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warzel piece

Brennen Bearnes 2 months ago
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+<h1>Tuesday, July  9, 2019</h1>
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+
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+<h2>still creepy</h2>
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+
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+<markdown>
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+I read a [New York Times opinion piece by Charlie Warzel][nytpiece], about tracking
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+behavior in a mail client called Superhuman -- it embeds tracking pixels in all
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+its sent mail so it can report views back to the sender.  The piece starts off
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+with a succinct and reasonably accurate reading of how this sort of thing
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+usually plays out:
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+
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+    Call it the Five Stages of Privacy Erosion.
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+
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+    Tech Company builds popular product.
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+
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+    Product is exposed in the press for doing something shady behind the scenes.
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+
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+    Tech Company apologizes/clarifies/signals a fix.
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+
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+    Brief phase of collective rejoicing and moving on.
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+
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+    It’s revealed (usually by the same people) that Product was never really fixed.
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+
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+...and then midway through it comes to this disclaimer:
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+
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+    (I want to pause here to offer an email-tracking disclosure and some
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+    clarification. Tracking is a tricky subject. It isn’t inherently nefarious.
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+    This newsletter tracks things like how many times the newsletter email is
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+    opened and what links are clicked, which helps to improve the newsletter.
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+    But like all privacy issues, it’s a matter of transparency and
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+    expectations. When it comes to marketing emails and newsletters, which
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+    often come from corporate entities, there’s often more of an expectation
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+    that open rates might be tracked. In Superhuman’s case, as Davidson notes,
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+    the tracking takes place with every personal email sent, which is more
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+    likely to violate the expectation of privacy.)
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+
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+Which I think demonstrates how fucked we are just about as well as anything.
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+The tracking is creepy, under this model, when you don't expect it from an
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+individual quite as much as you do from a _company_, which has legitimate
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+reasons to horde your data.  Don't you want the newsletter to improve?
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+
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+This is the mode of reasoning that's gotten us where we are now, after decades
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+of principled objection from people with both functioning consciences and a
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+coherent grasp of privacy:  to an ever-ratcheting state of intrusive,
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+unregulated, irremediable surveillance.  Surveillance as a cornerstone of the
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+economy and a baseline expectation of business, publishing, government, and
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+law.
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+
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+I don't mean to pick on Charlie Warzel and if he reads this I hope he doesn't
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+take it as mean-spirited.  I don't disagree with the rest of the column, and
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+including that parenthetical disclosure shows more self-awareness than the
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+majority of editorializing you read about this stuff, hosted as it is on
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+websites with dozens of embedded trackers and ad services.  But!  When a
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+journalist specializing in privacy topics explains that the technology he's
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+calling out as creepy isn't creepy _when it's built into the platform he writes
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+on_, it says something about what understandings are possible and allowed.
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+
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+It's possible to understand that these behaviors _are_ inherently nefarious,
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+but taking that idea seriously, let alone saying so out loud, isn't compatible
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+with keeping a lot of jobs.  You always have to soften the blow, to acquiesce
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+in ways that undermine either your own awareness or your honesty.  You might
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+try to fight it, but in most situations it's like shoveling back the tide with
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+a fork.  I've tried more times than I can count and I've lost pretty much every
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+time, in every way that matters.
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+
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+All the same, that this is an intractable situation for anyone whose livelihood
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+is caught up in it doesn't change that the shady behaviors are shady.  The
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+creepy stuff is still creepy even when a respected media outlet does it for
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+reasons that seem to bolster the media outlet's interests.
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+
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+[nytpiece]: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/09/opinion/email-tracking.html
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+</markdown>

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 <h1>entries by topic: <a href="/topics/dict/">dict</a></h1>
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+<markdown>
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+`dict` is a command-line client for the DICT protocol described by
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+[RFC-2229](http://www.dict.org/rfc2229.txt).
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+
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+It gives you dictionary definitions for words, from various datasets hosted by
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+[dict.org](http://www.dict.org/).  It's great and I use it all the time.
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+
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+<p class="centerpiece"> ❦ </p>
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+
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+</markdown>
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+
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+
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 <table class="tags">
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   <tr>
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     <th>

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+<h1>entries by topic: <a href="/topics/new-york-times/">new-york-times</a></h1>
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+<table class="tags">
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+  <tr>
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+    <th>
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+      <a href="/2019/7/9">2019/7/9</a>
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+    </th>
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+    <td>still creepy</td>
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+  </tr>
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+</table>

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 <table class="tags">
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   <tr>
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     <th>
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+      <a href="/2019/7/9">2019/7/9</a>
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+    </th>
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+    <td>still creepy</td>
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+  </tr>
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+  <tr>
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+    <th>
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       <a href="/2019/6/13">2019/6/13</a>
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     </th>
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     <td>Maciej Cegłowski, the New Wilderness:</td>

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 <table class="tags">
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   <tr>
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     <th>
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+      <a href="/2019/7/9">2019/7/9</a>
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+    </th>
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+    <td>still creepy</td>
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+  </tr>
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+  <tr>
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+    <th>
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       <a href="/2019/6/13">2019/6/13</a>
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     </th>
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     <td>Maciej Cegłowski, the New Wilderness:</td>

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+`dict` is a command-line client for the DICT protocol described by
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+[RFC-2229](http://www.dict.org/rfc2229.txt).
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+
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+It gives you dictionary definitions for words, from various datasets hosted by
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+[dict.org](http://www.dict.org/).  It's great and I use it all the time.

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