Weekly output: Supreme Court stops Texas social-media law, Russian digital attacks, NESN goes DTC, new bipartisan privacy bill

Until a few hours ago, my agenda for the week ahead involved flying to Denver to moderate a panel at the Stream TV Show. But after a few days of feeling a moderately sore throat–and having months ago made a self-test part of my pre-departure routine before any work or personal trip–I broke out one of the antigen tests we got for free from the government. And this time, I got to see in person what a positive test looks like on one of these things.

As a result, the post I wrote this week for Patreon readers about my busy travel schedule this month is now… not inoperative, but certainly less operative.

6/1/2022: Supreme Court Ices Texas Social Media Moderation Ban, PCMag

I filed this the morning after I arrived in Helsinki for WithSecure’s Sphere conference, taking advantage of jet lag having me awake way too early.

Screenshot of the story as seen in Safari for iPadOS, featuring the photo I took of this talk showing Hyppönen standing before a screen showing his talk's title: "Ctrl Z"6/2/2022: Why Russia’s Cyberattacks on Ukraine Have Failed to Make a Significant Dent, PCMag

That event–as in, this event that covered my travel costs–had some enlightening talks. But the only one that I felt yielded a newsworthy post, given the constraints imposed by the conference schedule and my own jet lag, was this talk by WithSecure chief research officer Mikko Hyppönen about why Russia hasn’t been able to leave much of a digital dent in Ukraine.

6/3/2022: Red Sox Regional Sports Network Launches $30 Streaming Service, PCMag

After waking up for no apparent reason before 4 a.m. (have I mentioned how bad jet lag whomped me on this trip?), I decided to take advantage of that sleepless time and bang out a post about NESN finally going direct to consumer (aka “DTC”), giving cord-cutting Red Sox fans an alternative to paying for a traditional pay-TV bundle.

6/4/2022: Legislators Introduce Bipartisan Digital-Privacy Bill That May Not Be Doomed, PCMag

My Saturday work–Friday having been spent nodding off on the two flights that took me home–was reading up on and writing about a new privacy bill that seems like it might offer a workable compromise. I mean, except for the fact that Congress has spent the last decade finding new ways to fumble away opportunities to pass meaningful federal privacy legislation.

Weekly output: inflight WiFi (x2), cheaper broadband, Google I/O, Texas social-media law, DEA data-portal hack, Twitter mourns Shireen Abu Akleh, SpaceX recap

BOISE–For the second year in a row, I’m on the road for PCMag’s Fastest Mobile Networks project. And this time the work has taken me much farther from home: After completing the network drive testing I started here after arriving Sunday afternoon, I’m heading to Seattle, Portland and then the Bay Area before flying home.

5/9/2022: Wi-Fi on the plane: Here’s how in-flight connectivity is changing (and costing), USA Today

I know everybody loves to complain about the unreliable state of inflight WiFi, but I see two positive trends worth a little applause: flat-rate pricing and free use of messaging apps.

5/9/2022: White House Lines Up 20 ISPs to Offer Free 100Mbps Broadband to Qualifying Households, PCMag

I wrote up the Biden administration’s announcement of a partnership with 20 Internet providers that will lower service costs to zero for households eligible for the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program–and noted how this deal’s ban on data caps make some of these companies’ existing broadband plans look even worse.

5/10/2022: Wi-Fi on the plane: Here’s how in-flight connectivity is changing (and costing), This Morning with Gordon Deal

The business-news radio show had me on talk about recent developments in using the Internet from a chair in the sky.

Screenshot of story as seen in Safari on an iPad mini 55/12/2022: Here are the 4 most surprising takeaways from the first day of Google’s I/O conference, Fast Company

Part of the keynote that opened Google’s I/O conference reminded me of today’s Apple, while another part evoked a previous decade’s Microsoft.

5/12/2022: US Appeals Court Rules Social Media Content Moderation Should Be Restricted, PCMag

I wrote about an unexplained and inexplicable ruling by a panel of federal judges that allowed a blatantly unconstitutional Texas law to take effect. My post had its own inexplicable error: I linked to the wrong one-page ruling and therefore named the wrong judges. No readers yelled at me about the mistake before I realized it on my own, but I feel stupid about it anyway.

5/12/2022: Hackers Reportedly Gain Access to Drug Enforcement Administration Data Portal, PCMag

My old Washington Post pal Brian Krebs had a scoop about what seems to be a massive data breach made possible by poor security practices, which I wrote up while adding some context about the White House’s recent moves to improve federal infosec.

5/12/2022: Twitter reactions to Shireen Abu Akleh’s death, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me on Thursday night to discuss how Twitter reacted to the horrible news of their correspondent being shot and killed, apparently by Israeli soldiers, while reporting in the West Bank.

5/13/2022: Here’s How Close We Came to Relying on the Russians for ISS Trips, PCMag

I spent Thursday afternoon in D.C. at Ars Technica’s Ars Frontiers conference, and an insightful interview of former NASA deputy administrator by that estimable news site’s space reporter Eric Berger yielded this recap.

Weekly output: Rocket Lab booster catch, passwordless logins, Mark Vena podcast, Chris Krebs cybersecurity-policy assessment, Facebook to end background location tracking

Friday marked two years since we adopted our cat. Abel still ignores us when we tell him not to jump on the dining-room table but is a sweetie in most other ways. And every time I expand the online world’s inventory of cat photos by posting one of him, I feel like I am being a good citizen of the Internet.

Screenshot of the PCMag post in Safari for iPadOS, showing the screengrab I took of Rocket Lab's stream showing the Electron booster and its parachute at right, with the helicopter's cable at left.5/3/2022: Watch a Helicopter Catch an Electron Booster Rocket, PCMag

I watched a helicopter catch and briefly hold a spent first stage of a rocket as it descended under a parachute, a first-time experience for me, and then tuned into Rocket Lab’s press conference hours later to get some quotes from Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck for this story.

5/5/2022: Google lines up with Apple and Microsoft to nix passwords in favor of nearby-device authentication, Fast Company

I got an advance on this three-company news announcement from Google, so all the quotes in this post are from two Googlers. If you’d like to read more about this initiative, please turn your attention to Dan Goodin’s writeup at Ars Technica.

5/5/2022: S02 E19 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

I rejoined this podcast after missing it last week due to travel.

5/6/2022: Ex-CISA Chief: Biden Cybersecurity EO ‘Raises the Standard’ on IT Vendors, PCMag

I wrote up the closing session at the Hack the Capitol event in D.C., in which former Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Administration director Chris Krebs shared his insights about the state of information-security policy.

5/6/2022: Facebook Unfollows ‘Nearby Friends,’ Other Background Location Features

Facebook bulk-erasing everybody’s location history will be its biggest data-minimization move since scrapping its facial-recognition database. And yet the company’s sole announcement of this move Friday was in-app prompts and e-mails for some users.

Weekly output: shipboard IoT, ransomware versus cruise lines, CNN blocks Australia from its Facebook pages

Hello, fourth quarter of 2021; goodbye, Washington Nationals 2021 baseball season.

Photo of a monitor showing the participants of the first panel I moderated at the Seatrade Cruise Global convention in Miami Beach.9/29/2021: IoT: The Future of Operational Efficiency, Seatrade Cruise Global

This hybrid panel–I’m pretty sure it’s the first one I’ve ever done–had Stanislaw Schmal, director of data analytics and AI at Lufthansa Industry Solutions, sitting alongside me on the stage in a room at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Two other cruise-industry executives participated via streaming video: Matthew Denesuk, senior vice president for data analytics & artificial intelligence at Royal Caribbean Group, and Francesco Pugliese, corporate business innovation director for MSC Cruises. We covered many different topics, but as a repeat data-breach victim I most appreciated Schmal’s plea for more companies to practice data minimization.

9/29/2021: Ransomware and Maritime Cyber Security in the Post-Pandemic World, Seatrade Cruise Global

For my second panel at this cruise-industry convention, Mandiant director Pat McCoy spoke in person while Georgios Mortakis, vice president for enterprise technology operations and chief information security officer at NCLH, joined via video. Jairo Orea, global chief information security officer at Royal Caribbean Group, was a last-minute scratch; having enjoyed a prep call with him beforehand, I’m sorry he couldn’t make it.

9/29/2021: CNN Blocks Aussies From Its Facebook Pages, Citing New Liability Ruling, PCMag

I wrote most of this from the speaker room at Seatrade before my two panels, then finished and filed it afterwards before getting lunch. Once again, telling myself “no eating until filing” motivated me to get copy from my screen to an editor’s.

Not cool: freezing my credit after yet another data breach

The text message I was especially uninterested in receiving hit my phone Sunday morning. “T-Mobile has determined that unauthorized access to some business and/ or personal information related to your T-Mobile business account has occurred,” it read. “This may include SSN, names, addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth.”

T-Mobile’s texted non-apology for a data breach affecting tens of millions of subscribers went on to note that “we have NO information that indicates your business or personal financial/ payment information were accessed,” as if those data points were the ones I couldn’t reset with a phone call or three.

Instead, I got to spend part of an evening at the sites of the three major credit bureaus to freeze my credit, just in case any recipient of the stolen T-Mobile data was going to try to go to town on my data. In the exceedingly-likely event that you, too, will have to clean up after a corporation’s carelessness with your data, here’s how that went down.

At Experian, at least I didn’t have to clutter my password manager with another saved login. After providing my name, address, complete Social Security Number, birth date and e-mail, the site asked me to verify my identity by answering a personal-data pop quiz (for example, picking previous cities of residence or a cost range for my monthly mortgage payment). After passing that test and starting the credit freeze, Experian generated a 10-digit PIN I could use for subsequent access.

Things were not quite as easy at TransUnion. I had to create an account and provide almost as much personal information as Experian demanded, except that TransUnion only required the last four digits of my SSN. On the other hand, the sign-up workflow included a tacky invitation to sign up for marketing spam: “Please send me helpful tips & news about my service, including special offers from TransUnion and trusted partners!” The site asked me to pick a security question from a preset menu, none of which would have been too difficult for a stranger to research had I answered them truthfully, and then verify my identity in another personal-data quiz.

The company that had itself lost my data before, Equifax, offered the easiest on-ramp. After coughing up another mouthful of personal data–including my full SSN as well as a mobile number–I was able to create an account and, after clicking through a link sent in an account-confirmation e-mail, put a freeze in place. I did not have vouch for my identity by picking a ballpark figure for my mortgage payment or identifying a phone number I’d used before… and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

I do know it’s not a good thing that T-Mobile kept information like Social Security Numbers that it could not have needed after checking my credit–a failure its apologies have yet to acknowledge. Firing them for that data hoarding, compounded by weak security, might offer a certain emotional closure. But I have no reason to think that switching to AT&T or Verizon and then handing over the same personal data wouldn’t open me to the same risk, because I’m struggling to see anybody at the giant telcos who gives a shit about data minimization.

Weekly output: cable-ISP data caps (x2), how long wireless carriers keep your cell-site location history, Facebook banning extremists, IFA GPC

Tomorrow kicks off three weeks in a row of travel: first Google I/O in Mountain View, Calif., which I’ll be covering for as many of my clients as feasible; then the Pay TV Show outside of Denver, at which I’m moderating a panel discussion between two industry analysts; then the Collision conference, newly relocated to Toronto and once again involving me speaking on a few panels. Fortunately, I have four nights at home between each of these trips.

5/1/2019: Why your cable company might be happy to see you stop subscribing to its TV service, USA Today

After seeing a research note from MoffettNathanson highlighting how some smaller cable operators have made their peace with video subscribers cancelling cable TV and switching to streaming TV services, I noticed that both firms spotlighted in that note–Cable One and Mediacom–had some stringent data caps in place that should allow them to profit handsomely from their Internet subscribers pivoting to online video.

5/2/2019: This Morning with Gordon Deal May 02, 2019, This Morning with Gordon Deal

I talked about my latest USAT column with this business-news radio show; my spot starts at the 14-minute mark.

5/3/2019: Why carriers keep your data longer, TechCrunch

I’ve been reading TC for years and going to their events for almost as long, but this is my first byline there. This post is also my first paywalled work in a while, requiring an Extra Crunch subscription ($150 a year, two-week free trial available). Here’s my one-sentence summary of this roughly 1,500-word piece: The four nationwide wireless carriers keep your cell-site location history for as long as five years and as little as one year, but none of them act as if these retention periods are information you’d want to know.

5/3/2019: Facebook banning extremists, Al Jazeera

I had my first appearance in a few weeks at the Arabic-language news channel to talk about Facebook’s recent move to ban such extremists as InfoWars conspiracy-theory liars Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, Islamophobic loon Laura Loomer, and Nation of Islam anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan.

5/4/2019: Moor Insights & Strategy Podcast (5-4-19), What’s Hot in Tech?

If you thought the people giving you advice about what gadgets to buy could get said gadgets to work every time: My Saturday-afternoon conversation with analyst Mark Vena and my fellow tech freelancer John Quain recapping the IFA Global Press Conference was the third take of this podcast. The first attempt at the IFA GPC went awry when Mark’s iPhone overheated in the heat of a Spanish afternoon, then a second try a few days later fell prey to a corrupted audio recording.

Weekly output: EU digital copyright, MWC (x4), USB-C headphone-jack adapters, HoloLens 2, tech’s privacy gap, 5G phones, good affordable phones

I came home from Barcelona Thursday, then further trashed my jet-lagged, MWC-damaged sleep cycle Friday night by staying up until 3 a.m. to watch the liftoff of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule on its debut, unmanned flight to the International Space Station. I assure you that was worth the multiple naps I needed Saturday afternoon.

For more from MWC 2019, see my Flickr album after the jump.

2/25/2019: How Europe could cement American online dominance, Yahoo Finance

The proposed changes to copyright law nearing a final vote in the European Parliament are criminally stupid.

2/25/2019: U.S.-Huawei fight becomes focus of Barcelona’s trade show, Yahoo Finance

I talked to host Alexis Christoforous via Skype over a bad connection about Huawei’s role in the industry. For a second Yahoo video hit that day–I haven’t been able to find a link to that–I switched to a spot in the press center that not only had much better WiFi but also had a good backdrop: the MWC hashtag on a wall visible behind me.

2/26/2019: Foldable phones are taking over the Mobile World Congress, Yahoo Finance

I made another appearance on Yahoo’s morning show, once again in the press center. The prop for my laptop each time? A trash bin dragged into position in front of my chair.

2/27/2019: Why a USB-C headphone adapter can’t amount to jack, USA Today

A friend’s report last October that a third-party USB-to-3.5-mm adapter didn’t work with his phone led me to realize I didn’t hate the removal of headphone jacks from phones quite enough.

2/27/2019: How Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 is bringing augmented reality to your job, Yahoo Finance

Before heading out to MWC, I e-mailed a couple of friends who have been developing on HoloLens for a while, then followed up to get their impressions of the new version.

2/28/2019: Why tech still can’t explain its own requests for your data, The Parallax

I wrote this essay after yet another bout of outrage over tech privacy that was made worse an inability to explain things clearly to customers (as opposed to investors and advertisers).

2/28/2019: No, you don’t need a 5G phone yet, Yahoo Finance

I know, I’m usually cranky about the first generation of anything. But in the case of 5G, the limits and likely high costs of the first generation of phones compatible with this new wireless standard make them an especially unwise purchase.

3/1/2019: The best cheap phones from Mobile World Congress, Yahoo Finance

I had meant to file this early in my flight back from Barcelona to Newark, but the already-sluggish WiFi was particularly hostile towards Gmail and Google Docs, leaving me unable to file or e-mail my editor for much of the flight.

3/3/2019: The weirdest gadgets from MWC 2019, Yahoo Finance

I wrote much of this short, fun list of bizarre MWC hardware at Newark and then on the short flight from EWR to DCA, then banged out the rest at National Airport before taking Metro home–some 18 hours after my day had begun on the other side of the Atlantic.

Continue reading

Weekly output: Data Privacy Day, PBS digital strategy, trust in traditional media, Huawei charges, Trump’s DoJ on Facebook, VPN reality check

This week featured a personal record of sorts: three stories published in a day, each at a different outlet and one at a first-time client.

1/28/2019: Big tech firms still don’t care about your privacy, The Washington Post

I wrote most of this essay about the fauxliday that is “Data Privacy Day” in an hour or two on Friday of the previous week.

1/28/2019: PBS’ most-of-the-above digital-video strategy, FierceVideo

This piece started with my researching streaming-TV options for a relative and discovering that none included the local PBS station. Fortunately, it ended with Boston’s WGBH telling me that it expects to be one or two “over the top” video services by this fall.

1/28/2019: New study finds trust in traditional media (mostly) transcends partisanship, Columbia Journalism Review

This is my first byline at CJR. This publication offering an exceptionally author-friendly contract encourages me to make sure that it’s not the last.

1/29/2019: Huawei allegations, Al Araby

i made a quick appearance on this Qatar-based news channel, overdubbed live into Arabic, to recap two new rounds of federal charges against the Chinese telecom-hardware giant.

2/1/2019: Why Trump’s DOJ doesn’t want to break up Facebook, Yahoo Finance

I wrote up assistant attorney general Makan Delrahim’s talk at the State of the Net conference Tuesday, outlining why he seems uninterested in revisiting the Department of Justice’s approvals for Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.

2/1/2019: Why VPNs won’t always keep you safe online, Yahoo Finance

The immediate motivation for writing this reality-check reassessment of virtual-private-network services came from a comment a reader left on Monday’s Washington Post story, but I’ve had the idea floating around my head for a while.