All posts by JenThorpe

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.


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.


Apple Commits $2.5 Billion to Combat California Housing Crisis



Apple announced a comprehensive $2.5 billion plan to help address the housing availability and affordability crisis in California. The funding commitment to California is expected to take approximately two years to be fully utilized depending on the availability of projects.

California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted: “The cost of housing in California is the defining concern for millions of families. It can only be fixed by building more housing. This partnership with the state of California will do just that – thank you Apple for stepping up.”

The $2.5 Billion Apple Commitment includes
:

$1 billion affordable housing investment fund: The $1 billion commitment to the state of California is a first-of-its-kind affordable housing fund that will provide the state and others with an open line of credit to develop and build additional new, very low-to moderate-income housing faster and at a lower cost.

$1 billion first time homebuyer mortgage assistance fund: Working with the state, this first-time homebuyer fund will provide aspiring homebuyers with financing and down payment assistance. Apple and the state will explore strategies to increase access to first-time homeownership opportunities for essential service personnel, school employees, and veterans.

$300 million Apple-owned land will be available for affordable housing: Apple intends to make available land it owns in San Jose worth approximately $300 million for the development of new affordable housing.

$150 million Bay Area housing fund: In a public-private partnership, Apple is launching a new $150 affordable housing fund with partners including Housing Trust Silicon Valley to support new affordable housing projects. The fund will consist of long-term forgivable loans and grants.

$50 million to support vulnerable populations: Apple will donate $50 million to support Destination: Home’s efforts to address homelessness in Silicon Valley. Apple will focus its contribution on driving systemic change across the many factors affecting homelessness. Apple will also be identifying similar efforts in Northern and Southern California focusing on strategies that both end and prevent homelessness.

When my husband and I moved to California years ago, we learned how difficult it was to find affordable housing. It is clear that California has a huge problem with this issue, and I suspect the cost of housing is one factor that leads to homelessness. My hope is that Apple’s commitment will improve the lives of people who are struggling.


The Internet Archive is Making Wikipedia More Credible



The Internet Archive announced that is has transformed 130,000 references to books in Wikipedia into live links for 50,000 digitized Internet Archive books in several Wikipedia language editions (including English, Greek, and Arabic). The result of this ongoing work could make Wikipedia more credible because users will be able to source material in a single click.

Students are often instructed not to use Wikipedia as a source in their research papers. One reason for that is likely because some of the claims on a typical Wikipedia page lack links to the source material. Sentences on Wikipedia that lack sources are given a “citation needed” label that instantly helps users know that the sentence may not be accurate. Some teachers allow students to start with Wikipedia – but do not allow Wikipedia itself to be used as a source.

The Internet Archive provided an example of how they are improving Wikipedia.

For example, the Wikipedia article on Martin Luther King Jr. cites the book To Redeem the Soul of America, by Adam Fairclough. That citation now links directly to page 299 inside the digital version of the book provided by the Internet Archive. There are 66 cited and linked books on that article alone.

Anyone reading Wikipedia who wants to see more information on a source can click on the link provided. They can see a couple of pages to preview that book. Those who want to read more (such as students who are writing a research paper) can borrow the digital copy of that book using Controlled Digital Lending. The Internet Archive says Controlled Digital Lending is “analogous to how they borrow physical books from their local library.”

Wired reported that The Internet Archive was in a unique position to improve Wikipedia. Their Wayback Machine service has archived 387 billion webpages since 2001. It has also been digitizing books and other analog media, and has scanned 3.8 million books. The project is ongoing and The Internet Archive is seeking people who want to help with it.


Facebook will not Fact-Check Political Ads



Those who use Facebook should view the political ads they see on the social media platform with a healthy dose of skepticism. CNN reported that Facebook will not fact-check political ads.

That means individual people will need to do their own research on whatever content those type of ads contain. Sadly, I don’t think that most people will bother to do their own fact-checking, especially for political ads that spread misinformation that matches the person’s political leanings.

Facebook released its decision to not fact-check political speech in September of 2019. Facebook stated that it does not believe it is appropriate for them “to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public scrutiny.”

That’s why Facebook exempts politicians from our third-party fact-checking program. We have had this policy on the books for over a year now, posted publicly on our site under eligibility guidelines. This means we will not send organic content or ads from politicians to our third-party fact-checking partners for review. However, when a politician shares previously debunked content including links, videos and photos, we plan to demote that content, display related information from fact-checkers, and reject its inclusion in advertisements.

That said, Facebook doesn’t appear to be adhering to the part about demoting ads that contain previously debunked content. The New York Times reported in October 2019 that a 30-second ad released by the Trump campaign provided misinformation about Joe Biden, and the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

According to The New York Times, the Biden campaign asked Facebook to take down that ad. Facebook responded to the Biden campaign by saying the ad had been viewed five million times on the site, and declaring that the ad did not violate company policies.

Facebook’s decision to opt-out of fact-checking political ads extends to the UK. According to CNN, Facebook will not fact-check ads run by British political parties or the thousands of candidates running for election to the House of Commons. This comes as the UK is preparing for a historic December election regarding Brexit.


Fitbit to be Acquired by Google



Fitbit announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Google LLC for $7.35 per share in cash, valuing the company at a fully diluted equity value of approximately $2.1 billion. The transaction is expected to close in 2020, subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by Fitbit’s stockholders.

“More than 12 years ago, we set an audacious company vision – to make everyone in the world healthier. Today, I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved towards reaching that goal.We have built a trusted brand that supports more than 28 million active users around the globe who rely on our products to live a healthier, more active, life,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit.

Consumer trust is paramount to Fitbit. Strong privacy and security guidelines have been part of Fitbit’s DNA since day one, and this will not change. Fitbit will continue to put users in control of their data and will remain transparent about the data it collects and why. The company never sells personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used on Google ads.

Google posted on The Keyword about their definitive agreement to acquire Fitbit. The focus in this announcement is about wearables, and how Fitbit’s team of experts “can help spur innovation in wearables and build products to benefit even more people around the world.” Google also mentioned privacy.

But to get this right, privacy and security are paramount. When you use our products, you’re trusting Google with your information. We understand this is a big responsibility and we work hard to protect your information, put you in control and give you transparency about your data. Similar to our other products, with wearables, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why. We will never sell personal information to anyone. Fitbit Health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads. And we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move, or delete their data.

I’m willing to believe that those who use Fitbit’s products trust the company not to do nefarious things with their health data. But, I’m not certain that those customers also trust Google.