Ingenuity Flys on Mars #1522



Ingenuity Helicopter has its first successful flight on Mars while the flight only lasted 30 seconds this is a huge accomplishment by the NASA and JPL team to pull this off. We will see now how further they can push the envelope in the amount of time in the air and the distance to travel.

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WordPress will Treat Google’s FLoC as a Security Concern



WordPress announced that they plan on treating Google’s new FLoC tracking technology as a security concern and plan to block it by default on WordPress sites, BleepingComputer reported. WordPress has joined the growing list of creators of browsers and search engines that refuse to implement Google’s FLoC in their content.

There is a proposal on WordPress.org titled: ““Treat FloC as a security concern”. The first thing mentioned is the EFF’s post titled: “Google’s FLoC is a terrible idea”, which notes that “placing people in groups based on their browsing habits is likely to facilitate employment, housing and other types of discrimination, as well as predatory targeting of unsophisticated consumers.”

WordPress powers approximately 41% of the web – and this community can help combat racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, and discrimination against those with mental illness with four lines of code…

The proposal also points out why it is important to take action against Google’s FloC now, instead of waiting for it to be implemented in the next update. “While it is indeed unusual to read a new ‘feature’ this way, there is precedent in that something that was not strictly a security vulnerability in comments was back-ported to previous versions for the good of the community as a whole.”

It notes that the 5.8 update is scheduled for July 2021, while FLoC will likely be rolling out this month.

Personally, I really like that WordPress is interested in protecting its users from Google’s FLoC. I’ve been using WordPress for my personal blog for years. It is really nice to know that WordPress is taking the preemptive steps to ensure that Google cannot inflict FLoC on WordPress sites.


Google Used “Double Irish” Tax Structure to Shift Profits Out of Ireland



One of Google’s headquarters is based in Dublin, Ireland. According to The Irish Times, Google shifted more than $75.4 billion in profits out of Ireland using the controversial “double Irish” tax arrangement in 2019.

Financial Times provided information about the “double-Irish” in 2014. In short, it is a simple structure used by US technology and pharmaceutical companies to route profits to tax havens like Bermuda where they hold intellectual property.

The double Irish exploits the different definitions of corporate residency in Ireland and the US. Dublin taxes companies of they are controlled and managed in Ireland, while the US’ definition if tax residency is based on where a corporation is registered. Companies exploiting the double Irish put their intellectual property into an Irish-registered company that is controlled from a tax haven such as Bermuda.

The Financial Times continued: Ireland considers the company to be a tax-resident in Bermuda, while the US considers it to be a tax-resident in Ireland. The result is that when royalty payments are sent to the company, they go untaxed – unless or until the money is eventually sent home to the US parent company.

The Irish Times reported that the “double Irish” was abolished in 2015 for new companies establishing operations in Ireland. However, it allowed companies already using it until the end of 2020 to phase it out.

To me, it sounds like Google took advantage of its ability to continue using the “double Irish” structure to move profits out of Ireland and to also keep those profits safe from being taxed in the United States. It bothers me when huge corporations make efforts to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

That said, it appears what Google was doing was considered legal until the end of 2020. It appears that Ireland abolished the “double Irish” tax arrangement. My hope this means that big corporations will actually have to pay their taxes, just like small businesses are required to.


Roblox has a Problem with User-Generated NSFW Content



Roblox is a video game where people under the age of 18 can build things with friends. All of the content is user generated. Common Sense Media states that much of the content on Roblox is age-appropriate for teens and tweens. Unfortunately, some of the content is absolutely not appropriate, or safe, for kids.

According to The Wall Street Journal, some players are engaging in NSFW actions and language on Roblox. Parental Controls are available on Roblox, but it appears that a child could still end up in a game that includes player-generated sexual content.

Even when children say they’re under 13 when creating accounts, age-inappropriate games can show up on their “recommended for you” lists. Within the hard-to-find controls, parents can restrict the games kids can play in Roblox to those deemed appropriate by the company. But of the tens of millions of multiplayer games within Roblox, only around 1,000 are on that curated list.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Vice President of Safety and Trust for Roblox, (who is also its chief privacy officer), Remy Malan, said that Roblox is now working on ways to make parental controls easier to find and use.

“Roblox was designed for kids and teens, and we have a responsibility to make sure our players can learn, create, and play safely, Mr. Malan said.

According to Mr. Malan, the new Roblox content-rating system will provide a more nuanced look at what kids might encounter in a specific game, giving parents more control over what they feel is and isn’t OK for their kids. Mr. Malan stated that there is no way to really know what a particular game entails until you play it. There is no specific date for when the new content controls will roll out.

Personally, I think Roblox should delete the accounts of players who are adding NSFW content into what is intended to be a game for children, tweens, and teens. Doing so could greatly reduce the amount of NSFW content on Roblox and make it safer for kids to play the game.

In addition, Roblox should find a way to prevent banned players from making new accounts. The sign up screen does not ask for an email address, so it is unclear to me exactly how Roblox will be able to identify when a banned users tries to return.


Google’s FLoC is Unpopular with Other Browser Creators



Google introduced a new piece of technology called “Federated Learning Cohorts” (FLoC). According to Google, FLoC “protects your privacy” because it “allows you to remain anonymous as you browse across websites and also improves privacy by allowing publishers to present relevant ads to large groups (called Cohorts)”.

EFF has launched “Am I FloCed?” It is a new site that will tell you whether your Chrome browser has been “turned into a guinea pig for Federated Learning of Cohorts or FLoC, Google’s latest targeted advertising experiment.”

Google’s FloC is unpopular with other browser creators. Brave posted a blog titled: “Why Brave Disables FLoC”:

“Brave opposes FloC, along with any other feature designed to share information about you and your interests without your fully informed consent. To protect Brave users, Brave has removed FLoC in the Nightly version of both Brave for desktop and Android. The privacy-affecting aspects of FLoC have never been enabled in Brave releases; the additional implementation details of FLoC will be removed from all Brave releases with this week’s stable release. Brave is also disabling FLoC on our websites, to protect Chrome users learning about Brave.”

Vivaldi posted a blog post titled: “No, Google! Vivaldi users will not get FLoC’ed.” In the blog post, Vivaldi makes it clear it does not support FLoC, which they call “a privacy-invasive tracking technology”. From the blog post:

“The FLoC experiment does not work in Vivaldi. It relies on some hidden settings that are not enabled in Vivaldi… Although Vivaldi uses the Chromium engine, we modify the engine in many ways to keep the good parts but make it safe for users; we do not allow Vivaldi to make that sort of call to Google.”

DuckDuckGo posted a blog in which it points out that you can use the DuckDuckGo Chrome extension to block FLoC’s tracking.

Mozilla gave The Verge a statement that included: “We are currently evaluating many of the privacy preserving advertising proposals, including those put forward by Google, but have no current plans to implement any of them at this time. We don’t buy into the assumption that the industry needs billions of data points about people, that are collected and shared without their understanding, to serve relevant advertising.”

Opera gave The Verge a statement that included: “While we and other browsers are discussing new and better privacy-preserving advertising alternatives to cookies including FLoC, we have no current plans to enable features like this in the Opera browsers in their current form”.

The fact that so many browser creators have decided against enabling Google’s FLoC is significant. It means that FLoC is really bad for users, and that Google should not impose it upon people who use Chrome.


Facebook’s Oversight Board Delays Decision on Trump Suspension



Twitter permanently suspended Trump’s account in January 2021, days after the riot at the U.S. Capitol. At the time, Twitter stated that the reason for the permanent suspension was “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”.

Facebook suspended Trump’s account for the same reasons. The difference between Facebook and Twitter is that Facebook’s ban was not permanent. At the time, CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, said that the platform would extend the block on Trump indefinitely, and for at least two weeks, until “the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

The transition from the Trump-Pence administration to the Biden-Harris administration happened in January of 2021. This puts Facebook into the difficult decision of deciding whether or not to allow Trump to return to the platform. No matter what decision is made, one thing is certain – it will make a lot of people angry.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook has a self-styled and handpicked “Oversight Board” who has the task of deciding whether or not to overturn Trump’s indefinite suspension.

On April 16, 2021, Facebook’s Oversight Board posted a short thread on Twitter. The first tweet said: “(1/2): The Board will announce its decision on the case concerning US President Trump’s indefinite suspension from Facebook and Instagram in the coming weeks. We extended the public comments deadline for this case, receiving 9,000+ responses.”

That second tweet in the thread said: “(2/2): The Board’s commitment to carefully reviewing all comments has extended the case timeline, in line with the Board’s bylaws. We will share more information soon.”

The Hill reported: Facebook requested the board’s recommendation on suspensions when the user is a political leader, meaning the board’s decision on Trump could influence how Facebook handles bans on future leaders in the U.S. and around the world.

Personally, I think that if a public leader has been suspended from a social media platform, there is likely a good reason for it. Trump no longer holds any political office. I think Facebook’s Oversight Board should use the rules that regular people would be held to if they had their Facebook account suspended and asked for the ban to be lifted.


Australian Court Finds Google “Partially” Misled Consumers



The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has found that Google misled customers about personal location data collected through Android mobile devices between January 2017 and December 2018, in a world-first enforcement action brought by the ACCC.

The Guardian provided a good explanation of what happened. The Court found that Google continued to collect “Location History” and “Web & App Activity” on some Android and Pixel phones, even for customers who ticked “No” or “Do not collect” on their settings.

If a customer said no to “Location History”, but left “Web & App Activity” switched on, Google continued to collect location data, the ACCC said.

The ACCC also stated:

The Court ruled that when consumers created a new Google Account during the initial set-up process of their Android device, Google misrepresented that the ‘Location History’ setting was the only Google Account setting that affected whether Google collected, kept, or used personally identifiable data about their location. In fact, another Google Account setting titled ‘Web & App Activity’ also enabled Google to collect, store and use personally identifiable location data when it was turned on, and that setting was turned on by default.

In addition, the ACCC wrote: The Court found that when consumers later accessed the ‘Location History’ setting on their Android device during the same time period to turn that setting off, they were also misled because Google did not inform them that by leaving the ‘Web & App Activity’ setting switched on, Google would continue to collect, store and use their personally identifiable data.

According to The Guardian, a judgment published by Justin Thomas Thawley said that Google’s behavior was “partially misleading” He felt that some consumers would have been misled, and reasonably believed that this data would not be collected, and others would not have.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, publications orders, and compliance orders. These will be determined at a later date. In addition to penalties, the ACCC is seeking an order for Google to publish a notice to Australian consumers to better explain Google’s location data settings in the future.

Personally, I think its very sneaky of Google to try and trick people into giving Google their location data. Anybody else remember when Google’s motto was “Don’t be evil”?