Trump Is Not Texting You

What should have been a routine, required national test of the Wireless Emergency Alerts system has become a crucible for public distrust.

At 2:18 p.m. et today, your smartphone probably buzzed and shrieked before displaying a notice that resembled a text message. This was the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Federal Communications Commission’s test of the Wireless Emergency Alerts system (WEA). A test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), which sends emergency messages to radio and television, followed two minutes later. Both… read more

Elon Musk’s Fait Accompli

Musk and Tesla have settled the SEC’s securities fraud lawsuit. The outcome feels like the end of an era for Musk.

Two days after the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Elon Musk for securities fraud related to misleading tweets about Tesla, Musk and Tesla have reached an agreement with the SEC. The settlement allows Musk to stay on as CEO, but requires him to relinquish the role of Chairman of the Board, and not to seek that post again for three… read more

Elon Musk Is His Own Worst Enemy

The SEC’s suit against the Tesla CEO is the latest sign that he can’t separate his company’s performance from his vision for the future.

Elon Musk is a believer. In space travel, in clean energy, in massive engineering solutions to human problems. So the naysayers who don’t believe in the future of Tesla—which has struggled with production, labor, and debt issues—have always bugged him. On August 7, he announced a possible solution: Withdrawing from the public market and the scrutiny it brings. “Am considering… read more

Another Day, Another Facebook Problem

Facebook has identified, and fixed, an exploit that allowed attackers to gain control of user accounts. These failures are so common and so widespread, it’s becoming hard to even notice them.

More bad news: Facebook has announced that a security exploit allowed attackers to gain control of at least 50 million user accounts. According to the company, the exploit impacted a feature that lets users see what their profile looks like to another user. In this case, the breach doesn’t appear to involve extracting data from servers. Instead, the defect—introduced by… read more

The New iPhones Are Big So You Won’t Put Them Down

Apple’s latest designs mark the end of casual, one-handed smartphone use. Instead, the device is meant to occupy more of your attention, more of the time.

“Big news,” Apple’s website reads today, in text set over a photo of the new smartphone models the company just announced. Two big iPhones display what look like gaseous planets. Big ones, like Jupiter, but maybe bigger than that, even. These phones are big. Big money, for one thing—almost $1,500 for the top-of-the-line. But more than that, big screens. The… read more

Brands Are Not Our Friends

Comcast sent me 10 pizzas. This isn’t nice; it’s manipulative.

I didn’t realize how seriously companies take social media until last year, when I opened my front door and saw a delivery guy holding a stack of pizza boxes up to his chin. Comcast had recently started advertising mobile-phone service where I live. Given that Comcast and AT&T were already the only local choices for broadband and cable, the move felt… read more

Amazon Is Invading Your Home With Micro-Convenience

The company’s new line of voice-automated products, including a wall clock and a microwave, could help it amass an enormous database of consumer behavior.

Almost every day I make a pot of tea. Strong, black tea, the kind you have to steep properly in a ritual that involves a kettle, a tea tin, tea lights, a tea cozy. It’s a four-minute brew, so I set a timer. I used to do it on the microwave, but some time ago I just started asking Alexa,… read more

Alex Jones and Marco Rubio Explain the Internet

The encounter between the Infowars host and the Florida senator offers a perfect summary of why life online is so terrible.

Senator Marco Rubio was holding court with reporters outside a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing when Infowars publisher Alex Jones confronted him. The committee had been grilling the Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and the Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on their companies’ role in spreading disinformation to impact elections. Jones had been in the audience, and he wanted to know… read more

The Irony of the Jacksonville Mass Shooting

Two former athletes were killed playing a supposedly safer, video-game alternative to football.

On Sunday afternoon, a man shot and killed three people, including himself, and injured at least 11 others at a Madden NFL video-game tournament in Jacksonville, Florida. The Jacksonville police impounded the shooter’s car, suggesting that he drove down from his home in Baltimore (which the FBI has since raided). It’s not yet known whether he planned to commit the… read more

Welcome to the Age of Privacy Nihilism

Google and Facebook are easy scapegoats, but companies have been collecting, selling, and reusing your personal data for decades, and now that the public has finally noticed, it’s too late. The personal-data privacy war is long over, and you lost.

A barista gets burned at work, buys first-aid cream at Target, and later that day sees a Facebook ad for the same product. In another Target, someone shouts down the aisle to a companion to pick up some Red Bull; on the ride home, Instagram serves a sponsored post for the beverage. A home baker wishes aloud for a KitchenAid… read more