Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Posted at 8:00h, 27 Sep 2016 in List Archive by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

While we do realize that many tech companies have young founders whose youthful missteps can sometimes be forgiven, yea, even in business, neither companies nor founders stay young forever, and we were just wondering what the benchmark is for when certain tech companies will grow up and take responsibility.

It recently came to light that Yahoo! was compromised back in 2014, but waited two years to confirm a data breach “affecting 500 million user accounts, which would make the breach the largest in history.” In fact, according to Recode (who broke the story), If you’ve ever created a Yahoo account, take these steps immediately to protect your data – it’s not just your Yahoo account that’s vulnerable. Lest we forget, we sometimes share sensitive information in email, and two years, Gracie? We realize that Yahoo mail is free, but does that mean that the company doesn’t have some sort of responsibility to inform its users when there’s a major data breach? Don’t ask. Or in this case, given that it took two years for the story to come out, more like don’t tell.

Zuck up of the week: Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg admitted last week that for the last two year, Facebook has been systematically overestimating the time its users spent watching videos on the site by ignoring views that lasted less than three seconds – a ‘miscalculation,’ according to Facebook’s David Fischer, that amounted to an overestimation of some 60 to 80 percent. The company’s spin is priceless and definitely worth a read.

“For the past two years Facebook only counted video views of more than three seconds when calculating its “Average Duration of Video Viewed” metric,” noted the Wall Street Journal, who broke that story.  “Video views of under three seconds were not factored in, thereby inflating the average. Facebook’s new metric, “Average Watch Time,” will reflect video views of any duration… In its note to clients, Publicis said the change was an attempt to obfuscate Facebook’s earlier miscalculations.

“In an effort to distance themselves from the incorrect metrics, Facebook is deprecating [the old metrics] and introducing ‘new’ metrics in September. Essentially, they’re coming up with new names for what they were meant to measure in the first place…This once again illuminates the absolute need to have 3rd party tagging and verification on Facebook’s platform. Two years of reporting inflated performance numbers is unacceptable.”

Of course, Facebook initially attempted to bury the story – but then the piece in the Journal came out.

Then there’s the latest from Google, and No matter what, don’t use Google’s new Allo messenger app, says Edward Snowden. As The Verge reported, Google back(ed) off on previously announced Allo privacy feature – The app will log conversations by default after all.  “The records will now persist until the user actively deletes them, giving Google default access to a full history of conversations in the app. Users can also avoid the logging by using Allo’s Incognito Mode, which is still fully end-to-end encrypted and unchanged from the initial announcement,” the publication reported. “By default, Allo messages will now be accessible to lawful requests, similar to message data in Gmail and Hangouts and location data collected by Android. In the past, Google legal officers have stated that subpoenas are not sufficient to obtain that information, stating “we believe a warrant is required by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution” for access to private information in a Google account.”

But, as with Facebook and as we’ve seen in the past, the two megaliths often change their terms of use, and oh, well – you get what you pay for. According to Fast Company, if you’re worried about privacy, “Snowden says the best messenger app is Signal.” In case you’re asking.

And for it having taken two years for the Yahoo! breach and Facebook’s metrics shenanigans to come to light, did the companies really believe that these ‘problems’ would go unnoticed forever? As for Google Allo, interesting (not) that the company didn’t make Incognito Mode the default, and we doubt that the differences between the two modes will be spelled out by the company. Nothing to see here.

As a note to self, the truth always does prevail eventually, who should know better than the Googles and Facebooks of the world that even in a world of don’t ask, don’t tell, someone is always watching. Onward and forward.