Posts tagged ‘ethics’


Beware AI; the dangers of Google ads; and the beauty of Radio.garden

03.01.2023

Hat tip to Stefan Engeseth on this one: an excellent podcast with author, historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari.

Among the topics he covers, as detailed in the summary in Linkedin’s The Next Big Idea:

• AI is the first technology that can take power away from us
• if we are not careful, AI and bioengineering will be used to create the worst totalitarian regimes in history
• Be skeptical of technological determinism

We should be wary now—not after these technologies have been fully realized.

I also checked into Business Ethics today, a site linked from the Jack Yan & Associates links’ section (which dates back to the 1990s). The lead item, syndicated from ProPublica, is entitled, ‘Porn, Privacy Fraud: What Lurks Inside Google’s Black Box Ad Empire’, subtitled, ‘Google’s ad business hides nearly all publishers it works with and where billions of ad dollars flow. We uncovered a network containing manga piracy, porn, fraud and disinformation.’

This should be no surprise to anyone who reads this blog; indeed, this should be no surprise to anyone who has had their eyes open and breathes. This opaque black box is full of abuse, funds disinformation, endangers democracy, and exposes personal data to dodgy parties. As I outlined earlier, someone in the legal profession with cojones and a ton of funding and time could demonstrate that Google’s entire business should be subject to a massive negligence lawsuit. The authors of the article present more evidence that Google is being up to no good.

An excerpt, without revealing too much:

Last year, a marketer working for a Fortune 500 company launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign …

Over the next few months, Google placed more than 1.3 trillion of the company’s ads on over 150,000 different websites and apps. The biggest recipient of ads — more than 49 million — was a website called PapayAds. The company was registered in Bulgaria less than two years ago and lists one employee, CEO Andrea De Donatis, on LinkedIn …

It seems impossible that 49 million ads were legitimately placed and viewed on PapayAds’ site over the span of several months … “I don’t have an explanation for this,” he said, adding that he does not recall receiving payment for such a large volume of ads.

I doubt this is isolated, and the story elaborates on how the scheme worked. And when Google realized its ads were winding up on inappropriate websites, the action it took was to keep doing it.
 

 

On a more positive note, I found out about Radio.garden in December on Mastodon (thank goodness for all the posts there these days, a far cry from when I joined in 2017) and have since been tuning in to RTHK Radio 1 in Hong Kong. I had no idea they even gave NZ dollar–US dollar exchange rates as part of their business news! The interface is wonderful: just rotate the planet and place the city of your choice within the circular pointer. It works equally well on a cellphone, though only in portrait mode there. You’d be amazed at what you can find, and I even listened to one of the pop stations in Jeddah.

My usual suspects are “favourited”: KCSM in San Mateo, Sveriges Radio P1, and RNZ National here. I might add Rix FM from Stockholm but I seem to have grown up a little since the days when its music was targeted to me.

It’s now been added to our company link list. Sadly, a few dead ones have had to be culled today. But I must say Radio.garden has been one of the best finds of 2022. Almost makes you want to surf to random sites again like we did in the 1990s.


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Posted in business, culture, design, globalization, Hong Kong, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, Sweden, technology, USA | No Comments »


Kissing that Disqus advertising money goodbye (webmasters beware)

14.07.2022

I’m going to have to write off what Disqus owes us. No response to this thread, and no response to a DM I sent at their request.

I assume it’s a bit like Amazon, where they just ignore you regardless of what you’ve actually earned.

I think the rule is if it’s a big US tech firm, they’re going to BS you—especially when it comes to money.

Maybe it’s time to threaten them as I did with Twitter?


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They’re brainwashed by the cult of Boris, so the next Tory leader will be an ideologue

10.07.2022

Sean O’Grady puts into his opinion piece what so many of us have said. He does it far better than I could.

They backed Johnson through the Dominic Cummings scandal, through the resignations of two ethics advisers, through the scandal of a party donor paying for the decoration of his flat, through the mishandling of the pandemic and the mismanaging of Brexit with a rotten deal, Partygate and law breaking, an unlawful prorogation of parliament and breaking treaties and international law, allegedly trying to get Carrie a £100,000 job and Wilfred a £150,000 treehouse, depriving kids of free school dinners … and much, much more …

So it’s not just Johnson who’s morally compromised, but the whole Tory party, with rare exceptions. They are all guilty men and women because they voted for him, campaigned for him, sustained him, lied for him and generally disgraced themselves and the country in the process. They were all members of the cult of Boris, and they knew exactly what he was.

They didn’t care because he was a winner. He hasn’t suddenly turned nasty – he was like this since about the age of eight. He’s outlived his usefulness to them, but if they thought the devil incarnate could win them the next election they’d be signing his nomination papers right now. Parties tend to get the leaders they deserve.

Sunak, Javid and others are in no position to be preaching about integrity. If seeing the monarch mourn her husband whilst sitting alone due to COVID-19 restrictions at the same time Johnson partied at his ‘work event’ didn’t concern them, are we to believe that they are one bit concerned about sexual assault? Pull the other one.

If the Tories are smart, they’ll go for someone well outside this band of muppets. But as O’Grady also states, ‘Your next PM, like Johnson, will be chosen by about 90,000 mostly elderly, reactionary and unrepresentative members of the Conservative Party.’ In such cases, name recognition and familiarity will decide the next leader. Sadly, that’s unlikely to be anyone from the moderate wing of the Conservative Party. That is now a minority.

Will they promote a better culture than Johnson did? Possibly. If they have some sense of organization and leadership. But that alone is not going to fix the UK’s problems. Ideologues should not come before pragmatists, but it’s hard to see any other outcome given what the Conservative Party has become.


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A dodgy 2000s’ UK spam list is still doing the rounds in 2022, pretending to be legit

07.04.2022


 
During February, I received spam from Novuna in the UK, the finance company that’s a subsidiary of Mitsubishi. It wasn’t personally addressed, it was just a general message. I complained via their complaints’ email, only to have the message bounce back as it wasn’t working. However, they did respond on Twitter, unlike less caring companies such as Afterpay, followed up via my company feedback form by their senior marketing manager, Rob Walton.

Rob asked me to send them the spam for their investigation, and, after about seven attempts, they received it (ironically, their own server blocked the message on the grounds of it being spam). I confirmed that although I do have British nationality, I had never resided in the UK or had had any contact with Novuna.

He was as good as his word, and after a few days, came back to me to say Experian, a credit reference agency, had supplied my address to them. He also included a web address so I could get make a ‘subject access request’ from the provider, made sure I was off their email lists, and apologized.

From there, ESB Connect Ltd. also took things seriously. The request came back, and ESB’s CEO, Suz Chaplin, took the time to write a personal email. It turns out that ESB had acquired the details from another company, Datatonomy, who falsely claimed that I had signed up via two websites: Idealo and Great British Offers.

Here’s the real kicker: it claimed that my name was ‘Mrs Jayne Moore’ of Liverpool.

Rewind back over 15 years (maybe closer to 20!) and a dodgy spam list doing the rounds in the 2000s saw a lot of messages sent to my email calling me ‘Mrs Jayne Moore’. I even have a filter for it in Eudora that’s been there since the ’00s.

Indeed, 10 days prior to Suz getting back to me, I said to Rob: ‘I do remember one UK-based spam list from the 2000s that had my email address listed against the name “Mrs Jayne Moore” and those still come. It will be interesting to discover if this is the same source.’

Imagine my surprise to find that a common and badly compiled spam list (obviously my details were erroneously married up with Mrs Moore’s name, address and date of birth) is still being sold by dodgy parties in the UK, making false claims about sign-ups!

I wrote to Suz: ‘It seems you may have unwittingly and innocently purchased a common spammers’ list where such details were mixed up (after all, these people have no qualms) or that you have been duped about the veracity of the opt-ins detailed in your document.’ And cheekily, I suggested she should get her money back from Datatonomy.

Suz says she will look into this further as her company prides itself on data integrity. I thanked her, and true to both her and Rob’s promises, I haven’t received anything like the Novuna spam since. Nor have I seen that many purporting to be from British companies.

I don’t know if Datatonomy bought its list from somewhere else, though as I said to Suz, they haven’t had great reviews, and it’s suggested online that they purchase from questionable parties. But after a decade and a half, thanks to Rob and Suz, we might have stopped some of the ‘Mrs Jayne Moore’ spams.


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Amazon: as dodgy as the rest of them

28.11.2021

Jane Pendry in the UK Tweeted this in response to a Tweet about Amazon, and I had to reply:

   Jane helpfully elaborated:

   You read correctly: Amazon is just as dodgy as the others I’ve criticized publicly. Just that I hadn’t got around to them on this blog, because there had been a lengthy dialogue and I wanted to get more facts. But above is where I’ve got to so far, and it seems I’m not alone.


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Lucire’s Instagram account is gone, for no reason

29.09.2021

Lucire’s Instagram is toast (hopefully temporarily, but you never know), since they unilaterally allege without evidence that there was unusual activity. This is utter shite, but it’s just another day in Facebookland where actual spam is tolerated, and legitimate activity is penalized.
   I’ve sent through the information they requested with a review promised in 24 hours, but as this is Big Tech, they aren’t very good at understanding units of time. So it could be 24 days, weeks or months—this is based on experience.
   Reading some more on this, it appears that many people have had their accounts deactivated when they receive such a message, and appealing is the next best option.
   That method doesn’t work because Instagram requires you to ‘confirm your account’ by logging in, which, of course, is impossible, since there’s no account to log in to. I don’t think these folks think it through—or they have thought it through and this is a great way to make sure no one ever appeals. A bit like a communist state where it looks like there’s an appeal process, but you find it’s actually BS.

   Then there’s another form you can fill in where you tell them it’s a business account that’s been deactivated, except there, the moment you provide evidence to them, you get an error message, ‘You can’t use this feature at the moment’. Apparently even a single attempt at filing their own form is spam. You can click on the link to tell them that you’re not breaching their community standards, but that leads to the usual Facebook menus where no option is the one you want.

   So what’s actually OK with Facebook, Inc.’s community standards? Fake accounts, automation, spam, genocide, misinformation, human trafficking, and terrorism. It’s why I’m in two minds about all of this. I lean toward wanting to have the account back because of the work the team has put into it. But if we don’t get it back then we’re not in the same company as some of the most despicable people in the world, both on Facebook and inside it. It’s another sign that you cannot trust Big Tech, and they’re certainly not to be relied upon.


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Two big reasons not to use Gmail

03.10.2020

I was absolutely shocked to learn this is how Gmail works.
 


PS.: This was the image linked above, before I locked my account:
 

 

As you’ll read in the thread, this has been confirmed by other Gmail users.

That should rule out ever using Gmail for secure communications. Not that you should be using a service like that for anything important, but the fact is Gmail has become ubiquitous, and I believe a lot of people don’t know any better.

Just imagine being able to receive some emails meant for your rival by signing up to an address that varies from it by a full stop or period.

Secondly, we’ve noticed a large amount of spam where we can trace (via Spamcop) the origins back to Gmail. Oftentimes they have Gmail reply addresses, as in the case of 419 scams (where they may use another ISP or email service with a “sacrificial” address to send them). Why would you risk being among that lot?

Add this to the massive list of shortcomings already detailed here and elsewhere and you have a totally unreliable platform that doesn’t really give a toss. They didn’t care when they removed my friend’s blog in 2009 and then obstructed any attempt to get it back, until a product manager became involved. They didn’t care when their website blacklisting service libelled clean sites in 2013, telling people not to visit them or link to them. And they don’t care now.

There really is no reason to use Gmail. You’ll risk your emails going to someone else with a similar address, and you’ll be among the company of unethical actors. I can truly say that if Gmail weren’t this ubiquitous, and used by so many friends, I’d just set up a rule on our server and block the lot.


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The FT covers lawsuit alleging Facebook knew about inflated metrics

21.03.2020

I’ll be interested to read the judgement, should it get to that point: Facebook is being sued over allegedly inflating its audience numbers, and COO Sheryl Sandberg and financial officer David Wehner are also named.
   The plaintiff alleges that Facebook has known this for years. The suit dates from 2018 but there are new filings from the lawsuit.
   I’ve blogged on related topics for the majority of the previous decade, and in 2014 I said that Facebook had a bot ‘epidemic’.
   Finally another publication has caught on this, namely the Financial Times. The FT notes something that I did on this blog in 2017: ‘In some cases, the number cited for potential audience size in certain US states and demographics was actually larger than the population size as recorded in census figures, it claimed.’ Its own 2019 investigation found discrepancies in the Facebook Ads’ Manager tool.
   The complaint also says that Facebook had not removed fake and duplicate accounts. Lately I’ve found some obvious fake accounts, and reported them, only for Facebook to tell me that there’s nothing wrong with them. On Instagram, I have hundreds, possibly thousands, of accounts that I reported but remain current. Based on my user experience, the plaintiff is absolutely correct.
   Facebook only solves problems it puts its mind to, and all seem to be bolstering its bottom line. This is something it could have solved, and since it’s plagued the site for the good part of a decade, and it continues to, then you have to conclude that there’s no desire to. And of course there isn’t: the more fakes there are, the more page owners have to pay to reach real people.
   Over a decade ago, I know that it cost a small business a decent chunk of money to get an independent audit (from memory, we were looking at around NZ$6,000). Facebook doesn’t have this excuse, and that tells me it doesn’t want you to know how its ads actually perform.
   As I said many times: if a regular person like me can find a maximum of 277 fakes or bots in a single night, then how many are there? I’m surprised that not more of the mainstream media are talking about this, given that in 2018 Facebook posted an income of US$22,100 million on US$55,800 million of revenue, 98·5 per cent of which came from advertising. Is this one of the biggest cons out there? Here’s hoping the lawsuit will reveal something. Few seem to care about Facebook’s lies and erosion of their privacy, but maybe they might start caring when they realize they’ve been fleeced.


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Tesla or SpaceX doesn’t like you? They’ll say you’re an active shooter

24.11.2019

What does Tesla do to whistleblowers?
   They tell the cops you’re an active shooter.
   Apparently, this case about a gentleman called Martin Tripp emerged in 2018 but only today were the police documents released, and are worth reading.



Above: Two of the pages from the Storey County Sheriff’s Office over the false Martin Tripp ‘active shooter’ incident at Tesla.

   One could attempt to read it generously in Tesla’s favour but I think you’d be fooling yourself.
   Tripp had concerns about waste, and even raised them with Musk. From what I can tell, Musk only engaged Tripp after Tripp had been fired; and it was after that email exchange that the tip was given to police.
   It’s a far cry from the admirable firm I remember, being run by Martin Eberhard. Back then, it was optimistic and transparent. Nowadays it seems a truck prototype can’t stand up to scrutiny for 25 minutes, CEO Elon Musk disses one of the Thai cave rescue divers, Vernon Unsworth, calling him ‘pedo guy’, and Tweets misleading information that lands him in trouble with the US SEC. As far as I can tell in the Twitter thread above, Musk knew about Tripp—enough to speak on the case and be excessively paranoid about him, thinking he could be part of a conspiracy involving oil companies, claiming he committed ‘extensive and damaging sabotage’.
   As Bloomberg put it: ‘Many chief executive officers would try to ignore somebody like Tripp. Instead, as accounts from police, former employees, and documents produced by Tesla’s own internal investigation reveal, Musk set out to destroy him.’
   Also from Bloomberg:

The security manager at the Gigafactory, an ex-military guy with a high-and-tight haircut named Sean Gouthro, has filed a whistleblower report with the SEC. Gouthro says Tesla’s security operation behaved unethically in its zeal to nail the leaker. Investigators, he claims, hacked into Tripp’s phone, had him followed, and misled police about the surveillance. Gouthro says that Tripp didn’t sabotage Tesla or hack anything and that Musk knew this and sought to damage his reputation by spreading misinformation.

   When Gouthro says Facebook (where he had worked before) is more professional than Tesla, that’s really worrying.
   In another case, Jason Blasdell claims that SpaceX, another Musk venture, where he was employed, falsified test documents. When he brought this to his superior’s attention, he was fired. In Blasdell’s case, two of his managers suggested he would ‘come in to work shooting.’ His account makes for sobering reading as the legal avenues he had get shut down, one by one.
   Google and Facebook might do some terrible things in the market-place, but I don’t think I’ve come across this level of vindictiveness against employees further down the food chain from the CEO.
   They seem to be mounting as well—I wouldn’t have known about the two ex-employee cases if not for spotting the Tripp police report Tweets. They both follow a similar pattern of discrediting people with valid concerns, going well beyond any reasonableness. We’re talking about lives and reputations getting destroyed.
   It all points to a deep insecurity within these firms, which go beyond the sort of monopolistic, anticompetitive, un-American, anti-innovation behaviours of the usual Big Tech suspects. Yes, Google will go as far as to get your fired, according to Barry Lynn of Citizens Against Monopoly (Google denies it), or it might play silly buggers and seemingly shut down your Adwords account, or blacklist your site by falsely claiming it is infected, hack your Iphone and bypass its ‘Do Not Track’ setting, expose your private information for years, and plain lie about tracking, but I’ve yet to hear them sicking armed police on you and having their staff say you’d be heading to the office shooting. So maybe in this context, Google can say it hasn’t been evil. Well done. Slow clap.
   At this rate, it’s Big Tech and the monopolies the US government has fostered that’ll drag down the reputation of ‘Made in the USA’.


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Who is changing Facebook links to affiliate ones?

14.09.2019

I know someone else has come across this before, since there’s a page on it here.
   The very same thing has begun happening on Autocade, whenever the Facebook link is clicked. I’d love to blame Facebook, but I don’t believe it’s them.
   I’ve contacted Sovrn (formerly Viglinks) as the discussion board participants identify them, but ShopStyle may know as it’s their API being used.
   Here’s what I asked ShopStyle tonight, but if anyone has an idea, I’d love to hear it.

I do not know your company, but the Facebook link on one of my sites (http://autocade.net) is being altered to https://api.shopstyle.com/action/apiVisitRetailer?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fautocade.net&pid=uid7424-7742368-93&pdata=k0jgi6bfn30122110msza whenever someone clicks on it, and they wind up at https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/deals/?ref=affiliate_external&referral_story_type=daily_deals_rakuten.
   When I go into the source code on our server, the link is correct. The change is happening elsewhere, and I can’t figure out where. From the link and UID I’ve given you, are you able to tell? We do run ads and a Disqus plug-in on our site, as well as a Po.st sharer, if these help narrow down the possibilities.
   I’m sure you’d want to kill the account of whomever is misusing ShopStyle’s APIs to earn referrals.

   Here’s the page I wind up on when I click the link. It has no useful content.

   I’ll report back if I discover more, as there may be a dodgy ad network out there, or Disqus or Po.st aren’t as honest as they used to be. Disqus is clunky anyway, and once we reach a certain payment threshold, we may remove it from all our sites. Autocade was the one place where comments were really good, so it’ll be a shame to lose it.

PS.: After looking through the inspector, it appears to be Disqus, using Viglinks. One has to turn off affiliate links in the Disqus set-up.

P.PS.: Both ShopStyle and Sovrn were really helpful—ShopStyle’s Rasheka even went so far as to include screenshots and links.


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