From the world pool: February 1, 2019

Media in the news

This was an interesting week for quite a few tech companies, and it will be even more interesting to see the fallout, if any. I noticed this because I notice anything relating to Facebook and privacy. I detest Facebook on many levels and do not use it, for reasons relating to their handling of privacy and the fact that I think they are turning into a monopoly. It is possible that I am not entirely unbiased about them (ya think?), but honestly I think that my attitude is justified by their actions.

Apple, Facebook, and Google

Oh my. How embarrassing. Facebook has been using Apple’s Enterprise Developer Program, which is designed for companies to use only for internal testing—it explicitly prohibits its use on customers—externally, to gather research data on customers, including on teens. Apple shut them down—and in the process broke a whole lot of Facebook’s internal processes.

And then they hit Google for doing the same thing. With the same results.

But it was just a mistake, they say. We would NEVER break the rules deliberately. Facebook made excuses. TechCrunch doesn’t buy it. 

Aaannnd… here’s an update that explains what it all means and why it’s such a big deal, especially in terms of what Facebook did.

Apple has restored the certificates for both companies, but this is definitely a shot across the bows. Apple isn’t perfect by a long shot, but they do have pretty stringent privacy requirements—which is why you have to go through their App Store to get apps authorized for use on iOS. It’s one of the reasons I use and will continue to use their products, even though they’re more expensive.

I’ve seen commentary that there may be backlash against Apple for this. The reasoning seems to be that they are arrogantly taking on the regulation of other company’s behaviour. I’ve got no time for that; they’re entirely within their rights when there’s this blatant a contravention of their terms of service. What about the arrogance of assuming you don’t have to pay attention to someone’s terms of service, hmmm?

And somehow no one in government seems to want to regulate media companies. <sarcasm>I wonder why?</sarcasm>

Facebook doesn’t like your insistence on privacy

Facebook Moves to Block Ad Transparency Tools — Including Ours

A number of organizations, including ProPublica, have developed tools to let the public see exactly how Facebook users are being targeted by advertisers. Now, Facebook has quietly made changes to its site that stop those efforts. ProPublica, Mozilla and Who Targets Me have all noticed their tools stopped working this month after Facebook inserted code in its website that blocks them.

Facebook: Engulf and Devour Megacorp

Facebook to integrate WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger

(Pardon the Silent Movie reference…) I don’t use Facebook, for the reasons given above. And I’m not happy about the way they keep buying up programs I do use, Instagram being one of them. Especially when they announce that they’re going to closely integrate them with Facebook so as to extend their data-gathering.

Facebook probably didn’t want to talk about this in the middle of a privacy scandal, but its hand was forced by insiders talking to the New York Times. Until now, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger have been run as separate and competing products. Integrating the messaging parts might simplify Facebook’s work. […] [I]t might make it easier for Facebook to share data across the three platforms, to help its targeted advertising efforts. But bigger still: it makes Facebook’s suite of apps a much tighter, interwoven collection of services. That could make the key parts of Facebook’s empire more difficult to break up and spin off, if governments and regulators decide that is necessary.

And that’s where the data-gathering comes in. They can see who’s using what, and how much, and they know EXACTLY what companies to target for takeover.

I’ll hang on to my Instagram account for now, but eventually I’ll be shutting it down. As for Google, well, I used to like them, but they’re getting more and more like Facebook, and I’ve begun to divest myself of apps and services there as well.

The key with all of this is alternatives; the problem with Facebook is that there aren’t any. But the Fediverse is looking pretty good to me right now. I’ve got an account on an instance on Mastodon, and I’ve just joined a Pixelfed (federated photo-sharing) instance. Over time I’ll almost certainly be shifting more of my activity to those. If I don’t get seen by as many people… honestly, I don’t care, when that loss is set against my hatred of arrogant monopolies. And luckily I don’t have to care.

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