Welcome to Cloudwards.net’s monthly state of the cloud, where we take a look at the most important news stories of the past 30 days as well as look forward a little at the month to come. We focus mostly on tech news, of course, as well as anything related to the cloud in particular; think of it as a recap that will give you the niche knowledge to wow people at parties. Boring parties, but that’s just how we roll.
This is the first such article we’re running and we hope to do many more in the future. Though there are plenty of excellent news sites out there and we have no wish to replace any of them — trust us, we tried in the past — we do feel that editorially we have plenty to offer. So, strap in and join us as we take a look at what March brought us.
Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Zuckerberg
March 2018 was pretty the month of Facebook and the massive meltdown surrounding revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based market analytics firm, had mined the Facebook data of at least 50 million U.S. voters and targeted ads at them, perhaps even influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election in favor of The Donald.
Scary stuff. Although U.S. elections are rough, anything-goes affairs when compared to the political process in most other countries, the revelations by whistleblower Christopher Wylie, a co-founder of CA who no longer works there, shook the country, and the rest of the world, to its core.
For months now we’ve slowly come to accept that Facebook has overdue influence in the world at large after it became clear the power Putin’s troll army wields, but now it’s clear that it’s not only authoritarian strongmen that have it; our own parties and leaders use social media for ill, too.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, made a public apology (and even took out newspaper ads) and has vowed to make things better. He will be testifying before a U.S. Congressional committee about it, too, though has only deigned to send a stand-in to a UK equivalent.
Zuckerberg’s apology, however, rings hollow: his company has been mining and selling people’s data for years, though instead of selling it for political ends, the data was used by advertisers. It seems odd to draw the line there: having people spend their hard-won cash on pointless consumer crap they don’t need is apparently fine, but apparently influencing the political process isn’t.
The role of the media in this whole tragedy is also odd, because they are the ones leading the charge against the political shenanigans, but again don’t seem to care much what marketeers do with all the data being hoovered up social media sites. We’s like to suggest everyone go the way of Elon Musk, but we won’t be deleting our FB page either, because, well, we’re no Tesla.
Facebook Scandal: the Good News
The whole Facebook fracas is in a way, good news: though it took longer than we would have liked, people are now finally paying attention to the crooked antics the company gets up to: already people are deleting their social media profiles and taking greater care in how they behave themselves online. If you’re one of those people, make sure to check out our online privacy guide as it will help you get on your way.
The scandal has also spurred developers to create competing standards and protocols that should help keep the web safer for you. One of these options is the use of open protocols and other IMAP tricks that should make social media both easier and safer to use. If you’d like to know more, The Register has a full story on this.
Spying and Surveillance Shenanigans
Not that Facebook has some kind of twisted monopoly on spying on people. We all know about PRISM and the Patriot Act, but it seems like soon we can add another acronym to that list: CLOUD. Passed through the backdoor, this new initiative gives U.S. intelligence to yank U.S. citizens’ data from cloud servers even overseas, a frightening thought.
Even using a VPN won’t save you from this particular problem, meaning that you’ll need to use a zero-knowledge provider like Tresorit or Sync.com if you want to keep your files safe from interference.
Not that surveillance is restricted to the interwebz: Chinese police are using state-of-the-art sunglasses to track number plates and even faces, while police in North Carolina are using Google’s GPS data to scoop up anyone even near a crime scene. Isn’t the modern age just wonderful?
Next Step in Cloud Gaming?
Well, maybe: though gaming-as-a-service (GaaS), or cloud gaming, has taken on an almost chimera-like aspect over the last few years — it has either not happened or happened in a watered-down version — it seems now that finally some serious players are going to be working on it.
Microsoft’s gaming division is setting up a project for cloud gaming, while NVIDIA is doing much the same with its GeForce Now project, which currently is in closed beta. While currently we have little else to report, we hope to soon update our article on cloud gaming with the latest and greatest developments.
Though plenty happened in tech in March, as you can see, here are few stories we felt deserved a little more love than they got. First up is the news that Spectre and Meltdown have been fixed on any next-gen chips being developed. These fixes are on the hardware level, so hopefully no more slowdowns.
Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload and indirectly of MEGA won yet another case in his likely never ending battle against U.S. extradition. The U.S. has wanted the piracy figurehead transported to its jurisdiction for over a decade now, but the larger-than-life Dotcom (he changed his name by deed poll) has successfully resisted until now.
Netflix’s original series were banned from the Cannes film festival on a technicality. Though we’ve all known for years now that Hollywood and its counterparts are terrified of a bit of competition (see the Dotcom story for one example), this decision is once again proof that the old guard will do anything to make sure the upstarts don’t get their foot in the door.
Kaspersky Labs will be moving some of its data centers to Switzerland to avoid allegations that the Russian government spies on the company’s clientele on the Russia-based servers. Though Russian citizens’ data will have to stay stored in the motherland — Putin passed a law expressly forbidding Russians’ data from being stored abroad — it’s one less worry for foreign customers.
The recently passed U.S. SESTA/FOSTA bill is causing headaches for many cloud services as any content that could be deemed to encourage sex trafficking and the like leaves its hosts on the hook. A few people and companies not in any way related to this rather nasty line of business have already had their content removed as a result.
World Backup Day
Last but not least, we ended March on the high note of World Backup Day, a festive day for anyone believes that backing up your data regularly is one of the keys to happiness (we set that bar pretty low on purpose, thankyouverymuch).
Though it’s a little earlier to publish any figures, we hope were were able to reach out more people than in the years before and that all of them are safely backed up, preferable using the 3-2-1 rule.
That more or less wraps up Match, if you ask us. Though there’s plenty to look forward to this April, we predict the biggest stories will be about the EU’s passing of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May and how it will affect the internet. This bit of all-encompassing legislation should protect us all a little better and we look forward to learning more about its details.
Do you feel we got it wrong either looking back- or forward? Do you have any thoughts on the stories we’ve discussed? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.