This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Facebook is bombarding cancer patients with ads for unproven treatments

The ad reads like an offer of salvation: Cancer kills many people. But there is hope in Apatone, a proprietary vitamin C–based mixture, that is “KILLING cancer.” The substance, an unproven treatment that is not approved by the FDA, is not available in the United States. If you want Apatone, the ad suggests, you need to travel to a clinic in Mexico.

If you’re on Facebook or Instagram and Meta has determined you may be interested in cancer treatments, it’s possible you’ve seen this ad. It is part of a pattern on Facebook of ads that make misleading or false health claims, targeted at cancer patients.

Evidence from Facebook and Instagram users, medical researchers, and its own Ad Library suggests that Meta is rife with ads containing sensational health claims, which the company directly profits from, with some misleading ads remaining unchallenged for months and even years.Read the full story.

—Abby Ohlheiser

The hacking industry faces the end of an era

The news: NSO Group, the world’s most notorious hacking company, could soon cease to exist. The Israeli firm, still reeling from US sanctions, has been in talks about a possible acquisition by the American military contractor L3 Harris. The deal is far from certain, but if it goes through, it’s likely to involve the dismantling of NSO Group and the end of an era. 

Industry-wide turbulence: No matter what happens to NSO, the changes afoot in the global hacking industry are far bigger than any single company. That’s mostly down to two major changes: the US sanctioned NSO in late 2021, and days later the Israeli government severely restricted its hacking industry, cutting the number of countries firms can sell to from over 100 to just 37. 

But… The industry is adjusting rather than disappearing. One thing we’re learning is that a vacuum can’t last long in a market where demand is so high. Read the full story.

—Patrick Howell O’Neill

We need smarter cities, not “smart cities”

The term “smart cities” originated as a marketing strategy for large IT vendors. It has now become synonymous with urban uses of technology, particularly advanced and emerging technologies. But cities are more than 5G, big data, driverless vehicles, and AI, and a focus on building “smart cities” risks turning cities into technology projects.

Truly smart cities recognize the ambiguity of lives and livelihoods, and they are driven by outcomes far beyond the implementation of “solutions.” They are defined by their residents’ talents, relationships, and sense of ownership—and not by the technology deployed there. Read the full story.

—Riad Meddeb and Calum Handforth

Coming soon: The TR35 list of innovators for 2022

On Wednesday, we’re announcing this year’s list of 35 Innovators Under 35: a chance to take a look at not just where technology is now, but where it’s going and the brilliant young minds that are making it happen.

The full list is in the latest issue of our print magazine and online from 29 June. You can subscribe here.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1  Period tracking apps are rushing to anonymize their user data
Following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v Wade, experts are concerned menstrual data could be exploited to incriminate people seeking abortions. (WSJ $)
How people seeking abortions can avoid leaving a digital trail. (WP $)
Roe discussions among Big Tech workers quickly soured last week. (Bloomberg $)
It’s mostly safe to store abortion pills for later use. (New York Mag)
+ High quality sex education is also under threat. (Vox)
Where to get abortion pills and how to use them. (MIT Technology Review)

2 China’s surveillance network is predicting crime and dissent before it happens
And surveilling vulnerable people, including those experiencing mental illnesses. (NYT $)

3 Inflation isn’t going away any time soon

But falling prices could provide a welcome respite. (Economist $)

4 Crypto’s elites don’t care about you
They also don’t care if you lose your life savings investing in their dodgy wares. (The Atlantic $)
Singapore has had enough of crypto cowboys. (The Register)
Crypto is weathering a bitter storm. Some still hold on for dear life. (MIT Technology Review)

5 The US is bungling its big semiconductor opportunity
And the chance to create thousands of jobs in the process. (WP $)
Taiwan, the world’s biggest chip producer, is

Read More


By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: Facebook’s misleading cancer ads, and hacking’s next era
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Published Date: Mon, 27 Jun 2022 13:11:33 +0000