Apple’s WebKit Announces Tracking Prevention Policy



Apple has published their WebKit Tracking Prevention Policy. It describes the web tracking practices that WebKit believes, as a matter of policy, should be prevented by default by web browsers. WebKit’s policy was inspired by Mozilla’s anti-tracking policy.

These practices are harmful to users because they infringe on a user’s privacy without giving users the ability to identify, understand, consent to, or control them.

WebKit’s current anti-tracking mitigations are applied universally to all websites, or based on algorithmic, on-device classification.

WebKit will do its best to prevent all covert tracking, and all cross-site tracking (even when it’s not covert). These goals apply to a several types of tracking mentioned in the policy, including: cross-site tracking, stateful tracking, covert stateful tracking, navigational tracking, fingerprinting or stateless tracking, and covert tracking (which includes covert stateful tracking, fingerprinting, or other methods that are hidden from user visibility and control).

If a particular tracking technique cannot be completely prevented without undue user harm, WebKit will limit the capability of using the technique. If even limiting the capability of a technique is not possible without undue user harm, WebKit will ask for the user’s informed consent to potential tracking.

Interestingly, WebKit considers logging in to multiple first party websites or apps using the same account to be implied consent to identifying the users as having the same identity in these multiple places. WebKit believes that such logins should require a user action and be noticeable by the users, not be invisible or hidden.

WebKit is taking policy circumvention seriously. They will treat circumvention of shipping anti-tracking measures with the same exploitation of security vulnerabilities.

There may be some unintended impact of the policy, in which certain practices are inadvertently disrupted. Some of these include:

  • Funding websites using targeted or personalized advertising
  • Measuring the effectiveness of advertising
  • “Like” buttons, federated comments, or other social widgets
  • Analytics in the scope of a single website
  • Audience measurement

WebKit is the source engine that underpins internet browsers, including Apple’s Safari browser. If I’m understanding this correctly, that means that Safari (and potentially other browsers) will have WebKit’s Tracking Prevention Policy “baked in”. I wonder if the policy will be effective enough that it will replace the use of ad blockers.


IKEA Invests in IKEA Home Smart



IKEA announced that it has taken the strategic decision to invest even more in the smart home area by establishing IKEA Home Smart as its own business within IKEA of Sweden. The IKEA Home Smart Business Unit at IKEA will be responsible for the smart home business end to end.

“At IKEA we want to continue to offer products for a better life at home for the many people going forward. In order to do so we need to explore products and solutions beyond conventional home furnishing,” says Björn Block, Head of the new IKEA Home smart Business Unit at IKEA of Sweden.

“We have decided to invest significantly in Home Smart across IKEA to fast-forward the development. This is the biggest New Business we are establishing since the introduction of Children’s IKEA,” says Peter van der Poel, Manager IKEA Range & Supply.

Since the beginning in 2012, IKEA Home smart has set out to enrich all aspects of IKEA by incorporating digital elements and technologies into products and solutions. Launches within the product areas of wireless charging, smart lighting and just recently smart sound at home together with SONOS are all examples of the success to do so. Besides that, IKEA has also created its own echo system and app for smart lighting first introduced by TRÅDFRI, and in June changed its name to IKEA Home smart app.

It makes sense to me that IKEA would invest in its own IKEA Home Smart system of products. People go to IKEA when they want to put together a bedroom or living room that aesthetically fits together. IKEA Home Smart feels like the logical next step.


YouTube Changes Manual Content ID Claiming Policies



YouTube has announced additional changes to its manual claiming policies that are intended to improve fairness in the creator ecosystem, while still respecting owners’ rights to prevent unlicensed use of content. This balancing act may, or may not, work out as people might hope it would.

One concerning trend we’ve seen is aggressive manual claiming of very short music clips used in monetized videos. These claims can feel particularly unfair, as they transfer all revenue from the creator to the claimant, regardless of the amount of music claimed. A little over a month ago, we took a first step in addressing this by requiring copyright owners to provide timestamps for all manual claims so you know exactly which part of your video is being claimed. We also made updates to our Creator Studio that allow you to use those timestamps to remove manually claimed content from your videos, automatically releasing the claim and restoring monetization.

YouTube is now announcing new changes to their manual claiming processes. Here are some key points:

  • Including someone else’s content without permission means your video can still be claimed and copyright owners will still be able to prevent monetization or block the video from being viewed.
  • YouTube will forbid copyright holders from using the Manual Claiming tool to monetize creator videos with very short or unintentional uses of music.
  • Copyright claims created by the Content ID match system, which are the vast majority, are not impacted by this policy.
  • Enforcement of these policies begins in mid-September. After that, copyright owners who repeatedly fail to adhere to the policies will have their access to Manual Claiming suspended.

Interestingly, YouTube points out: “Without the option to monetize, some copyright owners may choose to leave very short or unintentional uses unclaimed”. Creators can safely use the music and sound effects in the YouTube Audio Library.

From this, it sounds to me as though YouTube is fed up with copyright holders who act in predatory ways. They shouldn’t get to take the creator’s entire revenue from a long video just because a few seconds of a song is in it. Separating these claims from financial rewards is a good idea.


Facebook Wants to Keep Private Groups Safe



Facebook announced some changes that are designed to keep people safe within Facebook Groups. In part, Facebook will hold Group admins accountable for what is posted in their group.

Facebook says one way they keep people safe is by proactively identifying and removing posts and groups that break their rules. Facebook has been using AI and machine learning “to proactively detect bad content before anyone reports it, and sometimes before people even see it.”. It also uses human moderators.

Facebook has created new Group Privacy settings:

By default, a group that was formerly “secret” will now be “private” and “hidden”. A group that was formerly “closed” will now be “private” and “visible”. Groups that are “public” will remain “public” and “visible”.

Here are some factors Facebook considers when deciding if a Group should come down:

  • Does the name or description of the group include hate speech or other content Facebook doesn’t allow?
  • If group leaders often break Facebook’s rules, or if they commonly approve posts from other members who break Facebook’s rules, those are clear strikes against the overall group.
  • If a group member repeatedly violates Facebook’s standards, Facebook will start requiring admins to review their posts before anyone else can see them. Then, if an admin approves a post that breaks Facebook’s rules, it will count against the whole group.

It sounds like people who participate in Groups on Facebook really need to choose wisely when selecting admins. Facebook’s emphasis that their rules apply within Groups is likely going to deter those who have been de-platformed from other online spaces. I guess that’s one way to help keep people safe in Private Groups.


Twitter Tests Letting Users Follow Topics



Twitter is in the process of letting users follow topics in a similar way to how they already follow accounts. According to The Verge, the feature is not quite live yet. When it goes live, users will be able to follow topics like sports teams, celebrities, and television shows. A selection of tweets of topics that are of interest to you will appear alongside tweets in your home feed.

Topics will be curated by Twitter, with individual tweets being identified through machine learning rather than editorial curation, the company said. For now, only sports-related interests can be followed, said Rob Bishop, a Twitter product manager. The feature is now being tested on Android.

The Verge reported that Twitter made this announcement at an event with reporters, which probably explains why I can’t find anything official about it on Twitter’s accounts or its blog. I’m going to assume Twitter will issue a press release, or something with more details about this change, soon.

From what I can tell, there are some cool things about being able to follow topics. You can mute topics. So, for example, if you followed a topic about a specific sport, but the information isn’t about your team right now, you can mute it. The Verge reported that people can mute TV show topics – to avoid spoilers.

Overall, it sounds like Twitter is trying something different that could, potentially, reduce the toxic polarization that Twitter is currently full of. If Twitter makes it easier to find things users enjoy, perhaps this will influence people to be nicer to each other.


Minecraft’s Super Duper Graphics Pack has been Cancelled



Mojang announced that they are ceasing development of Minecraft’s Super Duper Graphics Pack. The upgraded graphics pack was first announced during E3 of 2017.

Super Duper was an ambitious initiative that brought a new look to Minecraft but, unfortunately, the pack proved too technically demanding to implement as planned.

We realize this is disappointing to some of you – there was a lot of enthusiasm for Super Duper from inside and outside the studio – but unfortunately, we aren’t happy with how the pack performed across devices. For this reason, we are stopping development on the pack and looking into other ways for you to experience Minecraft with a new look.

Ars Technica reported that the E3 of 2017 announcement included an incredible trailer that showed Minecraft in a dynamic shadow-and-light model, with screen-space reflections, material-based lighting, and more. It was described as a “pack”, meaning it would leave Minecraft’s raw assets untouched.

It was going to run in 4K resolution on supported hardware, and a free launch was promised by fall of 2017. Clearly, that didn’t happen.

Fans of Minecraft have been waiting for the Super Duper Graphics Pack since 2017. There are bound to be people who are deeply disappointed that it isn’t being released.

The decision to cease development of the pack is probably a good idea, considering that Mojang was not happy with how it preformed “across devices”. The worst thing they could have done would be to release it only to have it not work as promised.


Verizon Announced Sale of Tumblr to Automattic



Verizon Media and Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com, announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Automattic plans to acquire Tumblr.

The press release says that the terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, Axios reported that “a source familiar with the deal” put the price-tag “well below” $20 million, while another source put it below $10 million. Axios reported that Yahoo had paid $1.1 billion for Tumblr. Axios also reported that Automattic Inc. will buy the network and take on its 200 employees.

Tumblr is a media network powered by a massive community of independent creators and home to 475 million blogs.

“Tumblr is one of the Web’s most iconic brands,” said Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg. “It is an essential venue to share new ideas, cultures, and experiences, helping millions create and build communities around their shared interests. We are excited to add it to our lineup, which already includes WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Simplenote, Longreads, and more.”

I deleted my Tumblr account shortly after Verizon took over. My husband and I used to post photos of our cockatiels on a second Tumblr account, which we never got around to deleting. Personally, I feel that Automattic is going to do good things with Tumblr, and I definitely trust the company a whole lot more than I trust Verizon.

Will this change bring people back to Tumblr? It is too soon to know that for certain. Axios pointed out that The Wall Street Journal reported that Automattic’s CEO Matt Mullenweg intends to maintain the “porn ban” that Verizon implemented. The ban is one of the reasons why many people left Tumblr.