Facebook auto-play videos eat up mobile data allotments
Did your mobile data usage spike recently? If you run the Facebook app on your phone, News Feed videos now play by default, which could be pushing you close to or beyond your mobile-data limits. In a September 6, 2014, article, Forbes' Amit Chowdhry reported on a survey by a finance site MoneySavingExpert.com, which was motivated to conduct the survey after noticing an increase in the number of people complaining about high data use on their phones.
Chowdhry lists the steps for disabling auto-play:
iOS: Settings > Facebook > Settings > Auto-play. Set to Wi-fi only or Off.
Android: Settings > App Settings > General Settings. Set Auto-play to Wi-fi only or Off.
Facebook.com on a desktop or laptop: Settings > Videos > Auto-Play Videos > Off. Facebook Messenger: Don't call it 'spyware,' call it 'inquisitive'
Digital security expert Jonathan Zdziarski analyzed the Facebook Messenger app and reported that it "appears to have more spyware type code in it than I've seen in products intended specifically for enterprise surveillance." In a September 10, 2014, article, Motherboard's Matthew Braga quotes an email sent by Zdziarski in which he comments on the results of his forensic analysis of the app.
I got suspicious when I couldn't find any other source reporting Facebook Messenger as spyware. In fact, Sophos's Naked Security blog came to the opposite conclusion after completing its examination of the app. In an August 12, 2014, post, John Zorabedian states that the permissions Facebook Messenger requests are in line with those sought by other messeging apps. Zorabedian admits, however, that users have many good reasons to distrust Facebook's claims about privacy.
The Privacy Sweep wasn't all bad news. Many apps state explicitly what they will not do with your personal data as well as what they will do with it. They often have links to the privacy policies of their advertising partners, and they may let you opt out of providing "analytics" information. Get paid for sharing your personal information
I don't know if it qualifies as a trend, but at least two companies are offering to pay you for the information they collect about your online and other activities. In a September 2, 2014, article, Quartz's Elizabeth Lopatto reports that a company called Datacoup ran a pilot program that paid people $8 a month for access to their social media accounts and a record of their credit card transactions. Another service, Luth Research's ZQ Intelligence, takes that several steps further by offering people $100 a month to be tracked on their devices and to answer questions about their behavior.
As Lopatto states, data collectors willing to pay are likely to find plenty of takers for their services. She quotes a survey of smart phone users (registration required) that found one-third are ready to exchange their personal information for cash.
StreetLight is tracking to the nth
Take all the location data gleaned from cell towers, traffic-data aggregators, and GPS satellites. Then filter out the IDs so the data can't be traced to individuals but retains its other unique properties. Then apply sophisticated pattern-recognition algorithms to extract information from the data. What do you get?
StreetLight, a company founded by UC Berkeley researcher Laura Schewel to develop a data-analysis system sophisticated enough to know that people without college degrees visit the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California, only on Monday evenings in the spring. (You don't need an algorithm to tell you that upscale shoppers are more likely to frequent the mall on weekends in August and December.)
Knowing when and where you're likely to shop is only the tip of the iceberg. Over time, you'll learn how people in a huge geographic area respond to situations such as bad weather or big events, which helps communities prepare for and respond to such happenings in the future.
Make sure the law's on your side with these 10 great legal resources
Will the airline reimburse me if it loses my luggage? Will my security deposit earn interest? Will this get me fired? How do I know if I need a lawyer?
End-of-the-world roulette: An Armageddon smorgasbord
We're many decades into the Age of Anxiety, yet when it comes to epic disasters, it seems like we're just getting warmed up. Every day brings at least one more thing to worry about. And on September 6, 2014, we got five via AlterNet's Cliff Weathers, who compared and contrasted five different cosmic doomsday scenarios.
Asteroid impact is old hat -- Hollywood's had that covered going back generations. Even a supernova wouldn't catch folks by surprise, figuratively speaking. But getting wiped out by a solar superstorm was a new cataclysm on me, plus such a solar blast isn't particularly uncommon. One scientist claims such an outburst wiped out a good number of mammals about 13,000 years ago.
Little did I know Mercury could abandon its orbit and start colliding into stuff -- including the Earth -- as it billiard-balls its way out of the solar system. But for full Stephen King effect, I put my money on a chance encounter with a dark nebula. If the Earth were to get enveloped in such a cloud of cosmic dust, slowly the atmosphere would fog up, choking out the sunlight and causing the Global Cooling we've all be hearing so much about. (Not being a denier, just having a little fun.)