eXtensions - Thursday 26 May 2022
Thursday Notes: WWDC Nears - Green Thai Curry on the Menu; Taxi App Questions; Router Speculation and Security; Google Breakup Law
By Graham K. Rogers
I was pleased to hear that one of my former students has been invited to Apple Park as a developer. He announced this by sending me a menu item: Green chicken curry (geng keeo wan) - one of my favorites here. There is a full day of events on 6 June, with tour options. Breakfast is at 0800 and there is also lunch. We discussed a number of ideas including Uber, where he had been a few years back. I had already sent a link to an article on Uber's dealings with Apple (see below) and some of the points were confirmed.
With the taxi apps, the emphasis has been on the charging of customers which leaves drivers almost nothing: they are not charitable workers after all. One presentation was on Bolt Technology, a European Ride Hailing Company headquartered in Estonia and their preparation in setting up. Unsuitable drivers were allegedly hired. When customers used the app, initially drivers were not told the price. At the time the student submitted the report, that had not been changed.
Random Bangkok taxi
I do not have to use Uber, but there may be unwelcome changes forced on me by the EU law, such as we all suffered when GPDR (General Data Protection Regulation) was foisted on us. Apple did better when it restricted advertising. With GPDR, everyone clicked, "Yes"; but with the reminders from Apple about the use of our data, a lot of people clicked, "No", causing Zuckerberg to stamp his feet.
This latest example is a little different as it is played out in a TV documentary on Showtime: Super Pumped - The Battle for Uber. From the description in Patently Apple it seems to be as revealing as the Netflix programs, The Great Hack, The Social Dilemma, The Billion Dollar Code and others. The article explains "how Uber plotted to work around Apple's Privacy Policies so as to be able to spy on their customers even after the ride ended." If that sounds bad, they were caught then lied to Apple about what they would do to redress the situation and were taken to task more than once by Eddy Cue.
They were caught again when they set up a geofence so that Apple would not find out what they had done. An Apple engineer took his computer home and that was outside the geofence. Not only were they cheating with Apple but they "used secret code to beat municipal pro-taxis policies that weighed against them. . . ."
As Patently Apple comments, "The depths of deceitfulness by Uber was a perfect example of what companies are willing to devise in order to get around Apple's privacy rules and collect data on customers and their competitors." Mind you, with taxi apps in some countries, the data is instead collected by the authorities. It is filed away and may never be used, but it is there, "for security reasons."
There is no way I can watch this documentary here, but there are some podcasts reviewing it. One mentioned that the documentary is based on a book, so I looked at a local online store (support local businesses first). No luck, but it was listed at Book Depository and I placed an order. I will keep my fingers crossed about video availability but I am not hopeful.
Apple's Cork campus - Image courtesy of Apple
I noted that the courier information showed that again the source of the package was Singapore, which explains why this arrived so quickly. It looks as if Apple has moved focus from China to Singapore in the last couple of years as even my M1 MacBook Pro and the iPad Pro originated there.
Delivery of the water bottle was slightly slower, although information was that it would arrive by Wednesday. As if to prove me wrong, a couple of hours later I had another message to tell me that the Smart Water Bottle was on its way with delivery expected Wednesday. Then on Tuesday morning the courier called and the bottle was delivered a day early. I set the bottle up with the app and have been using it for a couple of days. I expect to write some more comments on this in a day or so.
A couple of days earlier in the week, Filipe Espósito (9to5 Mac) reported on the filing and has some more details on the potential of the device. What sticks out in this report is that the device supports "IEEE 802.11b/g/n radio," which is not the latest WiFi 6 capability (802.11ax), so as much as I would like a new Airport router, until I can find one I trust (or Apple does produce one) I will stick with the Airport Express that uses the 802.11ac standard. Malcolm Owen (AppleInsider) is dubious about the idea that "the device could be some form of connectivity add-on for a Mac" and makes a valid comment that "Rather than being a consumer-oriented device, this has more chance of being internally-used hardware, most likely for Apple's in-store service department, or retail displays."
Also reporting on the filing, although with a degree of doubt, Jonny Evans (AppleMust) reports like others that "the new device carries two Gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB-C port, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC antennas" and probably has an Apple processor, which does make it seem less likely as a wifi router. Evans adds that "a second model is available with just 1GB RAM and a Lightning port, rather than a USB-C port". As the device is meant to be connected to a Mac, the router idea does fade a little, although hope springs eternal. Keep up the pressure.
On the Netgear router I was using, I was unhappy with the inability to change the default password. I tried several times after finding that the initial setup would not accept the unusual characters I typed in: despite the manufacturer information saying this was possible. Such characters (e.g. %, *, >) are highly desirable for security purposes as they are less easy to guess. I use some like this, plus random upper-case characters: wH0 kn*wS?
After trying to change the password after initial installation, I also used the internal browser access several times, but was never able to change the password, so had to run with the default and I was never happy with that. Then I began to read online comment about the company's security problems and went back the the Apple router.
This week, there was some more news about the Netgear routers, with Zeljka Zorz on the Help Net Security site reporting that Netgear's BR200 and BR500 VPN routers have some vulnerabilities that are unfixable. These were discovered by a researcher and reported by Netgear although they confirm that there are unusual and specific circumstances needed to exploit the vulnerabilities and that it is possible to mitigate the risk of exploitation using a VLAN to isolate the network.
This week, the Washington DC Attorney General, Karl Racine "filed a lawsuit against Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg . . . for a variety of data privacy law violations related to the actions of Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other third-party companies that used data from the social media site". There is quite a lot of information in the article on The Record by Jonathan Greig, although it basically summarizes what we have already known for a while. It does not involve any activities in other countries (at this time) and I look forward to some success here.
Also this week, Andrew Lin (Seeking Alpha) outlines a bipartisan bill introduced into Congress that will seek to "break up major digital advertising companies in the US". The main subject of the article is Google with the focus of the bill on digital advertising. The aim is to break up some of the larger companies if they have conflicting interests involving advertising. Google is said to have highly integrated operations, which seems something of an understatement. However, Line adds, "Other major tech firms such as Meta (FB), Amazon (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL) could also be impacted." Especially Meta, in my view.
What is particularly useful here is that the article outlines why Google is a major target both in the USA and Europe, particularly with regard to its acquisition of Doubleclick: "Google participates in literally every part of the online ad ecosystem and its highly integrated operations are the backbone behind the Google Network division. . . ." It does seem odd that users can just begin to think about a topic and advertisements appear onscreen. In addition Lin examines some other corporate breakups and how they fared: Standard Oil, Bell Telephone, Microsoft (overturned on appeal).
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
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