All posts by JenThorpe

Tesla Stopped Accepting Bitcoin for Vehicle Purchases



In March of 2021, Elon Musk announced on Twitter that people could buy a Tesla with Bitcoin. Yesterday, Elon Musk changed his mind about that.

Elon Musk tweeted “Tesla & Bitcoin”, and included a screenshot of a statement:

Tesla has suspended vehicle purchases using Bitcoin. We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel…

The statement continued: “Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at great cost to the environment. Tesla will not be selling any Bitcoin and we intend to use it for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy. We are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use <1% of Bitcoin’s energy/transaction.”

The Verge reported that Bitcoin uses up as much electricity as the Netherlands. CNBC reported in March that researchers at the University of Cambridge found that Bitcoin uses more electricity on an annual basis than the whole of Argentina.

According to a recent article on CNBC, when Elon Musk made his announcement, the value of the whole cryptocurrency market stood at around $2.43 trillion (according to data from coinmarketcap.com). A few hours later, the market capitalization had dropped to around $2.06 trillion “wiping off around $365.85 billion”.

Personally, I think it is a very good thing that Tesla stopped selling vehicles for Bitcoin. There are other companies that make electric vehicles that a person can purchase for more conventional currency (such as the U.S.dollar). Bitcoin is terrible for the environment, and I am happy that Tesla is no longer accepting it.


WhatsApp Users Must Comply with Update or Lose App’s Functionality



WhatsApp issued a privacy policy that will go into effect on May 15, 2021. Those who have not agreed to the policy will slowly have portions of the functionality of WhatsApp become inaccessible.

To me, it sounds like WhatsApp (and its parent company, Facebook) are using this tactic to pressure users into accepting the privacy policy.This could backfire if people choose leave WhatsApp in favor of similar apps like Signal and Telegram.

For the last several weeks we’ve displayed a notification in WhatsApp providing more information about the update. After giving everyone time to review, we’re continuing to remind those who haven’t had the chance to do so to review and accept. After a period of several weeks, the reminder people receive will eventually become persistent.

A post on the WhatsApp website explains what will happen to users who don’t accept the privacy policy on May 15, 2021:

No one will have their account deleted or lose functionality of WhatsApp on May 15th because of this update.

After receiving a persistent reminder, users will encounter limited functionality on WhatsApp until you accept the updates. It appears this will not happen to all users at the same time,

Here is what non-complying users will experience:

  • You won’t be able to access your chat list, but you can still answer incoming phone and video calls. If you have notifications enabled, you can tap on them to read or respond to a message or call back a missed phone or video call.
  • After a few weeks of limited functionality, you won’t be able to receive incoming calls or notifications and WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to your phone.

In short, if you want to continue using WhatsApp – and have access to all of its functionality – you have no choice other than to accept the privacy policy. This is not a good look for WhatsApp (or Facebook). I understand that WhatsApp and Facebook have a right to create privacy policies. I think they should have handled this situation in a kinder, more ethical, way.


Facebook Tests a Prompt that Twitter Released Last Year



Today, Facebook tweeted about something that could be a new feature on the platform. Facebook will be testing a prompt that was originally released by Twitter in September of 2020. The prompt will encourage Facebook users to actually read an article before posting a comment about it.

Starting today, we’re testing a way to promote more informed sharing of news articles. If you go to share a news article link you haven’t opened, we’ll show a prompt encouraging you to open it and read it before sharing it with others.

The Verge reported that those who are shown this pop-up can choose to continue sharing it without having opened that article if they want to. To me, it sounds like giving users the option of sharing an unread article and/or commenting on it defeats the entire purpose of the prompt.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Verge that the test of this prompt would be rolled out to 6 percent of Android users worldwide. I suppose that the way the prompt is used – or ignored – might determine whether or not Facebook eventually rolls it out to everyone.

There are some flaws with these type of prompts. It appears that the prompt will require a person to actually open the article through Facebook before they can share it. That doesn’t necessarily mean the person is going to read the article. A person who wants to share an article from a less-than-credible website will be permitted to do so.

Based on the article from The Verge, it appears that the primary reason Facebook is testing this prompt is to combat the spread of misinformation. That is a noble goal – but it won’t work if people choose to share articles from tabloids and other questionable sources.


96% of iOS Users in the U.S. Opted-Out of App Tracking



Apple’s release of iOS 14.5 included the ability for users to opt-out of allowing apps to track them. Ars Technica reported that 96% of iOS users in the United States chose to opt-out of tracking. This news should surprise no one, because it is well known that people use ad blockers and VPNs to avoid being tracked.

The information about the percentage of users in the United States who chose to opt-out of app tracking comes from a company called Flurry Analytics. It is owned by Verizon Media. Flurry is updating that data daily.

Until now, apps have been able to rely on Apple’s Identifier for Advertiser (IDFA) to track users for targeting and advertising purposes. With the launch of iOS 14.5 this week, mobile apps now have to ask users who have upgraded to iOS 14.5 for permission to gather tracking data. With opt-in rates expected to be low, this change is expected to create challenges for personalized advertising and attribution, impacting the $189 billion mobile advertising industry worldwide.

Ars Technica reported that Flurry Analytics says U.S. users agree to be tracked only four percent of the time. The global number of users deciding to opt-in to tracking is at twelve percent. That number is below some advertising companies’ estimates.

Predictably, the news appears to be alarming to companies like Facebook who heavily rely on tracking and data collection from users for the purpose of showing ads to users. Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature does allow Facebook (and other companies that track people) to provide a brief explanation about why they absolutely need to keep grabbing your data. Clearly, those explanations are falling flat as most users opt out of tracking.


Colonial Pipeline Shut Down Due to Cyberattack



Colonial Pipeline Co. is the main pipeline carrying gasoline and diesel fuel to the U.S. East Coast, The Wall Street Journal reported. It has been shut down due to a cyberattack. It never occurred to me that someone would do a cyberattack on a company that transports fuel, but that is what has happened.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Colonial Pipeline Co. operates the 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline system that takes fuel from the Gulf Coast to the New York metro area. The company yesterday learned that it was the victim of a cyberattack, and “took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations.”

The New York Times reported the following:

…But the shutdown of such a vital pipeline, one that has been serving the East Coast since the early 1960s, highlights the huge vulnerability of aging infrastructure that has been connected, directly or indirectly, to the internet.

The New York Times reported that Colonial Pipeline has not indicated whether its systems were hit by ransomware or another form of cyberattack. The Wall Street Journal reported that the attack appeared to involve ransomware. Both news sites stated that Colonial Pipeline Co. is working with private security firm FireEye.

It appears that if the cyberattack problem can be resolved quickly, it might not have much of an effect on gas prices. If the problem cannot be solved soon, it could potentially cause gas prices to increase. This is happening when the United States is starting to open up more as the population gets vaccinated, and people are planning to travel or book summer vacations.


Google Wants Users to Enable Two-Step Verification



Google is encouraging users to enroll in two-step verification (2SV) in order to ensure that the person who attempts to sign in on your account is really you. A post on The Keyword states that the best way to protect your account from a breached or bad password is by having a second form of verification in place.

The 2SV option isn’t new for Google. I opted-in to it a while ago because I believe that 2SV is a good way to protect my gmail from people who aren’t me. I say this as a Mac users who got a gmail account back when it was new and shiny. Those of you who connected your gmail account to a variety of websites might want to consider 2SV protection. That, or see if you can remove your gmail from those websites.

Google announced that users will soon lose the ability to choose for themselves whether or not they want to enroll in Google’s 2SV.

Today, we ask people who have enrolled in two-step verification (2SV) to confirm it’s really them with a simple tap via a Google prompt on their phone whenever they sign in. Soon, we’ll start automatically enrolling users in 2SV if their accounts are appropriately configured… Using their mobile device to sign in gives people safer and more secure authentication experience than passwords alone.

I don’t think Google should require their users to enroll in 2SV if they don’t want to. Having that automatically happen could make some people angry, especially if Google doesn’t give people a way to opt-out.

Google also mentioned their Password Import feature. According to Google, it “allows people to easily upload up to 1,000 passwords at a time from various third party sites into our Password Manager (for free).” Personally, I’m not comfortable handing over all of my passwords to Google. I suspect that other people won’t want to do that, either. To me, it feels like collecting passwords is just one more way for a big company to gather data on people


FCC Net Neutrality Rollback Filled with Fake Comments



New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a report based on an investigation into the 2017 net neutrality rollback. It revealed that 18 million fake comments were filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The full report included the following information:

…In the course of the investigation, the OAG obtained and analyzed tens of thousands of internal emails, planning documents, bank records, invoices, and data comprising of hundreds of millions of records. Our investigation confirmed that many contemporaneous reports of fraud that dogged that rulemaking process. The OAG found that millions of fake comments were submitted through a secret campaign, funded by the country’s broadband companies, to manufacture support for the repeal of existing net neutrality rules using leads generators….

The report found millions more fake comments were submitted by a 19-year-old college student who used automated software to create fake identities. Those fake identities were in favor of net neutrality.

The broadband companies used commercial lead generators that used prizes – like gift cards and sweepstakes entries – to lure consumers to their websites and to join the campaign. Nearly every lead generator that was hired for the campaign “fabricated consumers’ responses.” Those fake responses were against the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

At the time the FCC was seeking comments about the rollback of Obama-era net neutrality rules, reporters noticed that hundreds of thousands of the comments shared identical language. When contacted by reporters, individuals said they never signed it, or never heard of net neutrality. Some who supposedly signed it had died before the comment was signed.

Personally, I think the broadband companies who hired the lead generators should be held accountable for the fraud they helped perpetrate. It is absolutely disgusting to see the lengths they went to in order to thwart the will of the people.