It is a relatively slow week in which platform and democracy meet. So let's talk about something small that fascinates in its own way: the arrival of Instagram messages on the web.
An accident when you're a Xennial who grew up (and loves) with the World Wide Web is that most developers don't build for it anymore. Mobile phones have become increasingly popular as desktops over the past 15 years, and the result is a slow but seemingly unstoppable decline in web development. At the same time, like most journalists, I worked on the same web all day. And every year the place where I do most of my work seems to be less important.
This applies in particular to communication tools. Once each messaging kingdom was unified with a common API so we could collect our conversations in one place. (Contact Adium.) Nowadays, however, our news is often spread across a dozen or more company entrances. To access these messages, you usually need to pick up your phone and navigate to a separate app.
All in all, I was very excited today about Instagram's announcement that it was beginning to spread direct news on the web. (The company gave me access to the feature and it is great.) Here is Ashley Carman in The Verge :
As of today, a "small percentage" of the platform's global users can access it DMs from the Instagram website, which should be useful for companies, influencers and everyone else who sends a lot of DMs, and round off the app across devices. Today's rollout is just a test, and further details of a possible broad rollout will be announced in the future.
The direct message transmission takes place via the browser essentially the same as on mobile devices. You can create new groups or start a chat with someone from the DM screen or a profile page. You can also double-tap a message to edit it, share photos from your desktop, and view the total number of unread messages. You can get desktop DM notifications if you enable notifications for the entire Instagram site in your browser.
Instagram gave no strategic reasons for the move, but it makes sense for small groups and private communication in a world that is already moving in the direction. Messenger partially wins by being ubiquitous, and even if deskbound users like me are in the minority, Facebook can only gain rival market share if those rivals are everywhere. (iMessage and Signal, for example, have long been usable on both desktop and mobile devices.)
Thanks to this step, I can use Instagram better both as a social tool and reporting tool and on the web itself, it just feels a little more vital. This is all good news – but, asks Facebook former security chief Alex Stamos, is it safe ? After all, Facebook is in the midst of a significant shift towards private, end-to-end encrypted messaging. It is planned to create a single, encrypted backend for all messaging apps.
This is fascinating because it cuts directly against the announced goal of E2E-encrypted compatibility between FB / IG / WA. Nobody has ever created a trusted web-based E2EE messenger, and I was expecting them to drop web support in FB Messenger. Right and left hand?
– Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) January 14, 2020
When I asked Instagram about his plans To close the loop between desktop messaging and encryption, the company declined to comment. I was told that it still plans to incorporate encryption into its products and is thinking about it.
Admittedly, when I think of the tasks that Facebook will hopefully do this year, the encrypted Instagram DMs are low on the list. But since our authoritarian president beat up Apple today for not unlocking a suspect's phone, the commitment to all of this is relatively clear. We will either have good encrypted messaging that is supported by US companies, or we will not. As Apple put it this week:
"We have always claimed that there is no back door just for the good guys," the company said. “Backdoors can also be used by people who endanger our national security and the data security of our customers. … We believe that encryption is critical to protecting our country and our users' data. “
On one level, today's Instagram messages are a little story about a niche function. In the background, however, questions arise about the security of our private communication. Which should give us every reason to watch Facebook's next steps very closely here.
Today in news that could affect public perception of major tech platforms. Downtrend: Facebook said it did not need to change its web tracking services to comply with California's new consumer privacy law. The company believes that routine consumer data transfers do not meet the legal definition of "selling" data. The move contradicts Google, which takes the opposite direction.
Downward trend: Grindr OkCupid and Tinder share confidential user data According to a new report, you want advertisers to be informed about the choice of dating and the exact location in a way that may be against violates data protection laws. I don't want to downplay that, but if you think that data is confidential, you should see the DMs of the average Grindr user.
⭐ Two days before the UK elections in December, around 74,000 political ads disappeared from Facebook's ad library, a website that serves as an archive for political ads and advertisements placed on the platform become. The company said one mistake removed 40 percent of all UK political Facebook ads from the public record. Rory Smith at BuzzFeed has the story:
After the failure of the UK election, Facebook announced that a review had been launched to determine how these problems could be prevented and how they could be better communicated.
However, the events of December 10 are not the first time that the Facebook ad library has failed since its launch in May 2018. The API, which is designed to give researchers better access to data than the library's website, went live in March 2019 and got into trouble within a few weeks of the European Parliament elections in May. Since then, researchers have documented a variety of topics.
The platform also caused researchers to be angry when it failed to provide the data it needed as part of a partnership with the non-profit Social Science Research Council and Social Science One, a for-profit initiative by researchers – a project funded by several major US foundations. Facebook said it continues to strive to provide data to the researchers, but the SSRC and donors have started to withdraw from the project due to the company's delays.
Russian military hackers may have bored the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the impeachment investigation, where Hunter Biden served on the board. Experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians might be looking for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens, much like Trump was looking for. On Twitter, security experts like Facebooks Nathaniel Gleicher advised caution when writing about this story. (Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg / The New York Times )
There has been an explosion of online disinformation, including the use of doctor images, by politicians. They do this for one simple reason: they spread their messages effectively, and so far no one has paid a price for trading fake memes. (Drew Harwell / The Washington Post )
Artificial persons in the form of AI-controlled text generation and chatbots on social media could drown out actual human discussions on the Internet, experts warn. They say the problem could be particularly frightening during an election. (Bruce Schneier / The Atlantic )
The Treasury Department unveiled new rules to increase control over foreign investors whose potential holdings in US companies could pose a national security threat. The rules focus on companies that handle personal data and come after the United States took a closer look at foreign participation in apps like Grindr and TikTok . (Katy Stech Ferek / The Wall Street Journal )
The Harvard Law Review just brought up the idea of adding 127 more states to the union. These states would add enough votes in Congress to rewrite the constitution by adopting amendments that make every vote count equally. Worth reading. (Ian Millhiser / Vox )
The editorial board of the New York Times interviewed Bernie Sanders how he wants to realize his ambitious political ideas when confronted with that of Republicans led Senate, which blocked so many proposals from President Barack Obama. In particular, he says he is not an Amazon Prime customer and never tries to use apps.
Food delivery platform workers Instacart are organizing a national boycott of the company next week to push for the reinstatement of a 10 percent default on all orders. One of the big stories in 2020 will be the technology-oriented workers' movement. But this is the latest example. (Kim Lyons / The Verge )
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella strongly criticized a new citizenship law that the Indian government had passed last month. The law, known as the Citizenship Amendment Act, speeds up Indian citizenship for immigrants from most major South Asian religions with the exception of Islam. India is Nadella's birthplace and one of Microsoft's largest markets, which makes his comments all the more remarkable. (Pranav Dixit / BuzzFeed )
⭐ Facebook's Advancement into virtual reality has led to a number of new patents, mainly for heads-up displays. The company received 64 percent more patents in 2019 than in 2018. Christopher Yasiejko and Sarah Frier of Bloomberg explain what this could mean:
Larry Cady, a senior analyst at IFI, said the level of patent growth was similar to that of Intellectual-like – property heavyweights Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc., which ranked No. 9 and No. 7, respectively, and each won more than twice as many patents as the social media Titan. Most Facebook companies were divided into categories that are typical of Internet-based computer companies (e.g. data processing and digital transmission). The areas with the greatest growth, however, were in newer categories, which may indicate where the company sees its future.
169 patents in the optical elements category marked an almost sixfold jump. Most of this growth comes from the Heads-Up Displays subcategory, which Cady said is likely related to virtual reality headsets. Facebook owns VR company Oculus and acquired the Prague-based game studio behind the popular Beat Saber game in November. One such patent, which was granted on November 5, is entitled "Compact, head-mounted display for artificial reality".
The popular "E-Boys" by TikTok are about fashion and entertainment shops. They are best known for making ironic videos of themselves in their bedrooms, in tragically hip outfits made of second-hand clothes. Some observers predict that top e-boys will have a success reminiscent of the boy bands of yesteryear. (Rebecca Jennings / Vox )
YouTube signed three video stars – Lannan "LazarBeam" Eacott, Elliott "Muselk" Watkins and Rachell "Valkyrae" Hofstetter – against Amazon ] Twitch and Facebook . Exclusive offers for top video game streamers have been one of the big tech stories of the year so far. ( Salvador Rodriguez / CNBC)
Uncanny Valley Anna Wiener's beautiful life memoir about working at technology companies in San Francisco, has been released today. Kaitlyn Tiffany has a great interview with Wiener in the Atlantic. Read this book and stay up to date when there is news about an interface live event with Wiener in San Francisco next month!
Mark Bergen, friend of The Interface and journalist at Bloomberg, writes a book on ] YouTube entitled Like, Comment, Subscribe . Bergen is a former Recode colleague and an excellent YouTube reporter, and this book will be a must in our world. (Kia Kokalitcheva / Axios )
The information published a Twitter org chart that lists the 66 top executives of the company, including the nine people who directly report to CEO Jack Dorsey. (Alex Heath / The Information )
A new app called Doublicat enables users to put any face on a GIF in a matter of seconds and essentially create deepfakes. The app starts as well as prominent technology companies like Facebook and Reddit almost completely ban deepfakes. (Matthew Wille / Input )
And finally …
Wired made Jack Dorsey do 11 minutes of technical Twitter support on video. Have fun!
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