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How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever Met

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Excellent investigation by Kashmir Hill, writing for Gizmodo, on Facebook’s creepy “People You May Know” system:

In the months I’ve been writing about PYMK, as Facebook calls it, I’ve heard more than a hundred bewildering anecdotes:

  • A man who years ago donated sperm to a couple, secretly, so they could have a child — only to have Facebook recommend the child as a person he should know. He still knows the couple but is not friends with them on Facebook.
  • A social worker whose client called her by her nickname on their second visit, because she’d shown up in his People You May Know, despite their not having exchanged contact information.
  • A woman whose father left her family when she was six years old — and saw his then-mistress suggested to her as a Facebook friend 40 years later.
  • An attorney who wrote: “I deleted Facebook after it recommended as PYMK a man who was defense counsel on one of my cases. We had only communicated through my work email, which is not connected to my Facebook, which convinced me Facebook was scanning my work email.”

Even if, like me, you’ve never even signed up for Facebook, they almost certainly have a detailed profile of you.

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martinbaum
9 days ago
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Uh... the main method these days is that they pay Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft for their email account linkages. That's so obvious (based on my experience) I'm surprised more people don't know that.
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lelandpaul
9 days ago
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I briefly had a work account that knew nothing but my name and birthday; I started seen PYMK recs for folks I went to high school with (when I used a different first name!).
San Francisco, CA

Logitech Will Brick Its Harmony Link Hub for All Owners in March

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Chris Welch, reporting for The Verge:

Logitech has announced that it’s shutting down all services for the Harmony Link hub, a plastic puck the company released in 2011 that gave smartphones and tablets the ability to act as universal remotes for thousands of devices.

Owners of the product have received an email from the company warning that the Link will completely stop working in March. “On March 16th, 2018, Logitech will discontinue service and support for Harmony Link. Your Harmony Link will no longer function after this date,” the email says. There’s no explanation or reason given as to why service is ending in the email, but a Logitech employee provided more details on the company’s forums. “There is a technology certificate license that will expire next March. The certificate will not be renewed as we are focusing resources on our current app-based remote, the Harmony Hub.”

This sucks, but it seems like the way of the future with cloud-backed products. In the old days, products stopped working when they broke. Now, they stop working when the company that sold them loses interest in continuing to support them. It feels spiteful. More than ever, it matters how much you trust the company from which you buy stuff.

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martinbaum
15 days ago
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This is going to force a lot of people to think long and hard about ecosystems with staying power when they purchase devices and will lead to more lock-in than ever. While that's certainly good for Apple and Google, it's not good for the rest of the tech world.
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rtreborb
12 days ago
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Makes no sense. Renewing a certificate can be done in under an hour and costs under $1000
sulrich
15 days ago
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if you're not thinking about the longevity and viability of the IOT vendor you're buying crap from then you're crazy.

it's the 80s all over again with
everyone wondering which ones will be around as long as the lifecycle of their widget.

Dieter Bohn’s Google Pixel 2 Review

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Dieter Bohn, reviewing the new Pixel phones for The Verge:

Without fail, every person who has picked up the Pixel 2 XL has said virtually the same thing: “It feels like it’s made out of plastic.” I said it myself when I first held it. Of course, neither the Pixel 2 nor the Pixel 2 XL are made out of plastic. They’re made out of Gorilla Glass and aluminum, just like every other high-end phone these days.

But Google coated all that aluminum with a textured finish that hides most of the antenna lines and also makes the phones easier to grip. Google took what could have been a visually impressive design and covered it up in the name of ergonomics. It literally made a metal phone feel like a plastic one. It chose function over form.

Interesting design decision.

On the display colors:

The screen, especially on the 2 XL, has been polarizing. Google opted to tune the display to sRGB (the Galaxy S8, by comparison, offers four gamut options), so it looks a little more like the iPhone’s screen. But more than that, on the 2 XL the colors look muted in a way that many Android users I’ve shown it to found distasteful (even with the “vivid colors” setting turned on). I think many Android phones, especially from Samsung, are so vivid as to be phantasmagoric, so Google’s choice was to make this more “naturalistic.”

My take ever since last year (I bought a Pixel 1) is that the Pixels are targeting people whose taste runs toward the iPhone hardware-wise, but who prefer Android over iOS. Actually, not Android over iOS, but the Google ecosystem over Apple’s. They’re iPhones for Google people. I find Samsung displays to be technically impressive but downright garish in terms of saturation.

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martinbaum
37 days ago
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Having installed a hundred or so Samsung screens, he's totally right about their garish default settings. Properly set up they can look pretty decent. I wonder how often that really happens, though.
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satadru
36 days ago
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95% this: "Pixels are targeting people whose taste runs toward the iPhone hardware-wise, but who prefer Android over iOS. Actually, not Android over iOS, but the Google ecosystem over Apple’s."

The other 5% is not only wanting more ram than Apple's stock offerings, but also wanting Google's cutting edge software for things like its camera. Seriously though, integrating perfectly into the google ecosystem is a really big plus.
New York, NY

Dan Lyons, Jackass; Steve Bannon, Moron

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From a BuzzFeed investigation into how Steve Bannon turned Breitbart into a hub for white supremicists and misogynists:

Dan Lyons, the veteran tech reporter and editor who also worked for nearly two years on HBO’s Silicon Valley, emailed Yiannopoulos (“you little troublemaker”) periodically to wonder about the birth sex of Zoë Quinn, another GamerGate target, and Amber Discko, the founder of the feminist website Femsplain, and to suggest a story about the public treatment of the venture capitalist Joe Lonsdale, who had been accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit that the plaintiff eventually dropped.

Lyons, you likely recall, wrote the old Fale Steve Jobs website.

Here is an example email written by Steve Bannon:

“Dude—we r in a global existentialist war where our enemy EXISTS in social media and u r jerking yourself off w/ marginalia!!!!”

That’s really how Bannon writes, using “u” and “r” as words (and repeatedly using “your” for “you’re”). His emails paint him as barely literate.

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martinbaum
48 days ago
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Kinda classic that he goes grammar nazi a few lines after typing "Fale Steve Jobs." ;)
duerig
48 days ago
Yet another example of the old Internet truism where it is almost impossible to critique another's grammar or spelling without making a mistake yourself somewhere along the line... To be fair, though, that Bannon quote is much more egregious than using the wrong homophone of 'your'. Also, marginalia tended much more to the macabre than the sexual. So Bannon fails at both grammar and medieval history.
martinbaum
48 days ago
Good points. As a recovering grammar nazi, I've been there. But how do you know that Bannon wasn't assuming that Lyons was jerking off to the macabre marginalia!!
duerig
48 days ago
That is true. What a crazy world we live in where a grammar nazi is taking a wannabe nazi to task for being barely literate.
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Bill Gates Now Using an Android Phone ‘With a Lot of Microsoft Software’

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I say this with no snark intended: who would have guessed 10 years ago that Bill Gates would be using a personal computing device running a non-Microsoft OS? Or really, an OS that didn’t have “Windows” in the name?

I wonder what’s more popular among Microsoft employees — iPhone or Android? I’m guessing iPhone.

While I’m at it, it occurs to me that Apple is the only company left where all its employees are using only systems made by their own company. Microsoft employees need to use phones running iOS or Android. Google employees need to use MacOS or Windows (there might be some administrative jobs where they can use Chromebooks, but I doubt there are any engineers or designers getting by with Chrome). But at Apple, it’s MacOS on your PCs, iOS on your phone and tablet, WatchOS on your watch, and even tvOS on your set-top box. Microsoft used to have a slogan “Windows everywhere”. Apple doesn’t have one OS that runs everywhere (although it’s close with iOS — WatchOS and tvOS are really just offshoots of iOS with different UI layers), but there is a sort of cultural “Apple everywhere” mindset that I worry could lead to the sort of insularity that blinded Microsoft in the early ’00s.

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martinbaum
58 days ago
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A classic Gruberchide; a critique of Apple so glancing that a nose twitch from a baby bunny would be more forceful.
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rtreborb
56 days ago
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Minus all of Apple's non-Apple server infrastructure...

Why Cloudflare Terminated Daily Stormer

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Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare:

Earlier today, Cloudflare terminated the account of the Daily Stormer. We’ve stopped proxying their traffic and stopped answering DNS requests for their sites. We’ve taken measures to ensure that they cannot sign up for Cloudflare’s services ever again.

Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion. The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.

Our team has been thorough and have had thoughtful discussions for years about what the right policy was on censoring. Like a lot of people, we’ve felt angry at these hateful people for a long time but we have followed the law and remained content neutral as a network. We could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare.

Now, having made that decision, let me explain why it’s so dangerous.

I’m a staunch First Amendment supporter. I believe these Nazi motherfuckers have a right to publish their garbage propaganda. But they don’t have a right to Cloudflare services. Prince’s thoughtful explanation makes clear that this was a last resort, and hopefully one-time exception, to their policy of not censoring sites over political content.

The internet really changes the way this works, though. In the print days, there was no equivalent of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. There are only a handful of very large companies that can defend against a DDoS attack, and Cloudflare is one of them. Now that Cloudflare has dropped them, their web site is unreachable.

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martinbaum
98 days ago
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The reminds me tangentially of how we learned years later that at the height of the GWB administration only one telco hadn't just handed over the keys to their data centers when requested by the Feds. Good for CloudFlare for thinking about this hard. I suspect he's pretty singular in that regard.
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jkevmoses
97 days ago
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The quote:

"And, after today, make no mistake, it will be a little bit harder for us to argue against a government somewhere pressuring us into taking down a site they don't like."

is the scary part of the statement made. I'm not saying it is the beginning of the slippery slope but it is giving a victory to the heckler's veto.
McKinney, Texas
duerig
98 days ago
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I've seen several links to this letter and the story now, but this is the first time I've actually clicked through and read it. I really like the CloudFlare CEO's formulation of the issue. It isn't about free speech, either here or when Facebook's censor army is at work or when any other private company chooses what messages it wants to broadcast over its networks. They are private companies and as such they are not obligated to be common carriers if they don't want to be. It is about due process. So the secret rules behind Facebook's censor army or the ones that lead to people being arbitrarily banned from twitter are not problems because they 'violate free speech'. They are problems because they violate due process. And due process needs to continue to operate even when heinous people and vile acts are involved. It especially needs to operate when vile acts are involved because the potential punishments are severe and we must ensure that those punished are culpable.

CloudFlare seems to have done the right thing. They did not give in to calls for vigilante justice. They only terminated their relationship when the party in question misrepresented that relationship. Whatever hate speech is, that needs to be defined by us collectively as part of our democratic process and enforced by the same due process mechanisms we use for other crimes. It must not be left to arbitrary secret guidelines chosen by private companies.
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