Jarvis Johnson explains that big companies like Google and Facebook don’t need to listen in on you via your phone/tablet, because they already collect so much data on you that they can guess what ads might be relevant on that alone. I love the critical thinking aspect to this - it’s easy to oversimplify complex systems, because our brains aren’t good at understanding that many variables, but reality is not required to bend to our beliefs.
It turns out that there’s an industry out there making money by algorithmically mashing up kids videos in ways to manipulate search rankings, without much apparent care about how their content could potentially traumatize some children. This is well worth a read, if only as another piece of evidence that algorithms often do not have human ethics baked in and the unintended effects this can have.
I’ve talked about this before: As web designers, we can’t trust the network. Sure, we have to contend with mobile data “dead zones” and dropped connections as our users move about throughout the day, but there’s a lot more to the network that’s beyond our control.
Here’s a roundup of some of my “favorite” network issue related headlines from the last few years:
- Sky Broadband misclassified the jQuery CDN as a malware site and broke much of the web for their users.
- Comcast admitted to injecting self-promotional advertising into web pages served by their Xfinity routers. (They have also been called out for artificially inflating subscriber bandwidth usage with their own crap.)
- United was recently called out for blocking access to the New York Times on their in-flight Wi-Fi.
- Samsung smart TVs were found to be injecting video ads into video streaming apps.
Some of these issues can be avoided by serving content over HTTPS, but that still won’t enable you to bypass things like firewall blacklists (which led to the jQuery outage on Sky). Your best bet is to design defensively and make sure your users can still accomplish their goals on your site when some resources are missing or markup is altered.
We can’t control what happens to us in this world, we can only control our reaction to it.