Posts tagged ‘USA’


Facebook is getting away with it again—even though it knew about Cambridge Analytica

25.07.2019

Thanks to my friend Bill Shepherd, I’ve now subscribed to The Ad Contrarian newsletter. Bob Hoffman is one of the few who gets it when it comes to how insignificant the FTC’s Facebook fine is.
   Five (American) billion (American) dollars sounds like a lot to you and me, but considering Facebook’s stock rose on the news, they’ve more than covered the fine on the rise alone.
   Bob writes: ‘The travesty of this settlement guarantees that no tech company CEO will take consumer privacy or data security seriously. Nothing will change till someone either has to pay personally or go to jail. Paying insignificant fines with corporate money is now an officially established cost of doing business in techland and—who knows?—a jolly good way to boost share prices.’
   There’s something very messed up about this scenario, particularly as some of the US’s authorities are constantly being shown up by the EU (over Google’s monopoly actions) and the UK’s Damian Collins, MP (over the questions being asked of Facebook—unlike US politicians’, his aren’t toothless).
   The US SEC, meanwhile, has released its report on Facebook, showing that Facebook knew what was happening with Cambridge Analytica in 2015–16, and that the company willingly sold user data to the firm. SEC’s Stephanie Avakian noted, ‘As alleged in our complaint, Facebook presented the risk of misuse of user data as hypothetical when they knew user data had in fact been misused.’ You can read the entire action as filed by the SEC here.

In its quarterly and annual reports filed between January 28, 2016 and March 16, 2018 (the “relevant period”), Facebook did not disclose that a researcher had, in violation of the company’s policies, transferred data relating to approximately 30 million Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica. Instead, Facebook misleadingly presented the potential for misuse of user data as merely a hypothetical investment risk. Moreover, when asked by reporters in 2017 about its investigation into the Cambridge Analytica matter, Facebook falsely claimed the company found no evidence of wrongdoing, thereby reinforcing the misleading statements in its periodic filings.

   As I have been hashtagging, #Facebooklies. This is standard practice for the firm, as has been evidenced countless times for over a decade. The settlement: US$100 million. Pocket change.

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Posted in business, internet, media, politics, technology, USA | No Comments »


‘If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?’

25.07.2019

I didn’t read this thinking of Trump, which is what the Tweeter intended. I read it thinking of New Zealand. Heard the ‘If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?’ bullshit a lot—I dare say every immigrant to this nation has. English-born American columnist Sydney J. Harris, in 1969, answered it better than I ever could. (I hope the image appears in the embed below, since I see no img tags—it seems reliant on Javascript.) Presumably this is either the Chicago Daily News or the Sun–Times.

   Not a heck of a lot has changed, has it?
   Hat tip to Juan Incognito for the re-Tweet.

PS.: The Sun–Times has run this on its website, and it was from the Chicago Daily News.

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Posted in media, New Zealand, politics, USA | No Comments »


Verizon’s continued hypocrisy borne of pettiness

12.07.2019

Remember Tumblr, the platform owned by Verizon that I left?
   I left because of Verizon’s policies, of placing their corporate agenda ahead of the users.
   I went to NewTumbl instead—a site that Tumblr users might not know about, since Verizon has ensured that searches for its competitor come up empty.
   I was very surprised to find that Verizon Media has opened an account at NewTumbl—a site that they effectively tell their users does not exist.
   And what are they doing on it? Running their sit vac ads for free:


   It’s not technically in violation of NewTumbl’s terms, but what is interesting are their hashtags.
   One of the hashtags is sexy, albeit misspelled as sexu.

   Now, either you have to be sexy to work for Verizon (given the other hashtags used), or they are hashtag-spamming, in the hope their ads will be seen more widely.
   It is, basically, douchebag behaviour—but this also tells us that NewTumbl has them rattled. Why else would they advertise here instead of a regular job site?
   The effect on their brand is very negative—since people can see these ads for what they are: a cheap shot across the bow. This is how petty big US companies are. We see this from Google, so why not Verizon?

PS.: Unlike Big Tech and the bigger players in corporate America, I own up when I learn more. The Verizon account on NewTumbl was revealed to be a fake, and has since been deleted. However, Verizon’s censorship on Tumblr continues (you can’t find NewTumbl but you can find Pornhub—all hail their potential buyers!).—JY

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Posted in business, culture, internet, media, publishing, USA | No Comments »


Reflections about Lee Iacocca—unfortunately, not all of it is positive

03.07.2019


The car Lee Iacocca will be remembered for, the 1965 Ford Mustang on the right.

Before I found out about Lee Iacocca’s passing, on the same day I Tweeted about one of the cars he was behind when he was president of Ford: the 1975 US Granada. Basically, Iacocca understood that Americans wanted style. That really was at the core of his thinking. It’s also why the Granada—really a warmed-over, restyled Falcon that had its roots in the late 1950s—was always compared to Mercedes-Benz models. It was a mass-market American pastiche of the German car, with the same size. It had a grille and hood ornament. But it was frightfully slow, underpowered, and heavy, one of the most inefficient cars that Americans could buy.
   It’s the antithesis of the Mustang, which Iacocca arguably spearheaded, though in his autobiography, he noted that so many people claimed to be the father of the Mustang that he didn’t want to be seen with the mother (or words to that effect—the book’s next to my partner who’s already gone to sleep as I write).
   That was a stylish car, too. It was a Falcon-based coupé. But it could be specified with the right power to match its looks, and it was priced and marketed brilliantly. Ford hit a home run, and Iacocca’s reputation as a car industry guru was sealed.
   He was also the man who came up with the idea for the Lincoln Continental Mark III. No, not the 1950s one (which technically wasn’t a Lincoln), the one that came out in the 1960s (Ford didn’t really follow a sequential numbering system—remember it went Mark, Mark II, III, IV, V, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII). The idea: stick a Rolls-Royce grille on a Thunderbird. It beat the Cadillac Eldorado, and Iacocca finished the ’60s on a high.
   I felt that history hadn’t been kind to the Mustang II, which also came out under Iacocca’s watch. The fact was it was a sales’ hit, at a time when Detroit was reeling from the 1973 fuel crisis. No V8s initially, which in the 21st century looks like a misstep; in 1974 it would have looked smart. Growing up, we didn’t think the II was as bad as history remembers.
   But the US range was, in some ways, lazy. GM was downsizing but Iacocca noted that people were still buying big cars. To give the impression of downsizing, Ford just renamed the Torino the LTD II. Look, it’s a smaller LTD! Not really: here was yet another car on old tech with another pastiche luxury-car grille.
   When Iacocca was fired from Ford, he went to Chrysler, and pulled off his greatest sales’ job yet: to secure loan guarantees from the Carter administration and turn the company around with a range of modern, front-wheel-drive cars. The K-car, and its derivatives, were a demonstration of great platform-sharing. He noted in his autobiography that Chrysler even worked out a way to shave a tiny amount from the length to fit more Ks on a railroad car. And Iacocca’s penchant for style re-emerged: not long after the original Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries, there were fancied up Chrysler LeBarons, and a woody wagon, then a convertible, the first factory US one since the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado. Most importantly, Chrysler got the T-115 minivans on sale before Renault got its Espace out, though after Nissan launched the first MPV, the smaller Prairie. Nevertheless, the minivan was an efficient family vehicle, and changed the face of motoring. Iacocca was right when he believed people want style, because it’s the SUV that has succeeded the MPV and minivan. SUVs are hardly efficient in most circumstances, but here we are in 2019, with minivan sales projected to fall, though Chrysler has managed to stay the market leader in its own country.
   Chrysler paid back its loans years early, and it was under Iacocca that the company acquired American Motors Corp., getting the Jeep brand (the real prize) in the process. And it’s thanks to François Castaing and others who came across from AMC that Chrysler wound up with its LH sedans, the “cab-forward” models that proved to be one of the company’s hits in the 1990s.
   While having saved Chrysler, it was burdened with acquisitions, and in Iacocca’s final full year as Chairman Lee, the company posted a $795 million loss, with the recession partly to blame. The press joked that LH stood for Last Hope.
   It’s an incredible record, with some amazing hits. They do outnumber the duds. But what really mars it is an incident of sexual harassment I learned some years ago that never appears in the official biographies. Now, I don’t have a sworn affidavit, so you can treat this as hearsay. But until I heard that from a good friend—the woman who was harassed—Iacocca was a personal hero of mine. I bought the autobiography. I could forgive the financial disgrace Chrysler was in for 1991—one year out of nearly a dozen isn’t a bad run, even though the writing was on the wall when so much money was spent on acquisitions, hurting working capital.
   I know, his daughters and their kids won’t appreciate what I just said. That it’s wrong to speak ill of the dead, especially when they can’t answer back. You could say that that was the era he was from, in an industry steeped in male privilege—his boss at Ford, Henry the second, was carrying on an affair behind his wife’s back. You might say that one incident that I know of shouldn’t mar this incredible business record. He has left his mark on history. It’s just when it happens to one of your own friends that it’s closer to home, and it’s hard for me to offer the effortless praise I would normally have done if not for that knowledge.

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Posted in business, cars, culture, leadership, marketing, USA | No Comments »


Volvo: boxy, but good

02.07.2019

Long before Mad Men, and before I got into branding in a big way, I had an interest in advertising. One of the greatest send-ups of the industry was the 1990 Dudley Moore starrer Crazy People, set in the advertising industry against a politically incorrect—actually, cruel and inaccurate—look at mental health. It’s one of those films that could never be made today, and for good reason. But there are some gems in it, as Moore’s character, Emory Leeson, embarks on “honest advertising”. It gets him committed to a facility—who ever heard of an advertising agency telling the truth, right?—until his ads become a hit, welcome by consumers who don’t want BS.
   I came across this wonderfully copywritten and set ad from a PR professional in London trying to sell his Nan’s 1981 Volvo 244DL:

   It’s bloody good. The copy kept me engaged—like all good ads used to—and he’s done a reasonably good job with the Volvo Broad headline typeface (it was wider back in the day). The body text type should be Times rather than Baskerville, but considering the exact cut of Times isn’t available digitally (to my knowledge; it’s for larger text, and has very short descenders), there’s no wonder he opted to use another family.
   It got me thinking: I’ve often posted the Crazy People Volvo ad in comments, as a humorous response. However, the ad doesn’t exist in a decent res online. The only ones that have wound up online are from screen captures from the movie. This 22 kbyte file is actually the best one around, save for one on the Alamy stock photo website that I found after the fact:

   I couldn’t re-create the image—I assume the only person who has it (or had it) is the art director of the film, or the photographer that was commissioned—but maybe I could have a go at the type?
   The digital Volvo Broad had to be widened 25 per cent, and I didn’t attempt to match the kerning.
   The body type was the interesting one. I opted for Times Headline, since it wasn’t at a text size, but as I discovered, Volvo used a particular cut that had short descenders and was slightly condensed. I tried to match the leading.
   Therefore, here it is, offered under Creative Commons with attribution to me for the typesetting, please, while noting the image is not mine:

   And sometimes, I use my powers for good.

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Posted in cars, humour, marketing, typography | No Comments »


The playbook used against Wikileaks

11.06.2019

Now for something actually important beyond my first world problems.
   Journalist Suzie Dawson has a fantastic piece outlining how the smear of ‘serial rapist’ is part of the playbook used against senior members of Wikileaks. Her article is well worth reading, especially in light of how the mainstream media have spun the narrative against Julian Assange. He’s not alone: two other men have had campaigns launched against them, with no substantial evidence, thereby diminishing the seriousness of what rape is.
   It is lengthy and well researched, but if you haven’t the time, at least consider the briefer post linked from here.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, politics, publishing, Sweden, UK, USA | 1 Comment »


Huawei without Google: isn’t that a good thing?

21.05.2019

I see Google’s going to stop supporting Huawei as a developer. How is this a bad thing?
   First, Huawei can still get the public parts of Android, since they’re open-source. Secondly, if they don’t get updates ahead of time, so what? When have western software companies rolled out bug-free updates? Based on my own experience, Chinese cellphone developers make stuff that just works, and I’m inclined to trust them more these days.
   Thirdly, no one needs all that Google crap anyway: I always said that if it disappeared overnight, we’d all find replacements within a week. Now Huawei has to—in fact, it already has them.
   Anyone who owns a Chinese phone made for the Chinese market already knows that they have their own app stores. Why do you actually need YouTube through an app when you can browse to the website? Maybe Huawei will do a tiny YouTube app that only surfs to their site for those keen on getting into the Google snooping network. Is a Gmail app really a must if you can set up your phone really easily as an email client to pull from Gmail? As to maps, I’ve been using Here Maps since I’ve had my Meizu M2 Note in 2016, and while it isn’t perfect, it’s more than adequate. Recently I found they had maps of the Chatham Islands when the cars’ sat-nav didn’t.
   All Huawei really needs to do is roll out its own app store to its western phones with decent enough translations, and make sure it’s updated with the APKs.
   I have a better Meizu weather app on my phone than anything I’ve ever found on Google, and I’m sure Huawei has its version.
   I owned a Huawei phone many years ago, although it was from my telco and I never had it rooted. It came with a suite of battery-draining Google junk, including services that you could switch off only to have them restart; but when I was able to get a Google-free phone, I’ve never looked back. When that phone was replaced, I made sure the next one was Google-free as well.
   What’s going to happen is that Google and the US will lose out as Huawei might find itself zooming ahead with a superior app store, and its own developments may outpace the Americans’.
   Corporate America may be patting itself on the back, and their president may think he was doing their bidding, but I think they’ll find themselves weakened.

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Posted in business, China, design, internet, politics, technology, USA | No Comments »


The descent of Instagram

29.04.2019

The descent of software seems to be a common theme among some companies. You get good ones, like Adobe and Fontlab, where (generally) successive versions tend to improve on those gone before. Then you get bad ones, like Facebook, which make things worse with each iteration.
   Facebook Timeline launched to much fanfare at the beginning of the decade, and I admit that it was a fantastic design, despite some annoying bugs (e.g. one that revealed that Facebook staff had no idea there were time zones outside US Pacific time). It was launched at the right time: a real innovation that helped boost my waning interest in the platform. But then they started fiddling with it. I equated it to what General Motors did with the Oldsmobile Toronado: a really pure design upon launch for 1966, with that purity getting spoiled with each model year, till the 1970 one lost a lot of what made it great to begin with. Don’t get me started on the 1971s.
   Facebook had, for instance, two friends’ boxes when they began fiddling. The clever two-column layout eventually disappeared so what we were left with was a wide wall, a retrograde step.
   They’ve spent the rest of the decade not innovating, but by seemingly ensuring that every press announcement they make is a complete lie, or at least something not followed up by concrete action.
   When they bought Instagram, they began ruining it as well. First to go in 2016 were the maps, which I thought were one of the platform’s best features. Instagram claimed few used them, but given that by this point Facebook owned them, any “claim” must be taken with a grain of salt. Perhaps their databases could not handle it. Back in the days of Getsatisfaction reports, there were more than enough examples of Facebook’s technical shortcomings.
   In December I had to replace my phone after the old one was dropped, but now I’m wondering whether I should have spent the money getting it fixed. Because the new phone is running on a skin over Android 7, and it looks like Instagram doesn’t support this version, as far as videos are concerned. So you could say that videos are no longer supported. Since December I’ve had to Bluetooth all my videos to my old phone, peer through what I could make of the details on a dodgy screen, and upload that way, if I wanted a proper frame rate. User feedback on Reddit and elsewhere suggests the cure is to upgrade to Android 8, not something I know how to do.
   It might have been a bug, or it may have been a case of trialling a feature among a tiny subset of users, but for ten months I could upload videos of over eight minutes. As of February 2019, that feature vanished, and I’m back to a minute. I notice others now have it as part of IGTV, but I can’t see anything that will allow me to do the same, and why would I want vertical videos, anyway? God gave us eyes that are side by side, not one above the other. Frankly, when you’ve been spoiled by videos going between eight and nine minutes, one minute is very limiting.
   Now I see with the latest versions of Instagram that the filters don’t even work. For the last few versions, no preview appears for most of the filters; and now it’s constantly ‘Can’t continue editing’ (v. 90) or ‘Your photo couldn’t be processed correctly’ (v. 89).


   Instagram is a steadily collapsing platform and I shudder to think what it’ll be like when they get to the 1971 Oldsmobile Toronado stage. I almost wonder if Facebook is doing the digital equivalent of asset-stripping and taking the good stuff into its own platform, to force us into their even shittier ecosystem. At this rate, others like me—long-time users—will cease to use it and go with the likes of Pixelfed. I stay on there because of certain friends, but, like Facebook, at some stage, they may have to get accustomed to the notion that I am no longer on there for anyone else but a few clients. And they may bugger off, too, sick of every second item being an ad. We’ll have foretold this bent toward anti-quality years before the mainstream media catch on to it, as we have done with Google and Facebook, and all their gaffes.

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Posted in design, internet, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


Tumblr is now where Verizon’s corporate agenda rule

24.04.2019

How quickly an opinion can change.
   I have been on Tumblr for 12 years, signing up in 2007, with my first post in January 2008.
   For most of that time I have sung its praises, saying it was one of the good guys in amongst all the Big Tech platforms (Google, Facebook) that are pathological liars. Even a few years back, you could expect to get a personal reply to a tech issue on Tumblr, despite its user base numbering in the millions.
   Last year, as part of Verizon, Tumblr enacted its “porn ban”. I didn’t follow any adult content, and I didn’t make any myself, so it didn’t affect me much—though I noticed that the energy had gone from the site and even the non-porn posters were doing far less, if anything at all. As mentioned yesterday, I had been cutting back on posting for some time, too. It had jumped the shark.
   While I didn’t agree with the move, since I knew that there were users who were on Tumblr because it was a safe place to express their sexuality, I didn’t kick up as big a stink about it as I did with, say, Google’s Ads’ Preferences Manager or the forced fake-malware downloads from Facebook.
   But what is interesting is how Verizon ownership is infecting Tumblr. I see now that Tumblr can no longer say it supports ’net neutrality because its parent company does not. This isn’t news: the article in The Verge dates from 2017 but I never saw it till now. Of course Verizon would have wanted to keep this under wraps from the Tumblr user base, one which would have mostly sided with ’net neutrality.
   And now, after posting about NewTumbl on Tumblr last night, I see that Verizon’s corporate interests are at the fore again. Tumblr returns no results for NewTumbl in its search, because it’s that scared of a competitor. Apparently this has been going on for some time: some NewTumbl users in February blogged about it. I was able to confirm it. This isn’t censorship on some holier-than-thou “moral” grounds, but censorship because of corporate agenda, the sort of thing that would once have been beneath Tumblr.

   If I was ambivalent about leaving Tumblr before, this has made me more determined. I still have blogs there (including one with over 28,000 followers), so I won’t be shutting down my account, but, like Facebook, I won’t update my personal space any more after my 8,708 posts, unless I can’t find a creative outlet that does what Tumblr currently does and am forced to return. Right now, NewTumbl more than fulfils that role, and it’s doing so without the censorship and the corruption of long-held internet ideals that seem to plague US tech platforms. Tumblr users, see you at jackyan.newtumbl.com.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


More Facebook lies in its ad preferences’ manager?

21.04.2019

As I’ve often said, it’s wise to keep an eye on your Facebook ad preferences’ page. Even if you’ve opted out of Facebook targeting, Facebook will still keep compiling information on you. I see no other purpose for this other than to target you with advertising, contrary to what you expect.
   Facebook also tells you which companies have uploaded their marketing lists to them, and this has been very interesting reading. A load of US politicians whom I have never heard of somehow have this information, and today’s crop is no different.

   I’ve written to Old Mout Cider, which I was surprised to find is part of the Dutch conglomerate Heineken NV, and await an answer, but the biggie here has to be Über.
   Many years ago, I tried the app but could never get it to work. Neither could my partner. Then we started hearing from Susan Fowler and Pando Daily, and that helped confirm that we would never support the company.
   Basically, Über would never let me log in, saying I had exhausted my password attempts after the grand total of one, despite sending a password reset link. My partner could log in but we could never figure anything out beyond that (it had credit card details she had never entered and said we lived next door).
   Concerned about this, I went to Über’s website to request deletion of my personal details, but this was the screen I got.

   Now, either Big Tech One is lying or Big Tech Two is lying.
   To its credit, Über New Zealand responded very quickly on Twitter (on Good Friday, no less) and said it would look into it. Within minutes it was able to confirm that I do not have an account there (presumably it was deleted with a lack of use, or maybe I went and did it back when they wouldn’t let me log in?) and my email address doesn’t appear anywhere.
   Therefore, we can likely again conclude that Facebook lies and we have to bring into question its advertising preferences’ management page.
   We already know Facebook has lied to advertisers about the number of people it can reach (namely that it exceeds the number of people alive in certain demographics), that there is a discrepancy between what it reports in the preferences and what a full download of personal data reveals, so I have to wonder what the deception is here.
   Is it allowing these advertisers to reach us even when (as Über claims) they have no information on us? (Heineken’s response will seal the deal when they get back to me after Easter.) In that case, it will be very hard for Facebook to argue that we have given them consent to do this.
   Heineken, incidentally, is a major advertiser on Instagram, as I see their advertisements even after opting out of all alcohol advertising on the Facebook ad preferences’ page (as instructed by Instagram). When we establish contact next week, I will be more than happy to tell them this. Who knows? While I doubt they will cease advertising on the platforms on my say-so, sometimes you have to plant the seed so that they are aware their ads are not being filtered out from those people who do not want to see booze promoted in their feeds.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, technology, USA | No Comments »