Month: June 2023

Melissa Gira Grant, the New Republic:

It didn’t make sense to him, [Stewart] told me later via text message. Why would a web designer — as the website the inquiry referenced as his own made clear that he was — living in San Francisco, seek to hire someone in another state who has never built a wedding website, let alone a website for a same-sex wedding, to build his wedding website?


Maybe it should not be a surprise, though, that this strange fake “request” popped up in a case in which the plaintiff’s main argument rested on the claim that someday, out there, a same-sex couple would want her to design a wedding website. The closest thing Smith had to an actual inquiry — the nonwedding of Stewart and Mike — arrived within 24 hours of her having filed a suit in which said inquiry would be potentially a helpful piece of supporting evidence. […]

This was published yesterday. Today, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its ruling: workers who create new products which can be classified as speech are allowed to discriminate so long as the provider sincerely holds those beliefs.

Update: A followup story from Gira Grant; a discussion of the case.

David Reevely on Twitter has a great list of independent Canadian publishers, and there are lots more in the comments.

Update: Well, when I posted this, there were some great options in the replies. Now it is flooded with verified weirdos artificially boosted by Twitter, so you will need to scroll a bit more.

Raisa Patel, last month in the Toronto Star:

Jeff Elgie, the CEO of community news company Village Media, told senators studying the bill that Google and Facebook generate more than 50 per cent of his digital company’s web traffic.

“If that traffic was lost, the business would be over,” said Elgie, whose company owns 25 local news publications across Ontario.

The future of Canadian journalism looks bleak. Expect to see aggressive ad campaigns for publishers’ apps as they attempt to recover traffic.

Meanwhile, expect to see publishers outside Canada thrive as Google has only said it will remove links to Canadian publishers from its search engine. Local journalism has been made less tenable. This has always been a terrible policy and, contrary to Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s optimism, one I doubt will be widely copied as-is.

Cris Turner of Google:

You may have seen in the news that, as a result of Canada’s Bill C-18, we will be removing links to Canadian news from our Search, News and Discover products in Canada, and will no longer be able to operate Google News Showcase in the country when the law goes into effect. We don’t take this decision lightly but the bill creates an unprecedented requirement that platforms pay for simply showing links to news, something that everyone else does for free. This creates uncertainty for our products and exposes us to uncapped financial liability simply for facilitating access to news.

The noise you are hearing right now is the shock as a bunch of Canadian publishers just realized traffic originating from Google’s search engine is going to drop to zero.

On Apple’s marketing page for iOS 17, a section dedicated to Visual Look Up promises it will now be able to display “recipes for similar dishes from a photo”. According to a report in Autoevolution and confirmed by “yahlover” on Reddit, it can detect universal symbols on car dashboards and in instrument clusters. And, as seen by Federico Viticci, Visual Look Up in iOS 17 will be able to identify laundry symbols on clothing tags.

With the understanding that this is beta software, I cannot get any of these features to work, and I think I am losing my mind. Even testing with my system region and language set to the United States and U.S. English — which should not matter because Visual Look Up is supposed to work in “English” — I cannot reproduce any of these enhancements.

I have tried the food identification thing with clear photos of all kinds of simple dishes, from fried rice to pizza, and it does not detect anything in the image. Dashboard and laundry symbols similarly have no effect. It is not that Visual Look Up does not work as a whole; it still picks out landmarks and species most of the time. But none of these newer features are available for me.

It reminds me of when Visual Look Up was released as a U.S.-only feature first and, when it was eventually rolled out to Canada, it went unmentioned. Its appearance was made silently and, when it fails, it is also done quietly. If a photo of a plant cannot be identified, the Visual Look Up indicator does not appear for the photo. For contrast, the excellent Seek app will give users some indication that it sees a plant, but it might only give you a rough idea of what it might be.

Casey Newton, in a paid issue of Platformer which I was able to access freely via a link in yesterday’s Tabs:

I have suggested before some of the alternate ways in which lawmakers could choose to address declining revenue for news publishers: tax the platforms’ ad revenue; fund public media; or offer tax incentives to small and medium-sized publishers, who have been hit hardest by the transition to digital media.

Unfortunately, those proposals lack the emotional satisfaction that comes with kicking an unloved tech giant in the teeth. And so instead we have this: a tax on displaying links, the kind of thing that if extended to the rest of the web could effectively break the internet.

And it would be one thing if we knew for certain that this law, no matter how ill conceived or harmful to the web, would actually offer sustainable funding for journalism. But neither Australia’s law nor Canada’s requires that a majority of the money given from publishers to platforms goes to support actual journalism. (Canada’s law requires only that “an appropriate portion of the compensation will be used by the news businesses to support the production of local, regional and national news content,” whatever “appropriate” might mean.)

Newton’s ideas for keeping media aloft, in the first quoted paragraph, sound alright to me. Unfortunately, they are not the things being attempted in Canada. Years before Bill C–18 — the Online News Act — was passed earlier this month, tax incentives have been provided to consumers who purchase Canadian news subscriptions, and another incentive for print media organizations. So, how are they working?

Sarah Scire, of Nieman Lab, reporting on a new paper (PDF) by Issie Lapowsky and Jason White of the University of North Carolina:

One finding that stood out to the research fellows was just how big of an impact the 25% labor tax credit has had in small Canadian newsrooms. The publisher of The Tyee in Vancouver, British Columbia, told Lapowsky that the news org expects to receive $200,000 in credits, or roughly 10% of the publication’s overall budget. Similarly, the CEO of Canada’s Village Media — which operates local news sites across Ontario — told the researchers, “It’s impossible to say that it has not made a significant positive impact on us.”

The digital subscription tax credit, meanwhile? As Nieman Lab reported last year, it’s been a bit of a bust. The researchers blamed a few factors, including a gap between point of sale and reimbursement for the new consumer, the size of the benefit (a paltry 15% of the subscription price), and the fact the credit only applies to written news, excluding audio- and video-based news publishers.

The Tyee and Village Media both meet the criteria established by the Canadian government for these incentives, but the qualifying process was controversial when it was introduced. From the paper (still a PDF):

The package quickly came to be referred to as a “bailout” for legacy newspapers, including major publishers like Torstar and Postmedia, the latter of which is majority-owned by the New Jersey hedge fund Chatham Asset Management. Critics pointed to a meeting between “press barons,” including Postmedia’s CEO Paul Godfrey, as evidence that incumbent players, responsible for so many journalism layoffs, were using the policies to enshrine the power of legacy newspapers to the detriment of smaller upstarts. News Media Canada, a top industry trade association, was also represented on the panel that drafted criteria for [Qualified Canadian Journalism Organizations].

Torstar was acquired in 2020 by NordStar Capital, claiming in a news release the new owners would “ensure a future for world-class journalists and world-class journalism”. Then, yesterday, news broke that NordStar and Postmedia were talking about merging.

Josh Rubin, Toronto Star:

In a press release issued Tuesday afternoon, NordStar described a potential deal that would see NordStar and Postmedia each having a 50 per cent voting stake in an as-yet unnamed company which would control most of the combined assets of both companies.

As the bigger Canadian media conglomerates are slowly merging — seemingly into a single company — it is increasingly important to support local and independent publications. Where I live, there are plenty of list-makers and wire service republisher, but there is a dearth of local reporting.

Update: NordStar and Postmedia might be calling it off.

Chris Vallance, BBC News:

Police, the government and some high-profile child protection charities maintain the tech [end-to-end encryption] – used in apps such as WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage – prevents law enforcement and the firms themselves from identifying the sharing of child sexual abuse material.

But in a statement Apple said: “End-to-end encryption is a critical capability that protects the privacy of journalists, human rights activists, and diplomats.

“It also helps everyday citizens defend themselves from surveillance, identity theft, fraud, and data breaches. The Online Safety Bill poses a serious threat to this protection, and could put UK citizens at greater risk.

“Apple urges the government to amend the bill to protect strong end-to-end encryption for the benefit of all.”

Apple was a notably absent signatory on a joint open letter published in April and, unlike some others, it has not yet threatened to remove its end-to-end encrypted products from the U.K. instead of complying with the proposed legislation.

Apple has already implemented screening measures in Messages. Weakening end-to-end encryption should be a worst-case measure after all other options have been exhausted. Instead, governments are only too excited to kneecap safety, security, and privacy.

Alexandra S. Levine, Forbes:

TikTok has acknowledged to the U.S. government that sensitive information about American creators who sign up to earn money through the app is stored in China.

There are two long paragraphs which follow this statement in which Levine reports on a letter sent by TikTok to U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn in response to fourteen questions they posed. What is most notable, to me, is how TikTok does not acknowledge in that letter (PDF) that TikTok creator information is actually stored in China. In fact, TikTok goes out of its way to avoid any such impression, while subtly acknowledging that it treats user data and creator data differently:

[…] The Forbes reporter conflated two categories of data, and we stand by the statements made by our company executives to Congress. We appreciate this meaningful opportunity to offer clarity. We were asked about, and our testimony focused on, the protected user data collected in the app — not creator data. Creators are individuals who, unlike typical users, want to build audiences for their content and seek monetization opportunities. To do so, they enter into contracts to engage in commercial activity with our company, have public accounts, and potentially earn revenue. Forbes appears to be referencing the signed contracts and related documents of these U.S. creators.

TikTok’s headquarters are located in Los Angeles and Singapore — it writes in response to question nine that “TikTok is provided in the United States by TikTok Inc., which is incorporated in California and subject to U.S. laws and regulations.” — and its parent company is located in the Cayman Islands on paper and for financial reasons. Why would employment-type data about creators need to be anywhere near China? It is a mystery.

Last week, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed suit against Amazon, alleging design patterns which made it easy to accidentally register for Amazon Prime, and difficult to cancel once enrolled. The lawsuit (PDF) is liberally redacted; what is visible attempts to paint a picture of a business which induces people into a monthly subscription. It is the latest example of Lina Kahn’s vigorous scrutiny of massive businesses, and its recent focus on so-called “dark patterns”, also known as “deceptive design”.

These practices are not new — the FTC writes of “unscrupulous direct-mail and brick-and-mortar retailers” which engage in behaviour which is basically a scam — and U.S. regulators have a history of investigating such businesses. The sweepstakes company Publishers Clearing House is one such example which, in 1994, settled with 14 Attorneys General over its use of deceptive language. The company allegedly gave the impression that entering the contest by returning a postcard with a magazine subscription purchase would increase the odds of winning compared to simply returning the postcard, and using language like “finalist” which implied greater urgency. It did not admit wrongdoing in its settlement, but agreed to change its practices.

Times change and Publishers Clearing House no longer uses such suggestive language in postcards. Instead, as described in an $18 million FTC settlement today, it used deceptive language and dark patterns on its website and through email messages. It gave the impression to customers that a purchase would increase their chances of winning a sweepstakes prize, and used phrases in email messages to make them sound like government documents. Protecting people from deceptive and unfair business practices like these is part of the FTC’s mandate, is a phrase I typed before looking it up and finding that is exactly how the FTC defines its mission. How embarrassing!

Anyway, the FTC’s complaint against Amazon has business-minded voices like Ben Thompson stepping in to defend the company. Thompson admits the FTC may have a point when it comes to Amazon’s purchase flow, pointing to several screenshots posted on Hacker News:

Are these UI decisions that are designed to make subscribing to Prime very easy? Yes, and that is a generous way to put it, to say the least! At the same time, you can be less than generous in your critique, as well. […]

Why should anyone be more sympathetic to Amazon’s perspective? This is the purchase flow for one of the world’s biggest online retailers; it is safe to say every decision here is deliberate and has been vetted by many people. The kindest assumption one can make is that Amazon intended to walk right up to the line of illegally deceiving people while trying not to cross it.

[…] The last image, for example, complains that Amazon is lying because the customer already qualifies for free shipping, while ignoring that the free shipping on offer from Prime arrives three days earlier! That seems like a meaningful distinction.

Thompson is referencing this screenshot, which shows an Amazon checkout page with a $5.99 shipping option preselected, even though a free shipping option is available. A second free shipping option is also presented, the selection of which would subscribe the user to Amazon Prime. The complaint of the user who posted the image is that Amazon has preselected a paid shipping option when a free option is available, knowing that it would take longer for the item to arrive than either the preselected paid shipping option or the fastest Prime choice, and that Amazon presents a Prime subscription as a way to “save $5.99 on eligible items in this order”. A more honest screen would preselect free shipping and explain how subscribing to Prime would arrive sooner.

Nevertheless, this section of Thompson’s piece is the closest he comes to a concession that Amazon’s practices might be shady. There is plenty of real-world evidence to support this position. A March survey by Which? found that one in eight Brits registered unintentionally. They were disproportionately older and poorer. Reporting by Eugene Kim at Insider indicates Amazon has flagged accidental Prime registrations that “erode customer trust” since 2017.

This is why I do not think we need to be more sympathetic to Amazon or blunt criticisms. It is one of the biggest online retailers in the world, and its Prime membership program is a recurring revenue machine. Every decision it makes about registering for that program or buying products on its site is analyzed to death.

Thompson is only warming up. People who use Amazon without paying for Prime are free-riders, economically speaking, because they get some of the efficiencies of the company’s reorganization of its supply chain around a goal of offering same-day delivery:

In this view, Amazon “free-riders” get Prime benefits without paying for Prime; they earn this benefit by successfully navigating Amazon’s dark patterns, which, to be sure, are its own cost. I would also note that Amazon does benefit from free-riders: at the end of the day the most important driver of the company’s profitability is how much leverage it can gain on its massive costs; I would bet that from Amazon’s perspective a “free-rider” who buys things on Amazon is a net positive…as long as there aren’t too many of them.

This is an insane way to justify tricking some people into signing up for a monthly subscription. I do not think this is emphasized nearly enough in Thompson’s article: a Prime subscription is not some irritating email list people are not aware they are signing up for; it costs $15 per month. That may not be a lot to some people but, for others, it can make a difference in a monthly budget. A deliberately deceptive checkout process should not be a puzzle users are expected to solve lest they find themselves sending money every month to a business they might use only rarely.

I have told this story before but it is relevant here: many years ago, I was trying to purchase some clothes at Hudson’s Bay, and the salesperson asked me repeatedly to register for what they called a rewards and discount membership card. I asked if it was a credit card, and they said it was not. Since they had asked so many times and I just wanted to go home, I agreed, only to realize after I had paid that it was a credit card after all. I closed it immediately and returned the clothes.

This being a brick-and-mortar store, it was a particularly aggressive salesperson who was to blame, probably because they were trying to hit a goal set by highers-up. Their behaviour could be changed at a store level — it was one of the few times in my life when I have complained to management. Amazon created and launched in many regions a singular complicated checkout process that attempts to get you to spend $15 per month.

The allegedly deceptive Prime registration process is one thing the FTC has an issue with; it also does not like the Prime cancellation procedure. It says it is too easy to unintentionally create a $15 per month charge on your credit card, and too hard to cancel your membership.

On this, I find the FTC’s case less persuasive, but not insignificant. It is certainly not the worst cancellation process. However, it is worth pointing out the project which created this multistep process was internally referred to as “Iliad”, suggesting its arduous qualities were very much the point. If the data from the survey conducted by Which? is generally fair — that is, those who registered for Prime unintentionally are disproportionately older and less familiar with Amazon as a whole — it seems to me this unnecessarily cumbersome cancellation process would be perceived as even more challenging, though I am wary of reading too much into that survey. Also, it is the one thing Amazon preemptively changed as the FTC was investigating the company, according to the Commission’s suit, so it seems Amazon thought its complaints had at least a little merit.

These are the kinds of issues where we cannot trust the market to regulate itself. Unintentional registrations were a known issue at Amazon, but Kim’s reporting for Insider indicates the fundamental problems were not taken seriously. A difficult cancellation process is similarly not self-regulating. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, an analyst firm, estimates well over 90% of Prime members remain subscribers. That is probably because most of them like it — CIRP also estimates that one-quarter of Prime members who pay monthly stop and restart their membership. But some of that stickiness over some period of time — likely months rather than years — might be because some users are confused by how to cancel, or they did not know they opted into a free thirty-day trial which automatically converted into a paid membership. Knowing that with a high degree of certainty is very difficult.

But making things better is a good course of action, doable, and maybe even easy. The FTC’s allegations echo 2021 complaints from the Norwegian Consumer Council. Last year, Amazon said it would change its cancellation process in Europe to one which takes just two steps and is clearly labelled. It is fair to argue that its current U.S. process is not that difficult, but it is obviously inferior to the E.U. version. Thompson protests the involvement of “government regulators getting involved in product design on a philosophical level”, but it was that kind of pressure which produced changes in both the U.S. and the E.U. resulting in better designed products for users.


What this means is that, to the extent the FTC is effective is the extent to which Amazon almost certainly makes delivery worse for non-Prime members (i.e. differentiates based on service level instead of dark pattern navigation capability) and/or simply makes Prime only, restricting availability to the people who the FTC insists ought not pay for faster delivery. It’s not clear to me how much of a win this is.


[…] the fundamental point is that the removal of friction leads to a different set of trade-offs. In the case of targeting and tracking, the payoff is a massive increase in consumer welfare by virtue of access to all of the world’s information (Google), and all of the world’s people (Meta); in the case of things like dark patterns and personal appeals, the payoff is ordering sunglasses for your upcoming fishing trip at 10am and having them in hand at 4pm, or, more broadly, to have access to anything you need no matter where you live.

I held on tight and kept my arms and legs inside the ride at all times, but this is where things took a turn. Thompson here is defending the use of checkout and cancellation flows designed to trick people which are apparently necessary in order to make same-day shipping possible.

I do not wish to downplay how great Amazon and other retailers can be. Easy online shopping and rapid delivery are a convenience for many, but can be life-changing for people with disabilities. Even in Thompson’s example, the ability to get a hard-to-find product delivered in a rush clearly made a difference in his life.

But if the checkout form is redesigned to reduce unintentional Prime sign-ups and cancellations become easier, is Amazon’s entire infrastructure going to become meaningfully worse? If the way Amazon runs its online marketplace can only be maintained by coercing users into registering for Prime and making it hard for them to stop paying — and dangerous and low-paid labour — that seems like a profound argument against the way Amazon works today, not in favour of it. It indicates a company which is deceptive to its core. Amazon needs to do better.

Josh Dzieza, writing for New York in collaboration with the Verge, on the hidden human role in artificial intelligence:

Over the past six months, I spoke with more than two dozen annotators from around the world, and while many of them were training cutting-edge chatbots, just as many were doing the mundane manual labor required to keep AI running. There are people classifying the emotional content of TikTok videos, new variants of email spam, and the precise sexual provocativeness of online ads. Others are looking at credit-card transactions and figuring out what sort of purchase they relate to or checking e-commerce recommendations and deciding whether that shirt is really something you might like after buying that other shirt. Humans are correcting customer-service chatbots, listening to Alexa requests, and categorizing the emotions of people on video calls. They are labeling food so that smart refrigerators don’t get confused by new packaging, checking automated security cameras before sounding alarms, and identifying corn for baffled autonomous tractors.

The magical feeling of so many of our modern products and services is too often explained by throwing money at low-paid labourers. Same day delivery? Online purchases of anything? Expedited free returns? Moderation of comments and images? As much as it looks from our perspective like the work of advancements in computing power, none of it would be possible without tens of thousands of people doing their best to earn a living spending unpredictable hours doing menial tasks.

The extent to which that bothers you is a personal affair; I am not one to judge. At the very least, I think it is something we should all remember the next time we hear about a significant advancement in this space. There are plenty of engineers who worked hard and deserve credit, but there are also thousands of people labelling elbows in photos and judging the emotion of internet comments.

Raisa Patel, Toronto Star:

Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, is making good on its threat to block news sharing on both platforms across Canada in response to Ottawa’s online news bill, which became law late Thursday.

“Today, we are confirming that news availability will be ended on Facebook and Instagram for all users in Canada prior to the Online News Act (Bill C-18) taking effect,” a blog post from the web giant notes.

As with what happened in Australia, Meta is negotiating. Whether this change will be permanent after C–18 is enforced is worth watching, but it is impressive how much media coverage the company has been able to get by announcing the same thing every couple of months.

The European Commission:

Google provides several adtech services that intermediate between advertisers and publishers in order to display ads on web sites or mobile apps. It operates (i) two ad buying tools – “Google Ads” and “DV 360”; (ii) a publisher ad server, “DoubleClick For Publishers, or DFP”; and (iii) an ad exchange, “AdX”.


The Commission is concerned that Google’s allegedly intentional conducts aimed at giving AdX a competitive advantage and may have foreclosed rival ad exchanges. This would have reinforced Google’s AdX central role in the adtech supply chain and Google’s ability to charge a high fee for its service.

Google’s Dan Taylor:

Today’s Statement of Objections from the European Commission sets out claims that are not new and relate to a narrow part of our advertising business. It fails to recognize how advanced advertising technology helps merchants reach customers and grow their businesses — while lowering costs and expanding choices for consumers.

For what it is worth, the Commission is not alleging these problems are new — it explicitly says “since at least 2014” — nor that AdX represents a dominant role in Google’s ad products. These objections only sound like a rebuttal if you ignore what the Commission actually wrote.

Samuel Stolton and Leah Nylen, Bloomberg:

European Union and US antitrust regulators may have gone their separate ways of late. But they can still agree on one thing: the era of Google’s dominance in advertising technology must end.

The European Commission last week joined the Department of Justice in touting a breakup as a viable remedy for the California-based tech giant’s alleged monopoly abuses.

Not only are the E.U. and U.S. united in their thinking, so too are individual U.S. states and publishers. It is awful compelling to see such a cohesive group objecting to effectively the same kinds of problems.

I mentioned earlier this week that Apple’s official online store for replacement parts for its products is typeset in Roboto — the Android font — and looks kind of shady. It turns out it is not an isolated case.

Jason Robinson pointed me to the Apple Pay Merchant Supplies site, writing:

Something so fascinating about non-Apple-y Apple sites like this one and Apple Pay Merchant Supplies. I’d love to know what anti-design design brief is given to the designer.

Me too. This website — also a first-party Apple site — is typeset in Arial. Arial! And the images are pixellated.

There is something very funny to me about how Apple, a company famously protective of its own branding an image, produces websites like these which are so shoddy as to look completely disconnected. Perhaps that is the point. But why would it not want its Apple Pay branding to be presented in a way which reflects the company as a whole? Baffling, I tell you.

For the first time in more than a decade, it truly feels like we are experiencing massive changes in how we use computers now, and how that will change in the future. The ferocious burgeoning industry of artificial intelligence, machine learning, LLMs, image generators, and other nascent inventions has been a part of our lives first gradually, then suddenly. The growth of this new industry provides an opportunity to reflect on how it ought to be grown while avoiding problems similar to those which have come before.

A frustrating quality of industries and their representatives is a general desire to avoid scrutiny of their inventions and practices. High technology is no different. They begin by claiming things are too new or that worries are unproven and, therefore, there is no need for external policies governing their work. They argue industry-created best practices are sufficient in curtailing bad behaviour. After a period of explosive growth, as regulators are eager to corral growing concerns, those same industry voices protest that regulations will kill jobs and destroy businesses. It is a very clever series of arguments which can luckily be repurposed for any issue.

Eighteen years ago, EPIC reported on the failure of trusting data brokers and online advertising platforms to self-regulate. It compared them unfavourably to the telemarketing industry, which pretended to self-police for years before the Do Not Call list was introduced. At the time, it was a rousing success; unfortunately, regulators were underfunded and failed to keep pace with technological change. Due to overwhelming public frustration with the state of robocalls, the U.S. government began rolling out call verification standards in 2019, and Canadian regulators followed suit. For U.S. numbers, these verification standards will be getting even more stringent just nine days from now.

These are imperfect rules and they are producing mixed results, but they are at least an attempt at addressing a common problem with some success. Meanwhile, a regulatory structure for personal privacy remains elusive. That industry still believes self-regulation is effective despite all evidence to the contrary, as my regular readers are fully aware.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning services are growing in popularity across a wide variety of industries, which makes it a perfect opportunity to create a regulatory structure and a set of ideals for safer development. The European Union has already proposed a set of restrictions based on risk. Some capabilities — like when automated systems are involved in education, law enforcement, or hiring contexts — would be considered “high risk” and subject to ongoing assessment. Other services would face transparency requirements. I do not know if these rules are good but, on their face, the behavioural ideals which the E.U. appears to be constructing are fair. The companies building these tools should be expected to disclose how models were trained and, if they do not do so, there should be consequences. That is not unreasonable.

This is about establishing a set of principles to which new developments in this space must adhere. I am not sure what those look like, but I do not think the correct answer is in letting businesses figure it out before regulators struggle to catch up years later with lobbyist-influenced half-measures. Things can be different this time around if there is a demand and an expectation for doing so. Written and enforced correctly, these regulations can help temper the worst tendencies of this industry while allowing it to flourish.

Scott Everett of DPReview:

We’ve heard from many of you over the past several weeks, and we realize there are many questions about what comes next for DPReview. We’re thrilled to share the news that Gear Patrol has acquired DPReview. Gear Patrol is a natural home for the next phase of DPReview’s journey, and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish together.

After DPReview announced it was closing up shop three months ago, a big question in the minds of many longtime readers was how long the archives would continue to be made available; neither the site nor then-parent company Amazon was able to be specific. Now, it seems like the site will live on. Good news.

Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica:

The company will now provide a “postrepair software tool” called System Configuration that will handle the process of verifying that repairs were done properly, calibrating and updating the firmware of any replaced components and pairing TouchID and FaceID sensors with the device’s Secure Enclave.

Previously, these steps required a call to Apple’s Self Service Repair support team, which would run users through finishing the repair process. Apple says its team will still be on standby if home repairers need help.

Apple is also adding parts and guides tomorrow for the iPhone 14 line and M2 MacBooks, with the exception of the recently launched 15-inch MacBook Air.

The extent of Apple’s commitment to its Self Service Repair store continues to elude my understanding. On the surface, it really does not seem to care much. It is rolling out iPhone 14 parts only now, nine months after the product’s launch, and the store itself is an anonymous-looking site which contains no Apple branding and is, for some reason, typeset in Roboto — the default Android font. But the company really does seem to want this to work. In its press release announcing these updates, it notes how “[w]idespread repair access plays an important role in extending products’ longevity, which is good for users and good for the planet”. This program was expanded to some European countries last year, too.

Bandcamp’s Ethan Diamond:

On June 19 (from midnight (PT) June 19 to midnight (PT) June 20), we’ll hold our annual Juneteenth fundraiser, where we donate 100% of our share of sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to support their ongoing efforts to promote racial justice through litigation, advocacy, and public education.

If you were already itching to buy something, today is a great time to support artists and racial justice at the same time. And if you are looking for something new to dig into, perhaps your itch will be scratched by the excellent recent releases from Billy Woods and Kenny Segal, Pantayo, and Witch.

Matthew Humphries, PC Magazine:

Earlier this week, the European Parliament approved new rules covering the design, production, and recycling of all rechargeable batteries sold within the EU.


For “portable batteries” used in devices such as smartphones, tablets, and cameras, consumers must be able to “easily remove and replace them.” This will require a drastic design rethink by manufacturers, as most phone and tablet makers currently seal the battery away and require specialist tools and knowledge to access and replace them safely.

This is not an attempt to single out Humphries; the announcement was interpreted by many in the press as a call to redesign virtually all smartphones and add a battery access hatch. But, as Jesper writes, the actual legislation does not seem to require anything of the sort:

As far as I can tell, a phone where you unscrew the screws at the bottom, which disengages the internal frame, where you then use a suction cup to separate the seal enough to then use prying tools to disengage clips enough to flip it open and then access the insides is fully compliant. Phones described by this design have already shipped in hundreds of millions of units.

The iPhone 14 already opens from the back, though such luxuries are not present in the Pro models. My reading of this is that the biggest hurdle to meet these new regulations could be correcting for the copious amounts of adhesive Apple uses in securing the battery itself, as well as the frame and body for waterproofing.

Robyn Doolittle and Tom Cardoso, the Globe and Mail:

When the federal government enacted its legislation 40 years ago, Canada was among the first 10 countries in the world to do so, making it a global leader. But today, after decades of neglect by successive provincial and federal governments, Canada’s freedom of information regime is broken.


As part of the Secret Canada reporting, The Globe conducted an audit of how provincial, territorial and federal governments are handling access requests. (Each jurisdiction has its own freedom of information law.) In total, The Globe filed 253 individual FOI requests with every government department and ministry in the country, seeking access to their 2021 internal request tracking systems.

All 22 ministries in Alberta refused to comply with The Globe’s FOIs. […]

This province in which I live continues to be a national shame. The Globe spent over a year trying to get anything out of the Albertan government, and they only began complying with their legal obligations this month.

As part of this project, the Globe launched Secret Canada, a searchable database of 300,000 information request summaries. At a national level, it is similar to the Open Canada library, but it also includes provincial records. Well, except from Alberta. Unlike many U.S. departments, completed record requests for public documents are not made generally available. If you want a copy of any of these, you must request them and wait for the cogs in this broken system to slowly turn out your copy. I requested a copy of an existing completed records request on March 2 this year, and it took until May 8 to receive them.

There are reasons for this; the Globe’s investigation is extensive. Sometimes, these problems are understandable; often, they are not, and point to public organizations which do not prioritize transparency.