• Google kept tracking user location
• Apple & privacy – two stories
• Fascinating digitally rendered images
• Digital Currency Initiative at MIT
Users switched off location-sharing, but Google kept on tracking
The debate about privacy is not over, just moving from one platform to another, in episodes.
Internal documents released in a lawsuit in Arizona reveal that some people at Google made it difficult for users to use privacy options. Even executives from other departments of Google were confused about those privacy settings.
Google is accused of collecting location data, even when users turned off such location sharing.
”Google continued collecting location data even when users turned off various location-sharing settings, made popular privacy settings harder to find, and even pressured LG and other phone makers into hiding settings precisely because users liked them, according to the documents.”
Source: Business Insider
Apple knows how to advertise – a spot about privacy
Apple has released a TV spot called “Tracked”. It’s advertising. But at the same time it is a strong visual reminder of the what is going on: The story shows a guy named Felix who is followed by everyone he interacts with.
The coffee barista, the taxi driver, all the people from the bank – and they all take the liberty to search trough his stuff.
The short film makes a point about the business belief that a company must follow all of it’s users, simply for a higher chance of getting the next buy.
Privacy and Apple: An entirely different situation in China
Apple is pushing for more privacy in western countries. The situation in China is entirely different. For example: Chinese authorities have full access Apple servers in the country. Of course the reason is pressure from the Chinese government. But what are the details here? An article from “Columbia Journalism Review” examines this strange side-by-side of two different privacy approaches by one company.
More debate about this: Is Apple strict enough in fending off “surveillance monitoring”?
Amazon Ring: US police departments have access to millions of videos recorded by smart doorbells
In residential neighbourhoods in the US, chances are that not just one, but multiple cameras are watching you.
The reason is the popularity of smart doorbells with online connections from Ring, a company owned by Amazon.
From a study: “These devices have grown into the largest civilian-surveillance network the US has ever seen”.
- Who can watch? Based on settings, the videos are available to US police departments. “One out of 10 US police departments can access videos from millions of home-security cameras without getting a warrant.” (The Guardian)
The fascinating world of entirely rendered dream homes
If you see a beautiful home online, chances are it is not real. The New Yorker has a story about highly realistic backgrounds such as attractive houses and design flats used on Instagram. The catch: All of these are entirely digitally rendered. The realistic look is possible because of improved render software.
Surprising new learning from that article: IKEA uses digitally rendered furniture pictures for the catalogue, since 2004.
Digital Currency Initiative started by MIT
The MIT Media Lab has launched a “Digital Currency Initiative”.
- ”The goal of the DCI is to bring together the brightest minds at MIT and elsewhere to conduct the research necessary to support the development of digital currency and blockchain technology.”
One building block is a new academic journal called “Cryptoeconomic Systems”.
Would it be better to have no app store?
On Twitter, Benedict Evans shared a number of detailed slides from a presentation describing the situation in China. There is no central app store from Google, instead, there are numerous sites (“100 that matter and 20 that really matter”) – and they all compete with each other. The result is a constant fight over the attention of users and updates. The set-up sounds amazingly complex.
The slides became accessible as evidence in the recent trial of Apple vs. Epic over complaints that the 30% commission is too high.
What happens when there are competing smartphone app stores? China is a case study. 700m+ Androids without Google services. Result: complexity… and higher commissions.
Violence in Israel and Palestine: What was the role of extremists on WhatsApp?
A report from the New York Times says that extremists groups formed on WhatsApp organized mob violence.
”Extremists have formed more than 100 new groups on the Facebook-owned messaging app in recent days, according to the Times report, and they are using them to target attacks on Palestinians. This behaviour is difficult for the company to track because messages in WhatsApp are encrypted, so even Facebook can’t access the data in them.”
A case study in consumer trust: How WhatsApp blundered communicating new privacy settings
WhatsApp had announced changes to the privacy settings. What users understood was this: Either you consent to these changes or you have to stop using WhatsApp. Many decided that this update was a good time to do the latter. Downloads of competing services such as Signal grew to record numbers. The link below opens an analysis of the user privacy update debacle. To a large part is was bad communication.
Digital money must one day be “smarter” than traditional money, says Yao Qian, a Chinese expert
”The former head of the digital currency initiative at the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) said central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) are set to become more “smart” and could one day operate on blockchain networks like Ethereum. Yao Qian, now director of the Science and Technology Supervision Bureau of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said over the weekend that CBDCs shouldn’t attempt to be just a digital form of physical cash, but should incorporate smart contract functionality, Sina Finance reported Monday. Smart contracts are automatically executing pieces of blockchain code that carry out functions when certain conditions are met, and can also be designed to complement or replace legal contracts.”
Financial service companies push US government for Crypto ETFs while CEOs advise consumers to be careful
When is the right time to allow broad investing into crypto assets? The current opinions about this are quite divided:
- On one side: In the US big financial companies are trying to push the government to allow the launch of ETFs (exchange-traded funds) specifically to invest in bitcoin. Investors could both win and lose their money, but with a higher unpredictability than in traditional stocks and assets.
- On the other side, leading executives are advising traditional investors to “stay away” from these investments.
”Despite the growing industry enthusiasm, Wall Street is also split on the future of cryptocurrency. Some executives are dismissing the push to expand access even as their firms try to satisfy customer demand. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said in House testimony Thursday that his company — the nation’s largest bank — was debating how to make it available in a safe way. But Dimon’s personal advice? “Stay away from it.” (Source: Politico)
In other news: The US Treasury aims to expand financial reporting to better fight tax evasion when assets are moved to crypto holdings.
How enabling anonymous payments contributed to the rise of ransomware attacks
This is a classic example of how a positive intent can turn into a negative outcome. Because it is possible to receive crypto funds anonymously, we are seeing a rise in ransomware attacks.
The IT of any organisation can be intruded and owners can be blocked this way. The hackers are using encryption of files and software. Only the payment of ransom enables g access again. Many victims just pay. Not being able to use the computer network effectively stops the entire organisation from being able to work. This has recently affected hospitals, infrastructure companies and – as experienced recently- a major fuel pipeline in the US.
A podcast on Coindesk asks: How is this feature of crypto money related to the rise of such attacks? What could be done about this? LINK
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