The New Wilderness →

Maciej Cegłowski · Idle Words · ·

A tremendous post from June that could not recommend more. Read it this weekend if you haven’t already.

In the eyes of regulators, privacy still means what it did in the eighteenth century—protecting specific categories of personal data, or communications between individuals, from unauthorized disclosure. Third parties that are given access to our personal data have a duty to protect it, and to the extent that they discharge this duty, they are respecting our privacy…

This requires us to talk about a different kind of privacy, one that we haven’t needed to give a name to before. For the purposes of this essay, I’ll call it ‘ambient privacy’—the understanding that there is value in having our everyday interactions with one another remain outside the reach of monitoring, and that the small details of our daily lives should pass by unremembered. What we do at home, work, church, school, or in our leisure time does not belong in a permanent record. Not every conversation needs to be a deposition.

Until recently, ambient privacy was a simple fact of life. Recording something for posterity required making special arrangements, and most of our shared experience of the past was filtered through the attenuating haze of human memory. Even police states like East Germany, where one in seven citizens was an informer, were not able to keep tabs on their entire population. Today computers have given us that power. Authoritarian states like China and Saudi Arabia are using this newfound capacity as a tool of social control. Here in the United States, we’re using it to show ads. But the infrastructure of total surveillance is everywhere the same, and everywhere being deployed at scale.

Ambient privacy is not a property of people, or of their data, but of the world around us. Just like you can’t drop out of the oil economy by refusing to drive a car, you can’t opt out of the surveillance economy by forswearing technology (and for many people, that choice is not an option). While there may be worthy reasons to take your life off the grid, the infrastructure will go up around you whether you use it or not.

Because our laws frame privacy as an individual right, we don’t have a mechanism for deciding whether we want to live in a surveillance society. Congress has remained silent on the matter, with both parties content to watch Silicon Valley make up its own rules. The large tech companies point to our willing use of their services as proof that people don’t really care about their privacy. But this is like arguing that inmates are happy to be in jail because they use the prison library. Confronted with the reality of a monitored world, people make the rational decision to make the best of it.

That is not consent.

A tremendous essay, start to finish.

Another good article by Ben Thompson, this time looking at Shopify and how it differs and competes fundamentally differently than Amazon. Here’s how Ben sets it up:

“This is ultimately the most important distinction between platforms and Aggregators: platforms are powerful because they facilitate a relationship between 3rd-party suppliers and end users; Aggregators, on the other hand, intermediate and control it.”

I don’t yet have a good grasp of Libra, the Facebook led cryptocurrency. Ben Thompson gives a good primer on it in broad strokes. He also adds some color in light of his Aggregation Theory. I found this bit intriguing:

The second use case will be using Libra to transact with merchants, who stand to benefit both from reduced fees relative to credit cards as well as larger addressable markets (i.e. potential users who don’t have credit cards). Note that none of Libra’s Founding Members are banks, which impose the largest percentage of credit card fees; Visa and Mastercard, on the other hand, are, like PayPal, happy to sit on top of Libra.

I decided to share 20 things I’ve learned by co-founding Dribbble over the last 10 years. The timing was cosmic, as I’d just made the decision to retire fully from Dribbble, stepping aside to figure out what’s next. More on that in a bit.

Reflecting on what I’ve learned from building a community for designers, learning how to run a business, and navigating some tough life years proved both fun and difficult. I thought I’d share those thoughts in hypertext should they be useful. And so here we are.

The fact that we ourselves don’t know how we make decisions has not stopped us from proclaiming, loudly, that we know how everyone else decides. Such proclamations about others’ decisions are especially confident and assured the more important, or highly visible, the decision…

Rather than take the comfortable road and analyzing Apple by the surface that is exposed, the better approach might be to toss the Rational Actor model and think about the Organizational or the Political Models.

How does the company process information? How does it generate consensus? How does it deal with motivating employees? How does it allocate resources? How does it evaluate productivity? How does it balance morale and turnover?

Jony Ive →

John Siracusa · Hypercritical · ·

A nice reflection on Jony Ive by John Siracusa.

According to any reasonable set of quantifiable measures, Jony Ive departs Apple as the greatest product designer that has ever lived. His hit products sold in vast numbers and were fundamentally transformative to both the company he worked for and the world at large. We all know their names: iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad. Together, these products helped set the direction for the most consequential industry of the last century.

A few days after this went viral, but worth nothing nonetheless. The gist of the article is that there’s a new piece of email software out in the world called Superhuman. One of its features, that is on by default, is that all emails you send using Superhuman include a tracking pixel. This tracking pixel allows the sender to know whether someone read the email, when it was read (timestamp), and where they read it (geolocation). This was poorly implemented from a privacy perspective. It’s not opt-in. And time stamps and geolocation are a bad combination of data to give users. An example he gives is about an ex who emails their former partner. The ex then knows when and if the partner reads the message, the number of times they read the message, and where they are reading the message. All without the partner knowing they are being surveilled by the ex. Creepy and a poor design decision.

Mike also makes the case for an ethical trajectory for a company: if you make ethically questionable decision now you’re more likely and able to make progressively worse decisions down the line based on precedent.

Worth the read.

Update: Yesterday, Rahul Vohra the CEO of Superhuman posted a response to Mike’s essay.

Some good tidbits!

Interesting proposal for tracking conversions in a world where today’s ubiquitous tracking pixel is gone.

Swimming →

Randall Munroe · xkcd · ·

Swimming

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