Nicolas Magand on the internet

Comments about tech, media, nature, &c.

My name is Nicolas Magand and I live in Paris, France. I work as a social media and engagement editor at the Global Editors Network, a non-profit aimed at promoting innovation and sustainability in the news industry. Here I blog mostly about tech and media, but many other topics can face my enthusiasm.

Filtering by Tag: privacy

Should you cover your PC's webcam? No, unless you still use software from ten years ago

Everybody reading this blog knows I'm a big fan of John Gruber's Daring Fireball. And while I don't always fully agree with him, I am 100% with him on the whole "cover your webcam shennanigans", and I could not have said it better :

I have never understood the mass paranoia over laptop webcams — which have in-use indicator lights, which I’ve seen no evidence can be circumvented on Macs from the last decade — and the complete lack of similar paranoia over microphones, which cannot be blocked by a piece of tape and which have no in-use indicator lights. And I don’t see anyone taping over the cameras on their phones.

Gruber commented on Joanna Stern's column for the Wall Street Journal; a very good article, which has the merits of existing and giving precise, documented answers to this question. But indeed, the whole piece is feeding the paranoia over laptop webcams.

If I had to chose a way to be hacked, between what my open laptop webcam sees, what is displayed on my screen, what the microphone can hear, what words (and passwords) I type on the keyboard, and what websites I visit, I would chose the laptop webcam.

I see more people with a piece of tape on their webcam than using a password manager. I see more people using fishy Chrome extensions with too much access than I see people using a proper 2-factor authentication or keep their devices updated.

In the end it is about feeling safer, and hardware's sense of security (locks on the door, blinds on the windows, piece of tape on the webcam) is much easier to control than software's (a complex and unique password for each app, encrypted messaging, 2-factor authentication, etc.) Why those basic things are not more often taught in schools is beyond me.

Read-later service Instapaper has been shut down for a month, will explain later

Instapaper's website, a month ago, the day the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was implemented in Europe:

Instapaper is temporarily unavailable for residents in Europe as we continue to make changes in light of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect May 25, 2018. We apologize for any inconvenience, and we intend to restore access as soon as possible.

Not only did they give barely any notice to their users, but there is no real explanation whatsoever for this delay. Being owned by Pinterest, I would think that Instapaper would be "better resourced" when it comes to data and user privacy. Same story goes for the Los Angeles Times, still unavailble in Europe.

Using Instapaper a lot myself, I recently sent them an email asking for an update, to know if I should just switch back to Pocket or wait a few extra days before being able to use again my favorite read-later service. They wrote back:

Our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience. I can't give an exact resolution time, but I can say that we're actively working on it, have made good progress, and this continues to be our main focus. We feel we're getting closer and we'll be sharing as much documentation as we can when we're back to clear things up. […]

Again, we're really sorry that we're not able to provide service to EU IPs right now. We are doing everything we can to sort this out as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience and for using Instapaper.

The GDPR regulation was adopted on 14 April 2016 by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, meaning Instapaper had more than two years to prepare for that day.

What are they doing with user data that requires so much time to comply with the regulation? Hopefully we will have an answer one day, and that the service is not on its final hours. As Pinboard's Maciej Ceglowski tweeted when Instapaper became part of Pinterest:

The “we sold to Pinterest but nothing is changing” email is Instapaper’s equivalent of reassuring grandma about her move to a nursing home.

When it comes to data privacy or product longevity, it is never a good sign when a service becomes free for unclear reasons.