Meta May Allow Instagram and Facebook Users in Europe to Pay to Avoid Ads

    Via The New York Times:

    The subscription plan is a response to European Union policies and court rulings to restrict Meta’s data-collection practices.

    I say go for it. We might find out what Social Networks are really worth then. I suspect not a lot.

    2 September 2023 — French West Indies

    Facebook/Meta and highly personalised ads in the EU

    Highly personalised ads imply highly personalised data about you. Despite what Facebook/Meta and the intrusive advertising apologists say, collecting, storing and profile-building that information is a huge security risk to each and every individual on the internet. And yes, I know there have not been any “known” breaches reported, but known is doing a lot of lifting in that statement.

    After more than five years of extensive litigation by noyb, the German Kartellamt and decisions by the EDPB and CJEU, it seems that Meta finally complies with EU privacy laws:

    5 years of litigation: Meta apparently switches to consent for behavioral ads

    Many think that policy advisors in the EU Commission develop policy ideas like they’re given in Christmas crackers. That couldn’t be further from the truth, as policy is shaped mainly by research and findings. And whether you agree or disagree with eventual legislation, the foundations of it are not some verbal fart of a career policy wonk with incentives to climb the greasy pole of EU politics.

    Firstly, I’d like to point you to a document from the European Commission, the Study on the impact of recent developments in digital advertising on privacy, publishers and advertisers.

    The Executive Summary lists many conclusions and observations, with one that is particularly interesting and not widely understood:

    There is limited evidence to suggest that the efficiency and efficacy gains of advertising products that rely on personal data and profiling outweigh the interference with individuals’ fundamental rights and consumer rights in addition to the reported negative societal impacts. A large amount of academic research has focused on demonstrating that the way that digital advertising works today has significant impacts on privacy, data protection, democracy, society and the environment. However, there is a lack of independent analysis to assess the costs and benefits of using personal data and profiling in advertising.

    And this:

    Lack of transparency in digital advertising limits evidence-based decision-making because advertisers lack independent data to assess the performance of digital advertising. This strengthens the position of players with strong market power and deters advertisers from switching to emerging alternatives that are less intrusive, even though there is evidence that some advertisers would prefer to rely on models that minimise the processing of unnecessary personal data. More independent data about the performance of alternative models compared to the status quo is needed to encourage widespread adoption among advertisers and publishers.

    The efficacy of online advertising has always been bullshit and a mechanism of wealth extraction from advertisers and targeted individuals alike. It is time to expose it for what it is —essentially a scam.

    5 August 2023 — French West Indies

    Digital Colonialism in action

    We’ll just walk in here, do what we want and won’t ask permission. Look over there, free money!

    From the BBC:

    “The Kenyan government has ordered cryptocurrency project Worldcoin to stop signing up new users, citing data privacy concerns.”

    Any other global south countries should follow suit before this ill-advised scheme installs itself. Until some of the fundamental questions of security, safety and privacy are properly answered, this project should be shut down wherever it operates.

    2 August 2023 — French West Indies

    A world slowly going mad

    The FT reports that Meta is about to introduce chatbots with different “personas” as a retention ploy.

    Meta prepares chatbots with personas to try to retain users | Financial Times (paywalled)

    What could possibly go wrong?

    1 August 2023 — French West Indies

    The Metaverse: Just around the corner (if the corner is a galactic-sized outer arm)

    Mark Zuckerberg: Threads users down by more than a half - BBC News

    “He said work on the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology that would power it was "not massively ahead of schedule, but on track", adding that he didn't anticipate it going mainstream until the next decade.”

    Translation: Circling down the stained toilet.

    Digital IDs and Shitcoins

    Step 1: Create an AI that accelerates its adoption and forces the creation of AGI.

    Step 2: Roll out an iris-scanning tool capturing the biometric identities of those least in a position to protect themselves in exchange for a small payout of some useless shitcoin.

    Step 3: Argue that AGI is coming and, therefore, we need to protect our IDs from this monster, and the solution is … (see step 2)

    Step 4: As a private company spread across the globe owning millions (if not billions) of digital IDs with virtually no protection (let's not even talk about cybersecurity - fsck me, this would be one hell of a juicy target) extract value by choking the poor for access to essential services and/or human rights.

    This is digital colonialism and must be stopped.

    Do not, I repeat, do not give your digital ID to this company. They cannot be trusted with that type of information.

    BTW, the shitcoin will be exploited, and those that can least afford it will lose money at best. At worst… it might be much more than you think.

    25 July 2023 — French West Indies

    I’m a British subject not proud of it

    From the Conversation:

    In announcing the scheme, then home secretary Amber Rudd apologised for her government’s appalling treatment of the Windrush generation. People had suffered devastating harm. They had lost jobs and homes, and been deprived of healthcare. Many had been threatened with deportation. Some were deported to countries they had not visited since early childhood.

    In the five years since, however, this scandal has only deepened.

    Fucking disgraceful.

    With thanks to UB40 for the headline.

    4 June 2023 — French West Indies

    Hallucinations are not limited only to GenAI, they are also the domain of its creators

    During an onstage interview with Sam Altman with Azeem Azhar, as reported by the Verge:

    “My basic model of the world is that the cost of intelligence and the cost of energy are the two limited inputs, sort of the two limiting reagents of the world. And if you can make those dramatically cheaper, dramatically more accessible, that does more to help poor people than rich people, frankly,” he said. “This technology will lift all of the world up.”

    This is utter rubbish. The ones that will benefit the most from this technology will undoubtedly be those with the means to exploit it the most, continuing their tradition of wealth extraction from those with the least means.

    This will lift the world’s average in precisely the same way that the co-passengers in a lift with Bill Gates are all billionaires… on average.

    Take note, equally, of the “if”. That’s doing a LOT of heavy lifting.

    Once last quip. You see how these people see the world as binary — rich people and poor people. This is how they fail to understand and hence, mitigate all that messy in-between stuff existent in practically any topic, be it race, food, politics, etc.

    Seriously, who the fuck do these people think they are?

    24 May 2023 — French West Indies

    AI hallucinations

    I should have linked to this article from Naomi Klein in the Gruaniad a while back.

    AI machines aren’t ‘hallucinating’. But their makers are.

    If you’re unfamiliar with Naomi Klein, I suggest reading No Logo. A journalist’s essay on marketing, brands and the coopting of “difference” to sell more stuff.1 Written in 2000 but is still relevant today, and in some respects more so.

    24 May 2023 — French West Indies

    1. Read, crap.

    “Officer Naughty”

    From the Grauniad:

    What a twisted little egotistical world we occupy currently. ‘It’s ok, as long as I’m alright.’ Dreadful.

    “While under investigation for the failings, Lee quit the force and reportedly set up an OnlyFans account called Officer Naughty. She now faces being barred for life from the police service.”

    23 May 2023 — French West Indies

    Not My King

    6 May 2023 — French West Indies

    Rumours of a new journaling app in iOS

    According to the WSJ, Apple is planning on releasing a journaling app that competes with existing apps:

    The software will compete in a category of so-called journaling apps, such as Day One, which lets users track and record their activities and thoughts. The new Apple product underscores the company's growing interest in mental health.

    The Apple journaling app, code-named Jurassic, is designed to help users keep track of their daily lives, according to the documents describing the software. The app will analyze the users' behavior to determine what a typical day is like, including how much time is spent at home compared with elsewhere, and whether a certain day included something outside the norm, according to the documents.

    I’m genuinely interested to discover what this will look and work like.

    I’ve used the excellent journaling app called Day One for several years. I like and use it because of its simplicity, syncing, and availability on iPhone, Mac and iPad. However, because of the poor support for the specificities of the iPad, I think Apple has an opportunity to provide the basics and go beyond what Day One delivers. The iPad is a pencil-supporting device; in this respect, I think Day One has consistently missed something. It offers basic Scribble and drawing support but leaves you wanting more.1

    When you look at journaling as a practice, there is much worth in writing by hand. Studies that look at learning show that people tend to remember more and for longer when they have written their notes using pen and paper.2 There is just something connecting the brain and the information through the writing process.3

    Apple should Implement something akin to current functionality in Notes or Freeform, although less clunky, please. What is needed is an unencumbered combination of digital text, handwriting, drawings, and scribbles, all free from constraint and really easy to use. Some of the most personal journals include handwriting, doodles and other markings that can signify something to the writer and possibly the posthumous reader of the future. Limiting a journal to markdown or rich text is too reductive for journaling.

    I’d love the Apple app to have the ability to do either, or more precisely, both. There are days I’d like to handwrite and days I’m happy sitting at my desk writing through the keyboard. With this setup, it would be easier to journal when not at the office or possessing only an iPad —the typing experience of the on-screen keyboard on an iPad is less than optimal, and I’m being very charitable.

    Microsoft produced a demo of something similar to this idea over ten years ago called Courier.4 Microsoft’s concept goes way beyond what is needed and wanted. But it gives you an idea of an entirely open-ended journal, just like paper, only digital, replicated, backed up and encrypted for privacy.

    3 May 2023 — French West Indies

    1. https://developer.apple.com/design/human-interface-guidelines/apple-pencil-and-scribble
    2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210319080820.htm
    3. Incidentally, handwriting on a tablet, whilst better than typing, performed slightly worse than pen and paper.
    4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Courier

    Take your coronation and shove it

    I, for one, will not be pledging allegiance to “the King”.

    Royalty is essentially a criminal enterprise and always has been. The gangs of the past successfully killed, terrorised, pillaged and set up elaborate rent-seeking schemes to consolidate enough power that still permeates to this day.

    This current incarnation got rich off the backs of enslaved people and has so far refused to acknowledge such and do something meaningful to apologise and repair.

    The ceremony itself is a silly fantastical ritual of Disney proportions for a well-connected, dubiously super-rich man having a metal hat —decorated with stolen diamonds— placed on his head.

    And we’re supposed to bow down to this?

    I don’t believe one strand of human DNA is more important than another’s.

    Take your coronation and shove it.

    30 April 2023 — French West Indies

    The Guardian: Meloni praises Sunak’s immigration policies on visit to No 10

    From the Guardian: Not the kind of endorsement that I’d be comfortable with —more of an indication of just how far right the UK has shifted in recent times.

    This will not end well.

    28 April 2023 — French West Indies

    A tale of two headlines

    From BBC News 24/04/2023:

    Also, from the same day:

    Both of these presenters got fired. Sacked. Booted out.

    I’ll leave it up to you to spot the difference in treatment and the possible reason.

    It’s so tiring.

    24 April 2023 — French West Indies

    Repeating the mistakes of AI past

    With the current news cycle being dominated by all things ChatGPT and AI, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit a book I first read in 1997/1998, the year it was released.

    The book is “HALs Legacy - 2001’s Computer as Dream and Reality”. It was issued by MIT Press in 1997 and was edited by David G. Stork. You may find a secondhand hard copy, but no ebook exists as far as I can tell.

    It contains a forward by one of my favourite Science Fiction authors, Arthur C. Clarke, who you will no doubt know was the writer of the original novel 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    This paragraph in Chapter 1 struck me :

    Marvin Minsky (who, incidentally, nearly lost his life consulting on 2001.) argues (in chapter 2) that the field made such good progress in its early days that researchers became overconfident and moved on prematurely to more immediate or practical problems —for example, chess and speech recognition. They left undone the central work of understanding the general computational principles —learning, reasoning and creativity— that underlie intelligence. Without these, he believes, we will end up with a growing collection of dumb experts and will never achieve Al.

    I can’t help thinking about the parallels to this new rush of AI deployment, and it feels as though we are falling into the same trap once again. The various ChatX machine learning algorithms impress on one level but are brutally stupid and over-confident simultaneously on another. The risks are multiple, some benign and others too frightening to ponder.

    What is it that we say about the past and the future?

    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana

    6 April 2023 — French West Indies

    The open blockchain, my arse! More like Fraudola.

    In a Bloomberg article by Nick Baker called An NFT Just Sold for $532 Million, But Didn’t Really Sell at All, we see that transactions on blockchains were there, but no one understood what the hell was going on… to the tune of more than half a billion dollars!

    The process started Thursday at 6:13 p.m. New York time, when someone using an Ethereum address beginning with 0xef76 transferred the CryptoPunk to an address starting with 0x8e39.

    About an hour and a half later, 0x8e39 sold the NFT to an address starting with 0x9b5a for 124,457 Ether -- equal to $532 million -- all of it borrowed from three sources, primarily Compound.

    To pay for the trade, the buyer shipped the Ether tokens to the CryptoPunk’s smart contract, which transferred them to the seller -- normal stuff, a buyer settling up with a seller. But the seller then sent the 124,457 Ether back to the buyer, who repaid the loans.

    And then the last step: the avatar was given back to the original address, 0xef76, and offered up for sale again for 250,000 Ether, or more than $1 billion.

    It is discussed in more detail in DSHR's Blog: How Bubbles Are Blown.

    This is a great example of how one of the central ideas of openness and transparency on the blockchain is, in fact, complete bullshit.

    If anyone tells you that the blockchain is “open” and therefore anyone can see what’s going on, ask them to show you how. Practically. In simple steps. Not just a parroting of the crypto-bro indoctrination mutterings.

    If they can’t, then show them this article about how those manipulations play out in plain sight precisely because it is indecipherable to most.


    5 April 2023 — French West Indies

    WSJ: Meta to Let Users Opt Out of Some Targeted Ads, but Only in Europe

    From the Wall Street Journal.

    Meta Platforms Inc. is planning to let European users of Facebook and Instagram opt out of certain highly personalized ads as part of plans to limit the impact of a European Union privacy order, according to people familiar with the planning.

    What this proves, beyond doubt, is that Meta will only respect your privacy when it is legislated to do so.

    Note also the “opt-out” rather than the “opt-in” that is desired.

    Why else wouldn’t they roll this out to the entire world?

    It seems to me that Meta is on the wrong side of worldwide public opinion. At some point, this will present a serious enough risk for the company —either through data mishandling (selling some data to unscrupulous brokers) or being the target of a massive breach (it is only a matter of time) —for them to act on it fundamentally.

    From what we know, most “digital marketing” is smoke and mirrors, providing no real value to advertisers over and above Media/TV/Radio and billboards. The value chain has been hijacked to introduce these gatekeepers that squeeze profits from both sides, making most small businesses poorer.

    From the European Commission’s Study on the impact of recent developments in digital advertising on privacy, publishers and advertisers:

    The most widely used products in digital advertising rely on large amounts of personal data and profiling of individuals. However, there is limited evidence to suggest that the efficiency and efficacy gains to advertisers and publishers outweigh the societal impact of these products. There is a lack of independent analysis to assess the benefits of using personal data and profiling in advertising. The few studies that do exist fail to take into account important considerations such as the impact of fraud and buyer expectations.

    I thoroughly recommend the report.

    30 March 2023 — French West Indies

    Platformer: Microsoft just laid off one of its responsible AI teams

    What was I saying about that Silicon Valley mantra again?

    From Platformer:

    Some members of the team pushed back. “I'm going to be bold enough to ask you to please reconsider this decision,” one employee said on the call. “While I understand there are business issues at play … what this team has always been deeply concerned about is how we impact society and the negative impacts that we've had. And they are significant.”

    Montgomery declined. “Can I reconsider? I don't think I will,” he said. “Cause unfortunately the pressures remain the same. You don't have the view that I have, and probably you can be thankful for that. There's a lot of stuff being ground up into the sausage.”

    Commercial pressures trump societal damage limitation, it seems.

    Who the fuck do these people think they are?

    14 March 2023 — French West Indies

    First, drive people apart. Then sell them tech to bring them together. But only on our terms. And monetised.

    While I’m on the topic of bullshit and the onanistic nature of Silicon Valley, it seems the “metaverse” is dying on its arse.

    Fucking good riddance to it, too.

    It’s a solution looking for a problem. That is nothing new, and most people have instinctively felt that from when it first burst onto the news cycle. Some of us were sceptical (stating it politely), and others saw the grit opportunity it afforded.

    But what is new is that it is a solution to a problem created by the same tech companies that have worked hard to break society and monetise human interaction by being the gatekeepers and mediators.

    They have driven human interaction to a transaction that (shitty and racist) advertising can piggyback—in turn, driving a wedge in human interaction, leaving at least one generation inadequate or incapable of having normal relationships with themselves and, therefore, with others.

    13 March 2023 — French West Indies

Older Posts →