Further Reading (15 November)

  • The Porch Pirate of Potrero Hill Can’t Believe It Came to This” – The Atlantic. How technology intersects with and possibly exacerbates long entrenched societal problems. A fascinating read starting with someone stealing Amazon packages in a rapidly gentrifying San Francisco neighborhood.
  • Why Do We Tolerate Saudi Money in Tech?” – The New York Times and “Former Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi Arabia by digging into the accounts of kingdom critics” – The Washington Post. Unsealed indictments show that agents working for the Saudi regime used Twitter to track critics of the government, and questions have been posed regarding the effect of a Saudi prince’s stake in Twitter that is the second largest bloc of shares and bigger than CEO Jack Dorsey. It is likely that many countries around the world will continue to seek to penetrate Twitter and other giant social media platforms to mine the information for a range of goals, not least of which will be spying on enemies.
  • Facebook’s Rebrand Addresses Its $5 Billion FTC Settlement” – BuzzFeed News. Critics claim Facebook’s all capitals rebrand is an attempt to forestall action by regulators that its ownership of WhatsApp and Instagram is deceptive and to also to stave off attempts to split up the company.
  • Inside the Valentine’s Day Text Message Mystery” – The New York Times. Last week thousands of SMS messages sent on Valentine’s Day 2019 arrived on people’s phones, causing understandable confusion. The explanations from telecommunications companies as to why this happened were vague, but eventually the fingered was pointed at Syniverse Technologies, a third-party messaging service that admitted the wave of messages was caused when a server that crashed on February 14 was reactivated.
  • In the Trump era, Oracle holds tech sway” – Axios. In part because of CEO Safra Catz’s support for President Donald Trump, and in part because of its different business model, Oracle has escaped the lashing the larger technology companies have endured of late.
  • Facebook considering limits on targeted campaign ads” – Politico. Vice-President for Global Affairs and Communications and former British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg reveals that Facebook may forgo the microtargeting of users that allowed for personalized political ads in 2016 that many argue amplified the dynamics of the 2016 election and allowed disinformation to be all the more effective. Facebook’s floating of this policy change came after Google signaled it might limit political advertising, and Twitter swore off paid political ads. These may be signs that the scrutiny and pressure that accompany political advertising may not be worth the revenue.
  • Why has a privacy app used by Edward Snowden hit the NBA, NFL and NCAA?” – yahoo! sports. Signal has displaced WhatsApp as the go-to messaging in professional North American sports for players, agents, and executives because of the app’s reputation as the safest, most secure app available. It also helps cover potentially unethical conduct because of the setting that automatically deletes communications.

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