As of today, Iāve sent off my evidence to the US Better Business Bureau so they can continue their investigation of Facebook. The DAA was too gutless to investigate but the BBB, by contrast, gives a damn.
Let me note here that I have nothing against Facebook making a buck. I just ask that it do so honestly, that it does what it says.
Facebook claims that you can opt out of targeted advertising, and that you can edit your preferences for that targeting, the same was what Google did in 2011. It was revealed then that Google lied, and the Network Advertising Initiative was able to follow up my findings and assured me it would work with them to sort their procedures out.
If you opt out of targeting, Facebook continues to gather information on you. The BBB noted to me in April that if I could show that Facebook was targeting based on personal information I did not provide (e.g. if you fed in a fake location as your home in Facebook and it serves you ads based on your real location), then it could be a violation of their principles. This is pretty easy to prove: just go to any ad in your feed, click on the arrow in the right-hand corner, and click āWhy was I shown this ad?ā In most cases, your actual location will have something to do with it.
Secondly, there is a potential link between the preferences Facebook has stored on youāthe ones they say they would not useāand the ads you are shown. Facebook claims you can edit those preferences but as I showed last week, this is not true. Facebook will, in fact, repopulate all deleted preferences (and even add to them), but thanks to the company itself providing me with the smoking gun, I was able to connect those shown preferences with ads displayed between March and December 2016. It casts doubt on whether Facebook is actually targeting me based on freely given information, especially since, for example, I am being served ads for Oh Baby! when I donāt have kids. (Oh Baby!, meanwhile, is one of the preferences in its settings.)
My Google investigation took three months; this took between eight and nine.
Weāll see if the BBB will take quite as longāthey might, because they say they tend to be inundated with complaints about Facebook, but find that most cases do not violate their principles. But Iāve shown them not only examples along the lines of what they suggested, but a few that go even further.
This is BS. You can remove all you like (mine has tended to be completely blank for most of 2016) but in the last few days, Facebook has been repopulating this page. This is despite my having Facebook interest-based ads switched off. Thereās actually no need, then, for Facebook to keep these, and many of them are inaccurate anyway. Yet various advertising bodies, of which Facebook is a member, are too scared to investigate.
Here’s my ads’ preferences’ page on June 14. I had been keeping an eye on this, and keeping it clear since March 2016.
Even as late as October 25, 2016, there were very few things in there. While Facebook shouldn’t be collecting this data, at least it allowed me to delete itāas it claims you can. And no, I’ve never heard of Mandy Capristo.
Regularly since November 27, 2016, Facebook has repopulated this page, putting all deleted preferences back. This was how it looked on November 28. Within hours Facebook would repopulate it, so any deleting is useless.
Not only has Facebook repopulated the page, by today it’s added even more preferences. I’ve been through five rounds of repopulation now.
More BS (links and a lot of comments here and here). Thereās plenty of evidence to show that Facebookās so-called detection systems target certain accounts. A computer identified as having malware, necessitating a user to download their so-called anti-malware products, still works for other users, who arenāt confronted with the same prompts. Companies like Kaspersky clam up and even delete comments when you begin asking them about the programs Facebook gets you to download. Once downloaded, they canāt even be found in your installed programsā list: they are hidden. No one in the tech press wants to cover this. Scared? Weāve our theory about why they want to slow down some users, and thereās some suggestion that you can ignore the warnings and log into Facebook several days laterāthe same thing that has happened to users in the past whose Facebook accounts have become faulty due to their database issues. Coincidence?
āWeāre also testing a new tool that will let people provide more information about their circumstances if they are asked to verify their name. People can let us know they have a special circumstance, and then give us more information about their unique situation.ā
There have been instances of the drag community, for instance, whose accounts have simply vanished with no means of defending themselves and giving Facebook those circumstances. Facebook claimed that the above applied to the US only in December 2015. However, in 2014, Chris Cox of Facebook wrote, āOur policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name.ā Try telling that to the people who have lost their accounts and never given a chance to give their side of the story.
Facebook has 1Ā·79 billion monthly active users.
While I canāt counter this myself, thereās plenty of evidence to show that the site has problems with spammers and bots. If you run a large enough group, thereās a good chance that the majority of new members in your queue are not human. Therefore, you might not actually be reaching the number of people you want in Facebookās calculations. Since the ad preferences have some very strange information on users, Iām not that convinced about the accuracy of targeting anyway. Facebook is complicit in spam by supporting click farms, according to Veritasium.
Above: Facebook’s latest move: ensuring that notifications for messages go to its own app. If you choose not to install it, tough. (Actually, you can reach your messages if you had bookmarked your old message index, and through some digging you can still get there. However, your old habit of clicking on the number won’t work any more.)
I notice that Facebook has dropped to third in Alexa this week, but none of the tech press has covered it.
I know the usual arguments: Alexa isn’t the best way of measuring audience stats; everyone (including us) has dropped because of the way Firefox has changed its status bar, thereby omitting a lot of users from its sample; Facebook itself will have recorded no real drop in user numbers (though we also know a lot of these so-called active users are bots and spammers, as we see heaps each day); and that Alexa doesn’t capture mobile data, where people are spending far more time these days.
It does seem rather hypocritical, however, given that the same tech press applauded and wrote heaps of articles when Facebook overtook Google in Alexa. Some hailed it as the rise and rise of Facebook. There were tones of how unassailable it had become.
However, its number-one position was remarkably fleeting and it quickly dropped back to second, where it has been for years, apart from that one blip.
Facebook’s position has been usurped by Google’s YouTube. I make no predictions on whether this is fleeting or not, but it doesn’t look good for Facebook. I just don’t see any YouTube hate out there. If you dislike reading the comments from the world’s keyboard warriors sitting in their underwear at home, a few cookie settings will render them invisible. YouTube becomes a remarkably tolerable site.
Earlier this month, a report found by my friend William Shepherd showed that personal sharing on Facebook had dipped by 21 per cent.
I have said for years that ‘Facebook is the new Digg,’ a place where news is shared, not personal updates, though it appears it has taken a while for the company to realize this. Looking at some of the bugs on the site over the years, I’m not surprised Facebook missed it: for months it acted as though its entire user base was in California, with the website stuck at the end of each month till it got to the 1st in its home state. Now it is kicking users off over fake malware accusations when it’s more likely, and this is my guess based on how the site has behaved over the years, that its databases are dying. Liking, sharing and commenting fail from time to time.
Given this, and its many other problemsāincluding the breach of policies outlined by some of the groups it participates in, impacting on user privacyāno wonder it’s experiencing this drop.
I see personal updates again that I saw a day before, because relatively few of my 2,300 friends write them any more. The trend has shifted, and a lot of users must have noticed what I did many years ago.
At Medinge Group we have long advocated transparency in brands, and Facebook’s actions run counter to a lot of what we have proposed.
We believe that sooner or later, people wise upāsomething we said about Enron at one of the first meetings I attended in 2002.
In fact, the way Facebook behaves tends to be combative, and for a 21st-century firm, its attitudes toward its user base is very 20th-century, a “them and us” model. It’s not alone in this: I’ve levelled similar accusations against Google and I stand by them. Since my own battle with them over malware, and a more recent one over intellectual property (where I was talking to a Facebook employee who eventually gave up when things got into the “too hard” basket), I’ve found dozens of other users via Twitter who have been kicked off the service, yet are running clean, malware-free machines. The blog post I wrote on the subject has been the most-read of the pieces I have authored in 2016, and certainly the most commented, as others face the same issue.
While both giants will claim that they could not possibly have the sort of one-to-one relationship with their user bases in the same way as a small business can, it’s clear to me that big issues aren’t being flagged and dealt with at Facebook. When I read the link Bill sent me, my first reaction was, ‘Why did it take so long for someone there to realize this?’
Let’s not even get started on the way both companies treat paying their fair share of tax.
It’s not about the number of people experiencing any given issue, it’s about the severity of the issue that a small number of people experience. By the time a larger vocal minority experiences it, the damage has gone a lot further.
Facebook does listen to some of these cases: I remember when it limited bot reports to 40ā50 a day, at a time when it was not uncommon to find hundreds a day on the site. I complained, and after a few months, Facebook did indeed remove this limit.
But I regard that as an exception.
Its forced downloads of so-called malware scans that even its supplier refuses to answer for (could they have nefarious purposes?), and now the latest last weekāensuring that all message notifications in a mobile browser link to its Messenger app, resulting in a 404 for anyone who does not have it installedāare rendering the website less and less useful. In my case, I just use it less. We’re not going to download privacy-invading apps on our phoneāwe’re busy enough. We want to manage our time and if that means we only get to Facebook messages when we are at our desks, then so be it. Some might abandon it altogether.
Its other move is ceasing the forwarding from www.facebook.com to m.facebook.com on mobile devices, so if you had the former bookmarked, you’re not going to see anything any more. Some browsers (like Dolphin) came with the former bookmarked. Result: a few more legit users, who might not know the difference, gone. If there’s no trust, then regardless of the money you have, you’re not a top brand, nor one that people really wish to associate with.
Facebook, of course, knows some of this, which is why it has bought so many other firms where there’s still personal sharing, such as Instagram and Whatsapp.
It knows if there’s another site that comes along that gets public support, as it did when it first started, people will abandon Facebook en masse.
Curiously, even this past week alone, it seems intent to hurry them along. There must be some sort of corporate goal to see if it can reach fourth, just like Flight of the Conchords.
When I said in January that Facebook’s and Kaspersky’s anti-malware malware (there’s no better term for it, though of course they will deny that it was malware) had it in for McAfee, what did I mean?
As some of you know, I fell for Facebook’s insistence that I download its malware if I wanted to gain access to the site, and no, I was not phished. This is a “feature” that Facebook and Kaspersky have bragged about.
After you download the program from Kaspersky, that company refuses to tell you how to remove it from your computer. It doesn’t appear in your installed programs’ list. I put a very polite comment at their blog entry on the subject, but it was never approved. They don’t want to help people who were laboured with this unnecessary and invasive software. I once thought highly of Kaspersky, but their willingness to collaborate with Facebook, their opaqueness on this matter, and the earlier (unproven) accusations that they were party to faking malware to harm rival products have made me highly wary of the firm. I’ll never purchase anything from them because of their behaviour, at least till I see some change that they are willing to get with the programme as far as transparency and integrity are concerned.
Thanks to Reddit, I learned how to remove what I could, but the fact remains that after the whole FacebookāKaspersky scan for non-existent malware, McAfee would not work properly any more. This wasn’t due to any other malwareāI had run a very comprehensive series of legitimate malware scans guided by an expert in Germany at Bleeping Computer in the wake of this incident, and confirmed all was well. As far as I could tell, the only noticeable change to my system was what Facebook put on.
I was eventually forced to remove McAfee after 27 years of using their products, in favour of Avira. This is why: whatever was left on the computer kept fighting McAfee to turn itself off (above right, and video below). My Windows computer didn’t like the idea of having no antivirus program. I had attempted to reinstall McAfee once already, which stopped this behaviour for about a week. McAfee Virtual Technician could not resolve it, and I never got very far with McAfee support (as opposed to the incredibly helpful people on their forums). Over a month after Facebook forced its download on me, I was still paying the price of following their instructionsāwhen we should know by now that anything these idiots tell you cannot be of any advantage to the user. Sometimes, when you get their warnings at 3 a.m., you don’t necessarily think as clearly as you would at 3 p.m.
I don’t know how many hours I wasted on this in total, but I know I have saved many users a lot of time. For many days I found a lot of other Facebookers forced to do the same, and gave them some simple advice so that they would not fall into the same trap. Others have come to this blog: I’ve had some decent traffic around the two posts I wrote on the subject.
People really need to know that not only is Facebook messing around with your settings and tracking you, they are putting things on your computer. I’m glad, then, that I will principally remain there for a few messages, and page and group administrationāthe latter very necessary given all the bots and spammers that now plague the website. I’m sure I can’t be alone in spotting numerous spammers per day, spammers which Facebook often does nothing about when reported. That, too, should make us wonder.
A few years ago, I discovered that Google was monitoring and gathering user preferences even after one had opted out. Google would initially put an opt-out cookie that went with your browser when you first opt out, which is exactly what every other ad network doesābut, then, within 24 hours, it would replace it with its standard cookie and begin tracking you again. It counted on people not returning to their ad preferences page, and the ploy may have worked for some two years before I discovered it, and reported it to the Network Advertising Initiative, who confirmed the error.
The NAI says that Google has remedied that, and I trust that it has. It didnāt stop Google from hacking Iphone users the following year, circumventing the āDo not trackā feature on the Safari browser, till they got busted by the Murdoch Press.
It seems these big Silicon Valley firms think they are a law unto themselves, as is evidenced by their approach to taxation, for instance, and it appears Facebook is now doing the same thing as Google when it comes to getting advertising preferences on you. In their world, user preferences are something to be spat on, not observed.
Facebook has often switched things on in its user preferences that you had switched off earlier, but I donāt remember them having touched those settings for a few years. But a leopard doesnāt change its spots. Recently, I discovered that Facebook had indeed turned on my advertising preference tracking, under āAds based on my use of websites and appsā. I had it set to āNoā; a month ago, I discovered this was set to āYesā.
I promptly switched it off, but had discovered that Facebook had compiled quite the dossier on me on January 20. Had I agreed to it, this would have been fine; and I use Facebookās targeting myself from time to time marketing to users that I believe have agreed to be tracked and marketed to.
Above: Facebook compiled a big dossier on my preferences for its ad targeting, though when you open it up, there are entries that bear no resemblance to what I like.
However, there are two worrying points here. The obvious one is Facebook disrespecting user preferences and collecting data on usāand there has been plenty of debate on just where that data go thanks to Mr Snowden. Secondly, for marketers, the data that Facebook has gathered are, to some degree, laughable.
As I reviewed and deleted I discovered things in there that I had no interest in whatsoever. In the time that Facebook had gathered data on me, it had supposedly built up a profile on me that was made up of over 1,000 points (above is the summary, though I have expanded this out to have a good read). I found, in my profile, that I was supposedly into search engine marketing, Westpac, dentistry, NASSCOM (not sure what this is), radar, cosmetology, unmanned aerial vehicles, ClickZ, Marabou (chocolate), miniskirts, high-heeled footwear (yes, I can understand that publishing a fashion magazine might have added these), National Basketball Association, the Houston Astres (who?), Leicester City FC, TNA Knockout, the Australia national rugby union team (fortunately, the All Blacks were accurately recorded), World Tag Team Championship (WWE), and the Authority (professional wrestling); I discovered that Facebook thinks Occupy Wall Street is a āReligious Centerā. Now, some of these will have come from websites I may have browsed at, but that doesnāt necessarily equate to my liking these things: what if you had browsed an article about the arrest of a child molester? Donāt ask me where the Aussie rugby and wrestling come from, as I donāt visit their sites or even news articles about either.
I spent considerable time deleting all of them, doing myself and Facebook a favour. Naturally, I switched off the tracking.
Above: My ad preference tracking is switched off. End of story? Unfortunately, not: Facebook doesn’t care what you’ve put in here.
I do think it is positive that Facebook reveals this, as it could have kept our preferences hidden, as it has done for years. It is only right that consumers are given a choice.
However, where are the ethics to continue doing it after a user has switched it off?
Because thatās exactly what Facebook does, and, like Google, you canāt pretend to me that these are all accidents. These are companies that believe they can do whatever they like, and intentionally have created systems to do so.
Interestingly, when I approached the US DMA about this data-gathering on January 22, I received no response, unlike the NAI, which got back to me after I furnished proof of Googleās activities. At that point I had not told them who was doing it, I simply asked them what its position was, with its code of conduct, if a member were to gather data on a person even after that person had opted out.
Within two days, Facebook had built up a new profile about me, of just over 100 items. I checked with the DAA, which has a website where you can see if the opt-out cookies are present, and it confirmed that Facebookās was. It seems, then, that Facebook does not honour its own opt-out cookie, exactly the same as Google. Whether it uses this data or not is immaterial: it shouldn’t be gathering them for the duration of the time I choose to be opted out. I havenāt approached the DAA yet, but I will do after I get everything together.
The items, incidentally, were still laughable; even more so, because of the smaller number. By the 24th, I was apparently a fan of Bandcamp and the company Excite (remember them?), but to my recollection I had not visited any site about either. And the next day there were a few dozen data points, where apparently I liked B movies, Berlin (the band), the immune system, the MG ZR, Frank de Boer, Gracia Baur, sandals, Presbyterianism, the Mandarin language, and Trinidad and Tobago. Again, where this all came from, I have little clue.
Top: Within two days, Facebook had a number of points about me, despite my having chosen to have its advertising-preference tracking switched off. It’s Google all over again. Above: The DAA confirms that Facebook’s opt-out cookie is present, although as I’ve discovered, it makes no difference.
And so on. Every few days Iād go in there, have a peek, and have a laugh, and noted that my tracking preference was still set to āOffā.
I have accused Facebook of arrogance and this is yet another example. Iāve also accused them of incompetence.
Youāll have got to this point wondering why I still use it if I dislike the tracking. For a start, I shouldnāt have to put up with user preferences being ignored, if the setting has been provided, and if Facebook itself has been notified (I have contacted them). And as long as I have an account, which, unfortunately I need to administer business pages and groups, the tracking will continue, even if I do not use any features for my personal Timeline. (In fact, I hardly do any more; to the point where Facebook always has, in my feed, a top post showing me what I did x years ago when I log in; reminding me, āGosh, didnāt we have it good together?ā liked a jilted lover.) By my own choice, I use Facebookās messaging a lot (but not its app) and some very close friends contact me exclusively through that, and Iām going to have to continue there, too, because there is some utility. I also realize the irony of having a “like” button on this blog.
In other words, Iāve minimized my activity with the site where I realistically can, and right now I donāt care if I can no longer like, post, share or comment, which was becoming a very, very regular bug with Facebook anyway. (Itās now getting more commonplace, as other friends begin getting the same symptoms with increasing frequency; it seems I hit the point before they did.)
Like with Google, whose privacy gaffes saw me minimize my contact with them, Iāve de-Facebooked where I can; and I accept I can go further (e.g. regular logging out and cookie-blocking). Iāll see where things go after I contact the DAA.
Iāve always been surprised when I see Google or Facebook appear on any ātop brandsā lists. Itās branding 101 that a strong brand must have loyalty, awareness, positive associations, perceived quality, as well as proprietary assets, based on the model from David Aaker, and implicit in this, I always thought, was trust. You can neither be loyal to something you donāt trust, nor can you have positive brand associations toward it, nor perceive an untrustworthy thing to possess quality. According to a survey from a consultancy, Prophet, which looked at over 400 brands across 27 industries, polling nearly 10,000 customers, we donāt trust either Google or Facebook. Neither makes it into the top 50; those that make it into the top 10 are Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Netflix, Nike, Chick-fil-A, Amazon, Spotify, Lego, and Sephora. Google slots in at 55th, and Facebook at 98th.
To me, the Prophet approach makes far more sense, as for yearsālong before Edward Snowden revealed the extent of us surveillance under PRISMāI had been blogging about privacy gaffes and other serious issues behind both companies.
People may find Google and Facebook to have utility and enjoyment, yet we willingly volunteer plenty of private information to these sites. We do not trust what they do with this information. Adweek notes that in a separate survey, Facebook was the least trusted brand when it came to personal information, making it worse than the US federal government. There have been so many occasions where users have found certain privacy settings on Facebook altered without their own intervention; and Iāve constantly maintained that, with the bots and spammers I encounter daily on the social network, its claims of user numbers are difficult to accept. In fact, if you have Facebookās advertising preferences set to reject tracking, the site will not stop doing so, compiling a massive and sometimes inaccurate picture of who you are. What it does with that, given that you have told the site that it should not use that information, is anyoneās guess. It makes you wonder why that data collection continues. At least Google (now) stops tracking advertising prefĀerences when you ask it to.
These surveys indicate that consumers are wising up, and it opens both Google and FaceĀbook up to challenge.
Google dethroned the biggest website and search engine in the world when it was released, so no oneās position is guaranteed. Duck Duck Go, a search engine far better at privacy, has chipped away at Googleās share; and I find so much Facebook fatigue out there that it could follow Myspace into irrelevance. When I hear those speak of these two companiesā positions as being unassailable, I take it with a grain of salt.
We already have seen peak Facebook (and Twitter, for that matter), for when it came to Super Bowl stats this year, there was a massive 25 per cent drop in activity. Interestingly, despite the trending #RIPTwitter hashtag last week, I don’t agree with those who think Twitter is heading into oblivion, for the simple fact that the site is less invasive and seemingly more honest than Google and Facebook. Those same experts, after all, said that Google Plus would be the Facebook-killer, while I consistently disagreed from day one.
The Medinge Group predicted correctly in the early 2000s when it was stated that consumers would desire greater integrity and transparency from all their brands, something reflected in our book, Beyond Branding. I donāt believe that we are so different when it comes to dealing with online brands.
In the last 24 hours, author Holly Jahangiri found an illustration depicting child pornography on Facebook that had been reported by many of her friendsāonly for Facebook to deem it constantly acceptable, despite what it states in its own terms and conditions. It was only when she Tweeted about it that Facebook finally responded publicly; and only when she involved a US government agency did the page disappear. The pressure of accountability like that against dishonest companies tells me Twitter will be around for a while yet.
@facebook apparently, hardcore digital kiddie porn doesn't bother you at all. In spite of this section in your "Community Standards."
Other than for the landline, Iāve never bought a phone before. Each cellphone has come as a result of a company plan or a loyalty gift from the telco, but when my Huawei Ascend Y200 began needing resets several times a dayāIāve had computer experts tell me this is the phone, or the SD card (like any endeavour, itās hard to find agreement; this is like saying that the problem with an axe lies with the handle or the blade)āI decided to replace it. Plus, having built websites for clients it seemed only fair to have a device on which I could test them on an OS newer than Android 2.3, and after a few days I have to say the Meizu M2 Note has been worth every penny. (The Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 was on the shortlist but the Meizu performed better in online tests, e.g. this one.)
You can find the specs on this device elsewhere, in reviews written by people far more au fait with cellular technology than me, but a few things about arriving in the mid-2010s with such a gadget struck me as worth mentioning.
First, I opted for a blue one. Theyāre usually cheaper. Since I have a case for it, I donāt have to put up with the colour on the back anyway, so why not save a few bucks if the guts are the same?
Secondly, itās astonishing to think in five inches I have the same number of pixels as I do in 23 inches on my monitor.
Thirdly, cellular battery technology has come a heck of a long way. (Down side: you canāt replace it in this device.)
But hereās an absolutely wonderful bonus I never expected: itās Google-free. Yes, the Flyme OS is built on Googleās Android 5.1.1, but the beauty of buying a phone from a country where Google is persona non grata is that Iām not stuck with all the crap I had on the Telstra Clear-supplied Huawei. No Google Plus, Google Play Store, Gmail, Google Maps and all the other stuff I had to switch off constantly. I could have had the phone rooted but it never was a big enough priority, even with my dislike of the big G.
I donāt know how much ultimately gets back to Google through simply using its OS, but Iāve managed to keep away from signing in to any of their services. In this post-Snowden era, I regard that as a good thing.
The phone booted up for the first time and gave me English as an option (as the seller indicated), so the deviceās OS is all in the language Iām most fluent in. However, itās not that weird for me to have Chinese lettering around, so the apps that stayed in the Chinese language are comprehensible enough to me. There is an app store that isnāt run by Google, at which all the apps are availableāInstagram, Dolphin Browser, Opera Mini, plus some of the other admin tools I use. Nothing has shown up in my Google Dashboard. The store is in Chinese, but if you recognize the icon you should be all right, and the apps work in the language youāve set your OS to.
The China-only apps arenāt hard to dispose of, and the first ones to go were Netease, Dianping (I donāt even use an Anglo dining review app, so why would I need a China-only one?), Amap (again, it only works in China, and it can be easily reinstalled through Autonavi and its folded paper icon), and 116114, an app from a Chinese telco. Weibo I donāt mind keeping, since I already have an account, and I can see some utility to retaining Alipay, the painting app, and a few others.
And having a Google-free existence means I now have Here Maps, the email is set up with my Zoho āboxes, and 1Weather replaces the default which only gives Chinese cities.
What is remarkable is that the Chinese-designed default apps are better looking than the western counterparts, which is not something you hear very often. The opposite was regularly the case. A UI tipping-point could have happened.
I also checked the 2G, 3G and 4G frequencies against Vodafone New Zealand’s to ensure compatibilityāthere are at least two different M2 Notes on the market, so caveat emptor. Vodafone also recommends installing only one SIM, which suits me fine, as the other slot is occupied by a 64 Gbyte micro-SD card.
The new Flyme-based-on-Android keyboard isnāt particularly good though, and I lose having a full set of smart quotes, a proper apostrophe, and en and em dashes, but far more obscure Latin-2 glyphs are accessible. Iām not sure what the logic is behind this.
I had an issue getting the Swift keyboard to install, but Iāve opted for Swype, which, curiously, like the stock keyboard, is missing common characters. Want to type a g with a breve for ErdoÄan? Or a d with a caron? Easy. An en dash? Impossible.
This retrograde step doesnāt serve me and there are a few options in Swype. First, I had to add the Russian keyboard, which does give an em dash, alongside the English one, though I havenāt located a source of en dashes yet. Secondly, after copying and pasting in a proper apostrophe from a document, I proceeded to type in words to commit them to my personal Swype dictionary: itās, heād, sheāll, wonāt, etc. This technique has worked, and while itās not 100 per cent perfect as thereāll be words I missed, itās better than nowt.
I see users have been complaining about the omissions online for three years, and if nothing has been done by now, I doubt Swypeās developers are in a rush to sort it.
Swypeās multilingual keyboards are easy to switch between, work well, but I havenāt tried my Kiwi accent on the Dragon-powered speech recognition software within.
Going from a 3Ā·2 Mpixel camera to a 13 Mpixel one has been what I expected, and finally I get a phone with a forward-facing camera for the first time since the mid-2000s (before selfies became de rigueur). Itās worth reminding oneself that a 13 Mpixel camera means files over 5 Mbyte are commonplace, and thatās too big for Twitter. Iām also going to have to expect to need more storage space offline, as I always back up my files.
I havenāt found a way to get SMSs off yet (suggestions are welcome), unlike the Huawei, but transferring other files (e.g. photos and music) is easier. Whereas the Huawei needed to have USB sharing switched on, the Meizu doesnāt care, and you can treat it as a hard drive when connected to your PC without doing anything. That, too, has made life far easier.
Iāve been able to upgrade the OS without issue, and Microsoft (and sometimes Apple) would do well to learn from this.
It leaves the name, Meizu (é ę), which in Cantonese at least isnāt the most pleasant when translatedāletās say itās all a bit Goblin King. Which may be appropriate this week.
Iām not one who ever gets a device for imageās sake, and I demand that they are practical. So far, the Meizu hasnāt let me down with its eight cores, 16 Gbyte ROM and 4G capability, all for considerably less than a similarly equipped cellphone that wears an Apple logo. And itās nice to know that this side of Apple, one can have a Google-free device.
An interesting weekend on Facebook. Despite regaining access, Iām not allowed to post links (with the accusation that my computer is infectedāsee above), and after considerable research, I know this to be completely untrue. The Facebook malware accusations are targeted at certain users and, from the tiny sample of four that have responded to me, we are all heavy users. Just as I theorized back in June 2014 when Facebook shut down for me for 69 hours, some of us have reached a limit on their servers.
Boffins, and Facebook, say that thatās impossible, but there have been countless signs of that over the years. Most were recorded on Get Satisfaction before Facebook shut down that community (how convenient). Among them were things such as Facebook being unable to show me every video I had uploadedāthe list began at 2011 and earlier ones were omittedāand the many occasions where I could no longer post, comment, like or share. Thereās a direct parallel to my experiences on the former Vox.com, which Six Apart confirmed in 2009 and which they had no official answer for.
Whatās the best course of action if Facebook accuses you of malware and forces you to download one of their programs from Trend Micro, F-Secure or Kaspersky? Delete your cookies. Once you do that, you can regain access, though, like me, youāll have a limited account where link-sharing is impossible. Initially, I was able to share a few links after my accessing Facebook, but it eventually became a blanket block, with the odd one getting through (two a day in my case).
If you want to be extra-safe, run the free version of Malware Bytes. The free one wonāt conflict with your existing antivirus set-up (Iām not trying to do Malware Bytes out of money), but, like the rest of us, youāll likely discover that your system is clean.
One woman got around this by downloading a new browser, although she was also limited on the link-posting.
Whatever you do, do not listen to these big firms. Facebook, Google et al are, as Iāve been documenting over the years, particularly deceptive. Iāve still had to deal with the remnants of Facebookās scan switching off McAfee, nearly two days later.
Facebookās apparently had many complaints about this since 2014, so Iām hardly the first to encounter it. Blaming malware for their own databasing issues is cheap, but enough people will believe itāeven with my mistrust of these big Silicon Valley firms I still did their malware scan, not thinking I had a choice if I wanted to access the site again. What it really did during the scan is anyoneās guess.
Iād rather they come clean and tell people: you are allowed x posts a day, x links a day, and x photos and videos a day. I can work around that. But if they came clean about this and the number of click-farm workers and bots plaguing the site, what will that do to their share price?
And isn’t it ironic I can presently share more, and have more freedom of speech, on Weibo, monitored by the Chinese Communist Party?
PS.: As of the last week of April, I have had two reports that deleting cookies does not work, but switching browsers does. Facebook appears to find a way to identify you, your regular browser and your IP address together, without cookies.
P.PS.: Mid-May, and from my other thread on this topic, in the post-postscripts: āAndrew McPherson was hit with this more recently, with Facebook blocking the cookie-deleting method in some cases, and advises, “If you get this, you will need to change your Facebook password to something very long (a phrase will do), delete and clear your browsers cache and history, then delete your browser, then renew your IP address to a different number and then reinstall your browsers.” If you cannot change your IP address but are using a router, then he suggests refreshing the address on that. Basically, Facebook is making it harder and harder for us to work around their bug. Once again, if you sign on using a different account using the same āinfectedā computer, there are no problemsāwhich means the finger of blame should remain squarely pointed at Facebook.’
Above: While the Kaspersky scan proceeded, McAfee was knocked out and could not be switched on. Coincidence?
Unlike most people, I have options open to me, so I began to go on to Facebook using several different methods. A VirtualBox containing XP on the same computer was fine, if incredibly slow while Kaspersky was doing its thing. (Think about Windows XP on a 386.) Lubuntu was fine as well, as was Mac OS X. I Tweeted the McAfee community link, and thought it odd that it did not appear in Facebook (I have my Twitter set up to post there). I then tried to paste the link into Facebook manually, whereupon, in Lubuntu and Mac OS, I was told that my computer was now infected with either a virus or malware. Unlike Windows, I had the option of telling them they were in error, and I was able to continue using the machines.
This really sounds like Facebook and Kaspersky have it in for McAfee and, possibly, rival products, if the scan knocks out your choice of antivirus and anti-malware program, and if the mere mention of mcafee.com inside Facebook results in a warning box saying your computer is infected.
Above: On a Mac, I couldn’t even tell people about the post on mcafee.com. The second I did, Facebook said my computer was infected. The same thing happened on Lubuntu. Facebook accuses you of infection on the mere mention of mcafee.com.
Eventually, the entire system froze, and while I could still move the mouse about, I couldnāt access the task bar or go to other programs.
I was forced to do a hard reboot.
But youāre asking now: was I ever infected? No. Itās Google all over again. Peter, the very knowledgeable McAfee support tech who came to my aid many years ago, was present again and put me on to two other programs after this restart. Getsusp analysed my system for malware, and, you guessed it, found nothing. Malware Bytes did the same, and found some PUPs (potentially unwanted programs), all of which I knew about, and I had intentionally installed. Theyāve been present for years. In other words, two other malware scanners told me my system was clean. Malware Bytes did, however, restore McAfee as the correct antivirus program, exactly as Peter had predicted.
He also suggested a system restore, which sadly failed, with Windows giving the reason that an antivirus program was running. Having restored this system once before (after some bad advice from Microsoft), I knew it couldnāt be McAfee. The only difference on this computer: I had had Kaspersky doing its Facebook scan. It appears that Facebook and Kaspersky donāt want you restoring your system.
I had fixed the newer issues, but the original one remained: I couldnāt get on to Facebook. The Kaspersky scan never finishes, incidentallyāyouāre stuck on 62, 73 or 98 per centāand while not having a personal Facebook is no great loss, I have businesses that have presences there.
I stumbled across a Reddit thread where others had been forced to download antivirus programs by Facebook, and, fortunately, a woman there had found where hers resided. In my case, it was at C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Temp\FBScanner_331840299. Deleting this, and all cookies mentioning Facebook and Kaspersky, restored my access.
What to do if you ever come across this? My advice is to, first, run Malware Bytes, but ensure you run the free version, and do not opt for the trials. Once youāre satisfied your computer is clean, head into your cookies and delete all the Facebook ones, and any from the antivirus provider it recommends.This second Reddit thread may be helpful, too. I donāt know if this will work completely, but anything is preferable to following Facebookās instructions and wasting your time. I really need to stop following instructions from these big firmsāyouād think after all these years, Iād know better.
PS.: I found this video from last July which suggests the malware accusations have nothing to do with your computer set-up:
In addition, I cannot paste any links in Facebook. The situation began deteriorating after I regained access. Initially, I could paste and like a few things, but that facility eventually disappeared. Regardless of platform, I get the same error I did on the Mac yesterday (see screen shot above). Liking things results in the below error, and the wisdom there is to wait it out till Facebook staff get back to work on Monday.
P.PS.: Holly Jahangiri confronted the same issue as I did a few days later. She was smarter than me: she didn’t download the anti-malware malware. Have a read of her post here: other than that one difference, it’s almost play for play what happened to me for four days. She’s also rightly frustrated, as I am, by Facebook’s inaction when it’s legitimately needed.
P.P.P.PS.: I’m beginning to hear that deleting cookies will not work (April 26). Facebook seems intent on having you download their suspicious junk. In those cases, people have switched to another browser.
P.P.P.P.PS.:Andrew McPherson was hit with this more recently, with Facebook blocking the cookie-deleting method in some cases, and advises, ‘If you get this, you will need to change your Facebook password to something very long (a phrase will do), delete and clear your browsers cache and history, then delete your browser, then renew your IP address to a different number and then reinstall your browsers.’ If you cannot change your IP address but are using a router, then he suggests refreshing the address on that. Basically, Facebook is making it harder and harder for us to work around their bug. Once again, if you sign on using a different account using the same “infected” computer, there are no problemsāwhich means the finger of blame should remain squarely pointed at Facebook.
P.P.P.P.P.P.PS.: January 28, 2017: David has come up with a great solution in the comments (no. 103). You can fool Facebook into thinking you are using a Mac by changing the user-agent. He suggests a Chrome Extension. I have Modify Headers for Firefox, which might work, too.
Check your YouTube settings: even if you switch off your search history, Google may turn it on again
Here I was, telling friends that 2014 marked the first year in which I didnāt have to call Google out over something, be it privacy breaches, deceptive conduct, or simply not measuring up to its claims.
As usual, I spoke too soon, as tonight I stumbled across another example of Google saying one thing and doing another. All in the quest to get data on you, without you knowing.
Last time that happened, Google had to change its practices regarding its Ads Preferences Manager, a system where it claimed you could opt out, where it then inserted an opt-out cookie, but, when you werenāt looking, removed the opt-out cookie and began tracking your preferences again. Now, if only it sold diesel cars, thereād be an uproar in the US media.
But it was all sorted very quietly, with the Network Advertising Initiative forcing Google, its largest member, to stop its deceptive conduct.
This was a year before the Murdoch Press exposed Google for hacking Iphone Safari browser users, for which the company was eventually fined $17 million, or four hoursā earnings. Again, if only it was selling diesel cars, the fine would be a thousand times greater.
This oneās related: the tracking of your history on YouTube. Google wants to track your data so it can customize advertising to you, since Doubleclick, its advertising unit, makes milliards a year. I had suspected it was going on in July 2014, since the site was delivering a large number of motoring advertisements to me, but needed to gather more proof. Like the investigation I made into Ads Preferences Manager four years ago, I should have checked Googleās settings; at the time I didn’t, thinking that Google would be incredibly stupid, callous and ignorant to manipulate user settings again after getting busted twice in the last five years for disrespecting them. But when the punishment is four hours’ earnings, with hindsight, of course, it wasn’t afraid.
I have had my YouTube history turned off for years, ever since I first discovered Googleās cheating over monitoring. However, in 2012, YouTube had switched this on again, without my intervention. You could argue that I had forgotten, that I must have switched it back on myself, as unlikely as that would be. Nevertheless, I was sufficiently concerned that I blogged about it in November, noting that I had found myself with a YouTube viewing and search history earlier that year. Itās something I would have deleted and turned off again in 2012.
What did I find when I checked my YouTube history today, now that Google has revamped its account management interface? You guessed it: a search history. Itās not completeāit doesnāt have everything Iāve searched forābut it does begin again on July 23, 2013. This jumps ahead to August 14 and 23, then October 3; June 23 and 30, July 3 and 4, 2014; then August 24 through 27, 2015. You have to ask yourself: how does Google have a search history for someone whose search history was turned off in 2012 (and even before then)? The only conceivable answer to me is that Google switches it on again without your permission, and it was indeed on again when I visited the Privacy Check-up pages today.
I also have a watch history, with videos in March, April, November and December 2012.
I shanāt be deleting either, as this will serve as a record of the fact Google still messes around with our privacy settings regularly. But I will say again, today, that I had to āpauseā the search history for YouTube again, and Iāll check in again later, although not three years later, to see if Google switches it back on.
I was surprised to find that I have a YouTube account, and Google gave me the option to delete my zero videos, playlists, subscriptions and subscribers. However, if I proceeded, and I might after this investigation, the above histories would also vanish.
We may have another Ads Preferences Manager case on our hands, one where the US and tech media will just shrug its shoulders and proclaim Google to be the Almighty on which their jobs hinge. At worst, some states’ attorneys-general will go after them for another few hours’ pay.