90 Miles From Tyranny

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Trade Barriers U.S. Exporters Face And The Wizard Of Oz

Lest American’s doubt that the playing field for international trade is fair they need look no further than our allies – the ones politicians say Trump’s new tariffs shouldn’t apply to. In a moment reminiscent of when Dorothy looked behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz and found he was a sham, the CEO of the world’s largest automobile company Volkswagen recently uncomfortably questioned the wide disparity between import duties imposed on U.S. cars (10 percent) headed to the Europe versus what the U.S. imposes on German cars (2.5 percent). And U.S. made pickup trucks and work vans face 25 percent tariffs! Even while this unexpectedly candid German executive was stating the obvious, the European Union continued rattling its saber and threatened retaliatory duties on U.S. goods to punish America for imposing “unfair” tariffs on steel and aluminum.

The United States has been losing on international trade issues to our competitors for years. To most Americans this is obvious and undoubtedly contributed to Trump’s election. In all but a handful of sectors primarily associated with either Defense or the Internet (whether it be autos, information technology, aviation, semiconductors, electronics, etc., etc., etc.) American business, specifically manufacturing, has systematically lost market share to overseas competition and American workers are worse off in relative terms. Analysts frequently point to the obvious failures of Detroit and the dramatic decline in the domestic auto industry, but are American business executives incompetent in almost every other business sector that competes on the international playing field?

Of course, tariffs and duties are only part of the problem. Non-tariff barriers such as quotas, local content requirements, labeling, inspections, regulatory issues are more difficult to detect and stop than the obvious numerical barriers imposed using taxes and duties but are nonetheless significant barriers to companies wishing to base their operations in America and sell overseas. For example, when countries impose data restrictions (most have) that require information to be stored outside the U.S. that impacts the decisions of where those multibillion dollar data centers are built. Or when companies are forced into joint ventures in order to enter a market where their technologies are transferred and then stolen as has been well documented in China. Because of their insidious nature, non-tariff barriers have become...

Here’s how you access the super creepy data Facebook has on you

Since 2010, Facebook allows you to download an archive file of all your interactions with the network. It’s a 5-click easy process that your grandmother can do (more details below).

Inside the .zip, lies an ‘index.html’ page that acts as a portal to your personal data. Visually, it looks like an ad-free stripped down version of Facebook that’s actually quite relaxing.

As I’m trying to reduce my exposure to social networks, I decided to take a look at this info. By extrapolating the data of a single individual (me), I might be able to better apprehend the capabilities of the beast. In the end, it all comes down to what is tracked and what can be deduced from that.
We all gave up on privacy…

… we just don’t fully realize it.

Everything you expect is there: your profile, statuses, messages, friends, pokes (Tinder’s ancestor), photos, videos, comments, events. All of it in a 500mb zip file.

There’s a lot of material and you could sift it for hours. Most of the content is unsurprising but there are a few notable facts that are worth exploring.
Limitless data storage period

Quite simply, Facebook never deletes anything. Unfriended friends, past relationships, former employers, previous names, address book: you name it.

I created my account Friday, September 14, 2007, at 10:59 am and all my actions have been recorded ever since. I feel that for the first time in history, 10 years of consistent human behavior have been meticulously gathered, stored & analyzed.
Exhaustive photo metadata

Whenever you post a photo to Facebook, it keeps a record of all the data that’s attached to it. That seems quite obvious but I didn’t suspect it was so detailed. Have a look: Camera Maker, Model, Orientation, Exposure, F-Stop, ISO Speed, Focal Length, Latitude, Longitude & Upload IP Address
Abundant log-in & session data points

Every time you open Facebook, the time, location, IP address, browser & device have been recorded. If you’re part of the 1.4B people that use Facebook on a daily basis, they have enough data points to determine your everyday life patterns with great accuracy: home and work address, daily commute, wake up & bedtime, travel duration & destination, etc.
Flawless facial recognition

Apparently, Facebook has 232 examples of what I look like.

How does it know? Well, every time you tag a photo, you’re adding to an enormous, user-driven wealth of knowledge and data. Every day, billions of people are telling an algorithm what a human face looks like, from different angles, at different ages, and in different light conditions.

The result? Facebook allegedly said that its image recognition models could recognize human faces with 98% accuracy & that it could identify a person in one picture out of 800 million in less than five seconds.
Detailed contact list

When you install Facebook’s app on your phone, you give it the right to see your contact list. Once that’s done, Facebook keeps ALL your contacts information forever.

There’s no sneaky move here: the opt-in process on your phone is actually pretty clear about that. But seeing the phone numbers, emails & addresses of everyone you know (or knew) listed on Facebook is a bit disturbing.
Get to know your advertiser

… because he surely knows you.

Facebook main revenue source are ads served by their powerful targeting engine using custom audiences built for advertisers.
Playstation seems to like me a lot.
Apparently, 21 advertisers got access to my Facebook information:

The thing is, Facebook’s been purposely mysterious about what type of information they share with third parties. Despite numerous requests by users throughout the world, their response is systematical:

Advertisers do not give Facebook any users’ contact details. We only get such details in hashed form and they are, in any event, deleted within 48 hours. We are therefore not able to confirm what contact information an advertiser has for a particular user.

But looking at Facebook Business platform provides some details about what info is used in custom audiences targeting: email, phone number, first name, last name, city, state, country, date of birth, age & gender.

So Facebook has a lot of data about you & it shares it with a lot of advertisers: but why should you care?
“Bring the world closer…”

… to ads.

I used to think there was no real drawback in ceding a lot of personal data to a 3rd party. After all, I get a free service that’s pleasant to use and really helpful.

Eventually, I realized that the harm potential really depends on 2 factors: the intentions and means of action of the organization that harvests your data.

Harm potential = money * financial KPI’s — regulatory pressure.

That’s where Facebook gets really frightening: it’s hugely powerful & its only objective is to maximize the time spent & interactions made with its platform (just look at its financial KPI’s).

Don’t be fooled by the “bring the world closer together” motto: if Facebook’s here, it’s only to make money by selling ads. And to do that, they must target — in the most precise manner — the highest possible amount of eyeballs.

The thing is, do we really care?

How to get your data?

Starting with Facebook in 2010 and followed by Google and Twitter in 2011 and 2012, big social networks began allowing their users to download a backup file of everything they’ve ever posted.

To download your Facebook backup, just follow the 3 steps described here. Facebook will send you an email once your backup’s ready (it usually takes less than 10 minutes).

For a more holistic approach, check out PersonalData.io. It’s a web service that‘s helping individuals get a hold of their personal data. They’re doing an awesome job referencing data controllers & providing request templates filled with the correct wording & legal jargon. They then publish the requests & answers online so that everyone can appreciate corporate lawyers’ talent for complexifying exchanges & dodging questions.

Dig deeper

Most facts presented in this article are sourced from...

Morning Mistress

The 90 Miles Mystery Box: Episode #201

You have come across a mystery box. But what is inside? 
It could be literally anything from the serene to the horrific, 
from the beautiful to the repugnant, 
from the mysterious to the familiar.

If you decide to open it, you could be disappointed, 
you could be inspired, you could be appalled. 

This is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. 
You have been warned.

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