Schlagwort-Archive: Facebook

Lets Get Rid of the “Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear” Mentality

With Zuckerberg testifying to the US Congress over Facebook’s data privacy and the implementation of GDPR fast approaching, the debate around data ownership has suddenly burst into the public psyche. Collecting user data to serve targeted advertising in a free platform is one thing, harvesting the social graphs of people interacting with apps and using it to sway an election is somewhat worse.

Suffice to say that neither of the above compare to the indiscriminate collection of ordinary civilians’ data on behalf of governments every day.

In 2013, Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the systematic US spy program he helped to architect. Perhaps the largest revelation to come out of the trove of documents he released were the details of PRISM, an NSA program that collects internet communications data from US telecommunications companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook and Apple. The data collected included audio and video chat logs, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs of anyone using the services of 9 leading US internet companies. PRISM benefited from changes to FISA that allowed warrantless domestic surveillance of any target without the need for probable cause. Bill Binney, former US intelligence official, explains how, for instances where corporate control wasn’t achievable, the NSA enticed third party countries to clandestinely tap internet communication lines on the internet backbone via the RAMPART-A program.What this means is that the NSA was able to assemble near complete dossiers of all web activity carried out by anyone using the internet.

But this is just in the US right?, policies like this wouldn’t be implemented in Europe.

Wrong unfortunately.

GCHQ, the UK’s intelligence agency allegedly collects considerably more metadata than the NSA. Under Tempora, GCHQ can intercept all internet communications from submarine fibre optic cables and store the information for 30 days at the Bude facility in Cornwall. This includes complete web histories, the contents of all emails and facebook entires and given that more than 25% of all internet communications flow through these cables, the implications are astronomical. Elsewhere, JTRIG, a unit of GCHQ have intercepted private facebook pictures, changed the results of online polls and spoofed websites in real time. A lot of these techniques have been made possible by the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act which Snowden describes as the most “extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy”.

But despite all this, the age old reprise; “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” often rings out in debates over privacy.

Indeed, the idea is so pervasive that politicians often lean on the phrase to justify ever more draconian methods of surveillance. Yes, they draw upon the selfsame rhetoric of Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister for the Nazi regime.

In drafting legislation for the the Investigatory Powers Act, May said that such extremes were necessary to ensure “no area of cyberspace becomes a haven for those who seek to harm us, to plot, poison minds and peddle hatred under the radar”.

When levelled against the fear of terrorism and death, its easy to see how people passively accept ever greater levels of surveillance. Indeed, Naomi Klein writes extensively in Shock Doctrine how the fear of external threats can be used as a smokescreen to implement ever more invasive policy. But indiscriminate mass surveillance should never be blindly accepted, privacy should and always will be a social norm, despite what Mark Zuckerberg said in 2010. Although I’m sure he may have a different answer now.

So you just read emails and look at cat memes online, why would you care about privacy?

In the same way we’re able to close our living room curtains and be alone and unmonitored, we should be able to explore our identities online un-impinged. Its a well rehearsed idea that nowadays we’re more honest to our web browsers than we are to each other but what happens when you become cognisant that everything you do online is intercepted and catalogued? As with CCTV, when we know we’re being watched, we alter our behaviour in line with whats expected.

As soon as this happens online, the liberating quality provided by the anonymity of the internet is lost. Your thinking aligns with the status quo and we lose the boundless ability of the internet to search and develop our identities. No progress can be made when everyone thinks the same way. Difference of opinion fuels innovation.

This draws obvious comparisons with Bentham’s Panopticon, a prison blueprint for enforcing control from within. The basic setup is as follows; there is a central guard tower surrounded by cells. In the cells are prisoners. The tower shines bright light so that the watchman can see each inmate silhouetted in their cell but the prisoners cannot see the watchman. The prisoners must assume they could be observed at any point and therefore act accordingly. In literature, the common comparison is Orwell’s 1984 where omnipresent government surveillance enforces control and distorts reality. With revelations about surveillance states, the relevance of these metaphors are plain to see.

In reality, theres actually a lot more at stake here.

With the Panopticon certain individuals are watched, in 1984 everyone is watched. On the modern internet, every person, irrespective of the threat they pose, is not only watched but their information is stored and archived for analysis.

Kafka’s The Trial, in which a bureaucracy uses citizens information to make decisions about them, but denies them the ability to participate in how their information is used, therefore seems a more apt comparison. The issue here is that corporations, more so, states have been allowed to comb our data and make decisions that affect us without our consent.

Maybe, as a member of a western democracy, you don’t think this matters. But what if you’re a member of a minority group in an oppressive regime? What if you’re arrested because a computer algorithm cant separate humour from intent to harm?

On the other hand, maybe you trust the intentions of your government, but how much faith do you have in them to keep your data private? The recent hack of the SEC shows that even government systems aren’t safe from attackers. When a business database is breached, maybe your credit card details become public, when a government database that has aggregated millions of data points on every aspect of your online life is hacked, you’ve lost all control of your ability to selectively reveal yourself to the world. Just as Lyndon Johnson sought to control physical clouds, he who controls the modern cloud, will rule the world.

Perhaps you think that even this doesn’t matter, if it allows the government to protect us from those that intend to cause harm then its worth the loss of privacy. The trouble with indiscriminate surveillance is that with so much data you see everything but paradoxically, still know nothing.

Intelligence is the strategic collection of pertinent facts, bulk data collection cannot therefore be intelligent. As Bill Binney puts it “bulk data kills people” because technicians are so overwhelmed that they cant isolate whats useful. Data collection as it is can only focus on retribution rather than reduction.

Granted, GDPR is a big step forward for individual consent but will it stop corporations handing over your data to the government? Depending on how cynical you are, you might think that GDPR is just a tool to clean up and create more reliable deterministic data anyway. The nothing to hide, nothing to fear mentality renders us passive supplicants in the removal of our civil liberties. We should be thinking about how we relate to one another and to our Governments and how much power we want to have in that relationship.

To paraphrase Edward Snowden, saying you don’t care about privacy because you’ve got nothing to hide is analogous to saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say.

http://behindthebrowser.space/index.php/2018/04/22/nothing-to-fear-nothing-to-hide/

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Forget Facebook

Forget Facebook

Photo Credits: oe24.at – Copyrights of oe24.at reserved

Source: Techcrunch.com

Cambridge Analytica may have used Facebook’s data to influence your political opinions. But why does least-liked tech company Facebook have all this data about its users in the first place?

Let’s put aside Instagram, WhatsApp and other Facebook products for a minute. Facebook has built the world’s biggest social network. But that’s not what they sell. You’ve probably heard the internet saying “if a product is free, it means that you are the product.”

And it’s particularly true in this case because Facebook is the world’s second biggest advertising company in the world behind Google. During the last quarter of 2017, Facebook reported $12.97 billion in revenue, including $12.78 billion from ads.

That’s 98.5 percent of Facebook’s revenue coming from ads.

Ads aren’t necessarily a bad thing. But Facebook has reached ad saturation in the newsfeed. So the company has two options — creating new products and ad formats, or optimizing those sponsored posts.

Facebook has reached ad saturation in the newsfeed

This isn’t a zero-sum game — Facebook has been doing both at the same time. That’s why you’re seeing more ads on Instagram and Messenger. And that’s also why ads on Facebook seem more relevant than ever.

If Facebook can show you relevant ads and you end up clicking more often on those ads, then advertisers will pay Facebook more money.

So Facebook has been collecting as much personal data about you as possible — it’s all about showing you the best ad. The company knows your interests, what you buy, where you go and who you’re sleeping with.

You can’t hide from Facebook

Facebook’s terms and conditions are a giant lie. They are purposely misleading, too long and too broad. So you can’t just read the company’s terms of service and understand what it knows about you.

That’s why some people have been downloading their Facebook data. You can do it too, it’s quite easy. Just head over to your Facebook settings and click the tiny link that says “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”

In that archive file, you’ll find your photos, your posts, your events, etc. But if you keep digging, you’ll also find your private messages on Messenger (by default, nothing is encrypted).

And if you keep digging a bit more, chances are you’ll also find your entire address book and even metadata about your SMS messages and phone calls.

All of this is by design and you agreed to it. Facebook has unified terms of service and share user data across all its apps and services (except WhatsApp data in Europe for now). So if you follow a clothing brand on Instagram, you could see an ad from this brand on Facebook.com.

Messaging apps are privacy traps

But Facebook has also been using this trick quite a lot with Messenger. You might not remember, but the on-boarding experience on Messenger is really aggressive.

On iOS, the app shows you a fake permission popup to access your address book that says “Ok” or “Learn More”. The company is using a fake popup because you can’t ask for permission twice.

There’s a blinking arrow below the OK button.

If you click on “Learn More”, you get a giant blue button that says “Turn On”. Everything about this screen is misleading and Messenger tries to manipulate your emotions.

“Messenger only works when you have people to talk to,” it says. Nobody wants to be lonely, that’s why Facebook implies that turning on this option will give you friends.

Even worse, it says “if you skip this step, you’ll need to add each contact one-by-one to message them.” This is simply a lie as you can automatically talk to your Facebook friends using Messenger without adding them one-by-one.

The next time you pay for a burrito with your credit card, Facebook will learn about this transaction and match this credit card number with the one you added in Messenger

If you tap on “Not Now”, Messenger will show you a fake notification every now and then to push you to enable contact syncing. If you tap on yes and disable it later, Facebook still keeps all your contacts on its servers.

On Android, you can let Messenger manage your SMS messages. Of course, you guessed it, Facebook uploads all your metadata. Facebook knows who you’re texting, when, how often.

Even if you disable it later, Facebook will keep this data for later reference.

But Facebook doesn’t stop there. The company knows a lot more about you than what you can find in your downloaded archive. The company asks you to share your location with your friends. The company tracks your web history on nearly every website on earth using embedded JavaScript.

But my favorite thing is probably peer-to-peer payments. In some countries, you can pay back your friends using Messenger. It’s free! You just have to add your card to the app.

It turns out that Facebook also buys data about your offline purchases. The next time you pay for a burrito with your credit card, Facebook will learn about this transaction and match this credit card number with the one you added in Messenger.

In other words, Messenger is a great Trojan horse designed to learn everything about you.

And the next time an app asks you to share your address book, there’s a 99-percent chance that this app is going to mine your address book to get new users, spam your friends, improve ad targeting and sell email addresses to marketing companies.

I could say the same thing about all the other permission popups on your phone. Be careful when you install an app from the Play Store or open an app for the first time on iOS. It’s easier to enable something if a feature doesn’t work without it than to find out that Facebook knows everything about you.

GDPR to the rescue

There’s one last hope. And that hope is GDPR. I encourage you to read TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas excellent explanation of GDPR to understand what the European regulation is all about.

Many of the misleading things that are currently happening at Facebook will have to change. You can’t force people to opt in like in Messenger. Data collection should be minimized to essential features. And Facebook will have to explain why it needs all this data to its users.

If Facebook doesn’t comply, the company will have to pay up to 4 percent of its global annual turnover. But that doesn’t stop you from actively reclaiming your online privacy right now.

You can’t be invisible on the internet, but you have to be conscious about what’s happening behind your back. Every time a company asks you to tap OK, think about what’s behind this popup. You can’t say that nobody told you.

Source: Techcrunch.com

Whatsapp spies on your encrypted messages

Exclusive: Privacy campaigners criticise WhatsApp vulnerability as a ‘huge threat to freedom of speech’ and warn it could be exploited by government agencies

Research shows that the company can read messages due to the way WhatsApp has implemented its end-to-end encryption protocol.
Research shows that WhatsApp can read messages due to the way the company has implemented its end-to-end encryption protocol. Photograph: Ritchie B Tongo/EPA

A security backdoor that can be used to allow Facebook and others to intercept and read encrypted messages has been found within its WhatsApp messaging service.

Facebook claims that no one can intercept WhatsApp messages, not even the company and its staff, ensuring privacy for its billion-plus users. But new research shows that the company could in fact read messages due to the way WhatsApphas implemented its end-to-end encryption protocol.

Privacy campaigners said the vulnerability is a “huge threat to freedom of speech” and warned it can be used by government agencies to snoop on users who believe their messages to be secure. WhatsApp has made privacy and security a primary selling point, and has become a go to communications tool of activists, dissidents and diplomats.

WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption relies on the generation of unique security keys, using the acclaimed Signal protocol, developed by Open Whisper Systems, that are traded and verified between users to guarantee communications are secure and cannot be intercepted by a middleman. However, WhatsApp has the ability to force the generation of new encryption keys for offline users, unbeknown to the sender and recipient of the messages, and to make the sender re-encrypt messages with new keys and send them again for any messages that have not been marked as delivered.

The recipient is not made aware of this change in encryption, while the sender is only notified if they have opted-in to encryption warnings in settings, and only after the messages have been resent. This re-encryption and rebroadcasting effectively allows WhatsApp to intercept and read users’ messages.

The security backdoor was discovered by Tobias Boelter, a cryptography and security researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. He told the Guardian: “If WhatsApp is asked by a government agency to disclose its messaging records, it can effectively grant access due to the change in keys.”

The backdoor is not inherent to the Signal protocol. Open Whisper Systems’ messaging app, Signal, the app used and recommended by whistleblower Edward Snowden, does not suffer from the same vulnerability. If a recipient changes the security key while offline, for instance, a sent message will fail to be delivered and the sender will be notified of the change in security keys without automatically resending the message.

WhatsApp’s implementation automatically resends an undelivered message with a new key without warning the user in advance or giving them the ability to prevent it.

Boelter reported the backdoor vulnerability to Facebook in April 2016, but was told that Facebook was aware of the issue, that it was “expected behaviour” and wasn’t being actively worked on. The Guardian has verified the backdoor still exists.

The WhatsApp vulnerability calls into question the privacy of messages sent across the service used around the world, including by people living in oppressive regimes.
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The WhatsApp vulnerability calls into question the privacy of messages sent across the service used around the world, including by people living in oppressive regimes. Photograph: Marcelo Sayão/EPA

Steffen Tor Jensen, head of information security and digital counter-surveillance at the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, verified Boelter’s findings. He said: “WhatsApp can effectively continue flipping the security keys when devices are offline and re-sending the message, without letting users know of the change till after it has been made, providing an extremely insecure platform.”

Boelter said: “[Some] might say that this vulnerability could only be abused to snoop on ‘single’ targeted messages, not entire conversations. This is not true if you consider that the WhatsApp server can just forward messages without sending the ‘message was received by recipient’ notification (or the double tick), which users might not notice. Using the retransmission vulnerability, the WhatsApp server can then later get a transcript of the whole conversation, not just a single message.”

The vulnerability calls into question the privacy of messages sent across the service, which is used around the world, including by people living in oppressive regimes.

Professor Kirstie Ball, co-director and founder of the Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy, called the existence of a backdoor within WhatsApp’s encryption “a gold mine for security agencies” and “a huge betrayal of user trust”. She added: “It is a huge threat to freedom of speech, for it to be able to look at what you’re saying if it wants to. Consumers will say, I’ve got nothing to hide, but you don’t know what information is looked for and what connections are being made.”

In the UK, the recently passed Investigatory Powers Act allows the government to intercept bulk data of users held by private companies, without suspicion of criminal activity, similar to the activity of the US National Security Agency uncovered by the Snowden revelations. The government also has the power to force companies to “maintain technical capabilities” that allow data collection through hacking and interception, and requires companies to remove “electronic protection” from data. Intentional or not, WhatsApp’s backdoor to the end-to-end encryption could be used in such a way to facilitate government interception.

Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “If companies claim to offer end-to-end encryption, they should come clean if it is found to be compromised – whether through deliberately installed backdoors or security flaws. In the UK, the Investigatory Powers Act means that technical capability notices could be used to compel companies to introduce flaws – which could leave people’s data vulnerable.”

A WhatsApp spokesperson told the Guardian: “Over 1 billion people use WhatsApp today because it is simple, fast, reliable and secure. At WhatsApp, we’ve always believed that people’s conversations should be secure and private. Last year, we gave all our users a better level of security by making every message, photo, video, file and call end-to-end encrypted by default. As we introduce features like end-to-end encryption, we focus on keeping the product simple and take into consideration how it’s used every day around the world.

“In WhatsApp’s implementation of the Signal protocol, we have a “Show Security Notifications” setting (option under Settings > Account > Security) that notifies you when a contact’s security code has changed. We know the most common reasons this happens are because someone has switched phones or reinstalled WhatsApp. This is because in many parts of the world, people frequently change devices and Sim cards. In these situations, we want to make sure people’s messages are delivered, not lost in transit.”

Asked to comment specifically on whether Facebook/WhatApps had accessed users’ messages and whether it had done so at the request of government agencies or other third parties, it directed the Guardian to its site that details aggregate data on government requests by country.

Concerns over the privacy of WhatsApp users has been repeatedly highlighted since Facebook acquired the company for $22bn in 2014. In August 2015, Facebook announced a change to the privacy policy governing WhatsApp that allowed the social network to merge data from WhatsApp users and Facebook, including phone numbers and app usage, for advertising and development purposes.

Facebook halted the use of the shared user data for advertising purposes in November after pressure from the pan-European data protection agency groupArticle 29 Working Party in October. The European commission then filed charges against Facebook for providing “misleading” information in the run-up to the social network’s acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp, following its data-sharing change.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/13/whatsapp-backdoor-allows-snooping-on-encrypted-messages

How Facebook Chatbots Can Revolutionize Your Social Media Strategy

How Facebook Chatbots Can Revolutionize Your Social Media Strategy

The artificial intelligence era… It’s all about embedding human smarts in machines.

Facebook chatbots are one application of this revolution, as they rapidly gain popularity and provide a new tool for marketers to leverage. These chatbots are the incorporation of automatic chatbots within Facebook Messenger.

Chatbots offer flexibility in order to automate tasks, and assist in retrieving data. They are becoming a vital way to enhance the consumer experience for the purpose of better customer service and growing interaction.

In April 2016, Mark Zuckerberg announced that third parties could use the messenger platform to create their own personal chatbot. Since then, the popularity of chatbots has rapidly grown all over the world.

In social media marketing chatbots have evolved, but their prime functionality remains the same, and that is to improve real-time engagement. Customers are always searching for prompt and ready replies to their comments and queries. The chatbots are designed in such a manner that they are able to answer most of the queries placed by customers, without human intervention. And this helps in bonding a strong relationship with your customers and potential crowds, without paying for high overheads on staff.

Two chatbots that have gained immense popularity in no-time are Apple’s Siri and Chotu Bot.

Chatbots: Why such a buzz at present?

Modern advancement in the field of artificial intelligence, which includes neural networking and deep learning, have permitted chatbots to acquire data sets exactly the way the human brain works. This is revolutionary.

Chatbots are instigating a stir in the present world of consumer services. Facebook created a revolution for technology by launching Facebook messenger chatbots which permit businesses to generate an interactive experience, content, e-commerce guides and automate customer service. Messenger has reached more than 900 million users, plus it offers the most striking platform to implement your desired bots.

Maybe the most renowned example  of a chatbot is Apple’s Siri. Like all chatbots, Siri is a perfect combination of pre-defined scripts and neural systems to anticipate a precise reaction to an offered conversation starter or explanation, permitting clients to skip steps while speaking. Siri is a masterpiece that took years for such a huge organization with loads of assets to develop.

Siri for Facebook chatbots

The second example is a chatbot from an organization that is not as famous as Apple. But still the chatbot is so efficient that it has been able to create a lot of buzz for itself in the market.

The Chotu Bot helps you replace various software and get detailed information on various topics such as wiki search, PNR status, Vehicle registration number etc. inside your messenger. And the developers behind the Chotu Bot are preparing to update it so that it can reply to most of the queries asked from all around the planet.

Chotu Bot for Facebook chatbots

How can a Facebook chatbot assist your marketing?

Facebook allows brands to connect their potential customers independently through these messenger bots which leads to a new era in advertising.

The basic idea behind launching the messenger bots is to connect all the people directly to the business in order to automate customer engagement and interactions. Now there are more than 11,500 bots that have been developed on messenger and nearly 23,500 developers signed up in order to build their own bots using tools offered by Facebook. This means it assists you to automate informal interactions between businesses and users.

Recently Facebook announced new features for bots which can easily respond with video, audio, GIFs, and such files that make you build your own bots with ease.

How do chatbots help e-commerce platforms?

Chatbots assist the e-commerce industry by providing functionality in areas such as security, management, monitoring, and customer engagement which are key elements of e-commerce businesses.

Self-service and automation are the ideal way to go ahead in e-commerce, this the ultimate reason why businesses are using chatbots.

Here are just some ideas for how chatbots can make customer engagement easier:

Convenient, contextual and in control

Facebook messenger for chatbots is focused on generating the greatest customer engagement experience. They offer automated updates about traffic, weather, automated messages and much more.

Easy setup and cost savings

Bots help you save time and reduce the cost of hiring staff.

Unprecedented customer reach

The new receive/send API allows you to connect with more than 950 million people in and around the world. That’s the reason bots are growing as the key tool for businesses to gain wonderful networking and commercial opportunities.

How can you use chatbots?

Chatbots make it possible to offer a more proactive, personal, and efficient consumer experience.

how to use chatbots for Facebook chatbots

  • Chotu, one of the leading chatbot technologies, is an AI robot on Facebook messenger that assists in accelerating customer information acquisition through Facebook messages. It provides all the needed information from your messages itself, rather than relying on several different apps working together. Chotu performs multiple tasks at a single time and offers 24×7 customer service.

chotu for customer experience for Facebook chatbots

  • Pizza Hut announced that Facebook messenger chatbots assist their customers in asking questions, viewing their current deals and much more. This helps Pizza Hut interact with their customers more easily at any time and from any place.

36 love questions for Facebook chatbots

  • 36LoveQuestions is a wonderful Facebook messenger chatbot that asks you 36 exact questions in order to determine whether you are in love with someone or not.

Chatbots: From the “simple” customer to enterprises

At present, chatbots are very prevalent in the customer space. From a business point of view, transportation businesses and e-commerce delivery enhance their chances by allowing their customer to purchase products more efficiently.

customer space for Facebook chatbots

But bots are rapidly moving across to the enterprise space as most companies are now building their own chatbots in order to generate better engagement with their customers and create additional value for their brand.

How chatbots are minimizing the gap between customers and brands

Public vs. Private

One of the major problems that various organizations had to face while promoting on social media was to provide a primary customer service to their potential clients. The best thing about [messaging bot] is that you can have a ‘Message Us’ option and truly use this as a one-on-one, private channel.

Consistency

Messaging is a continuous and real-time process between a customer and a brand. You can have a real-time chat with a specialist from the brand, then you can leave and return a day later and see the history… That is truly energizing since that begins to effect customer behavior.

Accessing an audience of over a billion people

Facebook commenced this entire chatbot furor in April by permitting outside bots on its messenger. So even in the worst case, this is the potential crowd you can reach.

Include different systems (WhatsApp has not joined the chatbot fleeting trend yet) and the aggregate gathering of people on messaging platforms is well in an abundance of 1.2 billion. This is the crowd that you can target directly and provide each one special attention.

Who does not like a personal exclusive service?

Chatbots are poised to reform the customer-brand interaction. Facebook knows the potential of personal messaging and they know this idea can be really useful for brands to retain their audiences for a longer period of time.

Any organization today with a chatbot has the capacity to gain customer insights. The more insights they gain, the better the brand messaging will become, which ultimately indicates better targeting and more sales. The best part is that these chatbots are relatively cheap compared to other applications.

A business which takes time to understand chatbots and execute them have a better chance of offering things to their customer and this will really help them build a nice strong relationship over time.

Chatbots are the perfect fit for the modern e-commerce company looking to ramp up customer service.

Companies which are using chatbots are likely to experience better results and acquire the ability to advertise and market new products which ultimately generate customer engagement.

How Facebook Chatbots Can Revolutionize Your Social Media Strategy

Facebook Is Not a Technology Company

At the close of trading this Monday, the top five global companies by market capitalization were all U.S. tech companies: Apple, Alphabet (formerly Google), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook.

Bloomberg, which reported on the apparent milestone, insisted that this “tech sweep” is unprecedented, even during the dot-com boom. Back in 2011, for example, Exxon and Shell held two of the top spots, and Apple was the only tech company in the top five. In 2006, Microsoft held the only slot—the others were in energy, banking, and manufacture. But things have changed. “Your new tech overlords,” Bloomberg christened the five.

But what makes a company a technology company, anyway? In their discussion of overlords, Bloomberg’s Shira Ovide and Rani Molla explain that “Non-tech titans like Exxon and GE have slipped a bit” in top valuations. Think about that claim for a minute, and reflect on its absurdity: Exxon uses enormous machinery to extract the remains of living creatures from geological antiquity from deep beneath the earth. Then it uses other enormous machinery to refine and distribute that material globally. For its part, GE makes almost everything—from light bulbs to medical imaging devices to wind turbines to locomotives to jet engines.

Isn’t it strange to call Facebook, a company that makes websites and mobile apps a “technology” company, but to deny that moniker to firms that make diesel trains, oil-drilling platforms, and airplane engines?

Part of the problem has to do with the private language of finance. Markets segment companies by industry, and analysts track specific sectors and subsectors. Exxon is an energy industry stock, while GE straddles energy, transportation, public utility, healthcare, and finance. The “technology” in the technology sector is really synecdoche for “computer technology.” Companies in that sector deal in software, semiconductors, hardware manufacturing, peripherals, data processing services, digital advertising, and so forth.

“Technology” has become so overused … that the term has lost all meaning.

For the NASDAQ exchange, where most so-called technology companies are traded, those industries are based on the Industry Classification Benchmark (ICB), a classification system developed by the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE Group. The ICB breaks the market down into 10 industries, each of which is broken down further into supersectors, sectors, and subsectors. The ICB technology industry counts “Internet” as a subsector of “Software & Computer Services,” for example. Companies are assigned to sectors and subsectors based on the (largest) source of their revenue (thus, GE is considered an energy company).

A company like Microsoft fits squarely into Technology, Software & Computer Services, because that’s where the majority of its revenue derives. Likewise, Apple is a traditional ICB “technology” company, in the sense that it makes most of its money from selling computer hardware. But the other companies in Bloomberg’s Monday top five are technology companies in a mostly vestigial way.

Almost all of Google’s and Facebook’s revenue, for example, comes from advertising; by that measure, there’s an argument that those firms are really Media industry companies, with a focus on Broadcasting and Entertainment. Of course, Alphabet is a lot like GE, or at least it aspires to be, with its investments in automotive (Self-Driving Car Project), health care (Calico), consumer goods (Nest), utilities (Fiber). But the vast majority of its revenue comes from Google’s ad business.

Amazon generates a lot of revenue from its Amazon Web Services (AWS) business—perhaps as much as $10 billion this year. It also derives revenue from manufacturing and selling computer hardware, like the Fire and Kindle. But thevast majority of Amazon’s revenue comes from international sales of consumer goods. Amazon is sort of a tech company, but really it’s a retailer.

A day later, at the close of the markets Tuesday, August 2, the tech sweep was already history. Exxon Mobil had pushed Facebook out of position five, topping the, uh, online broadcast media company’s $352 billion market cap by $8 billion, or 2 percent. Warren Buffett’s conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway also closed Tuesday at $354 billion in total value. Among Berkshire Hathaway’s top revenue drivers are insurance, manufacturing, and the obscure but ubiquitous McClane Company, which provides supply-chain management and logistics services for the grocery industry. It brought in $28 billion in revenue last year, or about $10 billion more than Facebook. Johnson & Johnson, which sells consumer and industrial health products from Actifed to Zyrtec, wasn’t far behind, with a $345 billion market capitalization at the close of business Tuesday.

Every industry uses computers, software, and internet services. If that’s what “technology” means, then every company is in the technology business—a useless distinction. But it’s more likely that “technology” has become so overused, and so carelessly associated with Silicon Valley-style computer software and hardware startups, that the term has lost all meaning. Perhaps finance has exacerbated the problem by insisting on the generic industrial term “technology” as a synonym for computing.

There are companies that are firmly planted in the computing sector. Microsoft and Apple are two. Intel is another—it makes computer parts for other computer makers. But it’s also time to recognize that some companies—Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook among them—aren’t primarily in the computing business anyway. And that’s no slight, either. The most interesting thing about companies like Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook is that they are not (computing) technology companies. Instead, they are using computing infrastructure to build new—and enormous—businesses in other sectors. If anything, that’s a fair take on what “technology” might mean as a generic term: manipulating one set of basic materials to realize goals that exceed those materials.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/08/facebook-is-not-a-technology-company/494183

Facebook is starting to analyse users‘ posts and messages with sophisticated new artificial intelligence (AI) software

Facebook is starting to analyse users‘ posts and messages with sophisticated new artificial intelligence (AI) software — and that could have worrying implications for Google.

On Wednesday, the social networking giant announced DeepText — „a deep learning-based text understanding engine that can understand with near-human accuracy the textual content of several thousands posts per second, spanning more than 20 languages.“

DeepText is powered by an AI technique called deep learning. Basically, the more input you give it, the better and better it becomes at what it is trained to do — which in this case is parsing human text-based communication.

The aim? Facebook wants its AI to be able to „understand“ your posts and messages to help enrich experiences on the social network. This is everything from recognising from a message that you need to call a cab (rather than just discussing your previous cab ride) and giving you the option to do so, or helping sort comments on popular pages for relevancy. (Both are examples Facebook’s research team provides.)

The blog post doesn’t directly discuss it, but another obvious application for this kind of sophisticated tech is Google’s home turf — search. And engineering director Hussein Mehanna told Quartz that this is definitely an area that Facebook is exploring: „We want Deep Text to be used in categorizing content within Facebook to facilitate searching for it and also surfacing the right content to users.“

Search is notoriously difficult to get right, and is a problem Google has thrown billions at (and made billions off) trying to solve. Is someone searching „trump“ looking for the Presidential candidate or playing cards? Does a search for the word „gift“ want for ideas for gifts, or more information about the history of gifts — or even the German meaning of the word, poison? And how do you handle natural-language queries that may not contain any of the key words the searcher is looking for — for example, „what is this weird thing growing on me?“

By analysing untold trillions of private and public posts and messages, Facebook is going to have an unprecedented window into real-time written communication and all the contexts around it.

Google has nothing directly comparable (on the same scale) it can draw upon as a resource as to train AI. It can crawl the web, but static web pages don’t have that real-time dynamism that reflect how people really speak — and search — in private conversations. The search giant has repeatedly missed the boat on social, and is now trying to get onboard — very late in the game — with its new messaging app Allo. It will mine conversations for its AI tech and use it to provide contextual info to users — but it hasn’t even launched yet.

Facebook has long been working to improve its search capabilities, with tools like Graph Search that let the user enter natural language queries to find people and information more organically: „My friends who went to Stanford University and like rugby and Tame Impala,“ for example. And in October 2015, it announced it had indexed all 2 trillion-plus of its posts, making them accessible via search.

Using AI will help the Menlo Park company not just to index but to understand the largest private database of human interactions ever created — super-charging these efforts.

www.businessinsider.de/facebook-new-ai-deeptext-threatens-google-search-2016-6

The Evolution of Messengers at Google

Google has announced three new communication apps this week: Spaces, Allo and Duo. That’s in addition to the three it already has. To understand why it’s doing this, and why it’ll do it again, we only need to look to its past.

Twelve years ago, Google began its shift from being „just“ the world’s most popular search engine to something much more: It released Gmail. Soon, the company was offering several options for communication. By 2009 Google users had a pretty robust set of tools at their disposal. Gmail for email, Talk for real-time text and voice chats, Voice for VoIP calling, and Android to facilitate everything else. Unfortunately, this simple delineation would quickly disappear as the company launched more and more services.

Google Wave was the first addition. Announced in mid-2009, it mashed together elements of bulletin boards, instant messaging and collaborative editing to pretty awesome effect. It grew a small but fervent community — I was a big fan — until Google halted development.

Then came Buzz. Launched in 2010, it was Google’s first attempt at a bona fide social network. It failed miserably, not least due to complaints about the way Google forced it upon users and some valid privacy concerns. Although neither Wave nor Buzz really competed with what the company was already offering, that would change when Google launched its next attempt at a social network, Google+.

In addition to standard social networking, Google+ also had two features that facilitated direct communication with individuals and groups: Hangouts and Huddles. Not to be mistaken with the current app, Hangouts at the time offered multiuser video chat for people in the same Circle. Huddle, on the other hand, was an instant messaging app for talking with other Google+ users.

Huddle would soon become Google+ Messenger, offering the same functionality as Google Talk, while Hangouts would expand to seriously encroach on Google Voice. Within a year, Google had added the ability to make „audio-only“ calls by inviting users to join Hangouts over a regular phone line.

Google now had two apps for everything, coupled with the problem that many users — even on its Android platform — were still using SMS to communicate on the go. It began work to rectify this and unify its disparate platforms. In 2013 we got an all-new Hangouts, available cross-platform and on the web. It merged the functionality of Hangouts and Messenger, and it also replaced Talk within Gmail if you opted to upgrade. Voice was still out in the cold and SMS wasn’t integrated, but the company was moving in the right direction.

In late 2013, Google added SMS to Hangouts, and in Android 4.4 it replaced Messaging as the OS default for texting. By Oct. 2014 Google had integrated VoIP into Hangouts as well. It finally had one app for everything.

You could assert that Hangouts was a better app because of the confusing mess that preceded it. Google tried lots of things and put the best elements from all of its offerings into a single app.

That arguably should have been the end of the story, but it’s not. For whatever reason — probably because it figured out that a lot of Android users didn’t use Hangouts — Google released another app in Nov. 2014 called Messenger. This Messenger had nothing to do with Google+ but instead was a simple app focused on SMS and MMS. Hangouts could and can still handle your texts, but Messenger is now standard on Nexus phones and can be installed on any Android phone from the Play Store. This confusing muddle means that if you have, say, a new flagship Samsung phone, you’ll have two apps capable of handling your SMS (Samsung’s app and Hangouts), with the possibility of adding a third with Messenger.

Hangouts, for the most part, has been doing a fine job.

Still, SMS isn’t exactly a burning priority for most people, and Hangouts, for the most part, has been doing a fine job. I can’t say I use it that often — my conversations are mostly through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, because that’s where my friends are — but when I do, it’s a pleasant-enough experience. The same can be said for Google+: It’s actually a great social network now, aside from the fact that barely anyone uses it.

That’s the issue that Google faces today and the reason why these new apps exist. More people are using Facebook Messenger than Hangouts. More people are using WhatsApp than Hangouts. More people are using Snapchat than Hangouts. And everyone uses everything other than Google+.

So we now have three new apps from Google, each performing pretty different tasks. The first is Spaces. Think of it as Google+ redux redux redux. It takes the service’s fresh focus on communities and collections and puts it into an app that exists outside the social network. The end result is a mashup of Slack, Pinterest, Facebook Groups and Trello. It’s promising, but, as of writing, it’s very much a work in progress.

Next up is Allo, a reaction to Facebook Messenger and Microsoft’s efforts in the chatbot space. It uses machine learning to streamline conversations with auto replies and also offers a virtual assistant that’ll book restaurants for you, answer questions and do other chatbotty things. Just like Spaces exists outside Google+, Allo exists outside Hangouts. You don’t even need a Google account to sign up, just a phone number — much like how WhatsApp doesn’t require a Facebook account.

Finally we have Duo, which is by far the most focused of the three. It basically duplicates Hangouts‘ original function: video calling. According to the PR, it makes mobile video calls „fast“ and „simple,“ and it’s only going to be available on Android and iOS. Both Duo and Allo also have the distinction of offering end-to-end encryption — although Allo doesn’t do so by default — the absence of which has been something privacy advocates have hated about Hangouts.

This summer, when Duo and Allo become available, Google users will be at another confusing impasse. Want to send a message to a friend? Pick from Hangouts, Allo or Messenger. Want to make a video call? Hangouts or Duo. Group chat? Hangouts, Allo or Spaces. It’s not user-friendly, and it’s not sustainable.

Sure, Facebook sustains two chat services (WhatsApp and its own Messenger) just fine, but it bought WhatsApp as a fully independent, hugely popular app and has barely changed a thing. Google doesn’t have that luxury. Instead, it’ll borrow another Facebook play: Test new features on a small audience and integrate. Over the past couple of years Facebook has released Slingshot, Rooms, Paper, Riff, Strobe, Shout, Selfied and Moments. I’m probably missing a few.

All of these apps were essentially built around a single feature: private chats, ephemeral messaging, a prettier news feed, selfies, etc. The vast majority won’t get traction on their own, but their features might prove useful enough to fold into the main Facebook and Messenger apps. And if one of them takes off, no problem, you’ve got another successful app.

This has to be Google’s strategy for Allo, Duo and Spaces. We don’t know what Google’s communication offerings will look like at the end of this year, let alone 2017. But chances are that Google will continue to float new ideas before eventually merging the best of them into a single, coherent application, as it did with Hangouts. And then it’ll start the process again. In the meantime, Google will spend money developing x number of duplicate apps, and users will have to deal with a confusing mess of applications on their home screens.

 

http://www.engadget.com/2016/05/19/why-google-cant-stop-making-messaging-apps/