obrBy Fergus O'Sullivan — Last Updated: 30 Jul'18 2018-05-02T12:17:23+00:00

State of the Cloud, May 2018

Welcome to Cloudwards.net’s state of the cloud, where every month we look back at the news of the month that has passed. We’re currently on a long, strong streak of two, but hope to keep doing these pieces for a while yet because we feel there just isn’t enough editorializing out there. For those who like to look further back, here’s the April edition.

Seriously, though, we do feel that there could be more analysis out there, especially when it comes to cloud- and privacy-related matters. This last section has come to the forefront a great deal, lately: as we predicted a month ago, April 2018 was basically all about privacy, particularly concerning the breaches made by Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s handling of these matters.

Not that the Facebook meltdown was the only story, of course, even though it dominated the headlines. Let’s take a look at a few others before tackling the big fish.

Privacy, What Privacy?

April started rough with the news that gay dating app Grindr had shared its users’ HIV status to commercial parties, a flagrant breach of their privacy. Grindr has the option to post your status for the AIDS precursor, as well as the last time you were tested, in a bid to boost public health, but apparently shared this information so as to “optimize” the app.

Though it makes you wonder what exactly this optimization is for that it entails sharing such information, it does once again prove that people are sharing simply far too much personal information about themselves online. Though STD testing dates are valuable information for the more promiscuous among us, it’s too easy for this data to be misused.

People using dating apps are of course one thing, but it seems that kids aren’t safe either: apparently YouTube is collecting the data of its youngest viewers, despite being expressly forbidden from doing so. Protecting your kids online will slowly have to move up from afterthought to priority number one for parents, it seems.

Not that the more cautious among us are necessarily safe, either: research has shown that quite a few VPNs suffer from webRTC leaks. Though we at Cloudwards.net were happy to see none of our best VPN picks were among the offenders (hard to wash that much egg off your face), it still means that several thousand people may have had their IP address revealed, not a good thing if they live in a country with internet censorship.

The Zuckerberg Saga Continues

Though with all the revelations surrounding Facebook, there’s a small case for maybe envying people who live in a country with an unfree internet: April 2018 was basically the month of finding out exactly how scary the social media platform really is. Though its practices were always known to be a bit shady, the cavalier attitude of its CEO about it all made hackles rise.

Zuckerberg’s testimony in Congress was interesting on several fronts. For one, we found out exactly how clueless American legislators are about the internet (before we non-Americans start giggling, do you really think our politicians are any better?). Zuckerberg bravely explained it all to them, though, making for some excellent viewing where the roles were more or less reversed. Worrisome, but funny.

More interesting was the explanation of how exactly Facebook makes money. Many people — including us — assumed that Facebook sold data to advertisers who then targeted the ads in some way or another. In fact, it turns out that Facebook does the work for them: the company simply gives the option which demographics are to be targeted and off the marketing machine goes.

As comforting as it is to know that Facebook isn’t giving out the information it gathers on you — looking at you, Grindr — it does, on the other hand, make the company somewhat complicit in some very shady dealings like the Cambridge Analytica fiasco as well as other trollish shenanigans. Currently, U.S. authorities seem fairly pleased with the answers they have been given.

Also pleased were Facebook shareholders, as the price of the company’s stock shot up again after taking a hit. Good news for the company, of course, but it does make us wonder exactly what these companies need to do to be punished for their shenanigans. Hopefully the UK parliament will get better answers out of the billionaire boy wonder.

Smaller Stories

Besides the big drama unfolding in Congress, there were plenty of smaller tech stories making the rounds; let’s take a look at a few particularly noteworthy ones.

Though it’s still three weeks off from being implemented, the EU’s GDPR is looming over businesses all over Europe and the world. The most comprehensive set of privacy legislation ever created, Zuckerberg at first was reported as saying he wouldn’t extend its protections to all users, he quickly denied ever having said so. Either way, the internet won’t be the same after May 22.

Netflix will be offering the same catalog to the entire EU, a boon for bingers in the old world (and users of our best VPN for Netflix picks). It’s a little unclear whether anyone is going to lose out on shows, but that should become clearer over the next few weeks.

Russia is apparently spying on people’s internet traffic through their routers. As few people change the default setting on the machines, it seems almost foolish not to do it. Authorities across the world are of course deeply worried, but there seems little to be done for now, except warn people to secure their routers. Please do, unless you like being part of some weird botnet based out of Nizhni Novgorod.

Finally, it seems net neutrality got a reprieve, if only briefly. In one more month, however, it seems that the free internet in the U.S. is headed for the chopping block. The delay is mostly due to sticky red tape, which makes you think that the world will end with neither bang nor whimper, but rather the sound of some bored bureaucrat shuffling indeterminable papers around.

Final Thoughts

And on that depressing note we’ll finish up our recap. Though people in the U.S. and a few other countries are headed for darker days, at least in the EU citizens will be able to enjoy a free internet with plenty of privacy protections in place. Also interesting will be any further grilling of Zuckerberg, so let’s hope we can put our BBQ sauce to good use this May.

What do you think of all these developments? Do you think we missed any major stories? Let us know in the comments below and thank you for reading. See you next month!

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