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Scott Ertz EU fines TikTok $368 million for violating child privacy regulations
TikTok has often found itself in hot water - sometimes with consumers and sometimes with governments. It seems that nearly every major government in the world has taken an interest in the Chinese-owned company and its practices. Some are interested in the way the algorithm surfaces content, while others are interested in how they store data. The latter is what has led the EU, through Ireland's Data Protection Commission, to fine TikTok $368 million over the handling of children's privacy and data handling.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">How TikTok treated kids[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
The EU cites several data practices in its fine of TikTok. In particular, they took issue with the way TikTok treated the data and privacy of children using its platform. The most notable issue was the default settings for new accounts of children. When creating a new account whose age was under 18, certain rules are supposed to be followed, yet TikTok didn't seem to be too concerned with those rules.

For example, when a new kid's account was created, the default setting was for all posts and communications to be public. This meant that anyone on the service had the ability to watch and comment on a video from a minor. Obviously, this created a major privacy issue, as people with a variety of nefarious intentions had the ability to communicate with these children. Of course, those settings could be changed, but that shouldn't be required for children to know and understand.

Another claim involves the "family pairing" feature. This feature allows parents to be able to manage the settings of their kids' apps. One of the settings that was able to be changed was enabling direct communication. This meant that parents could turn on the ability for outsiders to comment on videos and message their kids without the kid's permission.

TikTok, of course, has taken issue with the finding and the fine. They claim that the file comes well after these issues have been resolved. New children's accounts now default to private, as do their posts. Users under 16 don't have the ability to use direct messaging at all anymore. In fact, they claim these issues were resolved in 2021 before the EU's investigation even began.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Previous run-ins with the law[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
This is not the first time TikTok has been fined over child privacy concerns. The UK fined the company $15.7 million over the privacy of children and their data in April 2023. In 2019, the US Federal Trade Commission also fined the company $5.7 million for violations of the country's Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The FTC fines also came after the actual issues were publicly resolved. In fact, the COPPA violations weren't technically the fault of TikTok, but of Musical.ly, the platform's direct predecessor. But because it was the same company - ByteDance - the violations were still valid for prosecution or fines. In particular, the issues were also around the public nature of new accounts and the inability to make private your username and real name, even if your account was made private.
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Scott Ertz Microsoft allows another insulting AI-generated article on Start
We know that AI-generated content is often garbage. The content is often garbled and incorrect, with boilerplate text and details of unrelated events. But an interesting new trend has emerged in recent weeks - purely insulting articles. These articles are beginning to find their way onto mainstream websites - particularly Microsoft Start (MSN News). This includes this week's article calling a former NBA player "useless" for having the audacity to die.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">AI-generated content[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
As Avram has said many times, AI isn't really intelligence at all. He detailed this concept this week in an article entitled AI Lie: Machines Don't Learn Like Humans (And Don't Have the Right To). In essence, AI simply ingests information and remixes it like a wedding DJ - that is to say not well.

The system simply places what it believes to be the next most likely word in the context of its predecessors. That likelihood can be based on content from the internet, things you have previously typed, or based on books and other media. But, if the context gets lost, or the context is never quite understood, the output can be chaotic or, in some cases, outright insulting.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">The insulting trend of AI[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
From time to time, and seemingly more frequently, the remixing is more like that of a talent show than even a wedding DJ. This has been brought to light more and more through the Microsoft Start website and the other platforms that are fed by it. This includes the Windows Widgets, Edge start page, MSN News, and more.

Recently, an article showed up that was clearly written by AI and not looked at by humans at all. The article was a list of places in Ottawa that you should visit if you are headed to the area. The article had a series of good suggestions, such as the National War Memorial and Central Experimental Farm. However, it also made a big swing and a miss in recommending that people should visit the Ottawa Food Bank and "consider going into it on an empty stomach."

As if that's not bad enough, another article showed up this week that seemed to be trying to one-up the previous mistake. The article was entitled Brandon Hunter useless at 42. Articles about professional athletes being useless are not uncommon in editorial content, usually commenting on the degradation of their gameplay over the years. However, this was not an editorial and it was not intended to comment of the player's abilities. Instead, it was an obituary.

Brandon Hunter had died suddenly during a hot yoga session. He was said to be in good health and it was merely a fluke. While sites like ESPN addressed the story accurately and respectfully, the MSN partner went a different direction. The AI article came from a publication called Race Track and was all over the place. In addition to the insulting headline, it included baffling statements like,

Former NBA participant Brandon Hunter, who beforehand performed for the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, has handed away on the age of 42

Throughout his NBA profession, he performed in 67 video games over two seasons and achieved a career-high of 17 factors in a recreation in opposition to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2004.

Even if these pieces were accurate, they don't make any sense. He may have played in 67 video games (I know nothing about his home gaming habits) but it's not likely relevant for a former NBA player. He also hasn't "handed away" as that phrase means nothing. Officially, at no point did the obituary mention that he was dead. It did, however, call him useless.

Now, these issues are not entirely Microsoft's fault. For their part, the biggest issue they have is in the decision process for its partner program. This is because none of the content is written or published by Microsoft. Instead, they are published by partners whose content is displayed through the Microsoft Start and MSN News portals. So, they need to be better at choosing who does and does not appear there.

But, for these sites, more care needs to be taken if they want to use AI-generated content. Sure, they don't get the gains of productivity by not having to have humans involved, but on the other hand, they don't look like a group of insensitive sociopaths. It's a difficult decision to make.
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Scott Ertz Unity changes fee structure & entire industry revolts against platform
It has been an interesting few weeks for the video game industry. Starfield released with ironic issues rendering a field of stars. The head of Fortnite has left Epic Games. But the one action that happened that has captivated the entirety of the industry is a very weird announcement from Unity Technologies that completely changes the way developers may use the gaming engine and how they will pay for its usage.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">What is Unity?[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
Unity is a video game engine that is used to create games for multiple platforms, including PC, console, and mobile. It offers a comprehensive suite of tools and features that allow developers to design creative experiences for gamers. It allows developers to produce high-quality 3D graphics, create sophisticated AI algorithms, add realistic physics and animation systems, and develop multiplayer online games.

Unity also features an intuitive user interface and powerful scripting capabilities, allowing developers to quickly prototype and refine their game ideas. Unity is used by many professional studios and independent developers alike, making it a great choice for any game development project. Thanks to its flexibility and scalability, Unity gives developers the freedom to create unique and immersive gaming experiences.

Many popular games have been developed using the Unity engine, including Hearthstone, Cuphead, and even Pokémon GO. Unity also offers powerful tools for creating virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications, making it an ideal choice for developers looking to explore these technologies. With its vast library of assets, Unity makes game development easier than ever before.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">How has Unity changed?[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
Previously, users of the Unity Personal subscription could use the platform for free for their small, single-developer projects. Unity Pro subscribers pay $399 per seat, meaning each developer on the project will pay that licensing fee. Unity Enterprise and Unity Industry use different licensing models for access to the tools.

Starting January 1, 2024, however, Unity is adding what they call the Unity Runtime Fee, an additional charge on top of your licensing fee if you are on the Personal or Pro licensing. This Runtime Fee will be charged to any project that has 200,000 installs of their project and $200,000 in revenue for a 12 month period. This fee will be 20 cents per install, meaning if you only barely meet the criteria, you'll be giving $40,000 of your $200,000 revenue over to Unity.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">The Unity of developers and gamers[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
The platform's name certainly manifest its reality with this decision. Everyone in the industry, from developers to gamers, united against Unity's decision. For developers and publishers, especially small teams, this means that developing games with Unity is likely not financially feasible anymore. If you have to give up 20 cents per install, regardless of the value of that install, you're likely going to lose a ton of money.

Take, for example, those mobile games you've installed and played for 10 minutes and never touched again. Even though the game was never played, and therefore revenue was never generated (even ad-based revenue), the developer would be on the hook for 20 cents because you installed the game and never used it. This is going to make the cost of developing and maintaining a game more expensive, and we know what that means.

Gamers are going to feel the burden of the increase in development and maintenance costs. Either the cost of a game is going to go up, for those games that cost to purchase. For others, whose install cost is free, the in-game purchases are likely to go up in cost to make up for the cost of zero usage installs. This is why developers and gamers have united against Unity this week.

Brandon Sheffield of Necrosoft, wrote an article entitled The Death of Unity, in which he said,

My game company Necrosoft has used Unity for every commercial project it has ever made. But now I can say, unequivocally, if you're starting a new game project, do not use Unity. If you started a project 4 months ago, it's worth switching to something else. Unity is quite simply not a company to be trusted.

Alex Nichiporchik, CEO of TinyBuild, echoed this feeling, posting on social media,

There's not a single dev out there that would look at the announcement and think it was a good idea. We often factor in engine fees when making decisions on projects, and at face value the math goes towards Unreal Engine if we factor in free installs of demos, free to try versions on iOS, and playtests on Steam. I find it hard to believe this will actually go through.

These are only some of the many game developers that have committed to moving away from Unity. This gives other game engines, such as Epic Games' Unreal Engine, an opportunity to win over these smaller developers. In 2020, the company changed its licensing model making it free until a game hit a $1 million threshold and then had a 5% license fee. This also included a free licensing model for the tools. Being able to play into this change, versus the unexpected price increase of Unity, could bring developers over to Unreal.
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Scott Ertz Las Vegas hackers using basic tactics to bring city to a standstill
Over the past few weeks, a seemingly powerful hacking scheme has been going on in the city of Las Vegas. Casinos from both Caesar's Entertainment and MGM have been brought to a standstill. And, while it would appear to be a sophisticated attack by a group of professionals, the reality is far less impressive. The team behind the attacks is surprisingly young and uses standard social engineering to achieve their goals.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">What's happening in Vegas?[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
The city of Las Vegas has been brought to its knees thanks to a series of hacking and ransomware attacks on the major casino groups. Both MGM and Caesar's Entertainment have seen attacks that have slowed or entirely disabled systems across the facility. These issues have affected systems from the check-in and check-out systems through the slot machines.

A walk through one of these hotels might make you think you're not in Las Vegas at all. The sounds of the machines are gone, as they have been completely disabled, most with blank error screens. Checking into a room requires paper processes and physical keys because even the keycard system has failed. Even ATMs have failed, leaving people without cash when they cannot pay with a card, also due to system shutdowns.

Caesar's, whose attack happened several weeks ago, addressed the issue in the worst possible way: by paying a ransom. The group behind the attack, Scattered Spider, had demanded $30 million in order to restore the operations of the organization. While the company paid a ransom, it was not the $30 million demanded. Instead, they paid somewhere around half and were back up and running. MGM seems to have not paid the ransom but fought the attack technologically.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Who is Scattered Spider?[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
While the group has managed to cripple a pair of multi-billion-dollar corporations within Las Vegas, the group itself is not a sophisticated team. In fact, the group ranges in age from 19 to 22, meaning there is not a ton of experience. However, in their time together, the group has managed to become one of the biggest threat actors in the industry. So, how did they manage to get into some of the most protected systems in business? Simple social engineering at the right place.

In the case of Caesar's, the group targeted their IT provider, a company outside of the organization. This gave the hacker group the ability to jump from the IT company into the Caesar's network. This is how they managed to shut down the company's systems.

However, in the case of MGM, it was a simple phone call and some basic social engineering that gave the attackers the ability to take control of MGM's systems. Combining this data gathering method with ALPHV, a malware subscription service, was all that was needed. ALPHV found an employee on LinkedIn, called the Help Desk as that employee, and was given system access. It was really as simple as that.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">What is social engineering?[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
Social engineering is a form of attack that relies on exploiting people's natural tendency to trust. Through manipulative tactics, attackers can gain access to information or resources they would otherwise have been unable to get. Social engineering poses a serious threat to organizations and individuals alike, as it is difficult for even the most advanced security systems to detect or prevent. The best defense against social engineering attacks is educating employees about how to identify and respond to these threats.

ALPHV's successful attack was an example of social engineering in action, as they were able to gain access to the system simply by pretending to be someone else. Companies should take steps to ensure that their systems are secure against such attacks, including implementing strict password policies and regularly educating employees on the dangers of social engineering.
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Scott Ertz Preservation vs Copyright: Sony issues strikes against TV Museum
There is a fine line between what does and doesn't fall under fair use. That line came into clear view this week as the Museum of Classic Chicago TV received a series of copyright strikes from Sony Pictures Entertainment. The strikes revolve around episodes of Bewitched from the 1960s that had been posted to YouTube under the concept of preservation. The strikes would have terminated the channel had SPE followed through on the threat, but backed down when Chief Curator Rick Klein removed the content.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">What is the Museum of Classic Chicago TV?[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
The Museum of Classic Chicago TV (MCCTV) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and promote the rich legacy of classic television programming in Chicago. Founded by former journalist Rick Klein, MCCTV was created to act as an archive and research center dedicated to preserving and studying the works of pioneering television creators in Chicago. The collection includes rare footage, interviews, and clips from various eras of Chicago television, including both live-action and animation programming.

In addition to the organization's website, they have also been uploading content to YouTube. They have a dedicated channel that includes classic TV commercials, special features, and more. Through these videos and other materials, MCCTV aims to educate the public about Chicago's classic television heritage. The organization has also been actively involved in the community, hosting events like screenings of classic shows, talks with industry professionals, and more.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">The Sony confrontation[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
This week, the Museum received a series of strikes for some of the content they had posted to YouTube. In particular, these copyright strikes were from Sony regarding episodes of Bewitched which had been posted to the organization's YouTube channel. These strikes were enough for the channel to be shut down - that can be done at 3 copyright strikes.

Klein tried to reach out to Sony Pictures Entertainment in order to try to resolve the issue. If the channel were to remove the videos, the content owner would have the option to revoke the strikes. This would be like the interaction never happened - no more strikes, no more threat of channel shutdown. However, SPE seemed to be unreachable, likely due to its size.

This is not the first time the channel has run afoul of copyright holders. In the past, owners have issued 7 day warnings rather than straight out strikes. This is the normal process - it's what we do, as well. With Sony, however, they went right to the hardball tactics, and seemed to leave no room for negotiation. This would mean that the YouTube channel dedicated to preservation would have been deleted and no future channels would be allowed to be created in its place.

Fortunately, thanks to content published online, SPE reached out and revoked the strikes after the channel removed the offending content. The channel is safe - for now. This is because a lot of the content being "preserved" by the museum is still under copyright, meaning they have no legal right or ability to post it on their website or YouTube.

The public interest for preserving the content is likely high, and that's what Fair Use is intended to balance. However, Fair Use does not allow for the use of a full piece of copyrighted content, no matter the purpose. So, under no real circumstances, is what the Museum doing considered Fair Use. Therefore, it is likely that more copyright holders will come for the channel, effectively bringing it down.
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