Context in the URL.

If WeChat is not sold to a US company by September 15th, it’ll be banned in the US. And, well, September 15th is nearly upon us…

Thoughts?

@michel
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91Y

On one hand WeChat is a privacy nightmare (it refuses to run until you grant it all the permissions it want - reading your contacts, your phone logs etc.). I refuse to run it unless jailed in a fake work profile with the Island app.

On the other hand… the way it’s banned also smacks of tech protectionism. I’d rather have Google (and Apple) be required to require that apps work when denied permissions, and violating apps get removed temporarily until they fix that issue. Heck, make it stronger, apps that engage in dark anti-patterns like asking you if you want to upload contacts everytime you reinstall (hello Facebook Messenger) should also be banned.

@ster
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-11Y

I’m with you but I hate the CCP at least as much as big tech in the west so I’m happy for anything that hurts them.

@michel
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21Y

On balance I’m fine with them being banned too, yup. Same as TikTok. The Citizen Lab has run many investigations into Internet surveillance in China that it boggles the mind how anyone outside China would want to use these apps (except for when they have to deal with people living there). Then again… most of the rest of the world use Facebook-owned apps, sigh.

https://citizenlab.ca/

@ster
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-51Y

I absolutely detest Facebook but at least in the US you theoretically get to choose who surveils you I guess? In practice not so much as they have a monopoly. But I think the Chinese economic and political model is far more dangerous to individual rights than the US.

@michel
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11Y

Yeah, the choice is theoretical. Agreed that the Chinese model is more dangerous, but the US needs stronger regulation to control what tech companies can do with our data. I like one of the ideas suggested in The Social Dilemma that data hoarders get taxed on how much data they collect, as an incentive for them to get by with less.

I would use Messenger (either Lite or web, so no ads) to talk to people who are only on it but I draw the line at using Facebook Pay for sending or receiving money (unless it’s to a fellow Facebook employee). If you’ve seen how bad Facebook’s customer service is it’s obvious that end users are not our real customers – so using us for financial transactions is madness.

@ster
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21Y

Regulation won’t fix this problem. Regulation fixes details. We are talking about a system that was designed from the ground up to exploit people for their money and their data. The only way to approach this is to have the public take free software seriously, and not fund or support companies which have power structures that care only about profit. We need non-profits and transparent worker co-operatives.

@michel
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11Y

I’m in complete agreement there. We should try pushing on both fronts - build the replacement from the ground up, but anything that makes it a bit harder for attention economy platforms to maintain the status quo would help too.

@ster
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11Y

Furthermore the companies are the ones who really have the power in the west. Regulation to them is practically just guidelines that they choose to follow if they wish, and manipulate and lobby if they don’t feel like it.

@gottfried
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@ster
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21Y

I would argue that while western governments and their militaries are certainly the most powerful in the world, they are held accountable to at least some extent by the political system. China and Russia’s military have no accountability and no consequences to any of their actions, so they post a much greater threat.

@gottfried
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@ster
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11Y

The government certainly does serve the corporations no doubt about that. But there is still some accountability, due to a little more transparancy and freedom of press. I’m not defending the extremely corrupt system we have.

@gottfried
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@michel
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11Y

Make it progressive perhaps. Make it a multiple of userbase * data per user * number of privacy antipattern.

Facebook and Google **would*be affected if the fines amount to billions per year instead of haphazardly every decade or so

@gottfried
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@michel
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21Y

ah, any source for Google’s OKR? 8 bytes per user seems overly ambitious.

I guess we also have to consider how data is tied to the use cases that the user intended. e.g. Facebook misusing 2FA phone numbers for other purposes should have been fined under any decent privacy framework.

@gottfried
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@michel
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01Y

My best bet right now is for EU regulations like GDPR creating a space for service providers selling paid hosting for open-source software that replace proprietary US tech.

e.g. Nextcloud hosting to replace Dropbox / Google {Drive, Contacts, Calendar}; mailbox.org / migadu / posteo / protonmail to replace Gmail, Mastodon/Pleroma to replace Twitter; Lemmy to replace Reddit…

just gradually ramp up the friction for using privacy-invasive US tech for EU businesses and consumers (it might already be illegal for EU businesses to store their data in the US depending on how you interpret that recent ECJ ruling) … it won’t happen fast since the US sees any immediate curtailing of its tech companies as a trade war.

@gottfried
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@michel
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11Y

This is all great for the percentage of people who can reasonably migrate to these systems, but I have a hard time imagining the information technology platforms of society at large adopting these systems …

Agreed - I think we need more tech-savvy people to adapt these systems and gradually improve them to the point that they are more accessible to the average person.

It’s not someting that free software folks are historically good at, so this definitely would not be an easy goal to achieve…

There are claims that regulations like GDPR disadvantages smaller players and actually help Facebook and Google, but it’s early days still – and maybe it makes it harder to compete with FB and Google on their own turf, but that’s a red herring and we should incubate business models that are more privacy-friendly to begin with?

@AgreeableLandscape
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11Y

An interesting argument I’ve heard is that if you’re an average American with no connections to China, being spied on by China is less likely to affect you personally than being spied on by the US. Something to think about.

@ster
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41Y

No offense, this is an extremely flawed argument. A common argument that I hear given for why surveillance is okay is “if you’re a good person, you’ve got nothing to hide”. But it really shouldn’t matter how much the actual act of surveillance affects you directly. Facebook, the NSA and CCP aren’t going to blackmail you with compromising images or whatever anyway. It’s not about the embarrassment. It’s about power. We live in the information age, where information is everything, and information is everywhere. Companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon etc. make literally billions off the information that they have. And with this money comes more power. Information that they use to control people through advertising. And of course the information the NSA has gives them far more power than any government agency has right to obtain and use. It doesn’t need to be proven that China’s government uses the information it gets from surveillance in the “west” to prevent any outside challenge on their authoritarian, genocidal regime. Russia’s government has influenced elections and referendums in the US and UK as well as starting all sorts of conspiracy theories that divert the public’s attention away from the real villains: those in power.

@AgreeableLandscape
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1Y

Are we even sure Trump even can ban stuff like this? I have heard mixed information about what the president’s actual authorities are.

From a privacy perspective, WeChat is terrible. However, it’s clear that the actual reason for banning is political and economic (the US wants to control all the social media), so I have a hard time fully supporting it.

@gottfried
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@kiwified_lemon
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21Y

For all its privacy problems, there is nothing like it made by a US company. With WeChat, you can make payments, transfer money, buy tickets, etc. It’s pretty amazing someone can scan a QR code on their phone to pay for most things, including riding the bus or shopping at a local market.

It would be great if there was an open source alternative that allowed for the add-ons and flexibility that WeChat does. Unfortunately, they appear to be taking the tired “security through obscurity” approach, and using fingerprints such as location to verify users’ actions, which doesn’t look great for privacy or security.

Tire
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