Facebook Container for Firefox

Mozilla: Facebook Container Add-on for Firefox

What does it do?
Facebook Container works by isolating your Facebook identity into a separate container that makes it harder for Facebook to track your visits to other websites with third-party cookies.

How does it work?
Installing this extension deletes your Facebook cookies and logs you out of Facebook. The next time you navigate to Facebook it will load in a new blue colored browser tab (the “Container”).

You can log in and use Facebook normally when in the Facebook Container. If you click on a non-Facebook link or navigate to a non-Facebook website in the URL bar, these pages will load outside of the container.

Clicking Facebook Share buttons on other browser tabs will load them within the Facebook Container. You should know that using these buttons passes information to Facebook about the website that you shared from.

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Taking Control of Your Facebook Privacy

The Verge: How to Use Facebook While Giving It the Minimum Amount of Personal Data

Facebook has found itself embroiled in yet another colossal controversy related to how its sprawling, multibillion-person social network has been abused by bad actors. This time, the culprit is Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm used by President Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 US election to target election ads on Facebook. It turns out, Cambridge Analytica misused the user data of as many as 50 million Facebook users via its affiliated behavior research firm Strategic Communication Laboratories, which violated Facebook’s terms of service by acquiring said data from a third-party app and reportedly lying about when that data was deleted and how it was used.

So now is as good a time as ever to remind you that — beyond deleting your Facebook account for good — there are some precautions you can take to protect your privacy and make use of Facebook as a utility without compromising your personal data. No single user can prevent a company like Cambridge Analytica from lying to the public and lying to Facebook about where its data came from and how it’s using it. But you can make sure that a significant chunk of your data is never out there in the first place.

Since I help manage a couple of business pages, it’s impractical for me to delete my Facebook account. These tips are helpful for increasing privacy while still using the platform.

Facebook Collecting Call Data on Android

The Verge: Facebook Has Been Collecting Call History and SMS Data from Android Devices

Facebook has been collecting call records and SMS data from Android devices for years. Several Twitter users have reported finding months or years of call history data in their downloadable Facebook data file. A number of Facebook users have been spooked by the recent Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, prompting them to download all the data that Facebook stores on their account. The results have been alarming for some.

While the recent prompts make it clear, Ars Technica points out the troubling aspect that Facebook has been doing this for years, during a time when Android permissions were a lot less strict. Google changed Android permissions to make them more clear and granular, but developers could bypass this and continue accessing call and SMS data until Google deprecated the old Android API in October. It’s not yet clear if these prompts have been in place in the past.

The same call record and SMS data collection has not yet been discovered on iOS devices. While Apple does allow some specialist apps to access this data in limited ways like blocking spam calls or texts, these apps have to be specifically enabled through a process that’s similar to enabling third-party keyboards. The majority of iOS apps cannot access call history or SMS messages, and Facebook’s iOS app is not able to capture this data on an iPhone.

This is compounded by the fact that there are still a lot of phones out there running older versions of Android with its less strict app permissions. I think Android has a lot of things going for it, but it’s still a bit of a mess when it comes to privacy and security. And Facebook has surpassed creepy.

 

How Trump Conquered Facebook

Wired: How Trump Conquered Facebook — Without Russian Ads

This is a fascinating, and frankly disturbing, look into how advertising on Facebook caters to our echo chambers in a way radio and television ads could never hope to.

LIKE MANY THINGS at Facebook, the ads auction is a version of something Google built first. As on Google, Facebook has a piece of ad real estate that it’s auctioning off, and potential advertisers submit a piece of ad creative, a targeting spec for their ideal user, and a bid for what they’re willing to pay to obtain a desired response (such as a click, a like, or a comment). Rather than simply reward that ad position to the highest bidder, though, Facebook uses a complex model that considers both the dollar value of each bid as well as how good a piece of clickbait (or view-bait, or comment-bait) the corresponding ad is. If Facebook’s model thinks your ad is 10 times more likely to engage a user than another company’s ad, then your effective bid at auction is considered 10 times higher than a company willing to pay the same dollar amount.

A canny marketer with really engaging (or outraging) content can goose their effective purchasing power at the ads auction, piggybacking on Facebook’s estimation of their clickbaitiness to win many more auctions (for the same or less money) than an unengaging competitor. That’s why, if you’ve noticed a News Feed ad that’s pulling out all the stops (via provocative stock photography or other gimcrackery) to get you to click on it, it’s partly because the advertiser is aiming to pump up their engagement levels and increase their exposure, all without paying any more money.

During the run-up to the election, the Trump and Clinton campaigns bid ruthlessly for the same online real estate in front of the same swing-state voters. But because Trump used provocative content to stoke social media buzz, and he was better able to drive likes, comments, and shares than Clinton, his bids received a boost from Facebook’s click model, effectively winning him more media for less money. In essence, Clinton was paying Manhattan prices for the square footage on your smartphone’s screen, while Trump was paying Detroit prices. Facebook users in swing states who felt Trump had taken over their news feeds may not have been hallucinating.

 

Much of a Universe

NPR: Stephen Hawking, Who Awed Both Scientists And The Public, Dies

There aren’t very many scientists who achieved rock star status. Stephen Hawking, who has died at the age of 76, family members told British media early Wednesday, was definitely a contender.

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years,” the family statement said, according to The Guardian. “His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world. He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him for ever.”

One of the things that always impressed me about Hawking was his future. Despite any physical limitations he faced, despite skepticism for his ideas from some corners of the public, and even occasionally ending up in political crosshairs, Hawking never let bitterness or cynicism take over. He was funny, likable, and brilliant.

Choosing Between Android and iOS

Gizmodo: Why Choosing Between Android and iOS Still Matters

Gizmodo has a nice overview of most of the basic difference between Android and iOS devices that still matter. It’s a good read if, like me, you’re finding yourself torn between the benefits and drawbacks of each platform.

Android and iOS might have borrowed enough features from each other over the years to make the superficial differences not so great any more (iOS even has widgets these days), but dig a little deeper and you’ve got three main ways that Apple’s mobile platform differs from Google’s. This is what you need to know about them, and why your pick of smartphone OS still matters.

One of the big differences in choosing a mobile device platform rather than a desktop or laptop system is that the mobile choice is a far smaller commitment. With the ability to upgrade your device after a couple years, it’s not as daunting a prospect to jump from iOS to Android (or vice versa) as it is Mac to Windows.

Designing Windows 95

Socket 3: Designing the Windows 95 Interface

This link contains a recovered paper that Microsoft UI Researcher Kent Sullivan authored regarding the development of Windows 95’s now famous interface. Two notes about this paper:

  • It’s fascinating to see the evolution of elements — like the Start Menu and the Taskbar — many people have taken for decades.
  • Stick around for the comments after the article. The original author joins in and responds to a few questions.

Although we abandoned the idea of a separate shell for beginners, we salvaged its most useful features: single-click access, high visibility, and menu-based interaction. We mocked up a number of representations in Visual Basic and tested them with users of all experience levels, not just beginners, because we knew that the design solution would need to work well for users of varying experience levels. Figure 5 shows the final Start Menu, with the Programs sub-menu open. The final Start Menu integrated functions other than starting programs, to give users a single-button home base in the UI.

iOS 9 Boot Source Code Leaks

Six Colors: iOS 9 Boot Source Code Leaks

In what one writer called “the biggest leak in history,” someone posted the source code for the part of iOS that is responsible for booting the system on GitHub…

Jiminy.

Fortunately, the code is already gone at Apple’s request, and it doesn’t sound like the initial impact is terribly significant.

Security researcher Will Strafach told TechCrunch that while it gives hackers some hints about how iOS boots that might become useful vectors of attack, it probably doesn’t mean much to iPhone owners:

“In terms of end users, this doesn’t really mean anything positive or negative,” Strafach said in an email. “Apple does not use security through obscurity, so this does not contain anything risky, just an easier to read format for the boot loader code. It’s all cryptographically signed on end user devices, there is no way to really use any of the contents here maliciously or otherwise.”

I think the biggest fallout is going to happen at Apple HQ. Someone on the inside had to let this out, and I can’t imagine Tim Cook and team are going to just let that slide.

Does Website Sameness Matter?

CSS-Tricks: Website Sameness™

Myself, I’m not sure how much I care. If a website fails to do do what it sets out to do, that, I care about. Design is failing there. But if a website has a design that is a bit boring, but does just what everyone needs it to do, that’s just fine. All hail boring. Although I admit it’s particularly ironic when a design agency’s own site feels regurgitated.

My emotional state is likely more intrigued about your business model and envious of your success than eyerolly about your design.

As long as I’m playing armchair devil’s advocate, if every website was a complete and total design departure from the next, I imagine that would be worse. To have to-relearn how each new site works means not taking advantages of affordances, which make people productive out of the gate with new experiences.

I’ve certainly leaned on templates and frameworks for web design in the past. (I haven’t even created a unique WordPress template for this site.) And I certainly feel where the author is coming from. Yes, any designer wants to put their own unique stamp on a client’s site or other project, but that should not get in the way of the site’s usefulness.

If your site is useful, clean, and easy to navigate, then I can forgive it having a similar look-and-feel to other sites.

Jason Snell on iProducts

Macworld: Is It the End of the Line for the ‘i’ at Apple? Analyzing Apple’s Naming Scheme

As luck would have it, I came across this piece by Jason Snell after writing that I felt Apple is heading toward a name change for iPhone. He has some very good points against such a move at this time. Though I still think the lowercase i is going to eventually go the way of brushed metal — which Apple also took a long time to phase out.

Apple’s made no pronouncements itself about it. Yes, it seems the “i” prefix introduced with the iMac 20 years ago has fallen out of favor. (I’m reminded of the time when Steve Jobs said that the “power” prefix of the PowerBook and Power Mac had gotten tired.) And yet that same prefix continues to appear in front of some of Apple’s most popular products and platforms! Meanwhile, Apple has announced new hardware—like AirPods and the HomePod—with absolutely no sign of either the letter “i” or the Apple prefix.

Even with the departure of the “i” in front of iBooks, the Apple product catalog is still littered with i-names: iOS, iPhone, iPad, iMac, iCloud. It’s possible that Apple is biding its time and will one day rename all of those products—for several years I’ve been getting emails from people who are absolutely sure that the next iPhone will be called Apple Phone—but it seems highly unlikely to me.

The iPhone, and the iOS platform it powers, are incredibly popular and recognizable brands. The iPad, though less successful than the iPhone, is also a known quantity. I can’t see Apple ditching all of that history, success, and brand recognition for the sake of some kind of inside-baseball corporate rebranding effort.