The High-Ideals Edition Thursday, August 29, 2019

Apple Apologizes For Siri Audio Recordings, Announces Privacy Changes Going Forward, by Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge

Apple has issued a formal apology for its privacy practices of secretly having human contractors listen to recordings of customers talking to its Siri digital assistant to improve the service. “We realize we haven’t been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologize,” Apple’s statement reads.


Per today’s announcement, both the non-optional recording and the subsequent grading policies are now being suspended for good. Apple says it will no longer keep audio recordings from Siri unless a user specifically opts in. And in cases where customers do choose to give Apple their data, only Apple employees will have access (not, it would seem to imply, hired contractors). The company additionally promises that it will work to delete recordings of accidental triggers, which The Guardian’s report claims were the main source of sensitive information.

Angry Podcast Fans’ Weapon Of Choice: A One-star Review, by Ashley Carman, The Verge

Podcast reviews can be easy to game, and Apple Podcasts has become the main target for angry fans interested in taking down a show. Apple’s service is the biggest name in podcasting, and it’s one of the few major platforms that allows listeners to leave public reviews. While hosts abused that feature in the past to beat the system with fake positive reviews, others have used it to inundate hosts they don’t like with a barrage of one-star marks, making the shows look like a bust.

These negative reviews can turn away new listeners, but hosts on the receiving end say the even bigger impact is on themselves. An attack makes them feel deflated and disheartened, and sometimes, they want to give up making their show entirely. “The initial impact of it is crushing,” Drown says. “You work so hard to build up your show and then to see that star number shoot way down. It’s a lot to deal with.”

Apple's Data Shows A Deepening Dependence On China As Trump's Tariffs Loom, by Stephen Nellis, Reuters

But the factories outside China are smaller and, in the case of India and Brazil, Apple only uses them to meet domestic demand. Apple’s contract factories inside China, meanwhile, have added far more locations than outside, with Foxconn alone expanding from 19 locations in 2015 to 29 in 2019 and Pegatron going from eight to 12, according to Apple’s data. The new locations come as Apple has added watches, smart speakers and wireless headphones to its product lineup.

And beyond the contract factories, the rest of Apple’s suppliers - the companies that sell it chips, glass, aluminum casings, cables, circuit boards and much more - became more concentrated in China. Among all supplier locations, 44.9% were in China in 2015, a proportion that rose to 47.6% by 2019, the data showed.


Secure-erasing Your Mac Disk Is No Longer Secure, Apple Says, by Charlie Sorrel, Cult of Mac

So, to sum up: Don’t bother with secure-erasing your Mac disk. Instead, make sure to encrypt it from the very beginning.


Unix At 50: How The OS That Powered Smartphones Started From Failure, by Richard Jensen, Ars Technica

Maybe its pervasiveness has long obscured its origins. But Unix, the operating system that in one derivative or another powers nearly all smartphones sold worldwide, was born 50 years ago from the failure of an ambitious project that involved titans like Bell Labs, GE, and MIT. Largely the brainchild of a few programmers at Bell Labs, the unlikely story of Unix begins with a meeting on the top floor of an otherwise unremarkable annex at the sprawling Bell Labs complex in Murray Hill, New Jersey.

Why Are Products For Older People So Ugly?, by Andy Wright, MIT Technology Review

It’s a familiar tune to engineer Ken Smith, director of the mobility division of the Stanford Center on Longevity. He says one of the biggest mistakes designers make is to assume that around the age of 60 people lose interest in aesthetics and design. This can have dire consequences for products meant to help people with their health. No one wants to stick a golf-ball-size hearing aid the color of chewed gum in their ear, any more than they want to wear a T-shirt that reads “SENIOR CITIZEN.”

Similarly, there’s a common perception that people of a certain age simply can’t or don’t want to learn about new technologies. There is only a kind-of, sort-of, not-really kernel of scientific truth to this. Zelinski, a specialist in neuroscience and cognition, says aging causes changes to the medial temporal lobe—the part of the brain associated with new learning. And your white matter, or myelin, which helps speed the transmission of information from one brain cell to another, is going to get funky, she says. “People just need longer … they need more exposure to something to learn how to use it. It’s not that they completely lose the ability to learn.”