Weekly output: Facebook privacy, social media vs. disinformation, mobile-app privacy, data breaches

The Facebook-privacy news cycle doesn’t seem to be letting up, with every other day bringing some ugly new revelation about the social network’s stewardship of our data. I feel like I’m getting the tiniest taste of life as a White House correspondent these days.

4/2/2018: How Facebook should fix its privacy problem, Yahoo Finance

My key suggestions: collect less data, don’t try so hard to maximize engagement, and give U.S. users the same privacy controls that European users will get in May as required by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. On Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t commit to extending GDPR controls to the U.S.; on Wednesday, he said he would do just that.

4/2/2018: How Facebook should fight fake news, Yahoo Finance

Headline notwithstanding, this column is as much about Twitter as it is about Facebook–and a lot of it covers how large social networks like those two can’t necessarily adopt the strategies that have helped Wikipedia deter disinformation.

4/3/2018: After you delete old Facebook apps, take a hard look at Uber and Snapchat settings, USA Today

I would have written this piece faster if I hadn’t had the chance to see how the Samsung-ified Settings app on a Galaxy S7 buried a crucial app-permissions interface. Then I spent more journalistic processor cycles rewriting an explanation of how old versions of Facebook’s Android apps collected call and SMS logs.

4/4/2018: We need a federal law protecting consumers from data leaks, Yahoo Finance

This column inspired by Panera Bread’s data breach started in my head with the tweet I used to promote it. Reporting it involved an intersection of my college and professional lives: Stephanie Martz, the National Retail Federation lawyer I interviewed, is a fellow Georgetown Voice alum who graduated two years before me.

Advertisements

Weekly output: a bum Bitcoin deal, CES recap, Facebook and trusted news

The week after CES is always among my less productive ones–but this year, I can’t blame that on coming down with a CES-transmitted cold. Fortunately, I have the Dealmaker-in-Chief’s accomplishments of the past few days to put my own in a more positive context.

1/15/2018: Kodak bitcoin miner: What this dubious scheme says about technology’s misdirection, USA Today

My last post about CES unpacked a dubious Bitcoin-mining proposition on display in Kodak’s booth.

1/16/2018: Techdirt Podcast Episode 150: The CES 2018 Post-Mortem, Techdirt

I spent an hour or so talking with Techdirt’s Mike Masnick about what we saw at CES and what that suggests about the state of technology. Once again, I was struck by how more than two decades of practice at CES did not stop me from missing some interesting things at the show.

1/20/2018: Facebook and trusted news sources, Al-Jazeera

The news channel had me on to talk–as usual, overdubbed live into Arabic–about Facebook’s announcement that it will survey its users to see which news sites they trust, then prioritize those sources in the News Feed accordingly. I expressed my doubts about that idea, noting that a survey done last summer by the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute found that ranked Buzzfeed less trustworthy than Brietbart News–and that the conspiracy-theory outlet Infowars outranked both.

Weekly output: Chrome vs. unencrypted sites, Google vs. the headphone jack, international roaming, freelancing, Facebook and fact-checking

As expected, this was an exhausting but fulfilling week. The Online News Association conference was its usual informative, eye-opening self (but this time, with travel expenses miniaturized down to Metro fares), Friday’s NLDS game left me feeling wrung out, and then Saturday’s left me feeling a whole lot better. And then I didn’t get to sleep in as much as I wanted Sunday…

10/2/2017: Google Chrome is about to warn you even more about insecure sites, Yahoo Finance

I knew in the back of my head that Chrome would start flagging unencrypted sites as “Not secure” more often starting this month, but a tweet from Google’s Adrienne Porter Felt last week reminded me of that, which in turn gave me a reason to check up on the adoption of site encryption.

10/4/2017: Not OK, Google: The headphone jack exists for a reason, Yahoo Finance

I teed off on Google for its idiotic decision to follow Apple’s foolish removal of the headphone jack. Google, unlike Apple, can’t count on tens of millions of loyal phone shoppers to suck it up, so I hope a chastened company will reverse this decision for its next batch of phones.

10/5/2017: $5,000 cell bill while traveling: How to avoid this, USA Today

This was one of the crazier stories I’ve come across lately. But after USAT ran this tale of a Verizon subscriber who got socked with that bill in Saudi Arabia (then had VzW forgive the bill after I inquired about it), another reader tweeted about an $11,961.03 T-Mobile bill run up in Mongolia (they, too, forgave it, but before I could get around to asking).

10/7/2017: Hunting, Gathering and Accounting: Freelance Survival Skills, ONA17

I broke a three-time Online News Association conference losing streak by having this panel idea accepted. I got the idea of offering practical advice to self-employed journalists (or those about to be self-employed but don’t know it yet) from a conversation with veteran freelancer Rose Eveleth at last year’s ONA. Then I picked up a capable co-panelist in Katherine Lewis, who’s been freelancing since 2008, seems a lot more disciplined about it than me, and is a poised public speaker. I didn’t hit every point I wanted to, but I think that combined the both of us left the audience better informed than when they arrived. Really neat bonus: Nashville-based attendee Ayumi Bennett did a terrific sketchnote of our talk.

10/8/2017: Facebook and fact-checking, Al Jazeera

My ambition of celebrating my first day with zero work appointments since Monday by not shaving went awry when a D.C.-based producer at the Arabic-language news channel asked if I could come into the studio to speak about Facebook’s latest attempts to combat fake news with fact-checking. The conversation I had (overdubbed live into Arabic but not, as far as I know, archived online, hence the lack of a link) wound up focusing more on the broader issue of other countries trying to influence U.S. Facebook users.

Weekly output: cheaper federal IT, Samsung wearables, PeaceTech Lab, Segway, smart watches

Six days after I departed for the IFA show in Berlin, I’m back. You can imagine my excitement at coming home to my family… and, to a much lesser degree, at seeing that the arugula seeds I planted last weekend have sprouted and are now the way to delivering a second crop for the year..

8/29/2017: The Trump Administration’s IT Challenge: Do More with Less, FedTech Magazine

I shared what I thought was good advice about making federal computing more efficient from a fellow at Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the deputy CIO of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and a veteran of the successful effort to fix the Healthcare.gov site who had earlier offered some insight on how a for-profit company could make a complete mess of its customer site.

8/30/2017: Samsung challenges Apple Watch with its new Gear Sport smartwatch, Yahoo Finance

I covered Samsung’s Wednesday-evening event in Berlin at which it unveiled three new wearable devices. After seeing its presentation, spending time inspecting these gadgets in the hands-on area, and gobbling down some appetizers, I filed the post well past 8 p.m. local time.

8/30/2017: Hate and violence around the globe? There’s an app for that., Yahoo Finance

I should have written this post weeks ago, since I sat down to interview the the PeaceTech Lab’s director at the start of August. But various other projects got in the way, I had trouble getting comments from other groups working on this problem, and August was in general not a productive month.

8/31/2017: Segway wants to do more than transport tourists and mall cops, Yahoo Finance

I attended Segway’s press conference without much expectation that the company would commit news, but my editors thought its move to start selling electrically-powered kick scooters was worth a post.

9/3/2017: Apple Watch faces new smartwatch competitors, USA Today

In this column, I offer some forecasts about how Garmin’s vivoactive 3, Fitbit’s Ionic and Samsung’s Gear Sport might match up against the Apple Watch. The most important angle to me: Two of those three look to offer far better battery life.

Weekly output: IoT security, fake news, online video ads (x2), cheap wireless service, wireless plans, Verizon e-mail

My sixth SXSW ended in one of the least likely ways possible. As I was sipping a cup of coffee at the United Club at AUS Wednesday morning and wondering how I could still be full from Tuesday’s dinner, I spotted an older gentleman in a wheelchair whose white hair, beard and gravelly voice all reminded me of the last SXSW talk I’d watched Tuesday. Then I saw his jacket, covered with the logos of every Apollo mission. Yeah: Buzz Aldrin.

After taking a moment to tell myself “act like you’ve been here before, man,” I walked over and said “Dr. Aldrin?” He looked up, I said I’d enjoyed his talk, we exchanged some pleasantries, and then I shook his hand, said it was an honor, and wished him and his companion safe travels. You know, as one does when meeting anybody who’s walked on the Moon.

 

3/13/2017: Setting Standards for Digital Privacy, Consumer Reports

CR asked me Friday if I could cover this Monday-morning panel, featuring a CR manager and an initiative CR backs to set standards for the security and privacy of Internet of Things devices. I’m glad they dangled that assignment, since otherwise an insightful discussion on a topic I’ve covered for other clients might have escaped my attention.

3/15/2017: Two fake news writers reveal how they ply their trade, Yahoo Finance

My last file for SXSW covered Yasmin Green’s head-fake of a panel–I thought it would cover her work at Google’s Project Jigsaw to counter violent extremism online. But instead she brought two proprietors of fake news (more accurately called “disinformation”), and then things got weird.

3/15/2017: How OTT Providers Are Targeting, Tracking And Timing Ads, FierceOnlineVideo

I missed this contribution to a package of stories about “OTT” (short for “over the top,” as in video services that ride on your broadband connection) advertising because I was traveling, then spent another two weeks not realizing it had been posted.

3/15/2017: OTT Ad Delivery Case Study: Hyundai’s ‘Skip’ Ad, FierceOnlineVideo

This case study had me tearing my hair out more than once as I struggled to get a quote out of one of the companies involved. Someday, I will learn to put in my interview requests early when I’m dealing with a company that hasn’t figured in my stories before, but late January was clearly not that time.

3/16/2017: Dear Wirecutter: What’s the Best Budget Cell Phone and Plan for Limited Data Use?, The Wirecutter

A Wirecutter reader wanted to know which $200-ish smartphone and $25-$30 plan to get. The first question was easy to answer, but the second required going back to the reader to confirm how much data usage they had in mind.

3/16/2017: Best Cell Phone Plans, The Wirecutter

I spent a good chunk of February revising the guide we’d just put through a complete rewrite, all because the four major carriers had to revive or improve their unlimited-data offerings. The result: While the guide still endorses Verizon as the best choice overall (with the understanding that many people don’t use that much data), we recommend T-Mobile for those looking for an unlimited-data plan.

3/17/2017: What Verizon email users need to know about it getting out of email, USA Today

When four or so readers e-mail with the same question within a couple of weeks, you probably have a column topic on your hands. I suggested to my editors that this would be worth posting earlier than the usual Sunday, and I’m glad they agreed.

Updated 4/2/2017 with the two online-ads stories I’d missed earlier. And updated again 4/17 to remove links to two posts that I’d already covered in the previous Sunday’s weekly-output post. I guess I was a little tired when I wrote this. 

Weekly output: Google’s 2017 to-do list

The slowest week of the entire year saw only one story appear under my byline. I’ll more than make that up this week as I cover my 20th CES in a row (!). Any gadget news you’d like me to look out for while I’m in Vegas?

yahoo-google-2017-post12/26/2016: OK, Google: Please do these things in 2017, Yahoo Finance

My contribution to Yahoo Finance’s end-of-year coverage was a post about what Google should do in 2017. Will that company follow up on all of my suggestions? Probably not. I’m reasonably confident that we’ll get a better Android Wear watch from Google, that we haven’t seen the last of Google broadband, and that advertising on fake-news sites will take a hit from stricter Google policies. But I’m less confident that Google will ship an end-to-end encryption plug-in for Gmail, and I would be pleasantly shocked to see the firm start selling an ad-free upgrade to Gmail.

 

Weekly output: buffer rage, Trump and tech titans, Glass Room, Facebook vs. fake news, unlocked phones

With no swank holiday parties hosted by trade groups or PR shops to clog my schedule  (I’m sure my invitations only got lost in the mail…), my one big work night out this week was a screening of the movie Hidden Figures at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. As a card-carrying space geek, I enjoyed the flick immensely but also had to wonder why the thousands of pages I’ve read about NASA had not enlightened me about this chapter of the space agency’s history. It wasn’t just me: In remarks before the screening, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said he had no idea as he watched Apollo 11’s landing that an African-American mathematician, Katherine Johnson, had calculated the mission’s trajectory.

fierce-buffer-rage-post12/13/2016: There’s No One Fix For Buffer Rage, FierceBroadcasting

I finished this post about how video services try to ensure reliable, buffering-free playback on Election Day, which now feels like a horrendously long time ago. You have to provide an e-mail address and some basic job info to download the PDF of this e-book from the address above; my contribution starts on page 9.

12/14/2016: What tech titans should say to Trump — and vice versa, Yahoo Finance

I could tell this got a lot of attention because about a thousand people clicked the link to this blog at the very end of the post–and click-through ratios are generally terrible even for links at the top of a story, much less the very last line of the piece. Two subjects I should have included in this post: the tech industry’s reliance on skilled immigrants and the possible inclusion of broadband in Trump’s infrastructure ambitions.

12/16/2016: The Glass Room shows how little privacy we really have, Yahoo Finance

I held off on writing up last week’s visit to this temporary gallery in Lower Manhattan  because I’d thought a colleague was going to cover the place first. Fortunately, I got a go-ahead before I had the chance to sell a report to another site at a lower rate.

12/17/2016: Facebook’s plan to fight fake news, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news channel had me on the air Saturday afternoon to talk about Facebook’s new initiative to undercut fake news. They asked me if this would amount to censorship; I said my worry was that too many people would dismiss the verdicts of third-party fact checkers as the product of bias.

12/18/2016: Is it worth it? Buying an unlocked phone, USA Today

I departed from my usual Q&A format to write this story, pegged to an NPD Group report that unlocked phones now make up 12 percent of the U.S. market. It looks like the forecast I wrote four years ago on the eve of T-Mobile’s move to dump handset subsidies wasn’t that crazy.