Apple vs. Facebook: One of Those Companies Won’t Let You Read This


• Where you get your news may well determine what you’re allowed to see. For example, this story recently broke: “Facebook says 50m user accounts affected by security breach.” But if you get your news from Facebook, you might not ever be allowed to know about that breach.

In the words of Lord Acton, a British historian, Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. And the wages of the misuse of power are often harsh, as we’ll see next.

• Apple does things that require deep examination. Otherwise surface effects dominate the often negative observations. For example, Apple’s business model doesn’t depend, like Facebook’s, on selling information about its customers. We know that well. But what are the lasting implications for Apple? For Facebook? The New York Times has looked at the deeper implications of Apple’s business model. “How Apple Thrived in a Season of Tech Scandals.

Because Apple makes money by selling phones rather than advertising, it has been able to hold itself up as a guardian against a variety of digital plagues: a defender of your privacy, an agitator against misinformation and propaganda, and even a plausible warrior against tech addiction, a problem enabled by the very irresistibility of its own devices.

The exploration continues with a discussion of the emerging impact on Apple’s ostensible rivals.

Tim Cook at WWDC 2018
Unlike Stevie Nicks, Tim Cook doesn’t keep his (grand) visions to himself.

Though their businesses keep chugging along, Facebook and Google, the world’s biggest internet ad companies, now face global scrutiny for the spread of disinformation, propaganda and what critics say is their products’ destabilizing effects on politics and society.

And there’s an interesting tie-in with Apple pricing that we don’t often think about.

Apple’s high prices also set up an expectation of safety, giving it a freer hand to police online properties like its app store, podcast directory and news app. A decade ago, when Mr. Jobs imposed rules on the iOS App Store banning scammy and pornographic apps, he was called a prude. Now his rules seem prescient.

Speaking of safety, the Apple Watch, with its health monitoring capabilities—which will only get better—make for comfortable warm fuzzies that Apple is looking out for us, not exploiting us.

This is a good read by the notable writer Farhad Manjoo. Check it out.

More Debris

• Are iPhone XS/Max selfies artificially smoothing the user’s skin? The term “beautygate” is being used. “Some people are saying Apple’s new iPhone selfie camera automatically smooths your skin in photos…” This sounds a lot like a misinterpretation of the techical characteristics of the new camera, but there’s more to learn. So stay tuned for additional, um, clarifications.

• In an era when we see AI being exploited for gain, likely at the expense of humankind, it’s nice to know that a company is investing in AI for good causes. See: “Microsoft to invest $40 million in AI technology for humanitarian issues.

Microsoft will invest $40 million to apply artificial intelligence to humanitarian issues, the company said Monday, the third program in a previously announced series of AI initiatives.

The project, AI for Humanitarian Action, follows a $50 million pledge in AI for Earth and a $25 million investment in AI for Accessibility.

Microsoft continues to impress under CEO Satya Nadella.

• This next item amuses me. “Kids are outsmarting Apple’s ‘Screen Time’ restrictions on iPhones.”
Your first cynical reaction might be, if Apple can’t thwart a 7-year-old, how can it deter hackers? But that’s not a legit point. Any sufficiently advanced technology provides multiple operational paths. A smart kid can find them. The system isn’t compromised; rather, imaginatively exercised. ::cough::
Better move on….

• When I wrote my review of macOS Mojave, I noted that this new release appears to exhibit a good understanding of how productive users utilize their Macs. In a operational sense. Dan Moren has explored that theme in much more detail. “MacOS Mojave and the future of the Mac.

More importantly, … Apple realizes what’s important to Mac users: the programs that they run and care about. If the Mac is the truck to iOS devices’ car in Steve Jobs’s old analogy, well, the people buying a truck want a truck.

A great truck.

iMac Pro with an Apple logo and a lock
iMac Pro is a beautiful, powerful truck. Image credit Apple.

• Ryan Faas, an Apple/enterprise guru, explains a vulnerability in Apple’s “Device Enrollment Program that, in some circumstances, could leave corporate networks and data insecure. But companies can mitigate the danger.” Here’s the story at Computerworld. “The Apple DEP flaw explained – and how to bolster security.” By the way, Ryan was a very recent guest on my Background Mode podcast.

• We finish with some AI humor. If you were a participant in an AI-related “minimal” Turing test and asked to prove you are human with just one word, what would it be?

I’ll give you a moment to ponder your response. I’ll wait….

Okay. Time’s up! The best answer?


[Note: Particle Debris is only one page this week.]

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed on page two by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

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W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

John: I am intrigued by the inverse relationship between the increasingly wider societal relevance of the articles you cite beyond simply the relevance to the Apple community, and the commentary to your PD articles, specifically their number. So, before commenting on the content, permit an observation and a request on your column itself. I hope, and trust, that you will not be dissuaded by absence of commentary from the continued trend of proffering these impactful articles for thought, even if not open discussion, in preference to articles that garner more ‘discussion’ and ‘debate’. I believe that there are two consequences… Read more »