Category Archives: Internet

Diatribes that are loosely web-related.

Facebook and Google

I’ve bitched a lot about Facebook the past year, primarily because I disagree with the way that Facebook assumes that everything you do wants to be public information.

You’re opted by default into Facebook Places, allowing people to broadcast to anyone where you are.
Photos, people can tag you doing stupid things, all without your permission unless your carefull modify your settings.
Facebook started using your name and photo in ads, unless you opted out.
Facebook has been found to be publicly sharing user data with advertisers and other developers.

You post everything on Facebook. You tell it what you like. What you’re doing. Where you’re doing it and who with. This is your life. It is your timeline (I love the design, for the record).  Now, don’t you think you should be able to choose which information you share and with whom (including developers, partners, advertisers,etc.)

Let me explain why this gets me so worked up…

I work at Google. One of my responsibilities is to ensure that all of the advertisers running on our AdSense partner sites (the Google Display Network) are respecting your right to Internet privacy. The team I manage ensures that  our advertisers are not storing any data about you and that they fully declare how they use it by way of the advertiser’s privacy policy. We ensure that advertisers are not stealing your online identity, allowing them to thus target you without your express knowledge and agreement.

We review every ad that is served on our network to ensure that it is not dropping any tracking cookies from shady advertisers, ad networks or other online entities. For the select vendor tracking cookies we allow, we carefully screen them for data collection practices, malware protection and require that they each include a method in their privacy policy to allow you to opt out from being tracked.

Google collects behavioral data about which sites you visit, to put them into categories for advertisers to target. We tell you this information up front and allow you to delete or change what we know about you. Hmmm.. Google thinks I’m 35-44 years old. I’m kind of offended.

We tell you exactly what we know about you and how we use it.

Now let’s talk about Facebook. You tell Facebook everything. Facebook is your online identity. If an someone could take a snapshot of your life (your books, conversations, interests) and put it in one massive database, it’d be Facebook. All this information is then shared with advertisers, research companies its partners.  For example, the marketing research company Nielsen has a new product known as OCR, which will report back to advertisers which ads you’ve seen, on which pages of the internet, how you responded to the ad and compare that with your Facebook profile. You can’t choose what information is shared with Nielsen and what’s not. But that’s ok, right?

They’ve now allowing applications and partners to post directly to your stream and share everything you do, with or without your permission. I’m not sure how you feel about that, but I’d rather not tell everyone what movies I’m watching, reading, or listening to without me saying so. Do I want people to know that I a closet Real Housewives fan (I’m not)? Or that I’ve been listening to an unhealthy amount of Vitamin String Orchestra? I’d rather choose tell that to people, not assume that what I do in my private life is up for public consumption.

Spotify! I love it. Greatest app ever. I am a paying user for $9.99 a month. I get an email from them last week, with the subject line “Ron Bailer is listening to ____.” I open it up and it’s a promotional email from Spotify, who has a list of all my friends and is allowing the use of their names in promotional emails. I don’t want my name showing up in anyone else’s promotional email. Even if I love a product, I don’t want them to assume they can use my name in their advertisements. What is Ron hates Spotify?  I asked Spotify about this, and they told me:

The email you are referring too comes from Spotify Social and occurs when you link your Spotify account to Facebook. It will send out these emails occasionally to other users within your social network, so it is possible that from time to time your Facebook friends who have also linked their accounts to Spotify will receive similar emails with your information in.

There is no “opt in” or “opt out” option for this as it is part of the social experience. If you do not wish for information to be shared in this way you will need to disconnect your Facebook account from Spotify.

I like using Spotify and I want to share my playlists with other people. Why must I give up my right to privacy in order to get the convenience of sharing a song or a playlist with someone else. I know what you’re going to say.. this is Spotify’s problem (not Facebook’s). I disagree.

Google would never allow a partner or advertiser to do this to you, without your permission (or at least a way to opt out).

Advertisers on Facebook can target any demographic or profile term they want and hit you with a display ad. These ads can then drop cookies (and flash cookies) on you that can tag you as having specific qualities. You can’t opt out of it. You don’t even know it’s happening or when. The Facebook Privacy policy doesn’t offer any opt-outs for these sorts of things.

The information you share online is information about you. Think about it this way. If you have a secret or a personal story that you want to tell someone in real life. Who would you rather trust? The person that will keep your secret and allow you to say with whom they can and cannot share it? Or someone who thinks that “the age of privacy is over” and is willing to tell it to anyone that’s willing to listen?

Google’s Display Campaign

There’s a great write-up in tomorrow’s New York Times about Google’s display advertising business and it’s new ad campaign “Watch this Space” designed to celebrate and advertiser it’s seriousness in the space.

For me, as someone who has been on this team for the past 3 years, it’s exciting to see that our efforts are paying off. I’m excited to see this covered in The Times and even more excited to see how everything shakes out over the next few years.

Managing Facebook, Don’t Let It Manage You!

Right now, I’m about 52% pro-Facebook, 48% anti-Facebook. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the social networking site has made a number of privacy changes over the course of the last year that has exposed your data to your friends, advertisers, sites and the rest of the world. Not convinced? Check out how the default privacy settings have changed over time.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook — or more specifically — I love how Facebook has allowed me to connect with friends (new and old) and share ideas, content, photos and more in a clean and easy-to-use format. I stress those two points, because MySpace and Friendster were the first pioneers into this space, however Facebook took it a step further by using web 2.0 technologies and cleaning up the mess.

At this point, though, the company has made so many privacy blunders that I really want to close my account — if it weren’t for all the people I still want to keep in touch with. So, first and foremost, I recommend going through your privacy settings with a fine-toothed comb and making sure that everything is set the way you want it to be. There’s a great article over at PC World that walks through what everything means and their recommendations of how to set things up.  I strongly encourage every Facebook user to check it out.

As a next step, I also donated $10 to the new open source social network project known as Diaspora. The concept is that you host your own “seed” of the social network, which can then communicate with other “seeds” rather than having all of the data stored on one master web site. Think of it like peer-to-peer networking, where each person has a small chunk of the entire data — and each peer communicates with eachother. In this model, you host and store all the data you want to share — and you decide what level of privacy you want (how novel!). For $5, you can get a starter CD to host your own seed once it’s available. For $10, you can get the starter CD and some stickers — and I’m all about stickers. It goes up from there, with each level getting an additional perk.

If you’d like to help make a more open (but private) social networking system, head on over to Kickstarter and donate a few bucks towards Diaspora. It’s it time to start telling Facebook enough is enough?

The little things

I wanted to take just a minute to talk about climate change and just a few of the little things you can do to help reduce your carbon footprint. There are two tips in particular that I like, that are not only better for the environment, but also make your life a lot easier.

The first is pretty simple. Start replacing your standard incandescent light bulbs with the newer compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. These have significantly come down in price since the days when they were first introduced, and you can usually grab a four pack for about $6. Granted, it’s a wee more of an upfront cost than what you were paying for your traditional light bulbs, but think about how less frequent you’ll need to change those suckers? A typical light bulb lasts about 6 months or so, right? These incandescent bulbs last a lifetime of approximately 1500 hours. CFLs last for approximately 10,000 hours. That’s more than 6x longer! Meaning that instead of changing out a bulb every six months — you’ll do it once ever 3 years. This is especially important for those bulbs that are a pain in the ass to change. You know which ones, I’m talking about — the ones that you have to get the ladder out and bring a screwdriver to remove the light fixture. Swap those first! Save yourself the hassle.

So, that extra few dollars isn’t really going to waste. Not to mention the fact that these bulbs are more energy efficient and will significantly reduce your overall energy bill if you replace all of them. So, what’s not to love about them? The only downside, and it’s a minor inconvenience, is that you need to recycle these — they cannot be thrown away in the trash. Just save them up for when you need to run to the hardware store and bring ’em with you. Problem solved.

The second thing, which I always thought was so granola, is bring your own bags to the grocery stores. Here in California, nearly every grocery store sells these now for usually $0.99 and most of the time the store will credit you $0.05 for each time you bring in your own bags. So these will pay for themselves in less than 6 months, if you shop weekly.

What’s even nicer, though, is that these bags make it so much easier to carry groceries. You can fit so much more stuff into one fabric/hemp grocery bag than you can in one plastic or paper bag. Plus — they don’t break! Yesterday, coming back from my mini shopping run, they threw a gallon of apple juice into one bag plus rice, a few jars of baby food and some other goodies. With traditional grocery bags, the apple juice would’ve been not just one — but often two bags itself, to double bag it. I was really surprised at how much more efficient these bags are when shopping. So just throw them in your car and bring them with you when you go into the store. That’s the only hard part. But it’s worth it!

So, that’s just some of the small things you can do around the house to make an impact on the world around you. For more tips, check out this post from the Practical Environmentalist.

This message was brought to you as part of Blog Action Day.

X.com

So, I happened to see an ad while on the Paypal / eBay site for a new project called “X.com,” which is briefly Paypal’s new payment mechanism that is in the works.

Once there was a day where X.com was actually something else (and get your mind out of the gutter). Back in 1998-2000, X.com was the very first online bank. They offered all of the same online banking services offered today (including a 1.25% interest rate on your checking account), but also reimbursed up to $30 in monthly ATM fees. They were great!

Then.. the bubble burst. X.com was bought up by Paypal and went under. I had to then open an account with US Trust, who then became Citizens, which I later swapped for Fleet who is now the behemoth Bank of America.

Where am I going with this story? Well, in short, I want to point out the closest thing to X.com today: The Charles Schwab High Interest Investor Checking account. I learned about this great account from the book I Will Teach You To Be Rich. The Schwab account offers ATM fee reimbursement and a high interest checking account.

While I’ve not hung up my B of A account just yet, I’m seriously considering this as a viable option once I get out of my 21st St Prison. In any event, this was purely intended as one of those “I-am-so-old-school-that-remember-when-x.com-was-actually-a-bank” posts and turned into a pitch for Schwab. Eh. Whatever. It’s the Diatribe. Things happen.

Google Friend Connect

Google just announced that their new Social Networking application known as Friend Connect is now available to the public. What it does, it allows you to “tag” yourself as a member of specific web sites and share your profile information.

I’ve added my Friend Connect box to the right had side of The Diatribe, so if you already have a Google account, you can sign in and show your support for the site. Upload your photo and your Google profile with information and start making friends.

I’m still not sure how this is going to roll out for future applications or tie into other social networks, as it’s still too new. But check it out, sign up and support The Diatribe.

Overheard at Work

“So, my daughter is going into the third grade this year and guess what they’re teaching her… Cursive! Who the hell writes in Cursive?! What a useless skill. It’d be so much more valuable if they taught them all how to set up WordPress or something useful!”

What a Bummer!

Well, that was a bust! I guess the Mozilla servers couldn’t take the bandwidth. I’m not sure if you tried to download FF3, but I had issues most of the day. I was finally able to get my copy around 5pm PST.

Sorry Mozilla — better luck next time. Make sure that you can handle the load, is the moral of the story.

$31,000 per minute

According to CNet, for every minute that Amazon is down globally — it would cost them approximately $31,000 in sales. This is based off their yearly revenue numbers from last year.

That being said, Amazon has been down in the US since 10:30 am PST (about 1 hour and 12 minutes at the time of this posting). Assuming that this was a global outage, this would cost Amazon about $2.2MM already.

Considering it’s only the US, let’s just cut that number in half.. even so.