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Google

So what did Google do, why are they being fined and are they really guilty?

Google is a giant tech company and the European Commission believes that they have been using this influence unfairly especially with their Android platform to push Google’s products such as Chrome and search engine, Mail, YouTube and the Play Store. The EU postulates that they may have “made payments to certain device manufacturers” like Samsung to allow them to bundle these apps into the Android and also blocking them from building phones that run AOSP (a parallel version of Android) which has lesser restrictions. This makes Google become a monopoly thus raising the company’s market share.

This investigation didn’t start recently – The EU has been doing this investigation since 2010 and in 2015, they formally began the accusation of an antitrust violation. After doing some homework (they dug through 5.2TB of data), the EU concluded that they had been manipulating the market to crush the competition, in turn, denying other players the chance to innovate and compete on the basis of merit. In short, Google had the power and they used it. Apple and Blackberry do the same thing and they aren’t being fined since they don’t share out the licenses of their OSes to mobile device manufacturers.

Bloomberg reports that Google had offered to make changes to its Android policies in August 2017, not long after it had received the antitrust penalty but the EU wasn’t having it. Officials reportedly said that a settlement was “no longer an option,” and that Google’s offer was “too little too late.” [Read More]

Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room, yes you. What does this mean for Android users?

5 billion dollars is a huge fine – the biggest fine ever imposed by a regulator against a single firm but that is like almost 2 weeks’ worth of revenue for Google. So the EU has given them 3 months to change this practice and Google appealed. Google’s Pichai gave a warning (looks more like a bluff) that its Android business model could now change, and that may mean the company will need to consider licensing Android to phone makers.

In the meantime, no change is coming to users of old Android versions although if they lose this appeal, Oreo will have to get some changes. There are already rumoured talks that Google is working on an Android alternative – Fuchsia that will start shipping on phones in 5 years time.

Interestingly, Alphabet, Google’s parent company just released their Q2 results posting revenues that are up 25% and investors are not too worried about the fine and they shrug its impact since the pre-fine numbers beat expectations.

Google Fuchsia should get you excited

No – Google isn’t replacing Android with Fuchsia but the new OS might be able to solve one of Android’s biggest letdowns. This new OS will come with perks such as improved synchronization plus simpler navigation across devices bringing some sort of continuity between the Chrome OS and Android OS, more streamlined app designs that same adaptability across devices and a deeper, more powerful voice control so that you can perform more complicated actions without having to touch anything. [Read More]

What Facebook did last week

Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg had an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher and this got the internet talking.

So Mark said that they can’t ban pages that spread misinformation and conspiracy theories and he used Holocaust deniers as an example commenting that they might not be intentionally misleading. Zuckerberg’s reference puts his social site at a controversial position, same as the previous week – they won’t promote less reliable information but won’t delete or ban people who post it. This isn’t going well in a lot of quarters – some want Facebook to be in charge of deciding who gets to speak and others agree with Mark since they don’t want to live in a world where he is the one who gets to determine what counts as true and what doesn’t. The way Mark approaches regulation and Silicon Valley, in general, is that they use libertarian thinking – through a lens of rationality. Most of Facebook’s policies are designed in such a way to address a huge range of user intentions, including ones that may seem crazy to most people who use Facebook or other platforms.

Facebook keeps blundering because it doesn’t want to do either.

One weird thing though he mentioned is that he seems to think there’s a meaningful difference between this misinformation – wrongness protected by free speech and that which sparks violence and thus causing real harm.

Reddit is another platform that faces the same issues Facebook is going through but one subreddit is doing things differently – the AskHistorians subreddit. The forum takes a strict stance on Holocaust denial: They ban them immediately. Deniers need a public forum to spread their lies and to sow doubt among readers not well-informed about history. What Facebook and every social site that uses denialist rhetorics don’t know is that the only way to fight this morally and factually wrong viewpoint is to deny these positions a platform. [Read More]

So, can the giant social networking site fix itself? The answer is nope – Facebook doesn’t want to understand its misinformation problem. The product is fatally flawed. So long as Facebook continues to play judge, jury, but not executioner in secret, it will continue to face criticism from all sides. Luckily, all the company needs to do is smile and nod.

Debate continues on whether Mark Zuckerberg’s approach in allowing fake news and conspiracies on Facebook is the right one. There are lots of ideas out there, but no consensus. [Read More]

Here’s a silver lining – in a memo to the company, Alex Stamos, Facebook’s departing chief security officer wrote a brutally honest note (titled “A Difficult Week), calling on his colleagues to intentionally not collect data where possible and listen to people when they tell them a feature is creepy or point out a negative impact they are having in the world which still remain major issues for Facebook. He then ends the note with – “We need to be willing to pick sides when there are clear moral or humanitarian issues. And we need to be open, honest and transparent about our challenges and what we are doing to fix them.” [Read More]

That was a lot but here are other interesting and scary tech stories you might have missed

Instagram

Motherboard wrote a chilling and incredibly detailed article about how Instagram accounts are stolen and how easy it is to do it. So these criminals hijack your sim card similar to the way SIM swap fraud happened locally. They then use these phone numbers to steal their Instagram accounts – and then sell it for hundreds of dollars or cryptocurrency. Sim swapping can ruin your online identity especially if you use it for 2FA since every authentication is now linked to your phone number.

Following the story above, Instagram issued a statement saying that they are working to build 2FA which is what they should’ve focussed on in the first place instead of launching emoji slider stickers and boomerangs with regards to the hacking targets it hosts. Instagram confirmed to TechCrunch that they are building a non-SMS two-factor authentication system that works with security apps like Google Authenticator or Duo. Just to be safe don’t use SMS for 2FA and get the Google Authenticator app wherever there is this option.  It’s super easy to social engineer and gains access to your accounts especially since mobile carriers don’t do enough to protect them.

Instagram is testing a moderately useful anti-abuse measure: they are testing a feature that will allow public accounts to manually remove followers with a few taps. If you have a public account, there’s no real way to stop people from looking at your feed. Even if you block someone, your photos are just a private browser window away. That said, Instagram is at least trying to give users more direct control over their own list of followers — without taking the big step of switching your account to private.

Twitter

Twitter has a lot of stuff to handle but verification isn’t one of them, at least for now. Twitter said that it doesn’t have the bandwidth to fix this even after pausing this process earlier this year in their promise to deliver a more thoughtful process in the future. The company maintains that verification is fundamentally intended to confirm an account’s authenticity — not signal any sort of endorsement. But a lack of any real rhyme or reason to the verification system has made it easy to conflate the two. The social site has like 4,00 employees and they can’t fix the verification scheme begging the question of what is everyone actually up to over at their headquarters?

In the thread above, Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour says the firm is pausing work on fixing its verification policy to focus on more important areas like election integrity both in the US and globally. They’ve currently suspended 58 million accounts in the fourth quarter in an attempt to improve “information quality” on its service, its term for countering fake accounts, bots, disinformation and other malicious occurrences.

You can now finally edit your tweets but before you get excited, let me break it down for you. While Twitter dithers, developer Corey Gwin last week released Covfefe: a Chrome extension that delays the publication of tweets by 10 seconds, allowing you to edit during that window. If you spot an error later, it will delete your tweet and repost the new version. Tweet editing works like a charm although it completely breaks replies, threads and RT’s. It is not nearly enough but it is something, right? [Get it here]

 

What if you got paid for the data you share online?

The Economist explored whether companies like Google or Facebook should pay people for the data they share with these platforms. The article argues that they wouldn’t get much even if people got money for their data. For context, if Facebook were to share their profits across its monthly users, each user would get just $9 a year. Would you want to get paid?

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter joined up to make it easier for users to transfer data between their platforms

GDPR came into effect and the big tech companies made it harder to export your personal data from one service to another but that’s about to change. Google, who is spearheading this project says it will let you “transfer data directly from one service to another, without needing to download and re-upload it.” The project draws from publicly available APIs from Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, Remember the Milk, and SmugMug. Many of those transfers could already be accomplished through other means, but participants hope the project will grow into a more robust and flexible alternative to conventional APIs. In its own blog post, Microsoft called for more companies to sign onto the effort, adding that “portability and interoperability are central to cloud innovation and competition.” This thread explains it all giving more details:

Tinder has started tests that let users send bitmoji because you can’t send real photos

The dating app announced that selected users will be able to send their personal Bitmoji within the app. You’ll have to connect Snap to Tinder so that you can send stickers to matches. They are currently testing this in Canada and Mexico and since it is only a test, Tinder could decide not to roll out Bitmoji globally. So, if you don’t look like your Bitmoji… good luck?

Apple 2018 MacBook Pros Heat Issues

So Apple revealed new MacBook Pros in which they fixed the problem with the 2016’s one which had keyboard issues once they got a hint of dust and frustrated lots of users since the laptops don’t come cheap. The updated laptops now come with faster processors, more RAM and a new design for the keyboards – a protective layer that, yes, might make typing a little quieter, but definitely keep more particles out. But now the laptops general slim design creates another problem – they run so hot that they have to slow down.

Canadian tech reviewer, Dave Lee demonstrated this in his Youtube video. Some amount of throttling is to be expected on notebooks under heavy thermal workloads, especially ones as thin as the MacBook Pro. Dave, however, argued it is the degree of throttling he experienced that was unacceptable. Apple replicated his workflow and found out that there was a missing firmware key that governs thermal control in OS X for the new MBP. They later dropped a quick software update for the i9 MacBook Pro that fixes the thermal throttling bug.

It will be interesting to see how much of an improvement Apple’s software fix will have, as it’s too late to address concerns related to the thermal limitations presented by the MBPs thin chassis and inbuilt cooling. The cooling tech needed to get optimal performance from a hot-running chip like Intel’s Core i9-8950HK crammed inside the laptop that is less than an inch thick simply isn’t available right now and I couldn’t agree more.

Parting Shot

  • Here’s some advice from one of the inventors of the internet coming with the HEAT on this powerpoint.

  • Here’s a good take on the etiquette involving laptop stickers

  • Lastly, go check out #dogsofamazon on Twitter, an unlikely upside to the Amazon Prime Day fiasco

Clicked comes to you every week. Check out previous editions [here].

 

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