More administrative business

I added yet another section to the Privacy Policy and Your California Privacy Rights pages containing a summary of CCPA requests I received in the previous calendar year. You can find the table in the “California Privacy Request Metrics (Record-Keeping Disclosures)” subsections of those pages. (Both versions of the table are identical; the Your California Privacy Rights page is intended as essentially a California-specific excerpt of the Privacy Policy.) Some additional considerations below the cut:
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A Thousand Reasons Why Not: On Automotive Counterfactuals

Many discussions of automotive history center around what historians call “counterfactuals”: trying to envision what might have happened if certain things had turned out differently than they did in actual fact. For automotive enthusiasts, this often boils down to a simple question: “Why didn’t they just … ?” The answers are often equally simple — and sometimes depressingly mundane. In this editorial, I’ll talk a little about the most common reasons enthusiasts’ favorite counterfactuals never came to pass, which also reveals some of the general lessons I’ve learned about the auto business through my years of doing Ate Up With Motor.
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The Defunct Facebook Page

As some visitors are aware, I used to have a Facebook Page for Ate Up With Motor, which was deactivated when I closed my Facebook account for good in December 2018. I had thought that I downloaded an offline copy of all the data from the Page along with the personal data from my account, but I recently discovered that I was mistaken, and in fact I actually retain very little of the content, comments, and messages from that Facebook Page. Since my account has long since been removed, it’s much too late for me to try to download that data again.

How that happened is a long, dumb story, but the bottom line is that if you sent me messages through the Facebook Page for Ate Up With Motor, left comments or posted on that Page, and/or shared media there, it is likely that I no longer retain or have access to that data. I retain a smattering of information in the form of old notification emails (and some bits and pieces of information that I saved or recorded separately for some specific reason, such as if someone provided research suggestions or article corrections), and I DO have an archive of comments and messages I sent or received directly (that is, as Aaron Severson rather than as Ate Up With Motor), but that’s about it. While people did sometimes share car photos and/or videos on the Facebook Page, I made a point of NOT downloading offline copies of that media unless the photographers had expressly authorized me to use their images on the Ate Up With Motor website (and I didn’t always get around to it even then, for which I’m now kicking myself).

It seems likely that Facebook still retains at least some of that information — for instance, if you are a Facebook user and left comments on the Facebook Page for Ate Up With Motor at some point in the past, those comments are probably still listed in your Activity History. Questions about what data Facebook retains and/or what options you may have for accessing or deleting it should be directed to Facebook, as that is beyond my control. (I almost certainly lack the legal standing to compel Facebook to delete someone else’s data.)

ETA: I have also discovered that the archive I’d made of the long-defunct Ate Up With Motor blog on the LiveJournal platform was no longer accessible. Again, I may retain certain related information in other forms (e.g., notification emails), but most of the data has now been deleted, and the blog itself was purged in 2014. I don’t know if LiveJournal retains information about comments or messages still-active users sent to blogs that have since been purged; I haven’t used that platform in many years because I refuse to accept their current TOS, the only binding version of which is in Russian.

Technical Note on Links

I just made another technical update that I’m hoping won’t break anything.

Many of the links on the site are designed to open in a new browser tab or window. This is sometimes convenient, but can apparently be exploited for an obnoxious browser hijack unless you add a special attribute to the link (rel=”noopener”). I’ve attempted to add that throughout the site, which should not affect any normal function — unless I made a syntax error somewhere, in which case there may be some broken links.

If you find a link that doesn’t work or does something weird, please let me know! You can reach me through the Contact Form or by leaving a comment on the item where you found the bad link. Thanks for your patience.

A Note About Photos

I’ve just added a note to the Privacy Policy that bears some explanation.

Ate Up With Motor has lots of photos. Most of them were taken in public places, sometimes by people other than me — at car shows, on the street, and so forth. Inevitably, some of those photos have people in the background. Now, generally, under U.S. law, this kind of editorial usage is not a big deal, since people in public places usually don’t have a “reasonable expectation of privacy”; otherwise, newspapers and news shows could never run crowd shots. However, under the EU’s new GDPR directive and associated local law, any recognizable image of a natural person may be considered personally identifying information, which becomes messy.

The plain reality is this: I usually do not have any reasonable way to know the identities of people who may be visible in the backgrounds of photos (especially in big crowds), nor am I usually able to associate their images with any other information I might have about them. If you’re a regular visitor to Ate Up With Motor and you popped up in the background of some photo taken at a car show five years ago, I probably don’t know it! Also, while some photographers make an effort to obscure the faces of bystanders — I started doing this with my own photos about seven years ago — that isn’t always possible, or successful. (I’ve seen a number of photos where the photographer or editor overlooked the face of someone leaning out a window in the background or something like that.) If a photo isn’t mine, I may not have the right to modify it in that way, and even if I do, the original online source may still have the unmodified, un-obscured original. There’s not usually anything I can do about that.

So, all I can reasonably do is note in the Privacy Policy that this is something that may occasionally happen, and ask that if you see yourself (or some information about you) in a photo and feel bothered by it, you contact me to discuss how best I can alleviate your concerns. Also, please understand that if you request your information under the GDPR, I probably don’t have any way to associate your comments or other data with the tiny figure in the background of a car show photo!

A comment on comments

While fussing with the Terms of Use to go along with the GDPR stuff, I realized I should update the Comment Policy regarding changing or deleting comments. Normally, after you post a comment, WordPress gives you a window of 15 minutes in which you can edit or delete the comment. However, since I have comments moderated, these options generally aren’t available.

So, if you have a previously published comment you’d like to change or remove, the simplest thing to do is to reply to it, asking me to change or delete it. Your reply goes into the moderation queue, so I will see the request and can easily figure out which comment you’re talking about.

If you ask for an edit rather than a deletion, just please try to be clear whether you want me to publish your reply or just change the original comment.

Pardon Our Dust

Throughout this week and perhaps for at least the next few days, you may encounter some odd stuff on Ate Up With Motor, such as different privacy notice banners. This is because I’m still trying to update things for greater compliance with the European GDPR rules taking effect on Friday. Unfortunately, there is no one plugin or tool that provides all the functionality I need, and many are in a rudimentary state as their developers scramble to get them working properly as half the world’s WordPress users have a simultaneous meltdown. Some of the work therefore involves a high level of technical complexity that is at the ragged limits of my understanding (if the phrase “function hooks” leaves you scratching your head, you’re not alone!). Some things I don’t know how to do, and entities to whom I’ve reached out with technical support questions are all swamped. I’m hoping that by next week, I’ll have it in some kind of workable order, but there’s an awful lot. My apologies for the inconvenience!

ETA: I also want to apologize for the “our privacy policy has changed” prompt screen that keeps coming up. One of the GDPR’s requirements is that if the policy changes in any substantive way (“substantive” meaning basically anything other than fixing a spelling or punctuation error), you MUST prompt users to review and consent to the policy again. This is well-meaning, but obviously can get very frustrating for visitors.

A Shocking Omission

The other night, I was browsing through Brian Heiler’s Plaid Stallions website, as one does, and had a minor epiphany. When I wrote about the FWD GMC Motor Home a few years ago, I mentioned that it had been part of the Mattel Hot Wheels line for a while, but I neglected to mention that it had also been the basis for the ne plus ultra of seventies girls’ toys: Mattel’s Barbie Star Traveler Motor Home. Blogger Laura Moncur has previously written about her Star Traveler toy and how it even tempted her to invest in the real thing.

Brian Heiler also noted a particularly obscure connection: Mattel used what were clearly the same molds as the Star Traveler for the Big Jim Super Car, part of another, now largely forgotten seventies toy line.

Privacy update

I’ve updated the site Privacy Policy regarding Google Analytics, which Google is now updating based on a new EU privacy law. The gist as I understand it is this: As of May 25, 2018, Google is introducing new data retention settings that determine how long Google Analytics will retain the data it gathers for the site. I’ve set it to automatically delete data after 26 months.

I’ve also clarified that although Google Analytics has a User-ID tool that can attempt to identify a unique user across devices, I have deliberately never enabled that tool. I’ve now disabled the setting to include the Users metric in the analytics reports. (I’ve never looked at that tab in the reports, so I’m not entirely sure if it was even putting anything there with User-ID turned off.)

To be candid, I am not comfortable with online tracking and analytics services except of the most rudimentary sort. I need to know aggregate data — e.g., how many people visited the site last month — and it’s often helpful for me to see where referral traffic is coming from, but I don’t consider it appropriate or ethical for websites to develop behavioral profiles of their users. I’m a writer, not an intelligence officer or a cop!

If you have any questions about the policy or Ate Up With Motor’s use of analytics, please let me know via comment or the Contact Form. Also, if you have specific concerns or recommendations regarding Google Analytics settings (which I must confess are often at the ragged edge of my technical understanding), I am certainly open to suggestions.

Secrets of the Simpson Gearset

If you’re familiar with transmissions like the Chrysler TorqueFlite and GM Turbo Hydra-Matic (among others), you may have heard of the “Simpson gearset.” In this installment of Ate Up With Motor, we look at the origins and function of the Simpson gearset and briefly introduce you to its inventor, the late Howard W. Simpson.
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