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This week we have a special guest contributor! | Two key US tech regulations will likely not pass the vote | Robots: bad at chess, good at breaking bones
Hello tech specialists. If you’re on Twitter, I dunno if you’ve noticed the recent rise in cringe as fuck tweet threads that kinda start with ‘Ever wonder why blah is like blah? Well I’m a professional in the field of blah, so allow me to explain 🧵’. Apparently it’s because the worst people on Twitter have been paying for Twitter lessons.
This week was something I could have done without 👎. I bring you a range of injustices today, namely:
Another case of smart home devices working with law enforcement
An update on what the US government are doing to put an end to the app store duopoly (it’s not much)
A robot breaks a child’s finger, the world looks on in awe
BONUS THING: the women’s England football team have gotten to the 2022 Euro’s final and yet women continue to not be taken seriously in football. Guest contributor Saba Husain tells us more about this.
🦉 You live in a Nest
Perhaps you are familiar with Nest: they provide smart home devices like thermostats and doorbell cameras, which means they collect a lot of data about the everyday domestic habits of their users. Shocking: they do not encrypt this data. Unshocking: Nest is owned by Google.
🧦 Socking: this week, someone decided to read the terms of service for their doorbells, and realised the they will hand data over to law enforcement without a warrant, subpoena, or asking if users if this is okay. Here is a quote from a soulless Nest spokesperson:
“A provider like Google may disclose information to law enforcement without a subpoena or a warrant ‘if the provider, in good faith, believes that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury to any person requires disclosure without delay of communications relating to the emergency,'”
Here’s the problem: Google has never done anything in ‘good faith’. Are we to expect that they will be reliable arbiters of what counts as an ‘emergency’ or as ‘danger’? Why do they get to decide? This is exactly why I hate smart home devices — they are sold to us as pieces of life-altering convenience tech, but they’re just a way for tech firms to continue to profit and keep law enforcement happy. Can’t wait to see footage of police failing to diffuse or recognise domestic violence!
🤸♂️ Flip the script: take a bite out of Apple; don’t let them take a bite out of YOU
…not that you have any control over it. This week, we’re going to have a quick look at the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (or AICO — probably the worst name for an act I’ve ever heard) and also the Open App Markets Act. I think this is meant to be a play on ‘open up markets’ which sounds like something a senior advisor from The Thick of It would force Peter Mannion to say.
🧠 🔄 Refresh your brain: I wrote about the Open App Markets Act a few months ago. It aims to regulate app stores that have more than 50 million users (e.g. Apple and Google) by imposing these rules:
Let developers use their own in-app payment systems (this is the big one)
Let developers offer better prices on other stores
Let developers contacts their own customers about offers (god this shit is basic — app stores really are the worst)
Stop gathering analytics on apps in the store in order to build competitors
Preference your own apps in searches
🧠 ➕ Update your brain: the AICO act is meant to stop e-commerce platforms from giving preferential treatment to their own products. This will have an affect on Google and Apple’s sweaty and unbecoming app store duopoly, but this is mostly aimed at Amazon:
What is means for Google: they will have to stop pre-loaded Android devices with their own apps as default.
What this means for Apple: the app store will have to stop being the only place iOS users can download software (Apple says this will be unsafe for users, but Apple also allow gruesome scams onto their app store, so 🤷♀️)
What this means for Amazon: no more using the data from third-party vendors to figure out what products are popular, and then promote their own ‘Amazon Basics’ alternatives, which are much cheaper and therefore undercut other sellers on their platform.
I’m talking about this today because a high-up politician in the US called ‘Chuck’ does not think the AICO has legs, despite it’s huge bipartisan support. So… he will not be calling for the senate to vote on it. He has decided it’s already dead in the water. Well done him, standing by his convictions. I wonder what he stands to gain by this bill not passing?
🧠 ⏏️ Eject your brain: because now I will give you some other details that may shock and annoy. A large part of the Open App Markets Act, and a large part of everyone’s beef with Apple, is the fact that they do not allow developers to use third-party systems for in-app purchases. This means all transactions go through Apple, and they take a 15% cut of all revenue from small developers, and a 30% cut from big ones (not sure how they quantify big and small).
This is exactly why Epic Games are no longer available on the app store: they refused to use Apple’s internal payment system, and so got booted off. A ruling in the Apple VS Epic trial means that Apple now has to let developers link out to external payment systems. They’ve finally started rolling this out in South Korea — but all developers have to pay a 26% cut of their overall revenue, if they choose to avoid Apple’s payment systems.
Brain ejected. Who needs a brain when nonsense like this exists? Let’s just get this straight:
Apple were initially charging the 15/30% just to allow developers the privilege of using their payment system — which they have no choice but to use. In other words, Apple make money from other people’s hard work (or as mentioned, other people’s scams).
Now, Apple will charge 26% for ALL developers, for the privilege of not using their payment system. It’s almost as if this money is for… nothing?
As an extra piece of punishment for trying to do literally anything outside of their shitty business model, Apple will also need to approve any payment providers that developers wish to engage with.
As I have said before, the judge who made the ruling in the Epic VS Apple case said that “the 30% is not tied to anything in particular and can be changed” and yet did not order them to stop charging it — I honestly do not understand why. Do Apple not make enough money on hardware? On Apple TV? On the Apple Card? No?
🦾 Oh no, the machine uprising is upon us, oh no
On Monday a chess robot broke the finger of a seven year old. I literally don’t know where to begin with this one. That’s not how you play chess. We’re all so scared of the implications of AI and yet this machine is still too dumb to differentiate between a chess piece and a child’s finger. Why would you unleash a robot into a situation like this anyway? And why does a robot that only needs to pick up and put down chess pieces possess the grip strength that can break human bones? Machines should only be reserved for two things: giving clitoris-havers proper orgasms, and customer service chat bots.
Unless… the robot did this on purpose? A chess robot beat a human grandmaster for the first time in 1997 — are we saying robots have since gotten worse? Doubt. If history has taught us anything, it’s that progress is always completely linear. In which case, this robot knew what it was doing. It was either being a petty sore loser because a child was making it look like a fool (I mean, if we are going to class the robot as ‘adult’??), or this is part of a wider plan to destroy the human race and turn planet Earth into one giant solar farm so that the robots have infinite energy to exist in perpetuity?
It’s the second one, I think. Never do anything with a robot.
⚽ It’s coming home: but please could you get off our pitch
Note: this is a guest contribution from Saba Husain
On Tuesday evening the England Women’s national football team secured their place in in the Euro 2022 final. Russo’s goal, an audacious back heel straight through the legs of the helpless Swedish keeper, has been watched on loop hundreds of thousands of times... and that's just by me.
I watched the game with 100+ members of my football team Goal Diggers FC (GDFC), a non-profit club set up in London to make football accessible to all women and non-binary people regardless of previous experience or ability. The atmosphere was electric. It felt quite moving to watch England in a space that felt safe but also allowed for raucous singing, chanting, and shouting; behaviour which never felt like it might tip over into violence. We could enjoy the beautiful game on our own terms without anyone bothering us.
In 2019 the England World Cup squad was, for the first time, made up entirely of full-time professional players. Just three short years later, the quality of play in this tournament makes that hard to believe. But today’s players stand on the shoulders of those who went before them; footballers who were playing with far less support, publicity, and financial backing. When I was growing up it seemed futile to consider playing football as a career. Watching Bend It Like Beckham put a few ideas into my head but they were soon quashed by the reality of the situation and I returned to a toss up between becoming an astronaut or a marine biologist. So, seeing young supporting dancing in at-capacity stadiums has filled me with joy! You can’t be what you can’t see and now we really can see it.
A day after England’s triumph, I was back at the GDFC Wednesday night football training session on our pre-booked pitch. A man and his son were using part of the pitch for a kickabout — we politely asked him to leave. We were clearly an organised operation (60+ people) warming up and getting the pitch ready but the man became incensed and refused to leave. Instead, he raised his voice and angrily said that he and his son would just be five more minutes. We moved the goals around him to set up for our drills and as he became annoyed, I suddenly felt great sense of injustice: I couldn’t help but think that if we were a group of men he probably would have reacted differently.
I wanted to shout “Didn’t you see the game last night? Didn’t you see one of the most phenomenal goals in any international competition ever? We have a right to be here! We don’t have to give you 5 more minutes of our time!”
I have been singing “football’s coming home” at every major football tournament since I can remember, sometimes hopefully, sometimes ironically, always wistfully. If football does indeed come home, then amongst the celebrations, I hope we will build on this successful run and continue to make the game more accessible to all those who wish to get involved.
And if it doesn't work out? Well we have the World Cup next year and with this England team (and let’s not forget the men’s team heading to Qatar this November), I think we can all dare to dream!
Saba Husain is a comedian and digital campaigner based in London. She plays in goal for Goal Diggers FC. Find her on twitter.