Archive for March 29, 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

For Sale: Your Private Browsing History

Jon Brodkin:

The US House of Representatives voted Tuesday to eliminate ISP privacy rules, following the Senate vote to take the same action last week. The legislation to kill the rules now heads to President Donald Trump for his signature or veto.


The rules issued by the FCC last year would have required home Internet and mobile broadband providers to get consumers’ opt-in consent before selling or sharing Web browsing history, app usage history, and other private information with advertisers and other companies. But lawmakers used their authority under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to pass a joint resolution ensuring that the rules “shall have no force or effect” and that the FCC cannot issue similar regulations in the future.


ISPs can track customers’ Web browsing even when they enable their browser’s “private mode,” which does not encrypt Internet traffic. Google, for example, says that Chrome’s incognito mode prevents the Chrome browser itself from saving the sites that you visit, but does not stop ISPs and websites from seeing which websites you’ve visited.

Mitchel Broussard:

Those in support of the original FCC protections argued that ISPs require strict regulations because they represent a much broader scope of access to user data, unlike search engines which only access a snapshot of a user’s browsing data. If a user is unhappy with a site’s data access they can decide to stop using it, the FCC supporters argued, but switching ISPs because of potentially intrusive data mining “is far more difficult.”

David Sparks:

Virtual Private Network services allow you to get on the Internet without the ISP seeing where you are actually going. The VPN company will know but, assuming you use a reputable one, they won’t sell your data. I’ve been using VPNs for years. They’re particularly helpful if you spend a lot of time on the road using WiFi that you don’t control.

Jeff Johnson notes that the privacy rules that are being eliminated had not yet gone into effect. ISPs apparently already have the right to sell our histories. I don’t know whether any have been doing so.

This blog is now available via SSL, and any http links should redirect to https. So this should keep private which posts you are reading. You would need a VPN to keep private that you are accessing this site at all or to keep your IP address out of my server logs. Unfortunately, VPNs slow everything down.

Update (2017-03-29): Karl Bode:

Many people seem to think a VPN provides total, magical protection of your privacy. It doesn’t.

Mike Masnick:

But here’s the real problem: you can’t buy Congress’ internet data. You can’t buy my internet data. You can’t buy your internet data. That’s not how this works. It’s a common misconception. We even saw this in Congress four years ago, where Rep. Louis Gohmert went on a smug but totally ignorant rant, asking why Google won’t sell the government all the data it has on people. As we explained at the time, that’s not how it works*. Advertisers aren’t buying your browsing data, and ISPs and other internet companies aren’t selling your data in a neat little package. It doesn’t help anyone to blatantly misrepresent what’s going on.

When ISPs or online services have your data and “sell” it, it doesn’t mean that you can go to, say, AT&T and offer to buy “all of Louis Gohmert’s browsing history.” Instead, what happens is that these companies collect that data for themselves and then sell targeting.

Russell Brandom:

The Telecommunications Act explicitly prohibits the sharing of “individually identifiable” customer information except under very specific circumstances. It’s much more permissive when it comes to “aggregate” customer information, which is where things get squishier and the FCC rules become more important. We could argue all day about whether a targeted ad is individually identifiable or not, but if you’re paying Verizon to find out which sites Paul Ryan visited last month, that’s pretty clearly individual information, and pretty clearly illegal to sell. If you want to get really clever, the Wiretap Act also makes it illegal to divulge the contents of electronic communications without the parties’ consent, which arguably includes browsing history.

See also: Hacker News.

Update (2017-03-31): See also: Bruce Schneier.

Update (2017-04-04): Juli Clover:

United States President Donald Trump today signed into law a bill that reverses Obama-era broadband privacy rules preventing Internet Service Providers from selling a subscriber's web browsing history and other personal information without permission.

The Facebook Model of Innovation

Nick Heer:

The speedy proliferation of Snapchat Story clones across Facebook’s apps is, I think, one of the most fascinating recent case studies of a feature going from invention to ubiquity. Facebook has four of the most popular apps on any ecosystem — as of writing, Instagram, Messenger, and the Facebook app are all in the top ten most popular free apps in the iOS App Store, with Whatsapp just missing the list at number eleven. And, as of today, all four of those apps have a variation of the Snapchat “Stories” feature shoehorned onto their main screens.


This power has provided Facebook with the luxury of allowing other companies to take the risk of trying new things, and then either embracing the company via an acquisition, or extinguishing them by duplicating their most unique component.

Custom Fonts on iOS

Curtis Clifton:

There’s just one more configuration step before we can start using our custom fonts. We have to tell iOS about the fonts by editing the app’s Info.plist.

Add the UIAppFonts key with an array of strings as the value. Each string should be the relative path to a custom font file in your app bundle.


The name of the font is not necessarily the font’s file name. Instead, it’s the font’s PostScript name. You can find the PostScript name by double clicking the font file to install it on your Mac. Then launch the FontBook app, find the font, and look at its info pane as shown below.

Update (2017-03-29): FontBlaster (via Arthur A. Sabintsev):

Say goodbye to importing custom fonts via property lists as FontBlaster automatically imports and loads all fonts in your app’s NSBundles with one line of code.

Previously: Installing Fonts on iOS.

Update (2017-04-05): Curt Clifton:

With this in place, you can delete the UIAppFonts key and value from your Info.plist. Now whenever you want to change the fonts embedded in your app, it’s as simple as changing the files in the Fonts group of your Xcode project and recompiling.

Update (2020-01-10): Quentin Zervaas:

[It] looks like Xcode now auto-populates the UIAppFonts if you use a custom font in your storyboards. Not sure when this started.

Coding Today vs. the 80s

Andrew Wulf:

Unlike back then when we had little to work with, today we have an embarrassment of riches available for free. The problem is now there is too much information, much of it is of variable quality, often out of date, wrong, or poorly described. First you have to figure out what to ask for, often your Google searches are very indirect as describing your problem in a way that includes the right words is often hit or miss. Then you get 500,000 results; now you have to filter through what you find, trying to answer your question or find an algorithm or idea, and then the fun begins of evaluation. Is this what I need? Is this up to date? Does this make any sense to me, can I understand it? Is it possible to integrate into what I already have? Is this library trustworthy, will it be supported?


Going into work and knowing virtually everything I would be doing that day would be a fun adventure in programming is something I no longer see. Some days at work I get almost no coding done due to all the other stuff (despite coding being what I am supposed to do given that we have way too few people) and I do really miss that “primitive” time.

Review of the Apple TV 2, 7 Years Later

Sam Mallery:

I paid 99 bucks for this thing the year it came out. I just looked at what they sell for today, and people are paying around $40 for for them on eBay. Considering this is an inexpensive video streaming device, it has rather impressive value retention. $40? Maybe I’ll kick this thing out of my house soon. :)


Apple wasn’t shy about trying to push people away from the Apple TV 2 when they abruptly removed the YouTube app from the device in May of 2015. Google had changed their API which broke the app, but, instead of fixing it and sending out an update, Apple just killed the YouTube app on the Apple TV 2. The nearly identical Apple TV 3 got an update and kept the YouTube app. Apple TV 2 owners were left in the lurch.