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Submission + - The Three Letter Cure for Web Accessibility and Discrimination Problems (

Lauren Weinstein writes: If stable, supported user interface API access were available for services like Google+ — and the many other firms' systems around the Net that currently put users at an accessibility disadvantage — it would be possible for third parties (commercial, nonprofit, individuals, etc.) to write their own customized interfaces for these services to meet specific accessibility needs.

Visually enhanced high contrast interfaces? An interface much easier for someone with limited motor skill acuity? There are a vast range of possibilities for customized interfaces to help an enormous number of users, all of which could operate via the same essential kinds of API mechanisms.

Without APIs, such customized interfaces are usually impractical. Attempts to create customization based on "screen scraping" and techniques like page display CSS modifications are subject to potentially breaking at any time, whenever the underlying format or structure of displayed pages are altered.

You must have stable user interface APIs to make this work.

Submission + - YouTube Red to Creators: Join Us or Else? (

Lauren Weinstein writes: But the aspect of YouTube Red queries being sent to me that quickly caught my attention relates to a subset of existing monetizing YouTube creators — specifically YouTube Partners — who feel that they were not adequately notified of this project and that they are being coerced into participating in Red.

Submission + - When Facebook's "Real Name" Policies Can Kill (

Lauren Weinstein writes: In fact, essentially the only time that Facebook demands actual proof of identity documents is when the name you've chosen to use on your account either doesn't look like what Facebook considers to be a real name — or when the name you chose (that typically does appear real) is reported by some other user as potentially a pseudonym in violation of FB rules.

It's this latter case that terrifies many innocent users, that has them living in fear of exposure every day, that gives their adversaries tremendous power over them, and that could actually result in people being injured or killed.

Because one of the most frequent reasons for choosing pseudonyms on Facebook is the completely valid concerns of already vulnerable and victimized persons who feel that they must continue to use FB to stay in contact with friends, families, or others, but for whom exposure of their real names could have devastating real-world consequences.

Estranged spouses, LGBT discrimination and other harassment victims, targets of sexual attacks, the prey of bullies — the list goes on and on.

Submission + - New Google+ community to discuss hobbyist aircraft freedoms (

Lauren Weinstein writes: For generations, hobby aircraft enthusiasts have flown here in the U.S.A. with virtually no problems and virtually no government interference. But now, politicians and regulators — driven by the desire to score political points through terrorism/security/privacy hysteria and law enforcement desires for exclusive access these technologies — are pushing for massive new regulatory regimes to limit, register, and control hobby drone and other hobbyist flying devices.

Submission + - Social Media Abuse Stories to Shrivel Your Soul (

Lauren Weinstein writes: Recently in "Research Request: Seeking Facebook or Other 'Real Name' Identity Policy Abuse Stories", I requested that readers send me examples of social media abuses that have targeted themselves or persons they know, with an emphasis on "identity" issues such as those triggered by Facebook's "real name" policies.

These are continuing to pour in — and please keep sending them — but I wanted to provide a quick interim report.

Executive summary: Awful. Sickening. I knew some of these would be bad, but many are far worse than I had anticipated anyone being willing to send me. It seems very likely — though obviously I couldn't swear to this under oath — that these abuses have resulted in both suicides and homicides.

And if we as an industry don't get a handle on these issues, we ultimately risk draconian government crackdowns that will simply enable more government censorship and create even more problems.

Submission + - Research: Seeking Facebook or Other "Real Name" Identity Policy Abuse Stories (

Lauren Weinstein writes: If you feel that you have personally been abused by Facebook or other Internet systems with "real name" identity requirements, I'd greatly appreciate your telling me as much about your situation as you feel comfortable doing. If you know of other persons so affected, please pass this request on to them if you feel that doing so would be appropriate.

Regardless of whether you identify yourself to me or not, the details of what you tell me will remain completely confidential unless you specifically indicate differently, and I will otherwise only use this data to develop aggregate statistics for summary public analysis and reports.

Submission + - Why Facebook's Dangerous "Real Names" Policy Is Like the NRA and Guns (

Lauren Weinstein writes: I've talked many times before about the dilemmas associated with social media "real name" identity regimes, which attempt to require that users be identified via their actual "real world" names rather than by nicknames, pseudonyms, or in various anonymous or pseudo-anonymous forms.

At present, Facebook is the globe's primary enforcer of a social media "real names" ecosystem. And despite a mountain of evidence that this policy does immense harm to individuals, they have held steadfastly to this model. Google+ initially launched with a real names policy as well, but one of Google's strengths is realizing when something isn't working and then adjusting course as indicated — and Google+ no longer requires real names.

Facebook's intransigence though is reminiscent of — oh, for example — being faced with overwhelming evidence that as gun availability increases gun violence increases, and then proposing even more guns as a solution to gun violence.

Submission + - Europe's Big, Big, Big Lie About Data Privacy (

Lauren Weinstein writes: By now you may have heard about a European court's new decision against the so-called data "Safe Harbour" (over here we'd spell it "Safe Harbor") framework, involving where various Internet data for various users is physically stored.

You can easily search for the details that explain what this could effect, what it potentially means technically and legally, and generally why this dangerous decision is a matter of so much concern in so many quarters.

But here today I'm going to concentrate on what most of those articles you'll find won't be talking about — what's actually, really, pushing the EU and various other countries around the world to demand that user data be kept in their own countries.

And you can bet your bottom dollar, euro, or ruble, it's not for the reasons they claim.

Submission + - Google's "Now on Tap" Brings Powerful Features and Interesting Privacy Issues (

Lauren Weinstein writes: So clearly a lot of deep thinking went into this. And make no mistake about it, NoT is very important to Google, since it provides them with a way to participate in the otherwise largely "walled garden" ecosystem of non-Google apps.

Still, there are some issues here that will be of especial importance to anyone who works with sensitive data, particularly if you're constrained by specific legal requirements (e.g., lawyers, HIPAA, etc.)

Some of this is similar to considerations when using Google's optional "data saver" functions for Android and Chrome, which route most of your non-SSL data through Google servers to provide data compression functionalities.

Fundamentally, there are some users in some professions who simply cannot risk — from a legal standpoint if nothing else — sending data to third parties accidentally or otherwise unexpectedly.

Submission + - How ISPs Will Royally Sucker the Internet, Thanks to Ad Blocking (

Lauren Weinstein writes: Largely lost in the current controversies about users blocking ads from websites is a dirty little secret — users are about to be played for suckers by the dominant ISPs around the world, and ad blocking will be the "camel's nose under the tent" that makes these ISPs' ultimate wet dreams of total control over Internet content come true at last.

Submission + - Law Enforcement's Love/Hate Relationship with Cloud Auto Backup (

Lauren Weinstein writes: So how was the exonerating video ultimately resurrected? Turns out it was saved up on Google servers via the phone's enabled auto backup system. So the phone's physical vanishing did not prevent the video from being saved to help prevent a serious miscarriage of justice.

Lawyers and law enforcement personnel around the world are probably considering this story carefully tonight, and they're likely to realize that such automatic backup capabilities may be double-edged swords.

On one hand, abusive cops can't depend on destroying evidence by making cellphones disappear or be "accidentally" crushed under a boot. Evidence favorable to the defendant might still be up on cloud servers, ready to reappear at any time.

But this also means that we may likely also expect to see increasing numbers of subpoenas triggered by law enforcement, lawyers, government agencies, and other interested parties, wanting to go on fishing expeditions through suspects' cloud accounts in the hopes of finding incriminating photographic or video evidence that might have been auto-backed up without the knowledge or realization of the suspects.

Submission + - New G+ Community: Social Media Abuse (

Lauren Weinstein writes: This new Google+ community has been created to discuss the scope, issues, contexts, problems, and paths towards solutions associated with the broad range of abuses that can occur on Internet social media platforms. This includes posts, comments, bullying, threats, hate crimes/recruiting, and much more. To what extent can automated algorithms be leveraged to detect and limit the damage done by these kinds of attacks at scale, and how should human-based reporting, flagging, and verifications enter the mix? How does the interplay of free speech, anonymity, corporate responsibility, and government actions such as regulation and censorship complicate possible paths forward? Don't expect this to be a fun discussion. But it's a critically important one for us all.

Submission + - You'll Probably Hate this Posting about Ad Blockers and Ad Blocking (

Lauren Weinstein writes: But we get into trouble rapidly if we try treat all ads and all ad networks as being inherently evil, and the collateral damage to the forces of "goodness and niceness" (as Maxwell Smart used to say) can be devastating.

Because all ad networks and all ads are definitely NOT created equal.

And despite the statements of many ad blocking proponents who claim to only be concerned about "bad" and "misbehaving" ads, or slower page load speeds, or ad-enabled malware, my view is that in most cases these claims — and the circumstances that flow from them — are both cavalier and hypocritical.

Submission + - New Google+ Community: Ad Blocking Policy Discussions (

Lauren Weinstein writes: The widespread use of Web ad blocking technologies carries immense implications for the future of the Web in particular and the Internet in general. While alternative funding models exist for some (especially larger, corporate media) sites, many smaller and/or independent sites do not have alternatives to advertising for even paying their basic bills, risking an enormous loss of diversity on the Web. Let's discuss the issues.

You are in the hall of the mountain king.