Weekly output: Michael Chertoff on privacy, TV-streaming rate hikes

I only had four workdays this week, thanks to Monday being spent in the air on my way back from London to D.C. That said, my productivity was not as bad as this scant list would suggest, since I filed three other posts in those four days… and now I can find out how much more work edits on those posts will entail.

7/12/2018: Ex-Homeland Security chief Chertoff wants EU-style data privacy laws, Yahoo Finance

I spent about half an hour on the phone with Michael Chertoff Wednesday afternoon about his views on various privacy and security issues and came away with far more material than I could fit in this post, as well as a renewed appreciation of the time it takes to transcribe quotes from a recording of an interview.

7/15/2018: As cord-cutting prices rise, here’s what you can do to keep costs down, USA Today

No, rate hikes at such live-TV streaming services as DirecTV Now and Sling TV don’t mean that returning to the embrace of cable or satellite TV–both subject to the same inflationary pressures, both also fond of sticking you with monthly fees to return a tuner box–now makes financial sense for a lot more people.

Advertisements

Another part of the world where I need to use a VPN

I spent last week in London with my family–yes, actual vacation-esque time! It was great, except for when I was trying to keep up with news from back home.

My first stay across the Atlantic since the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation went into force May 25 brought home the unpleasant reality of some U.S. sites’ continued struggles with this privacy law. And instead of experiencing this only briefly in a Virtual Private Network session on my iPad, I got a full-time dose of it.

The biggest problem is sites such as the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times that have blocked all European access instead of providing the privacy controls required by the GDPR.

That’s not the fault of the GDPR–its provisions were set two years ago–but is the fault of Tronc, the long-mismanaged news firm formerly known as Tribune Publishing. Tronc could afford to pay $15 million to former chairman Michael Ferro after he quit facing charges of sexual abuse but apparently couldn’t afford to hire any GDPR-qualified developers. I hope the LAT can fix that now that Tronc has sold the paper, but it may be a while before I can link to any Tribune stories without annoying European readers.

With my client USA Today, the issue isn’t as bad: It provides EU readers with a stripped-down, ad- and tracking-free version of the site, which you can see at right in the screenshot above. What’s not to like about such a fast, simple version? Well, I can’t see comments on my own columns, and simply searching for stories requires switching to Google… by which I mean, Bing, since right-clicking a Google search result doesn’t let you copy the target address, and clicking through to a Google result will yield an EU-specific USAT address.

The simplest fix for these and other GDPR-compliance glitches was to fire up Private Internet Access on my laptop and connect to one of that VPN service’s U.S. locations–yes, as if I were in China. It seems a violation of the Web’s founding principles to have to teleport my browser to another continent for a task as simple as reading the news, but here we are.

Weekly output: wiping flash drives, Apple Maps to-do list, geospatial privacy issues

Having July 4 bisect this workweek ensured that I would spend much of it checked out of work. I hope that was the case for you as well, even if you didn’t have the additional factor of visiting relatives you’ve missed.

USAT flash-drive wiping column7/5/2018: Ready to ditch your old flash drive? Don’t just erase and recycle, USA Today

The number-one reader question I got after my earlier column on how to destroy a dead hard drive was “what if the drive still works–how do you be sure no data’s left on it in that case?” This column should be your answer, although I’m not sure how many Windows users will go to the trouble of installing VeraCrypt and using that free, but complex open-source app to scramble drives before disposal, resale or recycling.

7/5/2018: 5 ways Apple maps can improve to compete with Google, Yahoo Finance

A report by TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino about Apple’s ongoing effort to rebuild its mapping app on an in-house foundation gave me an excuse to vent about some longstanding problems with Apple Maps. Writing this also led me to consider other ways in which both that app and Google Maps fail to grasp such transportation alternatives as high-occupancy/toll lanes and using bikeshare or ride-hailing services to augment transit.

7/6/2018: GEOINT Law & Policy: A Poorly Mapped Frontier, Trajectory Magazine

I wrote a feature for the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s quarterly magazine about how many of the laws and norms governing geospatial privacy have failed to keep up with advances in the tools that can track us.

Updated 7/10/2018 to add a link to the Trajectory article (it didn’t show up in a Google News search, and I forgot to check the magazine’s site on my own.)

 

Planespotting with purpose: Arlington flyovers

If you live or work within a few miles west of Arlington National Cemetery, you can expect to hear a sound that suggests you’ll on the receiving end of an airstrike: a crescendo of jet-engine noise that rapidly escalates past the volume of a departure from National Airport until a formation of military jets booms overhead.

Flyovers in support of military funerals are a regular ritual at Arlington, but the schedule at the cemetery’s site doesn’t indicate which one will feature an aerial accompaniment. Instead, follow the @ArlingtonNatl Twitter account, which usually tweets out an advisory or two about flyovers in advance under the hashtag #flyover.

You can’t count on a flyover happening exactly on schedule–I’ve seen them happen more than half an hour after the forecast time–but at least you’ll know roughly when to expect the noise.

And, if you’re any sort of avgeek, that will also be your cue to step outside with a camera or binoculars. (Read after the jump for a quick aircraft-recognition tutorial.) The sight of four planes in a missing-man formation is always impressive–and a good opportunity to contemplate the service of the man or woman being laid to rest at Arlington.

Continue reading

Weekly output: credit checks for wireless service, Carpenter v. U.S., Safari security, Facebook listening patent

The second quarter of the year is in the books. Or to put this in less financial terms: Happy almost Fourth of July! Please take a moment during this holiday to remember that democracy is not a spectator sport.

6/25/2018: Sprint’s $15 unlimited data plan required a ‘hard pull’ credit report, and it’s not the only one, USA Today

The Collision conference gets an assist here for introducing me to CreditKarma co-founder Nichole Mustard, who on short notice provided a concise explanation of different levels of credit inquiries.

6/25/2018: Four things to note about the Supreme Court’s location privacy ruling, The Parallax

I applaud the Supreme Court ruling that the government has to get a search warrant to see my location history as tracked by my wireless carrier. But it also left many things unclear, like the validity of the “third-party doctrine” that originally allowed warrantless access to that location data.

6/29/2018: Apple’s Safari has dropped the ball on security, Yahoo Finance

News that Twitter would finally support two-step verification based on cryptographically-signed “U2F” USB keys gave me a timely peg for a piece recounting how Apple’s browser has been late to implement many security advances–even as Safari has led the industry in adding privacy protection.

6/30/2018: Facebook’s listening patent, Al Jazeera

I got a call from a producer as I was walking to Metro to meet friends for brunch, asking if I could talk about recent reports of Facebook obtaining a patent that appears to describe turning on a phone’s microphone when an ad broadcasts a special, inaudible-to-humans tone. I said this patent only showed that Facebook has aggressive patent lawyers. Why? See Nilay Patel’s debunking of this allegation in the Verge, based on a close reading of the claims in the actual patent.

Please stop asking for my “best number”

Too many of my interactions with public-relations types and the people they represent conclude with a pointless question: “What’s your best number?”

That query is a waste of time because my phone number, 202-683-7948, should be obvious: It’s in the signature that appears at the end of almost every e-mail I send as well as on my business cards.

Besides, as a self-employed individual in the 21st century, I don’t use any other number for work.

My absence of a desk line should be obvious: Why bother when I already have a smartphone on my person at almost all times? But the number on my wireless plan isn’t my work number either.

You might see me call from a 703-area-code number if both WiFi connectivity and mobile broadband are awful, but there’s no upside to returning my call at those digits. If I have any cellular signal, calls to my work number will ring through to my cell–and even if my phone is offline, they’ll still reach the rest of my devices.

Yes, I’m one of those people using a Google Voice number, even after years of Google’s intermittent neglect of that service. I’ve had this GV number–again, 202-683-7948, which may be easier to remember as 202-OVERWIT–since 2007, when a friend got me an invite to the closed beta test of GrandCentral, the company Google bought before relaunching its service as Google Voice.

And not only do I have those digits mapped to my regular gadgets, they also reach me in WhatsApp and Signal. I would have done the same with WeChat but couldn’t–which turned out not to matter, since my cell number is invisible in that app.

I trust that’s cleared up how to reach me telephonically. Now can you all also remember that if I don’t pick up when you call, you’re supposed to either leave a voicemail or send a follow-up e-mail?

Weekly output: Inside the Media Minds, EU copyright control-freakery, WeChat, 5G and IoT, Facebook political-ad rules

In addition to the exposure below, I may or may not have been on New York’s Fox affiliate WNYW Monday–I did a Skype interview about the music industry’s move away from downloads, but I have no idea if they used it or not. If you happened to watch them Monday night, please let me know either way in a comment.

6/19/2018: EP 7 – Rob Pegoraro/Yahoo Finance/USA Today, Inside the Media Minds

I sat down for this interview with W2 Communications‘ host Christine Blake a month ago–but since I spent most of the time talking about longer-term stuff like my coverage priorities and my worries about technology, it aged reasonably well.

6/20/2018: How Europe’s proposed copyright laws could ruin your search engines, Yahoo Finance

It’s now been over five and a half years since I first wrote about the inane idea of letting newspapers charge search engines for the privilege of indexing their content, and I’ve been covering Hollywood’s demands that the tech industry nerd harder and create some magic solution to copyright infringement since at least 2002. That the European Union is seriously considering copyright-law revisions that would add a link tax and upload filtering suggests that no tech-policy idea is too dumb not to be exhumed and put forth as a sober-minded solution.

6/21/2018: Meet WeChat, the app that’s ‘everything’ in China, The Parallax

I wrote a lengthy explainer about WeChat, the do-it-all social-media platform that largely defines the mobile Internet for Chinese users–Facebook Messenger could only dream of folding in so many functions. Then again, Facebook Messenger offers end-to-end encryption while WeChat offers no such thing.

6/21/2018: 5G and the Internet of Things: How much? How fast? How soon?, CE Week

I led a panel discussion at the CE Week conference with Owl CEO Andrew Hodge, I Luv Wireless managing member Michael Dean, and SureCall sales vice president Frankie Smith. The takeaway: forget latency and bandwidth, better battery life will be the real reward of 5G in connected devices.

6/22/2018: Facebook’s push to kill bad political ads is also hiding regular posts, Yahoo Finance

Facebook now requires ads that address political issues to meet a higher standard of transparency—but in practice, its system has been classifying ads promoting news stories and even everyday commercial offerings as political.