Pathetic privacy policies
- Store my personal information, including name, email, address, date of birth, gender, country, IP address, relationships, education and "any other data we collect about you".
- Send that information to the United States and Philippines.
- Retain the data associated with my account indefinitely.
- Share that data with third-party vendors "to enable them to perform services for us".
- Disclose all data if required by law; if any part of the company is sold or transferred "in connection with a corporate merger, consolidation, restructuring, or other company change"; or "to our subsidiaries or affiliates if necessary for business and operational purposes".
Basically a licence to do whatever it wants. I wasn't happy with that, so I decided to decline the terms and conditions but lo and behold, it wouldn't let me proceed. Go figure! Unfortunately in my case I didn't really have a choice, as the "request" to complete it was more akin to an "order", so I reluctantly accepted its terms, populated it with as much dummy personal information as possible and proceeded to the survey.
Now to the point: that experience happened to coincide with an article published by the New York Times last week, which examined the privacy policies of just about all the major tech companies:
Facebook mostly falls under the first category. It will "never sell your data", but it will happily give it all away to advertisers using its platform. Google? The second:
Well, at least people can read it now; they'll just need to set aside a few hours before registering that new Gmail account. Unfortunately, it could be about to get even worse, with layers of duplication coming thanks to privacy regulations being passed at multiple levels of government:
"As data collection practices become more sophisticated (and invasive), it’s unlikely that privacy policies will become any easier to comprehend. And if states continue to draft their own data protection laws, as California is doing with its Consumer Privacy Act, privacy policies could balloon with location-specific addendums."
"DuckDuckGo does not collect or share personal information."
Enjoy the rest of this week's issue. Cheers,
Facebook's new cryptocurrency: Libra
Rumours have it that later today Facebook will announce its very own cryptocurrency, Libra (or the 'Libra Project', or 'GlobalCoin'). It has a consortium of companies lined up in support with a $10m minimum investment required. The list of investors is essentially a "who's who" of Silicon Valley venture capital, along with legacy fintech players such as MasterCard and Visa (see Image of the week below). With that kind of support and the network effects Facebook has in place, it doesn't even have to be the "best" option to pull this off (taking blockchain mainstream), although it hasn't been all smooth sailing and may still be a long way off:
"Sources attribute the delay to blockchain industry incumbents being reluctant to work on a project that doesn’t appear to have the hallmarks of a true cryptocurrency... [and] estimated that early 2020 would be a more realistic timeframe for testing, so any imminent announcements would merely be forward-looking plans."
- Concerns Over Facebook Data Use Derailed at Least 3 Crypto Partnerships »
- Facebook’s cryptocurrency partners revealed—we obtained the entire list of inaugural backers ($) »
- Facebook’s New Cryptocurrency, Libra, Gets Big Backers »
This week's data breaches
Data breaches have become such a common occurrence that it's almost worth keeping this here as a permanent feature. I'm always wary of giant, centralised databases full of valuable information. The incentives just don't stack up well at all.
- CBP says traveler photos and license plate images stolen in data breach »
- The US government and airlines are scanning faces of people not suspected of crimes, normalizing faces as data that can be kept, tracked, and inevitably, stolen »
- Photos Of Travelers Coming In And Out Of The US Have Been Hacked And Stolen »
Training the machines
I'm a sceptic of artificial intelligence as there's no "intelligence" involved, at least as a normal person would define it. Does it have uses? Absolutely. But its achievements are over-played:
"Nearly every successful AI project has human beings behind it. You just don't see them until you look at the big picture."
Oh, and Google's ReCAPTCHA is bad news. Not only is it training AI (improving the accuracy of various algorithms) for free, but it has massive privacy implications. If you run a website, please don't use it:
"ReCAPTCHA collects enough information that it could reliably de-anonymize many users that simply wish to prove that they are Not A Robot.
More Huawei fallout
Apparently Huawei is "demanding" over $1 billion in licensing fees from Verizon, claiming it violated 238 of its patents. It's also developing its own mobile operating system to rival iOS and Android. Meanwhile, Big Tech is moving what it can out of China.
No matter what happens from here the bilateral US/China tariffs, along with the Huawei punishment and retaliation, is going to create long lasting (locked-in) inefficiencies in the form of the 'three internets' of Europe, China (including parts of Asia/Africa) and the rest of the world. We, as consumers, will all be worse off because of it.
- Huawei Is Said to Demand Patent Fees From Verizon »
- Inside Huawei’s secretive plans to develop an operating system to rival Google’s Android »
- Google Is Moving More Hardware Production Out of China »
- Huawei Braces for a Steep Drop in Overseas Smartphone Sales »
- Broadcom's $2 billion warning rattles global chip sector »
- U.S. chipmakers quietly lobby to ease Huawei ban »
Other bits of interest
- Jack Dorsey answers our questions about Square’s plans for Bitcoin »
- Huawei delays foldable phone launch until September to do extra tests after Samsung's troubles »
- The DOJ’s antitrust chief just telegraphed exactly how it could go after big tech companies »
- [Australia] Peter Dutton confirms plan to create new spying powers still being considered »
- Motivating The Case for Decentralized Social Identity. Part One »
- App Makers Are Mixed on ‘Sign In With Apple’ »
- Hong Kong extradition bill: Protesters return to streets despite suspension »
- As Many as Two Million Protesters Hit Hong Kong Streets »
- Masks, cash and apps: How Hong Kong’s protesters find ways to outwit the surveillance state »
Image of the week
As discussed above, Facebook is not going at this alone:
"If successful, Facebook could net $1 billion from the 100 companies it hopes to include in the project. Each of these nodes will also reportedly get a seat in the Libra Association as node operators, sending a representative to the consortium."
If anyone was going to take blockchain mainstream, Facebook is as good a candidate as any.
That's all for now. If you enjoyed this issue, feel free to share it via email →
Issue 37: Pathetic privacy policies was compiled by Justin Pyvis and delivered on 18 June 2019. Feel free to send feedback, suggestions for future issues, ideas, insults, or pretty much anything that crosses your mind to their Keybase or Riot.im account.