A weekly summary of what I’ve found interesting at the intersection of economics, finance and technology.
This week’s issue is a bit late due to technical issues (fitting for issue 13), apologies.
It was a busy week for Apple in privacy and security related matters. Late last week a story (Wired) broke about a chain of exploits that could be set up on a website. An iPhone could be compromised just by visiting the website, and apparently thousands have been, including targets like the Uyghurs, for example. The consensus in the security world seems to have been that this kind of attack on iPhones was highly unlikely, so this has now been rendered invalid. The bugs that the exploits rely on have been fixed in February, but it is still embarrassing.
Lastly, it also announced a drastic anti-tracking stance (EFF) for WebKit, the technology that underlies the Safari browser. While the company is clearly targeting unscrupulous trackers, well-meaning developers and services (like analytics) will also be affected by this. Mozilla has already announced similar changes, so perhaps this could lead to a rethinking of the web’s architecture in general.
Of course, such a change would also require having the most popular browser on board, and Google’s reaction to the WebKit changes above is not positive. The arguments they make against implementing changes as above in Chrome are comprehensively debunked (Freedom to Tinker) here, including the fallacy that users want to be tracked for more relevant advertising. This is clearly an example of Google’s business interests clashing with those of its users.
Because of GDPR, the NYT stopped using open-exchange ad buying (and the resulting behavioural targeting) for the international edition. Ad revenue went up afterwards… Read (Digiday)
Foursquare is still alive, and they are now a giant data-extraction business. Read (NY Mag)
An app that promotes “constant, automatic sharing” to close friends, including speed, location, and maybe even battery life, is probably not what needs to come out of Facebook right now… Read (The Verge)
Pinterest is doing much better fighting vaccine disinformation than the other big social platforms, and as expected it required them to take sides (they chose science, basically…) Read (The Interface)
Xiaomi’s plans to use data collected by its smartphones to calculate credit worthiness of its banking clients are breathtaking, and not in a good sense… Read (Reuters)
Terrorist organisations are becoming more sophisticated in their use of Bitcoin. Read (NYT $)
Interesting argument against anthropomorphising robots. Read (Wired)
Public life in Hong Kong mostly happens at private places, like shopping malls, which gives interesting results in a time of protests. Effectively, this is a manifestation of how the urbanisation model affects a society’s exercise of free speech, fascinating. Read (New Statesman)
That’s it for this week’s edition. As always, thanks for reading and please forward this to anyone who you think might be interested, it would be much appreciated.