State-of-the-Cloud

Hello and welcome to Cloudwards.net’s third state of the cloud article, in which we recap the cloud-related news of the month that passed as well as look ahead a little to the new one. We’ll start this article admitting that the second-biggest news story in our opinion, the passing of the General Data Protection Regulation, was more whimper than bang, contrary to the prediction in our April piece.

More on that later, let’s first look at the biggest story of April and May: the Facebook scandal, also known as the gift that keeps on giving. The revelations — if you can call the media attention over something that everyone already knew a revelation — shook the world and even led to Mark Zuckerberg being called in front of the U.S. Congress and UK parliament, no mean feat.

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The Facebook Scandal, Cont’d

The company has, of course, promised to improve and put out a new privacy policy, more customizable settings, the whole shebang. Thing is, however, that the ink was barely dry on the press release before a new story came out proving that these promises were no more than a fart in the wind (although research has shown that you can’t handle the truth about Facebook, anyway).

This new Facebook leak concerns the data of around three million people who filled out one of those personality questionnaires that you’re more annoying FB friends bug you with. Apparently, the data behind them wasn’t secured properly and now all kinds of embarrassing details of those people are up grabs. Not the least of those is, of course, the fact that they participated in one of those insipid surveys.

But, to quote Billy Mays, wait, there’s more: the story also broke that Facebook is using Instagram images to train its artificial intelligence to recognize what it sees in pictures. Innocent enough in and of itself, of course, since the tags added by humans will show the AI what it’s looking at and should also teach it to recognize things for itself, but it does open just a raft of privacy questions.

The most important of which is, of course, whether the privacy policy put out by Instagram covers this use of the images, whether people photographed have given consent for their likeness to be used this way, etc. This is the kind of small stuff social-media behemoths regularly ignore but the people in question may find issue with.

In this light, the news that Facebook is starting a dating app is a bit worrying, especially if you remember that the company behind Grindr shared the HIV status of its users with some marketeers helping to “optimize” the gay dating app. The Cloudwards.net editorial team recommends that any readers look for love by any other means than this app, that’s for sure, like forlornly sipping pints in a corner of the club (it’s gotta show results eventually, right?).

Google Goggles

Not that Facebook has a monopoly on dominating headlines: the behemoth of behemoths, Google, has generated a few of its own this week. For one, it revealed its Google Assistant, an app that acts like one of those overworked personal assistants that high-flying execs have in the movies, only, you know, electronic.

Before you think you can be the Meryl Streep to some digital Anne Hathaway, however, the Assistant is very limited in what it can do and it’s human-like voice is so creepy that your dentist may refuse to do business with you any more — in fact, only days after launch Google announced that they would give it a less human-sounding voice after complaints rained in.

The Assistant app is automatically downloaded to your Android phone, so you can play around with it yourself, if you want.

Other Google news included that the company is entering the political arena now that it has started a program to vet political ads and make sure no fake news bleeds through, bot funding of ads by foreign parties. Though good news, it is worrying that a private company will now be curating political ads. Still, better than having the troll army post crap online.

The last bit of Google news is interesting because it shows that the company which once advertised its mission as not being evil has learnt some tricks from the big boys: a startup advocacy group called Engine is actually a mouthpiece for Google rather than startups. We’ll let The Intercept fill you in on the details, but it is a nice example of big business strangling upstarts through lobbying efforts.

Enter the GDPR

According to us, the GDPR coming into force on May 25 was going to be the highlight of the year, but besides it raining update emails regarding companies’ privacy policies it seemed to have been a bit of a storm in a teacup. That said, with some luck we consumers will be able to enjoy the internet a bit more securely thanks to these new policies.

One interesting effect is that several people wasted no time after the GDPR’s enactment and straightaway sued several major corporations for a total of $8.8 billion. Though a few of the proceedings in question seem to smack of nuisance suits, with the good graces of a few judges, maybe the privacy violations of Facebook and Google will strike back in the wallets of these two leviathans.

Congressional Chicanery

In the dark halls of the Capitol, it briefly looked like the U.S. Senate was going to stop net neutrality from going under, but alas, this was merely a mirage in the desert that is political integrity in the States. On June 11, the free internet will no longer be free, despite best efforts from a handful of representatives and senators not on the ISP gravy train.

On the other hand, lawmakers in America have been very busy making sure copyright is extended for up to 144 years, stifling innovation and making sure we’ll never get that second season of Firefly. Chalk one up for progress.

Short News

With the really big stories out of the way, let’s take a look at some smaller ones, like the joyful tiding that Cambridge Analytica filed for bankruptcy. Don’t worry too much about the fate of its founders, however, as they have gone on to found a new company; a venture that will likely be gracing headlines before too long, we predict.

The story of the Russian-hacked routers is still ongoing, though apparently the widespread infiltration of routers worldwide isn’t that big a story for it to feature on the eight o’clock news. It has gotten a bit more interesting, though, as apparently the FBI needs us to help them fight the threat by rebooting our routers and installing new firmware.

PornHub has launched its own VPN service, VPNhub, which will be free to use on mobile (desktop manhandlers will need to pay). We’re looking forward to getting hands-on with the service ourselves soon and see if it can compete with our best VPN for porn picks. It seems like an unexpected move, but so far everything else the company has touched has turned to gold, so why not this one?

The final piece of news we wanted to share is that the London Metropolitan Police’s facial recognition scheme, which drew the ire of privacy activists yet was touted as the best crime-fighting tactic since forever, has netted zero arrests in the years it has been active. So much for Big Brother, we guess.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it, a bite-sized breakdown of the month in cloud. We hope you enjoyed our soapbox antics and that we’ll see you again next month.

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