Month: June 2023

Mia Sato, the Verge:

[Jennifer] Dziura still updates her personal blog — these are words for people.

The shop blog, meanwhile, is the opposite. Packed with SEO keywords and phrases and generated using artificial intelligence tools, the Get Bullish store blog posts act as a funnel for consumers coming from Google Search, looking for things like Mother’s Day gifts, items with swear words, or gnome decor. On one hand, shoppers can peruse a list of products for sale — traffic picks up especially around holidays — but the words on the page, Dziura says, are not being read by people. These blogs are for Google Search.


This is the type of content publishers, brands, and mom-and-pop businesses spend an untold number of hours on, and on which a booming SEO economy full of hackers and hucksters make promises ranging from confirmed to apocryphal. The industries that rely heavily on Search — online shops, digital publishers, restaurants, doctors and dentists, plumbers and electricians — are in a holding pattern, churning out more and more text and tags and keywords just to be seen.

The sharp divergence between writing for real people and creating material for Google’s use has become so obvious over the past few years that it has managed to worsen both Google’s own results and the web at large. The small business owners profiled by Sato are in an exhausting fight with automated chum machines generating supposedly “authoritative” articles. When a measure becomes a target — well, you know.

There are loads of examples and I recently found a particularly galling one after a family friend died. Their obituary was not published, but several articles began appearing across the web suggesting a cause of death, which was not yet public information. These websites seem to automatically crawl publicly available information and try to merge it with some machine learning magic and, in some instances, appear to invent a cause of death. There is also a cottage industry of bizarre YouTube channels with videos that have nothing to do with the obituary-aligned titles. I have no idea why those videos exist; none that I clicked on were ad-supported. But the websites have an easy answer: ghoulish people have found that friends and family of a person who recently died are looking for obituaries, and have figured out how to scam their ad-heavy pages to high-ranking positions.

At the same time, I have also noticed a growing number of businesses — particularly restaurants — with little to no web presence. They probably have a listing in Apple Maps and Google Maps, an Instagram page, and a single-page website, but that could be their entire online presence. I know it is not possible for every type of business. It does seem more resilient against the slowly degrading condition of search engines and the web at large, though.


We are excited to announce that Squarespace has entered into a definitive asset purchase agreement with Google, whereby Squarespace will acquire the assets associated with the Google Domains business, which will be winding down following a transition period. This purchase includes approximately 10 million domains hosted on Google Domains spread across millions of customers.

Squarespace says it will “provide additional incentives to encourage Google Domains customers to build a website with Squarespace and adopt other Squarespace offerings” which means if you have a domain purchased through Google, you can look forward to a lot of spam email.

Brian Fung, CNN:

Five US senators are set to reintroduce legislation Wednesday that would block companies including TikTok from transferring Americans’ personal data to countries such as China, as part of a proposed broadening of US export controls.

The bipartisan bill led by Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Wyoming Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis would, for the first time, subject exports of US data to the same type of licensing requirements that govern the sale of military and advanced technologies. It would apply to thousands of companies that rely on routinely transferring data from the United States to other jurisdictions, including data brokers and social media companies.

This is an updated version of a bill introduced last June which, itself, was a revision to legislation proposed in April 2021. It represents a real, concrete step the U.S. could take for domestic users which would require all apps to operate within a specific framework of privacy expectations. Nevertheless, after last year’s iteration of the bill, the Center for Strategic and International Studies pointed out that a better option would be to “impose legal boundaries on how all businesses operating in the United States amass, store, and share user information in the first place”.

Faiz Siddiqui and Jeremy B. Merrill, Washington Post:

The crash in North Carolina’s Halifax County, where a futuristic technology came barreling down a rural highway with devastating consequences, was one of 736 U.S. crashes since 2019 involving Teslas in Autopilot mode — far more than previously reported, according to a Washington Post analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. The number of such crashes has surged over the past four years, the data shows, reflecting the hazards associated with increasingly widespread use of Tesla’s futuristic driver-assistance technology as well as the growing presence of the cars on the nation’s roadways.

The number of deaths and serious injuries associated with Autopilot also has grown significantly, the data shows. When authorities first released a partial accounting of accidents involving Autopilot in June 2022, they counted only three deaths definitively linked to the technology. The most recent data includes at least 17 fatal incidents, 11 of them since last May, and five serious injuries.

Ryan Cooper, the American Prospect:

[…] Back in April, he [Elon Musk] claimed that there have been 150 million miles driven with FSD on an investor call, a reasonable figure given that would be just 375 miles for each of the 400,000 cars with the technology. Assuming that all these crashes involved FSD — a plausible guess given that FSD has been dramatically expanded over the last year, and two-thirds of the crashes in the data have happened during that time — that implies a fatal accident rate of 11.3 deaths per 100 million miles traveled. The overall fatal accident rate for auto travel, according to NHTSA, was 1.35 deaths per 100 million miles traveled in 2022.

In other words, Tesla’s FSD system is likely on the order of ten times more dangerous at driving than humans.

I have been trying to reconcile the safety bonafides claimed by Tesla and autonomous car enthusiasts alike with the figures revealed here. Cooper takes into account only fatal collisions; perhaps Teslas are involved in fewer collisions of any time when “Full Self-Driving” or “Autopilot” are engaged. But that also appears to be untrue: the NHTSA says there were 181 collisions of any type per 100 million miles travelled in 2020 — the most recent data available in Table 24 here — and 207 in 2019, while the rate of this Tesla data set is 490 per 100 million miles. So it is about twice as likely to have a collision of any type and, as Cooper writes, perhaps ten times as likely for it to be fatal.

I do not see how these numbers square with claims about greater safety from autonomous vehicles — or, at least, Tesla’s vehicles. It seems plain to me that these systems are significantly more dangerous today than human drivers. And, I feel compelled to mention, this is effectively the danger rate of a single driver. Tesla’s software may have been improved, like how a human driver learns new things, but all of its cars run variations of the same software with the same instructions and similar hardware. This one driver seems to kill people at up to ten times the rate of the national average.

A caveat: the total “Full Self-Driving” figure reported by Musk in that investor call represents miles driven in Canada, but the NHTSA collision stats are U.S.-only. But I do not expect that to create a significant difference in the math. Less than 11,000 Tesla Model 3s were sold in Canada in 2022, compared to 156,000 in the U.S., and the FSD beta was not made available in Canada until April 2022. Also, as Cooper points out, this is an early data set; some of these crashes may not be found to be the fault of autonomous software, while other crashes involving its use may not have been reported.

Mia Sato and Jay Peters, the Verge:

In an internal memo sent Monday afternoon to Reddit staff, CEO Steve Huffman addressed the recent blowback directed at the company, telling employees to block out the “noise” and that the ongoing blackout of thousands of subreddits will eventually pass.

Sato and Peters published a copy of Huffman’s memo, and I would like to call out a few statements which stood out to me:

We have not seen any significant revenue impact so far and we will continue to monitor.

This is a message for the venture capital underwriters of Reddit, not Reddit staff.

There’s a lot of noise with this one. Among the noisiest we’ve seen. Please know that our teams are on it, and like all blowups on Reddit, this one will pass as well. […]

This memo contains zero self-reflection. Perhaps Huffman’s stubbornness will pay off in making Reddit profitable for its shareholders and, if this near-sitewide protest really does end tomorrow, maybe it will be seen in the rearview mirror as only a blip. But there is no denying some damage has been done. The spell has been broken; moderators and users have realized the semi-decentralized premise of Reddit has been a growth strategy as much for the site’s owners as it has been for its users.

I am sorry to say this, but please be mindful of wearing Reddit gear in public. Some folks are really upset, and we don’t want you to be the object of their frustrations.

Any aggression toward rank-and-file Reddit employees would be not only awful, but entirely unwarranted.

During the 2010 “Tonight Show” dispute, Jay Leno told people not to blame Conan O’Brien, about which David Letterman asked, “in the thousands and thousands of words printed about this mess, who has blamed Conan? No one!” I do not think anybody is blaming the people who work at Reddit for this debacle; I would hope nobody directs their rage toward people who are just trying to eke out a living. This is a problem arguably of Huffman’s creation, and one he is defending.

Alex Pareene, Defector:

We are living through the end of the useful internet. The future is informed discussion behind locked doors, in Discords and private fora, with the public-facing web increasingly filled with detritus generated by LLMs, bearing only a stylistic resemblance to useful information. Finding unbiased and independent product reviews, expert tech support, and all manner of helpful advice will now resemble the process by which one now searches for illegal sports streams or pirated journal articles. The decades of real human conversation hosted at places like Reddit will prove useful training material for the mindless bots and deceptive marketers that replace it.

The way I often must to search the web today for useful, factual information is already similar to — as Pareene writes — “searches for illegal sports streams”. My queries contain so many Boolean operators that DuckDuckGo gets confused, and Google requires me to confirm I am not a robot.

Spending time on the web does not end with a search query, but it often begins that way. Burying an informative public, open web under a bunch of robotically generated material and pablum from marketing ghouls would be an indescribable loss. The rise of more private communities is a positive development, but only in coexistence with a public web.

The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence:

As part of our ongoing transparency efforts to enhance public understanding of the Intelligence Community’s (IC) work and to provide insights on national security issues, ODNI today is releasing this declassified IC report dated January 2022.

This report (PDF) was released Friday and, while its (redacted) authors admit the use of what they call “commercially available information”1 purchased from brokers can be useful in investigations, the tone is occasionally scathing.

Dell Cameron, Wired:

Perhaps most controversially, the report states that the government believes that it can “persistently” track the phones of “millions of Americans” without a warrant so long as it pays for the information. Were the government to simply demand access to a device’s location instead, it would be considered a Fourth Amendment “search” and would require a judge’s signoff. Because the same companies are willing to sell the information — not only to the US government but to other companies as well — the government considers it “publicly available” and therefore “can purchase it.”

It is no secret, the report adds, that it is often trivial “to deanonymize and identify individuals” from data that was packaged as ethically fine for commercial use because it had been “anonymized” first. Such data may be useful, it says, to “identify every person who attended a protest or rally based on their smartphone location or ad-tracking records.” Such civil liberties concerns are prime examples of how “large quantities of nominally ‘public’ information can result in sensitive aggregations.” What’s more, information collected for one purpose “may be reused for other purposes,” which may “raise risks beyond those originally calculated,” an effect called “mission creep.”

While relationships between data brokers and intelligence agencies are not new, the report’s authors acknowledge an increase in the “volume and sensitivity” of this information in “recent years” presents an opportunity for “substantial harm, embarrassment, and inconvenience”. Its use represents one of the most significant changes in surveillance since the whistleblower disclosures of ten years ago.

But, while the DNI trumpets its “ongoing transparency efforts” in releasing this report, it would be surprising if anything immediately came of it. Contrary to popular belief, nihilism is not the default position for most people. In surveys in Canada and the United States, people have indicated they care deeply about their privacy — even online. Regulations have been slowly taking effect around the world which more accurately reflect these views. But there remains little national control in the U.S. over the collection and use of private data, either commercially or by law enforcement and intelligence agencies; and, because of the U.S.’ central location in the way many of us use the internet, it represents the biggest privacy risk. Even state-level policies — like California’s data broker law — are ineffectual because the onus continues to be placed on individual users to find and remove themselves from brokers’ collections, which is impractical at best.

  1. Because the intelligence apparatus loves acronyms, this is referred to as “CAI” in the report and is — rather predictably — confused with the CIA in at least one instance that I spotted. ↥︎

Brendan O’Connor, Inkstick:

But not forever. Moore’s Law is not a natural law, but a prediction based on production capacities, capital flows, and the availability of highly exploitable labor. There are limits: political and economic as well as physical. “At some point, the laws of physics will make it impossible to shrink transistors further,” [Chris] Miller warns. “Even before then, it could become too costly to manufacture them.” Already it is proving more difficult to keep costs down: the extreme ultraviolet lithography machines needed to print the smallest and most advanced chips cost more than $100 million apiece. (And only one company in the world makes them.) And yet, Miller notes, startups focused on designing chips for artificial intelligence and other highly complex and specialized logic chips have raised billions of dollars in funding, while the big tech firms like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Alibaba are pouring funds into their own chip design arms. “There’s clearly no deficit of innovation,” he writes. The question, Miller argues, isn’t whether Moore’s Law has hit its limit, “but whether we’ve reached a peak in the amount of computing power a chip can cost-effectively produce. Many thousands of engineers and many billions of dollars are betting not.” In other words, they are betting that if they throw enough money at the problem, they’ll be the ones to break through the limit — and release untold profits and productivity on the other side.

This one is long, but well worth your time.

Jon Keegan and Joel Eastwood, the Markup:

If you spend any time online, you probably have some idea that the digital ad industry is constantly collecting data about you, including a lot of personal information, and sorting you into specialized categories so you’re more likely to buy the things they advertise to you. But in a rare look at just how deep—and weird—the rabbit hole of targeted advertising gets, The Markup has analyzed a database of 650,000 of these audience segments, newly unearthed on the website of Microsoft’s ad platform Xandr. The trove of data indicates that advertisers could also target people based on sensitive information like being “heavy purchasers” of pregnancy test kits, having an interest in brain tumors, being prone to depression, visiting places of worship, or feeling “easily deflated” or that they “get a raw deal out of life.”

The apparent granularity and volume of these segments will likely not surprise anyone who has worked in digital advertising, but it is quite something to see it all in one place. It is remarkable to know this was published in the open, though it has now been taken down; while Xandr is now owned by Microsoft, the date in the filename and in its metadata indicates it was produced while Xandr was an AT&T subsidiary.

The Markup authors note you can ask to view the advertising segments you are in and request editing or removal. That, like many suggested avenues of recourse for anti-privacy technologies, is predicated on your knowledge of the businesses involved. For example, if you wanted to know if your information was in any way associated with Planned Parenthood — a segment which could be used against you in the United States — you must contact at least five different providers with segment names which contain “Planned Parenthood”, according to this list. Have you ever heard of Alliant or Eyeota? They might be associating your personal information with any number of segments based on indicators you do not know about. There are probably more businesses you have never heard of doing the same thing and it is up to you, individually, to ask for your information from all of them based on little understanding of this market, and then hope they honour your request to be removed.

If that feels overwhelming, that is because it is. Is it supposed to be? I would hate to be so cynical, but it is a solution for internet advertisers that heavily favours them, and only provides an illusion of control for individuals. This entire industry is built on deception and implied consent.

If a movement’s knee-jerk contrarianism demands a fair and balanced approach to the smoke and soot causing the worst air quality in the world, that ideology just plain sucks and the morons promoting it should be ashamed.

Update: Our local purveyor of nonsense is dodging questions about a link between the effects of the petroleum industry — the provincial cash cow — and the conditions which have permitted these wildfires to grow and spread so easily this early in the year.

Arnold Kim, writing at MacRumors in 2008:

Dozens of Apple patent applications were published today revealing research that Apple had done in 2007 on many topics encompassing future versions of Mac OS X. The most intriguing is a series of patent applications which describe a “Multidimensional” user interface. Apple has essentially been working on true 3D desktop environments.

Via Steve Troughton-Smith:

15 years later and Apple has finally created a fully-3D spatial operating system; not suggesting a direct link, but it’s fun to go back and see them trying to sound this stuff out right at the time iPhone was introduced

The patent describes several versions of this, all of which are fascinating. But what is most notable is how this is almost the inverse of what Apple seems to be trying to do with visionOS. This patent appears, to me, to show a simulation of a 3D environment within the two-dimensional desktop space of a typical computer display, and it leans hard into the depth component. Some of the drawings show a virtual stack of windows or files within the depth stylings of a Leopard-style Dock. Based on what I can see of visionOS and what has been described by those who have used it, it is much more like two-dimensional interfaces projected into three-dimensional space. It does not seem to be replicating the clutter of a physical desk in an immersive digital space; instead, it is bringing the massless pixel environment into the real world.

Christian Selig:

Eight years ago, I posted in the Apple subreddit about a Reddit app I was looking for beta testers for, and my life completely changed that day. I just finished university and an internship at Apple, and wanted to build a Reddit client of my own: a premier, customizable, well-designed Reddit app for iPhone. This fortunately resonated with people immediately, and it’s been my full time job ever since.

Today’s a much sadder post than that initial one eight years ago. June 30th will be Apollo’s last day.

This sucks, and the details in Selig’s lengthy post make it worse. Even keeping in mind that it is from the perspective of a single person, it is damning for Reddit’s developer relations and its management.

David Smith, the Guardian:

It was the day his life changed forever. When Edward Snowden blew the whistle on mass surveillance by the US government, he traded a comfortable existence in Hawaii, the paradise of the Pacific, for indefinite exile in Russia, now a pariah in much of the world.

But 10 years after Snowden was identified as the source of the biggest National Security Agency (NSA) leak in history, it is less clear whether America underwent a similarly profound transformation in its attitude to safeguarding individual privacy. Was his act of self-sacrifice worth it – did he make a difference?

Jessica Lyons Hardcastle, the Register:

The architecture put in place to curb surveillance misuse including FISA, FISC and the US House and Senate select committees on intelligence was all created in the late 1970s as a reaction to Hoover-era abuses. These are all good ideas in theory, but not necessarily in practice – especially after 9-11 when the US government essentially greenlighted mass domestic spying for the sake of preventing another terrorist attack.

“Ten years have gone by,” since the first Snowden disclosures, “and we don’t know what other kinds of rights-violating activities have been taking place in secret, and I don’t trust our traditional oversight systems, courts and the Congress, to ferret those out,” [Ben Wizner, of the ACLU] said. “When you’re dealing with secret programs in a democracy, it almost always requires insiders who are willing to risk their livelihoods and their freedom to bring the information to the public.”

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian at the time it published stories based on documents Snowden leaked:

Even now the British government, in hastily revising the laws around official secrecy, is trying to ensure that any editor who behaved as I did 10 years ago would face up to 14 years in prison. Lamentably, the Labour party is not joining a cross-party coalition that would allow whistleblowers and journalists the right to mount a public interest defence.

So do not hold your breath for future Edward Snowdens in this country. The British media is, by and large, not known for holding its security services rigorously to account, if at all.

I remember the week when articles based on these disclosures began showing up. I remember being surprised not by the NSA’s espionage capabilities — that much was hinted at — but by its brazen carelessness about operating at a scale which would ensure illegal collection. Snowden’s heroic whistleblowing gave the world a peek into this world, but it was ever so brief. There is little public knowledge of the current capabilities of the world’s most intrusive surveillance agencies — by design, of course — and even the programmes exposed by Snowden continue to be treated with extreme secrecy. My FOIA requests from that week remain open.

One other thing which has become clear in the past ten years is that intelligence agencies and their leaders were lying as they repeatedly claimed their expansive dragnet surveillance mechanisms were saving us from deadly terrorist plots left and right. Snowden’s whistleblowing and the resulting tightening of online security practices, they implied, would cost lives. Setting aside the suggestion for all of us to be under constant surveillance for ease of policing, in the years that followed, it has only become clearer that none of this has any bearing in reality. These systems had a poor track record of efficacy at the time, vectors for law enforcement have only increased since, and even the NSA’s contemporaneous star example was quickly exposed as the product of targeted and specific surveillance.

Jonathan Yerushalmy and Alex Hern, the Guardian:

On Monday, after months of discussions, threats and warnings, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) took aim at the most powerful force in the world of cryptocurrencies.

The US financial watchdog accused the crypto exchange Binance and its founder Changpeng Zhao of operating a “web of deception,” charging him and his exchange with 13 offences.


On Tuesday, the SEC accused another crypto platform, Coinbase, of putting customers at risk by operating as an “unregistered broker, exchange and clearing agency”.

Matt Levine of Bloomberg has the full rundown.

Ryan Broderick:

The Twitter account @unusual_whales noticed some very curious activity. Someone opened a bunch of puts on Coinbase’s stock on Monday and ended up making millions of dollars on the news of the SEC suit against the exchange. How lucky is that?!

Sounds like somebody is shocked — shocked — to find that gambling is going on at Coinbase.


Mac Pro delivers the groundbreaking performance of M2 Ultra, plus the versatility of PCIe expansion, taking the most demanding workflows to the next level. While the Intel-based Mac Pro started with an 8-core CPU and could be configured up from there, every Mac Pro has Apple’s most powerful 24-core CPU, an up to 76-core GPU, and starts with twice the memory and SSD storage. The new Mac Pro can also be configured with up to a massive 192GB of memory with 800GB/s of unified memory bandwidth. […]

Apple can compare this new model to the Intel-based Mac Pro all it wants, but its main competition is the updated Mac Studio. It is a Mac Studio with twice as many Thunderbolt ports, and lots more internal connectivity and space, with a hefty $3,000 price premium. Unlike the Mac Studio, the Pro comes with a keyboard and mouse, which explains the cost difference.

And, if you do choose to compare this Mac Pro to the Intel model it replaces, there are some changes which are difficult to swallow. It is $1,000 more expensive than the one it replaces. The outgoing model was endlessly upgradeable with dedicated video encoding hardware, graphics processors, and up to 1.5 terabytes of memory. The M2 Mac Pro appears to support none of those things. Apple has tried to preempt criticism by claiming this version effectively has the power of seven Afterburner video encoding cards built in, but there are no known differences between the M2 Ultra in the Pro and the one in the Studio. Even its PCIe slots are being marketed for comparatively less demanding workflows:

[…] From audio pros who need digital signal processing (DSP) cards, to video pros who need serial digital interface (SDI) I/O cards for connecting to professional cameras and monitors, to users who need additional networking and storage, Mac Pro lets professionals customize and expand their systems, pushing the limits of their most demanding workflows.

There is nothing about graphics or video expandability here. While the Mac Pro was rumoured to support memory upgrades, that did not pan out. One maybe good argument for buying a Mac Pro instead of a Studio is that you do not have to pay Apple’s abhorrent rates for storage upgrades: the company wants $2,200 (U.S.) to upgrade to eight terabytes of storage in either model, but you have other options with the Mac Pro.

Stephen Hackett:

The number of 2019 Mac Pros sold cannot be huge, but the new one’s numbers are going to be even smaller. As a Mac Pro fan that worries me. Yes, there are users who are reliant on PCI solutions and I’m sure those folks will upgrade to this new machine at some point. Those who purchased a Mac Pro in the past to have a machine they could keep current over the long haul are seemingly out of luck.

Are some extra Thunderbolt ports and a bunch of open PCI slots enough to justify the Mac Pro’s $3,000 premium over the Mac Studio? For most users, my guess is no. The days of the Mac Pro being the most powerful, most capable Mac are over, at least for now.

This is a worrisome sign that feels like a product which went horribly awry at some point. Mark Gurman reported a configuration with two merged M2 Ultra chips was scrapped, but maybe it — or a similar configuration differentiating it from the Studio — will be introduced in the future. But I fear that is not what will happen. It looks like this type of Mac could be on its way out in favour of the external extensibility. The pendulum is swinging back to the 2012 “trash can” Mac Pro in the form of the Studio.

Update: In an interview with John Gruber, John Ternus argued that comparisons to the Intel Mac Pro are difficult to make. I guess we will see what the truth is when these things are in the hands of reviewers and professionals.

Imogen West-Knights, the Guardian:

It is strange to think of Guinness World Records – a business named after a beer company, which catalogues humanity’s most batshit endeavours – as the kind of entity that could sell out. At first glance, it seems like accusing Alton Towers or Pizza Express of selling out. But the deeper I delved into the world of record breaking, the more sense it made. In spite of its absurdity, or maybe because of it, record breaking is a reflection of our deepest interests and desires. Look deeply enough at a man attempting to break the record for most spoons on a human body, or the woman seeking to become the oldest salsa dancer in the world, and you can find yourself starting to believe that you’re peering into humanity’s soul.

Maybe the strangest thing I learned from this article is that Guinness Record adjudicators are not permitted to drink alcohol while on the job, despite this entire book being created under the umbrella of the Guinness beer company.

There is certainly plenty to talk about from WWDC this year, but the privacy and security updates are not to be missed. One notable highlight:

App Privacy Improvements

New tools give developers more information about the data practices of third-party software development kits (SDKs) they use in their apps, allowing them to provide even more accurate Privacy Nutrition Labels. These changes also improve the integrity of the software supply chain by supporting signatures for third-party SDKs to add another layer of protection against abuse.

Like existing privacy labelling in the App Store, this is naturally predicated on the honour system, but it is a step in the right direction. Third-party sharing is one of the shadiest sides of digital privacy in apps and on the web, and it is only good for light to be shined in this area.

Other improvements include optional automatic blurring of potentially sensitive images and video — as I suggested — two-factor authentication autofill from Mail messages, and automatic removal of tracking junk on links shared through Mail and Messages.

Update: More on the SDK disclosure requirements from Apple:

First, to help developers understand how third-party SDKs use data, we’re introducing new privacy manifests — files that outline the privacy practices of the third-party code in an app, in a single standard format. When developers prepare to distribute their app, Xcode will combine the privacy manifests across all the third-party SDKs that a developer is using into a single, easy-to-use report. With one comprehensive report that summarizes all the third-party SDKs found in an app, it will be even easier for developers to create more accurate Privacy Nutrition Labels.

This sounds promising but, again, relies on compliant developers and software vendors. Apple says it will name and shame common third-party SDKs later this year.

Antonio G. Di Benedetto, the Verge:

While I often prefer a universal solution over a proprietary connector, here’s the thing — Apple’s band release button beats the hell out of fiddling with little spring bars and jeweler’s tools. Instead, you just press a near-invisible button, slide your band out, slide another one in, and get a lovely audible click as it locks in. No fuss, no muss; just a simple swap for a different visual vibe to match your style and wardrobe.

But how does it get that precise click, that nearly foolproof snap? Hint: it’s not magnets. My colleague Sean Hollister and I spoke with two ex-Apple engineers who worked on manufacturing the original parts. We quickly learned that it’s kind of the unsung hero of the Apple Watch — despite launching a $1 billion accessory ecosystem and remaining unchanged since its debut eight years ago.

The one thing I have missed most about the Apple Watch after not wearing one for a few years now is this mechanism and its compatible straps. Swapping bands quickly and easily without risking any damage to the watch or the strap is something I have wondered why others have not copied anywhere near as well. After reading this piece, though, I can appreciate why the Apple Watch remains in a league of its own in this regard.

I received more feedback than I had expected on my recent link to an article about people who routinely — and often permanently — share their live location with friends, and I thought it was worth highlighting here.

A reader sent me this by email, which I am publishing with permission:

[…] I do share my location with a couple of long-time trusted friends. I’m a full-time RVer, and I not only move around from place to place, but spend a lot of time boondocking in the desert or on other public lands. Having my friends able to see my location if necessary makes me feel a bit safer. I know other full-time RVers who do this, but we’re a small minority of the general population.

And, on a similar note, Stuart Breckenridge shares this use case:

It’s common in cycling clubs to share live location should something untoward happen. Garmin/Telegram/Find My (etc.) are all useful for this.

And Nathan Snelgrove:

I also actually know women who share locations with friends and tell them when they’re out with men they don’t know and where they should be on the map. That use case is very real.

Jennings also mentioned that use case in the article I linked to, citing a 2019 TechCrunch piece by Rae Witte, and noted how often families use it to know the whereabouts of their children. All of these responses make sense to me. This angle unfortunately explains the popularity of the Life360 app, which is now being sued for selling the location data of children to third-party data brokers. Safety is such a smart rationale that it is disappointing to see such private data entrusted to garbage businesses with exploitative side hustles.

I received a few other replies for why people use permanent location sharing, too, most commonly within families. One, also from Snelgrove:

My wife and my in-laws all do it. We started doing it together when we would ski together, because it’s so easy to lose each other skiing. But far and away the most common use now is checking to see how far away they are if we know they are coming over for dinner.

From Felix, via email, also published with permission:

Indispensable for one use case: Picking up kids from kindergarten. Spares us the question “got time to pick ’em up today?” As I can see whether my wife has already left the office or is still miles away. Also: I’d rather share my location with her than to feel guilty not seeing her message “where you at?” (Which, to me, feels more intrusive, ironically)

These both feel like good examples of the convenience of sharing locations within a family, which reflects my own use case: when I am making a timing-sensitive dinner, I occasionally check my partner’s location on her way home from work. But neither reflects the apparently common case of sharing with a bunch of friends.

Wil Turner, in 2015, wrote a lovely piece about how the Find My network led to chance encounters with friends while travelling:

I wait on an overhead walkway in the reflected lights of a Las Vegas evening for a friend. We live five hundred miles apart, and are lucky to be briefly so close. He is here with friends from high school, I with some from Houston, some from San Francisco. In a small bar we have a drink and he puts Johnny Cash on the record player. It’s a brief break from the rest of our weekends, which are a brief break from the rest of our lives.

Except in so many ways neither of these are a break, both of our lives are a mishmash of locations and people that we have somehow managed to keep up with for a decade or more. Thanks to jobs, education, and opportunities that take us from one place to another and to technology, from Instagram to Find my Friends, we’re in fact growing more connected to more people.

I guess I need to get out more.