September 4, 2020

Snippet: iOS 14’s Big Privacy Change Gets Postponed ☍

Samuel Axon for Ars Technica:

Apple has postponed full enforcement of a feature of its upcoming iOS 14 software for iPhones that would require app developers to request users’ permission to track them across apps for advertising purposes. This announcement comes in the wake of a public complaint from Facebook that the privacy policy could negatively impact the ad market in Apple’s ecosystem.

The feature, announced at Apple’s annual developer conference in June, would require app developers to notify a user of an app’s intent to track the user’s IDFA (ID for Advertisers). IDFA is used to track the user’s behavior across multiple apps and deliver targeted ads based on that behavior. The change would also require the user to opt in to that tracking.

Apple now says that, while developers will be able to implement this notification and request for permission, doing so will no longer be mandatory when iOS 14 launches sometime in the next couple of months. However, Apple was careful to clarify that it still intends to establish the requirement in the future, and that this is only a delay “to give developers time to make necessary changes.”

While this probably does have to do with Facebook’s whining, I’m glad Apple is delaying it, rather than changing the plans to have it entirely. If they were to do that, then I’d be concerned if they have enough…courage.

September 1, 2020

Snippet: I Need a Break ☍

Marius Masalar:

I’m ruthless about curating my feeds to prune out toxic negativity, but there’s a subtle detail here that I’ve started to think more about: social media’s potential for negative effects on your life aren’t only present when you encounter toxic content.

Even if all you see is pleasant, social media participation costs you time.

For many of us, it costs a huge amount of time if left unchecked. I don’t know if it’s the pandemic that’s changed my outlook on this, but I’ve become aware of how precious our time is and how dangerous it can be to spend it thoughtlessly. Since we have a limited number of hours in the day, sacrificing several on the altar of social media seems almost irresponsible. Particularly without a clear sense of what we’re getting in return.

Complaining about social networks has been an evergreen topic, but I think this is an interesting take on the matter. Thinking about my usage and what parts I enjoy, there has been a growing shift. I avoid the official Twitter client as any search will show trending topics and almost prevents me from taking a break from the news. Using third-party Twitter clients keeps things to my timeline that I’ve curated. Plus, it gives me a way to pick it up when I want to waste time, and then also save my place for when I have something else to do.

On the other hand, Instagram has gotten worse as the Facebook-ization really kicks in. The timeline is basically gone, replaced with the newest things you haven’t seen, followed by the infinite amounts of suggested content. Following a handful of people that are in the same circles leads to lots and lots of reposted stories so I’ll see the same thing numerous times. It then becomes a mad dash to get through everything in hopes of a little gem while I’m trying to mark everything as “read”—it’s almost starting to feel like a never-ending email thread that you’ve been cc’d on.

Snippet: Surge Capacity ☍

Tara Haelle:

In those early months, I, along with most of the rest of the country, was using “surge capacity” to operate, as Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, calls it. Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.

“The pandemic has demonstrated both what we can do with surge capacity and the limits of surge capacity,” says Masten. When it’s depleted, it has to be renewed. But what happens when you struggle to renew it because the emergency phase has now become chronic?

I rotate between a few different feelings and emotions throughout the day. My day job is wall-to-wall busy right now, and I get home and mostly zone out. Throwing in thoughts of the pandemic, racial inequality and violence, our government as a whole, and the boredom of not being able to do anything and it’s just a lot to think about. It’s a little comforting that I’m not the only one feeling this way, but as a problem-solver, it’s frustrating that there’s no immediate way to start taking things off of my plate.

I guess what I’m trying to say is to do what you can, give yourself and others a break, rest, stay healthy, and if you’re in the United States, get your things in order to vote.

Snippet: iOS 14 Settings Will Tank Ad Targeting Business, Facebook Warns ☍

Kate Cox for Ars Technica:

Facebook is warning developers that privacy changes in an upcoming iOS update will severely curtail its ability to track users’ activity across the entire Internet and app ecosystem and prevent the social media platform from serving targeted ads to users inside other, non-Facebook apps on iPhones. […]

The changes requiring users to opt in make the IDFA [ID for Advertisers] essentially useless, Facebook warned developers today. Facebook apps on iOS 14—which includes Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, and a host of others—will no longer collect users’ IDFA.

Good.

August 21, 2020

Snippet: Apple Might Want 30% of Everything ☍

Sean Hollister for The Verge:

WordPress, the iOS app, lets you build and manage a website right from your iPhone or iPad.

Separately, WordPress.com also happens to sell domain names.

Now, WordPress founding developer Matt Mullenweg is accusing Apple of cutting off the ability to update that app — until or unless he adds in-app purchases so the most valuable company in the world can extract its 30 percent cut of the money. […]

Here’s the thing: the WordPress app on iOS doesn’t sell anything. I just checked, and so did Stratechery’s Ben Thompson. The app simply lets you make a website for free. There isn’t even an option to buy a unique dot-com or even dot-blog domain name from the iPhone and iPad app — it simply assigns you a free WordPress domain name and 3GB of space.

What the f—uh, let’s go with…hell, Apple? While I’ve been firmly in the camp that the App Store policies could use some updating for the times, I do think enforcing rules consistently and not tearing down the walled garden is important. I’m also not really a fan of the Android-style idea of multiple app stores, but that’s for another post.

I hope this is a miscommunication, because it’s a really really stupid move on Apple’s part when everyone is already looking at their policies and behaviors under a microscope. What’s next, a 30% cut if you buy goods in the Target app? A 30% cut if you pay your Comcast or AT&T bill in those apps? A 30% cut if you order a coffee from the Starbucks app?

Update: Apple issued a carefully-worded statement to back out of the matter without WordPress changing anything:

We believe the issue with the WordPress app has been resolved. Since the developer removed the display of their service payment options from the app, it is now a free stand-alone app and does not have to offer in-app purchases. We have informed the developer and apologize for any confusion that we have caused.