Archive for November 8, 2021

Monday, November 8, 2021

Facebook, But Not Meta, Ends Face Recognition

Juli Clover:

Facebook is shutting down its Face Recognition system and will delete the facial data of more than 1 billion of its users, Facebook parent company Meta announced this morning.

People who opted in to Face Recognition will no longer be automatically recognized in photos and videos, and their facial recognition templates will be deleted.

According to Facebook VP of Artificial Intelligence Jerome Pesenti, Facebook is making this change because it needs to weigh the positive use cases for facial recognition against growing societal concerns” as regulators “have yet to provide clear rules.”

Kate Crawford:

So Facebook is deleting one billion facial recognition scans, but it’s keeping DeepFace, the model that is trained on all those faces.

I’m not sure whether this is accurate. To me, it sounded like they were deleting the model and training data but keeping the code, but I haven’t found anything definitive.

Nick Heer:

Pesenti says this will affect over a billion users, or about one-third Facebook’s user base. When it launched in 2010, users were opted into it by default; it took until 2019 for the company to require that users switch it on themselves.

Matt Wille (tweet):

But now, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has walked that promise back a bit. A lot, really.

Meta is not planning to hold back its use of facial recognition technology in its forthcoming metaverse products. Facebook’s new parent company told Recode that the social network’s commitment does not in any way apply to the metaverse. The metaverse will abide by its own rules, thank you very much. In fact, Meta spokesperson Jason Grosse says the company is already experimenting with different ways to bring biometrics into the metaverse equation.


TestFlight for Mac Officially Launches

Juli Clover:

Apple today informed developers that they can invite people to try out early versions of Mac apps prior to release using the TestFlight platform, marking the end of a beta test that’s been ongoing since August.


Update (2022-10-06): Drew McCormack:

Anyone ever used TestFlight for Mac? First time we’ve tried it, and seems like there’s nobody home. Already two days in the beta app review queue. (On iOS, the app was through beta review in about 30 mins)

Anton Sotkov:

We use it. It always takes way longer than iOS, usually one to two days.

Anders Borum:

Apple also set themselves up for extra work by doing TestFlight review on every build and not just the first with a new version number [like on iOS].

Update (2022-10-11): Drew McCormack:

After 6 days waiting in the queue for beta review in the Mac App Store, we are giving up and going back to our off-store testing. Not a great way to endear the Mac App Store to developers.


Yeah, we have started getting those weird rejections too. Last one was “Where is the feature X?” where feature X was a feature we had never heard of.

Update (2022-10-17): Drew McCormack:

Would love to tell you how well TestFlight in the Mac App Store is working for us, but have yet to get a single build through review. Have been leaving each one for a week, but they stay in “Waiting for Review”, at which point I have to move on to the next beta build.

Max Seelemann:

For us the first build in a version takes about a week (last one 4 days), successive ones were a few hours (half day or so). Very annoying still, compared to iOS

A Year of Platformer on Substack

Casey Newton (Hacker News):

When I started Platformer with the mailing list I accumulated while writing my previous newsletter, there were around 24,000 of them. Twelve months later, there are 49,604 people subscribed to Platformer’s free list, and they regularly open this newsletter at a rate that far exceeds in the industry average.


The result is a job that feels more durable, and sustainable, than any other employment I’ve had. In the past, to lose my job might require only a bad quarter in the ad market, the loss of an ally in upper management, or the takeover of my company by some indifferent telecom company. Today, I can really only lose my job if thousands of people decide independently to “fire” me. As a result, I’ve never felt more empowered to cover the issues I find most meaningful: the fraught, unpredictable collisions between big tech platforms and the world around them.


Platformer loses 3-4 percent of its paid customers per month. To grow, it has to replace those customers and then find new ones.


Guidance I had gotten from Substack suggested I might expect 10% or so of my free subscribers to go paid. Given that 24,000 people had been reading me four days a week when I launched — some for three years — I thought that 10% would be a slam dunk. Instead, it was closer to 5%.


Other than the stories I mentioned above, the Discord launch was the single biggest thing I did over the past year to convert paid subscribers.

IAP Fees for Event Services


Last year, to support apps that adapted services from in-person to digital, we temporarily deferred the requirement to offer paid online group event services (one-to-few and one-to-many realtime services) through in-app purchase in accordance with App Store Review Guideline 3.1.1.


As a reminder, new apps and updates offering these realtime one-to-few and one-to-many services must use in-app purchase by December 31, 2021, or they won’t be approved per guideline 3.1.1. Apps offering realtime person-to-person services between two individuals (for example, tutoring students, medical consultations, real estate tours, or fitness training) can continue using purchase methods other than in-app purchase.


Google Wants Fee for Alternate Billing Systems

Abner Li (via Benjamin Mayo):

In late August, South Korea passed a law requiring alternate in-app payment systems in Google Play and the iOS App Store. Google today detailed what steps it will be taking to comply.


Meanwhile, apps that use alternate billing and are distributed via Google Play will still be subject to service fees. That cut will “continue to be based on digital sales on the platform,” but Google will reduce what it takes by 4% in recognition of how “developers will incur costs to support their billing system.”

For example, for the vast majority of developers who pay 15% for transactions through Google Play’s billing system, their service fee for transactions through the alternate billing system would be 11%.

John Gruber:

As Ben Thompson observed on today’s episode of Dithering, for small transactions — like the ones typically offered in games — credit card fees are likely in the 5-6 percent range. So if this flies, Google’s revenue per in-app transaction for apps from the Play Store isn’t going to effectively change at all.

Is it going to fly? Like I’ve said, stock up on popcorn.

Joe Rossignol:

Apple meanwhile has yet to make any changes to App Store billing in South Korea. The company previously said the law “will put users who purchase digital goods from other sources at risk of fraud, undermine their privacy protections, [and] make it difficult to manage their purchases,” while making parental controls less effective.

In October, Apple told the South Korean government that it was “already in compliance with the new law and did not need to change its app store policy,” according to Reuters.


Apple and Google aren’t entitled to a cut of anything that happens on the computer I bought, or the company I built just because it works on computers they made.

Why not your ISP, and your cellular carrier, and your electric company, etc.?


Update (2021-11-12): Michael Love:

One thing to note about Google’s new 11% cut of third party payments is that it seems to be heavily dependent on these payments taking place in-app and through Google’s standard UI; it’s the only way they can reliably determine their commission.

For Apple or Google to introduce a commission like this on web links would be an extremely tall order; they have no way of figuring out what people are spending, and would be relying on developers to accurately track + attribute payments from web links versus other sources.

Update (2021-11-23): Florian Mueller:

Apple’s concerns are all about the practical aspects of collecting its commission--there’s no reason to believe Apple would not want to get paid even on payments made after users click on external links presented by an iOS app.

Anybody dreaming of a “30 percent less” option in connection with external links is barking up the wrong tree. The app tax will be imposed one way or the other. Collection may be more cumbersome, but Apple’s position is that it’s entitled to its commission and that’s what even the Epic Games v. Apple judgment says.

Florian Mueller:

So Google’s reduction would leave a margin for third-party payment processing of only about 2.5% in the best case and 0.5% in the worst case (Amex’s peak rate).

As a result, end users wouldn’t save enough money to even bother to enter payment credentials elsewhere.