Behold the recent release of our irregular digest!
Andrey Meshkov, CTO and co-founder of AdGuard, has recently spoken at a big industry event: Ad Blocker Dev Summit 2021. We've published a blog post based on his presentation, give it a read. Besides, you can watch it on YouTube, along with the other videos from the conference.
Preparing this digest we've invented ourselves a challenge: not to mention Facebook (or Meta, of course). There's a feeling that everybody is already a little tired from revelations, scandals, and accusations around the world's largest social network.
There are quite controversial native ads appearing in Telegram, but we ended up deciding it requires a full-fledged article about why they are controversial, what is wrong with them and what is right, and of course what we at AdGuard are going to do about them. So you won't find anything about that in the digest.
Oops, it seems we failed at our challenge already! There will be news about Facebook. Sorry.
"We're shutting down the Face Recognition system on Facebook", claims the company's VP of Artificial Intelligence Jerome Pesenti.
The company promises to delete more than a billion facial recognition templates, or faceprints, of people who have already been recognized.
Facial recognition launched in 2011 lets the social network automatically detect people on photos, tag them, or offer a user to tag themselves. In spite of being an opt-in feature, it often made users feel uneasy when they were tagged on photos they did not know about.
In February this year, Facebook was considering adding face recognition to their smart glasses. The risks and the abuse potential of this decision were quite obvious.
In March Facebook lost a $650-million lawsuit in Illinois because it violated the state's biometric privacy law.
Clearly, amidst the biggest reputation crisis, Meta has decided to do something to please the agitated public. But the public is not pleased enough. For example, nothing has been said about face recognition features in other Meta apps like Instagram or WhatsApp.
Brave, the secure browser, has announced replacing Google's search engine with its own. "Brave Search is built on top of an independent index, and doesn't track users, their searches, or their clicks", the team claims. Developing a search engine demands huge resources and a lot of expertise, so we think it's worth giving Brave's search engine a try.
Meanwhile, the folks at Microsoft know very well how valuable the information about searches and clicks is. The native Windows browser, Edge, is not half bad, but some people stubbornly prefer others and choose them in the Settings as default.
Windows 10 and 11 already ignored these choices when people searched from the Start menu: only the Bing search in Edge could process these requests. There appeared apps like EdgeDeflector, browsers invented some workarounds of their own, and now Microsoft blocks all these gimmicks.
Do they do it because too many people want to avoid their browser and search, or do they do it because not a single user is allowed to leak out of the ecosystem? Both versions don't sound too good.
Back in October Mozilla has injected ads in Firefox search suggestions. "You will also receive new, relevant suggestions from our trusted partners based on what you're searching for", the company had said, and privacy experts reared up. Is the browser going to harvest data and target ads? Later Mozilla called it all a "PR crisis": they had failed to explain, people had failed to understand…
Here is a very detailed analysis of what happened. And we know you want to ask: yes, you can turn this feature off. Go to Firefox Settings > Preferences > Privacy & Security > Address Bar – Firefox Suggest, find "Contextual suggestions" and "Include occasional sponsored suggestions". Turn them both off.
As global as it is, Facebook is still tied to its roots, namely, the English language. One funny revelation from the Facebook Papers: in 2018 the company noticed that fifty percent of Facebook Messenger's total voice traffic had come from Cambodia. The Khmer language turned out to be too complicated to squeeze it into a keyboard of a mobile app. So people in this country just loved voice messages with a passion found in none other.
Facebook even tried to research this phenomenon, "but was only able to find a single Cambodian respondent". But… but… we thought Facebook was good at getting user data…
"The developers of the first Khmer computer keyboard had to accommodate the language's 74 characters, the most of any script in the world. On a Latin keyboard, a user could see all of the alphabet at once, making typing intuitive. But in Khmer, each key hosted two different characters, which required flipping repeatedly between two keyboard layers".
The Arabic language is not that challenging, and it is one of the most used languages on Facebook. Nevertheless, it turned out that Facebook lacked both human moderators and AI algorithms that can differ hate speech, terrorism, and other forbidden activity from normal user communications. For a very unsettled region, might we remind. So if you use Facebook in any language other than English, be ready to have your posts deleted or your account suspended for no reason that you can think of.
This happens again and again and is bound to keep happening till the heat death of the Universe. Yet another browser extension presented itself as an ad blocker that could rid you of YouTube and Facebook ads (they know how to hit a nerve). This yet another extension turned out to be an ad provider.
"It is actually conducting a deceptive ad-injection campaign that causes legitimate URLs to redirect to affiliate links controlled by the extension's developers.
Ad injection is the process of inserting advertisements or links into a web page that doesn't normally host them, allowing the scammers to make money from advertisements or redirect people to affiliate sites to earn commissions".
What can we say? Do not increase the entropy of the Universe, use ad blockers from trustworthy vendors, for example, AdGuard.