the major roots revival was taking off in urban coffee houses. Film-makers Rob Curry and Tim Plester do their own bit of cultural archaeology, looking up children and grandchildren of the original artists, and filming performances by modern-day folk artists. A breath of musical fresh air. Andrew Pulver

Lynn + Lucy
Any other year, this gritty exploration of violence, grief and betrayal would have been heralded as a masterpiece. But, perhaps understandably, the public mood has veered more towards the safe and comforting, meaning Fyzal Boulifa’s feature debut has passed somewhat under the radar. It’s a shame: set in an Essex of hair salons and too-loud whispers, it’s a fascinating dissection of female friendship and shifting sympathies that will haunt your thoughts for days afterwards. Available to buy on the BFI Player. Kathryn Bromwich

Slow and steady ... Away.
Slow and steady … Away.

Away
Overshadowed on its release in August by the Netflix sci-fi series of the same name, this wordless animated feature from 26-year-old Latvian one-man band Gints Zilbalodis is a quiet marvel. A boy on a motorbike, with a tiny yellow bird as his companion, races across an island of sweeping landscapes pursued by a mysterious, implacable giant. Simply but atmospherically rendered, Away took Zilbalodis three-and-a-half years to make, but the love in his labour is there for all to see. Simon Wardell

TV

Finding Joy
Amy Huberman’s comedy debuted in Ireland in 2018 but arrived in the UK this year on the unheralded Acorn TV streaming service and fitted right in to 2020. She’s Joy, a newly single Dubliner discovering that all her cute Instagram lifestyle fixes are no cure for heartbreak, or for general stepped-in-a-dog-turd awkwardness. Can a new job and a wacky sitcom flatmate (Aisling Bea) help? An easy binge, with a knack for unleashing a rude belly-laugh just when you think it’s getting too pastel-coloured. Jack Seale

It takes two ... Erinn Hayes and Rob Huebel in Medical Police.
It takes two … Erinn Hayes and Rob Huebel in Medical Police. Photograph: Netflix

Medical Police
Cult US weird-com Childrens Hospital has been spoofing medical dramas for a decade; this 2020 Netflix spin-off takes a bone-saw to macho geopolitical thrillers such as Jack Ryan or 24. A perpetually globetrotting mission to find a secret bioweapon, it is crammed with deft slapstick and daft cameos, including Jason Schwartzman as gregarious fixer “the Goldfinch”. But its secret bioweapon is the chemistry between central duo Erinn Hayes and Rob Huebel, who do deadpan with elan. Graeme Virtue

Wu-Tang Clan – Of Mics and Men
This deep-dive docuseries into Staten Island’s finest dropped without much fuss, but it was fascinating, funny and immaculately sourced. Fans of heavy-handed symbolism will be amused to learn that Method Man worked as a cleaner at the Statue of Liberty. Each member gets a backstory and what stories they are. The conclusion? They haven’t always liked each other but there’s still a lot of love. Available to view on Sky and Now TV. Phil Harrison

Music

High tea ... Aluna Francis.
High tea … Aluna Francis. Photograph: Universal

Cucina Povera & Haron – Plafond 6
If you need to build a psychic cocoon to deal with an incoming winter of jigsaw puzzles, Zoom bantz and other second-lockdown privations, pair some noise-cancelling headphones with this album by Glasgow-via-Finland singer-producer Maria Rossi, AKA Cucina Povera, and Dutch musician Haron Aumaj. The enveloping, static-haunted ambient pieces in the second half are straightforwardly gorgeous, but the real triumph is the opening 22-minute suite Riffittelyä, where vocals drift across church organ chords. Ben Beaumont-Thomas

SG Goodman – Old Time Feeling
From deep in the wilds of western Kentucky comes the righteous SG Goodman, a farmer’s daughter with a punk past whose rowdy, rootsy country music straddles the vintage twang of Patsy Cline and haunted balladry of Angel Olsen. But her striking, swinging debut Old Time Feeling – which dropped over the summer – was a protest album with a difference, looking at how to make change for the better within the rural community that raised her. Leonie Cooper

Hum – Inlet
These Illinois space-rockers had the misfortune of dropping their first album in 22 years into the middle of a pandemic, meaning it was missed by all bar the most assiduous fans of chunky 90s guitar music. A shame, as its shoegaze-meets-Sabbath soundscapes serve as a great release from lockdown claustrophobia. Heavy but never abrasive, these eight tracks are a fine soundtrack to contemplating your insignificance in Earth’s vastness; “an echo left on the mountainside” as vocalist Matt Talbott puts it. Gwilym Mumford

Aluna – Renaissance
At the start of lockdown, Aluna Francis, vocalist and songwriter in dance-pop duo AlunaGeorge, launched an online club billed as “an introvert’s palace of escape”. That sense of introspection carried over into her solo debut, Renaissance, an in-your-feelings party album that celebrated dance’s overlooked black history. Channelling house and dancehall alongside Caribbean dance and slinky R&B, it’s an expertly curated night in, augmented by a top-tier guestlist including Princess Nokia and Kaytranada. Michael Cragg

Podcasts

Mel Giedroyc Is Quilting.
Patch work queen … Mel Giedroyc Is Quilting. Photograph: Acast

The Socially Distant Sports Bar
In the absence of bonding over live sport, Elis James, Mike Bubbins and Steff Garrero created a haven where they ramble on about classic clips and random recollections. It’s ideal if you miss the sound of friends mocking each other in the pub, as the trio cry with laughter about Ray Reardon skateboarding, “Wembley widows” out on the town and cows on steroids. Like Athletico Mince, you don’t have to like sport to enjoy it. Hannah Verdier

Mel Giedroyc Is Quilting
If we continue at the current rate, there may soon be more celeb podcasts than actual celebs. Yet, a welcome 2020 effort – and one that flew under the radar – was the beautifully gentle Mel Giedroyc Is Quilting. Despite its Partridge-esque title, this was no joke: just a lovely show about two pals (Mel and radio DJ Andy Bush) making a patchwork quilt from offcuts sent in by listeners. Hannah J Davies

Games

Apocalypse now ... Wasteland 3.
Apocalypse now … Wasteland 3.

Nintendo’s Clubhouse
Regardless of class or culture, most childhoods feature some sort of board game shelf, a place usually associated with feelings of joy and togetherness (unless, that is, yours contained only Monopoly, that cleaver of households). Similarly, this is a virtual drawer crammed with 51 classics. Some – chequers, ludo, chess, poker – are familiar, but by plucking examples from different nations and, in some cases, history, this is also a compendium of fresh wonders. With rules, hints and increasingly skilled AI rivals, you’ll soon find competence at mancala and hanafuda via a collection that blazingly exceeds its constituent parts. Simon Parkin

Wasteland 3
Did we really need another post-apocalyptic RPG? Yes, as it happens. This old-school, top-down adventure throws you into a snow-smothered Colorado years after the bombs dropped, casting you as two Rangers trying to survive, forge alliances and eventually thrive. The writing is strong, the consequences of your choices far-reaching, and it’s marbled with great characters and a likable, larky sense of humour. It’s – wait for it – da bomb. (Sorry.) Luke Holland

Spiritfarer
You’re dead and on your way to the afterlife in Charon’s boat. Before you go, though, you’ve been given a job: help other lost souls conclude their earthly business so that they can move on, too. Ghibli-esque and fantastical, Spiritfarer is wonderful to look at and thought-provoking to play, as your barge becomes stacked with more and more travellers looking for closure. A game about helping people, building things and saying goodbye. Keza MacDonald

Art

Home sweet home ... The Keepers Project.
Home sweet home … The Keepers Project. Photograph: Thierry Bal

The Keepers Project
For this pioneering archive project, artist David Clegg and photographer Thierry Bal travelled to sites outside mainstream art’s purview to document seven labours of love by self-taught artists, explored through photographs and interviews. Launched online this summer, it’s as much about the creations – be they Italian buildings crafted from cement and chickenwire on a Powys hillside; Brighton beach’s flint grotto; or a replica Roman villa in Birkenhead – as a testament to the conservation struggles of those dedicated to their care. Skye Sherwin

Es Devlin and Machiko Weston – I Saw the World End
Amid all the tribulations of 2020, this meditation on the use of atomic bombs against Japan in 1945 was derailed for the strangest of reasons: planned August screenings on the screen at Piccadilly Circus, at the exact times of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were postponed due to the accidental disaster in Beirut. Moved to September and also available to watch online, this digital lament splices quotes from prophets, designers and victims of the bomb into a moving montage of sound and light. Jonathan Jones

Theatre

Qendra Multimedia & National Theatre of Kosovo’s The Return of Karl May (Entertaining play for the German people), part of Postwest festival.
Qendra Multimedia & National Theatre of Kosovo’s The Return of Karl May (Entertaining play for the German people), part of Postwest festival. Photograph: Postwest festival

Postwest festival
This ambitious festival of work by theatre-makers from across eastern Europe was set to play Berlin’s Volkbühne Theatre in May. When it was clear that would no longer be possible, the artists (from countries including Germany, Lithuania, Hungary, Kosovo and Ukraine) hastily and ingeniously remade their work for new formats – video, audio, one piece took the form of a virtual birthday party, another an online “blind date” – and the results can be viewed on the festival’s website. Natasha Tripney

Small Acts – The You Play
An audio play – but make it interactive! You, the listener, play the main part in Rafaella Marcus’s inventive piece, with Katherine Parkinson’s voice guiding you through a sensory adventure taking place around your own home. Loosely based on The Winter’s Tale, it also speaks to our socially distanced times. Part of the digital storytelling project Written on the Waves, The You Play is available online. Holly Williams

Comedy

Transaction
Best known for a stint on The Voice, singer-turned-comic Jordan Gray has mined her vocal skills in the winning Transaction, where she plays snarky supermarket shelf-stacker Liv. You could call its five-minute episodes (available on Comedy Central’s YouTube page) nuggets of fun, or you could call them a step forward for diversity, breaking down tired old stereotypes in the representation of trans people. Either way, it just won a Broadcast Digital Award for best short-form comedy. Brian Logan

Middleditch and Schwartz
Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch and Parks and Rec’s Ben Schwartz team up for a Netflix series of three, hour-long, unplanned improv pieces, filmed in front of an audience. The risk with this sort of thing is that the viewers can often have less fun than the performers, but the pair manage to keep everyone onside with the sheer energy of their imaginations. That they can improvise coherent stories is impressive; that they can do it while trying to throw each other off balance is incredible. Stuart Heritage


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Epic fall: the joy of autumnal video games | Games

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There is something about the clocks going back that I inextricably associate with video games. Perhaps it is the prospect of all those long evenings, hiding from the weather, snuggled up in an easy chair with a joypad and a mug of tea, lost in some fantastical role-playing adventure. This is also the period in which the year’s biggest games are released in time for Christmas, so there is the extra pleasure of discovering new characters, new worlds, as the endless drizzle falls outside.

There are games that simply provide us with beautiful autumn environments. Firewatch envelops us in the rolling, red-tinged forests of Wyoming; the mountain walks in A Short Hike present the soft auburn hues of the season in an almost impressionistic style; and Forza Horizon 4 perfectly replicates the wet, leaf-scattered roads of October country lanes. The richness with which modern visuals capture the reds and oranges of the season, the way HDR technology simulates that particular low, coppery sunlight as it glints across the screen, gives these games the cosiness of an open fire.

Forza Horizon 4
October country lanes … Forza Horizon 4. Photograph: Microsoft

But there are also games that capture more than the look of autumn; they are autumnal in their themes and tone. The apocalyptic adventures The Last of Us and Fallout 4 make the most of their rugged settings, using the stark rural scenes to emphasis the feelings of solitude and loss. The quest at the centre of wordless PlayStation title Journey is bathed in burnished orange colours, but it is also a game about the cycle of life that autumn represents; the death and rebirth of nature. One thing I really love about the adventure Life Is Strange is its authentic autumnal setting – this game, about teenage girls discovering friendship amid fear and depression, takes me back to new school years beginning – those worrisome days, walking back home in the low light, breath visible in the cold air, the Wedding Present playing on my Walkman.

When I tweeted about the joy of autumnal games last week, I was inundated with people’s favourite examples. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Night in the Woods, the swirling burgundy leaves in the wind around Ghosts of Tsushima, the Paris of Broken Sword … Video games are nostalgic artefacts anyway – we spend so much time in their worlds, wrapped in their stories and dramas, and I think autumnal video games hit us extra-hard, because this season tells us that the game, like all things, has a course to run, and the end hovers close. As Shakespeare wrote, “This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.”

Time is fleeting – autumn tells us this much. And that is what gives games, and everything else we experience, such value.


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Big Tech ‘danger scenario’ is Democratic sweep: Bradley Tusk

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