2018/12/17: First, people all over the world pay for communication services. We regularly pony up for Netflix, HBO Go, and Amazon Prime on top of sizable monthly payments for cell phone plans. A Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter without a bloated ad infrastructure could likely charge far less than these other services, which after all have to buy or produce their content. Before WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook, it charged users $1 per year, and it was growing like a vine.
2018/06/04: are our smartphones actually listening?
According to Dr. Peter Hannay—The senior security consultant for cybersecurity firm Asterisk, and former lecturer and researcher at Edith Cowan University—the short answer is yes, but perhaps in a way that's not as diabolical as it sounds.
For your smartphone to actually pay attention and record you, there needs to be a trigger, like Hey Siri or Okay Google for example . Without these triggers, there's no recording, with just some general metrics being sent to your service provider. This might not seem a cause for an alarm, but when it comes to apps like Facebook, no one knows what the triggers are. In fact, there could be thousands.
“It’s just an extension from what advertising used to be on television,” says Peter. Only instead of prime time audiences, they’re now tracking web-browsing habits. It’s not ideal, but I don’t think it poses an immediate threat to most people.”
2018/11/29: Il rapporto dell'area Ricerche e studi di Mediobanca evidenzia però che la riforma fiscale varata dagli Stati Uniti nel dicembre 2017 ha generato un gettito più ampio rispetto ai risparmi, per effetto della "transition tax" pagata per rimpatriare gli utili cumulati all’estero. Alphabet (Google) dovrà versare al fisco statunitense 8,5 miliardi, Oracle 6,5 miliardi e Facebook 2,1 miliardi
2018/11/23: Data breaches at Facebook and Google—and along with Amazon, those firms' online dominance—crest a growing wave of anxiety around the internet's evolving structure and its impact on humanity. Three keys to the decades-long global expansion of the internet and the World Wide Web are breaking down.
The first key is the “procrastination principle,” a propensity to “set it and forget it” without attempting to predict and avert every imaginable problem. The networks' framers established a set of simple and freely available protocols for communicating over the internet, then stepped back to let competitive markets and cooperative pursuits work their magic.
The second key is the networks' layered architecture. For the internet, this meant that people could concern themselves with, say, writing applications to read and send email without having to know anything about what happens “below,” such as how bits find their way from sender to recipient. By the same token, those rolling out physical infrastructure didn't need to know or predict anything about how it would be used by the applications “above.”
The third key flows from the first two: decentralization. The internet and the web were designed not to create new gatekeepers, in part because regulatory bodies had little awareness of these protocols, let alone a hand in structuring them. A website hosted in Romania would still be just a click away for a user in Canada, without authorization by some centralized party.
Today, the principles of layers and decentralization are badly fraying, which risks transforming the principle of procrastination into one of abdication.
First, the issue of centralization. Surfing the web can now mean simply jumping among Amazon Web Services' hosting servers. If such a major network of servers—or one of the top domain name resolution providers—were to stop working, whole swaths of the internet would go down with it.
Second, formerly separate layers of the internet's architecture are blurring. The runaway success of a few startups has created new, proprietized one-stop platforms. Many people are not really using the web at all, but rather flitting among a small handful of totalizing apps like Facebook and Google. And those application-layer providers have dabbled in providing physical-layer internet access. Facebook's Free Basics program has been one of several experiments that use broadband data cap exceptions to promote some sites and services over others.
What to do? Columbia University law professor Tim Wu has called upon regulators to break up giants like Facebook, but more subtle interventions should be tried first. Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee's Contract for the Web offers a set of principles for governments, companies, and individuals, focusing on internet accessibility, user privacy, and a form of “re-decentralization” to revitalize one key to the network's success. On the technical side, he has launched Solid, a “relayerizing” separation of data from application: Users can maintain their own data (whether in a server in their living room or in the hands of a trusted proxy), and application providers would have to negotiate access rather than hoard the data themselves. And as Yale University law professor Jack Balkin and I have argued, those firms that do leverage users' data should be “information fiduciaries,” obliged to use what they learn in ways that reflect a loyalty to users' interests. These interventions represent meaningful action, while procrastinating a bit longer on the stronger medicine of forced corporate breakup.
The internet was designed to be resilient and flexible, without need for drastic intervention. But its trends toward centralization, and exploitation of its users, call for action.
Fake review factories that run on Facebook and manufacture misleading five-star reviews that are then posted on Amazon have been uncovered by investigators from Which?
The consumer group said two large Facebook groups – Amazon Deals Group and Amazon UK Reviewers – were behind the unscrupulous practice, along with smaller groups. Together they may have up to 87,000 members potentially engaged in writing fake reviews.
Inside the Facebook groups, companies post details of products for which they are seeking positive reviews. The reviewers have to pay for the items – so that Amazon believes the buyer is genuine – but after leaving a glowing review, the company refunds the purchase price through PayPal, and sometimes pays an additional fee.
Undercover researchers for Which? set up dedicated Amazon and Facebook accounts and requested to join several of the “rewards for reviews” groups.
“They were instructed to order a specified item through Amazon, write a review and share a link to the review once it was published. Following the successful publication of the review, a refund for the cost of the item would then be paid via PayPal,” said Which?
But the Which? investigators turned the tables on the fake review factories by posting their honest opinion on the product.
2018/03/20: even while this is blatantly unconstitutional, SESTA says the law applies retroactively -- meaning that even though all of this happened prior to SESTA becoming law, Facebook is potentially still quite guilty of violating the poorly drafted criminal law it is loudly supporting.
2018/09/30/: Facebook previously attracted the attention of the Indian government in 2016, when it was criticized for offering a free internet service that connected to only a limited number of websites (including Facebook). Called Free Basics, the program was shot down by the Indian government because it violated net neutrality.
Attention has since turned to WhatsApp, which Facebook purchased in 2014.
WhatsApp has introduced at least four new features over the past month that are designed to combat the mass messaging of rumors that have fueled mob violence and killings in India, the service's largest market with over 200 million users.
According to WhatsApp's website, its latest test feature "automatically performs checks to determine if a link is suspicious" and advises users to exercise caution when receiving and opening links.
WhatsApp previously started labeling messages to indicate they've been forwarded rather than composed by the sender. It's also testing limits on how many chats (individuals or groups) a message can be forwarded to simultaneously — 20 for the rest of the world, five for India.
Newspaper ads, which contain tips like "check information that seems unbelievable" and "be thoughtful about what you share," began appearing in national and regional newspapers across nine Indian states earlier this month.
Sparked by rumors of child abduction, mob killings have continued. The most recent took place two weeks ago, after some of WhatsApp's new features were rolled out.
2017/04/24: At its peak, Google had a massive and loyal user-base across a staggering number of products, but advertising revenue was the glue that held everything together. As the numbers waned, Google’s core began to buckle under the weight of its vast empire.
Google was a driving force in the technology industry ever since its disruptive entry in 1998. But in a world where people despised ads, Google’s business model was not innovation-friendly, and they missed several opportunities to pivot, ultimately rendering their numerous grand and ambitious projects unsustainable. Innovation costs money, and Google’s main stream of revenue had started to dry up.
In a few short years, Google had gone from a fun, commonplace verb to a reminder of how quickly a giant can fall.
2018/09/24: Snippets are being edited to improve/damage reputation or send certain signals to different audiences.
While the changes in the Bipartisan Report panel illustrate the possible use of the Wikipedia snippets to either damage or salvage the reputation of a publisher, there are other changes that are puzzling in their nature. Here is one, concerning the magazine American Renaissance, a white supremacist publication.
Figure 5: Knowledge Panels for American Renaissance on Jan and Sep 2018. The change of the text snippets makes one wonder which audiences are being targeted.
Both text snippets shown in Figure 5 acknowledge that American Renaissance is a white supremacist publication, but the provenance of the categorization differs. In January, the snippet lists third-party, well-known organizations as sources for the “white supremacist” label, however, in the September snippet, we read that the publisher self-describes as a “white-advocacy organization”. This shift of perspective (who does the labeling?) needs to be a matter of debate. Should these information panels tell us what the organizations think about themselves (how is this different from “About Us” pages which literacy experts suggest to avoid) or how other (especially watchdog) organizations regard them?
I don’t know how we can solve these issues without increasing the burden on Wikipedia editors. However, I think it’s important to raise awareness about these issues, so that we continue to actively address them. Furthermore, Google and Facebook need to better acknowledge the limitations of their initiatives and increase their support for Wikipedia and other knowledge production organizations.
2018/09/24: Facebook moderators under contract are “bombarded” with “thousands of videos, images and livestreamed broadcasts of child sexual abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide and murder,” the lawsuit said.
Facebook is ignoring its duty to provide a safe workplace and instead creating a revolving door of contractors who are irreparably traumatized by what they witnessed on the job
2018-09-24: Google parent Alphabet and the other four dominant U.S. technology companies -- Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook -- are fast becoming industrial giants. They spent a combined $80 billion in the last year on big-ticket physical assets, including manufacturing equipment and specialized tools for assembling iPhones and the powerful computers and undersea internet cables Facebook needs to fire up Instagram videos in a flash.
Thanks to this surge in spending -- up from $40 billion in 2015 -- they've joined the ranks of automakers, telephone companies, and oil drillers as the country's biggest spenders on capital goods, items including factories, heavy equipment, and real estate that are considered long-term investments.
Their combined outlay is about 10 times what GM spends annually on its plants, vehicle-assembly robots, and other materials. The splurge by tech companies is behind an upswing in capital-goods spending among big U.S. companies, which is seeing its fastest growth in years, according to a Credit Suisse analysis. The $80 billion tab also is a snapshot of why it's tough to unseat the tech giants.
How can a company hope to compete with Google's driverless cars when it spends $20 billion a year to ensure it has the best laser-guided sensors and computer chips? There are a lot of physical assets behind all those internet clouds.
2018/09/22: Dating takes resource and focus away from problems Facebook should actually be fixing
Facebook getting into dating looks very much like a mid-life crisis — as a veteran social network desperately seeks a new strategy to stay relevant in an age when app users have largely moved on from social network ‘lifecasting’ to more bounded forms of sharing, via private messaging and/or friend groups inside dedicated messaging and sharing apps.
Zuckerberg is not trying to compete with online dating behemoth Tinder, though. Which Facebook dismisses as a mere ‘hook up’ app — a sub category it claims it wants nothing to do with.
Facebook Dating has been carefully positioned to avoid sounding like a sex app but as a tasteful take on the online dating game.
Here are just a few reasons why we think you should stay as far away from Facebook’s dalliance with dating as you possibly can.
Algorithmic dating is both empty promise and cynical attempt to humanize Facebook surveillance
Facebook typically counters the charge that because it tracks people to target them with ads its in the surveillance business by claiming people tracking benefits humanity because it can serve you “relevant ads”. Of course that’s a paper thin argument since all display advertising is something no one has chosen to see and therefore is necessarily a distraction from whatever a person was actually engaged with.
All of a sudden a space that’s always been sold — and traded — as a platonic place for people to forge ‘friendships’ is suddenly having sexual opportunity injected into it.
2012/10/02: However inevitable, Diaspora's demise arrives at a time when Moglen's darkest fears have come to bear and the need for a secure, privacy conscious way to connect with others has never been greater. In a post-Facebook world, many of the brands we've come to trust as the linchpins of a new era of democratic communication have turned their backs on such ideals in search of profits. And when the government increasingly beckons, firms like Google and Twitter are having a harder time saying no.
Google's latest transparency report revealed that the U.S. is now a leader in Web censorship, submitting 6,192 items to be removed across 187 requests, more than any other country and up 103 percent over the prior year. It's no different for Twitter whose frequent reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement didn't stop it from complying with most government requests: last year, it supplied some or all of the information requested 75 percent of the time. Earlier this year, the site acknowledged that it would begin censoring Tweets when governments asked it to do so.
2018/09/19: 15 employers in past year, including Uber, advertised jobs on Facebook exclusively to one gender.
In a statement, Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said, “There is no place for discrimination on Facebook; it’s strictly prohibited in our policies. We look forward to defending our practices once we have an opportunity to review the complaint.”
The company has previously said that giving advertisers the ability to target employment ads by sex and age does not facilitate discrimination.
In response to other suits, Facebook has argued that it is not liable for the content its users—in this case, advertisers—post on its platform.
2018/9/18: For years, Facebook has publicly positioned its Messenger application as a way to connect with friends and as a way to help customers interact directly with businesses. But a new report from The Wall Street Journal today indicates that Facebook also saw its Messenger platform as a siphon for the sensitive financial data of its users, information it would not otherwise have access to unless a customer interacted with, say, a banking institution over chat. In this case, the WSJ report says not only did the banks find Facebook's methods obtrusive, but the companies also pushed back against the social network and, in some cases, moved conversations off Messenger to avoid handing Facebook any sensitive data. Among the financial firms Facebook is said to have argued with about customer data are American Express, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.
The report says Facebook was interested in helping banks create bots for its Messenger platform, as part of a big push in 2016 to turn the chat app into an automated hub of digital life that could help you solve problems and avoid cumbersome customer service calls. But some of these bots, like the one American Express developed for Messenger last year, deliberately avoided sending transaction information over the platform after Facebook made clear it wanted to use customer spending habits as part of its ad targeting business. In some cases, companies like PayPal and Western Union negotiated special contracts that would let them offer many detailed and useful services like money transfers, the WSJ reports. But by and large, big banks in the U.S. have reportedly shied away from working with Facebook due to how aggressively it pushed for access to customer data.
data increasingly shows that these days, even tech workers feel squeezed by the Bay Area's scorching prices. Fifty-eight percent of tech workers surveyed recently said they have delayed starting a family due to the rising cost of living, according to a poll that included employees from Apple, Uber, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Lyft, and other Bay Area companies.
The average base salary for a software engineer at Apple is $121,083 a year, the article notes, yet the company also had the largest percentage of surveyed tech employees who said they'd been force to delay starting their families -- 69%.
Anywhere else in the country, we'd be successful people who owned a home and didn't worry about anything. Not HERE.
2018/08/14: It seems like the censorship power many people on the left want Silicon Valley executives to unilaterally exercise might end up being wielded against the left. One good way to know that would happen is that is already is happening.
The power that these platforms have over the online public sphere should worry all of us, no matter whether we agree or disagree with a given content decision.
2018/09/13: Facebook is a two-billion-strong democratic community and the personal plaything of an unaccountable thirty-something billionaire.
If it comes down to a contest between the membership and the ownership of Facebook, Zuckerberg will probably win, as he gets to set the rules. In the end it is only the regulatory power of the state that can make Facebook safe for democracy.
there were two big risks with turning the state into a giant automaton. The first was that it wouldn’t be powerful enough.
The second was that it would too closely resemble the things it was designed to regulate. In a world of machines, the state might go native. It could become entirely artificial.
This is the original fear of the modern age: not what happens when the machines become too much like us, but what happens if we become too much like machines.
The machines that most frightened Hobbes were corporations.
Many of the things that we fret about when we imagine a future world of AIs are the same worries that have been harboured about corporations for centuries.
2018/09/11: A perfect example of how Facebook is catering to conservatives
For all the recent hand-wringing in the United States over Facebook’s monopolistic power, the mega-platform’s grip on the Philippines is something else entirely. Thanks to a social media–hungry populace and heavy subsidies that keep Facebook free to use on mobile phones, Facebook has completely saturated the country. And because using other data, like accessing a news website via a mobile web browser, is precious and expensive, for most Filipinos the only way online is through Facebook. The platform is a leading provider of news and information, and it was a key engine behind the wave of populist anger that carried Duterte all the way to the presidency.
If you want to know what happens to a country that has opened itself entirely to Facebook, look to the Philippines. What happened there — what continues to happen there — is both an origin story for the weaponization of social media and a peek at its dystopian future. It’s a society where, increasingly, the truth no longer matters, propaganda is ubiquitous, and lives are wrecked and people die as a result — half a world away from the Silicon Valley engineers who’d promised to connect their world.