Taking the venerable quote from Harry Truman,” If you cannot convince them, confuse them”, Facebook will change its coverage so that three-fourths of its total user base (including those in the United States and Canada) will not be able to file a complaint in Ireland, where Facebook’s international headquarters lies. So European Union residents are covered by the GDPR rules. This change will continue to keep Facebook in the news as being untrustworthy, and could cause the U.S. congress to add more stringent laws.
Facebook and other tech giants have been fortunate that they had been essentially unregulated … until now. On April 11 we received an email titled “[Action Required] Important updates on Google Analytics Data Retention and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)” from ‘Google Analytics’ firstname.lastname@example.org that presumably was received by billions of people with gmail email addresses or other Google associations. It alerts all of us of this data protection law affecting users based in the EU (European Union) that will be effective May 25, 2018.
We suspect that the vast majority of Internet-connected individuals had no clue that such a law was in the works, though they could hardly have missed the fact that Mark Zuckerberg was testifying in Washington, DC. Likely this mass email was intentionally timed to coincide with his testifying.
Do First Ask Forgiveness Later
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Though some other observers have scorned the technology naivete of some of the legislators, we were generally impressed with the thoughtful questions that in general dug into the key issues—most notably privacy—that had forced Mark Zuckerberg to testify.
Doubtless the large majority of Facebook users never read Facebook’s Terms of Service (TOS), just like the user agreements of other memberships they pursue. When Technology Bloopers debuted, we carefully read the TOS and included some commentary under the “Social Networks” subheading of our “Villains” heading. We pointed out two notions that have turned out to be hugely important in the current dust-up: “Users of these social networks have accepted the Terms of Service (TOS) for them, giving them permission to do many things that, upon reflection, those users might actually not want done.” and “But it is hugely one-sided in that it talks about all the things that Facebook can do and not much about the things the Facebook customer can do. And it is hugely open-ended in that it cites examples of things that Facebook can do today or might do in the future, but places no limits on them. “
The tech giants are so powerful that they feel they can get away with taking actions without asking permission, then apologizing later. Again, we had reminded in our “Villains” subheading the famous quote from Lord Acton: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
We admit to being generally anti- to social networks. In our view they are an unnecessary sugar coating of basic functionality already provided in a range of websites. Our views were included when we originally uploaded our TechnologyBloopers website in August 2014, which included our critical analysis of Facebook’s “Terms of Service”.
Among the tech giants Facebook has recently has become the poster child for taking the notion of “if something is not forbidden by law, then it is allowed”, replacing Google (which did things like copying millions of pages of books in the name of making knowledge available, but violating the copyrights of the authors). This behavior earned a “command performance” for Mark Zuckerberg with congress as the audience.
Though YouTube was a great technological achievement by its original developers, more recently YouTube management has made a lot of video creators bitterly angry by their actions that started deliberately de-monetizing YouTubers since June, 2017. But not angry enough to shoot three YouTube employees at their San Bruno, CA headquarters and commit suicide on April 3, as Nasim Najafi Aghdam did. For many of these video producers, their anger was due to the pressure from advertisers who deplored YouTube’s running their ads preceding objectionable video content.
Unfortunately for a lot of people (including us at Technology Bloopers), in mid-2017, YouTube changed their monetization rules and instead of immediate monetization, they required that all YouTube channels had to exceed 10,000 views before they could make any money from advertisements that played in conjunction with their video creations. And in early 2018 YouTube upped their monetization ante by requiring each channel to have had 4,000 hours of watcher time during the preceding 12 months plus 1,000 subscribers. While there is no law against YouTube’s actions, many of these actions were a shock to the video creators—who had invested a lot of effort to produce entertaining or informative content and who highly valued—in monetary or artistic terms—a way to present them and some, like the YouTube shooter, relied on the income they received from monetizing their videos on YouTube..
The shooter felt that she had been especially victimized, not only by the numerical requirements that easily overwhelm small, independent video producers, but also by her perception of YouTube’s censoring of some of her content, and took revenge with a pistol. And the current vogue for shooting up a group perceived to be the reason for an individual’s economic or moral discomfort very likely gave her both a method and additional motivation.
We have a long and unhappy history with Apple’s premature and/or poorly-planned operating system updates. We eagerly purchased the original iPad, soon after it was introduced in April 2010, so we could read an electronic version of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on a compact, book-like gadget. It was NOT a pleasant experience, because the WSJ’s Customer Support people were clueless, but we had to be transferred via them to Tech Support. Eventually Tech Support got things sorted out and we could read the WSJ. At the time this was the largest screen view available on any such device. Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long until the iPad’s App version did not match the new iOS, so it was impossible to use it to read the WSJ. Further unfortunately, Walt Mossberg, the WSJ’s excellent technology columnist left before he could put pressure on both Apple and the WSJ to get their acts together. So we now have an obsolete piece of technology that is only useful as a model boat anchor (the only exception’s being an interesting electronic piano keyboard called Pro Keys that has about 2 octaves).
Fast forward to February 2018. We replaced our aging iPhone 4S (we would have kept it longer but our Aiptek pico projector “sled”—the best of category—went missing) by a “modern” iPhone 6S. All was well for about one month, and we could use our small handful of key Apps, until Apple wanted to update our iPhone with a new iOS version (11.2.6). Apple took over a week of false starts; they would ask if we wanted it done overnight, and then not do it after we had said Yes. And we are sorry that we let them update it, because now our Quick List doesn’t work—apparently because its App developer has not updated the App … and may never do so (probably because Apple has made some software changes that are too expensive or technically impossible to implement). We can’t even look at or download the content of the version that we had been using for 5+ years. So now we have been reduced to keeping our lists with paper and pen. We, and presumably a lot of other iPhone owners who use their iPhones for useful and productive purposes, can’t use this useful App, because Apple is focused more on entertaining stuff like Animojis than on useful and productive stuff. BIG THANKS, APPLE!!!
We become disappointed whenever we receive Google’s monthly Snapshots, and suspect that the large majority of website developers feel the same way. In December 2017 our server statistics showed nearly 100 times as many visitors as Google Analytics did, and in January 2018 they showed 60 times as many visitors as Google Analytics did.
Beyond disappointing we become angry when Google wants us to buy AdWords, implying that our visitor counts will be boosted.
We at Technology Bloopers are tired of being ripped off and we’re not going to take it anymore! We were paying Comcast a total of $86 per month for our home office business account and a whopping $156 per month for our TV. To add insult to injury, the user interface for selecting movies was not only hard to use but contained annoying videos unrelated to our searching for movies. Fortunately, this interface had annoyed us to the breaking point (and our aging DLP chip in our rear-projection TV set had lost a lot of its tiny “fingers”, looking increasingly like a starry night all the time) so that we had very recently contracted with a home theater installer who understood the pricing structure of Comcast. He arranged a deal with a total cost per month of about $60, compared to the former total of $242.
Admittedly, a lot of the savings came from removing the TV part (we have little interest in TV most of the time, and resent paying a huge fee for it). And for the small amount of TV there is a little-known, but FREE, alternative that provides most of the programming—an antenna (either indoor or outdoor.) So a large fraction of people are paying huge fees for something that is free. (Incidentally, both alternatives deliver a lot of advertising.)
By coincidence, the Wall Street Journal’s new Personal Technology columnist, David Pierce, chose as his first column (on February 15) to discuss the various alternatives to cable TV that use the Internet but are considerably less pricey.
Question: When you’ve joined the $100+ billion market cap club, what do you do next? Answer: You start invading the other members’ territories (e.g., Amazon is now chasing the digital advertising business that Facebook and Google make billions of dollars from) AND you hire a bunch of pricey lawyers to defend you against antitrust suits.
This club is pretty exclusive today, with American members including mainly Alphabet/Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Netflix. They are so big that to grow significantly they have to look for other big markets (like cloud computing or self-driving cars or Hollywood-type movies) to enter, and most of those big markets are already occupied by other club members or non-member already-large specialists. What are the bloopers here? A classical one would be monopoly/oligopoly pricing and/or restraint of trade. But perhaps more important might be the opportunities lost by a failure to allocate capital to creating useful NEW-AND-DIFFERENT products and services.
Continued massive growth by the giant high-tech companies in Silicon Valley brings with it commensurate demand for trained software engineers (as well as housing shortages and high prices, traffic jams, and other problems). The U.S. doesn’t produce enough STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) trained people, so the tech companies are forced to cast a wider net by hiring foreigners, using the mechanism of H-1B visas. Many of these H-1B hires are from India, and of those many are provided by well-compensated outsourcing firms such as Infosys, Tech Mahindra, and WiPro.
The situation in 2018 is similar to the one in 2017, with the important difference that now President Trump is now involved. He does things in strange and wonderful ways, and the America First plank in his election platform may bode ill to the H-1B visa program. Plus, he is at odds with the leaders of the giant high-tech companies. So anything can happen.
While the H-1B visa program may enable well-educated (especially in technology) individuals to enter the U.S. and earn considerably more than they could in their native countries, some of them are dissatisfied with the layers of bureaucracy that prevent them from advancing. However, there are two outstanding exceptions to this (both natives of India), namely Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (who joined Microsoft in 1992 and became its CEO in 2014) and Google Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai (who joined Google in 2004 and became its CEO in 2015 when its now-parent Alphabet Inc. was created).