The great tech journalist Walt Mossberg is finally retiring, This is from his final column:
If we are really going to turn over our homes, our cars, our health and more to private tech companies, on a scale never imagined, we need much, much stronger standards for security and privacy than now exist. Especially in the U.S., it’s time to stop dancing around the privacy and security issues and pass real, binding laws.
And, if ambient technology is to become as integrated into our lives as previous technological revolutions like wood joists, steel beams and engine blocks, we need to subject it to the digital equivalent of enforceable building codes and auto safety standards. Nothing less will do. And health? The current medical device standards will have to be even tougher, while still allowing for innovation.
The tech industry, which has long styled itself as a disruptor, will need to work hand in hand with government to craft these policies. And that might be a bigger challenge than developing the technology in the first place.
Yep. I’ll miss his unpretentious wisdom and sound common sense about technology.
This morning’s Observer column:
‘Move fast and break things”, was the exhortation that Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg originally issued to his developers. It’s a typical hacker’s mantra: while the tools and features they developed for his platform might not be perfect, speed was the key aspiration, even if there were some screw-ups on the way.
In 2016, we began to realise that one of the things that might get broken in Mr Zuckerberg’s quest for speed is democracy. Facebook became one of the favourite platforms for disseminating “fake news” and was the tool of choice for micro-targeting voters with personalised political messages. It also became a live broadcasting medium for those engaging in bullying, rape, inflicting grievous bodily harm and, in one case, murder.
One way of thinking about the internet is that it holds up a mirror to human nature…
From the New Yorker:
There is now significant evidence that Trump has been trying to cover up something related to the F.B.I. investigation. We just don’t know what it is. In Watergate, Bernstein noted, “we knew there was a break-in and also that there was a massive campaign of political espionage and sabotage to undermine the political opposition.” But with Trump, he went on, it could be a range of offenses: “Is it specific acts of collusion? Is it his financial dealings with ethno-Russians and countries of the former Soviet empire or those of others around him? Is it about obstructing these investigations because they’ll reveal inappropriate contacts between the campaign and people acting in the interests of a hostile foreign power, perhaps including the President? We don’t know yet.”
The longer this goes on, the more it feels like Watergate.
Sankt Petri Kirche, Copenhagen.
Seen (and scene) in Copenhagen recently.
Today’s Observer column on the fallout from the ‘ransomeware’ attack.
The attack was good for the computer-security companies, some of whose shares rose sharply. But other companies exploited the marketing opportunities offered by the crisis. First out of the blocks was Microsoft, whose product deficiencies lay at the heart of the problem. Brad Smith, the company’s president, made a pre-emptive strike for the high moral ground. “We take every single cyber-attack on a Windows system seriously,” he blogged, “and we’ve been working around the clock since Friday to help all our customers who have been affected by this incident. This included a decision to take additional steps to assist users with older systems that are no longer supported.”
Smith went on to castigate governments – correctly – for stockpiling vulnerabilities rather than reporting them to companies. But what took the biscuit was his implication that the root of the problem was that so many people were foolish enough to continue using old versions of Windows rather than upgrading to the latest version (and forking out for both the upgrades and the new kit needed to run them). So the solution is to keep buying the latest version.
You have to admire the sheer brazenness of this: blaming users for continuing to use your defective product. It’s like Mark Zuckerberg’s idea that the solution to the problems caused by social media is… more Facebook. And it’s the kind of thinking that gives hypocrisy a bad name…
Venice, lunchtime, off the tourist track.
Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Amazon’s IPO. It’s market cap stands today at $459.5 billion. Walmart, meanwhile stands at $229.5 billion. So Amazon is apparently twice as valuable as Walmart.
And yet according to Recode…
Walmart has well more than three times Amazon’s annual revenue, and five times its net income. But Jeff Bezos and Amazon have sold a vision of revenue growth over huge net income figures — and Wall Street has largely bought in.
Also: Amazon employs 341,500 people. Walmart provides jobs for 2.3 million.
- White House says that nothing happened.
- If it happened, it isn’t a big deal.
- Maybe it was imprudent, but it’s not illegal!
- Hilary was worse.
From Don Moynihan, @donmoyn