Weekly output: Trump’s Twitter blocking, Facebook ad transparency, Facebook’s $5 billion fine

If you’ve been meaning to ask me “say, when are you ever going to update the Wirecutter guide to smartphone wireless service?”–that is what took up a good share of this week. So if you want to spring an intensely involved question about wireless rate plans, I’m now much better positioned than usual to answer it.

7/9/2019: Court rules Trump can’t block Twitter followers, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me on to explain a federal appeals court ruling that President Trump can’t block people from following his Twitter account. I think the court was right to rule that by using this Twitter account to announce government decisions, Trump turned it into a government outlet… but my bigger issue with Trump’s Twitter presence remains its ignorant, hateful and bigoted content.

7/13/2019: How you can see which companies found you on Facebook, USA Today

I wrote this post in about an hour Thursday at a privacy conference hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That event fortuitously featured an executive from one of the data brokers revealed to me by Facebook’s new ad-transparency feature (as seen in the screengrab at right), and this LiveRamp executive’s talk gave me a couple of good quotes with which to end the column.

7/13/2019: Facebook faces $5 billion fine, Al Jazeera

I returned to AJ to provide some context on the widely-reported move by the Federal Trade Commission to fine Facebook $5 billion for its failings in the Cambridge Analytica data heist. My main points: That’s a huge amount of money compared to past FTC actions, but it’s nothing to Facebook, so we’ll have to see what conditions and restrictions the FTC imposes with that penalty.

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Weekly output: sneaky Android apps

My extended July 4 weekend involved a possibly dangerous quantity of backyard fireworks, too much grilled food, three baseball games, and one World Cup victory for the United States. (U.S. Soccer, pay the women more.) I hope your holiday was comparable.

7/3/2019: These are the sneaky new ways that Android apps are tracking you, Fast Company

My first post for a publication that I’ve eyed for a while covers a presentation of a study on Android app privacy that I watched two weeks ago at a Federal Trade Commission event in Washington. On one hand, I was happy that this study and a second outlined at this FTC event found no evidence that Facebook’s apps were surreptitiously listening to people. On the other hand, I was angry to see so much deceit involved in apps trying to capture a phone’s location or identity. Who involved thought that kind of creeptacular sneaking around would be a sustainable business strategy?

Weekly output: your cable company as your wireless service

I spent much of this week working on some longer-term projects, so there’s only one published story in the list below.

6/29/2019: Should you let your cable company sell you wireless service, too?, USA Today

If you get your residential Internet service from a cable operator, you may also be able to sign up for wireless service from that firm–“from” meaning “resold from one of the big four wireless carriers.” This column looks at the current wireless offers from Comcast and Spectrum as well as an upcoming service from Altice that will also run on infrastructure built out by the firm behind the Optimum cable brand.

Although the column hasn’t been tagged as corrected, we did have to correct it after I erred by relying on a Comcast tech-support page showing limited voice-over-LTE support to warn readers that Xfinity Mobile’s VoLTE was lacking. Comcast PR told me Sunday that this page had somehow stayed up despite being well out of date, but I can’t blame Comcast too much: The ages of the phones that page cited should have gotten me thinking that something was off there.

Weekly output: 8K TV, tech talk with Mark Vena, Washington Apple Pi

My workday schedule is about to get disrupted for the next 10 weeks or so: Day-camp season kicks off for our daughter Monday, so I will have a car commute most mornings and many evenings too.

6/17/2019: How TV types are getting ready to sell 8K, FierceVideo

I wrote this report from two events I’d attended in New York the week before: Insight Media’s 8K Display Summit and then an 8K panel at CE Week.

6/17/2019: Moor Insights & Strategy Podcast (6-17-19), What’s Hot in Tech?

I once again joined Moor analyst Mark Vena on his podcast to talk tech–in this case, 8K TV, the next-generation gaming consoles he saw introduced at the E3 show, and Apple’s WWDC announcements. Yes, we talked about the Mac Pro’s thousand-dollar monitor stand. How could we not?

6/22/2019: June 22, 2019 General Meeting: Rob Pegoraro, Washington Apple Pi

I spoke for about an hour before this Apple user group about the state of Web and smartphone privacy, the prospects of Washington agreeing on any government regulation of same, and the state of tech journalism. (That last bit gave me a chance to talk about my Patreon venture–my latest patron-only post there outlines upcoming stories I’m working on for various clients–and do some in-person salesmanship for it.) And as I did when I spoke to the Pi last summer, I brought a bag full of tech-event swag and gave away almost all of it.

Weekly output: Sudan Internet shutdown, 5G and smart cities, net neutrality, Facebook marketing itself

If you’ll have next Saturday morning free and a commute to George Mason University’s Fairfax campus wouldn’t be too bothersome, you can see me talk about privacy, security and other tech topics (while handing out random tech-event swag) at Washington Apple Pi’s general meeting. If this Apple user group’s schedule sticks to pattern, my spot will come up around 11 a.m.

6/12/2019: Sudan Internet shutdown, Al Jazeera

I made a Skype appearance on the Arabic-language news channel to talk about a frequent hobby of totalitarian governments: cutting off their citizens’ Internet access.

6/12/2019: Smart Cities Council—5G Networks: The Keys to Smart City Growth, CE Week

As the one person on this panel not working in the 5G or smart-cities spaces (as opposed to the Smart Cities Council’s Jason Nelson, Aero Wireless Group CEO Jim Lockwood, and Verizon 5G Labs manager Joshua Ness), I tried to ask the questions average customers and citizens might have about the advent of low-latency sensor networks in urban areas.

6/12/2019: The FCC said repealing net-neutrality rules would help consumers: It hasn’t, Yahoo Finance

I’ve had this piece on my to-do list since not long after the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 net-neutrality rules expired last June. I didn’t get a reply out of every small Internet provider that FCC chair Ajit Pai had cited as a victim of net neutrality, but the responses I did receive did not confirm the upsides Pai forecast when leading the drive to kill the old rules.

6/15/2019: Facebook’s new promotional push, Al Jazeera

Asked to comment on a Wall Street Journal report that Facebook would step up its please-trust-us marketing efforts, I reminded viewers of its previous efforts to do just that. Did they convince you that the company had turned a corner? I didn’t think so.

Weekly output: Microsoft, Kleos, finding exoplanets, Firefox tracking protection, Hollywood-style storytelling, fighting wildfires, NRO, Kitware, NSA, NGA

This week’s list has a pronounced military-industrial-complex look, thanks to the four days I spent covering the Geoint 2019 conference in San Antonio on a contract gig for my occasional client the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation. I now know much more about the business of geospatial intelligence, which can only help the next time I write about topics like location privacy for a consumer audience.

This coming week will also have me out of town, this time to NYC to speak on a panel about 5G and smart cities at the CE Week conference, attend a one-day event about 8K television, and meet up with a few friends. And that should put a cap on my work travel until at least early July, maybe all the way to early August.

6/3/2019: Better Tools for ISR Management, Trajectory Magazine

As part of the work USGIF paid for, I wrote a series of profiles of Geoint 2019 exhibitors. This one covered a software firm in Redmond, Wash., that you may have heard of before.

6/3/2019: ISR for Maritime Security, Trajectory Magazine

This exhibitor profile covered a far smaller company, Luxembourg-based Kleos Space.

6/3/2019: The Search for Exoplanets, Trajectory Magazine

I wrote up an interesting talk by SETI Institute data scientist Jeffrey R. Smith about the challenges involved in processing the imagery collected by the exoplanet-detecting satellite TESS.

6/4/2019: Firefox browser blocks sites and advertisers from tracking you online by default, USA Today

Mozilla gave me an advance on the Tuesday-morning introduction of a version of the Firefox browser with tracking-protection capabilities on a par with those in Apple’s Safari. Note that if you’re upgrading from an existing installation, you may not have this new default active; to change that, adjust your settings as I outlined in a tweet.

6/4/2019: What the Intelligence Community Can Learn from Hollywood, Trajectory Magazine

This panel got closer to a CES keynote than anything else I saw in San Antonio, thanks to a presentation by The Third Floor CEO Chris Edwards about how that virtualization studio uses 3D-rendering tools and augmented-reality interfaces to create worlds for movie and TV productions. The takeaway: The intelligence community needs to learn these techniques too, not least because our adversaries will use them against us.

6/4/2019: The Power of Real-Time Data for Firefighting, Trajectory Magazine

This otherwise-fascinating panel about using geospatial data to fight wildfires such as last year’s Camp Fire in California featured a glaring example of failed clock management: CalFire research data scientist Rachael Brody and Clark University graduate student Jaclyn Guz didn’t get to speak at all.

6/4/2019: Government Pavilion Stage Highlights, Trajectory Magazine

My part in this roundup was a recap of a talk by Troy Meink, geospatial intelligence systems acquisition director at the National Reconnaissance Office, about that black-budget agency’s increasing openness to working with smaller private-sector companies.

6/5/2019: From Sensors to Answers, Trajectory Magazine

My last exhibitor profile covered the imagery-analysis firm Kitware.

6/5/2019: Teamwork and a Talent Pipeline are Key to NSA’s Future, Trajectory Magazine

I didn’t know before this week that the National Security Agency helps run cybersecurity camps for K-12 students, but this talk by U.S. Cyber Command executive director David Luber got me up to speed on that.

6/5/2019: Government Pavilion Stage Highlights, Trajectory Magazine

My coverage wrapped up with a recap of a panel featuring National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency associate directors Jennifer Daniels and Maj. Gen. Charles Cleveland. My lesson learned from writing this: If you’re going to record audio of a panel, don’t do that from halfway back in the audience.

Weekly output: Apple Pay and Google Pay are still NFC, Planet Labs, William Hurley on quantum computing

SAN ANTONIO–An unusual business arrangement brought me here. A few months ago, the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation asked if I’d be interested in covering their  Geoint 2019 Symposium for their magazine. They’d cover my travel costs and pay me a flat fee to file a couple of posts a day. That differs from my usual article deals–it’s more like I’m simulating being a staff writer for a week–but USGIF is a good client and offered a good rate. So hello again, Texas.

5/31/2019: Clearing up confusion on payments: If a retailer takes Apple Pay it also takes Google Pay, USA Today

The long-anticipated arrival of NFC mobile payments on a few NYC bus and subway lines gave me my latest reason to remind readers that headlines only mentioning Apple Pay or Google Pay wrongly suggest a proprietary exclusivity. Unfortunately, NFC is a vague and lifeless abbreviation. On reflection, my friend Ed Bott’s suggestion of “tap to pay” would be an excellent substitute.

6/1/2019: Daily Imagery for Analytic Insight, Trajectory Magazine

My Geoint 2019 coverage started with some short profiles of exhibitors that I filed in advance–the first being the satellite-imagery firm Planet Labs.

6/2/2019: Quantum Computing Will Change Everything, but Not Without Your Help and Patience, Trajectory Magazine

Strangeworks founder and CEO William Hurley (aka “whurley”) talked about quantum computing Sunday morning and gave a refreshingly unhyped take on the technology’s perspective.