Archiv der Kategorie: Security

Facebook Knows It’s Losing The Battle Against TikTok

Facebook Knows It’s Losing The Battle Against TikTok

Meta and Mark Zuckerberg face a six-letter problem. Spell it out with me: T-i-k-T-o-k.

Yeah, TikTok, the short-form video app that has hoovered up a billion-plus users and become a Hot Thing in Tech, means trouble for Zuckerberg and his social networks. He admitted as much several times in a call with Wall Street analysts earlier this week about quarterly earnings, a briefing in which he sought to explain his apps’ plateauing growth—and an actual decline in Facebook’s daily users, the first such drop in the company’s 18-year history.

Zuckerberg has insisted a major part of his TikTok defense strategy is Reels, the TikTok clone—ahem, short-form video format—introduced on Instagram and Facebook and launched in August 2020.

If Zuckerberg believed in Reels’ long-term viability, he would take a real run at TikTok by pouring money into Reels and its creators. Lots and lots of money. Something approaching the kind spent by YouTube, which remains the most lucrative income source for social media celebrities. (Those creators produce content to draw in engaged users. The platforms sell ads to appear with the content—more creators, more content, more users, more potential ad revenue. It’s a virtous cycle.)

Now, here’s as good a time as any for a crash course in creator economics. For this, there’s no better guide than Hank Green, whose YouTube video on the subject recently went viral. His fame is most rooted there on YouTube, where he has nine channels run from his Montana home. His most popular channel is Crash Course (13.1 million subscribers—an enviable YouTube base), to which he posts education videos for kids about subjects like Black Americans in World War II and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Like the savviest social media publishers, Green fully understands that YouTube offers the best avenue for making money. It shares 55% of all ad revenue earned on a video with its creator. “YouTube is good at selling advertisements: It’s been around a long time, and it’s getting better every year,” Green says. On YouTube, he earns around $2 per thousand views. (In all, YouTube distributed nearly $16 billion to creators last year.)

Green sports an expansive mindset, though, and he has accounts on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, too. TikTok doesn’t come close to paying as well as YouTube: On TikTok, Green earns pennies per every thousand views.

Meta is already beginning to offer some payouts for Reels. Over the last month, Reels has finally amassed enough of an audience for Green’s videos to accumulate 16 million views and earn around 60 cents per thousand views. Many times over TikTok’s but still not enough to get Green to divert any substantial his focus to Reels, which has never managed to replicate TikTok’s zeitgeisty place in pop culture. (Tiktok “has deeper content, something fascinating and weird,” explains Green. Reels, however, is “very surface level. None of it is deeper,” he says.) Another factor weighing on Reels: Meta’s bad reputation. “Facebook has traditionally been the company that has been kind of worst at being a good partner to creators,” he says, citing in particular Facebook’s earlier pivot to long-form video that led to the demise of several promising media startups, like Mic and Mashable.

This is where Zuckerberg could use Meta’s thick profit margin (36%, better even than Alphabet’s) and fat cash pile ($48 billion) to shell out YouTube-style cash to users posting Reels, creating an obvious enticement to prioritize Reels over TikTok. Maybe even Reels over YouTube, which has launched its own TikTok competitor, Shorts.

Now, imagine how someone like Green might get more motivated to think about Meta if Reels’ number crept up to 80 cents or a dollar per thousand views. Or $1.50. Or a YouTube-worthy $2. Or higher still: YouTube earnings can climb over $5, double even for the most popular creators.

Meta has earmarked up to a $1 billion for these checks to creators, which sounds big until you remember the amount of capital Meta has available to it. (And think about the sum YouTube disburses.) Moreover, Meta has set a timeframe for dispensing those funds, saying last July it would continue through December 2022. Setting a timetable indicates that Meta could (will likely?) turn off the financing come next Christmas.

Zuckerberg has demonstrated a willingness to plunk down Everest-size mountains of money over many years for projects he does fully believe in. The most obvious example is the metaverse, the latest Zuckerberg pivot. Meta ran up a $10.1 billion bill on it last year to develop new augmented and virtual reality software and headsets and binge hire engineers. Costs are expected to grow in 2022. And unlike Reels, metaverse spending has no semblance of a time schedule; Wall Street has been told the splurge will continue for the foreseeable future. Overall, Meta’s view on the metaverse seems to be, We’ll spend as much as possible—for as long as it takes—for this to happen.

The same freewheeled mindset doesn’t seem to appply to Reels. But Zuckerberg knows he can’t let TikTok take over the short-form video space unopposed. Meta needs to hang onto the advertising revenue generated by Instagram and Facebook until it can make the metaverse materialize. (Instagram and Facebook, for perspective, generated 98% of Meta’s $118 billion revenue last year; sales of Meta’s VR headset, the Quest 2, accounted for the remaining 2%.) And advertising dollars will increasingly move to short-form video, following users’ increased demand for this type of content over the last several years.

Reality is, Zuckerberg has already admitted he doesn’t see Reels as a long-term solution to his T-i-k-T-o-k problem. If he did, he’d spend more on it and creators like Green than what the metaverse costs him over six weeks.

Penlink – A small Nebraska company is helping law enforcement around the world spy on users of Google, Facebook and other tech giants

A small Nebraska company is helping law enforcement around the world spy on users of Google, Facebook and other tech giants. A secretly recorded presentation to police reveals how deeply embedded in the U.S. surveillance machine PenLink has become.


PenLink might be the most pervasive wiretapper you’ve never heard of.

The Lincoln, Nebraska-based company is often the first choice of law enforcement looking to keep tabs on the communications of criminal suspects. It’s probably best known, if it’s known at all, for its work helping convict Scott Peterson, who murdered his wife Laci and their unborn son in a case that fomented a tabloid frenzy in the early 2000s. Nowadays the company has been helping cops keep tabs on suspected wrongdoing by users of Google, Facebook and WhatsApp – whatever web tool that law enforcement requests.

With $20 million revenue every year from U.S. government customers such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and almost every other law enforcement agency in the federal directory, PenLink enjoys a steady stream of income. That doesn’t include its sales to local and state police, where it also does significant business but for which there are no available revenue figures. Forbes viewed contracts across the U.S., including towns and cities in California, Florida, Illinois, Hawaii, North Carolina and Nevada.

“PenLink is proud to support law enforcement across the U.S. and internationally in their effort to fight wrongdoing,” the company said. “We do not publicly discuss how our solution is being utilized by our customers.”

Sometimes it takes a spy to get transparency from a surveillance company. Jack Poulson, founder of technology watchdog Tech Inquiry, went incognito at the National Sheriffs’ Association’s winter conference in Washington. He recorded a longtime PenLink employee showing off what the company could do for law enforcement and discussing the scale of its operations. Not only does the recording lift the lid on how deeply involved PenLink is in wiretapping operations across the U.S., it also reveals in granular detail just how tech providers such as Apple, Facebook and Google provide information to police when they’re confronted with a valid warrant or subpoena.

Scott Tuma, a 15-year PenLink veteran, told attendees at the conference that the business got off the ground in 1987 when a law enforcement agency had an abundance of call records that it needed help organizing. It was in 1998 that the company deployed its first wiretap system. “We’ve got those, generally, scattered all over the U.S. and all over the world,” Tuma said. Though he didn’t describe that tool in detail, the company calls it Lincoln.

Today, it’s social media rather than phones that’s proving to be fertile ground for PenLink and its law enforcement customers. Tuma described working with one Justice Department gang investigator in California, saying he was running as many as 50 social media “intercepts.” PenLink’s trade is in collecting and organizing that information for police as it streams in from the likes of Facebook and Google.

The PenLink rep said that tech companies can be ordered to provide near-live tracking of suspects free of charge. One downside is that the social-media feeds don’t come in real time, like phone taps. There’s a delay – 15 minutes in the case of Facebook and its offshoot, Instagram. Snapchat, however, won’t give cops data much more than four times a day, he said. In some “exigent circumstances,” however, Tuma said he’d seen companies providing intercepts in near real time.

Making matters trickier for the police, to get the intercept data from Facebook, they have to log in to a portal and download the files. If an investigator doesn’t log in every hour during an intercept, they get locked out. “This is how big of a pain in the ass Facebook is,” Tuma said. PenLink automates the process, however, so if law enforcement officers have to take a break or their working day ends, they’ll still have the intercept response when they return.

A spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s owner, said: “Meta complies with valid legal processes submitted by law enforcement and only produces requested information directly to the requesting law enforcement official, including ensuring the type of legal process used permits the disclosure of the information.”

Jennifer Granick, surveillance and cybersecurity counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, reviewed the comments made by Tuma. She raised concerns about the amount of information the government was collecting via PenLink. “The law requires police to minimize intercepted data, as well as give notice and show necessity,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine that wiretapping 50 social media accounts is regularly necessary, and I question whether the police are then going back to all the people who comment on Facebook posts or are members of groups to tell them that they’ve been eavesdropped upon.”

She suggested that Tuma’s claim that a “simple subpoena” to Facebook could yield granular information – such as when and where a photo was uploaded, or when a credit-card transaction took place on Facebook Marketplace – may be an overreach of the law.

There’s a lot of nuance involving where government actions might stray over the line, said Randy Milch, a New York University law professor and former general counsel at telecoms giant Verizon Communications. “While I’m sympathetic to the idea that the government is going to ask for more than it needs, simply saying ‘too much data must mean an overreach’ is the kind of arbitrary rule that isn’t workable,” he told Forbes. “The government doesn’t know the amount of the data it’s seeking” before the fact. Milch noted that the Stored Communications Act explicitly allows for subpoenas to collect records including names, addresses, means and source of payment, as well as information on session times and durations.

‘Google’s the best’

In his Washington talk, Tuma gushed over Google’s location-tracking data. Google “can get me within three feet of a precise location,” he said. “I cannot tell you how many cold cases I’ve helped work on where this is five, six, seven years old and people need to put [the suspect] at a hit-and-run or it was a sexual assault that took place.” If people are carrying their phones and have Gmail accounts, he said, law enforcement “can get really lucky. And it happens a lot.” Facebook, by comparison, will get a target within 60 to 90 feet, Tuma said, while Snapchat has started providing more accurate location information within 15 feet.

Snapchat didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Tuma also described having a lot of success in asking Google for search histories. “Multiple homicide investigations, I’ve seen it: ‘How to dispose of a human body,’ ‘best place to dump a body.’ Swear to God, that’s what they search for. It’s in their Google history. They cleared their browser and their cookies and things, they think it’s gone. Google’s the best.” A Google spokesperson said the company tries to balance privacy concerns with the needs of police. “As with all law enforcement requests, we have a rigorous process that is designed to protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement,” the spokesperson said.

Tuma described Apple’s iCloud warrants as “phenomenal.” “If you did something bad, I bet you I could find it on that backup,” he said. (Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment.) It was also possible, Tuma said, to look at WhatsApp messages, despite the platform’s assurances of tight security. Users who back up messages effectively remove the protection provided by the app’s end-to-end encryption. Tuma said he was working on a case in New York where he was sitting on “about a thousand recordings from WhatsApp.” The Facebook-owned app may not be so susceptible to near real-time interception, however, as backups can only be done as frequently as once a day. Metadata, however, showing how a WhatsApp account was used and which numbers were contacting one another and when, can be tracked with a surveillance technology known as a pen-register. PenLink provides that tool as a service.

All messages on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted, said a company spokesperson, and it’s transparent about how it works with law enforcement. “We know that people want their messaging services to be reliable and safe – and that requires WhatsApp to have limited data,” the spokesperson said. “We carefully review, validate and respond to law enforcement requests based on applicable law and in accordance with our terms of service, and are clear about this on our website and in regular transparency reports. This work has helped us lead the industry in delivering private communications while keeping people safe, and has led to arrests in criminal cases.” They pointed to a release last year of a feature that allows users to encrypt their backups in the iCloud or Google Drive, while noting that when they respond to a law enforcement request, they don’t provide the data to any private company like PenLink, but directly to law enforcement.

Going dark or swimming in data?

In recent years, the FBI and various police agencies have raised concerns about end-to-end encryption from Google or Facebook cutting off valuable data sources. But Tuma said that Silicon Valley’s heavyweights aren’t likely to start hiding information from police because it would mean doing the same to advertisers. “I always call B.S. on it for this reason right here: Google’s ad revenue in 2020 was $182 billion,” Tuma said.

Granick of the ACLU said that such claims showed that the FBI, contrary to what the bureau claimed, wasn’t losing sight of suspects because of encrypted apps like WhatsApp. “The fact that backups and other data are not encrypted creates a treasure trove for police,” Granick said. “Far from going dark, they are swimming in data.” It’s noteworthy that Signal, an encrypted communications app that’s become hugely popular in recent years, does not have a feature that allows users to back up their data to the cloud.

Indeed, the amount of data being sent by the likes of Google and Facebook to police can be astonishing. Forbes recently reviewed a search warrant in which the police were sent 27,000 pages of information on a Facebook account of a man accused of giving illegal tours of the Grand Canyon. Tuma said he’d seen even bigger returns, the largest being around 340,000.

Though its headcount is small – less than 100 employees, according to LinkedIn – PenLink’s ability to tap a wide range of telecoms and internet businesses at scale has made the company very attractive to police over the last two decades. Over the last month alone, the DEA ordered nearly $2 million in licenses and the FBI $750,000.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Forbes obtained information on a $16.5 million PenLink contract with ICE that was signed in 2017 and continued to 2021. It details a need for the company’s suite of telecommunications analysis and intercept software applications, including what it called its PLX tool. The contract requires PenLink, at a minimum, to help wiretap a large number of providers, including AT&T, Iridium Satellite, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, Cricket, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Skype, Vonage, Virgin Mobile and what the government calls “social media and advertising websites” such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

PenLink’s work wouldn’t be possible without the compliance of tech providers, who, according to Granick, “are storing too much data for too long, and then turning too much over to investigators. Social media companies are able to filter by date, type of data, and even sender and recipient. Terabytes of data are almost never going to be responsive to probable cause, which is what the Fourth Amendment requires.”

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A Guide to Apple’s New App-Tracking Controls (ATT) in IOS 14.5

It’s the biggest lie of our time: “I have read the terms and conditions and privacy policy.”Read a bajillion words of legalese before hitting “agree” to use an app? Surrre.Yet I have one request for you when iOS 14.5 arrives on your iPhone and privacy pop-upalooza begins: Read them. Lucky for you, they’re short and crucial to understanding how your most personal info is used.

As for how you choose to answer these prompts, I have some advice on that, too.

On Monday, after many months of anticipation, Apple AAPL -0.24% released iOS 14.5. The update isn’t as big as the full-digit release that typically arrives each September, but it does have a few useful upgrades.Siri has some new, more realistic voices. If you’re setting up a new device, the virtual assistant no longer defaults to a female voice —something I’ve long advocated for. Then, there’s the new mask-unlock trick. If you’re wearing a mask and want to unlock your iPhone without punching in a passcode, you can use your Apple Watch to confirm it’s you. Oh, and there’s a redesigned syringe emoji. No sore arm included.But the most important and most controversial update? App Tracking Transparency—abbreviated to ATT. The privacy feature requires any app that wants to track your activity and share it with other apps or websites to ask for permission.“We really just want to give users a choice,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, told me in an exclusive video interview. “These devices are so intimately a part of our lives and contain so much of what we’re thinking and where we’ve been and who we’ve been with that users deserve and need control of that information.” He added, “The abuses can range from creepy to dangerous.”

Many apps on your phone will begin showing pop-ups like these.

PHOTO: JOANNA STERN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

App developers, advertisers and social networks dependent on ad revenue don’t see it as such a humanitarian decision. For years, they’ve relied on this sort of tracking and sharing your info with data brokers to build a dossier on your digital habits to serve you highly personalized ads. Facebook has been vocal about Apple’s move, calling it “harmful to small businesses,” “anticompetitive” and “hypocritical.”“It’s people opting out without understanding the impact,” said Graham Mudd, Facebook’s vice president of Ads & Business Product Marketing. “If you look at Apple’s language and the lack of explanation, we’re concerned that people will opt out because of this discouraging prompt, and we will find ourselves in a world where the internet has more paywalls and where far fewer small businesses are able to reach their customers.”

“It wasn’t surprising to us to hear that some people were going to push back on this, but at the same time, we were completely confident that it’s the right thing,” Mr. Federighi said. While the feature’s rollout has been delayed, Mr. Federighi said that was caused not by backlash but because Apple had to make sure app developers could comply when a user opted out of tracking. Mr. Federighi said Apple worked hard on the clarity of the prompts and has created privacy-respecting ad tools for developers.After years of writing about the need for more privacy control, I’m grateful for the choice. But this is much more than just some eeny-meeny-miny-moe decision. This is a choice about who you think deserves your personal information, and how targeted you want the marketing in your feeds to be. When presented with a pop-up, here’s what to consider.

Option 1: Ask App Not to Track

This is your hands-off-my-data choice.Tapping this tells the system not to share something you probably never knew you were sharing, called an IDFA—Identifier for Advertisers. For years all iPhones have had this invisible string of numbers used for tracking and identifying you and your activity in and across apps. (Android has something similar.)Here’s an example of how it works: You download a free, ad-supported sleep app. A few hours later you start seeing ads for adult onesies in your Facebook feed. You also start seeing ads in the sleep app pertaining to other interests of yours—potentially as innocent as dish soap or as personal as fertility treatments.Behind the scenes the sleep app and Facebook were communicating about you using that identifier. And since most apps use it, the data attached to yours can include the apps you’ve downloaded, your search history, your purchase history, your recent locations and more.Tapping this option will restrict the app from accessing that tracking number (which your device no longer shares by default), but it also tells that app you don’t want to be tracked using sneakier means. That’s why it says “Ask App Not to Track” rather than “Do Not Track,” Mr. Federighi explained.Apps that might ignore the policy and continue to track through other means could be punished in the App Store, he added. “They might not be able to provide updates or their app could even be removed from the store.” Translation: Follow the rules or get out.The appeal of this option doesn’t need my explanation: Stop the tracking and the “surveillance capitalism,” as some call it, that’s been happening behind the scenes all these years.Those who prioritize privacy—or just don’t like pop-ups—can opt out of tracking altogether with a universal setting that tells all apps, “No.” On your iPhone go to Settings > Privacy > Tracking. You’ll see “Allow Apps to Request to Track.” Turn it off and apps won’t ask—and they won’t have access to your identifier.

If you want to stop tracking across all apps, and prevent future pop-ups, go to Settings and turn off ‚Allow Apps to Request to Track.‘

PHOTO: JOANNA STERN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

If an app doesn’t have a pop-up, it doesn’t have your identifier and it shouldn’t be tracking and sharing your info with other apps. Apple’s own apps won’t have pop-ups, Mr. Federighi said. Google has also announced that many of its iOS apps will no longer use the IDFA.

Option 2: Allow Tracking

Tap this option and your data flows like the Mississippi—at least among the apps that get your consent. App makers have two opportunities to explain how they will use the data and convince you they’re worthy.When you get the pop-up, under the question “Allow [app] to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?” you’ll see a message from the app maker in small text. Most are short and tend to explain the need to track for “relevant” or “personalized” ads. Still, read them—you may be surprised by what’s said.Others go a step further. Before you get to that official pop-up, some will show a full screen explaining the benefits of advertising and how they use personal data.Merriam-Webster sure got my attention: “The Collegiate Dictionary and Thesaurus with hundreds of thousands of entries are free, but we couldn’t do that without ads.” That’s one way to pull at the heartstrings of a professional writer. The McDonald’s app offering more ads for “food you love”? Not as compelling.

Before you see the official iOS prompt, apps may show a full screen encouraging you to opt into tracking.

PHOTO: JOANNA STERN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

When I asked business owners and execs in the ad industry and social media to explain why people should tap “Allow,” their answers boiled down to the following:

  • You want relevant ads. Many tracking pleas mentioned the days when our social-media feeds were full of pointless ads. “I don’t have a baby. I don’t even like babies! Why are you trying to sell me diapers?” But remember tapping this won’t make all ads—and not even all relevant ads—go away. There are still ways to deliver targeted ads without this sort of tracking.
  • You want to support small businesses. “As a consumer and mother, I get it. As a business owner, this sucks,” Erin LaCkore, a 35-year-old owner of LaCkore Couture, a small jewelry brand, told me. “There are so many more people I would be able to reach.” Facebook’s ad tools allow her and many other small businesses to carefully target people who would be interested in their products.

“When people go to make this decision, I want them to A) think of their safety but B) what you might have missed out on that you might have loved as a consumer,” she added. (My colleague Christopher Mims explored the impact on small businesses in a recent column.)

  • You want the internet to remain free. Facebook argues this move threatens the ability for apps to remain free and ad-supported. Mr. Federighi said that there was a similar response years back when Apple introduced privacy features in Safari, yet ads still appear on websites viewed in Safari.

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of people will likely say no to tracking. AppsFlyer is a measurement firm that helps businesses evaluate ad-campaign performance. According to the company’s data, based on the early use of ATT in iOS, the opt-in rate was an average of 26% per app across nearly 550 apps. People are more likely to allow tracking with nongaming apps and brands that they trust.Whatever you decide, you can always change your mind. In that Tracking section of your Privacy settings, you can adjust your choice for each app.“People have their own sense of privacy and how important it is to them,” Mr. Federighi said. “So we will all make our personal decisions.”His personal decision? Oh, he’ll be opting out. I plan to do the same for many apps—especially ones that handle my most personal information—but I will consider it case by case, and read each pop-up with care.

Apple vs. Facebook: Why iOS 14.5 Started a Big Tech Fight
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Apple vs. Facebook: Why iOS 14.5 Started a Big Tech Fight
Apple vs. Facebook: Why iOS 14.5 Started a Big Tech Fight
A new privacy feature in Apple’s iOS 14.5 requires apps to request permission to track you. And Facebook isn’t happy about it. WSJ’s Joanna Stern put Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Tim Cook into the ring to explain why this software update has kicked off a tech slugfest. Photo illustration: Preston Jessee for The Wall Street Journal

How This Apple IOS Feature Will Change Your iPhone Forever

Apple’s biggest mid cycle operating system update ever, iOS 14.5, is due to launch over the next few days, the iPhone maker has confirmed. The iOS 14.5 ugrade includes a barrage of cool new features, but the most outstanding by far is App Tracking Transparency (ATT)—and it will change your iPhone forever.

ATT has ruffled many feathers across the advertising industry because it effectively spells the end of the IDFA (identifier for advertisers), a unique device code that companies use to track your activity across iPhone apps and services. The iOS 14.5 privacy change hurts companies such as Facebook the most, and the social network has been protesting against ATT for months.

What exactly is ATT?

ATT is a feature that requires app makers to ask for your permission to track you across iPhone apps and services. In reality, that means after upgrading to iOS 14.5, you will see a pop-up box (see picture below), which reads: “Allow X to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?”You can then choose “Ask App not to Track” or “Allow.”

In iOS 14.5, if you ask the app not to track, it will lose access to the IDFA, the unique device code I mentioned earlier. Apple has also stipulated that app makers must not track iPhone users in other ways using data such as email addresses.

Why has Facebook kicked up such a fuss about ATT?

Facebook has been very vocal in its opposition to ATT since the feature was delayed from the initial launch of iOS 14.5 last year. The social network even took out full page newspaper ads to criticize Apple’s privacy move, saying it would hurt small businesses the most.It’s true the iOS 14.5 privacy change will impact small advertisers, but it is the likes of Facebook who will be impacted the most. Unlike Apple, whose business model is based around the hardware and services it sells, Facebook’s is based around advertising. Access to the IDFA has helped data-hungry Facebook to demonstrate the effectiveness of ad campaigns. You might see an ad on Facebook, then Google the company’s website and make a purchase. If you allow iPhone IDFA tracking, this data can be collected and used to measure the success of ad campaigns to improve personalized ads.Facebook says iOS 14.5’s ATT is being used by Apple to push its own business model for profit, at the expense of Facebook’s and others. Indeed, a recent Financial Times report detailed how the iPhone maker is due to dip its own toes back into mobile ads, via an expansion of its App Store ads business. There is also the argument that Apple is trying to force app developers to charge more for things such as in app purchases and subscriptions, and the iPhone maker of course takes a cut.

What does ATT mean for me and my iPhone? 

In reality, ATT is good for you and privacy on your iPhone. The reason? Transparency. Even if you choose to allow tracking, at least you have done so with the full knowledge that it is happening. Apple’s iOS 14.5 is game-changing for mobile advertising more widely too. It’s thought Google’s Android will bring in something similar, which ultimately would see internet advertising changed, for the better, forever. So the implications of ATT are great for the privacy of iPhone users, and internet and smartphone users more broadly too. Privacy experts approve of Apple’s iOS 14.5 move. Sean Wright, SME application security lead at Immersive Labs says ATT’s “a good move by Apple.”As well as making things more transparent to users, he hopes it will force app developers “to seriously consider all the data they are attempting to collect, and if they really require it.”

How do I use ATT?

Once you’ve downloaded iOS 14.5, which is coming at some point during the next week, using ATT is easy. You simply wait for the pop up to appear in each app you use and allow, or don’t allow, tracking on a per app basis.Another cool tip that you might find useful is, you can also go to your settings in iOS 14.5 and turn off tracking altogether. Just go to Settings > Privacy > Tracking > Allow Apps to Request to Track.This will be automatically toggled to “on,” but you can toggle off the ability to track altogether here. That will stop a potentially annoying pop up appearing in each iOS app you open. You can also control the apps you have allowed to track here, if you want to turn them off, or enable them to track you.

Is there anything else I need to know?

The iOS 14.5 move is massive for iPhone privacy, but you need to be aware that apps do still collect your data. Apple’s privacy labels made that clear—they were a stark reminder that Facebook owned WhatsApp collects vast amounts of information and way more than its rivals. There is a decision you make when you use free apps and services and that’s whether to give them your data. If you are not paying for the product, you are the product, after all. At the same time, Apple does say ATT applies to its own apps, and we will hopefully see this in action in iOS 14.5.Experts have pointed out that like Cookie notices, the pop up to allow tracking may get annoying, so it’s important not to just “Allow” in a bid to speed things up. If you don’t want tracking at all, you can toggle it off in the settings as I described. Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET says: “ATT should not be ignored and viewed as yet another pop up which gently forces you to agree and accept it. This is a perfect time to allow people to reflect on their personal data and what the large corporations are doing with it. Companies such as Facebook heavily rely on iPhone users to consent to data sharing and such intrusion shouldn’t be taken lightly.” 

Should I turn iPhone IDFA tracking off for all apps?

IOS.14.5’s ATT really is an outstanding new feature and to track, or not to track, is the key question here. If you care about privacy on your iPhone, and you are uncomfortable about the data being collected about you online, ATT now gives you the means to turn that off. In iOS 14.5, the choice, as they say, is yours—and that’s the truly important thing.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateoflahertyuk/2021/04/24/ios-145-how-this-outstanding-new-feature-will-change-your-iphone-forever/

Signal Founder May Have Been More Than a Tech Adviser to MobileCoin

  • Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike, whom MobileCoin previously described as a technical adviser, may have been more deeply involved in the cryptocurrency project.

  • An earlier, nearly identical white paper found online, which MobileCoin CEO Joshua Goldbard called „erroneous,“ lists Marlinspike as the project’s original CTO.

The founder and CEO of encrypted messaging app Signal, Moxie Marlinspike may have been the former CTO of MobileCoin, a cryptocurrency that Signal recently integrated for in-app payments, early versions of MobileCoin technical documents suggest.

MobileCoin CEO Joshua Goldbard told CoinDesk this 2017 white paper is “not something [he] or anyone at MobileCoin wrote,” though it is very nearly a verbatim precursor to MobileCoin’s current white paper. Additionally, snapshots of MobileCoin’s homepage from Dec. 18, 2017, until April 2018, list Marlinspike as one of three members of “The Team,” though his title is not given there. He is not listed as an adviser until May 2018.

The team for the self-described privacy coin has always acknowledged Marlinspike as an adviser to the project, but neither the team nor Marlinspike has ever disclosed direct involvement through an in-house role, much less one so involved as Chief Technical Officer.

If Marlinspike actually was involved as a CTO in MobileCoin’s early days, the recent Signal integration raises questions of MobileCoin’s motivation for associating itself with the renowned cryptographer, along with his own motive for aligning with the project, given the MOB team has historically downplayed this involvement.

“Signal sold out their user base by creating and marketing a cryptocurrency based solely on their ability to sell the future tokens to a captive audience,” said Bitcoin Core developer Matt Corallo, who also used to contribute to Signal’s open-source software.

A screenshot of MobileCoin’s website frontpage on Dec. 18, 2017. Marlinspike is listed as a team member until May 2018.
(Wayback Machine)

Goldbard shared another document dated Nov. 13, 2017, same as the other white paper, which does not list a team for the project. He claimed that this white paper was the authentic one and the other was not.

“Moxie was never CTO. A white paper we never wrote was erroneously linked to in our new book, ‘The Mechanics of MobileCoin.’ That erroneous white paper listed Moxie as CTO and, again, we never wrote that paper and Moxie was never CTO,” Goldbard told CoinDesk.

This book is actually the most recent “comprehensive, conceptual (and technical) exploration of the cryptocurrency MobileCoin” posted on the MobileCoin Foundation GitHub, which Goldbard describes as project’s “source of truth” and serves as the most up-to-date technical documentation for the project.

This ”real” version of the paper is nearly identical to the “erroneous” white paper except there is no mention of team members or MobileCoin’s pre-sale details. (Both white papers and current MobileCoin technical documents are embedded at the end of this article for reference.)

Goldbard said the “erroneous” white paper was accidentally added as a footnote to this latest collection of technical documents compiled by Koe, a pseudonymous cryptographer who recently joined MobileCoin’s team. That footnote also lists Marlinspike as a co-author of the paper along with Goldbard.

“He just googled it, like everyone on the internet seems to be doing today, and put [it in] as a footnote. It was an oversight. I did not notice it in my review of the book prior to publishing,” Goldbard told CoinDesk.

A metadata analysis of the papers run by CoinDesk shows that the “erroneous” paper was generated on Dec. 9, 2017, while the “real” paper was generated two days later. 

A meta analysis of MobileCoin’s disputed white paper.
(Colin Harper)
A meta analysis of MobileCoin’s „real“ white paper.
(Colin Harper)

Marlinspike declined to comment on the record about his professional relationship with MobileCoin.

A tale of two papers

In a December 2017 Wired article titled “The Creator of Signal Has a Plan to Fix Cryptocurrency,” Marlinspike went on the record as a “technical adviser,” a title CoinDesk has also used to describe his relationship with MobileCoin in the past.

“There are lots of potential applications for MobileCoin, but Goldbard and Marlinspike envision it first as an integration in chat apps like Signal or WhatsApp,” the article reads. 

It also states that “Marlinspike first experimented with [Software Guard Extensions (SGX)] for Signal.” These special (and expensive) Intel SGX chips create a “secure enclave” within a device to protect software, and MobileCoin validators require them to function (validators, as in other permissioned databases, are chosen by the foundation behind MobileCoin).

In the 2017 white paper that Goldbard disavows, Marlinspike is listed under the “team” section as CTO, with experience including being “the lead developer of Open Whisper Systems, [meaning] Moxie is responsible for the entirety of Signal,” which had just over 10 million users at the time. This same white paper describes MobileCoin’s Goldbard as a “high school dropout who thinks deeply about narratives and information systems.”

Signal’s code has historically been open source, though this changed about a year ago; code for the MobileCoin integration was added in Signal’s last beta. The nonprofit, which has five full-time employees, subsists largely on donations and has no clear revenue model, though Whatsapp co-founder Brian Acton injected $50 million into the app in 2018. A 2018 tax filing shows revenue of just over $600,000 for the fiscal year and over $100,000,000 in assets and $105,000,000 in liabilities.

MobileCoin supply and other details

The disavowed white paper also shows details of MobileCoin’s proposed distribution, which the paper says included selling 37.5 million MOB tokens (out of a 250 million supply) in a private presale at a price of $0.80 each for a total of $30 million. 

Indeed, in the spring of 2018, MOB raised $30 million from crypto exchange Binance and others in such a private presale, TechCrunch’s Taylor Hatmaker reported. Goldbard referred to the TechCrunch article when discussing MobileCoin’s financing with CoinDesk.

In a MobileCoin forum on Jan. 8, one user asked for details about MOB’s circulating supply.

“Supply: 250mill MOB; Circulating supply: impossible to know (‘circulating’ is pretty hard to define anyway),” Koe responded. MobileCoin does not currently have online tools such as a blockchain explorer to search the network for data.

One user chimed in to say that because all 250 million MOB were generated from a “premine,” or creation of maximum supply before launch, there’s no way for users to earn them through staking or mining.

“I suppose you could request donations,” Koe replied. 

Perhaps summing up the sense of betrayal the Signal community feels, one post simply reads, ‚Et tu, Signal?‘

MobileCoin’s consensus model copies Stellar’s, meaning only MobileCoin Foundation-approved nodes, which must run on a machine that uses the aforementioned Intel SGX chips, can partake in consensus. The white paper makes no references to rewards or payouts to validators from MOB supply.

MobileCoin Token Services, an affiliate of the MobileCoin Foundation, is currently selling MOB (presumably the remaining coins that did not sell in the presale) to non-U.S. investors by taking orders over email. 

MOB, for now, trades on FTX  and Bitfinex, two popular crypto exchanges, and a few smaller venues.

When the coin began trading in January, it first listed for around $5. Now, it’s worth about $55 (which, assuming a supply of 250 million MOB, gives the coin roughly the same market cap as Chainlink or Litecoin, the 10th and 9th most value cryptoassets by market cap). The coin clocked over $15 million in volume over the past 24 hours between FTX and Bitfinex, according to exchange data.

Speaking to the coin’s design, the founder of privacy coin monero (XMR, +2.85%), Richard Spagni, claimed that MobileCoin uses the privacy building blocks of his project’s source code for its own design without giving credit.

Who is Moxie Marlinspike?

Something of a legend in cryptography circles, Marlinspike began working on Signal in 2014 after founding Open Whisper Systems in 2013. Before this, he served as Twitter’s head of security after his 2010 startup, Whisper Systems, was acquired by the social network in 2011.

His only on-the-record professional relationship with MobileCoin comes from his technical advisory role, which he took on in late 2017 at the height of bitcoin’s last bull market and its accompanying initial coin offering bubble. 

Reporting on the project in 2019, the New York Times’ Nathaniel Popper and Mike Isaac originally wrote that “Signal … has its own coin in the works” before amending the article to clarify that “MobileCoin will work with Signal, but it is being developed independently of Signal.” The correction seems to typify the shifting narrative of Marlinspike’s and MOB’s relationship across various records. (Wired’s 2017 coverage, for example, says that “The Creator of Signal Has a Plan to Fix Cryptocurrency.”)

“I think usability is the biggest challenge with cryptocurrency today,” Marlinspike told Wired in the December 2017 article. “The innovations I want to see are ones that make cryptocurrency deployable in normal environments, without sacrificing the properties that distinguish cryptocurrency from existing payment mechanisms.”

Signal’s own users are less convinced.

The app’s Reddit page is plastered with submissions complaining about the decision to add MOB, with many confused as to why Signal would integrate a coin in the first place, let alone one that isn’t very well known (and which only went live this year).

“Using your messenger service to sit on the blockchain hype for no good reason, bloat a clean messenger app and introduce privacy concerns was more than unnecessary,” one post reads.

Perhaps summing up the sense of betrayal the Signal community feels, one post simply reads, “Et tu Signal?”

Speaking on Moxie’s involvement and the app’s decision to add MOB, Anderson Kill partner Stephen Palley said, “I can’t speak to the discrepancy between investor materials and what you’re being told, but I don’t necessarily judge them for wanting to make a buck after years of providing great open-source software basically for free.”

Signal first out the gate (but tripping)

Other messaging apps like Telegram and Kik have tried and failed to launch in-app cryptocurrency payments by rolling their own coins. Both attempts were promptly quashed by regulators. Encrypted messaging app Keybase was the first messaging app to add cryptocurrency payments when it integrated Stellar’s XLM (+14.33%) in 2018.

Given Facebook’s ownership of WhatsApp, its involvement in the Libra coin project (now known as Diem) may be seen as a similar attempt.

Oddly, Signal’s addition of MobileCoin is the first instance of a messaging app actually pulling off a crypto integration. 

The question now is how many of Signal’s 50 million users, many of whom aren’t crypto enthusiasts, will use it.

Read the official and disputed MobileCoin white papers below:

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/502074292/content?start_page=undefined&view_mode=undefined&show_recommendations=undefined

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/502074632/content?start_page=undefined&view_mode=undefined&show_recommendations=undefined

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/502244393/content?start_page=undefined&view_mode=undefined&show_recommendations=undefined

Source: https://www.coindesk.com/signal-founder-may-have-been-more-than-tech-adviser-mobilecoin

Apple wants to protect privacy — Facebook wants to ‚inflict pain‘

Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, literally wants to inflict pain on Apple, on Tim Cook. To make them hurt. To lobby the government against them, to claim anti-trust, to do everything they can to paint Apple dirty. Why? Because Apple wants to give us, the customers, the users, the ability to choose whether or not Facebook gets to track us outside their own apps, across other apps, even across the web. Apple considers this simple level of privacy and dignity a fundamental human right. And… Facebook… well, Facebook seems intent on seeing it as an existential threat.

App Tracking Transparency

Starting in iOS 14.5, if an app wants to track your activities in other apps and on the web — well, it absolutely still can; it just has to ask your permission first. That’s it.

It’s called App Tracking Transparency, and it means that, if you’re in the Facebook app, and you’re in your favorite knitting group or whatever, talking about all the knitting, all the knitting, Facebook can serve you personalized ads about knitting, because they know you’re more likely to click on that than on… something random. And that’s all fine. That’s all 1st-party, meaning all happening in the same app, and nothing about that is changing. Not at all.

If you leave the Facebook app, and then go to Lego.com and then jeep.com, open a journaling app, your to-do list, play a couple of games, and then go back to Facebook, well, normally, Facebook tries to follow you across all those apps and websites as well, across anything that uses any of their software plugins or social hooks, so that they can serve you ads based on what you do in those apps and sites as well. And this is what’s changing, at least a very tiny little bit. This 3rd-party tracking. And all that’s changing is that Apple wants Facebook — or any app for that matter — to ask your permission before tracking you. That’s literally it.

Any app that wants to share your data with another app or service, or sell your activity to a data broker, can still do it. They simply have to ask you first.

1st vs. 3rd Party Tracking

Facebook Ios 14 Tracking PromptSource: MacRumors

It doesn’t even apply to other apps the same company owns. So Facebook can still 1st party track us across the big blue app and Facebook.com, Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, Messenger, any other app or website they own. Which is like half the social web at this point. It’s only if they want to track us across apps and websites they don’t own that they have to ask.

It’s no different than what other apps have had to ask before they access our photos or contacts or camera, or our physical location; all this means is that they now have to ask us before they can monitor our digital location as well.

Because, just like we’re concerned an app might steal our private photos, spam our contacts, listen in or spy on us with the camera or mic, or stalk us and sell our location in the real world, we’re increasingly concerned about apps stalking us in the digital world.

It’s why we see so many conspiracy theories about apps like Facebook or Instagram using the mic to listen in to our conversations — because they’re so damn good at serving us targeted ads that we think they must be all up in our brainstems to do it.

But they’re not. They’re just… that… damn… good… That damn good at profiling us based on our behavior so they can target us with those ads. And again, Apple isn’t saying they can’t do that anymore, that they can’t track our digital activity. Just like Apple isn’t saying, apps can’t edit our photos or find our friends or transmit our voices or faces across the internet or give us turn-by-turn traffic directions. All Apple’s saying is… like with all those other apps — they simply have to ask us first.

Some people will be fine with it. We’re getting the ads anyway, so they may prefer those ads be as personalized as possible. Others won’t. They’ll find it creepy and demand it stop. And now, for the first time, we’ll all get what we want.

Except for Facebook, which seems to think giving us a choice is wrong. Probably because they’re worried if we’re given a choice, we’ll choose to block them. To say no.

Make the case

FacebookSource: iMore

Rather than making a case for us to say yes, to argue the value they can deliver, Facebook is taking out ads in newspapers, lobbying governments, claiming anti-trust violations, saying this will hurt small apps and small business — as if any of them, from the biggest tech companies to the smallest online merchants own our data and have a greater right to it than we do. As if it belongs to them, not us. By divine right.

Now, some people are confusing and conflating how App Tracking Transparency applies to Apple’s own apps. Intentionally or accidentally spreading disinformation about Apple having a double standard, not playing fair, giving themselves a separate setting. And… they’re actually right. But not really. Apple’s standard here isn’t double — it’s higher.

That separate setting doesn’t stop Apple from doing 3rd-party tracking or serving personalized ads based on your activity elsewhere because Apple doesn’t do that… at all… to begin with. Not any of it. What that second setting does is stop Apple from serving 1st-party ads. Like, suggested apps in the App Store. The equivalent of Facebook serving you that knitting ad while you’re in the Facebook knitting group.

And that’s the reason it’s a second, separate setting. Because it’s legacy, but also because the new one applies to all apps. The old one, sadly, at this point, only to Apple. And conflating 3rd and 1st party tracking in the same interface panel — well, that’s what would be really confusing.

Other people are saying the wording on the popup is unfair. That „Allow Facebook to Track Your Activities Across Other companies Apps and Websites“ is scary and chilling. That it should be something closer to „Allow Facebook to Serve You Personalized Ads.“

Which is such a steaming pile of poop emojis. And everyone knows it. Because personalizing ads isn’t all they can do with that permission. It’s not all they can do with the access, far from it. And everyone knows that as well. It’s like… a giant Facebook Thirst Trap, and they think we’re all going to fall for it.

Asked and answered

Mark Zuckerberg in front of the Facebook logoSource: iMore

See, Photo apps don’t get to ask for permission to apply filters, contacts apps to find friends, conferencing apps to place video calls, location services for turn-by-turn. They have to ask for full access. For blanket permissions. Because that’s what they get. And once they have it, they can steal our photos, spam our contacts, record what we’re doing, or sell our location to collection agents because that’s the access we’ve given them. So they don’t get to lie about the limitations, cherry-pick the most benign use cases, diminish or try and dismiss the very real risk of an app not just serving us personalized ads but selling our online activity to data brokers. We get to know the full scope, so we get to make the most informed decision.

Even then, Apple’s not stopping any of that anyway. All they’re doing is requiring Facebook and any other app to ask us first and then to respect our decision.

Apple can’t stop all of it anyway. All they can do is block the iOS-specific ad identifier. Not all of Facebook or any other service’s software plugins or web hooks. All they can do is hope Facebook and others honor our choice and cut that stuff out — out of their own accord. Based on the honor system.

Even that — the honor system — seems to be too much for Facebook. Because it’s not ending Facebook or any small apps or businesses, like at all. That’s absurd. They’re too busy doing that themselves with Cambridge Analytica, Onavo VPN, algorithmic malfeasance, betraying WhatsApp and Oculus login promises, and the list goes on and on. If anything, Apple is prompting them to clean up their act. Encouraging them to do the most minimally decent, user-centric thing imaginable so they can start regaining our trust.

Source: https://www.imore.com/apple-wants-protect-privacy-facebook-wants-inflict-pain

The mass surveillance of society has made companies extremely wealthy

The Facebook news ban revealed how problematic it is to rely on corporations to provide fundamental public services

By business reporter Gareth Hutchens

Graphic shows two people on laptops in front of the Facebook logo.
Facebook harvests our personal data in unimaginable quantities, Gareth Hutchens writes.(Reuters: Dado Ruvic)

The fog lifted for a moment.

Last week, when Facebook blocked Australians from viewing and sharing „news content“ on its platform, we saw what role it plays in Australian society.

Community groups, charities, sport clubs, arts centres, unions and emergency services all rely on the social media giant.

Its platform plays the role of an important public messaging board.

But in a country with so little civil society infrastructure, our heavy reliance on a corporation to provide such a fundamental public service is deeply problematic.

Facebook, Inc. doesn’t care about your fundraiser or political protest.

It couldn’t care less about your art exhibition.

What it cares about is your personal data, which it harvests in unimaginable quantities.

And the methods it uses to keep its 2.7 billion monthly active users „engaged“ on its website (so it can keep learning more about them) are also deeply problematic.

Jaron Lanier, one of the founders of the field of virtual reality, has been warning about social media and tech giants for years.

„Everyone has been placed under a level of dystopian surveillance straight out of a dystopian science fiction novel,“ he wrote in 2018 about the technological architecture created by these companies.

„Spying is accomplished mostly through connected personal devices — especially, for now, smartphones — that people keep practically glued to their bodies.

„Data is gathered about each person’s communications, interests, movements, contact with others, emotional reactions to circumstances, facial expressions, purchases, vital signs: an ever-growing, boundless variety of data.“

Mr Lanier says the ocean of personal data these companies extract from the internet is turned into behavioural data that allows them to predict and manipulate our behaviour.

 
Play Video. Duration: 57 seconds
„Facebook was wrong“: Josh Frydenberg criticises restrictions on Australian news.

„[These] platforms have proudly reported on experimenting with making people sad, changing voter turnout, and reinforcing brand loyalty,“ he said.

Just one example: in 2014, Facebook executives apologised after a scientific paper revealed the company had conducted secret psychological tests on 700,000 users, without its users‘ knowledge, in which it tried to manipulate its users‘ emotions to see what effect it would have on the status updates they posted or how they would use Facebook’s „like“ button.

Surveillance capitalism

It’s worth remembering what Facebook is.

It is a member of a group of companies that are engaged in something called „surveillance capitalism“.

According to Professor Shoshana Zuboff, the author who coined the term, surveillance capitalism refers to the „new economic order“ that has emerged in the age of the internet and smartphone.

She says the companies that practice it lay claim to our personal information, our „data“, as „free raw material“ to be aggressively harvested.

Some of the data they collect are used for product or service improvement, but the rest is considered as a proprietary „behavioural surplus“.

That surplus data is then fed into machine intelligence which turns the data into „prediction products“ that „anticipate what you will do now, soon and later“.

According to Professor Zuboff, social media companies trade those „prediction products“ in a new kind of marketplace for behavioural predictions which she calls „behavioural futures markets“.

„Surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, for many companies are eager to lay bets on our future behaviour,“ she wrote in her 2019 book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.

„The competitive dynamics of these new markets drive surveillance capitalists to acquire ever-more-predictive sources of behavioural surplus: our voices, personalities, and emotions.

„Surveillance capitalists discovered that the most-predictive behavioural data come from intervening in the state of play in order to nudge, coax, tune, and herd behaviour towards profitable outcomes.

It has become difficult to escape this bold market project, whose tentacles reach from the gentle herding of innocent Pokemon Go players to eat, drink, and purchase in the restaurants, bars, fast-food joints, and shops that pay to play in its behavioural futures markets to the ruthless expropriation of surplus from Facebook profiles for the purposes of shaping individual behaviour, whether it’s buying pimple cream at 5:45pm on a Friday, clicking ‚yes‘ on an offer of new running shoes as the endorphins race through your brain after your long Sunday morning run, or voting next week.

„Just as industrial capitalism was driven to the continuous intensification of the means of production, so surveillance capitalists and their market players are not locked into the continuous intensification of the means of behavioural modification and the gathering might of instrumentarian power.“

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gestures with his arms and smiles as he speaks.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is a member of a group of companies engaged in „surveillance capitalism“.(AP: Trent Nelson via The Salt Lake Tribune)

Google invented surveillance capitalism

Professor Zuboff says Google invented and perfected surveillance capitalism in the early 2000s „in much the same way that a century ago General Motors invented and perfected managerial capitalism“.

„Google was the pioneer of surveillance capitalism in thought and practice, the deep pocket research and development, and the trailblazer in experimentation and implementation, but it is no longer the only actor on this path,“ she wrote.

„Surveillance capitalism quickly spread to Facebook and later to Microsoft. Evidence suggests that Amazon has veered in this direction, and it is a constant challenge to Apple, both as an external threat and as a source of internal debate and conflict.“

She published those words in 2019.

A little later that year, the Guardian described the book as an „epoch-defining international bestseller, drawing comparisons to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring“.

The mass surveillance of society has made companies extremely wealthy

One of the points Professor Zuboff has repeatedly made about surveillance capitalism is how profitable it is for the companies that practice it.

The ocean of personal data they hoover up is turned into unimaginable wealth and power, making the companies more powerful than nation-states.

It helps to explain why those tech companies have come to dominate stock markets.

A screenshot of the ABC News page on Facebook showing no posts
News organisations including the ABC have been impacted, along with community groups, charities, sport clubs, arts centres, unions, emergency services and more.(Supplied)

Last year, when researchers at the International Monetary Fund tried to figure out why there seemed to be a large disconnect between stock markets and the real world during one of the worst global recessions in memory, one thesis they considered was that the outsize influence of the big five tech companies — Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple, which accounted for 22 per cent of the market capitalisation on US stock markets — was making US financial markets appear healthier than they were.

At any rate, it comes back to the question of what type of organisation should be running a country’s quasi-public messaging board.

Are we happy to leave it to surveillance capitalists to run a „public good“ of that kind?

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-21/when-facebook-banned-news-australia-we-saw-role-it-plays/13175698

Facebook’s devastating display of defiance is vintage Zuckerberg

Facebook’s decision to ban legitimate news from being shared in the middle of a global pandemic is a breathtaking display of defiance. It is also entirely consistent with the social media behemoth’s belligerent corporate character.

The move – which inadvertently resulted in Facebook pages of health departments in Queensland, WA and ACT being wiped just before a critical vaccine rollout begins – shocked the Australian media and political establishment. But, in hindsight, nobody should have been surprised. This was vintage Zuckerberg. You don’t blitzscale your way from Harvard dorm room to trillion-dollar titan in the space of a few years without putting lots of noses out of joint.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a joint hearing of Congress.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a joint hearing of Congress.Credit:AP

The Australian government’s media bargaining code, which is at the centre of the dispute, has been endlessly debated over the past year. Media companies say they should be paid for producing journalism that benefits the platforms, but they lack the bargaining power to extract any value for it. Tech giants claim they do not really benefit from the existence of news, that news represents a small part of the overall activity on their platforms, and since they actually send these news organisations free traffic they shouldn’t be paying them anything.

There are merits to both sides of the argument.

Yet there is little doubt stronger regulation of Google and Facebook is urgently needed. The two companies have scarily dominant positions in their respective markets of search and social media, and also an entrenched duopoly in digital advertising. Meanwhile, their ascent has coincided with a host of societal problems ranging from rising misinformation and fake news, to a troubling surge in online conspiracy theories and growing internet addiction.

The media bargaining code attempts to revolve the digital duopoly’s market dominance by using the threat of arbitration to force Google and Facebook to strike commercial deals with media companies. Could there have been a more straightforward solution? A digital platform tax or levy may have been cleaner and simpler and has existing parallels elsewhere in the economy.

There are already taxes on addictive and harmful products (think cigarette excise), and levies on disruptive new market entrants that are used to compensate legacy incumbents also exist (for example, the levies on Uber rides that are distributed to taxi licence holders).

Regardless, the debate about the merits of the media bargaining code in Australia has now become moot. The bill to bring the code into law has sailed through the lower house of Parliament and is all but certain to be passed by the Senate. Facebook is effectively saying that the overwhelming majority of elected officials in a sovereign parliament are wrong.

It is possible that a news-free Facebook could be positive for society and the media industry in the medium term. But at this fragile moment in history – a once in a century health crisis coupled with a fake news epidemic – for the primary gateway to information for millions of people to block critical information from being shared was chillingly irresponsible.

Throughout its relatively short history, Facebook has pursued a win at all costs, take no prisoners approach to business. It has also shown little regard for the wreckage it has left behind. For many years its official corporate mantra was “move fast and break things”.

When a potential competitor emerges, Facebook either buys it (as it did with WhatsApp and Instagram) or copies its key features (as it has done with Snapchat and Tiktok).

Facebook has pursued a win at all costs, take no prisoners approach to business.
Facebook has pursued a win at all costs, take no prisoners approach to business.Credit:Bloomberg

It has repeatedly abused the privacy of its users and demonstrated a shocking ineptitude at thwarting the misinformation and conspiracy theories that have flourished on its platform, which are now demonstrably weakening democracies.

The spat over the media bargaining code highlights the fiendishly complex task governments face in regulating digital giants with operations that span the globe, billions of users and perhaps unrivalled power.

Tech proponents argue Australia’s regulation is deeply flawed – and to an extent they may have a point. But there is flawed regulation all across the economy. Most wildly profitable and dominant companies (even Google) begrudgingly accept these kinds of impositions as part of their social licence to operate, a cost of doing business. Not Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg’s middle finger to the Australian government has been noticed all around the world. Already Canada is signaling it will copy the media code, while Europe (which has tried repeatedly to force the digital giants to pay news organisations, with much less success than Australia) is likely to follow.

Facebook has repeatedly shown it does not mind a scrap. But this may be its biggest fight yet, and it is only just beginning.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/facebook-s-devastating-display-of-defiance-is-vintage-zuckerberg-20210219-p5741b.html

How you farewell a Facebook account. And what you can do next

If the lack of news is a deal-breaker for your use of Facebook, how can you delete your account – and what are the consequences?

 

With Facebook blocking all news pages and links from its Australian service, some people will be weighing up how they’ll continue to use the social media platform.

Facebook is ubiquitous, and for many of us serves as a link to our friends, family, events, photos and memories. After Facebook’s snap decision on Thursday to block Australians from seeing news articles on its platform, some users began experimenting with loopholes to continuing sharing news, even resorting to breaking up the text in creative ways or using pictures of cats when posting news stories, to throw Facebook off the scent. But in the hours since, those loopholes appear to have been closed.

Is the lack of news a deal-breaker for your use of Facebook? If so, how will you go about deleting your account – and what are the consequences? And are there good alternatives for services that serve news to you?

How will I get my news?

If you previously relied mostly on Facebook for news it’s time to find an alternative, and the service(s) you choose will depend on how you like to consume your content.

If you’re moving to a new social media network, Twitter is an obvious choice. On Twitter, as with Facebook, you get to pick your friends, companies, personalities and outlets, and see their updates in a feed. A lot of news outlets post the same stories to Facebook and Twitter, and may even be more active on the latter now Facebook is out. One advantage of Twitter is you can follow a wide variety of news without crowding your feed too much. For example, you can save curated lists of people and outlets, say, by topic or friend group, to keep things separated. Or you can save specific searches so you’re always up to date on a specific topic or hashtag (those little phrases starting with # that people use to categorise comments, like #auspol for Australian politics).

 

You could also try Reddit or Discord, if you’re more into discussing the news with a like-minded community.

If you’re sticking with Facebook to keep up with friends, you might just want a straight news service or aggregator to get the latest headlines. Google News is available on every type of device and is good for either skimming the headlines or diving deep into a topic. It has curated “top stories”, suggestions based on your tastes, and you can save favourite sources and topics to a custom feed. On mobile phones, a News Showcase feature lets you read some usually paywalled stories for free. Apple News is similar if you solely use Apple devices, though its premium offering Apple News+ is more curated and you need to pay for it.

For a more DIY option you can collect things called RSS Feeds, which show you every article published on a given website, but they can be messy. Some more advanced RSS reading services, like Feedly, make it easier to create your own news service.

Finally, you can always go directly to the outlets you like. Bookmark the topic pages on websites you’re interested in, or many news outlets also offer newsletters, podcasts and apps to make accessing news more convenient.

What happens to my photos and posts if I delete Facebook?

If you’ve been on the social network for years you might wonder what the repercussions would be if you deleted that app and nuked your account. And the truth is, depending on how you’ve used it, there can be consequences.

 

Completely deleting your Facebook account will delete all the posts and photos you’ve shared on the service, and remove you from conversations and posts on other people’s Facebook feeds. You will no longer be able to use Facebook Messenger or access any conversations you had there.

If you used Facebook to sign up to other services, such as Spotify or Instagram, you may find it difficult to access them once your account is deleted. Facebook hardware products, such as Portal smart displays and Oculus VR (virtual reality) headsets, require a Facebook account for most functions. In the case of Oculus, you could lose any games you paid for if you delete Facebook.

After 30 days your Facebook account data becomes unrecoverable, although Facebook says it may take 90 days until all your data is gone from its servers.

So how do I do it without losing all my stuff?

For a less nuclear option you can “deactivate” your account; in which case the company keeps your data and you can still use Messenger. Other apps and websites can still log you in with Facebook, and you can reinstate your account in the future.

So if you’re removing yourself from Facebook, you first have to decide whether you’d like the option to come back later. If you do, you should choose a deactivation. If not, you want a deletion. Either way you will go to the same place.

How do you delete or deactivate a Facebook account?

On a computer:

  1. Log in to Facebook and hit the triangle at the top right of the page.
  2. Click on Settings and Privacy, and then Settings.
  3. Click on Your Facebook Information, and then Deactivation or Deletion.

On the mobile app:

  1. Tap the three horizontal lines at the bottom (iPhone) or top (Android) right of the screen.
  2. Scroll down and tap Settings and Privacy, and then Settings.
  3. Scroll down and tap Account Ownership and Control, then Deactivation and Deletion. See below for how to recoup your old posts, including photos.

Deactivation is as simple as entering your password and confirming a few times, but if you’re deleting your account and want to keep your stuff there are a few loose ends to tie up first.

When leaving Facebook, you have a choice of a deactivation where Facebook keeps all your data, or a total deletion that locks you out for good.

When leaving Facebook, you have a choice of a deactivation where Facebook keeps all your data, or a total deletion that locks you out for good.

Facebook can send your photos and videos directly to another service, such as Dropbox or Google Photos. Or, alternatively, you can download and store any or all information from your Facebook account. This can take some time if you want to keep everything, as it might include years of posts, photos, videos, comments, messages, event details and group discussions, marketplace listings, location information and advertising data. To do either of these things, follow the steps above but at step three choose Transfer a Copy of Your Photos, or Download Your Information.

How do you access Instagram if you’ve ditched Facebook?

Next, you’ll want to make sure you can still access other services. You can keep using Instagram after a Facebook deletion but you may need to make some changes. Before deleting Facebook go to Instagram’s settings, hit Accounts Center, then Logging in Across Accounts, and make sure it’s turned off. If you originally signed up to Instagram via Facebook, this will prompt you to create a password. Now your Instagram and Facebook accounts are separated – but be aware they are the same company and do share your data.

 

As for non-Facebook apps and services you used Facebook to sign up for, most will have an option in their settings to choose a different login or unlink from Facebook. If you’re unsure if this applies to any services you use, go to Facebook’s settings and hit Apps and Websites to see a list of services you’ve linked to Facebook.

What are some other services for sharing photos?

Google Photos and Apple iCloud are services you may already be using to back up pics from your phone. But you can also use them to share pictures with others, tag people and make comments. If you’re specifically wanting to share photos of the kids you can set up shared folders in Google Photos that do this automatically. Tinybeans is another good app specifically made for sharing photos of kids with family members and friends.

If you’re deleting Facebook entirely and want a Messenger replacement, Signal is probably closest since it’s secure and has seamless integration between mobile and web. You could say the same for WhatsApp, but if you’re completely expunging Facebook from your life that’s a no-go. If you need all the goofy stickers and video chat features, your phone’s default iMessage or Android Messenger is as good as you may get.

Groups and events are the hardest Facebook features to replace, as it can feel like you’re going to miss out if you’re not on Facebook. But there are alternatives, just make sure you have a phone number and/or active email for each of your friends before you leave. Paperless Post is a good service that lets you create events, send invites and track RSVPs, and you can always create a group chat on your messaging platform of choice.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/technology/how-you-farewell-a-facebook-account-and-what-you-can-do-next-20210219-p573wy.html

It’s time to unfriend Facebook when it resorts to starving us of news

 

If there was ever any doubt about Facebook’s cavalier attitude to the network of users it has created, this news blackout is definitive. To Facebook, we are all merely pieces of data to be observed, exploited and monetised. As citizens we are worthless.

Australians need to respond with our mouses. We need to unfriend Facebook and find alternative places to connect and collaborate, free of its surveillance models and reckless self-interest.

 

The 30 per cent of Australians who rely on Facebook as their primary source of news will have to find it elsewhere or live a fact-free life following the Big Tech behemoth’s decision on Thursday to purge journalism from its site.

Overnight, Facebook has removed access to its users from any site that smells like news: not only local major mastheads such as The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, but also specialist sites like The Conversation and global leaders such as The New York Times.

News blackout ... Facebook is ignoring the public interest while acting in self-interest.

News blackout … Facebook is ignoring the public interest while acting in self-interest. Credit:iStock

It also seems Fire and Rescue NSW, the Bureau of Meteorology, MS Research Australia, Doctors without Borders and state health departments are among many placed on the blacklist, showing the scope of the Mark Zuckerberg edict from Silicon Valley.

This is an arrogant and reckless move that will be dangerous for all Australians who are relying on an evidence-based response to a global pandemic, but also self-destructive to Facebook. While Facebook argues it does not make much money from news in its network, it is wilfully turning a blind eye to its value. News provides the facts and evidence to anchor what it claims is a ubiquitous digital experience.

If there was ever any doubt about Facebook’s cavalier attitude to the network of users it has created, this news blackout is definitive. To Facebook, we are all merely pieces of data to be observed, exploited and monetised. As citizens we are worthless.

By rejecting the decisions of our elected representatives to implement the findings of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s review of its monopoly power, Facebook is asserting its commercial interests should prevail over the public interest. Indeed, Facebook seems more comfortable with its networks supporting despots and dictatorships by algorithmically fomenting division than respecting a government working in support of democracy.

This decision was made hours after our elected leaders from across the political spectrum endorsed the work of experts to deliver a significant reform that will make our democracy stronger.

The News Media Bargaining Code, the brainchild of the ACCC and its chairman Rod Sims, was a systemic response to the monopoly power that Google and Facebook exert over advertising and its impact on public interest journalism.

 

Under Australian law there is now a legal mechanism to place a value on fact-based news within the digital platforms that have come to dominate our online world with their algorithmically powered engines of division, distortion and denial.

The spectre of the code – with its global precedence – has already begun to do its job. Google has rushed to finalise premium-content deals with media organisations. These deals will not only make the Australian media, which has shed more than 5000 jobs in the past decade, stronger; it will help address the built-in weaknesses of digital platforms that refuse to discriminate fact from fiction.

And they were only the first step in the program of digital platform reform that the ACCC has laid out to address the power of the Google/Facebook monopoly.

 

A review of privacy laws is currently under way, looking at the way Australians’ personal information is collected and monetised by online platforms with a view to designing consumer rights and protections. A separate process is focussing on the responsibilities social media should have to address harmful misinformation and disinformation, dispelling for good the myth that they are platforms with no broader social obligations for the harm they cause.

There’s also a review of the creepy world of ad-tech, where automated, virtual trading floors are running real-time auctions for our attention every time we visit a news page.

But this sort of expression on democratic reform is a red line for Facebook, which believes its network is stronger than our public institutions.

Australians need to respond with our mouses. We need to unfriend Facebook and find alternative places to connect and collaborate, free of its surveillance models and reckless self-interest.

Peter Lewis is the director of the Centre for Responsible Technology.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/national/it-s-time-to-unfriend-facebook-when-it-resorts-to-starving-us-of-news-20210218-p573lt.html