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Facebook’s Trainwreck Continues:
Since May 2016, the social-networking company has collected the contact lists of 1.5 million users new to the social network, Business Insider can reveal. The Silicon Valley company said the contact data was ‘unintentionally uploaded to Facebook,’ and it is now deleting them.
The revelation comes after pseudonymous security researcher e-sushi noticed that Facebook was asking some users to enter their email passwords when they signed up for new accounts to verify their identities, a move widely condemned by security experts. Business Insider then discovered that if you entered your email password, a message popped up saying it was ‘importing’ your contacts without asking for permission first.
At the time, it wasn't clear what was happening — but on Wednesday, Facebook disclosed to Business Insider that 1.5 million people's contacts were collected this way and fed into Facebook's systems, where they were used to improve Facebook's ad targeting, build Facebook's web of social connections, and recommend friends to add.
Facebook waited until the news would be overshadowed by release of the Mueller report to update its March blog post to clarify that millions of Instagram users, not tens of thousands as previously stated, had their passwords stored unencrypted on Facebook’s servers
The DETOUR Act: You know how some Web and app interfaces try to trick you into clicking one thing and not another? For example, one option might appear on a large, colored button, while another is far less visible in small, plain text? Such techniques are called “Dark Patterns” (sounds like a new Netflix series), and Senators Mark Warner and Deb Fischer aren’t fans either. They’ve introduced the DETOUR (Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction — talk about a tortured acronym) Act, which would ban interfaces designed to keep you from making an informed decision, among other things.
The EU passed its Copyright Directive, and Cory Doctorow runs down the aftermath:
We are living through an all-out, global blitz on online free speech, privacy, competition and self-determination, a realtime Chinafication of the western internet, and the past year has set us back a decade or more. But…the difference between the fight now and the fight a decade ago is the size of the army we're fighting with: the cause of online freedom has a self-recruiting mass movement of people, more of whom wake up every day and realize that their future is tied to the internet's future.
What to expect? The new EU Directive, if implemented as currently written and passed, in essence will revert us to pre-Internet era, when there were far more hurdles to publishing one’s own work and to accessing various news sources. In compliance with the Directive, Web services will have to implement filters to prevent users from uploading unauthorized/unlicensed copyrighted material. Such filters are prone to overbreadth and inaccuracy. As such, it will be harder to publish even non-infringing material online. (The fact that fair use is important seems somehow to have eluded the EU lawmakers.) Moreover, the “link tax” portion of the Directive changes the face of news distribution and consumption by requiring social networks and news aggregators to pay publishers to display mere snippets of their stories. While Google is being diplomatic, this is not shaping up to be pretty.
’Net Neutrality Table Tennis: The House just passed the Save the Internet Act of 2019, but the Senate probably won’t even vote on it. In the unlikely event it does, and somehow passes the bill, the President will veto it, despite the fuzzy math involved in the administration’s conclusions, and despite widespread bipartisan support for restoring ’Net Neutrality.
Watch: It’s almost Sunday, time for S8, E2 of Game of Thrones. But why, in this Westerosi world where Winter has Come, doesn’t anybody ski? Why ski when you can ride a dragon, or warg, or have visions via a weirwood tree, or travel incognito with a new face, I suppose. Because it’s the North, there’s more Ice than Fire, and snow is everywhere. How is no one skiing? It’s a pet peeve of mine (in addition to the fact there’s been nary a direwolf in S8 thus far, even though Ghost and Nymeria are still out there, and Nymeria has a huge pack.)
If you too are yearning to marry your passion for skiing with your passion for GoT, see:
Where would your favourite Game Of Thrones character go skiing?: “Who needs heli-skiing when you’ve got three dragons?”
GOC: Game of Chairlifts: If ski resorts were characters in Game of Thrones.
Listen: Catch Kara Swisher’s interview with Nancy Pelosi on the Recode/Decode podcast. Among other things, Swisher determined the Speaker’s patience is wearing thin when it comes to a cornerstone of the Internet and the tech economy: the limited protection from liability currently afforded platforms as to certain wrongful actions of their users. My admiration for Kara Swisher knows few bounds, but she overemphasized the breadth of Section 230 in her questions to Pelosi, and glossed over why the provision exists in the first place:
What about the Communications Decency Act, section 230, that gives them broad immunity? That’s really what’s allowed them to have a free-for-all.
Well, 230 is a gift to them.
That was a gift. Yes.
It is a gift to them and I don’t think that they are treating it with the respect that they should, and so I think that that could be a question mark and in jeopardy.
In jeopardy for them in that it would be removed or it’s been sort of chipped away at on certain topics, but now brought more broadly, you think there could be...
Well, they just love 230.
Why wouldn’t you? I would like broad immunity, I do a lot of things that ...
When we come to 230, you really get their attention. But I do think that for the privilege of 230, there has to be a bigger sense of responsibility on it. And it is not out of the question that that could be removed.
For a more textured look at the content moderation struggle, see Larry Elkin’s discussion of how news publications are coping with trolls and comment spam, about moderation issues in general, and about how all this ties in with the new EU Copyright Directive:
Lately, however, there has been a trend toward requiring websites to bear responsibility for all content they publish, including user-generated content. In Europe, this has recently focused on copyright, rather than hate speech or defamation. Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive, which was finalized in February, states that services can be held responsible if users upload copyright material without authorization.
In contrast. the U.S. provision Swisher and Pelosi discussed, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, provides zero protection to platforms concerning their users’ intellectual property violations or any federal crimes users may commit via the platform, among other exceptions.
On Google, it deletes your search history. For Alexa, it deletes the voice recordings stored by Amazon. Next it wants to build a way to clean out your old Instagram photos and videos, and your old Tinder matches and chat threads.
Jumbo demonstrates that if services won’t respect their customers’ yearning for more extensive and user-friendly privacy controls, the market, and the customers themselves, will at least try to rectify the situation. Do yourself a favor and use Jumbo before it’s blocked or hobbled. The startup seems to get how important it is to be not just the trusted but the trustworthy party:
Across the board, Jumbo is designed to never see any of your data. ‘There isn’t a server-side component that we own that processes your data in the cloud,’ [founder Pierre] Valade says. Instead, everything is processed locally on your phone. That means, in theory, you don’t have to trust Jumbo with your data, just to properly alter what’s out there. The startup plans to open source some of its stack to prove it isn’t spying on you.
(Want to see all the Inbox 5K Gear commentary? Here you go.)
Support: “America’s wild horses still run free on our public lands, yet they are trapped in a battle that they may not survive.” ~Robert Redford, executive producer of The Mustang, an excellent film you should see while it’s still in theaters if you can. Return to Freedom is a national wild horse conservation organization, dedicated to providing sanctuary for wild mustangs and burros, public education, preserving the horses’ genetic diversity, and conserving their habitat. Learn more; take action.
(Want to see all the Inbox 5K “Support” recommendations? Here you go.)
If you’ve never done it before, the next time your wardrobe needs an update, buy just one item of used clothing.
If everyone in the U.S. bought one used item instead of new in 2019, it would save nearly 6 billion pounds of carbon emissions generated by the production of new garments. That’s the equivalent of taking more than half a million cars off the road for a full year. Vogue, via ThredUp.
Think about repairing even those household items an auto insurance adjuster would call “totaled:” i.e., those where the cost of repair is likely more than the value of the item. Repairing keeps things out of the landfill or incinerator and prolongs their useful life. This goes for clothing, shoes, jewelry, appliances, electronics...
Is your power company working toward using only carbon-free or renewable energy sources? Dig a little to find out, and add Vermont’s Green Mountain Power to the growing list of utilities with big goals along these lines.
(Want to see all the Inbox 5K “Sustain” recommendations? Here you go.)
Imbibe/Ingest: The next time you’re restocking the bar or looking for a unique gift for adult friends and family, seek out Party Animal Vodka. Party Animal is handcrafted, award-winning, and dedicated to giving 10% of profits to animal support organizations and 1% of annual sales environmentally-focused non-profits. So you can party with a conscience, support small business and a couple chasing a dream, and enjoy some darn fine potato juice:
Party Animal is a handcrafted, small batch product that is gluten-free and made in Rigby, Idaho, using Russet potatoes, which have been sourced within 40 miles of the distillery and within Idaho. In addition, all the water is from the Snake River aquifer from the Grand Teton snowmelt. Clean, dry, and practically a sipping vodka, Party Animal not only has taste appeal, but a major brand one as well. Its jungle label screams something exotic, awesome, and, of course, ‘party.’” (svpn-mag.com)
(Want to see all the Inbox 5K Imbibe/Ingest recommendations? Here you go.)
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