Start Up: iMessage + iCloud = secure?, Facebook and the ageist job ads, Twitter gets GDPR-y, the antibiotic problem, and more

CFC escapes look as though someone is making old fridges – but not sealing them up. Photo by ToddBF on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Until the next ones. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Scientists race to find who is pumping an incredibly dangerous gas into the atmosphere • The Outline

Caroline Haskins:


The research letter [published in Nature] considers several possible options. Have there simply been natural changes in the atmosphere? Have refrigerators, air conditioning units, and foam packaging—all of which used to be made with CFCs—been rotting in landfills, releasing those CFCs? Have chlorine, fluorine, and carbon been produced, accidentally forming CFCs as a byproduct?

In all of these cases, the study claims, probably not. The amount of CFC-11 they were detecting was simply too high. The most likely scenario is that CFC-11 is being produced, but not reported. Using air circulation data, the scientists were able to conclude the plumes were probably coming from somewhere in East Asia.

“The [CFC-11 levels] increased by 25 percent,” Montzaka said. “And that was entirely unexpected so that was quite a bit of a shock.”

But where, exactly, are these CFCs coming from? Who is responsible? What are scientists and international policymakers supposed to do now?

A visualization of CFCs in regions around the globe in 2016, with darker colors indicating a higher amount of CFCs. Source: Nature

According to Paul Newman, an atmospheric scientist and co-chair of the Montreal Protocol’s Scientific Assessment Panel, scientists around the world are digging to figure it out.

“The scientists are all running around right now,” Newman told The Outline in a phone call. “Stephen [Montzaka]’s study has sort of lit a fire under a lot of people. They’re going back, they’re taking a look at their data to try and investigate, ‘maybe I got some good CFC-11 measurements.’”


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So how secure is Messages in iCloud anyway? • The Mac Observer

Andrew Orr:


Apple says:


Messages in iCloud also uses end-to-end encryption. If you have iCloud Backup turned on, a copy of the key protecting your Messages is included in your backup. This ensures you can recover your Messages if you’ve lost access to iCloud Keychain and your trusted devices. When you turn off iCloud Backup, a new key is generated on your device to protect future messages and it is not stored by Apple.


What this means is that all of your messages are encrypted by a key generated using your device’s passcode. This makes it inaccessible to Apple and other third parties. But there’s a caveat.

If you enable iCloud Backup, that encryption key is included. It sounds like a copy of might also be stored in iCloud Keychain. That means if Apple is served a warrant by law enforcement, your iCloud Backup, along with all of its data, can be accessed. But this has always been true of iCloud Backup; the inclusion of Messages in iCloud hasn’t changed this fact.


If you’re really wary, then you don’t use iCloud Backup. That means you can still use iMessage, but the authorities can’t get at it except through your device.
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German court snubs ICANN’s bid to compel registrar to slurp up data • The Register

Rebecca Hill:


Filing the suit was one of ICANN’s last-ditch attempts to deal with GDPR – for which it is ill-prepared, despite having had two years to work on compliance – and ensure the future of the Whois domain-name-lookup service.

Other attempts have seen ICANN unsuccessfully beg EU data protection agencies for a one-year extension to allow it to become compliant, and a temporary policy issued to registrars just one week before the GDPR enforcement date.

It is likely ICANN hoped that issues with other registrars over their contracts and GDPR would be put off until this case had made its way through the courts has been scuppered also.

However, the German court has scuppered these chances by rejecting the request for an injunction, in a ruling (PDF) that described ICANN’s application as unfounded.

ICANN had said that the technical and administrative contacts have important functions, and are needed for the stable and secure operation of the domain name system as well as to identify customers related to technical or legal issues.

But in its ruling, the court said that although it was clear that having more data makes identifying and contacting the people behind a domain more reliable, ICANN had not demonstrated that storing this other data was indispensable for its purposes.


It’s that “two years to work on compliance” aspect which is so amazing. American companies have really thought that they’re untouchable. Guess what? Not the case.
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US mobile market update – Q1 2018 • Chetan Sharma



• Smartphone penetration stood at 94%.
• For the first time, there were more connected smart watches added to the network than postpaid or prepaid phones. Connected smart watches (read Apple Watch) have proved to be a surprise hit for the operators.
• The quarter saw a sharp decline (biggest decline ever) in connected tablets indicating waning interest from consumers in the segment. This might have implications to the 5G strategy for OEMs.
• Connected cars and IoT continue to dominate the net-adds. Their share of the net-adds reached historic highs in Q1 2018. In fact, the combined category commanded well over 90% share for the first time.
Again, connected vehicles was the biggest net-adds category for the quarter which was dominated by AT&T.
• While the operators struggled to maintain growth, the overall wireless market continues to grow rapidly thanks to the continued explosion on the 4th Wave by new digital players.
• Net Income rose 10% while Capex and Opex declined sharply.


A stagnant market; if the TMobile/Sprint merger comes off, I’d expect downward pressure on prices.
Also: handset renewal cycle is now an average of 3 years.
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In the world of cryptocurrency, even good projects can go bad • NY Times



In one of their many promotional posts on Medium, the Envion team wrote: “As financial regulators across the globe look to regulate I.C.O.s and protect investors, Envion serves as a model for a compliant crowdsale that operates with the same transparency and integrity of traditional financial markets.”
A current spokesman for the founders, Laurent Martin, said problems had begun even before the project started fund-raising late last year, because of the chief executive the founders brought in, Matthias Woestmann.

According to Mr. Martin, the founders gave Mr. Woestmann what they thought was temporary control of their shares in the company. Mr. Woestmann later refused to give them back, and then diluted the shares of the other owners, providing him with control of the money that was raised.

Mr. Martin said the problems that had come up since then were not caused by the I.C.O. structure. Instead, he said, they are a result of Mr. Woestmann’s tactics and his refusal to give back ownership of the company.

“Envion did something truly unique in the way they protected investors,” Mr. Martin said. “It’s unfortunate that each of these bulwarks is being tested.”


I know I link to a lot of negative stories about cryptocurrencues; that’s because there are so many of them and this sector is so busy, with billions of dollars poured into projects which have zero hope of going anywhere. And it’s not venture capital money; it’s individuals’. It’s also a honeypot for scammers.

I hope people will come to their senses, but the lure of something for apparently nothing is too tempting.
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Here’s why Twitter’s locking people out of their accounts • Mashable

Karissa Bell:


Over the past week, the company’s been suspending the accounts of people who joined Twitter before they were 13 — even if they’re now older — due to new European privacy laws.

It’s not clear just how many accounts have been affected, but a look at the r/Twitter subreddit and the #TwitterLockout hashtag shows a substantial number of users have reported suspensions in recent days. VentureBeat also reports that at least one business account, which had listed a “birthdate” as the company’s founding date, had also been suspended. 

Users are reporting receiving emails and notifications from Twitter alerting them that their accounts can no longer be accessed. Some have reported the suspensions have immediately followed a prompt to add their birthdate to their profile.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the record, but Mashable has confirmed the lockouts are a direct result of the company’s implementation of GDPR guidelines.


That really is quite weird. I guess it’s because that means twitter holds data from them from before they were 13.

Just give your birthday as 1/1/1970 – the Unix birthday. Easy to remember, probably isn’t yours, passes age requirements. Until you miss the job ads, as below…
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Facebook, Amazon, and hundreds of companies post targeted job ads that screen out older workers • Vox

Alexia Fernández Campbell:


The plaintiffs argue that Amazon, T-Mobile, Ikea, Facebook, and hundreds of other companies target the ads so they are only seen by younger Facebook users.

The lawsuit revolves around Facebook’s unique business model, which lets advertisers micro-target the network’s users based on their interests, city, age, and other demographic information. In the past, equal rights advocates have sued Facebook for accepting ads that discriminate against consumers based on their religion, race, and gender.

Facebook has argued that the company is not legally responsible when other companies buy ads that violate the law. But in a new filing, the CWA has now added Facebook to its complaint as one of the companies accused of violating civil rights laws by targeting its own job ads to younger users.

Here is one ad Facebook posted, submitted by the plaintiffs, inviting users to a career fair with Facebook recruiters. The ads were visible only to users between the ages of 21 and 55:

Facebook ad submitted as evidence in Bradley v. T-Mobile. US District Court for the Northern District of California

Facebook has denied that these kinds of ads are a form of age discrimination.


Very predictable that if there’s a way to discriminate, companies will use it.
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Google will try to tackle latest iPhones with Pixel phone upgrades • Bloomberg

Mark Gurman:


The Alphabet Inc. unit is planning at least two new models, likely to be dubbed the “Pixel 3” and “Pixel 3 XL,” said people familiar with the matter. The larger phone is designed with a nearly edge-to-edge screen, except for a thicker bezel known as a chin at the bottom of the phone. The display also will [like the iPhone X] have a notch – or a cutout – at the top. The smaller model will look similar to the Pixel 2 and won’t include the notch or edge-to-edge look, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t yet public.

Google’s Pixel smartphones are widely regarded as some of the best Android-based devices, but they continue to lag far behind Apple Inc.’s iPhone and products from Samsung Electronics Co. in sales and market share. Google shipped fewer than 4 million units in 2017, according to data from analytics company IDC. That compares with 216 million iPhones shipped in the same period. Google intends to keep updating its Pixel line annually as it sees the hardware division as important to the company’s long-term future.


This headline is nonsense. How is selling one-fiftieth as many phones as a putative rival “tackling”? The question should be about what Google’s strategic aim is in selling the Pixel, because – except for the edgiest of edge cases – it’s not about getting people to dump their iPhones.

So why is the hardware division important? If you’re selling what amounts to a rounding error in the wider scheme of things, what’s the purpose? With the Nexus, when Android phones were a wild mishmash, there was a clarity: show how it should be done. Is that still the case with the Pixel? You wouldn’t know from this report, which is where Gurman’s writing fails, for me. Don’t just recount the boring stuff. Explain the boring stuff, because someone in Google must have an idea why they’re doing it.
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Antibiotic resistance crisis worsening because of collapse in supply • The Guardian

Nicola Davis:


The antibiotic resistance crisis which is threatening to render many diseases untreatable is being fuelled not just by overuse of the drugs, but a fragile supply chain that is at risk of collapse, experts have warned.

The authors of a white paper by the Dutch non-profit organisation Access to Medicine say a lack of access to specific antibiotics can lead to less appropriate drugs being prescribed for an infection, or even the use of lower doses – both of which increase the risk of antibiotic resistance – as well as delay for treatment. What’s more, they say, low stocks can lead to price hikes and mean poor quality medicines become rife.

“The right products need to reach the right patients at the right time,” said Dr Jayasree Iyer, executive director of the Access to Medicine Foundation and co-author of the report.

Among the shortages flagged is that of the common antibiotic benzathine penicillin G, which was found by to be unavailable in 39 countries in 2015, including India, Australia and the US, and is the only drug that can prevent and treat the transmission of syphilis from mother to child. The shortage, the report notes, coincided with the growing rise of syphilis in Brazil that has resulted in an uptick in babies born with congenital illnesses.

The report also cites a recent shortage of the intravenous antibiotic and antibacterial combination piperacillin-tazobactam. Caused by an explosion at a Chinese factory that produced raw materials for the medication, the situation led doctors in the UK to warn that patients were being put at risk from reliance on alternative medications, with supplies of the drug restricted to severe cases of sepsis and ventilator-acquired pneumonia.


Back in 1997 the then UK science minister said to me his biggest concern was the lack of investment by pharmaceutical companies in new antibiotics, and the overuse of existing ones. Nothing has changed in over 20 years.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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