Twitter’s Important Updates

I opened Twitter today and was welcomed with a message about their updated Terms of Service and Privacy policy in time for GDPR.

Twitter is updating its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy to provide you with even more transparency into the data Twitter collects about you, how it’s used, and the controls you have over your personal data. These updates will take effect on May 25, 2018

Anyway, here’s the update and additional policy information for Twitter and Facebook.

Melinda Gates on The Ezra Klein Show

https://art19.com/shows/the-ezra-klein-show/episodes/bfc27e6d-5858-4fe3-a2b7-1ac8f946930d/embed

On team culture (at Microsoft and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

But the competitive culture I didn’t really like, it felt like the arguments weren’t just about that intellectual thing, but they were personal … I felt like we could do it differently

At the foundation, the culture that we have created there has just as much innovation, amazing scientists, best in class, [and] we have tough intellectual debates but they’re not personal, and they’re supportive of people and their careers. You get the best out of people and all the best ideas on the table. If you don’t do that you leave innovative ideas on the table. People get afraid and they don’t put their idea out there because they might be criticized.

On diversity in tech

The way you treat a young child versus an 18-year-old, 22-year-old, 30-year-old, versus an elderly person, is pretty different. You use a lot of empathy when you’re trying to bring a child up and teach them, and it’s tricky because you have to use a lot of positivity even when what you’re trying to do is correct behavior. But [it’s] the same thing with an elderly person. It’s a horrible thing when you start to lose a little bit of your sight, or you can’t drive anymore, and that was your rite of passage when you were younger. I think if you have these products that are created by white guys in their 20s, you’re just gonna miss the mark on both empathy and the actual needs of the elderly and what they’re facing.

If you don’t have diversity at the table, there’s no chance you’re gonna see it. You’re just not. If you’re a VC and you’re about deal flow, you’re missing all kind of deals, because the deals you’re investing in are what you’ve known before.

It’s interesting to think how all generations of people are experiencing digital technology for the first time in human history. There are opportunities for everyone, young and old, and we are only a few years into understanding how global connectivity will affect structures that took tens and hundreds of years to develop. Whether a high school student or an elderly person who can’t drive anymore, these new tools are available and ready to be applied to their current way of life. As an individual, you can only see so far outside your current frame of reference. Different perspectives can generate value for so many people.

On future breakthroughs

Bill and I often have this kind of fun debate of, “If you were entering any field now and you had your choice of going into any field, what field would you go in?” He and I both would go into the cross between biology and computer science. What is gonna happen in those fields, we’re only beginning.

via Ezra Klein Show on Pocket Casts (transcript)

 

An esoteric piece of Windows history

This is getting a lot of coverage today. When creating something new, it’s funny when you realize your intentions do not match the perception of others.

Here’s the entire thread.

(And what do you know, Jensen is co-founder and CTO of Textio!)

Welcome to the News Feed

My News Feed

This section of the blog will have daily updates with articles, podcasts, videos, and anything I find interesting. The content will be brief, just a quote and my reaction most of the time, but in higher quantity than my other posts.

I wanted an outlet for all the things I learn about in a day. Instapaper, Feedly, and Pocket Casts are great for follow interesting creators, but it’s difficult to go back and see what I was reading, listening to, watching, thinking about on any given day.

The format is based on Daring Fireball (and I’m sure many others), but links and quotes will be here in their own feed to separate my own work from my reactions to the work of others.

Cal Newport said “I support the social internet. I’m incredibly wary of social media.” I tend to agree, so this is my take. A news feed that I control. No algorithms or trending topics.

Want to follow along?

If you want to see the inner working of the blog or follow what I follow, this is the place. If not, regularly scheduled thoughts will continue once a weekish.

Here’s the RSS feed: https://ryancropp.blog/category/news-feed/feed/

Plug that url into Feedly to get all the updates! (you can add /feed to the end of any WordPress category to get an RSS link)

 

What we learned from Facebook this week

A puppy. This is why people use Facebook, right?
For all the talk with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the US Senate and House this week, there was very little surprising content. We give consent to use the Facebook service, we upload images, write posts, and like articles. We have control at every step of our interaction to decide how much to share with Facebook and what we give the company is exactly what is given back to us in the data archive download tool. It’s shocking to see every interaction you’ve ever made on Facebook in one place, but there is nothing here we don’t expect. There is no post we didn’t make or image we didn’t take. Facebook remembers what we do on the service as long as we have an account.

But that doesn’t mean everything from the last week was old information.

What was clarified?

An important point Zuckerberg reiterated is that Facebook does not sell user data. This would be a silly business move because Facebook’s value to advertisers is in the uniqueness of its data. It is in Facebook’s best interests to keep it’s trove of data secure, as it requires advertisers to keep coming back. There’s no other place advertisers can go to get the same level of targeting.

Instead of selling data, Facebook actually collects all the details from every person “in the community” and compiles the best advertising opportunity for a given ad. Facebook assures advertisers their ad placement will reach the intended audience with the greatest possibility of interaction. It is this assurance that gives Facebook it’s gazillion dollar market cap.

The Cambridge Analytica case was different, but still Facebook never sold data. Instead, Cambridge Analytica got raw Facebook user data from an app developer who used a survey app to harvest data. In 2014, it was within Facebook terms for a 3rd party app developer to use the Facebook developer platform to collect just about all the information about you and all your friends ever entered onto the site.

Listen to Exponent episode 146 “Facebooks Real Mistake” (link at the end) for background on how Facebook’s past push to be a platform landed the company in this situation. The takeaway? Had Facebook realized it’s value as an ad network, the company would never have given the same level of data access in the first place.

This is why the current Facebook fiasco is not a data security breach, but a data privacy leak. Hackers did not break into Facebook systems to obtain user data, but a developer (which could have been anyone) used Facebook sanctioned tools to collect your information. Facebook has since locked down it’s platform to prevent such unrestricted access to user data, but it does not change the fact that massive amounts of user data left the platform seemingly without consent of its users. And yes, it’s true that by signing up you agreed to the terms that allowed developers to leverage the wide open API to gather profile information, but did you really know that was part of the agreement?

What was surprising and novel?

Did you check if your info was collected by Cambridge Analytica? Go ahead, I’ll wait ⌚😊

After you’ve read through your activity log and exported your data, take a minute and think about what stands out from the content (I think this tinfoil hat scandal is all a ploy to get us to go on Facebook even more. Feel free to finish reading in the meantime, the export takes a while). Once you get to the details, you can see the majority of the information came from you, but there is a small subset which reveals the inner working of the Facebook machine.

To put things in perspective, focus on your ad preferences and take a look at your ad demographics information. This is a window to the 96 98 categories from the Senate hearing. Advertiser demographic is the result of running all our interactions on Facebook through a proprietary algorithm. Of all the information in the data archive, this piece is novel. We didn’t explicitly tell Facebook this information, but they determined it based on what we’ve done on the site.

This is why the Facebook hearing this week is only the tip of the iceberg. If we are concerned that Cambridge Analytica could sway an election with a slice of our data, what kind of power does Facebook have? Sure we didn’t entrust Cambridge Analytica with our data, but why does opting into a puppy video sharing service change our perception of possible psychological manipulation?

What does Facebook do with all our data? And what can they do?

We need greater transparency on how our data is used. I can control and know what I upload, but what happens with the data “I own” once it’s handed over?

When I upload a photo to Facebook, what algorithms are tuned as a result? How does the content of the photo affect ads I see?

WhatsApp communication is encrypted, so it’s private between those in the conversation, but in what way does Facebook link my WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook accounts? I’ve logged into all three on the same device so they must know it’s the same person (even though I signed up for all three as separate users).

And what about activity coming from the same IP address or GPS location? Does Facebook correlate data of those physically closest to me, outside of our connections on it’s services? What about when I’m on Facebook but signed out?

The consumer facing fun part seems like a front for the stingy advertising business on the back end. What is the difference between the two? It’s telling that Zuckerberg doesn’t fully understand the difference (from questioning by Brian Schatz). From Facebook’s perspective, the “fun part” is the user feature set that drives advertising revenue. It’s the top of the funnel for all of Facebook’s algorithms and drives the companies valuation.

For a platform that relies on its users to generate value, the company doesn’t provide much information to said users on how the internal cogs work. Perhaps it’s best to be blissfully unaware, or maybe it’s not a requirement, but when 2 billion people feel like the product and not the customer, it’s reasonable for them to want a little more information on how they’re being used.

And if this is Facebook, what about Google? (You can also export Google data)

What can you do to stay in control?

  1. Adjust log-in behavior to prevent future data leaks

    Check permissions when using Facebook (or Google or any over service) to sign up for a new site. To keep the same convenience, sign up for a password manager like Dashlane or LastPass which can generate and remember a new login for each site you visit. This adds a layer of security to your accounts and removes the possibility of another Cambridge Analytica style data leak.

  2. Prevent cross site tracking

    Use a separate browser just for Facebook. Only log in to Facebook on that browser and do all your other web stuff in another. Or use extensions like Ghostery (which also tracks your trackers, so maybe just turn off the internet for the day…) or the Facebook Container for Firefox.

  3. Limit sharing data

    Just use Facebook less? Deactivate for a week and see how you feel. You can always reactivate.
    Go old school and use an rss reader.
    Stick with iMessage/FaceTime.
    This is always an option.

All sorts of links

Video of Zuckerberg’s Senate hearing (transcript) and appearance before House committee (transcript)
Day 2 from MIT Technology Review
What was Facebook Thinking by James Allworth
The Facebook Current and The Facebook Brand from Stratechery
Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Explained from NYTimes
Facebook’s Real Mistake and Facebook Fatigue from Exponent Podcast
Mark Zuckerberg is Either Ignorant or Deliberately Misleading Congress from The Intercept
What is GDPR?
General Data Protection Regulation
Coachella streams 1, 2, and 3