Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for August, 2018

9to5Mac Obtains Promotional Photos of Apple Watch Series 4, iPhone XS

You’ve probably seen the images of the new Apple Watch and iPhones published by 9to5Mac. Unlike most leaks, these aren’t parts or sketchy spy photos, nor are they firmware or operating system leaks — these are promotional images designed to be used on Apple’s website and in marketing materials. They’re also noteworthy for another reason: neither Zac Hall nor Guilherme Rambo disclosed their source for these images in any capacity.

The American Press Institute:

Transparency means show your work so readers can decide for themselves why they should believe it.

  • Don’t allow your audience to be deceived by acts of omission — tell them as much as you can about the story they are reading.

  • Tell the audience what you know and what you don’t know. Never imply that you have more knowledge than you actually do.

  • Tell the audience who your sources are, how they are in a position to know something, and what their potential biases might be.

In other words, reporters are obligated to tell readers what they know, and also how they know it. It is only in very rare cases that this guideline will be broken. I don’t see anyone doubting the veracity of these images, and I certainly am not, so their validity is entirely driven by the credibility of the reporters.

Rambo is uniquely gifted at picking through Apple’s software releases for information about forthcoming products, but these images didn’t come from software. These are graphics that you can expect on Apple’s marketing webpages for these products, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence they were leaked on the same day as the company announced the event where they will, presumably, officially unveil these products. This is entirely speculative; I don’t have any more specific information directly about these graphics. It’s just an especially curious situation because Apple’s marketing team pretty much never leaks.1 Final product names are only known by a relatively small group of people until they’re said on stage, and they, too, almost never leak. The team at 9to5Mac is reasonably confident that “iPhone Xs” is the name of the next iPhone.2 My guess is that these images were loaded onto an obscure-but-unprotected CDN and someone told 9to5Mac or Rambo, directly, where to look — perhaps not even an Apple employee, but someone very well-placed.

I’m not trying to out a source here. I’m curious about the way such a surprisingly thorough leak could occur. I’m also trying to understand why other forthcoming products, like the rumoured 6.1-inch LCD-based iPhone and the new all-screen iPad Pro, were not leaked at the same time.

Recall that 9to5Mac first made waves by leaking a marketing image of the third-generation iPod Nano in 2007.

Update: I was wrong. Rambo just guessed the URLs.


  1. A noteworthy exception to this was when Power Mac G5 specs were published on Apple’s website a couple of weeks prior to its announcement. ↩︎

  2. Per my house style, I won’t be lowercasing the s↩︎

NetNewsWire Transferred Home to Brent Simmons From Black Pixel

Brent Simmons:

You probably know that I’ve been working on a free and open source reader named Evergreen. Evergreen 1.0 will be renamed NetNewsWire 5.0 — in other words, I’ve been working on NetNewsWire 5.0 all this time without knowing it!

It will remain free and open source, and it will remain my side project. (By day I’m a Marketing Human at The Omni Group, and I love my job.)

Black Pixel will stop selling their versions of the app, and will turn off the syncing system and end customer support — all of which is detailed in their announcement. (Important note: I will not get any customer data from them, nor will I be doing support for Black Pixel’s NetNewsWire.).

I’ve been using Evergreen for about a year now and it feels similar to how NetNewsWire felt when I first started using it in 2007. It’s vibrant, exciting, and makes RSS feel appropriately simple. This announcement feels completely right to me.

An Excerpt From a CNBC Interview with Nilay Patel and Jason Koebler

There’s some good discussion in this video, but this part from Nilay Patel is wonderful:

I think one of the major things we need to shift our thinking about is [that] regulating individual pieces of speech is very difficult. Regulating behaviour is probably a better approach, where you can say “well, these people are consistently behaving in a way that goes against our values, and we don’t have to, like, write A.I. that finds words. We can actually look holistically at behaviour.” None of the platforms seem to be ready to do that. They are not willing to articulate strong values that they stand for — Twitter, in particular, seems to be very hands-off. Mark Zuckerberg is talking about a Facebook court.

Those are all very legalistic interpretations. I think they’re not going to work unless these companies have strong values that they believe in, and the government decides it wants to pursue a non-discriminatory approach. […]

The most awful corners of Twitter have gotten very good at evading automatic detection of targeted harassment and discriminatory language, even though it’s clear that their behaviour, as a whole, is harassing and discriminatory. When you report a user to Twitter for this kind of behaviour, they ask that you add up to five relevant tweets even when their entire account is a problem. Twitter’s rules prohibit targeted abuse, but you can still find plenty of users who reference who reference the “fourteen words” and “blood and soil” in their bios, or any of the other coded language used in the context of white supremacy and white nationalism.

Banning Nazism is, for me, the baseline of good platform moderation — if a company can’t or won’t prioritize removing Nazis from their platform, who will they remove?

Firmware Update Available for AirPort Express With AirPlay 2 Support

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Apple in April announced that its entire AirPort wireless router lineup, AirPort Express included, had been discontinued. Apple sold the AirPort Express until available stock ran out, but it is no longer available for purchase at this time.

Because the AirPort Express was discontinued, it wasn’t clear if it would indeed gain AirPlay 2 support because Apple’s AirPort unit was disbanded, but Apple did indeed opt to introduce support for customers who are still using the AirPort Express units.

According to John Voorhees over at MacStories, this only works for the second-generation AirPort Express that looks like a white Apple TV, and it needs to be added manually to the Home app — that is, you can’t just scan it to add it. But, all told, it apparently works quite well. Kudos to Apple for continuing to support a discontinued product, though it raises the question — for me, at least — as to why they decided to no longer build a great and inexpensive combination of an AirPlay 2 receiver and a WiFi signal repeater.

Panic and House House Announce 2019 Launch of Untitled Goose Game

From the Steam page:

Untitled Goose Game is a slapstick-stealth-sandbox, where you are a goose let loose on an unsuspecting village. Make your way around town, from peoples’ back gardens to the high street shops to the village green, setting up pranks, stealing hats, honking a lot, and generally ruining everyone’s day.

This speaks to me in a way no other video game ever has.

Americans’ Views on News Content From Internet Companies

Holly Wolf of Gallup:

This representative survey of U.S. adults found that most Americans are concerned with the prospect of internet companies tailoring news to users based on their interests and behavior. Seventy-three percent of U.S. adults prefer that companies show all people the same set of news topics, rather than tailor topics based on their interests, past browsing details or search history. Further, 80% think the choice of news organizations’ stories they show people should be similar, rather than varying news organization stories based on a person’s past internet activity.

These findings are bizarre because, in most cases, users self-select what information they see by following specific news organizations or aggregators. Furthermore, the idea that internet companies can provide neutral news information without editorializing it is preposterous — neutrality is, itself, an editorial decision.

Even though Americans express concerns about major internet companies playing a news editorial function, they tend not to believe those companies are endorsing a story’s message or its accuracy when it appears on their website or app. Forty-three percent of U.S. adults equate an internet companies’ displaying content on its platforms as an endorsement of it, while 55% do not. A minority of Democrats (27%) compared to a majority of Republicans (62%) believe that internet companies are endorsing the news stories that they display.

The question, as asked in the survey (PDF), was: “When a major internet company like Google, Facebook or Yahoo displays a particular news item on your news feed, do you believe that they are endorsing that news item — that is, telling you they believe it is accurate and that they agree with its message?”

It is remarkable that even 43% of respondents answered “yes” to that.

Cryptocurrency Mining Now Accounts for Approximately One Percent of the World’s Energy Consumption

Drew Millard, the Outline:

It is well-established established that Bitcoin mining — aka, donating one’s computing power to keep a cryptocurrency network up and running in exchange for a chance to win some free crypto — uses a lot of electricity. Companies involved in large-scale mining operations know that this is a problem, and they’ve tried to employ various solutions for making the process more energy efficient.

But, according to testimony provided by Princeton computer scientist Arvind Narayanan to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, no matter what you do to make cryptocurrency mining hardware greener, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the overall network’s flabbergasting energy consumption. Instead, Narayanan told the committee, the only thing that really determines how much energy Bitcoin uses is its price. “If the price of a cryptocurrency goes up, more energy will be used in mining it; if it goes down, less energy will be used,” he told the committee. “Little else matters. In particular, the increasing energy efficiency of mining hardware has essentially no impact on energy consumption.”

The creation of every single conventional currency does not consume one percent of the world’s power production today. According to the power generation stats provided by the International Energy Agency and figures on the environmental impact of gold mining from Coinbase — which, by the way, includes the worst example of a “life cycle” diagram I’ve seen in a long time — it’s possible that gold mining is a more energy-efficient industry than cryptocurrency creation.

Theophite on Twitter:

Imagine if keeping your car idling 24/7 produced solved Sudokus you could trade for heroin.

What a terrific analogy.

Moderating the Planet

Jason Koebler and Jordan Cox of Vice penned a blockbuster investigation into Facebook’s content moderation practices that’s worth your time. They interviewed “dozens” of sources, including several on-the-record conversations with Facebook employees in charge of their moderation efforts:

The thing that makes Facebook’s problem so difficult is its gargantuan size. It doesn’t just have to decide “where the line is” for content, it has to clearly communicate the line to moderators around the world, and defend that line to its two billion users. And without those users creating content to keep Facebook interesting, it would die.

Size is the one thing Facebook isn’t willing to give up. And so Facebook’s content moderation team has been given a Sisyphean task: Fix the mess Facebook’s worldview and business model has created, without changing the worldview or business model itself.

“Making their stock-and-trade in soliciting unvetted, god-knows-what content from literally anyone on earth, with whatever agendas, ideological bents, political goals and trying to make that sustainable—it’s actually almost ridiculous when you think about it that way,” Roberts, the UCLA professor, told Motherboard. “What they’re trying to do is to resolve human nature fundamentally.”

In that sense, Facebook’s content moderation policies are and have always been guided by a sense of pragmatism. Reviewing and classifying the speech of billions of people is seen internally as a logistics problem that is only viable if streamlined and standardized across the globe.

Maya Kosoff, Vanity Fair:

The problem, of course, is Facebook’s tireless drive to expand. Until recently, for example, the company reportedly had few moderators who spoke Burmese, allowing the platform in Myanmar to be infiltrated by anti-Muslim hate speech. (Facebook’s hate-speech detecting A.I., it said, hadn’t yet learned Burmese.) But instead of treating the issue as the result of a choice to expand into a country where it knew it couldn’t adequately evaluate and police what was posted, Facebook viewed the issue as a failure of technology. “We still don’t know if it’s really going to work out, due to the language challenges,” Guy Rosen, V.P. of product management at Facebook, told Motherboard. “Burmese wasn’t in Unicode for a long time, and so they developed their own local font, as they opened up, that is not compatible with Unicode.” In the meantime, United Nations human-rights experts have cited Facebook’s struggle to remove hate speech as playing a role in a possible genocide in the country.

Facebook may be a publicly-traded company that is trying to do right by its shareholders — and the best thing for them, it perceives, is conquering the world. But this is an abhorrent dereliction of ethical responsibility. Kosoff is entirely correct: it is a choice for them to expand to places they don’t fully comprehend. It is arrogant, and demonstrates a lack of sensitivity in attempting to merge American values with those in every region they operate. I don’t think that’s possible.

Google Is Highlighting the Wrong Voter Registration Deadline for Several States

On Twitter, Kate Rabinowitz noted that Google displays the wrong date in its Featured Snippets box when searching for Texas voter registration deadline. I tried with all other states, and a similar issue is also present when searching for the deadline in Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Washington.

Oh, yeah, and Featured Snippets still says that Shiva Ayyadurai was the inventor of email.

Facebook Removes Onavo VPN From App Store After Apple Says It Violates Data Collection Policies

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Facebook today removed VPN app Onavo Protect from the iOS App Store after Apple decided that it violates App Store data collection policies, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Apple earlier this month told Facebook officials that the Onavo app, which serves as a virtual private network, violates June App Store rules that prevent apps from harvesting data to build advertising profiles or contact databases.

Recall that Facebook uses Onavo — which is still available on the Google Play store for Android — to find trending apps to either acquire or copy by spying on usage. Ultimately, Apple shouldn’t have to police this; regulators should have a better handle on unscrupulous developers burying the true purpose of their apps in turgid legal policies.

The History of Aperture

Stephen Hackett wrote a great retrospective for MacStories of Aperture, one of my all-time favourite applications:

In short, Aperture was designed to let photographers import a mountain of large RAW files, sort them, perform light editing, and then export them to Finder, the web, or prints. If a user needed to carry out additional editing, Aperture included the ability to round-trip an image to Photoshop and back with just a click. If that all sounds like pro-level stuff, it was, and Aperture’s $499 price point reflected that fact.

I didn’t use Aperture until I got my mid-2007 MacBook Pro, but I remember it working pretty well for my circumstances. I knew there were plenty of satisfied Lightroom users, but its workflow just didn’t match how I edit pictures. Even today, I am a reluctant Lightroom user; I can’t tell you how much I wish Aperture were still around, with support for iCloud Photo Library. For all its faults and bugs, I always got a kick out of editing my photos in Aperture. In Lightroom, it feels like a chore.

Thousands of Stores Will Soon Use Facial Recognition Without Consent

Anis Heydari, CBC News:

Cadillac Fairview says they’ve been using facial recognition software in their mall directories since June to track shoppers’ ages and genders without telling them.

The company now says they are suspending use of the cameras inside mall maps, including at Chinook Centre and Market Mall in Calgary.

The move comes after both the Alberta and federal privacy commissioners announced they were launching investigations into the use of facial recognition technology without the public’s consent.

When news of this first spread late last month, I asked Cadillac Fairview, Mappedin — which created the software that was being used at these malls — and the Privacy Commissioner of Alberta for comment. Mappedin denied to comment and told me to ask Cadillac Fairview; a Cadillac Fairview spokesperson told me that, because no photos or videos of shoppers were stored, they did not need to ask permission. The Privacy Commissioner’s office declined to comment even generally about whether this interpretation of the law was correct.

The Cadillac Fairview spokesperson also did not comment on whether the age and gender estimates they were creating through this facial recognition system were being associated with other data, like search queries on the mall directory or device tracking.

Leticia Miranda, Buzzfeed:

Retailers are turning to facial recognition software to identify potential thieves by comparing scanned images of shoppers’ faces against a database of known shoplifters. But as more retail stores consider using the technology, privacy advocates and industry stakeholders are debating how the technology should be regulated and how shoppers should be informed about when their faces are scanned.

[…]

Shoppers don’t have a say about whether or not the software scans them. That’s because companies are not legally required to get consent from shoppers to collect so-called biometric data like face images, except in Illinois where it has been illegal to collect biometric data without written consent since 2008.

It’s shocking to me that, in the U.S. and Canada at least, there is little oversight for the collection of this kind of data. Pretty much every retailer and mall has security cameras and there are notices at entrances that notify visitors. But there is a big difference between using those cameras to monitor for shoplifters and continually processing video feeds for behavioural analytics purposes.

Prevalence of Third-Party Cookies Reduced Across European News Websites

Shan Wang, Nieman Lab:

A prequel report from RISJ, released a few weeks before the General Data Protection Regulation came into effect May 25, found that some news sites researchers looked at were worse than popular non-news websites when it came to third-party content. These news sites averaged 40 different third-party domains per page and 81 third-party cookies per page, compared to an average of 10 and 12, respectively, for other popular non-news websites. (Researchers collected the data in the first three months of this year.)

This time around, researchers found declines in cookie prevalence on the 200-plus news sites they tracked, across several categories, from cookies related to advertising and marketing to ones related to design optimization (they looked at the difference between the sites in April and then the sites in July). On average, total cookies related to design optimization dropped 27 percent; cookies relating to advertising and marketing dropped 14 percent.

I’m not surprised by these findings. With GDPR warnings in place, collectors of lots of data can do one of two things: ask visitors for permission, or reconsider just how much data they need to collect. Conversely, without GDPR, it’s unlikely that data collectors would do either.

The Landowner and the Apartments

Over ten years ago, there was this big piece of land that was carefully landscaped and prepared by the landowners for lots of people to use. We could take up any spot on that land that we would like. Forward-thinking as they were, the landowner built in various hookups for utilities and amenities. It was nice.

Very quickly, some enterprising people began building apartments on the land. These apartments often offered new amenities that made use of the existing infrastructure established by the landowner; sometimes, new infrastructure was built to better provide amenities that the landowner had not considered. Eventually, we had a great deal of choice of apartments. There were a couple of boutique buildings that people could live in, a few bigger ones that were a little nicer, or — for those who had the ability — enterprising residents were welcome to build our own block and lease it to anyone who wanted to stay in it.

Then, the landowner decided to buy one of the nicest apartment buildings on the site. And, slowly, residents of that apartment started to notice little changes being made. It began to receive new amenities, some of which were unavailable to anyone else on the land. Many people found that to be irritating but, as they were the owners, understandable.

More changes were made to the very nice apartment building. Over time, it stopped feeling like the original apartment, and the owners decided to tear it down and build a new one. It looked pretty nice, but suffered from some shoddy materials and craft. They put billboards on the side of it, and began pestering everyone to meet their neighbours and their friends’ neighbours. They started giving different amenities to different people, like some sort of science experiment to see which residents would crack first. Even so, most people wanted to live in that apartment because it had all of the amenities, and it had the landowner’s name on it, so it felt more official.

But there were still lots of other apartments for people to live in if you didn’t like some of the strange experiments happening in the big, popular apartment, and could live without a few nice amenities. The landowner mostly left these places alone because residents were still contributing to the community, and all of those apartments were disproportionately contributing to the value of the land.

One day, though, the owners decided to set a limit on the number of people who could live in each apartment building. They also very quietly began telling the management of each building that they didn’t want apartments on their land any more, but didn’t tell management when they would be making the final call on that. They also acknowledged just how important these apartments are to the overall community, and pledged to keep the plumbing and electricity hooked up indefinitely. Those mixed signals made management concerned but, as no decision was made, each apartment kept being maintained and renovated.

And then, out of the blue, the landowner made the call. They decided to charge apartment companies lots of money per resident to stay on the land, and they said that they would be turning off some of the utilities at a later date. Some of the renters saw the writing on the wall and decided to move into the big apartment run by the landowner, and they were happy. Others tried moving in only to find it gaudy and horrible, and moved right back into their old place. Management at these apartment pleaded with the landowner to help them figure this out for their tenants, but the landowners didn’t budge.

The day came for the landowner to turn off some of the less essential utilities to all of the smaller apartments. Some people stuck around – even with limited amenities, they still preferred living in those apartments to the popular-but-tacky one. A few people decided to find some new land, because the landowner was clearly only interested in putting all of their resources behind the apartment they also owned. There was little disagreement on their right to do so — it’s their land, of course. But by pretending that the land’s value was due to the big apartment rather than the overall community, the landowner made many residents question whether they knew what they were doing with their land. That feeling was deepened when the landowner also let a bunch of actual, literal Nazis stay on their land and call up any of the residents whenever they felt like it. That seemed like a bad idea.

Today, the landowner is spending much of their time attempting to convince the community to move out of their independently-managed apartments and into the big one. As they also keep saying that they want to help with the upkeep of the indie apartments, it’s very difficult to know what residents ought to do if they would like to remain in the community. And, given the poor communication from the landowner, it’s unclear what their next steps are and how it will affect the community in the months and years to come.

Much appreciation and credit to Joshua Arnao and Josh Calvetti for the inspiration.

Twitter Deprecates Parts of Their API, Forcing Third-Party Clients to Remove Key Features

John Voorhees, MacStories:

Whichever app you use, the biggest changes are to timeline streaming and push notifications. Twitterrific used to allow you to live-stream your timeline over WiFi, which is no longer possible. Instead, your timeline will refresh every two minutes or so over WiFi or a mobile data connection when the app is running. Tweetbot doesn’t support streaming anymore either, but it too will periodically refresh your timeline when the app is open.

Notifications are more limited as well. Tweetbot and Twitterrific used to allow users to turn on notifications for mentions, direct messages, retweets, quote tweets, likes, and follows, but don’t anymore.

[…]

How these changes shake out for third-party clients remains to be seen. I’ve used the beta update for Tweetbot over the past week, and the elimination of its Stats and Activity section has left me feeling like there is something missing from the app. I still prefer it to the official app, but the removal of that section is a meaningful loss. A similar hole will be left in Twitterrific when the Today section no longer works. Both apps have also lost their Apple Watch apps and live-streaming. If those are critical features to your use of Twitter, you may want to give the official client another try.

I’ve been using Twitter pretty much constantly for about eleven years,1 and I don’t think I’ve ever spent any time regularly using their first-party client on my phone. At a previous job, I used their Mac client, but that’s the extent of my first-party experience for my entire time using the platform. I started with Twitterrific on the desktop and phone, used a bunch of other third-party apps while there was a sincere market for them, and then settled on Tweetbot several years back.

I wanted to be fair, so I gave the official client another shot this week. It still isn’t my jam. It isn’t the ads that are a problem — they’re distracting, of course, but they’re a known kind of distraction. It’s something about the app that makes Twitter, as a concept, feel heavy and burdensome. It’s not solely the prompts to follow other accounts, or the strange reversal of the reverse-chronological timeline when a self-replying thread appears, or the real-time updates to retweet and like numbers — it’s a combination of all of those things, and many more. When I use the first-party client, I feel like I’m being played around with for business reasons.

Tweetbot makes Twitter feel light and friendly to me. I’m still using it for this reason; you may feel differently, and using the first-party client may be totally fine with you, which is great. But, for a long-time user, it’s a hard adjustment to make; and, it’s one that I worry I’ll have to make sooner rather than later, because I don’t see Twitter continuing to support third-party clients for much longer.


  1. This is probably not good for my health. ↩︎

FCC Under Ajit Pai Resists Proposal to Raise American Broadband Standard

Karl Bode, Vice:

For example, in early 2015 the FCC voted to upgrade the standard definition of broadband from a paltry 4 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up — to a more respectable 25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up.

At the time, giant ISP executives, lobbyists, and numerous, ISP-loyal Senators whined incessantly about the changes. Commissioner Ajit Pai (who hadn’t yet been promoted to agency head) was quick to vote against the effort, joining alongside cable lobbying organizations who lamented the changes as “unrealistic and arbitrary.”

[…]

And once again, Ajit Pai is hoping to keep the broadband definition bar set at ankle height.

In a Notice of Inquiry published last week, Pai’s FCC proposed keeping the current 25/3 definition intact, something that riled his fellow Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

An FCC report in February based on data collected until the end of 2016 found that barely over half of American census blocks had two or more options for 25/3 broadband in their area, and 15% have a choice of 100/10 providers. Those numbers are almost certainly better now, but it’s past time that the definition of “broadband” ought to be much higher.

The Competition Bureau of Canada is in the process of conducting a broadband availability study, too. In 2016, the CRTC ruled that a 50/10 broadband connection was a basic service; the CRTC’s own glossary, however, still defines broadband as a connection supporting a miserable 1 Mbps download speed.

Lifting All USB-C Boats

Chris Hannah (via Matt Birchler):

What would happen if Apple added a USB C port to the iPad?

It would, of course, have to be alongside the Lightning port in my opinion. But that would open up a whole new bunch of possibilities:

[…]

It would boost the USB C world just slightly more. Or at least move in the direction of having a single port that’s available on all Apple devices. For example, you’d get one external drive, and maybe an external display, but you’d be able to connect your Mac or iPad. It sounds super simple, but that’s what it should be.

I don’t see a circumstance with Lightning and USB-C ports on the same device; Apple has always favourited reducing the number and type of ports, and their functionality would be largely duplicative. I also doubt the handful of rumours that have been floating around claiming that next year’s iPhones will replace the Lightning port with a USB-C port.

However, this is the best argument I’ve heard yet for why Apple could be interested in switching. The USB-C market so far has been lacklustre, not to mention confusing. Remember how fast airport convenience stores and knick-knack shops started selling products with the Lightning connector? Apple is selling about 50% more iPhones than they did when the iPhone 5 was released, so that’s huge incentive for peripheral makers.

I’m still not convinced that this is what will happen. I believe there are technical reasons why the current crop of iPhones couldn’t fit a USB-C port, too. This is just the best argument I’ve heard yet for why it might be beneficial.1


  1. I think it’s more likely that an updated Lightning port could be adopted as a USB standard. ↩︎

Turning Off Location History in Google Maps Does Not Prevent Google From Keeping a History of Your Location

Ryan Nakashima, AP:

For the most part, Google is upfront about asking permission to use your location information. An app like Google Maps will remind you to allow access to location if you use it for navigating. If you agree to let it record your location over time, Google Maps will display that history for you in a “timeline” that maps out your daily movements.

Storing your minute-by-minute travels carries privacy risks and has been used by police to determine the location of suspects — such as a warrant that police in Raleigh, North Carolina, served on Google last year to find devices near a murder scene. So the company will let you “pause” a setting called Location History.

This may be a minor quibble, but this is some pretty strange framing for an otherwise well-reported story. The privacy risks of giving your real-time location to a targeted advertising company are glossed over; the implication is that the reason you may wish to disable this feature is because you might be doing criminal activity.

Moving on:

Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you’ve been. Google’s support page on the subject states: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”

That isn’t true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. (It’s possible, although laborious, to delete it .)

[…]

To stop Google from saving these location markers, the company says, users can turn off another setting, one that does not specifically reference location information. Called “Web and App Activity” and enabled by default, that setting stores a variety of information from Google apps and websites to your Google account.

These settings appear to only be available in Google’s My Account section; I couldn’t find the same settings in the Google Maps app on my iPhone. I did, however, find a setting, under “About, Terms & Privacy”, called “Location Data Collection”, which was switched on; I disabled it.

My account’s settings were the inverse of what I expected, too: “Web and App Activity” was turned off, but “Location History” was switched on; I turned it off, too.

The Creepy Ten-Year History of Facebook’s ‘People You May Know’ Feature

Kashmir Hill, Gizmodo:

Facebook didn’t come up with the idea for PYMK out of thin air. LinkedIn had launched People You May Know in 2006, originally displaying its suggested connections as ads that got the highest click-through rate the professional networking site had ever seen. Facebook didn’t bother to come up with a different name for it.

“People You May Know looks at, among other things, your current friend list and their friends, your education info and your work info,” Facebook explained when it launched the feature.

That wasn’t all. Within a year, AdWeek was reporting that people were “spooked” by the appearance of “people they emailed years ago” showing up as “People They May Know.” When these users had first signed up for Facebook, they were prompted to connect with people already on the site through a “Find People You Email” function; it turned out Facebook had kept all the email addresses from their inboxes. That was disturbing because Facebook hadn’t disclosed that it would store and reuse those contacts. (According to the Canadian Privacy Commissioner, Facebook only started providing that disclosure after the Commission investigated it in 2012.)

Because about one in three people on Earth use a Facebook product, it’s almost a certainty that your contact details have been uploaded by one or more of your contacts, and that the company has the capability to map out at least part of your real-life social network — even if you are not a Facebook member and have never consented to this. There appear to be few laws against this practice despite its obviously devastating privacy impact.

A Generation Grows Up in China Without American Internet Giants

Li Yuan, New York Times:

A generation of Chinese is coming of age with an internet that is distinctively different from the rest of the web. Over the past decade, China has blocked Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as thousands of other foreign websites, including The New York Times and Chinese Wikipedia. A plethora of Chinese websites emerged to serve the same functions — though they came with a heavy dose of censorship.

Now the implications of growing up with this different internet system are starting to play out. Many young people in China have little idea what Google, Twitter or Facebook are, creating a gulf with the rest of the world. And, accustomed to the homegrown apps and online services, many appear uninterested in knowing what has been censored online, allowing Beijing to build an alternative value system that competes with Western liberal democracy.

It’s easy to see why China is able to do this where no other country can: the population there is big enough to support a gigantic isolated ecosystem. For context, all of the regions that major American tech companies tend to optimize for — the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand — have a combined population that is about the same as China’s alone.

I see no problem with American tech companies finding it difficult to conquer other countries — there should be healthy skepticism about the risk of having much of the world’s information on platforms operated largely by people on the west coast of the United States. China is a very special case, though, as it is one of the world’s most oppressive administrations, and Yuan’s reporting indicates that a new generation of people has grown up not being fully aware of the degree to which all the information they see is being censored and controlled by an authoritarian regime.