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Life Without the Tech Giants

Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple collectively make products that we love, products that we hate (but can’t stop using), and products that dictate how we communicate and how we are seen. Their devices and services make our lives easier than they’ve ever been before, yet more complicated in unforeseen ways. They are so ubiquitous and fundamental to our lives that their offerings have replaced core functions of our brains. We’re now realising it’s as possible to get addicted to these buttons, clicks, screens, and scrolls as it is to get hooked on nicotine or heroin. Who, after all, can deny the high that comes from an Instagram like? Read More >>

privacy
Amazon and Facebook Reportedly Had a Secret Data-Sharing Agreement, and It Explains So Much

Back in 2015, a woman named Imy Santiago wrote an Amazon review of a novel that she had read and liked. Amazon immediately took the review down and told Santiago she had “violated its policies.” Santiago re-read her review, didn’t see anything objectionable about it, so she tried to post it again. “You’re not eligible to review this product,” an Amazon prompt informed her. Read More >>

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Turning Off Facebook Location Tracking Doesn’t Stop It From Tracking Your Location

Aleksandra Korolova has turned off Facebook’s access to her location in every way that she can. She has turned off location history in the Facebook app and told her iPhone that she “Never” wants the app to get her location. She doesn’t “check-in” to places and doesn’t list her current city on her profile. Read More >>

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How Facebook Schemed Against Its Users

Last year, I was trying to solve a mystery. Facebook’s “People You May Know” tool was outing sex workers’ real identities to their clients, and vice versa, and I was trying to figure out how. A sex worker using the pseudonym Leila told me she had gone to great lengths to hide her identity from clients by using an alternate name, alternate email address, and burner phone number—contact information she didn’t provide to Facebook—yet Facebook was still inextricably linking her with her clients, suggesting them to her real-name account as people she might want to friend. Read More >>

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Facebook Was Fully Aware That Tracking Who People Call and Text You Is Creepy But Did It Anyway

Back in 2015, Facebook had a pickle of a problem. It was time to update the Android version of the Facebook app, and two different groups within Facebook were at odds over what the data grab should be. Read More >>

privacy
Be Warned: Customer Service Agents Can See What You’re Typing in Real Time

Next time you’re chatting with a customer service agent online, be warned that the person on the other side of your conversation might see what you’re typing in real time. A reader sent us the following transcript from a conversation he had with a mattress company after the agent responded to a message he hadn’t sent yet. Read More >>

privacy
‘Do Not Track,’ the Privacy Tool Used by Millions of People, Doesn’t Do Anything

When you go into the privacy settings on your browser, there’s a little option there to turn on the “Do Not Track” function, which will send an invisible request on your behalf to all the websites you visit telling them not to track you. A reasonable person might think that enabling it will stop a porn site from keeping track of what she watches, or keep Facebook from collecting the addresses of all the places she visits on the internet, or prevent third-party trackers she’s never heard of from following her from site to site. According to a recent survey by Forrester Research, a quarter of American adults use “Do Not Track” to protect their privacy. (Our own stats at Gizmodo Media Group show that 9% of visitors have it turned on.) We’ve got bad news for those millions of privacy-minded people, though: “Do Not Track” is like spray-on sunscreen, a product that makes you feel safe while doing little to actually protect you. Read More >>

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Facebook Is Giving Advertisers Access to Your Shadow Contact Information

Last week, I ran an ad on Facebook targeted at a computer science professor named Alan Mislove. Mislove studies how privacy works on social networks and had a theory that Facebook is letting advertisers reach users with contact information collected in surprising ways. I was helping him test the theory by targeting him in a way Facebook had previously told me wouldn’t work. I directed the ad to display to a Facebook account connected to the landline number for Alan Mislove’s office, a number Mislove has never provided to Facebook. He saw the ad within hours. Read More >>

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‘People You May Know:’ A Controversial Facebook Feature’s 10-Year History

In May 2008, Facebook announced what initially seemed like a fun, whimsical addition to its platform: People You May Know. Read More >>

internet
When a Stranger Decides to Destroy Your Life

Monika Glennon has lived in Huntsville, Alabama for the last 12 years. Other than a strong Polish accent, she fits a certain stereotype of the All-American life. She’s blonde. Her husband is a veteran Marine. Her two children, a boy and a girl, joined the military as adults. She sells houses—she’s an estate agent at Re/Max—helping others realise their own American dream. Read More >>

privacy
These Academics Spent The Last Year Testing Whether Your Phone Is Secretly Listening To You

It’s the smartphone conspiracy theory that just won’t go away: Many, many people are convinced that their phones are listening to their conversations to target them with ads. Vice recently fuelled the paranoia with an article that declared “Your phone is listening and it’s not paranoia,” a conclusion the author reached based on a 5-day experiment where he talked about “going back to uni” and “needing cheap shirts” in front of his phone and then saw ads for shirts and university classes on Facebook. Read More >>

internet
Pray for the Souls of the People Sucked Into This Dating Site Hell

Earlier this year, the media got very excited about Trump.dating, a site for the pro-Donald set that promised to “make dating great again.” Much of the media coverage was critical: The site only allowed users to conduct heterosexual searches; the male-half of the couple originally featured on the homepage had a child sex conviction; and its creator didn’t seem to actually exist. Read More >>

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The Other Cambridge Personality Test Has Its Own Database With Millions of Facebook Profiles

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock on Mars, you’ve likely heard about a little scandal involving Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. Cambridge Analytica got its hands on millions of people’s Facebook likes in 2014 by getting an academic, Aleksander Kogan, to design an app with a personality test that hoovered up data from the 250,000 or so Facebook users that took it, as well as from their millions of friends. Cambridge Analytica supposedly used all those likes combined with the magic of big data to put Donald Trump in the White House. Read More >>

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Keep Track Of Who Facebook Thinks You Know With This Nifty Tool

Facebook is constantly watching you. Now, you can watch Facebook back. Gizmodo Media Group’s Special Projects Desk is releasing a tool for people who want to study the friend recommendations Facebook chooses to give them. It’s called the “People You May Know Inspector.” To use the tool: Read More >>