February 1, 2023

Snippet: Netflix is Going to Screw Themselves Over ☍

Matt Tamanini for The Streamable:

Netflix will be rolling out enhanced efforts to curb password sharing in the United States by the end of March; that much we know for sure. That was confirmed by co-CEO Greg Peters in January as part of the company’s fourth-quarter 2022 earnings report. However, the exact specifics as to what those efforts will look like have yet to be revealed by the world’s largest streamer; at least not officially.

Earlier this week, the streamer’s official domestic Help Center detailed new protocols to prevent people from using someone else’s account to access Netflix’s platform. The new rules would require subscribers to verify their home devices every month and devices outside of the home would be blocked and encouraged to create an account of their own.

Having spent a few years working in the world of higher education, there were many instances where students off at college would share a Netflix account with their parents. In most cases, their parents would be infrequent users and they’d be heavy users (at least anecdotally). It did give them something to feel connected if they were far apart, though. My mind immediately went there with these new rules. Between heavy-handed “home” enforcement, having a reputation for canceling well-liked shows before people can even get through them, and giving off “You wouldn’t download a car” vibes, Netflix is going from one of the cool, well-liked streaming services to being lumped in with greedy, old Big Cable™.

What about children whose parents are separated or divorced? By Netflix standards, they’d be in two households and breaking the rules. How about someone who has a summer vacation home? Nope. Against the rules. Truckers who watch things when they have downtime? Make sure you log in at home at least once a month or else.

Should they crack down on password sharing? Perhaps, it’s within their rights and a lot of people do it. However, I’d look at why people password share—there are cheapskates, but a lot more people are falling into the category of “college students’ parents” in that Netflix is nice to have for one or two things, but not an essential item. Add in the absolutely asinine limitations on the cheap tier and it makes more sense for two friends to split a higher-tier subscription to avoid ads and have 4K video (1x $19.99 vs. 2x $6.99). Netflix even gets more money and there’s some “stickiness” since two people would have to agree to cancel instead of one.

Nonetheless, the idea that Netflix is making themselves less essential and not the “core” service for streamers seems to be picking up steam. That should scare the crap out of their management because I doubt many users will convert to their own subscriptions or jump through all the authentication and verification hoops. They’ll just divert their attention elsewhere.

Snippet: Anker Finally Comes Clean About Its Eufy Security Cameras ☍

You may recall the story about some very sloppy and possibly malicious practices shared by The Verge in December and linked here. There’s finally somewhat of a resolution to the story, as reported by Sean Hollister:

In a series of emails to The Verge, Anker has finally admitted its Eufy security cameras are not natively end-to-end encrypted — they can and did produce unencrypted video streams for Eufy’s web portal, like the ones we accessed from across the United States using an ordinary media player.

But Anker says that’s now largely fixed. Every video stream request originating from Eufy’s web portal will now be end-to-end encrypted — like they are with Eufy’s app — and the company says it’s updating every single Eufy camera to use WebRTC, which is encrypted by default. Reading between the lines, though, it seems that these cameras could still produce unencrypted footage upon request.

That’s not all Anker is disclosing today. The company has apologized for the lack of communication and promised to do better, confirming it’s bringing in outside security and penetration testing companies to audit Eufy’s practices, is in talks with a “leading and well-known security expert” to produce an independent report, is promising to create an official bug bounty program, and will launch a microsite in February to explain how its security works in more detail.

Is some of this deflection and C-Y-A? Did the lawyers give it a once-over? Perhaps, but the company was candid about some measurable changes, which is more than many would do. I’m not fully sold on the resolution, but it’s a step in the right direction.

January 26, 2023

Snippet: Hands On With Walmart’s New (But Buggy) ‘Text to Shop’ Feature ☍

Sarah Perez for TechCrunch:

Walmart recently introduced a new way to shop: via text. Last month, the retail giant launched its “Text to Shop” experience which allows mobile consumers across both iOS and Android devices to text Walmart the items they want to purchase from either their local stores or Walmart.com, or easily reorder items for pickup, delivery, or shipping. However, the chat experience as it stands today does not come across as fully baked, our tests found. The chatbot said confusing things and the user interface at times was difficult to navigate, despite aiming to be a simpler, text-based shopping experience. […]

Customers more recently began receiving emails to alert them to the fact that “Text to Shop” was newly available, which prompted our tests. The feature was also highlighted in Apple’s announcement of its new Apple Business Connect dashboard, which allows businesses to manage and update their information on Apple Maps. Here, Walmart partnered with Apple so customers who visit the Walmart business listing card on Apple Maps could tap on a “message us” button to get started with a “Text to Shop” session.

I wonder if this can be used to bug them about enabling NFC on their credit/debit card terminals? Walmart seems hell-bent on doing everything but allowing Apple Pay/Google Wallet Pay in their stores.

Snippet: Unified ID 2.0 Is the Hot New Privacy Violation on the Web ☍

Nick Heer:

Second, I am not sure many people think their email address is an inconsequential piece of information. Not to undermine Chen’s reporting on the gross new standard known as Unified ID 2.0 and the myriad ways your email address is tied to your identity, but I think many people are wary of spam at the very least.

You must consider any of your contact information a personal identifier if you do not already do so. After all, how often do you change your email address or your phone number? But you should not need to — worthwhile privacy legislation would restrict their use and prevent the kinds of data enrichment companies that require us to treat simple contact details with the sensitivity of our Social Insurance Numbers.

I’m so sick of the creepy, privacy whack-a-mole game that we have to play because no one is legislating on our behalf on these matters. Conversely, the marketing/advertising machine is so preoccupied with whether or not they can, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

Snippet: Twitter Tumbleweed Watch ☍

Dave Karpf:

I just want to share some back-of-the-envelope math. I’m increasingly convinced that Twitter (or at least the network neighborhoods that comprise my Twitter experience) is becoming a ghost town. Here’s why:

The “lightning” in this case, was the whole “Bretbug” dustup back in August 2019. Before Bret Stephens got mad and wrote to my provost, I had about 9,000 followers on the platform. After his weeklong tantrum was over, I had around 40,000 Twitter followers. That number has held pretty steady ever since — today I have around 42,000. That’s… a lot. On paper at least, it makes Twitter a much larger and more valuable megaphone than I am likely to have anywhere else. […]

But that number — 42,000 Twitter followers — has begun to seem hollow. When I tweet something, it isn’t actually viewed by 42,000 individuals. It’s seen by the subset of those 42,000 people that happen to be staring at Twitter’s chronological timeline at the time I send the tweet, plus anyone who is shown the tweet through Twitter’s algorithmic timeline. And that reduced-megaphone turns out to be a lot less irreplaceable.

I’ve popped in from time to time on Twitter, and it seems that my timeline has become a ghost town, too. Even taking into account the mass exodus of tech folks, it seems that a lot of the other posts by people I follow just aren’t appearing. There have been other similar observations of just missing content. While I don’t get caught up in the numbers of reach for my own content, the thought of missing content from other people that I chose to follow is concerning.