Microsoft will Honor California’s Digital Privacy Law Across the U.S.



Microsoft announced that it is a strong supporter of California’s CCPA law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2020. Microsoft is going to extend the privacy protections in the CCPA to all Microsoft customers in the United States.

Under CCPA, companies must be transparent about data collection and use, and provide people with the option to prevent their personal information from being sold. Exactly what will be required under CCPA to accomplish these goals is still developing. Microsoft will continue to monitor those changes, and make the adjustments needed to provide effective transparency and control under CCPA to all people in the U.S. While many of our customers and users find that the data controls we already offer them through our GDPR commitment will be stronger than those rights offered by the new California law, we hope this step will show our commitment to supporting states as they enact laws that take us in the right direction.

Reuters reported that the California law is expected to harm profits over the long term for technology companies, retailers, advertising firms, and other businesses dependent on collecting consumer data to track users and increase sales.

According to Reuters, Microsoft products that collect data include its Cortana and Microsoft Edge browsers, Bing web search engine, Windows 10 system, Xbox and Skype.

Microsoft pointed out the “lack of action by the United States Congress to pass comprehensive privacy legislation”. The company noted that “in the absence of strong national legislation”, California’s law will be adhered to by Microsoft not only for people in California, but also Microsoft customers across the United States.


Twitter will Label and Warn about Deepfakes, but won’t Remove them



Twitter announced in October of this year that they are working on a new policy to address synthetic and manipulated media (also called “deepfakes”). Today, Twitter presented a draft of what they plan to do when they see manipulated media that purposely tries to mislead or confuse people.

Based on conversations with experts and researchers, Twitter proposes that synthetic and manipulated media be defined as: “any photo, audio, or video that has been significantly altered or fabricated in a way that intends to mislead people or changes its original meaning.” Twitter notes that these are sometimes referred to as deepfakes or shallowfakes.

You may have seen some examples of this on social media. There was an altered video passed around of U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, which was made to appear as though she was slurring her words. There is also a video where someone took faces from well-known paintings and made it look as if the faces were speaking.

Twitter made a draft policy regarding deepfakes, in which Twitter may:

  • Place a notice next to Tweets that share synthetic or manipulated media
  • Warn people before they share or like Tweets with synthetic or manipulated media; or
  • Add a link – for example, to a news article or Twitter Moment – so that people can read more about why various sources believe the media is synthetic or manipulated.

In addition, Twitter may remove tweets that include synthetic or manipulated media that is misleading and could threaten someone’s physical safety or lead to other serious harm. It appears that other than this exception, Twitter is intending to allow deepfakes to spread. Twitter has a survey for people who want to to provide feedback about this draft policy.

Personally, I don’t think Twitter’s draft policy will be very effective. Those who view deepfakes that match their opinions or political views are unlikely to accept that what they see has been altered. Warning people that they are about to like or share a deepfake isn’t going to deter those who think the deepfake is more believable than reality, and who think that Twitter is “censoring” content.


Instagram will Test Hiding “Likes” in the US



One of the easiest ways to respond to an Instagram post is to click “like”. It is faster and easier than commenting, and it serves as a positive response to your friend’s latest photo. Wired reported that Instagram will be hiding “like” counts in the United States.

Months after the company tested hiding “like” counts in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, Italy, and Brazil, CEO Adam Mosseri announced today at WIRED25 that some US Instagram users can expect their like counts to vanish from public view. The company will begin testing next week, at first rolling out the change to a limited number of accounts.

To be clear, this does not mean that Instagram is removing the ability for users to click “like”. You will continue to be able to click “like” on whatever you want to. You will also still be able to see who clicked “like” on the photos that you post on Instagram.

The part that is changing is significant. Users who are part of this test will no longer see the “like” count on the photos posted by other users. I wonder how this will affect Instagram influencers who make their money by attracting brands to sponsor them. Will brands continue to seek out Instagram influencers if the brand cannot see how many “likes” their sponsored post received?

Overall, I think removing the number of “likes” from public view can be a good thing. There are those who will delete posts that they felt did not receive enough of likes. That might change if the person realizes that no one else can see their “like” count. Making that information private could be a relief to many Instagram users.


Facebook and YouTube are Removing Alleged Name of Whistleblower



It is stunning how much damage people can do by posting the (potential) name of a whistleblower on social media, and having that name be passed around. This poses a dilemma for social media platforms. Both Facebook and YouTube are deleting content that includes the alleged name of the whistleblower that sparked a presidential impeachment inquiry. Twitter is not.

The New York Times reported a statement they received in an email from a Facebook spokeswoman:

“Any mention of the potential whistleblower’s name violates our coordinating harm policy, which prohibits content ‘outing of witness, informant or activist’,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “We are removing any and all mentions of the potential whistleblower’s name and will revisit this decision should their name be widely published in the media or used by public figures in debate.”

The New York Times reported that an article that included the alleged name of the whistleblower was from Brietbart. This is interesting, because Breitbart is among the participating publications that Facebook included in Facebook’s “high quality” news tab. (Other publications include The New York Times, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed, Bloomberg, ABC News, Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News.) Facebook has been removing that article, which indicates that the company does not feel the article is “high quality”.

CNN reported that a YouTube spokesperson said videos mentioning the potential whistleblower’s name would be removed. The spokesperson said YouTube would use a combination of machine learning and human review to scrub the content. The removals, the spokesperson said, would affect the titles and descriptions of videos as well as the video’s actual content.

The Hill reported that Twitter said in a statement that it will remove posts that include “personally identifiable information” on the alleged whistleblower, such as his or her cell phone number or address, but will keep up tweets that mention the name.


Valentines Day Text Later Delivery #1404



Seems a bunch of people received there valentines day text today, in what can only be described as something very strange. It was not limited to iPhones or Androids or carrier. The messages just seemed to get unstuck from some location. The senders are otherwise oblivious. I have had this happen many times where I have not gotten a text or the recipient denies getting one. Not surprising really. Lot’s happening here, I am as busy as one can get and am finally getting pretty much settled in at my new location.

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Network Solutions had a Data Breach



Network Solutions determined on October 16, 2019, that a third-party gained unauthorized access to a limited number of their computer systems in late August of 2019. For whatever reason Network Solutions did not let its customers know about this data breach until November 5, 2019.

Our investigation indicates that account information for current and former Network Solutions customers may have been accessed. This information includes contact details such as name, address, phone numbers, email address and information about the services we offer to a given account holder. We encrypt credit card numbers and no credit card data was compromised as a result of this incident.

Network Solutions says that after discovering the intrusion, they took immediate steps and engaged a leading independent cybersecurity firm to investigate and determine the scope of the incident. They also notified the proper authorities and began working with federal law enforcement. In addition, they say they are “committed to protecting our customers against misuse of their information and have invested heavily in cybersecurity.”

All of that sounds like they are doing something about the data breach. And yet, to me it seems like they are being rather hesitant to share specific details that might make customers feel a bit better. They mention that they “engaged a leading independent cybersecurity firm to investigate”, but fail to clarify which one they are working with.

If you are a customer of Network Solutions, you may have received a notification from them about this data breach through email and also through their website. The company is also requiring all users – not only the ones who were affected by the data breach – to reset their account passwords. Network Solutions points out that it is good security practice to change your password often and use a unique password for each service.


Student Innovation Blows me Away #1403



A Middle School Student Innovation in car accident prevention has blown me away and I would suspect we could see what the student has designed in a car of the future. Lots happening here with my moving to my new place over the weekend. Pictures to follow at some point in the near future but I need to get things a little more organized before I post the pictures.

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