Wiser! #27: Apple's child protection measures; Google slash home worker's pay; crypto hacking doesn't pay; Samsung's folding phones, and more
Here's what you'll find in this issue of Wiser!:
- How Apple's efforts to fight child abuse triggered a privacy debate
- Crypto hacking is hard to get away with
- Search Engines: Google versus The Rest shows all things are not made equal
- Samsung's new folding phones
- Google's new Work From Home policy penalises home workers
- List of the top NFT influencers on Twitter
How Apple's efforts to fight child abuse triggered a privacy debate
A week ago, Apple confirmed its plans to roll out a new system to detect images of child sex abuse material, aka CSAM, across all Apple devices.
Apple has been using cryptographic hashing systems to scan for CSAM for years, but only in emails. This is when one person sends the abusive image to another.
The new system is to be rolled out in the US this Autumn and it will scan all images automatically as they are backed up in iCloud. Using a hashing system, every image will be matched against the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the United States. This is the central database of child sex abuse images in the US and is a private nonprofit organization established by Congress in 1984.
The new feature has triggered some hefty debate about privacy because the new Apple feature will scan all images regardless of whether the images are ever shared with anyone else.
Privacy is Apple's battleground
When it comes to data privacy, Apple CEO Tim Cook has made it a clear strategic differentiator in the battle against Google, Android, Facebook et al. In fact, it's a strategy that has put clear blue water between Apple and everyone else that runs on an ad-revenue business model.
You can go back as far as 2015 to find Tim Cook saying "privacy is a fundamental human right".
Meanwhile, Will Cathcart, the CEO of the Facebook-owned messaging platform Whatsapp, went onto Twitter to voice his opposition to Apple's new measures. He wrote a long thread that started...
Apple has responded to the critics with strong clarification statements, explaining how the new features will work.
I've read through them all and frankly, it looks as though Apple has thought of every angle on this one, anticipating the privacy backlash. Which, IMHO, is overheated and misguided.
Surveillance is a fact of life, whether you're walking down the street or reading this email (I've secreted a 5G tracking device in this very issue!) It's too easy to get excited about the perceived threat and miss the actual threat that is happening all too often and too easily to children across social media.
Go here for more on Apple's new privacy features.
Crypto hacking is hard to get away with
Earlier this week, on August 10th, the Poly Network announced on Twitter that it had been hacked. At a value of around $600 million, this was the largest hack of cryptocurrency assets ever, beating the previous heist of $450 million in 2014 (although that would be worth $34 trillion in today's money!).
The long-form article (see link at end of this summary) goes into more detail, but the long and the short of it is that stealing crypto isn't like stealing fiat.
Because it leaves a digital footprint.
Cryptocurrencies are run on a technology called a blockchain. Every coin, token, and transaction is recorded on these blockchains as "immutable records". In other words, this means that every transaction is written down in a digital ledger in indelible ink, not a 2B pencil that can be rubbed out.
Can we have our money back please?
According to blockchain security firm SlowMist, within hours they had tracked down the hacker's digital location, including their IP address, mailbox, and device fingerprint.
SlowMist and a team of other security firms were very quickly able to identify the source of funds and where much of the stolen crypto had been moved too.
Meanwhile, Poly Network issued an open letter asking the hacker to return the funds.
As I was putting this issue to bed, around $230 million of the stolen assets had been returned (in less than 48 hours.)
This goes to show that having the technical wherewithal to steal cryptocurrency and digital assets is one thing, but then laundering them and cashing out is extremely difficult.
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If you're into NFTs, here's a link to a tweet thread I posted this week...with a list of 15 Twitter accounts to follow (read this to find out what an NFT is?).
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BigTech under the Spotlight
Search engines: when not everything is created equal!
When it comes to Search, Google dominates.
- Google has a 92% market share of the online Search market
- They control over a quarter of global online ad spending (Google booked $147 billion in revenue from online ads last year, more than any other firm.)
- Google leads the browser sector with Chrome, occupying over 60% of the market
All provided free of charge...the browser you use, the results you get, the adverts you see...courtesy of the benevolent information overlord called Google. (Except the bit where I remind you that when the product is free, you are the product!)
However, when it comes to Search results, surely they all return the same results, right? Well not necessarily...
Results May Vary
The top 6 Search engines worldwide are Google followed by Bing, Baidu, Yahoo, Yandex and DuckDuckGo. The newest entrant in the Search space is Neeva, a subscription-based, ad-free Search engine. Earlier this year, I spoke to the founder of Neeva, and you can read my article here.
Whichever way you look at it, Google dominates this sector. But does that matter? Because, after all, search is search. You'd think that a search result would be an objective outcome that would be pretty much the same, whoever you used to get the result for you.
That's a fair assumption, but is it a sound one?
Not quite. In this research article by social media and SEO expert Vlad Khvatov, he looked at Google, Yahoo, Bing and DuckDuckGo and analysed 6.5 million search results from the 4 search engines.
He found that Google's results differ from the rest, but that the rest don't differ so much from each other.
"Any of the other 3 search engines are more likely to pull up the same results as each other than they are to match Google’s.
Google vs. The Rest (Yahoo, Bing & DuckDuckGo)
SEO expert, Vlad Khvatov has analysed 6.5 million search results from the top four search engines to find out how much their results are alike, or, as it turns out, not so much!
His conclusion: Google's algorithms are doing something very different to everyone else!
The research found;
- Google’s number 1 result is only matched in the top spot on Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo around 1/3rd of the time
- Google's Top 10 results match the others less than 1/3rd of the time, with DuckDuckGo the closest
- Google is 2x more likely to produce a Facebook result and 3x more likely to produce a Pinterest result
- Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo are more likely than Google to put Amazon, YouTube, IMDB, and TripAdvisor in the top ten search results
The similarity in results between Yahoo and Bing is partly explained by the fact that Yahoo is powered by Microsoft-owned Bing. This comes from a deal signed in 2009 when they agreed to let Bing be the search engine for Yahoo.
Although it is unclear why the match between Yahoo and Bing search results is only around 7 in 10 and not 100%!
DuckDuckGo makes it very clear that they do not use Google for any of its search results. On their website, DuckDuckGo explain:
DuckDuckGo gets its results from over four hundred sources. These include hundreds of vertical sources delivering niche Instant Answers, DuckDuckBot (our crawler) and crowd-sourced sites (like Wikipedia, stored in our answer indexes). We also of course have more traditional links in the search results, which we also source from multiple partners, though most commonly from Bing (and none from Google).
The bottom line is that if you want to get away from Google, picking any one of the other 3 will give you roughly the same results, but they're not the same as "to Google it!"
Footnote: The latest kid on the block in the Search space is Neeva, a subscription-based, ad-free Search engine. Read about my discussion with the founder of Neeva here.
What's on the Wiser! YouTube Channel?
The latest video episode is about China's BigTech Crackdown (filmed on location at the beach!). This is based on the Premium Content deep-dive posted last week, which you can find here (€).
Snippets of Insight and Information
Samsung try again with foldable phones
This week, Samsung announced two new versions of its foldable smartphones. One folds like a book and the other flips like a Star Trek Communicator. This is not their first effort. In 2019, they released the OG range to less than average reviews.
According to IDC, only 2 million folding phones got shipped last year.. out of the 1.3 billion smartphones that were sold! Source: CNET
Google is slashing pay by up to 25% for some employees who choose to work remotely forever
Google has produced an online calculator to help employees understand its WFH policy, which reduces workers' salaries to reflect the savings and benefits from no longer commuting.
And they're not alone...Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have all warned employees who plan to leave expensive cities like New York and San Francisco that their pay will be slashed. Source: Reuters
Uber founder with a secret network of 'dark kitchens'
Travis Kalanick left Uber in 2017, but not before establishing Uber as THE global brand when it comes to ride-hailing. And also setting Uber on the path to Uber Eats, which now account for around 50% of Uber's revenues. It seems that Kalanick is keeping a very low profile as he builds a network of secretive dark kitchens to feed the shift towards home food delivery. Source: Sifted
VW CEO blasts EV charging experience whilst driving to Italy
The Volks Wagen Chief Exec went onto social media this week to criticise IONITY, the part VW owned challenger to Tesla's Supercharger network for electric vehicles. Spoiler alert: he wasn't happy! Source: Driving
Space exploration is a hot topic today, but what came before?
This is a fascinating and informative read if you, like me, love Space. And it makes a change to read some quality content that doesn't focus on the ego fuelled vanity trips to the Karman Line (is that really Space?). But if you like billionaire space race, you could watch this on the Wiser! YouTube channel instead. Source: Ozy
Just the Headlines
Joby Aviation, the flying car startup, has hit the public markets at a $4.5 billion valuation. (link)
Coinbase booked $2.2 billion in Q2 revenue, benefiting from the upturn in cryptocurrency prices. (link)
Sky News Australia is banned from YouTube for seven days over Covid misinformation. (link)
The slow collapse of Amazon’s drone delivery dream (link)
Our Facebook account was hacked. Getting help may take weeks, or we can get it now for $299 (link)
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