Learning to Row

Well this post has been sitting as a draft since the end of last summer. I started classes again, so now seems like a good time go over notes from last time!

On learning a new skill

It’s almost commonplace in Seattle, for people to have read or remembered the story of The Boys in the Boat. The book tells the history of the University of Washington rowing team that competed in the Berlin Olympics in 1936. It captures the feel of the sport through the teamwork, bonds, and drive of those on the UW crew, but also recounts what life what like in Seattle years ago.

Continue reading “Learning to Row”

Flash Seats Usability, Security, and Privacy

The Quora Conundrum

Quora reported a data breach earlier this month and the company outlined the stolen data, what they are doing, and what you can do in an email to those affected:

The following information of yours may have been compromised:

  • Account and user information, e.g. name, email, IP, user ID, encrypted password, user account settings, personalization data
  • Public actions and content including drafts, e.g. questions, answers, comments, blog posts, upvotes
  • Data imported from linked networks when authorized by you, e.g. contacts, demographic information, interests, access tokens (now invalidated)

Continue reading “Flash Seats Usability, Security, and Privacy”

Facebook Privacy Report from The New York Times

As Facebook is upending the journalism industry, the New York Times is continues their campaign of exposing Facebook’s questionable data use.

Summary from The Download via the MIT Technology Review

https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/612642/facebook-gave-more-than-150-companies-special-access-to-your-data/

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Google transferred ownership of Duck.com to DuckDuckGo

This made quite the ruffle today when Google transferred the domain duck.com to the privacy focused search engine DuckDuckGo.

Google’s ownership of Duck.com was previously a source of frustration for DuckDuckGo, when it would redirect users to Google’s rival homepage instead of DuckDuckGo. Google kindly tried to clear up this confusion in July by adding a DuckDuckGo link to the page. Visiting Duck.com now redirects users straight to DuckDuckGo.

via The Verge

The best part is the previous page for duck.com

Continue reading “Google transferred ownership of Duck.com to DuckDuckGo”

Location Data Privacy in Apps

The New York Times released a report (with some fancy graphics) detailing location data use by apps for advertising, outside the main purpose of the app. Only 10 apps were covered in depth, but the findings reveal how some advertising companies aggregate location data from apps.

Continue reading “Location Data Privacy in Apps”

What the Marriott Breach Says About Security

Your personal data is already stolen. Here’s what you need to be doing:

via Krebs on Security

 

How Criminals Steal $37 Billion a Year

It is increasingly difficult to trust someone calling from a phone call you don’t recognize. Not only are scammers calling from numbers that seem to be in your area, but they are also impersonating family members in distress.

The dirty little secret about elder exploitation is that almost 60 percent of cases involve a perpetrator who is a family member, according to a 2014 study by Lachs and others, an especially fraught situation where victims are often unwilling, or unable, to seek justice. Such manipulation sometimes involves force or the threat of force

via Bloomberg

This trick has been around for a while, but there are new defenses available to guard against the scam.

On Feb. 5, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, an industry body, put into effect “the first uniform, national standards to protect senior investors.” It now requires members to try to obtain a trusted contact’s information so they can discuss account activity. It also permits firms to place temporary holds on disbursements if exploitation is suspected.

Bloomberg

Interesting idea; a two person authentication for account transactions, but it still may be easy to beat the system.

Loewy, who left her job as a prosecutor in 2014 to join EverSafe, a startup that makes software to monitor suspicious account activity, is underwhelmed by the industry projects.

“They may say they’re focused on it, but they aren’t really doing much more than training employees,” she says. “Exploiters know what they’re doing. They take amounts under $10,000 that they know won’t get picked up by fraud and risk folks at banks. And they steal across institutions over time.”

Bloomberg

And remember, if you get a text from a short-code number with 5 or 6 digits, you can verify the identity of the sender with the Short Code Directory.

Nobody is immune to ads

In his post Nobody is immune to ads, Georges Abi-Heila explores the psychology of how humans react to the barrage of brands and ads we see every day.

There’s no scientific consensus on the number of ads we’re exposed to daily, as estimates vary from a few hundreds to thousands. Why is it so hard to get a reasonable figure? Because it depends on a variety of factors that greatly affect the final result (sorted by level of importance):

What is considered an ad?
Including brand labels and logos can increase 10x the final result.
Think about every time you pass by a brand name in a supermarket, the label on everything you wear, the condiments in your fridge, the cars on the highway…
Where does the subject live?
The denser your living environment, the more ads you’re exposed to as companies fiercely compete for your attention (and, ultimately, your wallet). Visual pollution is one of the drawbacks of living in big city…
What is the subject’s job?
During work hours, a hotel receptionist sees a lot less ads than a truck driver which is less exposed than a social media manager.

Want to see an interesting example? Have an iPhone? Ignore for a moment all the brands you see from the icons on your home screen, this one is more subtle. What does it say in the top left corner? 

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/prj_rjURjKC1ZVVlVmhOuMUrbso=/0x0:2040x1360/1720x0/filters:focal(0x0:2040x1360):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/9276345/jbareham_170916_2000_0088.jpg
The Verge iPhone 8 Review

So every time you pick up your phone you are served an ad for your cell carrier. Why does it exist? Do you frequently forget you are on the AT&T network?

It is worth noting, the notched iPhones no longer show the carrier name, so his redditor has the right idea.

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/PZtyF3VgyktMRvvz5AciV-borm8=/0x0:2040x1360/1920x0/filters:focal(0x0:2040x1360):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/9597629/jbareham_171101_2099_A_0104.jpg
The Verge iPhone X Review

Is it a big change? No. But one less ad in the thousands you see in a day.

As a bonus, check out the streets of Sao Paulo. The city has a law that prohibits outdoor advertising. The story is covered in a post by 99% Invisible.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Yuval Noah Harari on the Talks at Google podcast (and in video form)

He’s marketing his new book extremely well and a New York Times interview on the subject garnered attention:

It made him sad, he told me, to see people build things that destroy their own societies, but he works every day to maintain an academic distance and remind himself that humans are just animals. “Part of it is really coming from seeing humans as apes, that this is how they behave,” he said, adding, “They’re chimpanzees. They’re sapiens. This is what they do.”

. . .

“It’s just a rule of thumb in history that if you are so much coddled by the elites it must mean that you don’t want to frighten them,” Mr. Harari said. “They can absorb you. You can become the intellectual entertainment.”

. . .

He told the audience that free will is an illusion, and that human rights are just a story we tell ourselves. Political parties, he said, might not make sense anymore. He went on to argue that the liberal world order has relied on fictions like “the customer is always right” and “follow your heart,” and that these ideas no longer work in the age of artificial intelligence, when hearts can be manipulated at scale

Not the most heartening view of the future.

21 Lessons is also recommended by Bill Gates as one of 5 books he loved in 2018 (to further corroborate Harari’s points)

The trick for putting an end to our anxieties, he suggests, is not to stop worrying. It’s to know which things to worry about, and how much to worry about them. As he writes in his introduction: “What are today’s greatest challenges and most important changes? What should we pay attention to? What should we teach our kids?”

Or maybe we should be a bit more like Newt Scamander

My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.

Rent-seeking

The Exponent podcast is back! And there’s a lot of news regarding pressure to change existing App Store pricing models.

it seems incredibly worrisome to me anytime any company predicates its growth story on rent-seeking: it’s not that the growth isn’t real, but rather that the pursuit is corrosive on whatever it was that made the company great in the first place. That is a particularly large concern for Apple: the company has always succeeded by being the best; how does the company maintain that edge when its executives are more concerned with harvesting profits from other companies’ innovations?

via Stratechery and Exponent

Plus, after shipping Fortnite outside of the Google Play Store, Epic Games is moving in on Steam with a new game store and taking a smaller cut of sales.

Developers receive 88% of revenue. There are no tiers or thresholds. Epic takes 12%. And if you’re using Unreal Engine, Epic will cover the 5% engine royalty for sales on the Epic Games store, out of Epic’s 12%.

via Unreal Engine Blog

The case for slowing everything down a bit

Ezra Klein on increased digital friction:

I believe that one reason podcasts have exploded is that they carry so much friction: They’re long and messy, they often take weeks or months to produce, they’re hard to clip and share and skim — and as a result, they’re calmer, more human, more judicious, less crazy-making.

Klein and Jaron Lanier discuss just that, in a podcast.

Writing . . . is full of friction. It’s hard and slow, and the words on the page fall short of the music and clarity I imagined they’d have. But it is, in the end, rewarding. It’s where I have at least a chance to create something worth creating. The work is worth it.

via Vox