Friday Five: Facebook’s festive fight with Apple

Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Facebook attacks Apple for privacy features

There’s not a lot of festive cheer between Facebook and Apple right now, with Facebook taking out full-page ads in three prominent US newspapers to attack Apple’s upcoming privacy feature in iOS that allows users to opt out of letting apps track their activity for advertising purposes — a move that will hurt Facebook.

Of course, Facebook is aware that people won’t feel too sorry for the company having less access to their data, so it’s positioning its ads as standing up for small businesses who also rely on data for personalised ads. It’s just the latest salvo in what is becoming an increasingly acrimonious battle between the two tech giants.

2. Please RT: Twitter restores retweet function

Twitter has said it will restore traditional retweeting functionality after a two-month experiment in which it prompted users to add a comment to a tweet (a quote tweet) if they tried to retweet it. The aim was to “encourage more thoughtful amplification” and limit the spread of misinformation, particularly around November’s US election.

However, Twitter has admitted that the experiment didn’t have the desired effect. Use of quote tweets did increase, but almost half had a single-word affirmation while 70% contained fewer than 25 characters. And there was an overall 20% decrease in sharing as Twitter’s users showed their displeasure at the forced extra step.

3. Hacker breaches Trump’s Twitter defences

A hacker managed to log in to Donald Trump’s Twitter account in the lead up to the US election by successfully guessing his password — the not entirely surprising “MAGA2020!”. Victor Gevers shared screenshots of Trump’s account, but at the time the White House and Twitter denied there was any evidence of a hack.

Now the Dutch police have confirmed Gevers did indeed breach Trump’s rather lax security, but they won’t be punishing the well-respected cyber-security researcher, as he was acting ethically. Earlier this year Gevers also claimed he had hacked in to Trump’s Twitter account in 2016 using the password “yourefired”. I mean, seriously…

4. Amazon wants to make you a custom T-shirt

Amazon has unveiled a new brand called ‘Made for You’ that creates made-to-measure clothes using a virtual body double. All customers need to do is give a few details such as height, weight and skin tone, take a couple of photos of themselves using the 3D body scanner in the app and then personalise the clothes to their taste.

The initial product is a $25 T-shirt, but more garments are in the pipeline. Over the past decade fashion brands have used tech to manufacture customised clothes at affordable prices, but none have been able to scale it up due to cost and lukewarm customer response. Of course, Amazon has a fair bit of money to throw at the idea.

5. The Blob Opera rings in the holiday season

What could be more Christmassy than listening to some dulcet-toned, angel-faced carol singers? Well, how about checking out Google’s latest machine learning experiment, the Blob Opera? (This is a tech email, after all…) The Blob Opera is a chorus of four colourful blobs that serenade you with spine-tingling operatic music.

Four opera singers recorded 16 hours of singing to train the AI model. You can move the blobs around to change the pitch and vowel sound, and they’ll sing what the algorithm ‘thinks’ opera sounds like. Not only that, but they’ll also happily belt out ‘Silent Night’. And on that note, the Friday Five wishes you all a merry Christmas!

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