How the U.S. Military Buys Location Data from Ordinary Apps –

Joseph Cox:

The most popular app among a group Motherboard analyzed connected to this sort of data sale is a Muslim prayer and Quran app that has more than 98 million downloads worldwide. Others include a Muslim dating app, a popular Craigslist app, an app for following storms, and a “level” app that can be used to help, for example, install shelves in a bedroom.

The focus on Muslims by a US anti-terror organization seems incredibly bigoted, especially when ultra-conservative white American males tend to pose a far bigger threat to our safety than Muslims do.

Bigotry aside, it’s been a bad few days for data privacy. Last week, Apple’s new OS update gave Apple’s own services the ability to sidestep the APIs Apple requires firewalls and VPN software to use, and the same trick could be exploited (easily!) by a bad actor.

The VPN provider I use says they’re looking into it to see if they’re affected. I hope they aren’t, but I bet they are.

Developers also found Big Sur to be phoning home, sending identifiable information about every app you open to Apple’s servers, and the data wasn’t even transmitted securely over HTTPS. Apple claims they’re going to patch that up, but we’ll see.

I was also shocked to see that iMessage is no longer considered secure if you’re using iCloud backup. Apparently that’s old news, but it was new to me. At least we still have Signal.

In the meantime, I’m evaluating Linux-based laptops.

How to Avoid a Surprise Bill for Your Coronavirus Test – The New York Times

Sarah Kliff:

Congress wrote rules in March that aimed to make coronavirus testing free for all Americans. Patients, with or without insurance, have found holes in those new coverage programs. They’ve faced bills that range from a few dollars to over $1,000.

What a sad state of affairs. An explainer like this should not be necessary.

Also, I argue with the phrasing here. Did the patients find these holes? Or did the people profiting off the holes find and exploit them? If the patient found a hole, it’s likely they fell into it like a trapping pit.

Newsom attended French Laundry party with more households than California advises during pandemic –

Alexei Koseff:

State guidelines limit gatherings, defined as “social situations that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place,” to no more than three households. Representatives for Kinney and Newsom declined to specify how many households the diners represented, but did not dispute that it was more than three.

Even with Dems: restrictions for thee but not for me.

See also this dinner being held tonight for new members of the House that Nancy Pelosi said is “safe.”

Update: Dems canceled their in-person dinner.

COVID-19, Day 234

Well, here it is. Election Day. Woke up before my alarm went off and couldn’t go back to sleep. Brain’s been scattered all day. Trouble focusing. Sounds like everyone I know is in the same boat.

Saw that the Dow is way, way up and figured, “Okay, the market’s saying Trump is going to win.” Of course, I have absolutely nothing to back that up except speculation. My thinking goes like this: the markets love Republicans because they deregulate things and let corporations run roughshod over everyone. They fear Democrats because they regulate corporations and attempt to make them pay taxes and not abuse employees or the environment. Maybe the markets know something we don’t? Who knows? Seems about as reliable as polling data.

On the bright side, we’re planning to try to have fun tonight. Snacks galore, the TV set to CNN while we watch the results, good or bad, and explain how this whole thing works to our kids, who are surprisingly interested in the whole ordeal. I refused to buy a bottle of champagne this year, though. In 2016, we drank it in despair, and I’m afraid that planning to celebrate a positive outcome with bubbly would somehow jinx it.

I’m normally not this superstitious.

To kill a few minutes today, I rewrote my posting action for Drafts so that it now supports both AND Twitter. There are checkboxes that let you choose to send your post to one, the other, or both. Sometimes I wanna cross-post, sometimes I don’t, y’know?

I think the thing that’s bothering me most about today is that, even though I know it could be the beginning of a turning point, the problems of the last four years won’t disappear at midnight. The election itself could drag on for weeks, the virus isn’t going away, and we’ve got the Trump regime in power until at least late January. Who knows what kind of trouble they’ll cause during the lame-duck period? What about their supporters, who will either be emboldened or super-pissed?

Kinda wish I could sleep until it’s all settled.

The first female recession: Women in Richmond and beyond are leaving the workforce in record numbers during COVID |

Colleen Curran:

Women account for 52.6% of job losses between February and August, or 5.6 million jobs, according to data released this month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Since February, there are 2.6 million fewer women in the labor force. In September, 617,000 women dropped out of the workforce, in comparison to only 78,000 men.

This is depressing and made even worse by Mark Meadows saying yesterday “we are not going to control the pandemic.” As I’ve said before, this is the future Republicans want: women beholden to men. The pandemic provides a path.

COVID-19, Day 222

For the first time in years, my mind is craving a hobby. I haven’t had one in a long time, and the options I’ve come up with over the last week are overwhelming. Here’s a sampling:

  • Learn to play D&D
  • Figure out how to make a rudimentary rogue-like game with procedurally generated maps
  • Read the stack of comics that has accumulated on my night stand over the last year
  • Learn to play guitar
  • Build a gaming PC
  • Set up a Twitch stream so people can see how bad I am at video games

I’d add martial arts classes to that list, but sadly, the pandemic prevents that.

Related to all of this: I installed Windows on my Mac via Boot Camp so I could play Spelunky 2, and it’s super fun. (This inspired the second bullet above.)

The roadblock I keep running up against is my own impatience. I want to do these things, but I know that most of them will require a time investment before I’m even halfway good at them (especially playing guitar), so it’s hard to convince myself to just pick one and go with it.

Reminds me of this scene from True Detective:

COVID-19, Day 215

We put out our fall decorations yesterday. Some Halloween-related stuff, but most of it is generic fall-type stuff that we keep up through Thanksgiving. It felt somewhat normal!

We had planned to try out an apple orchard this weekend, but word is that the place is super crowded on weekends despite the pandemic, so that’s out. It’s a bummer, but with the US reporting nearly 60,000 new cases yesterday, it feels safer to skip this tradition rather than force it to happen. The kids are bummed, but the house we moved into has a tiny fire pit in the back yard and we have the ingredients for s’mores, so that’ll probably help.

Dealing with virtual school continues to be a mess. I spend at least half an hour per day trying to figure out why Google Classroom won’t let one of our kids into their class meeting. We’ve remedied some of the sharper edges, though, and I’d still rather be doing this than sending them back in-person.

Our oldest is using an old 13" MacBook Pro that I had lying around. It needed a new battery, so I sent it in for service, and now it’s her school computer. It’s better for her than the 8" Android tablet the school issued. I feel guilty for giving her such a leg up technology-wise when I know other kids are struggling to even get internet access at home. At the same time, I don’t want her to struggle or her grades to suffer because (and this actually happened) she has trouble finding the punctuation and shift keys on the virtual Android keyboard.

There was an Apple event this week. I want about a dozen HomePod minis. Tiny iPhone 12 looks neat, too.

A shocking number of women dropped out of the workforce last month – CNN

Anneken Tappe:

About 617,000 women left the workforce in September alone, compared with only 78,000 men, according to government data released Friday. Half of the women who dropped out were in the prime working age of 35-44.

Saw this coming. This, combined with the backward-thinking SCOTUS nominee the GOP put forward, is going to set women back by decades, which is exactly what Republicans want. Barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen taking orders from men–that’s the ideal Republican woman. How depressing.