Archive for October, 2010

Another Blow for Online “Privacy”

Monday, October 18th, 2010

The Wall Street Journal reports on online data harvesting in ‘Scrapers’ Dig Deep for Data on the Web.

The crux of the story is something many of my generation already knew: anything you put online is public information.  Companies are systematically trawling the web for data, and they are putting all the scattered bits and pieces back together. They can put your professional Linked-In account together with your personal Facebook account, along with your rants on youtube and the cell phone number on the resume you posted to, and maybe even whatever your friend Crazy Betty tweeted about you after her bachelorette party.  Yikes.

These companies “harvest online conversations and collect personal details from social-networking sites, résumé sites and online forums where people might discuss their lives.”

“Some companies collect personal information for detailed background reports on individuals, such as email addresses, cell numbers, photographs and posts on social-network sites.”

“Others offer what are known as listening services, which monitor in real time hundreds or thousands of news sources, blogs and websites to see what people are saying about specific products or topics.”

“Many scrapers and data brokers argue that if information is available online, it is fair game, no matter how personal.”

“New York-based PeekYou LLC has applied for a patent for a method that, among other things, matches people’s real names to the pseudonyms they use on blogs, Twitter and other social networks. PeekYou’s people-search website offers records of about 250 million people, primarily in the U.S. and Canada.”

Thanks to Flowing Data for the pointer.  I can’t summarize any better than they did:

“My rule of thumb: if I put anything on the Web, I’m assuming it’s public.”


Africa: Bigger than You Think

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Here’s another eye-opening graphic from  Flowing Data:

Hug a developer!

Monday, October 11th, 2010

For all my programmer friends (via The Blomsma Code):

Click here if the video doesn’t appear.

People Who Switched …

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

They claim:

People who switched to Allstate saved an average of $348

I guess most folks don’t realize how meaningless that is.  All the people who check and won’t save any money with <brand> DON’T SWITCH.  I suspect that many of the switchers made a stupid selection for their first choice, or they’re getting a different product after the switch.

I also just love the coupons I keep getting from Qwest for a “Free Account Review” – as if they wouldn’t do it for free without the coupon, and as if a sales pitch is for my benefit.

Manifest Nonsense

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

“There is a popular misconception that science is an impersonal, dispassionate, and thoroughly objective enterprise. Whereas most other human activities are dominated by fashions, fads, and personalities, science is supposed to be constrained by agreed rules of procedure and rigorous tests. It is the results that count, not the people who produce them. This is, of course, manifest nonsense. Science is a people-driven activity like all human endeavor, and just as subject to fashion and whim. In this case fashion is set not so much by choice of subject matter, but by the way scientists think about the world.”

Paul Davies, in introduction for Richard P. Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics