Show and Tell – 3rd April, 2018

Best Facebook Privacy Links.jpg

We Know Where You Live

The subheadings for this link gathering exercise might seem like nonsense. They are, it’s true, but not random nonsense. 1 If you recognise their origin, maybe you've also picked up how this particular Python title has taken on more meaning recently.

MoviePass CEO: ‘We Watch How You Drive From Home to the Movies'   Surely we're waking up to all this, right? Beware the ills of convenience

According to Media Play News, CEO Mitch Lowe told those at a business forum that the movie subscription service's app not only tracks your location, but follows you to and from the theater. “We watch how you drive from home to the movies,” he said, adding that “we watch where you go afterwards.” Not surprisingly, the company is hoping to understand customer habits and “build a night at the movies.”

How Widely Do Companies Share User Data? Here’s A Chilling Glimpse | Fastcodesign The tangible cause and effect of the Facebook revelations have the tech media in a spin. Meanwhile, Paypal quietly released details of their data sharing practices in January to comply within European law. That the response was just as quiet shows how routine a practice this is. This one is particularly galling given the paucity of genuine alternatives.

Group Madness

I’m still coming to terms with the level of surprise writ large in this debacle. The contemporary social contract has been a digital exchange for some time. Self surveillance is the norm, not an exception.

Facebook Has Had Countless Privacy Scandals. But This One Is Different The optimist has it this will incite a revolt. As much as I’d like to believe it, I see little around me to support the claim. I haven’t logged into Facebook for months, my reticence long established. However, I would wager that rolling through my ‘news’ feed will be a strangely self contained outrage directed at Facebook, within Facebook itself.

This is a data collection scandal. This is a scandal triggered by a specific incident, but that is broadly about the ways massive companies track us, harvest information from us, and then sell us as coercion targets in sophisticated information campaigns that could be for anything from diapers to mattresses to anti-vax literature.

The story will endure not because of animosity toward political data use but because it perfectly touches upon a deeper anxiety about our online privacy that’s been building for years. Indeed, the Cambridge Analytica scandal could well be the catalyst for a much bigger targeting revolt — a full-scale personal and public reckoning that looks at the way we’ve used the internet for the last decade. It’s a moment that forces us, collectively, to step back and think about what we sacrificed for a more convenient and connected world. And on an internet that feels increasingly toxic it’s hard to look at the tradeoffs we’ve made and feel like we’re getting a fair deal.

Then again, I’m just as likely to find all the awkward emotional oversharing, inner monologues, and general nonsense as usual.

Why Nothing Is Going To Happen To Facebook Or Mark Zuckerberg  On the flip-side. Where some see revolt, others see business as usual.

With Wall Street leading the way, the four entities with the strongest ability to cause long-term damage to Facebook in response to revelations that Cambridge Analytica illicitly used 50 million of its users’ data for political purposes didn’t seem ready to do so: Analysts told investors to buy the dip. Advertisers kept spending. Legislators continued to sit on their hands while a basic ad transparency bill rotted in Congress. And though users posted #DeleteFacebook en masse, Facebook actually rose to 8th place from 12th in the iOS mobile App Store since the day before the Cambridge Analytica news broke. It’s holding steady on Android, too.

No one can pretend Facebook is just harmless fun any more | The Guardian

We have now reached the point where an unaccountable private corporation is holding detailed data on over a quarter of the world’s population. Zuckerberg and his company have been avoiding responsibility for some time. Governments everywhere need to get serious in how they deal with Facebook.

How to Use Facebook While Giving It the Minimum Amount of Personal Data | the Verge  Some advice for minimising the data you share with Facebook. I’m all likelihood it’s too late, but developing good, conscious habits is always a good thing

Towards a world without Facebook | TechCrunch  A modest proposal if ever I saw one. I have sniped and snarked at crypto currencies on these pages, often with vague hat tipping toward the untapped potential of blockchain technology for other purposes. But I’ll admit, I hardly ever come across hard coded examples, let alone share them. Interestingly, the Facebook debacle has given us a barn to aim at, so we should see some interesting attempts at turning the page

We’re approaching — or maybe already at — the point at which these tools could be put together to construct, say, a small-scale decentralized social network. It would still face the critical-mass problem: but that could be addressed by focusing on specific cohorts and communities; art collectives, churches, fandoms, etcetera. It would still face the ordinary-people-don’t-want-tokens problem: but that could be addressed by having a designated token-handling admin for each node, in the same way that online communities used to have designated email admins or local Usenet sysadmins, so ordinary users would just need a URL, a userid/password, and perhaps a decision whether to pay for access or be advertised to.

Are you ready? This is all the data Facebook and Google have on you | The Guardian — If you still need a readout, this provides a decent run down of that data hoarding at Facebook and Google. But wait, there’s more — much more.

Mark Zuckerberg Thinks We’re Idiots | Monday Note Not a novel point, the irony in this claim has reached catch phrase proportions by now. Then again, if ever there were a time to put a finer point on it.

As Facebook’s leader, Zuckerberg resolves to get things straightened out in the future (“it’s my job, right?”) while he delivers a callcenter-style broken record reassurance: “Your privacy is important to us”. Yes, of course, our privacy is important to you; you made billions by surveilling and mining our private lives. One wonders how aware Zuckerberg is of the double entendre.

What Else Floats on Water

Apple, everyone needs more free iCloud storage | The Verge  Honestly, Apple may as well give us the bird for all you can store in 5Gb. For all the talk of user hostile action on the design front, examples of inaction offer enough insight inot priorities. At least for anyone not prone to religious feelings.

Apple: Former Engineer Will Unlock iPhone X for $15,000 | Fortune   Despite the sense this has always been a lucrative business waiting to happen, surely setting up this enterprise involved navigating a labrynthe of  mind-bending legal chicanery.

Stanford Students Challenge Apple on iPhone Addiction | Inside Higher Ed  Yeah, I can’t see Apple helping people use their devices less. Unless, of course, there is a way to spin it.

iOS 11 Bugs Are so Common They Now Appear in Apple Ads | the Verge  This has since been cleaned up. Amusing, yes. At the same time, it points to a normalisation of novelty over stability. All but unique to software as a product,  we essentially purchase it broken, and pay to have it fixed. Even if we pay for it via the hardware. Rumour has it this year's update to iOS will be a stability release.

Apple CEO Tim Cook says Facebook should have regulated itself, but it’s too late for that now | Recode – Call me a cynic 2, but this is a little convenient for — and from — Apple. If I prefer Apple's approach, I'm not so comfortable with subtle opportunism. Privacy wouldn’t be a selling point if they didn’t have anything to differentiate themselves from.

Cook has made a point of criticizing Facebook for both the Cambridge Analytica affair and its overall approach to consumer privacy in recent days. But it’s not a new stance for him or the company: He made similar comments about Facebook and Google in 2015, and his predecessor Steve Jobs went out of his way to contrast Apple’s privacy stance with rivals like Google in 2010.

I don't doubt the existence of influential voices arguing for it's inherant value, but if it didn't have that other kind of value we wouldn't find so many contradictions Look a little closer and you fill find a fair degree of enabling. Take the Uber debacle, Apple has been found greasing the wheels before. Or more recently, the situation in China with carte Blanche to encryption keys. Intentional or not, this looks a cynical intervention. Apple’s own iCloud even runs on Google infrastructure, so pull that apart.

Bob Burrough | Twitter — Further to the above, this from a former Apple luminary pointing to the absurdly broad language from Apple claiming to keep all data safe from prying eyes. The line is crossed where the claim is made that your web traffic is kept private, to which Burroughs counters:

Since This Is Obviously Not True, the Only Possible Options Here Are: – Apple Believes This Is True, and They're Too Foolish to See How It Isn't. – Apple Doesn't Believe This, and They're Misleading Customers for Marketing Reasons.”

Apple’s approach might be more desireble, but to think of them as some benevolent entity immune from the profit motive is naive at best.

Now, Look Here

A Startup Is Pitching a Mind-Uploading Service That Is “100 Percent Fatal” | MIT Technology Review  A materialist’s guide to the afterlife

This story has a grisly twist, though. For Nectome’s procedure to work, it’s essential that the brain be fresh. The company says its plan is to connect people with terminal illnesses to a heart-lung machine in order to pump its mix of scientific embalming chemicals into the big carotid arteries in their necks while they are still alive (though under general anesthesia).

‘Blockchain' Is Meaningless | the Verge  The Appropriation of language is a uniquely troubling proposition in a capitalist society. There’s too much incentive for opportunism. Scratch that, the appropriation of everything.

Bose Sunglasses Hands-on: Audio AR Makes More Sense Than You Think | Engadget  Or does it? Nobody seems to learn this lesson. Allow me to phrase it in the turned about syntax of a little green mad with a laser sword: A model for success nerds and fashion are not. 3

Exclusive: This Is the Most Dexterous Robot Ever Created | MIT Technology Review  If you’re not keeping up with robots, you might have missed this.

AI Has a Hallucination Problem That's Proving Tough to Fix | WIRED — Computer says no.

Spotify Needs Your Help Tagging and Sorting Tunes | Engadget  Economists of a particular persuasion worked this out a very long time ago. It’s called surplus value, and this is a clever, if insidious way to capture it. The more work consumers do, the less resources Spotify need to spend, and voila more profit from that surplus. I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m merely bringing the aporia to your attention. This is the real gift economy

Broaden Your Mind

If we have come to the same intersection again, only to recognise it as such, I would at least like to think we might turn left this time. While the world is run by creeps, there are still good people out there, doing good work.

12 Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech | Humane Tech – You don’t need to agree with all of this to recognise its potential importance. A lot of these points seem obvious to anyone who can think even the smallest bit sociologically, but sadly are lost on most people working in, writing about, or commenting on technology. Usually to quote the first paragraph of an article is a good indication that linker hasn’t read it, in this instance it means this is the point.

…tech goes a lot deeper than the phones in our hands, and we must understand some fundamental shifts in society if we’re going to make good decisions about the way tech companies shape our lives—and especially if we want to influence the people who actually make technology.

It would appear the timing is right for a new approach to technology in general. What we have now is parristic, and disturbing.

And Now, For Something Completely Different

How Two Photographers Unknowingly Shot the Same Millisecond in Time | Petapixel  I have a thing for coincidence. So often the impression of synchronicity is a psychological phenomenon, but this one has irrefutable physical evidence. This is, in a word, neat.

Why the PDF Is Secretly the World's Most Important File Format | Motherboard  Something that most academic users are intimately acquainted with.

Photo by Caroline Methot on Unsplash

  1. Don’t get me started on how people use the word ‘random’
  2. Many people do
  3. Sorry, Apple doesn’t count — they’re a fashion brand making consumer electronics these days, not the other way around.

How To Change Your Facebook Settings To Opt Out of Platform API Sharing | EFF

With the Facebook scandal casting a shadow on anything even remotely tech related, we're not short on opinion. What's surprised me most about the whole situation, is that anyone should be surprised at all. What's more, I can't see how the proposed changes will do much.  The most expedient thing right now would seem to be sharing information like this from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Locking your profile down, insofar as it can be locked down. While you defintely should — lock it down — sadly the horse has bolted, and with your data.

Over the weekend, it became clear that Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics company, got access to more than 50 million Facebook users' data in 2014. The data was overwhelmingly collected, shared, and stored without user consent. The scale of this violation of user privacy reflects how Facebook's terms of service and API were structured at the time. Make no mistake: this was not a data breach. This was exactly how Facebook's infrastructure was designed to work.

My point exactly, this is how it was designed to work. Nobody should be the least bit surprised at this situation. If you’re similarly cynical about the efficacy of the plan to address the situation, and at the same time caught in a bind like most people on the question of whether to keep using the service. The minimum requirement is another look over those settings.

You shouldn't have to do this. You shouldn't have to wade through complicated privacy settings in order to ensure that the companies with which you've entrusted your personal information are making reasonable, legal efforts to protect it. But Facebook has allowed third parties to violate user privacy on an unprecedented scale, and, while legislators and regulators scramble to understand the implications and put limits in place, users are left with the responsibility to make sure their profiles are properly configured.

Not only should you not have to do it, but you shouldn’t expect that settings will routinely change to such a degree that maintaining the level of privacy you desire requires you to check over it every time Facebook rearranges the furniture.

 

Show and Tell — Friday 23rd February, 2018

Showandtell 23 02 2018.jpg

Some of these links have collected a little dust over the past few weeks. Things have been quiet around here whole I dealt with the little matter of moving from one island to another. If you enjoy the quips, read on. If you only came for the potentially useful links, I’m sure you can find them. Enjoy.

How Not to be Seen

Salon to Ad Blockers: Can We Use Your Browser to Mine Cryptocurrency? | Ars Technica — Salon might think this is clever, but I doubt they think it’s honest. Nor do I think they care. What stands out to me, other than litany of other implications, is yet more massaging of meaning. Salon claims it will take advantage of ‘unused computing power’, then clocks the CPU to ridiculous levels. But the real kicker is clause of ‘one browser session’. People simply don’t close their browsers anymore, so this could go on for a lot longer than what unsuspecting users think it will. In short, not a fan.

Hey Alexa, Is It True a TV Advert Made Amazon Echo Order Cat Food? | Technology | the Guardian — If nothing else, this illustrates what should already be clear. These devices have one function, buy stuff.

Key iPhone Source Code Gets Posted Online in ‘Biggest Leak in History' – Motherboard — I was listening to a popular ‘tech’ podcast 1 a few days ago and heard another proclamation that Apple is more focused on security than anybody ever. Sure, all the evidence supports that. Oh wait, no it doesn’t.

Facial Recognition Software Is Coming to Industries Like Fast Food and Luxury Shopping. | Slate — Sadly, this is now inevitable. It’s still creepy, bordering on terrifying.

Objective-See | Mac Malware 2017 — If you’re still under the illusion there is no such thing on macOS

Chinese Police Are Using Facial Recognition Sunglasses to Track Citizens | the Verge — Say what you like, this is happening

Idle at Work

Numbers | Becky Hansmeyer – If you haven’t yet seen the app, check out Snapthread. This is an interesting insight into the difficulties facing independent developers. It is not unlike running an independent blog.

The Light Entertainment War

Can an App That Rewards You for Avoiding Facebook Help Beat Smartphone Addiction? | Technology | the Guardian  Or, just stay off Facebook

Facebook personal data use and privacy settings ruled illegal by German court | Technology | The Guardian

Heiko Duenkel, litigation policy officer at the VZBV, said: “Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy friendly in its privacy centre and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register. This does not meet the requirement for informed consent.”

The court also ruled eight clauses in Facebook’s terms of service to be invalid, including terms that allow Facebook to transmit data to the US and use personal data for commercial purposes. The company’s “authentic name” policy – a revision of a rule that once required users to use their “real names” on the site, but which now allows them to use any names they are widely known by – was also ruled unlawful.

Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built | The New York Times  — Doing anything evenly vaguely related to tech can be disheartening at times. If you can see through all the bullshit, let alone have a desire to present a balance against some of the more disturbing trends, you might find some hope in this project.

The effect of technology, especially on younger minds, has become hotly debated in recent months. In January, two big Wall Street investors asked Apple to study the health effects of its products and to make it easier to limit children’s use of iPhones and iPads. Pediatric and mental health experts called on Facebook last week to abandon a messaging service the company had introduced for children as young as 6. Parenting groups have also sounded the alarm about YouTube Kids, a product aimed at children that sometimes features disturbing content.

The new group also plans to begin lobbying for laws to curtail the power of big tech companies. It will initially focus on two pieces of legislation: a bill being introduced by Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, that would commission research on technology’s impact on children’s health, and a bill in California by State Senator Bob Hertzberg, a Democrat, which would prohibit the use of digital bots without identification.

The Idiot in Society

You Don't Understand Bitcoin, but You Understand Free Money  —  I’m not posting his for what it shares, but for the utterly moronic sentiment in its title. This so-called free money has an economic underpinning, whether people like this idiot want to believe it or not. We could go all the way back to the labour if you like, but let’s talk about energy consumption instead. Bitcoin alone is currently using more than 1m transatlantic flights worth of carbon per year. If we really want to make something of the revolutionary technology that makes bitcoin possible, we'll have to deal with all the snake oil salesmen, and sociopaths first.

Bitcoin’s energy sage is huge – we can't afford to ignore it | The Guardian — Thought I was making up that figure? If you know anything about economics, you know value has to come from somewhere. The next time you hear some idiot banging on about Bitcoin being decoupled from politics, remind them… actually, forget it, who knows what those people are high on.

Could be, Might be useful

Markdown Converter | OU Libraries Tools — A tool like this can help enable an iOS only workflow if you work with Markdown.

10 Hidden Tricks That'll Make Life With Your iPhone X so Much Easier | BGR — If you have one, this is actually useful.

Left by Rekka — If you’re looking for a simple, plain text writing app.

Setting Up GitHub Pages HTTPS Custom Domains Using CloudFront and Lamda@Edge — A while ago I posted a reminder of what education users can get through Github. If you’re already on that train, here is a tutorial for adding ssl to GitHub pages (check)

Tweak Spotify's Recommendation Tech to Create Custom Playlists | Engadget — Yet more fun with the Spotify API

And now, for Something Completely Different

Solo, a Star Wars Story | Kottke — I’m with Kottke, my ongoing love and obsession with Star Wars is embarrassing and irrational. I’m an outlier, in that I feel like the Last Jedi all but redeemed the crimes of Abrams. Not that I really cared in the end, when it comes to a galaxy far far away, I inevitably give in to childish joy. Whatever this ends up being, I intend to enjoy it

Gorgeous 50-Megapixel Panoramas Shot on an iPhone at 20,000 Feet — It’s these capabilities that trap us in the double bind. What you can do with an iPhone now is amazing, especially in photography. Consider these pictures were taken with a phone, and therefore camera, that is already 2 generations old.

Kids Use Data From Space to Make Cool Basslines With a Modular Synthesizer | Synthtopia — Ah space music.

  1. You know, an Apple Cast

Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash

Do Not, I Repeat, Do Not Download Onavo, Facebook’s Vampiric VPN Service

Old news, yes I know. However if anything bears repeating, this is over qualified. If clarification is needed, the Onavo VPN does not enable any kind of new practice from Facebook. No, it simply makes it dramatically more efficient for Facebook to do what they always do, track everything. What’s particularly nauseating in this instance, is how they’re taking advantage of general misunderstanding around security and privacy. To my mind, this meets the modern definition of a lie. Onavo is spyware.

If you’re someone who can’t live without Facebook or simply can’t find the courage to delete it, the Onavo appears under the “Explore” list just above the “Settings” menu. I’d recommend you never click it. Facebook is already vacuuming up enough your data without you giving them permission to monitor every website you visit.

Gizmodo Australia | I Can’t Believe How Stupid Facebook’s News Feed Update Is

That I’m linking to this, instead of the actual post has everything to do with Facebook’s relentless assault on web standards. The idea that Facebook doesn’t know what it’s doing here is far fetched at best. The bubble effect is not some esoteric theory, it’s common knowledge that Facebook is a confirmation bias machine. This addresses the problem by doubling down on the affect. Nobody should be surprised.

From the horse’s mouth,

We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that's not something we're comfortable with. We considered asking outside experts, which would take the decision out of our hands but would likely not solve the objectivity problem. Or we could ask you – the community – and have your feedback determine the ranking. We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective.

You could read this as a cop out, but that would be too kind. Copping out in this instance is conveniently intentional. Gizmodo asks the obvious misanthropic question this move invites,

If people cannot tell truth from garbage, why are those same people being used to rank publications on a scale of trustworthiness?

Other supposedly sober outlets seem to be missing the point here, from Slate

At first blush, it looks like Facebook is doing exactly what I and other critics have long been calling for it to do: acknowledge that its algorithm plays a crucial role in determining what news people read, and take some responsibility for its profound effects on the media and the spread of information. It’s about time, right?

Except that, based on its announcement, Facebook’s approach to a notoriously difficult problem—figuring out which media to trust—appears to be painfully simplistic and naïve.

I think it’s naive to think they are being naive. This approach gives the appearance of doing something, and achieves exactly what they want. Welcome to hyper-reality.