Posts tagged ‘privacy’


Facebook: the year in review

19.12.2021

If you’d rather not read every Facebook entry I made on my blog this year, here’s a helpful video by Simon Caine on all the shitty things they’ve done over 2021. As we still have a couple of weeks of 2021 left to go, I’m betting they will still do something shitty that deserves to be in this video.

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Posted in culture, internet, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


Xiaomi’s tiny idiosyncracies

11.12.2021

There were a few surprises switching to Xiaomi.
   First up, it asked me to do a voice identification by saying these four words, 小爱同學. Only thing is, it doesn’t understand Cantonese.

   The default weather app was able to give me details based on exactly where I am (location service turned on, and I was given fair warning that it would be). That’s superior to Meizu’s default weather app, and the after-market Android one I downloaded years ago for my old Meizu M2 Note.

   This was a bit disturbing for a Chinese-spec phone: there’s still a Google app in there. I wonder if it sent anything before I restricted it, then deleted it. Permissions included being able to read your contacts’ list. I didn’t agree to Google getting anything.

   It prompted me to turn on the phone finder, even after we had established that I’m in New Zealand and everything was being done in English. Nek minnit:

   I’m finding it remarkable that a 2021 phone does not incorporate the time zone into file dates. I expected this to have been remedied years ago, but I was surprised to see that the photos I took, while the phone was on NZDT, had their timestamp without the UTC plus-13 offset. As a result, I’ve had to set the phone to UTC as I’ve had to do with all prior phones for consistency with my computers’ work files. The plus side: unlike my previous two phones, I can specify UTC rather than a location that might be subject to daylight saving.
   Unlike the M2 Note, but like the M6 Note, it doesn’t remember my preferred mode when it’s being charged by a computer via USB. I have to set it every time. The newer the technology, the more forgetful?
   Otherwise it’s proved to be a very practical successor to the Meizus, MIUI is prettier than Flyme (although I’m missing that skin’s translation features and the ability to select text and images regardless of the program via Aicy), and on the whole it’s doing what I ask of it, even picking 5G in town. Importantly, it receives calls and SMSs, and the battery isn’t swelling up.

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Posted in China, design, technology | No Comments »


Some surprises on day one with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G

07.12.2021



Top: Decent enough specs for the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G. Above: Very respectable download speeds (in the header) as the phone updates 71 apps.

My Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G is here, and it’s proved better than the reviews suggested.
   First up, kudos to the seller, YouGeek on Aliexpress, who not only double-checked to see that I wanted the Chinese version, but was considerate enough to send me, without any prompting, a New Zealand power adapter. The wrapping was the most secure I’ve ever seen from any Aliexpress vendor, like a hefty transparent Michelin man.
   DHL did the delivery two days ahead of schedule, which pleased me no end.
   The phone itself surprised me. I imagined 6·53 inches would be too big and 199 g too heavy, but neither has come to pass. It’s marginally taller than the outgoing Meizus but not ridiculously so, and as I have large hands, the width is fine. I haven’t noticed the weight increase, either.
   The blue finish, which isn’t available on the export Note 9T 5G, is probably the best colour of the three on offer, and frankly I don’t care if the back is plastic or metal. As long as it keeps the bits inside, it’s fine.
   What also isn’t on offer for export is precisely these specs: MediaTek Dimensity 800U running at a maximum of 2·4 GHz, 6 Gbyte of RAM, and 128 Gbyte of internal storage. The model code is M2007J22C.
   Other surprises: it’s Android 11 (security update, October 1, 2021) running MIUI 12·5. Now, whether it was straight out of the box, I can’t swear to, since it prompted me to do an update not too long after I switched on and logged in.
   It did try to get me to give a voice print to unlock its features by saying four Chinese words. Naturally I said them, but it seems Xiaomi doesn’t recognize Cantonese! The fingerprint scanner wasn’t that easy to set up—it took numerous attempts before it recognized my finger—but I got there, and now it’s programmed, the home screen does launch quickly.
   The first order of business was to take myself off ad personalization (so easy, they even take you to the screen during set-up), then download Bromite as the browser, to stop using the clumsy default; and replace Sogou keyboard with Microsoft Swiftkey. The rest was getting the apps to mirror the old phones’, which was pretty simple thanks to various APK sites such as APK Pure. The only one that did not function at all (a blank screen after the logo) was Instagram, but you expect Facebook, Inc. products to be buggy. An Uptodown download of a version from June 2021 solved that.
   Despite what other reviewers found, I discovered that the watermark on the photos was switched off by default. I’ve seen the grand total of one advertisement on the default apps, so the notion that Xiaomi is heavily ad-driven doesn’t seem to be the case with mine. There is a possibility that the combination of Chinese spec, English language, and a New Zealand IP address isn’t one that advertisers want to reach. There are far fewer app notifications than I got on the Meizus.
   After updating the OS, there were 71 apps that also needed the same treatment. Those came down at lightning speeds, even on wifi, at over 20 Mbyte/s.
   I’ve synced my messages, call logs and contacts, though surprisingly the phone could not work out that the New Zealand 02 numbers were the same as +64 2, and those had to be manually added. The old Meizu M2 Note had no such trouble back in 2016.
   The default typeface choice in MIUI is much easier on the eyes than the default Android fonts.
   Interestingly, the default music player here also fails to pick up local music on an SD card, rendering it useless, much like Meizu’s (are they copying one another, to have the same bug?). Once again, it was InShot’s Music Player to the rescue, and it works fine here. Sadly, I do have to relink a lot of the album covers.
   Screenshots aren’t as intuitive, as the volume control invariably appears if you do the power–volume switches’ combination, but a screenshot feature in the pull-down menu does the job.
   The battery life is interesting, as I’ve used it for about six hours since it was charged up to 100 per cent, and it fell to 65 per cent in that time. That tells me the 5,000 mAh is good for 18 hours of sustained usage, which included setting up, Bluetooth-linking it to the car and the M2 Note, running apps, using Here Maps for some navigation, and using some mobile data. I haven’t viewed any videos yet, and I don’t play any games. I’ll be interested to see how it fares on a more regular day: earlier reviews had led me to believe it could last over a day. I’m sure it can without the heavy use I’ve put it through in its first six hours.
   I understand that with the pace of change in China, this phone, launched this week one year ago, is already obsolete, but as far as I’m concerned, I hope I’m future-proofed for another six years—that’s how long the M2 lasted before things like its short battery life and inability to receive some calls became an issue. (And this was despite the M6 Note having come into service from 2018 with a short break to get serviced at PB.) It’s been a very pleasing first six hours, without the stress of having to put on a Chinese OS myself, and continuing to be Google-free.

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Posted in China, design, internet, New Zealand, technology | 1 Comment »


Let’s do some maths on Facebook’s user numbers

03.11.2021

Bear with me on some maths here.
   Facebook says it will delete a milliard ‘faceprints’. In The Guardian: ‘Facebook will delete the “faceprints” of more than a[n American] billion people after announcing that it is shutting down its facial recognition system due to the “many concerns” about using the technology.’
   We know that you can turn on (and off) facial recognition in Facebook, to enable tagging. This came pretty suddenly, if I recall correctly. I turned it off immediately.
   The fact it came suddenly suggests that Facebook had already compiled these faceprints, because we all had the feature if we wanted to keep it. They must have been working on it behind the scenes for a while, before introducing it to every user.
   Now Facebook says it holds over an American billion, i.e. a milliard, of them.
   If we all had them, as we could turn them on and off at will, then it follows that Facebook only has just over a milliard users.
   This gels with their own research into new accounts, where they found that up to 56 per cent of them were owned by existing users. I’ve taken the higher figure here but, frankly, I think they’re underestimating.
   Now, Facebook claims it has 2·9 milliard users. Once again, just ask yourself: know anyone who’s recently joined? Exactly. Most of us don’t. So the user base shouldn’t be rising at the rate they claim. (We all know there are tons of bots on there.)
   On the assumption (you may think it’s a wild one) that their research is representative across all of Facebook, that 44 per cent of all accounts are legitimate and the remainder are owned by the 44 per cent, then:

2,900,000,000 × 0·44 = 1,276,000,000

   Remember not long ago I posited that Facebook’s actual user numbers were closer to a milliard?
   I don’t believe I’m far off, and this latest news might, if the logic holds up, suggest I’m right.

PS.: Thanks to Ton Zylstra for inspiring more maths on this. If Facebook finished 2020 on just under 2,000 million users, and now claims 2,900 million, yet the number of social media users increased last year by 400 million, you can pretty easily see their numbers do not add up.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


Afterpay wants my account details (even though I don’t have an account) to investigate its own activity

19.10.2021

Usual story: go into the Facebook advertising preferences, spot organizations that I’ve never dealt with somehow possessing private information about me that they’ve uploaded to Facebook.
   One noticeable one was Afterpay, both its Australian office (no reply on Twitter) and the ‘Afterpay USA Business Manager’ (the US office did reply).


   I’ve never had an Afterpay account. I’ve seen their TV commercials. One of the Lucire crew attended Australian Fashion Week, although I registered him before Afterpay became a sponsor. So how does this company have my details? How does anyone?
   The US office asked me to go into DMs on Twitter. And as this is (a) public policy and (b) their replies look copied-and-pasted, I doubt I am breaching any confidences here.
   My first DM:

Hi folks, I don’t know if I can tell you any more than what was in the Tweet.
   Somehow you have my private information and according to Facebook you uploaded it to their site for your marketing purposes.
   I’ve never dealt with you so how you have any info on me is a mystery.
   Obviously it would be nice to get me off your lists and off Facebook.

   Their first reply was this. From here you can already tell they didn’t read my first message.

Hi Jack,

We would love to investigate this for you.
   Before we do, we need to verify your identity to protect the privacy of your account.
   Can you please confirm:

* Your full name
* The mobile phone number registered to your account
* The address registered to your account
* Date of Birth
* Email registered to your account

   Polite reminder: It is essential you maintain the personal information we hold on our systems – this means keeping things like your current mobile number and email address updated, and updating your home residential address when you move home.
   We collect and handle personal data in accordance with our Privacy Policy (afterpay.com/en-au/privacy-…).

Thank you,

   My reply:

Hi there, that’s the thing, I don’t have an account with you, so you shouldn’t have any of this. Could you please just search for my name and delete anything tied to it? I can only assume you’ve bought someone else’s list.
   Obviously I’ve seen you in TV commercials and to my knowledge that’s the sum total of our contact.

   The next one was positive:

Sure! I can search your name to see if you have an account with us.
   That’s your full name?

   Me:

Thank you, and yes!
   I won’t have an account though, and if I do, that’ll be pretty suspicious since I’ve never signed up …

   This morning, we were back to square one:

I would love to investigate this for you.
   Before we do, we need to verify your identity to protect the privacy of your account.
   Can you please confirm:

Your full name
The mobile phone number registered to your account
The address registered to your account
Email registered to your account

Thanks,

   Three minutes later:

Hey Jack,

Without verifying your identity in order to protect the privacy of your account, we can not provide any account details.
   If you don’t want to provide any requested information via this chat, you can email us or give us a call to discuss this matter directly.
   Please contact us via +1855 289 6014 or use the link below to email us:
help.afterpay.com/hc/en-us/artic…
   I hope this was helpful! Please feel free to reply to this chat if you have any further question or concern.

Have a great day,

   You can tell what I’m thinking here:

We are going around in circles here. I don’t have an account so how can I provide information tied to an account? Can you please explain how you would do this?
   Please see your message at 1.47 p.m. GMT. You said you would use my full name, which you have, to see if I have an account with you. What was the result of that?
   I’m betting you came up blank …

   I tried their link and none of the options really apply here.
   We know that an unethical US-owned company operating in Australia did once obtain my private information through Lumino, the dentistry franchise, and I accordingly kicked up a big stink about it. And as Afterpay is Australian, are they somehow connected?

Updates since original post
Afterpay, October 20, 1.33 p.m. GMT:

Upon further investigation, I was not able to match your name: Jack Yan to any Afterpay account.

Have a good day,

   It took two days for them to realize this, despite my saying so from the beginning. My response:

Thank you, this is what the original Tweet was about. It’s precisely that I don’t have any relationship with Afterpay that makes this perplexing.
   Now that we’re on the same page, hopefully you can finally start dealing with my original Tweet.
   What I asked there was: why you have uploaded private information about me to Facebook? That’s what they’re claiming—both you and your Australian head office did so over a two-day period.
   This means you must have some info about me and as I do not have an account with you, I would like to know how you got it.
   And as Facebook claims you have uploaded it to their platform, I would like you to remove it from both their and your databases.
   Trust me, if this was routine, where I could have just used your FAQs and your website, I would have done so.

   I’ve yet to hear from privacy@afterpay.com over this matter but I only contacted them today.
   Since they have obstructed for two days it makes you wonder what they’re hiding. Over in Australia they’ve already done this:

Finally, some progress (sort of), at 4.30 p.m.:

Thank you for your patience
   We have reviewed your request to erase your personal data. The right to erase only applies to a customer who has an account with Afterpay. As we believe none of these circumstances apply to your situation, we have not option to upload private information to Facebook nor we can do if you had an account with Afterpay.
   You can read more about the purposes we use personal data for in our privacy policy afterpay.com/en-CA/privacy-…
   Please let me know if I can assist in any other way.

   Not a full answer but my feeling is that this is as far as things can go with their US office. If I don’t hear from their Australian head office in a week, I’ll get in touch with our Privacy Commissioner. I know, Facebook lies, but on those earlier occasions when I chased up firms who had done this, the honest ones took my details off. (One less honest one denied it happened but then my details disappeared!)
   My final DM for now:

Thank you. The privacy policy probably allows for uploads to business partners—I had read it when you first sent me the link—so you are technically covered should an upload have taken place, but I appreciate your going as far as you can in this thread.

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What I do when someone uploads my private information on to Facebook

14.10.2021

I can’t be the only person who does this. This is one of the few things that I do on Facebook. Removing off-Facebook activity is another.
 

 
   1. Let me check my Facebook advertising preferences. Who has been uploading my private information to Facebook without my permission? Hmm, Ramp, @rampcard, that’s new. I’ve never heard of you.
 

 
   2. ‘They uploaded or used a list to reach you.’ I never gave you my details, so the fact you’re uploading them to a platform I disagree with offends me.
   3. Therefore, I’m going to click ‘Don’t allow’ for both these options. You can’t show me ads, and no one can use your list to do so, either. And I’m just going to click ‘Don’t allow’ for the second option just to limit things more. (The graphic is after I’ve done both.)
 

 
   4. Just to make sure I never hear from you on this platform, I’ll block your page as well.
 

 
   There are dozens of companies I’ve had to do this to. Netflix and Spotify were big offenders, but so are some of our government departments. Even places I like and shop with: if I haven’t given you permission, then you’ve earned yourself a block. I don’t want to hear from you via Facebook or Facebook products. Own goal is the applicable football term here.
   Very few T&Cs around the place mention the uploading of private information to Facebook like this. There’s usually some mention of the like buttons and what they do, and tracking by Facebook Pixel, but not this.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


Admiral doesn’t understand that I’m not blocking ads, only trackers

21.07.2021

It’s pretty bad that Admiral, which detects whether you are using an ad blocker or not, now advises this with Privacy Badger.
   Let me make this very clear: I am not against advertising on websites. I have advertising on our websites.
   I am against tracking by people such as Google. And that is all I am blocking: the tracking part. There is a difference.
   Frankly, if you need to track in order for your ads to work, then there is something deeply wrong with your model. You’re actually doing your clients out of exposure.
   This goes for the ad networks that work with us, too. If you have Privacy Badger installed and both you and I miss out on ads on our sites, then so be it.
   What is so wrong about using the context of the page and delivering ads to suit? Everyone still wins with this model and we don’t feel as violated.
   So I won’t be disabling Privacy Badger, thanks.
   It also means I’ll be happy to charge a premium on advertisers who want to appear on our site because the content is relevant—and because the non-tracked stuff will at least get seen by an engaged public.

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July 2021 gallery

02.07.2021

Here are July 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.

 
Sources
Star Trek: 1999 reposted from Alex on NewTumbl. Didn’t Star Trek and Space: 1999 share a producer?
   Publicity shot for French actress Manon Azem, from Section de recherches.
   Charlie Chaplin got there first with this meme. Reposted from Twitter.
   I realize the history page in Lucire KSA for July 2021 suggests that you need a four-letter surname to work for Lucire.
   The 1981 Morris Ital two-door—sold only as a low-spec 1·3 for export. Reposted from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Ford Capri 1300 double-page spread, reposted from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Alexa Breit photographed by Felix Graf, reposted from Instagram.
   South America relief map, reposted from Twitter.
   From the Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei episode ‘Abflug’, to air July 29, 2021. RTL publicity photo.
   Lucire’s Festival de Cannes coverage can be found here. Photo courtesy L’Oréal Paris.
   Last of the Ford Vedette wagons, as the Simca Jangada in Brazil, for the 1967 model year. The facelift later that year saw to the wagon’s demise.
   Ford Consul advertisement in Germany, announcing the 17M’s successor. Interesting that the fastback, so often referred to as a coupé, is captioned as a two-door saloon, even though Ford did launch a “standard” two-door. More on the Consul in Autocade here. Image from the Car Factoids on Twitter.

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Posted in cars, China, culture, design, France, gallery, humour, internet, marketing, New Zealand, publishing, Sweden, technology, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »


Cream cheese bagels make them angry

25.06.2021

When I was in NYC in the summer of 2001, I stood at a Lower Manhattan bakery trying to order a cream cheese bagel for a friend of mine. The proprietor was busy making something. After close to five minutes’ waiting the counter, I asked if I could be served. His response: ‘You want to fight me?’ My sense is that cream cheese bagels have upset Americans for decades. This is merely part of the trend.

   Note: I am not sure if the words cream and cheese mean the same thing there.

Poking around the bowels of Facebook, I found this. Apparently I had invited some contacts to join Facebook. It’s probably time to delete them, since they were smart enough not to respond.

   I’ve no desire to allow them to create shadow profiles, because of something I did in 2007–8 before I knew shadow profiles even existed. Luckily I do not have Messenger, though I believe I briefly downloaded it in 2012 before deleting it soon after. I must have been careful to not let it import any contacts.

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Posted in culture, USA | No Comments »


You can remove and turn off your off-Facebook activity

14.06.2021

I chanced upon a mention of off-Facebook activity on this page, and here’s a good page explaining what it is. (That first link has a lot of advice on what you can do to improve your privacy if you have Facebook, much of which I’ve mentioned over the years. But it’s very handy to have it all in one place.)
   Apparently, you can now edit your off-Facebook activity—of course it’s something they don’t advertise.
   If you head to www.facebook.com/off_facebook_activity you’ll see all the organizations that have sent your online interactions with them to Facebook. In my case, there were 265 who had sent them activity since the beginning of 2020. Good news: you can delete everything in there (bearing in mind this could break things that you have plugged in via Facebook), and turn off future activity.

   I am very glad to note that Lucire has never sent information to Facebook.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, technology, USA | 1 Comment »