EU Mobile Operators Want Apple’s iCloud Private Relay Service to Be Outlawed Over Concerns of ‘Digital Sovereignty’

Mobile operators have become locked in a power struggle with Apple after urging regulators to outlaw the iPhone maker’s encryption technology over claims it will undermine “digital sovereignty.” Some of Europe’s biggest mobile operators want the European Commission to stop Apple using “private relay” on the grounds that it will also prevent them from managing their networks.

This is posturing. Digital sovereignty is about data going through EU servers than through other jurisdictions. I can sympathise with that. But this means the solution is for Apple to work with European intermediaries. As it stands, Private Relay is still in beta and Apple, as a matter of policy, doesn’t disclose the intermediaries it works with.

So, for starters, the company may already be working with some European outlet. Or not. But it could. Instead of pushing for that, mobile operators want to ban Private Relay, essentially a souped up VPN service. Makes you wonder why the don’t whine about every other regular VPN service.

A data ‘black hole’: Europol ordered to delete vast store of personal data

The EU’s police agency, Europol, will be forced to delete much of a vast store of personal data that it has been found to have amassed unlawfully by the bloc’s data protection watchdog. The unprecedented finding from the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) targets what privacy experts are calling a “big data ark” containing billions of points of information. Sensitive data in the ark has been drawn from crime reports, hacked from encrypted phone services and sampled from asylum seekers never involved in any crime.

Keeping data extracted by property of individuals never involved in any crime sounds like a plan, no?

The EU home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson appeared to defend Europol. “Law enforcement authorities need the tools, resources and the time to analyse data that is lawfully transmitted to them,” she said. “In Europe, Europol is the platform that supports national police authorities with this herculean task.”

The commission says the legal concerns raised by the EDPS raise “a serious challenge” for Europol’s ability to fulfil its duties. Last year, it proposed sweeping changes to the regulation underpinning Europol’s powers. If made law, the proposals could in effect retrospectively legalise the data cache and preserve its contents as a testing ground for new AI and machine learning tools.

And why exactly should legal concerns not raise a challenge? What is the law there for? To give pats on our backs?

In theory, Europol is subject to tight regulation over what kinds of personal data it can store and for how long. Incoming records are meant to be strictly categorised and only processed or retained when they have potential relevance to high-value work such as counter-terrorism. But the full contents of what it holds are unknown, in part because of the haphazard way that EDPS found Europol to be treating data.

In theory. Reality differs and Europol isn’t even sure what kind of data it holds. Which always bodes well for an agency’s pledge to handle data as required by law, law said agency is there to enforce, not ignore.

The struggle with EDPS over data storage is the latest evidence of Europol favouring technosolutions to security concerns over privacy rights. Europol’s boss, previously Belgium’s top cop, co-wrote an op-ed in July 2021 which argued that the needs of law enforcement agencies to extract evidence from smartphones should trump privacy considerations. The article argues for a legal right to the keys to all encryption services.

No mention was made of Pegasus spyware revelations that showed that many governments, including some in Europe, were actively attempting to intercept the communications of human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers for whom encryption offers their only protection.

I added the emphasis there. This cop logic is exactly why we have laws.

Lawyers from Germany, France, Sweden, Ireland, the UK, Norway and the Netherlands, all representing clients caught up in the aftermath, met in Utrecht in November 2021. They found that cases were being built across Europe based on evidence of which authorities were unwilling to reveal the provenance. “Investigators and prosecutors were hiding or deforming the facts,” said the German attorney Christian Lödden. “We all agree that these are not the best people in the world, but what are we ready to sacrifice in order to convict one more person?”

Imaginary exchange:

  • How did you get this?
  • No.

And you know someone’s overreaching when a bunch of lawyers representing criminals are shocked and at the same time admitting their clients are despicable.

French lawyer Robin Binsard is convinced that the whole operation amounts to mass surveillance. He said: “Dismantling a whole communication system is like the police searching all the apartments in a block to find the proof of a crime: it violates privacy and it’s simply illegal.”

But if privacy considerations are ignored, illegality is just a feature not a bug at cops’ hands.

Xbox players are fed up with forced crossplay against PC gamers

Games like Call of Duty: Warzone and Halo Infinite force Xbox players to match against PC gamers in a variety of playlists. You don’t have to look very far to see why people are angry about it. “Now that cheating in Halo is confirmed on PC, can we have to option to opt out of cross-play?” asked one Reddit post in November, just weeks after the multiplayer version of Halo Infinite launched.

The debate used to be about each control setup’s difference in accuracy and performance. But, as it turns out, cheating on the PC side is what sets people off and I hardly call that a surprise.

Not that the debate has dissipated it. It’s just not at the forefront when cheating comes into play.

Microsoft’s decision to force crossplay in its own Halo Infinite title runs against previous commitments from the company’s head of Xbox. “I’ll never force somebody in our games whose playing with a controller or a mouse and keyboard to play against somebody with a different control scheme,” said Xbox chief Phil Spencer in an interview with Gamespot in 2016. “Mouse and keyboard rotation speed is faster than controller. We know that, you’ll lose.”

Oops?

Google’s Alleged Scheme to Corner the Online Ad Market

Google utterly dominates every link in the chain between advertiser and audience. It owns the biggest buyer platform, the biggest ad exchange, and the biggest publisher platform. So when you see an ad on a website, it’s a good bet that the advertiser used Google to place it, Google’s exchange submitted it to the site, and the site used Google to make the space available. Google, in other words, runs the auction while representing both the buyers and sellers in that auction.

Name one industry where that’s not illegal.

Blockchain-based systems are not what they say they are

One extremely common phenomenon when discussing issues surrounding blockchain-based technologies is that proponents will often switch between discussing the theoretical implementations of these ecosystems and discussing the ecosystems we have today as it suits their argument.

It’s all a bit muddy and nobody really knows where we’ll end up as it’s too early but this has been my experience as well. When you highlight a flaw, it’s all about the potential. Even assuming all that potential comes to bear, we still have to deal with the here and now and also come up with the way for said potential to… come to bear.

Unit sales are only one factor in the sequel equation | Opinion

The point here is that two games with very similar sales numbers — like Days Gone and Ghost of Tsushima, allegedly — could have dramatically different actual revenue and player engagement numbers, especially if those games have had very different post-launch histories in terms of price discounting or availability on a subscription service.

This is the most straightforward commercial logic behind why a game that has sold millions of copies might not be considered viable as a franchise or deserving of a sequel — that despite its unit sales numbers, it simply might not have been much of a commercial success. There might have been too much investment up-front for even large unit sales numbers to deliver a decent return; the unit sales themselves may have generated far less actual revenue than hoped for; or some combination of those factors may have simply made the game into a commercial failure despite being played by millions of people.

In talking over this with different people and on the Vertical Slice podcast (it’s in Greek, mind you) is that people, Ross included apparently, that a numbers means the exact same thing no matter how we end up to it. This might be true in maths, but sales is a nasty beast and this isn’t even the reason why.

Side rumble: To sales people that make a killing out there. You’re amazing. Also, I hate you. I’m a multitasker.

A publisher will be looking for whatever grounds it can find to greenlight a sequel or spawn a franchise, not the contrary — and that goes double for a platform holder like Sony with an insatiable appetite for prestige exclusive franchises. When the decision comes down against a sequel or other continuation despite apparently strong unit sales, it’s important to think about what other factors may have weighed in that decision; after all, while publishers don’t always make the right choices for their IP, the error is almost always on the side of over-milking a tired franchise, not ignoring one that still has major commercial potential and an enthusiastic fanbase.

Also this. No one takes a risk with new IP just to drive into the ground at the first chance.

And a little parting gift so that we can all feel growing older, in real time.