February 23, 2018
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G-Ro rolls out four new smart bags

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I doubt there has been a time that I’ve scrolled through Facebook and not seen the G-Ro. While this could be part of the magic of retargeting but it could also be fate because the G-Ro has been one of the biggest and most exciting changes in carry-on luggage since the rucksack.

The original G-Ro’s claim to fame were its massive wheels designed to lift over curbs and offer a smooth, steady ride. I tried the original bag recently and found it superior to four-wheeled carry-ons I’ve had but a little oddly-shaped. With some practice, however, you learn where to put various sundries to ensure proper load balance.

The new bags riff on the original’s style and two models, the Check-In and the Office, include a pair of big wheels and a very sturdy and long handle. The other two, the Backpack XV and Backpack Light, take styling and material cues from the original and offer some interesting features of their own.

Most important, obviously, is capacity. The Check-In can hold a massive amount of gear including a few pairs of shoes in a separate pocket and a number of pockets designed for easy access to necessary items. All of the bags include a built-in rechargeable battery so you can charge on the go. It costs $299 during the Kickstarter promotion.

The Office acts as a laptop case, a document filing system, and even has room for a few overnight things. This one costs $269. The Backpack XV is more like a wearable duffel that can expand and the Backpack Light is a uniquely-styled smaller backpack that can hold a 13-inch laptop. They cost $129 and $179 during the Kickstarter promotion.

Bags haven’t changed much since the dawn of time: you hollow something out and put stuff into it. I’m pleased to see G-Ro taking things to the next level with a bag that uses carbon fiber, big wheels, and lots of design smarts to keep us rolling through checkpoints with ease.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Here’s how Russia targeted its fake Facebook ads and how those ads performed

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 It’s impossible to know just how much stuff being circulated on social networks is Russian state content in sheep’s clothing, although tech companies are scrambling to figure that out. Now, thanks to Congress, we just got a rare peek behind the curtain of how Facebook’s ad operations were manipulated by a foreign power to foment outrage and division in American society. Today… Read More

News Source = techcrunch.com

Thoughts on the #techhearings from my time in Product Safety at Twitter

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I created the Product Safety and Security Team at Twitter. At different points in time I was responsible for the engineering of tools to mitigate abuse, compromised accounts and the login infrastructure, up to, and including, 2 factor authentication and password reset.

I saw first hand the beginnings of the types of actions that are now being discussed in the US Senate at the #TechHearings.

The tepid response by senior management to the millions of accounts created by bad actors and how they were using the platform discovered in our research, is one of the reasons these hearings are happening today. It was the growth-at-all-cost mentality that blinded many at Twitter to how the platform was being weaponized by the alt-right and, as we are finding out, by Russia as well. This growth at all cost was a source of frustration for many of us working in Product Safety

The social media platforms we use everyday have now become the propaganda battlegrounds of the 21st century. The trust we have put in what our ‘friends’ post on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is influencing our political views, our social views, our views on race and gender, and our views on right and wrong. And this influence has been manipulated with devastating effect, not just by the platforms for profit, but by those that would divide us and pit us against each other.

It is a fact that foreign governments used social media to influence the moods, emotions and decision making of millions of Americans. It is also a fact that the growth and profit at all cost mentality that was driving Twitter in 2015 and Facebook in 2013 left the door open for this manipulation. A door they refused to acknowledge much less close.

Tech companies have been hiding behind the saying “we are just a platform” to brush off any responsibility. And yet many of those same people will decry how Fox News is nothing but propaganda. The fact is, Twitter and Facebook reach more people on a daily basis than Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and the NYT combined. Yet they have shirked this responsibility and in effect have been the most effective way to disseminate propaganda in the 21st century.

Billions of dollars of wealth have been created because of these platforms. And our democracy may have been irreparably damaged in large part by these very same platforms. I don’t have a list of solutions to this. However I do know that if facebook/Twitter put the same emphasis on tackling this as they have on optimizing their ad serving platforms, we would have seen more progress.

I tweeted recently:

It should bother all of us that platforms with this much influence have, up to this point, taken almost no effective steps to mitigate this type influence.

And while I am not pushing for government intervention, I do ask our representatives to push for concrete metrics to track the progress all the tech companies are promising to make. Metrics that are regularly published and peer reviewed. Metrics that are defined and mutually agreed upon. With civil and financial penalties for non-compliance. This would be a good start.

This post originally appeared on Miley’s Medium page, The Shaft

News Source = techcrunch.com

Facebook beats in Q3 with $4.7B profit, record share price despite Russia

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 Facebook is still in the middle of its House Intelligence Committee hearing about Russian election interference, but the looming concerns over misuse haven’t dampened its business as profits continue to soar and its share price hits an all-time high. Still, CEO Mark Zuckerberg saw it fit to break from his traditional “Our business is doing well” script to add “But none… Read More

News Source = techcrunch.com

On Russia, tech doesn’t know what it doesn’t know

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While the Senate has spent the better part of a year making sense of Russia’s actions to influence the 2016 election, tech made quick work of its own analysis — or so it thinks.

The glacial pace of Congress is often criticized, particularly contrasted to the tech industry which still moves fast and breaks things, although Facebook gave up that slogan in 2014. But when it comes to examining a high stakes blind spot undermining governments and endangering users on the biggest social networks in existence, somehow Congress looks more prepared.

After Facebook’s September investigation revealed accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a detail that the company disclosed to Congress on September 6, all three companies have seized on that as both a starting and finishing place for their own investigations. Yesterday, in the first of three hearings with Facebook, Twitter and Google, Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch admitted that his company doesn’t know if North Korea or Iran bought political ads on Facebook, while admitting that other U.S. adversaries “certainly potentially” could.

Beyond the Internet Research Agency

On Wednesday, Senate Intel Vice Chair Mark Warner voiced his ongoing disappointment with tech’s narrow investigation parameters and their failure to proactively ferret out Russian active measures on their platforms.

“I still find it very disturbing that it appears, at least from Twitter and Facebook, that the sense is that all the Russian active measures only originated with one single troll farm in St. Petersburg,” Warner said. “It still appears that most of the work that you’ve provided us is still derivative of your initial reports.

“I was hoping very much that you would come in today and either say ‘that was absolutely all of it’ or ‘we’ve identified other troll farms or other entities.’”

When Warner pressed each company to answer in yes or no form if they’d discovered the full extent of Russian active measures, all three eventually admitted that they haven’t. Facebook claimed it hasn’t “with certainty.” Twitter admitted that it’s “still working on it.” Twitter called it “an ongoing investigation.”

Warner scolded Facebook leadership for “bragging” about how proactive they were in the French election without doing the due diligence on those accounts with regard to U.S. political activity.

“You’ve identified 470 accounts from one troll farm in St. Petersburg. There have been plenty of press reports of other troll farms in Russia,” Warner said.

“As you became more aware of this problem, you aggressively promoted the fact that you took down 30,000 accounts around the French elections… have you gone back and cross-checked those Russian-related accounts that you took down in France to see if any of those accounts were active in the American election?”

Stretch couldn’t answer, stating that he would get back to the panel, a response that Warner deemed “very disappointing” given that the company has known about the hearing for months and that he has brought the issue up before. TechCrunch has also followed up with Facebook to see if they took this step.

When asked by Idaho Senator Risch if Facebook, Twitter and Google agreed with his assessment that the issue at hand is “much broader” than just the 2016 election, all three companies did so reluctantly, with Google adding that it’s “hard for us to know.”

A widening gyre

It’s no surprise then that incremental updates to initial analyses that underreported the scope of Russia’s efforts on the three platforms comes out every week now. Just this morning, Facebook admitted that Instagram content purchased by Russian state-linked actors reached an additional 16 million Americans between October 2016 and November 8.

We can expect an ongoing controlled stream of similar updates as the three tech companies in Congressional crosshairs try to balance the appearance of cooperation with lawmakers with their refusal to fully admit the scope of systemic problems on their platforms. The inherent contradiction is akin to so many others we see in Silicon Valley, like the illusion of transparency in an industry culture of extreme secrecy or Facebook’s conviction of its own political potency in ad sales at the same time that its chief executive waved off the notion that his company “influenced the election in any way” as a “crazy idea.”

Suggesting that the scope of foreign intelligence operations on U.S. based social platforms goes well beyond what we know now isn’t meant to be scaremongering. More, it’s an argument that these companies — most notably Facebook with its historic, ironic insistence on “real identity” —  were blinded by growth in a way that made them fail to consider the future consequences of building the most colossal, most efficient global information delivery system of the present day.

“What we’re talking about is a cataclysmic change… we are not gonna go away gentlemen,” California Senator Feinstein said on Wednesday, beating the drums of regulation. “This is a very big deal. I went home last night with profound disappointment. I asked specific questions, I got vague answers.

“You bear this responsibility. You’ve created these platforms and now they’re being misused. And you have to be the ones to do something about it. Or we will.”

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

News Source = techcrunch.com

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