Columns Archives - Stuff


Facebook has deleted a quarter of user total in account clean up but electioneering has moved

Facebook has disabled a staggering 583-million fake accounts in the first quarter of this year as the social network tries to rebuild its shattered reputation from the Cambridge Analytica saga and resultant fallout about how lax its took its users privacy. Over half a billion fake accounts is a eye-watering number by any measure, but even more so because it represents about a quarter of Facebooks ...[Read More]

The Qwerty keyboard is one of those anachronisms of the mechanical age that lives on in the digital era

Why does the Qwerty keyboard have such a strange layout, I was recently asked. It’s one of those anachronisms of the mechanical age that lives on in the digital era. Back in the heyday of this new-fangled technology called typewriters in the 1870s, the race was on to make a new mechanical writing device. One of the biggest problems was that regularly-used keys would jam. These early typewriters us...[Read More]

The inquiry into MultiChoice monopoly is a misguided waste of time when mobile data costs are much more pressing

This week the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (Icasa) is holding hearings into “the subscription television broadcasting sector… to determine whether there are competition issues in the sector, which require action to be taken by the Authority [sic] through the imposition of pro-competitive conditions on relevant licensees”. Let’s decode this double-speak from the Government Ga...[Read More]

Google Duplex is a preview of a future we will either love or fear

If you haven’t seen and heard the jaw-dropping performance of Google’s Duplex natural language virtual assistant that took place at this year’s Google I/O, the first thing that you need to do is watch/listen to the Google Assistant AI system make a call — first to a hair salon and then to a restaurant (where the actual human being is a second-language speaker with a heavy a...[Read More]

Mark Zuckerberg disingenuous about privacy instead of explaining Facebook data collection

What was the most damaging part of Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to US Congress last week? Was it the admission that Facebook uses cookies to track its users as they surf all over the web, even when they are logged out? Was it that Facebook even tracks people who aren’t users? Was it his refusal to name the hotel he stayed in and who he messaged while expecting his 2.2bn users to be okay with such i...[Read More]

Facebook’s 1.2bn strong WhatsApp service likely to be the centre of the next big privacy debacle

There’s a profound irony that one of the people leading the #DeleteFacebook charge is Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp, which was bought by Facebook for $22bn. If you think the amount (of which Acton received $3bn in 2014) was eye-watering, last month’s tweet by Acton – “It is time. #deletefacebook” – must rank as one of the snidest from a former founder. Now with a $7bn fortune, Acton is t...[Read More]

Disinformation, conspiracy theories spread through YouTube, boosted by its algorithms

Forget Reddit. YouTube is the cesspool of the internet. Much has been made in this hand-wringing chapter of discovering how bad social media has become over Reddit, the chat site that is a haven for conspiracy theories and right-wing hatred. And it is bad. So much so that Reddit – which has prided itself on not “interfering” in its crazy readers’ discourse – has shut down numerous boards linked to...[Read More]

As the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupts, Facebook has been hit by string of new data controversies

How safe is Facebook? More specifically, how safe is your data on Facebook? Last week the latest privacy scandal struck the world’s largest social media network when it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, the shadowy conservative data analytics company credited with winning votes for Bexit and Donald Trump, got its hands on 50-million American Facebook users’ data. The social media giant’s was ...[Read More]

Legendary physicist Stephen Hawking was living proof of indomitable spirit

When Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21 in 1963, he was already one of the smartest people on the planet. Despite being given two years to live, Hawking survived for another 55 years and went on to become arguably the greatest mind on our planet. And the greatest example of the power to overcome your circumstances, no matter how cruel. He died last week, aged...[Read More]

10 Mobile app alternatives to Outlook and Gmail

Someone smarter than us once said that email is a “to-do list made for you by other people”. Be that as it may, email is a necessary evil for most of us, but navigating it needn’t be a pain. The vast majority of email users use Microsoft’s Outlook or Google’s Gmail, but that’s no reason to stick to their accompanying mobile apps. Here are some of the best altern...[Read More]

Web’s inventor warns about concentration of power that “control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared”

Online power being consolidated by a few large players has enabled them “to weaponise the web at scale” according to the man who invented it, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Sir Tim, who is founder of the Web Foundation, was marking his creation’s 29th anniversary. “This year marks a milestone in the web’s history: for the first time, we will cross the tipping point when more than half of the world’s populat...[Read More]

Amazon Go has no cashiers, no queues and no fuss – and a bold new vision of commerce

Last month I walked into a lunch food store, helped myself to a meal and a beer, and then walked out without paying. The store was no ordinary shop: it’s potentially the future of shopping. Called Amazon Go, it is run by the American e-commerce giant and is situated opposite its iconic domes at its downtown Seattle headquarters. To get into the store you download the Amazon Go app which displays a...[Read More]

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