Weekly output: farm tech, Firefox in the Microsoft Store, Facebook “sensitive” ad targeting (x2), Mark Vena podcast, the “Facebook is listening” myth

I celebrated testing negative after coming back from an international business trip by getting a booster dose of Moderna Saturday. My Sunday has involved two naps and some overall wooziness, none of which I will regret when I’m at CES less than two months from now.

11/8/2021: Poop sensors, drones, and robots: What automation looks like at the farm of the future, Fast Company

Virginia Tech staged a demo of some of its research into farming robotics at Mount Vernon; in writing that up, I noted a report about the lingering problem of inadequate broadband on farms.

Screenshot of this story, as seen in a copy of Mozilla Firefox installed from the Microsoft Store on my Windows 10 laptop11/9/2021: Firefox Arrives in the Microsoft Store, PCMag

Writing this up allowed me to dust off some my writing from the Microsoft antitrust trial over 20 years ago. It cracks me up that Microsoft has now given the browser that dethroned Internet Explorer a spot in its own app store.

11/10/2021: Facebook to Stop Some ‘Sensitive’ Ad Targeting, PCMag

Starting in January, Facebook won’t let advertisers target ads based on the topics you’re supposed to avoid at the Thanksgiving table–politics, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation, among others.

11/10/2021: S01 E17 – SmartTechCheck Podcast, Mark Vena

I rejoined this podcast (also available in video form) to talk about the broadband provisions of the infrastructure bill that President Biden will be signing Monday.

11/11/2021: Facebook ending “sensitive” ad targeting, Al Jazeera

Writing about Facebook’s upcoming change paid off when I was asked to opine about it on this Arabic-language news network a day later.

11/14/2021: No, Facebook isn’t listening to you on your phone, Al Jazeera

I hope the live translation into Arabic got across how ridiculous I think it is that people are still wondering if Facebook’s apps have somehow been secretly eavesdropping on people despite the increasingly strict privacy controls built into Android and iOS, the torrent of leaks out of Facebook over the last year that have yet to reveal such a thing, and the utter insanity of trying this kind of privacy violation after so many governments have taken an intense interest in Facebook’s conduct.

Weekly output: video surveillance, privacy vs. security, Facebook listening, universal basic income, intelligent assistants, convenience economy, UberAir, privacy fears

Once again, I’m at an airport. I got back from Web Summit on Friday, and now I’m headed to San Francisco for the Internet Association’s Virtuous Circle conference. This trip, however, will be a lot shorter than the last one: I fly back Wednesday.

11/6/2017: ‘Smart’ surveillance cameras should set off privacy alarms, Yahoo Finance

The advances in machine vision I saw demonstrated at the Nvidia GPU Tech Conference in D.C. last week both impressed and alarmed me–especially when I heard some of the responses of executives at companies bringing these artificial-intelligence technologies to the market.

11/7/2017: Debate: We should be prepared to give up our privacy for security, Web Summit

My first Web Summit panel was a debate between Threatscape managing director Dermot Williams and Federal Trade Commission commissioner Terrell McSweeny. I expected a one-sided audience vote at the end in favor of privacy, but Williams changed a few minds. There should be video of this somewhere, but I’ve yet to find it on Web Summit’s Facebook page.

11/8/2017: Why so many people still think Facebook is listening to them, Yahoo Finance

I’d had this post in the works for a while, and then CNN’s Laurie Segall asked Facebook’s Messenger head Stan Chudnovsky in a Summit panel about the persistent rumor that Facebook’s apps listen surreptitiously to your conversations. Hello, news peg.

11/8/2017: Double focus: IPO’s & the future of games, Web Summit

My contribution to Web Summit’s Wednesday programming was this interview of Rovio CEO Kati Levoranta. As you can probably guess from watching the video below, I exhausted my questions early on and had to improv a bunch of it.

11/9/2017: Why would you oppose Universal Basic Income?, Web Summit

This panel, held at one of the small stages in Web Summit’s speakers lounge, featured Basic Income Earth Network co-president Guy Standing, Kela change management director Marjukka Turunen, GiveDirectly CEO Michael Faye, and Portuguese foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva. Not having taken part in any extended debate on this topic before, I learned a few things from this conversation.

11/9/2017: The next evolution of intelligent assistants, Web Summit

I quizzed Sherpa founder Xabi Uribe-Etxebarria about what he thinks the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google miss in the AI-personal-assistant market and how he hopes to carve out a niche with his own app.

11/9/2017: Demand more: Driving the convenience economy, Web Summit

The last of Thursday’s three panels had me interviewing Trivago co-founder and CEO Rolf Schromgens and Casper co-founder Luke Sherwin about how each is trying to challenge long-established competitors. This panel featured an unexpected technical difficulty: The acoustics made it hard for Schromgens, seated farther away from me on the stage, to hear me.

11/9/2017: Uber’s grand plan for flying cars faces a major obstacle, Yahoo Finance

One of first thoughts about “UberAir” was something along the lines of “you’re really going to get the FAA to open up the national air system to flocks of new electric-powered air taxis?” A conversation over e-mail with aviation-safety expert Bob Mann led me to believe Uber is being predictably optimistic about the odds of it bending government regulators to its will.

11/12/2017: Web companies should make it easier to make your data portable: FTC’s McSweeny. USA Today

This column about the privacy discussions that carried on all week long in Lisbon benefited from a little luck: My debate partner from day one was on both of my flights back from Lisbon and even sat a row behind me on the EWR-DCA hop, so we had a quick chat after arriving at National Airport before she headed to the parking garage and I got on Metro.

Updated 11/27/2017 to add an embed of video of my first Web Summit panel.