Posts tagged ‘privacy’


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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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 [email protected] 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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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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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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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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Facebook allows ad preference editing again

11.06.2021

I was surprised to find that I could access my Facebook advertising preferences again, after the section stopped working in January 2019. What was there was still way off, in June 2021, but it’s nice to be able to edit (read delete) them again after two-and-a-half years. Things move slowly in Menlo Park when it comes to user privacy. Frankly, they shouldn’t even be collecting preferences after you’ve opted out of preference-targeting—not even Google is stupid enough to do that (possibly as they have other nefarious means).

I was chatting to one friend who is as principled as me when it comes to Facebook bots. She screen-grabbed one who tried to send her a friend request, and we got chatting about the thousands-strong bot nets I’ve encountered.
   She noted there was some fan fiction connected to one of the surnames, and I was able to find the Filipino TV series Halik. So are these accounts, accused by me of being bots, simply role-playing ones?
   The reason I even know about them is that they attempt to join a group I oversee, usually with bot software that incorrectly answered the questions we had put up to weed out the fake accounts. (As I noted recently, Facebook has got rid of these, allowing bots to come in to every public group.) Why do they do this? They come in, hoping to hide among groups (and they also become page fans), to make themselves look legitimate. What happens instead is that we report them, and watch as Facebook does nothing about them, telling us that these automated scripts are allowed, and never mind the damage they do to pages wanting to reach their members. You’ll just have to pay more and more and more to boost the posts to reach the people you once reached for free.
   Secondly, it’s concerning that accounts marked as newly started ones on Facebook already have hundreds, if not thousands, of friends within days. These just aren’t normal patterns. They also talk to each other like nonsensical bots, responding with the same emojis or words.
   On both these counts, the fact the accounts have names from a Pinoy TV series has little bearing. Facebook doesn’t care either way.

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Dear Gmail user: your industry has worn me down

11.06.2021

After three messages I decided I would answer one of those Gmail users asking about advertorial. And from now on I’m just going to copy and paste this to anyone else asking, ‘Why won’t you answer me?’

Dear [redacted]:

Sorry, this is why I haven’t answered you (and this is not because of you, but everyone else who has been enquiring about the same thing for years):

http://jackyan.com/blog/2021/06/time-to-stop-entertaining-advertorial-enquiries-from-gmail/

   Almost every time I answer one of these emails it leads nowhere, and I’ve answered hundreds over the last few years. What many of them have in common is Gmail. So to save time and energy I’m no longer entertaining link and advertorial requests coming from Gmail.
   Even if it were one in twelve I’d be borderline OK (the ratio I had doing phone sales during a recession) but one in hundreds is just not worth it. Your industry has worn me and my colleagues down.

Sincerely,

Jack

   I really don’t know why, in the 2020s, anyone would use Gmail, given its rather massive problem of allowing more than one person to use an email address. But I guess if you use Google, you’re not too concerned about privacy, with the endless stories on this topic out there. It shouldn’t then matter if someone else with a similar address can read your emails.

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On OneDrive, Flickr, and FLOC

19.05.2021

Yesterday, I worked remotely, and I don’t know what possessed me, but as OneDrive was activated on my laptop, I decided to save a word processing file there, planning to grab it from my desktop machine later in the day.
   Normally I would just leave the file where it was and transfer it across the network, which is what I should have stuck with.
   Heck, even transferring a file using a USB stick would have been a better idea than OneDrive.
   I hadn’t signed up to it on my desktop PC. I went through the motions, used the default settings where it said it would back up documents and pictures (while making it clear my files would remain exactly where they were). I grabbed the file I need—the entire 18 kilobytes of it—and thought nothing more. I deactivated OneDrive as I saw no real use for it any more.
   Bad idea, because most of my desktop icons vanished, and my Windows default documents’ and pictures’ folders were emptied out.
   After reactivating OneDrive, I found the lot in the OneDrive folder, and promptly moved them back to their original folders. The desktop files—the text files I had on there plus the icons—I duplicated elsewhere. Ultimately, I made new shortcuts for everything—thank goodness my laptop’s icon layout is identical to my desktop’s—and restored the three text files from their duplicate directory.
   The above took me all of a few minutes to write but in reality I spent an hour fixing this—something that Windows said would not happen.
   Chalk it up to experience—consider this fair warning to anyone who thinks of using “the cloud”.
 
 

Also in the “say one thing, do another” file for yesterday: I attempted to sign in to my Flickr account, which has not been touched since around 2008. I tried a range of addresses I had in 2006, when I originally signed up, and attempted to do password resets. Flickr: ‘Invalid email or password.’ I even tried an address that Yahoo! emailed me at in 2018 concerning Flickr, and which Flickr itself said might be the correct email (use your Yahoo! username and add ‘@yahoo.com’ to the end of it).
   I had no other option but to email their support, and mentioned that I was a paying Smugmug customer, given that the photo site now owns Flickr.
   They have responded in a timely fashion, not telling me the email I had used, but said they had sent it a password reset in there.
   Surprisingly (or maybe not, considering we are talking about another big US site again), the address was indeed one of the ones I had tried (I’m glad I kept a record). Except now it works—what’s the bet that post-enquiry, they fixed things up in order to send me that reset email?
   I thanked the support person for the reset email, but suggested that they had some bugs, and fixing them would mean less for him to do.

Don Marti linked an interesting article in The Drum in which he was quoted. Duck Duck Go, Firefox and Github have all opposed Google’s new FLOC tracking method. Meanwhile, Bob Hoffman points out that only four per cent of Apple users have opted in to tracking after the Cupertino company’s new OS opted you out by default.
   Most of the time, people tell me that they find targeted ads ‘creepy’ as they appear from site to site, so it’s no wonder that take-up has been so low with Apple users. So if not FLOC, then what?
   Well, here’s a radical idea: show ads on sites that have subject-matter relevant to the advertiser. It’s what happened before Google’s monopoly, and there were plenty of smaller ad networks that did a great job of it. The prices were still reasonable, and Google wasn’t taking a big cut of the money earned. Of course Big Tech doesn’t like it, because they won’t earn as much, and the old system actually required people with brains to figure out how best to target, something creepy tracking has tried to replace.
   The old methods, with their personal touch, resulted in some creative advertising work—I remember we had some page takeovers on Lucire’s website where the traditional header was redesigned to show off the R55 Mini, thanks to one of our earlier ad directors, Nikola McCarthy. No tracking involved, but a great brand-builder and a fantastic way for Mini to get a fashion connection. Ads with tracking are so transactional and impersonal: ‘Buy this,’ or, ‘You’ve searched for this. Buy this.’
   I doubt it does the brands much good, and before you say that that doesn’t matter, let me also add that it can’t do the humans much good, either. The user’s purpose is reduced to clicking through and buying; so much for building a relationship with them and understanding their values. That isn’t marketing: it’s straight selling. Which means the marketing departments that put these deals together are doing themselves out of a job. They’re also spending money with a monopoly that, as far as I have read, doesn’t have independently certified metrics, which 20 years ago would have been a concern with some agencies.
   I do like innovations, but every now and then, I feel the newer methods haven’t done us much good. Tracking is tracking, no matter what sort of jargon you use to disguise it.

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