Newley's Notes

Newley’s Notes 126: Say Hi to Our Puppy, Ginger!; Facebook’s CA Problem; Toto’s ‘Africa’ FTW


Edition 126 of my email newsletter went out a couple weeks back (I’m late it posting it here).

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Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, in which I share the best of what I write and the best of what I read.

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💬 What I Wrote at

🐶 — Just posted: Introducing our Desi Dog, Ginger. TLDR: Say hello to our new puppy! The post includes lots of pics (like the one above) and information on her “designed by Darwin” genetic makeup.

🤳 — The Emails and Texts That Show How Badly Instagram Wants me Back. About a month ago I deleted the Instagram app on my phone. Then I started getting messages from IG begging me to return…

📲 5 Cool Tech-ish Reads This Week

1. Just out: New info on Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. In a piece with The Observer headlined “How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions,” The New York Times reported yesterday on the platform and the firm that worked with Pres. Trump during the 2017 election:

An examination by The New York Times and The Observer of London reveals how Cambridge Analytica’s drive to bring to market a potentially powerful new weapon put the firm — and wealthy conservative investors seeking to reshape politics — under scrutiny from investigators and lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.


Details of Cambridge’s acquisition and use of Facebook data have surfaced in several accounts since the business began working on the 2016 campaign, setting off a furious debate about the merits of the firm’s so-called psychographic modeling techniques.

But the full scale of the data leak involving Americans has not been previously disclosed — and Facebook, until now, has not acknowledged it. Interviews with a half-dozen former employees and contractors, and a review of the firm’s emails and documents, have revealed that Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of the trove.

Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.

During a week of inquiries from The Times, Facebook downplayed the scope of the leak and questioned whether any of the data still remained out of its control. But on Friday, the company posted a statement expressing alarm and promising to take action.

Facebook, meanwhile, insists it wasn’t a breach, as Bloomberg’s Sarah Frier reports.

Here’s Axios’s Sara Fischer and David McCabe on the larger significance:

The scandal is another example of Facebook blaming outdated policies and ignorance for its platform being abused by bad actors — while struggling to contain the public relations fallout. The company is also tangling with the media outlets reporting on it.

Meanwhile Recode’s Kurt Wagner describes how CA was able to collect Facebook data on 50 million users: It began when about 27,000 people used Facebook Login to access an app called “thisisyourdigitallife…”

Bottom line: I think the backlash against big tech is clearly upon us. I see more and more folks on Twitter — certainly a filter bubble, but still — mentioning the r-word: regulation.

💉 2. Another huge story this week: The SEC charged Elizabeth Holmes, founder of blood testing startup Theranos, with fraud. The government’s investigation began after my WSJ colleague John Carreyrou in late 2015 broke the story regarding questions surrounding the company.

At Buzzfeed News, Stephanie M. Lee has a piece called “The Seven Biggest Lies Theranos Told.”

🎧 3. You haven’t truly heard Africa’s “Toto” until you’ve heard it playing in an empty mall. Go ahead, give it a listen. That’s from a thought provoking Jia Tolentino New Yorker piece about the emotions she encountered listening to the works of a 20-year-old Kaukauna, Wisconsin native, who edits song to make them sound like they’re coming from different rooms.

💱 4. John Oliver explains cryptocurrencies. Title says it all. Available on YouTube here.

🗣️ 5. Tech longread of the week: “Reddit and the Struggle to Detoxify the Internet.” Another from the New Yorker, this time Andrew Marantz on how the popular site is trying to bring trolls to heel — without quashing free speech.

🔭 Quote of the week

“People who boast about their I.Q. are losers.”

That’s from a nice NYT roundup of quotes from Stephen Hawking, who passed away on Wednesday. Another of my faves: “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the universe. That makes us something very special.”

🤙 1 Silly Thing

“AIRBOARDERS: (Official Movie Trailer)”. Nothing to see here — just a bunch of cool L.A. dudes air getting radical…with business cards. NSFW: language

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,