Start up: Facebook’s 98 data points, smartphones v relationships, Apple’s supplier struggle, and more

Conspiracy theories! They’re so reassuring. Photo by Kenya Allmond on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. That’s decimal 10. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

I went on a weeklong cruise for conspiracy theorists. It ended poorly • Popular Mechanics

Bronwen Dickey did so you don’t have to:

»Inside my orientation tote bag was a shiny blue bracelet I was supposed to wear at all times. “Makes it easier to find members of the group,” Adele said. But that wasn’t necessary. Most of the cruisers—the vacationers, not our group—were generally outfitted in bright colors and loud prints. As the days passed, a lot of them began wearing novelty captain’s hats from the gift shop. The conspiracy group, on the other hand, was mostly serious-looking senior citizens in “Infowars” T-shirts. Some of them wore casts, others walked with canes. Two relied on motorized scooters. None looked like he or she could afford to spend money frivolously. One eighty-year-old man’s toes poked through the tops of his worn leather loafers.

I headed to the windowless conference room that had been temporarily renamed the Liberty Lab.

“Welcome everyone,” said Dr. Susan Shumsky, the founder of Divine Travels and (claim to fame) one-time personal staff member of Beatles’ guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. (Her doctorate in divinity is from the Teaching of Intuitional Metaphysics in San Diego.) “I’d like to begin with a prayer.” Nearly everything the woman wore was either bright pink or sparkled. “Breathe in divine light!” she said. We closed our eyes and inhaled. Across the hall, in Gatsby’s Casino, slot machines clanged to a piped-in soundtrack of Taylor Swift and Rihanna.

Then sixteen presenters introduced themselves and gave brief synopses of their seminars. Laura Eisenhower—great-granddaughter of Dwight!—said she had been invited in 2006 to join a secret American colony on Mars and that aliens, including some prominent U.S. politicians, are already living on earth in disguise.


At this point you’d be looking for the emergency exits. Then you realise – you’re on a ship. There’s no getting off. And indeed, it didn’t end well.
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98 personal data points that Facebook uses to target ads to you • The Washington Post

Caitlin Dewey:

»Targeting options for Facebook advertisers*
1. Location
2. Age
3. Generation
4. Gender
5. Language
6. Education level
7. Field of study
8. School
9. Ethnic affinity
10. Income and net worth
11. Home ownership and type
12. Home value
13. Property size
14. Square footage of home
15. Year home was built
16. Household composition«

And plenty more where that came from. (“Relationship status” is at 32. But they’re in no particular order.)
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The new menage a trois • Psychology Today

Hara Estroff Marano on how smartphones intrude into relationships:

»It’s not just that we have only so much time and attention. Smartphones actually transform interpersonal processes. In a much-discussed 2014 study, Virginia Tech psychologist Shalini Misra and her team monitored the conversations of 100 couples in a coffee shop and identified “the iPhone Effect”: The mere presence of a smartphone, even if not in use—just as an object in the background—degrades private conversations, making partners less willing to disclose deep feelings and less understanding of each other, she and her colleagues reported in Environment and Behavior.

With people’s consciousness divided between what’s in front of them and the immense possibility symbolized by smartphones, face-to-face interactions lose the power to fulfill. Mobile phones are “undermining the character and depth” of the intimate exchanges we cherish most, says Misra. Partners are unable to engage each other in a meaningful way.

On or off, smartphones are also a barrier to establishing new relationships, observe Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein of the University of Essex in England. When they assigned pairs of strangers to discuss either casual or meaningful events, the presence of a smartphone, even outside the  visual field, derailed the formation of relationships—especially if the participants were asked to talk about something personally significant. Smartphones “inhibited the development of interpersonal closeness and trust and reduced the extent to which individuals felt understanding and empathy from their partners,” the team reports in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Subversion of the conditions of intimacy, they believe, happens outside of conscious awareness.


That’s really quite disturbing, in a subtle way.
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Hackers trick facial-recognition logins with photos from Facebook (what else?) • WIRED

Lily Hay Newman:

»Earlier this month at the Usenix security conference, security and computer vision specialists from the University of North Carolina presented a system that uses digital 3-D facial models based on publicly available photos and displayed with mobile virtual reality technology to defeat facial recognition systems. A VR-style face, rendered in three dimensions, gives the motion and depth cues that a security system is generally checking for. The researchers used a VR system shown on a smartphone’s screen for its accessibility and portability.

Their attack, which successfully spoofed four of the five systems they tried, is a reminder of the downside to authenticating your identity with biometrics. By and large your bodily features remain constant, so if your biometric data is compromised or publicly available, it’s at risk of being recorded and exploited. Faces plastered across the web on social media are especially vulnerable—look no further than the wealth of facial biometric data literally called Facebook.


Very theoretical – but probably the sort of thing that could be automated.
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Linux flaw that allows anyone to hijack Internet traffic also affects 80% of Android devices • Lookout Blog

Andrew Blaich:

»Lookout recently discovered a serious exploit in TCP reported this week also impacts nearly 80% of Android, or around 1.4bn of 1.8bn devices, based on an install base reported by Statista. The vulnerability lets attackers obtain unencrypted traffic and degrade encrypted traffic to spy on victims.

The issue should be concerning to Android users as attackers are able to execute this spying without traditional “man-in-the-middle” attacks through which they must compromise the network in order to intercept the traffic.

Researchers from University of California, Riverside and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory recently revealed a vulnerability in TCP at the USENIX Security 2016 conference, specifically pertaining to Linux systems. The vulnerability allows an attacker to remotely spy on people who are using unencrypted traffic or degrade encrypted connections. While a man in the middle attack is not required here, the attacker still needs to know a source and destination IP address to successfully execute the attack.


One for the nation-state attackers. But still one. (Notable from that Statista chart: for 2015, presumably end 2015, it puts iOS’s installed base at 463m devices, Windows Phone at 45m, BlackBerry at 19, and “other” at 31m. The BlackBerry number sounds low, as does the Windows one.)
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From Chrome apps to the web • Chromium Blog

Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, VP product management:

»We have always believed in making the open, interoperable web as strong as possible. For a while there were certain experiences the web couldn’t provide, such as working offline, sending notifications, and connecting to hardware. We launched Chrome apps three years ago to bridge this gap.

Since then, we’ve worked with the web standards community to enable an increasing number of these use cases on the web. Developers can use powerful new APIs such as service worker and web push to build robust Progressive Web Apps that work across multiple browsers. More capabilities will continue to become available on the web.

As we continue our efforts to simplify Chrome, we believe it’s time to begin the evolution away from the Chrome apps platform. There are two types of Chrome apps: packaged apps and hosted apps. Today, approximately 1% of users on Windows, Mac and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps, and most hosted apps are already implemented as regular web apps. We will be removing support for packaged and hosted apps from Chrome on Windows, Mac, and Linux over the next two years.


1% is still a big number. Wonder, though, how many will notice this.
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Samsung took 82% profit share of Android camp in Q2 2016 • Strategy Analytics

Linda Sui:

»According to the latest published report from our Wireless Smartphone Strategies (WSS) services: Value Share: Global Smartphone Revenue, ASP and Profit by OS by Price-Tier : Q2 2016, global smartphone industry revenues dipped -5% annually during Q2 2016. Android maintained top position as the largest OS by revenue, followed by iOS. Microsoft and Blackberry platforms made no profit at all. Tizen fell to the fifth position by volume.

Samsung led the pack among all Android OEMs by volume, value and profitability. The Korean vendor took 26% volume share, 38% value share and 82% of profit share within Android camp during Q2 2016. Huawei ranked the second spot by volume and value among all Android OEMs. Chinese OEM OPPO and vivo pushed into top 5 list thanks to surging volumes and improved ASP.


If Tizen is fifth by volume, then it shipped fewer than 0.5m handsets. That remaining 18% of profit share – shared among all the other vendors – is $820m. LG made a loss; Lenovo made a loss; Sony made a $4m profit. So that suggests Huawei, OPPO and vivo might have made some money. And Xiaomi too?
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Taiwan makers reluctant to yield to Apple requests to lower quotes • Digitimes

Cage Chao and Steve Shen:

»Apple has met resistance from makers in Taiwan’s supply chain to lower their quotes for parts and components for iPhone 7 devices, a move which aims to force Apple to discontinue its established policy of constantly squeezing profits from Taiwan suppliers.

Apple is said to have asked downstream part and component suppliers, excluding Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Largan Precision, to reduce their quotes for iPhone 7 devices by as much as 20% even though order volumes for new phones are reportedly 30% lower than those placed a year earlier.

Major downstream suppliers, notably Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) and associated companies under the Foxconn Group, have replied Apple that they could not be able to accept orders without reasonable profits at this time.

Apple is leveraging the rising handset supply chain in China to force Taiwan-based companies to reduce their quotes comparable to those offered by China-based suppliers. But it makes no sense for such a requirment since the quality of products rolled out by Taiwan- and China-based suppliers is standing at different levels.


When your orders are falling, you can’t squeeze like you did.
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New Nokia smartphones confirmed for Q4 2016 • AndroidAuthority

Rob Triggs:

»The company didn’t spill any details about the specifications of its upcoming smartphones and tablets, nor their targeted price points. However, a rumor that appeared earlier in the year suggests that Nokia is planning two premium phones, which will be powered by Android 7.0 Nougat. The Nokia smartphones are reported to feature 5.2 and 5.5-inch QHD OLED displays, a Snapdragon 820 processor, a 22.6MP camera, and a metal body with water and dust resistance.

Along with high-end smartphones, HMD is expected to unveil two new Nokia feature phones in the next six months. Nokia also completed a $191m acquisition of Withings in May, opening up an avenue into the connected halth market. Clearly Nokia is working to get itself back into the smartphone game, but are you excited to see what the company has to offer after all this time?


So this time Nokia *is* going to go Android. Let’s see how that goes.
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The meaning of trust in the age of AirBnB • Tim Harford

Tim Harford:

»Prosperity not only requires trust, it also encourages it. Why bother to steal when you are already comfortable? An example of poverty breeding mistrust comes from Colin Turnbull’s ethnographic study The Mountain People (US), about the Ik, a displaced tribe ravaged by Ugandan drought in the 1960s. If Turnbull’s account is itself trustworthy (it may not be), in the face of extreme hunger, the Ik had abandoned any pretence at ethical behaviour and would lie, cheat and steal whenever possible. Parents would abandon their own children, and children betray their own parents. Turnbull’s story had a horrific logic. The Ik had no hope of a future, so they saw no need to protect their reputation for fair dealing.

One of the underrated achievements of the modern world has been to develop ways to extend the circle of trust by depersonalising it. Trust used to be a very personal thing: you would trust your friends or friends of friends. But when I withdrew €400 from a cash machine, it was not because the bank trusted me but because it could verify that my bank would repay the money. This is a cold corporate miracle.

Over the past few years, people have been falling in love with a hybrid model that allows a personal reputation to work even between strangers. One example is Airbnb, which lets people stay in the homes of complete strangers, a considerable exercise of trust on both sides. We successfully used it on another stop in our Bavarian holiday. Airbnb makes personal connections but uses online reviews to keep people honest: after our stay, we reviewed our host and he reviewed us.


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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

1 thought on “Start up: Facebook’s 98 data points, smartphones v relationships, Apple’s supplier struggle, and more

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