John Gruber, Meta, and privacy
There’s no end of John Gruber advocating for privacy and fighting Meta/Facebook. These are just some of the quotes, and I really like the last one: “The entitlement of these fuckers is just off the charts.”
And Apple’s new tracking-related features are not “anti-tracking”. They’re simply about raising user awareness of tracking and giving users control over it.
Let’s say a cottage industry arose where commercial companies were, unbeknownst to most people, plugging their fleets of electric vehicles into the outdoor power outlets on people’s homes overnight. “No one told us not to plug our electric delivery vans into these homes’ freely available power outlets.” And then, after this practice comes to light, the electric company adds a feature where every time a new vehicle is plugged into your outdoor power outlet, you, the homeowner, need to authorize that vehicle as being allowed to charge using the electricity you pay for. If you don’t authorize it, they don’t get the juice.
27 May 2021 about Facebook’s reaction to AppStore privacy labels
Let’s get them some lollipops, make the boo-boo feel better.
(Alternative quip: “By sharply reducing burglaries, police are limiting the ability of pawn shops to create value from stolen goods.”)
Apple’s “Privacy Nutrition Labels” launched this week on the App Store... It’s worth going right to the source to know what Apple is requiring here, because the companies who are coming out of this looking bad are attempting to misdirect attention.
To see them in action, just go to any app’s listing and scroll down a bit, and you can’t miss them. View the details for apps that respect your privacy and you’ll see a concise listing. View the details for apps that don’t — like, say, Instagram or Facebook — and you’ll get screen after screen showing just how much information about you they collect. Instagram and Facebook’s app privacy listings look like those crazy-long receipts from CVS.
There’s also an implication here that Apple didn’t give the companies who’d be affected by ATT sufficient notice before instituting the changes. And we all know who the primary “company” is: Facebook. I’d say Apple bent over backwards to give Facebook time, and how Facebook reacted is instructional.
This new ad from Apple touting iPhone privacy protection is good, and genuinely funny. But what makes it funny — the premise is a series of people loudly sharing in the real world the sort of information that gets unknowingly tracked online — is actually the perfect analogy to help explain how the tracking industry — what ought to be considered the privacy theft industry — has grown into existence.
Consider the new ad-tracking privacy protection feature in iOS 14. The tracking industry, led by Facebook, is up in arms about it
The entitlement of these fuckers is just off the charts. They have zero right, none, to the tracking they’ve been getting away with. We, as a society, have implicitly accepted it because we never really noticed it. You, the user, have no way of seeing it happen. Our brains are naturally attuned to detect and viscerally reject, with outrage and alarm, real-world intrusions into our privacy. Real-world marketers could never get away with tracking us like online marketers do.
John Gruber, Meta, and Threads
At the time of its release Threads:
- only had an algorithmic feed
- had a very barebones web app, all functionality was in mobile apps
- tricked Instagram users into enabling Threads (with no option to disable them) to inflate sign up and usage numbers
But most importantly: Threads didn’t launch in the EU.
The reason is ridiculously simple:
- On the one hand FB was found in breach of GDPR with regards to its shady privacy-invading practices: CJEU declares Meta/Facebook’s GDPR approach largely illegal
- On the other hand upcoming Digital Services Act forbids facebook to use “mingle user’s data” between different acts: No Instagram Threads app in the EU: Irish DPC says Meta’s new Twitter rival won’t be launched here
- And more (such as upcoming Digital Services acts requiring to have non-algorithmic feeds, Norway banning facebook’s behavioural advertising etc.)
Gruber’s reaction to this has been stellar. It started even prior to this, when many Mastodon admins have decided to pre-emptively block Threads if it ever implements ActivityPub protocol. But he definitely went ballistic when Threads launched. Both over at Daring Fireball and in his personal accounts:
Threads is the most fun, most interesting new product of the year, and no one in the E.U. can use it, or will be able to use it anytime soon, because their own elected officials passed a law that effectively bans it.
Nice job. Have fun over here in the library.
Threads is not available in the E.U. yet, but is in North Korea
Drakonian and confusing Digital Markets Act (later removed from original text, but internet remembers, see comments: https://mastodon.social/@daringfireball/110665232720661773)
And the zinger:
(quoting Aaron Levie)
Why doesn’t the EU just turn off the web?
There are countless more where he defends Threads from any possible angle.
John Gruber and the tragedy of preaching to the choir
Let’s skip the obvious conspiracy theory that John Gruber is paid by Meta to promote and defend Threads. I think the reason is much simpler and sadder.
Over the years Daring Fireball has built a loyal following. It has always been a good source of Apple gossip, decent summaries of tech-related discussions etc. And a lot of that audience has been sycophantic.
In the mad rush to exit Twitter several things happened:
- Twitter audience has declined
- BlueSky audience never really materialised (it’s still tiny, invite-only, and with multiple scalability issues)
- And Mastodon...
Mastodon isn’t sycophantic in the least. Every time Gruber praises Threads and bashes privacy regulations Mastodon audience is not amused, and it’s a polite way to phrase it.
I think Gruber now yearns for the days when he could mostly preach to the choir. Unfortunately for him, the alternatives to Twitter (Mastodon and BlueSky) never gave him this opportunity. An app from fuckers whose entitlement is just off the charts might just be it.