Linked List: November 30, 2011

Facebook and Privacy 

Farhad Manjoo, writing for Slate:

The only sure way to keep something private on Facebook is not to post it to Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg would never acknowledge this, but I think it will ultimately benefit both his site and its users if we adjusted our expectations about “privacy” there. You should approach Facebook as cautiously as you would approach your open bedroom window. However restrictive your privacy controls, you should imagine that everything that you post on Facebook will be available for public consumption forever. If you follow this simple rule, you’ll never be blindsided.

The article’s sub-head is a bit unfair, though:

You’re as much to blame for the site’s privacy woes as Mark Zuckerberg.

People are confused about Facebook privacy settings because Facebook wants them to be confused. It’s deliberate. That’s all on Facebook.

Speaking of Shit-Ass Websites 

MG Siegler on Business Insider’s practice of breaking articles — articles — into 12-page-view “slideshows”.

Shit-Ass Websites 

Jim Dalrymple:

It got me thinking about some of the other sites I visit, so I did some tests loading the homepage of each site and here’s what I found. There are three stats for each site — the number of http requests, the size of the page and how long it took the page to download.

Send me a “Get Off My Lawn, You Goddamn Kids” t-shirt if you want, but I say web pages should still be measured in kilobytes, not megabytes. Especially when the megabytes are almost all for ads.

(The Loop is moving to a new web host tonight, so just in case you can’t access the site at the moment, here it is in Google’s cache.)

And the Bidding for Yahoo Begins 

Geoff Duncan:

Yahoo’s current strategy seems to be offering a minority stake of just under 20 percent of the company using PIPE transactions — Private Investment in a Public Equity. If Yahoo keeps the proportion of the deal under 20 percent of the company, Yahoo’s board of directors can approve the deal without putting it to a shareholder vote. PIPE transactions are generally considered the province of less-than-reputable companies: they’re essentially a strategy that allows major changes in company ownership without shareholder approval. If Yahoo conducts such a transaction, it’s almost certain to further alienate its investors — unless it can generate tremendous amounts of cash from the sale.


Who Needs Competition? 

Linda Loyd, reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer:

U.S. Sen. Robert Casey (D., Pa.) has urged the chief executive officer of US Airways Group Inc. to rescind the airline’s fare hike planned for flights between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in early January, when only US Airways will fly between the two cities.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday that when Southwest Airlines Co. drops its flights between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on Jan. 8, the price for a US Airways round-trip ticket will jump from $118 plus tax, to $698 plus tax.

What a dick move.

Imagine If It Were Apple 

John Brownlee, writing for Cult of Mac:

Once logged, Carrier IQ then sends all of this data to its own servers. That’s incredible. One privately held company that almost no one has ever heard of has the complete logs of every email, phone call, web search and text message ever sent or received by millions of Android, Blackberry and Nokia users.

I don’t think that’s an accurate description of what we know at this point. This stuff gets logged on the device. And Carrier IQ claims that their portal software gives “customers” (a.k.a. phone carriers) the ability to look at this stuff. But I don’t think anyone has shown what gets phoned home.

Even worse? There’s no way to opt out of the Carrier IQ “service.” On Android phones, your only choice is to root your phone and replace the operating system with one without the software pre-installed.

This is absolutely insane. Apple was practically crucified over LocationGate, which was just a cache of GPS locations stored on user’s home machines. Meanwhile, almost every Android phone out there is reading people’s emails and logging their passwords, while no one bats an eye.

Apple’s location brouhaha wasn’t even about GPS data — it was only a cache of cell tower locations. The problem isn’t that the news media aren’t sensationalizing this Carrier IQ story. The problem is that they would if it involved Apple.

What Is Carrier IQ? 

Trevor Eckhart’s report on Carrier IQ:

From training documents found we get an insight to the Carrier IQ Portal. Devices are displayed to the portal operator by individual phone Equipment ID and Subscriber IDs. The “portal administrator” can put devices into categories and see devices in California that have dropped calls at 5pm.

The down side to all of this is the “portal administrator” is also able to “task” a single phone with a profile containing any combinations of metric and trigger. From leaked training documents we can see that portal operators can view and task metrics by equipment ID, subscriber ID, and more. So instead of seeing dropped calls in California, they now know “Joe Anyone’s” location at any given time, what he is running on his device, keys being pressed, applications being used.

From what I can see, Eckhart’s picture of exactly how Carrier IQ works is incomplete. But I’m pretty sure he’s onto something here. The best-case scenario he paints is still rather alarming. The worst-case scenario is that people working at your phone carrier, using Carrier IQ’s portal software, can watch what you’re doing on your phone as you do it.

Eckhart’s report clearly touched a nerve at Carrier IQ. They sent him this preposterous cease-and-desist order (PDF), which you really need to read to believe. Eckhart, with legal support from the EFF, stood his ground and forced Carrier IQ to retract the cease-and-desist.

Carrier IQ 

David Kravets, reporting for Wired Threat Level:

Though the software is installed on most modern Android, BlackBerry and Nokia phones, Carrier IQ was virtually unknown until 25-year-old Trevor Eckhart of Connecticut analyzed its workings, revealing that the software secretly chronicles a user’s phone experience — ostensibly so carriers and phone manufacturers can do quality control.

But now he’s released a video actually showing the logging of text messages, encrypted web searches and, well, you name it. […]

The company denies its software logs keystrokes. Eckhart’s 17-minute video clearly undercuts that claim.

I’ve been reading about Carrier IQ all afternoon, and what they’re logging is simply breathtaking. It’s not clear to me, though, just what is being sent from the devices to Carrier IQ’s servers. What’s being logged on the device is one thing. What’s being sent over the air to Carrier IQ’s servers is another.

Felix Salmon on Apple’s Valuation 

Felix Salmon, commenting on Andy Zaky’s piece on Apple’s stock price:

All of which raises the obvious question: why is Apple trading at such a seemingly depressed level? I have a few ideas, none of which are particularly compelling.

By the way, a few readers have asked whether I personally own Apple stock. Good question. I do not. I don’t own stock in any companies that I cover regularly here on DF. I do own shares of an S&P 500 mutual fund.

Apple: The Most Undervalued Large-Cap Stock in America 

Andy Zaky:

In late 2007, Apple traded at $200 a share after reporting $3.93 in EPS on $24.5 billion in revenue. Turn the pages to 2011 and it’s an entirely different company. In just four years, Apple’s earnings have grown 600% to $27.68, and its revenue skyrocketed 341% to $108.2 billion. That’s the most explosive 4-year growth rate of any large-cap company on the entire S&P 500.

Yet, one wouldn’t know this given the stock’s very sluggish performance, extremely depressed valuation and the media’s permanently negative sentiment on the stock over the past few years.

Zaky makes a compelling, data-backed case that Apple’s stock price is severely undervalued.

Jon Gold on the Nokia Lumia 

Jon Gold:

The flip side is I have to keep questioning myself and what I believe in. Cellphones should not prompt an existential crisis. It’s just a phone. But I keep having to ask myself whether I want Apple to win, or I want better to win. As a designer I hope I always go for better. Metro is undeniably gorgeous but I still can’t form an objective opinion about whether the phone as a whole is good enough to replace my iPhone.

The facts say it’s good enough. My heart says no.

I’ve been testing an HTC Titan for a few weeks, and that’s pretty much how I feel about Windows Phone 7 too.

Windows Phone Demo 

Web-based demo of the Windows Phone 7 interface, meant for use on other mobile devices. Well done.