Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘privacy’ Category

A Changing SAP

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Big news on the enterprise software front overnight. SAP announced that CEO Bill McDermott would be leaving the company after nearly a decade at the helm. McDermott has overseen SAP’s shift to the cloud, and the company’s stock was up 75% over the past five years.

Board members Jennifer Morgan and Christian Klein were appointed co-CEOs.

For SAP clients out there, also know that IBM just rolled out a new open source SDK that lets users call Watson services directly from ABAP code in SAP systems. ABAP is the primary programming language supported on the SAP NetWeaver ABAP server platform.

On the frenzied AI dealmaking front, AI-powered checkout firm Standard Cognition has bought DeepMagic, which provides autonomous retail kiosks. This apparently to better compete with Amazon Go’s checkout experience.

DeepMagic allows customers to swipe a payment card when entering a smaller kiosk or store, pick up items that are detected by cameras and then walk out while having their card charged.

Sorry, no cash!

And for those of you who are using G Suite (especially those in newsrooms) who thought your documents were encrypted end-to-end, the Freedom of the Press Foundation says differently. 

Written by turbotodd

October 11, 2019 at 10:45 am

What’s in a Domain Name Server?

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Happy Monday.

The news you need to know about this fine Monday morning (that doesn’t involve impeachment inquiries): Google and Mozilla are looking to encrypt the Internet domain name system (better known as DNS), which could keep bad actors from snooping on websites and spoofing.

But which could also keep ISPs from gathering user data because the browser session data would become opaque to them.

As a report in The Wall Street Journal observed, Google indicated it is making this move to improve users’ security and privacy and will leave consumers more in charge of who shares their Internet data.

Though ISPs are logically concerned by the move, so are the Three Letter Agencies, for which the move could make it more difficult to monitor Internet traffic.

And with Google operating its own DNS service, the story cites that some “are concerned that the DNS upgrade could ultimately concentrate too much off the Internet’s traffic in the hands of Google.”

Engadget is reporting separately that this move is “raising hackles among American officials” and that the U.S. Department of Justice has received complaints and the House Judiciary Committee is investigating.

Turns out the answer to the question “What’s in a name?” is, quite a bit.

Written by turbotodd

September 30, 2019 at 9:45 am

What’s In Your Wallet?

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“What’s in your wallet?”

Too soon?

The Capital One hack, a breach of 106M U.S. and Canadian customers, gave me flashbacks of the Equifax hack…you know, the one that led so many of us to freeze our credit reports.

What we know so far: A female software engineer in Seattle hacked into a server holding customer information for Capital One and obtained over 100M credit applications, as well as 1M+ Canadian social insurance numbers.

The New York Times is reporting that the bank expected the breach to cost up to $150M, including credit monitoring costs for affected customers.

The Capital One hacker, one Paige Thompson, was a former employee of Amazon Web Services and dropped signals in online fora and Slack that she might be the person behind the hack.

Back to Equifax: Just last week that company settled claims from the 2017 data breach for roughly $650M.

What’s in Capital One’s wallet? Ask again once the regulators are through with them.

Written by turbotodd

July 30, 2019 at 9:35 am

Don’t Send in the Telegram!

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On the subject of Puerto Rico and the Telegram chat hacks: Am I the only person out there wondering how this happened if Telegram is supposed to be so secure?

I’ve looked on Telegram’s Twitter feed and blog, and it’s a major no comment, bury your head in the sand.

Rumors have abounded today that PR Gov. Rickardo Rossello will be resigning, but I’ve received no telegrams to that effect just yet.

Did nobody everywhere learn anything from Iran Contra??!  If you don’t want it to become a scandal, don’t write it down. ANYWHERE!  The Nation magazine went long on this story a few years ago now.

On to the much bigger story of the day: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has hit Facebook with a $5 billion fine and new privacy checks, reports a lot of outlets, including The Verge.

In the agreement filed today, the FTC alleges that Facebook violated the law by failing to protect data from third parties, serving ads through the use of phone numbers provided for security, and lying to users that its facial recognition software was turned off by default. In order to settle those charges, Facebook will pay $5 billion — the second-largest fine ever levied by the FTC — and agree to a series of new restrictions on its business.

Aside from the multibillion-dollar fine, Facebook will be required to conduct a privacy review of every new product or service that it develops, and these reviews must be submitted to the CEO and a third-party assessor every quarter. As it directly relates to Cambridge Analytica, Facebook will now be required to obtain purpose and use certifications from apps and third-party developers that want to use Facebook user data. However, there are no limits on what data access the company can authorize to those groups once the disclosure is made.

NOTE: I own a few Facebook shares, but I still have four words…fox (still)…guarding…henhouse.

On the streaming wars front: Netflix is launching a $2.80 per month mobile-only subscription plan in India, although it’s restricted to one mobile device at 480p def.

Will Netflix expand this option to the U.S. and other markets to gain more share? Stay tuned!

And on the funding front: Payroll and HR software maker Gusto raised a $200M Series D co-led by Fidelity and Generation Investment Management, and camping listing/booking platform Hipcamp raised a $25M Series B led byy Andreessen Horowitz, bringing its total take to $41.8M. 

Don’t forget to bring the marshmallows!

Written by turbotodd

July 24, 2019 at 3:01 pm

Turbo’s Take: Mary Meeker Internet Trends 2019

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Mary Meeker is speaking again at this year’s Code Conference, and delivering her always highly-anticipated Internet Trends Report.

Following is a CC from Vox’s highlights.

  • Some 51 percent of the world — 3.8 billion people — were internet users last year, up from 49 percent (3.6 billion) in 2017. Growth slowed to about 6 percent in 2018 because so many people have come online that new users are harder to come by. Sales of smartphones — which are the primary internet access point for many people across the globe — are declining as much of the world that is going to be online already is.
  • As of last week, seven out of 10 of the world’s most valuable companies by market cap are tech companies, with only Berkshire Hathaway, Visa, and Johnson & Johnson making the Top 10 as non-tech companies:
  1. Microsoft
  2. Amazon
  3. Apple
  4. Alphabet
  5. Berkshire Hathaway
  6. Facebook
  7. Alibaba
  8. Tencent
  9. Visa
  10. Johnson & Johnson
  • E-commerce is now 15 percent of retail sales. Its growth has slowed — up 12.4 percent in Q1 compared with a year earlier — but still towers over growth in regular retail, which was just 2 percent in Q1.
  • Internet ad spending accelerated in the US, up 22 percent in 2018. Most of the spending is still on Google and Facebook, but companies like Amazon and Twitter are getting a growing share. Some 62 percent of all digital display ad buying is for programmatic ads, which will continue to grow.
  • Customer acquisition costs — the marketing spending necessary to attract each new customer — is going up. That’s unsustainable because in some cases it surpasses the long-term revenue those customers will bring. Meeker suggests cheaper ways to acquire customers, like free trials and unpaid tiers.
  • There are a number of problems ahead for targeted advertising, including GDPR impact and other regulation, as well as pushes for more privacy from hardware and software companies like Apple and Facebook.
  • Americans are spending more time with digital media than ever: 6.3 hours a day in 2018, up 7 percent from the year before. Most of that growth is coming from mobile and other connected devices, while time spent on computers declines. People are also getting more concerned about time spent online, as more than a quarter of US adults say they’re “almost constantly online.”
  • Innovation at tech companies outside the US has remained robust. Popular areas include fulfillment, delivery, and payments.
  • Images are increasingly the means by which people communicate, as technology developments like faster wifi and better phone cameras have encouraged a surge in image taking. More than 50 percent of Twitter impressions now involve posts with images, video or other media; Twitter used to be text-only.
  • The number of interactive gamers worldwide grew 6 percent to 2.4 billion people last year, as interactive games like Fortnite become the new social media for certain people. The number of people who watch those games — rather than participate — is swelling, too.
  • As privacy becomes a bigger selling point, expect more options to make your online communications safe. In Q1, 87 percent of global web traffic was encrypted, up from 53 percent three years ago.
  • The internet will become more of a cesspool: Getting rid of problematic content becomes more difficult on a large scale, and the very nature of internet communication allows that content to be amplified much more than before. Some issues: 42 percent of US teens have experienced offensive name-calling online, terrorists are being radicalized on sites like YouTube, and social media has encouraged increased political polarization.
  • Of the top 25 most valuable tech companies, 60 percent were founded by first- or second-generation immigrants. They employed 1.9 million people last year. New stricter immigration laws could negatively impact the tech industry and perhaps prevent our next Elon Musk from getting to the US.
  • Health care is steadily becoming more digitized. Expect more telemedicine and on-demand consultations.

My takeaways:

  • There’s lots of confusion ahead for advertising, advertisers, and advertisees. Who’s going to “own” the advertising audience moving forward with a battle royale going on between handset and other device makers, developers, third-party advertising entities, e-retailers and advertising disrupters, particularly as issues of accountability, brand safety, and privacy/data regulation get fought over. And in the U.S., expect to see more First Amendment issues get challenged.
  • Mobile has become the killer app, for both advertising and, ergo, for content consumption. While broadcast TV will continue to thrive if, for no other reason, real-time sporting events, increasingly the eyeballs that matter (Generations Y, Z, and beyond…including millennials) will be watching content on something other than a TV via a mechanism that is IP-based and on the move. Agencies, advertisers, platforms, and all points beyond must adjust if they want to stay relevant.
  • E-payments are (including mobile) are, in my estimation, still a killer app that are ridiculously underserved and undertapped in the U.S. Go to China and the whole ecosystem is about WeChat mobile payments, from street vendors to Louis Vutton, and we’re still fiddling around with credit cards in the West. Expect Facebook’s play here to challenge the banking and payment status quo, and possibly even the notion of nation-state fiat currency. They have 2+ billion potential customers. And you thought the U.S. Congress wasn’t just ready for dealing with data legislation?
  • Encryption as a panacea for our privacy ills will have to be counterbalanced by the needs of the national security and sigint apparati around the globe. Don’t expect the nation state to go dark on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc. without a fight (and who knows, maybe the encryption’s already on, but so are the virtual microphones). Remember US v Apple iPhone Encryption when President Obama was still president? Yeah, that.
  • Re: Data and antitrust legislation, this is one to keep an eye on. The U.S. so far has outsourced its privacy legislation to the EU vis a vis GDPR (save for some state-based privacy legislative initiatives from the likes of California), and so far as antitrust and tech giants are concerned, there’s such a rich target set and so little resources. Regulators are going to have to pick their battles selectively, and even then, know that their efforts could put giant balls and chains around the ankles of the very innovation they would argue keep us apace on China and ROW. Also, as IBM’s Ginni Rometty says, “Data is the next natural resource.” If China generates data like oil spouting out of the original Spindletop, and the U.S./Europe stand around twiddling their thumbs and capping their virtual wells, the West could rapidly find itself at a competitive disadvantage in the Great AI Wars of the 21st Century, if not outright handicapped.
  • At the same time, we won’t be able to completely tariff our way forward (with China and Huawei, or anybody else). Uncle Sam and the academy need to continue to focus on what made Silicon Valley (and, ergo, America) great in the first place: The embrace of intellectual and academic freedom and research, smart immigration policies that encourage the best and the brightest to come to America…and (should they so choose) stay; forward looking investments and pure R&D from Uncle Sam (not unlike the Space Race, which led to so many of the innovations we enjoy today)…and, you know, rational, enlightened thinking about the future of technology and the positive (and negative) impacts it can have.

I reserve the right to have further reactions as I more fully absorb the entirety of Meeker’s always fascinating and helpful report.

Written by turbotodd

June 11, 2019 at 12:40 pm

Posted in 2019, AI, privacy

Tagged with , ,

Breaking Up Facebook

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Wow.

Check out this opinion piece in The New York Times by Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes, entitled “It’s time to Break Up Facebook.”

I’m going to assume it will defacto get him de-listed from the Mark and Priscilla Christmas card list.

In it, Hughes call for the breakup of Facebook into multiple companies, among other remedies:

First, Facebook should be separated into multiple companies. The F.T.C., in conjunction with the Justice Department, should enforce antitrust laws by undoing the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions and banning future acquisitions for several years. The F.T.C. should have blocked these mergers, but it’s not too late to act. 

And as to how such a breakup would work:

Facebook would have a brief period to spin off the Instagram and WhatsApp businesses, and the three would become distinct companies, most likely publicly traded. Facebook shareholders would initially hold stock in the new companies, although Mark and other executives would probably be required to divest their management shares.

Hughes also calls for a new agency “empowered by Congress to regulate tech companies. Its first mandate should be to protect privacy.”

Hughes tips his hat to the European General Data Protection Regulation, a law that “guarantees users a minimal level of protection.” He then writes that:

A landmark privacy bill in the United States should specify exactly what control Americans have over their digital information, require clearer disclosure to users and provide enough flexibility to the agency to exercise effective oversight over time. The agency should also be charged with guaranteeing basic interoperability across platforms.

Next, and finally, Hughes suggests this new agency should create guidelines for acceptable speech on social media:

This idea may seem un-American — we would never stand for a government agency censoring speech. But we already have limits on yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, child pornography, speech intended to provoke violence and false statements to manipulate stock prices. We will have to create similar standards that tech companies can use. These standards should of course be subject to the review of the courts, just as any other limits on speech are. But there is no constitutional right to harass others or live-stream violence.

As for Hughes being the billionaire pot calling the Facebook kettle black? Well, he has an answer for that, too:

I take responsibility for not sounding the alarm earlier. Don Graham, a former Facebook board member, has accused those who criticize the company now as having “all the courage of the last man leaping on the pile at a football game.” The financial rewards I reaped from working at Facebook radically changed the trajectory of my life, and even after I cashed out, I watched in awe as the company grew. It took the 2016 election fallout and Cambridge Analytica to awaken me to the dangers of Facebook’s monopoly. But anyone suggesting that Facebook is akin to a pinned football player misrepresents its resilience and power.

If it took you you until the Cambridge Analytica and 2016 election fallout to “awaken” you to “the dangers of Facebook’s monopoly,” one must ask the question were you living under a rock all those years, Mr. Hughes?

However, I’m not completely convinced of Hughes’ remedies, nor of the argument that Facebook is a monopoly.

There have been plenty of other social networks and messaging apps out there (and still are…LinkedIn…WhatsApp…Twitter…). It’s called consumer choice, and Facebook built the better mousetrap.

Just because we don’t like some of the mice it catches doesn’t mean we should break it up into Baby Zuckerbergs. 

As for data protection, I think there’s more room and inclination to maneuver there, and even Mark Zuckerberg himself has called for a GDPR-like set of regulations to provide even more consumer protection. Figuring out a solution on that front could prove a hamstring, however.

And even there I would proceed with caution.

Big data is going to fuel the next wave of innovation and serve as fuel for the next generation of artificial intelligence battles of the 21st Century, particularly when notable competitors like China have no qualms whatsoever about utilizing all varieties of data to power that engine.

Are we going to put a governor on the engine of AI before the plane has even left the ground?

Stop. Think. Deliberate. And then think some more.

It’s easy for Chris Hughes to want to dampen the Facebook bonfire after he’s cashed out his billions.

But if Facebook and its business model really bothers you that much, the easiest solution, and the one with the most market power, is this: Delete your account.

Nothing will send a clearer, unencrypted message to Mark Zuckerberg and team than that.

Written by turbotodd

May 9, 2019 at 11:13 am

Posted in 2019, artificial intelligence, privacy

Tagged with

Floating Unicorns and Robert Mueller

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This is a big news day. Too much to keep up with.

Yes, the long awaited Mueller investigation report has been made public, and we mere mortals can finally read about what did or didn’t happen in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. I got my copy from the "failing" New York Times.

But there’s also big news in Tech. Pinterest and Zoom went public today, and Zoom shares are already zooming up some 75%. Pinterest began trading up 25%. Will these unicorns continue to prosper? Stay tuned.

I’ve got bad news for those of you who were excited about the coming Samsung Galaxy Foldable phones. The Verge (and other reviewers) have indicated the Folds have started to…well…uh…fold. Actually, the pictures they’ve shared show more of a crease, bu The Verge author indicated whatever you call it that "its just enough to slightly distort the screen."

Here’s more:

It’s a distressing thing to discover just two days after receiving my review unit. More distressing is that the bulge eventually pressed sharply enough into the screen to break it. You can see the telltale lines of a broken OLED converging on the spot where the bulge is.

FYI, the list price for the Fold is $1,980, and is expected to be available next week. Could we soon see a repeat of earlier Samsung recalls?

Me, personally, I’m find with my perfectly flat iPhone 7 plus for the time being, and I’m not an Android (although some might argue otherwise).

If you’re looking for a place to invest, you might want to look towards the future of crypto. Not necessarily just the currency, but also the pick and shovel plays that plan on putting the blockchain to work for business.

According to a report from Reuters, VC investments in crypto and blockchain startups this year have surpassed $850M, and reached $2.4B over 117 investments last year. Blockchain may be struggling to find a place it can call home, but that’s not keeping away the angel wolves willing to throw it a few million Bitcoins its way!

And whoopsie, I almost forgot: Facebook had another privacy breach. This time, they "unintentionally uploaded" 1.5 million people’s email contacts without their consent.

Writes Business Insider:

Since May 2016, the social-networking company has collected the contact lists of 1.5 million users new to the social network, Business Insider can reveal. The Silicon Valley company said the contact data was "unintentionally uploaded to Facebook," and it is now deleting them.

The more things change…

Written by turbotodd

April 18, 2019 at 11:27 am

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