Apple’s Wozniak Dumps Facebook: ‘More Negatives Than Positives’

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One of the biggest names in tech says he’s defecting from one of tech’s biggest platforms. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak told USA Today in an email Sunday he’s leaving Facebook due to privacy concerns in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal. “Users provide every detail of their life to Facebook and … Facebook makes a lot of advertising money off this,“ he noted. “The profits are all based on the user’s info, but the users get none of the profits back.“ He said his own experience with his Facebook account, which he deactivated (not deleted) Sunday night, gave him “more negatives than positives.“ Fortune notes Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s recent words in which she said that if users want more assurances of privacy, they might have to pay in the future for a Facebook account—something Wozniak says he’d gladly do.

He made sure to push Apple while he was at it, a company he says “makes its money off of good products, not off of you. As they say, with Facebook, you are the product.“ The rebuke from Wozniak, who says he’s fine going “old school” and back to using just texts and emails, comes a week after a tiff between Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Tim Cook over the data scandal. So why didn’t Wozniak completely wipe his Facebook account with a full deletion? He says he doesn’t want anyone else scooping up his “stevewoz” screen name—“even another Steve Wozniak.“

Is Facebook regulation ‘inevitable’? Not so fas

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told lawmakers that regulation of his company is “inevitable,” but still came to Capitol Hill prepared to defend against proposals he thought went too far.

He rarely had to. After about 10 hours of hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, markets rallied and privacy advocates were disappointed at the prospect that Facebook appeared to emerge unscathed, left to its own devices to manage how it collects vast amounts of personal data and handles user privacy.

“This is still very much an uphill battle for privacy reforms,” said Alvaro Bedoya, who directs Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology. “Yes, right now we have the wind at our backs, but unless people around the country stay on this, this can very quickly devolve into a giveaway for tech.”

Some legislators touted their various proposals for privacy protections, including bills introduced this week responding to the privacy scandal involving some 87 million Facebook users whose data was swept up by the political data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica.

Increased regulation “is a very real possibility,” said Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which held Wednesday’s hearing. But after it was over, Walden acknowledged there’s little consensus.

“There’s a division, I think, and I think still people want to know more about what the companies themselves can do,” Walden said.

Zuckerberg often professed his willingness to work with lawmakers on legislative ideas or said he’d get back to them. He made few commitments and promised that Facebook could protect users on its own with better algorithms and advances in artificial intelligence.

The top Democrat on the panel, New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, said after the hearing that he thinks the Democrats “made it quite clear that we need some comprehensive legislation on privacy and data,” but didn’t say exactly what that would look like.

“The biggest concern I have right now, and I think it could be addressed legislatively, is that he wasn’t willing to make any changes with the privacy default settings,” Pallone said. “So the problem always is that you go on, and unless you affirmatively decide to protect yourself, then they just take everything. I think that needs to be changed.”

Pallone, however, said he is “pessimistic that it happens with the Republican majority.”

It’s not that Zuckerberg wasn’t peppered with some tough questions from both parties about his company and its business model. Asked by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday if Facebook was a monopoly, Zuckerberg quipped, “certainly doesn’t feel like that to me.” Just a few moments earlier, though, he had struggled to name direct competitors.

Under U.S. antitrust law, corporations deemed an illegal monopoly can be broken up into smaller parts by federal regulators. No one asked Zuckerberg about that, though his notes, which an Associated Press photographer spotted on his desk, showed he was prepared for the question.

“Break up FB?” said a bullet item in the written talking points. “US Tech companies key asset for America; break up strengthens Chinese companies.”

While it became clear this week that Congress has no unifying idea about how to tame Facebook’s power in a useful way, neither do many of the privacy and consumer advocates calling for heightened regulation.

“I think the interesting regulatory approach is not a breakup or more privacy, but rather an unbundling of Facebook,” said Chris Hoofnagle, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Center for Law and Technology.

He said it could happen the same way the Federal Communications Commission forced AOL to unbundle its instant messaging service by making it compatible with the systems used by rival internet firms. The unbundling agreement was a condition of the deal that allowed AOL to merge with Time Warner.

“Imagine if competition authorities forced Facebook to open its walled garden and allow third party apps to interoperate without all the invasive properties of the Facebook app,” Hoofnagle said.

What happens next is unclear, but Bedoya said he hopes Congress can focus on a package of specific reforms, such as protections that forbid tracking individuals by location or facial recognition without their consent. Such measures should also strengthen the Federal Trade Communication, which has a 2011 consent decree against Facebook that remains one of the U.S. government’s most powerful protections against future privacy abuses.

Walden, noting that Facebook is already regulated by the FTC, said the company will face hefty fines if it violates those regulations on a second offense.

“What I worry about is someone trying to pass a super-broad general privacy law that the lobbyists can eat alive,” Bedoya said. “Industry outspends consumer advocates on Capitol Hill and in statehouses, hand over fist.”

His Choice Was Between Dogs and College. He Chose the Dogs

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It started at a North Carolina Applebee’s more than two years ago: Matt Nelson presented the idea to his college buddies that people like weird stuff on Twitter, and that dogs were internet gold. Nelson’s brainchild led to WeRateDogs, a Twitter handle with more than 6.4 million followers that’s pretty self-explanatory—Nelson rates pics of dogs sent in by followers, with pithy captions including the dog’s name and/or any other descriptive characteristics. But as 21-year-old Nelson, who also goes by “the Dogfather,“ explains in a profile for Money, workflow became unsustainable after his account’s first tweet in November 2015 due to the sheer volume of submissions and his tweeting schedule, and he became “sleep-deprived and burnt out.“ His solution? Monetize the account with the help of a social media marketer, and drop out of Campbell University, which he did last year.

It wasn’t the worst decision. Nelson now runs the WeRateDogs operation out of his parents’ home in West Virginia, doing most work from his iPhone, along with two remote workers who help sift through submissions and run the online store. He’s the only one who does the twice-daily weekday tweets (except for one time when Blake Shelton made a guest appearance), spending 20 minutes or so on each caption. The payoff, which comes mostly from the online store, shows the idea had as much bite as bark: Nelson says he makes in the “low five figures” each month, meaning an annual salary in the six figures. “My initial goal was just to make people happy,“ he says. “Now I’m good at writing like a dog.“ As for why his ratings often exceed 10/10, the Washington Post notes his retort to a critic who once said Nelson’s ratings system “sucks”: “They’re good dogs,“ the WeRateDogs handle replied.

‘Regrettable’ AI Move Spurs Boycott Against University

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Dozens of AI and robotics scientists want to prevent “an arms race that no one wants to happen”: so-called “killer robots” that could emerge from a recently announced venture between a South Korean university and a weapons manufacturer. Per the Guardian, the teaming up of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Hanwha Systems prompted a boycott letter signed by 50-plus academics from around the world. “We will … not visit KAIST, host visitors from KAIST, or contribute to any research project involving KAIST” until it says it won’t “develop autonomous weapons lacking meaningful human control,“ the letter states. It adds KAIST’s involvement is “regrettable”—especially as the UN will hold a meeting next week on concerns about autonomous weapons.

“This is a very respected university partnering with a very ethically dubious partner,“ says boycott organizer Toby Walsh. What spurred the boycott: a February article in the Korea Times on KAIST’s collaboration with Hanwha to join “the global competition to develop autonomous arms.“ Walsh says he wrote to KAIST for details but didn’t hear back. KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin is trying to tamp down concerns, noting in a statement to Times Higher Education the university won’t “conduct any research activities counter to human dignity, including autonomous weapons lacking meaningful human control.“ Walsh says KAIST’s response still leaves “some questions unanswered.“ Per the Verge, some experts say fighting autonomous weapons is “futile,“ as it’s too hard to figure out what human control means.

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