Amazon will Challenge the Department of Defense’s Decision about JEDI



The Department of Defense selected Microsoft over Amazon on a contract for their Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project. In short, the Department of Defense selected Microsoft’s Azure Cloud over Amazon’s AWS business. As you may have expected, Amazon is displeased by this decision.

The Washington Post (which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who is also the founder of Amazon), posted an article stating that Amazon will challenge the Pentagon’s decision on the JEDI project. From the article:

“AWS is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology the U.S. military needs, and remains committed to supporting the DoD’s modernization efforts,” Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said in an emailed statement. “We also believe it is critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence. Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias – and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified.”

Reuters reported that Amazon filed the notice that it will formerly protest the decision on JEDI. Reuters also reported that President Donald Trump has long criticized Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos. CNBC reported that the decision about which company would get the JEDI contract was postponed until Secretary of Defense Mark Esper completed a series of thorough reviews of the technology.

Personally, I think this situation could potentially turn into a long series of court cases. In the meantime, it seems to me that the Department of Defense is not going to wait for the outcome, and will continue working with Microsoft.


Facebook Introduces Facebook Pay



Facebook is introducing Facebook Pay. The company describes it as: “a convenient, secure and consistent payment experience across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.”

Facebook Pay will begin rolling out on Facebook and Messenger this week in the US for fundraisers, in-game purchases, event tickets, person-to-person payments on Messenger and purchases from select Pages and businesses on Facebook Marketplace. And, over time, we plan to bring Facebook Pay to more people and places, including for use across Instagram and WhatsApp.

Facebook points out that Facebook Pay is built on existing financial infrastructure and partnerships, and is separate from the Calibra wallet which will run on the Libra network.

That is probably a good decision on Facebook’s part, because Libra has had several companies that were founding members drop out. I don’t think anyone should trust that Libra will be stable until or unless it gets additional companies to sponsor it.

But, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Facebook Pay is a good idea. The Verge reported in October that PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, Stripe, Mercado Pago, and Ebay all dropped out of the Libra project. To me, it seems like a long-shot that the companies who pulled out of Libra would turn around and attach themselves to Facebook Pay.

But even if they did, and other credit card companies also decided to get on board with Facebook Pay, that brings up another problem. How much do you trust Facebook with your credit card number? Earlier this year, the FTC imposed a $5 billion penalty on Facebook and required the company to boost its accountability and transparency. The FTC is also not thrilled with Facebook’s situation with Cambridge Analytica.


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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