When Facebook offered a "rainbow filter" for images, following last week's landmark Supreme Court decision in favor of gay marriage, people joked that it was probably another creepy social experiment. Well, probably, yes.
Even seemingly small online actions—clicking the “like” button, changing one’s profile photo—are being tracked and analyzed. Just like McAdam’s research on Freedom Summer shapes our understanding of support for marriage equality, Facebook's past research on marriage equality has helped answer a question we all face when deciding to act politically:
Does the courage to visibly—if virtually—stand up for what a person believes in have an effect on that person’s social network, or is it just cheap, harmless posturing? Perhaps the rainbow colors across Facebook will become part of the answer.
Previously: Facebook's massive psychology experiment likely illegal
Our pals at Quantified Self are hosting a big expo in San Francisco on Saturday and they're offering BB readers a $10 discount off the $20 ticket price! Get hip to the self-tracking scene and see your life through the lens of data! Event details here.
Read the rest
Quinn Norton's "long form data journalism" piece on the American prison system paints a bleak picture of a nation that feasts on its poorest and most vulnerable with a boundless, venomous cruelty.
Read the rest
Offshore and Onshore Geology and Geomorphology Offshore of San Francisco
The California Seafloor Mapping Program is the most extensive of its kind, initiated in 2008 and bearing fruit in a series of beautiful maps.
The CSMP has collected bathymetry (underwater topography) and backscatter data (providing insight into the geologic makeup of the seafloor) that are being turned into habitat and geologic base maps for all of California's State Waters (mean high water line out to three nautical miles). Although the CSMP was originally developed to support the design and monitoring of marine reserves through the Marine Life Protection Act, accurate statewide mapping of the seafloor has also contributed significantly to these efforts
Betsy Mason reports on the sensational underwater geography that the maps reveal. It's not just pretty: it will save lives.
This kind of information is critical because the magnitude of an earthquake is determined by the length of a fault that ruptures. Longer faults are capable of bigger quakes. If two smaller faults that were thought to be separate are actually connected, they could potentially rupture together to cause a bigger earthquake than previously thought. Discoveries of that sort could even change the USGS’s seismic hazard forecast for California.
Data Integration and Visualization, Offshore of San Francisco Map.
Data Integration and Visualization, Offshore of San Francisco Map (detail)
Acoustic Backscatter, Offshore of San Francisco Map Area
Massive granitic seafloor outcrop extends north and west from Tomales Point.
Benthic Habitats off Tomales Point
Check out California Seafloor Mapping Programthe rest of the maps, though be warned they are USDA Grade A CPU-roasting epic multilayer PDFs.
But the microbes on your shoes are similar to the microbes on everyone else's shoes and the microbes on your phone are similar to the microbes on everyone else's phone.
Read the rest
UK sex-toy retailer Lovehoney allowed researcher Jon Millward to data-mine its huge database of over 1,000,000 sex-toy purchases and 45,000 reviews, in order to see what he could infer about Britons' sexual proclivities from the things they bought.
Read the rest
Espen got a parking ticket for his Tesla, and he's pretty sure he can exonerate himself, if only the company would give him access to his car's data, but they won't.
Read the rest
Air traffic data is great fodder for visualizations. Case in point, this lovely animation of a day of flights titled "North Atlantic Skies" by air traffic control firm NATS. (via Laughing Squid)
The UK National Health Service has initiated a plan to take the nation's private health records and sell them off to private companies in a process overseen by notorious multinational bumblewads ATOS. If you live in
the UK England, your records -- mental health records, prescriptions, records of surgeries including abortions, and other sensitive personal information -- will be handed over to a wide-ranging group of companies all over the world.
Unless you opt out. And opting out isn't easy. There's no central place to opt out. Instead, you have to send a letter to your GP's surgery, which means you have to look up your GP's surgery's address, compose a legally sufficient letter, print it out, find an envelope and a stamp -- etc.
However! There's a better way. A group of volunteers whom I trust implicitly, including the astounding Stef Magdalinski (who made the Faxyourmp service that is the ancestor of Theyworkforyou) have created Fax Your GP, a dead-simple form that will look up your GP's fax number for you, create a form opt-out letter you can fill in in just a few easy steps, and then they'll fax that letter directly to your GP's surgery. I just opted out.
Read the rest
Chris Walker created a fascinating interactive graphic of migration patterns within the United States. It's based on US Census Bureau's 2012 American Community Survey estimates. Here are a few insights that Walker gleaned:
Read the rest
Michael Rigley created this beautiful animation, titled "Network," for his BFA design thesis project at the California College of Art. It's about personal data captured by cell phone providers and is quite relevant this week.
More news from the embattled mayor of Toronto, Rob "Laughable Bumblefuck" Ford: after two of his senior staffers walked out on him following questioning by Toronto homicide detectives, it appears that someone illegally ordered the destruction of their archived city emails and call-records -- as well as the archived electronic communications of Ford's former chief of staff, whom Ford fired under mysterious circumstances.
The Star heard concerns at city hall Wednesday afternoon over the potential destruction or hiding of the records of three staffers who resigned or were fired during the ongoing crack cocaine scandal. Sources told the Star the records were in danger after city employees were directed to delete them.
The Star sent a request late Wednesday to the city asking for email and phone records of the three staffers in question for the time period during which the video at the heart of the scandal has been discussed.
Emails sent by city employees, including political staffers, are automatically preserved by the city, though emails related to “personal” business are exempt from freedom of information requests.
Two people familiar with the system said the emails of specific political staffers cannot be permanently erased from the system.p
Rob Ford video scandal: Concerns raised over safety of email records
Carlo Zapponi created Bolides, a fantastic animated visualization of meteorites that have been seen hitting the Earth. The data source is the Nomenclature Committee of the Meteoritical Society's Meteorite Bulletin. "The word bolide comes from Greek βολίς bolis, which means missile. Astronomers tend to use bolide to identify an exceptionally bright fireball, particularly one that explodes." Bolides
It's not the work of aliens. Instead, you can chalk these crop circles up to humans + money + time. And, with the help of satellite imaging, you can watch as humans use money to change the desert over the course of almost 30 years.
Landsat is a United States satellite program that's been in operation since 1972. Eight different satellites (three of them still up there and functioning) have gathered images from all over the world for decades. This data is used to help scientists studying agriculture, geology, and forestry. It's also been used for surveillance and disaster relief.
Now, at Google, you can look at images taken from eight different sites between 1984 and 2012 and and watch as people change the face of the planet. In one set of images, you can watch agriculture emerge from the deserts of Saudi Arabia — little green polka-dots of irrigation popping up against a vast swath of tan. In another se, you'll see the deforestation of the Amazon. A third, the growth of Las Vegas. It's a fascinating view of how we shape the world around us, in massive ways, over a relatively short period of time.
Alan sez, "Bloomberg got tired of waiting for the SEC to implement its own rule requiring disclosure of data on how many times the median salary the CEO makes for publicly traded companies so they did a little sleuthing of public data and a little averaging math and calculated the ratio for the top 250 of the S&P 500 companies.
The data are searchable and sortable and there's space for companies to comment, which quite a few have done.
To my surprise Oracle is not #1, though it is the only tech firm in the top 10."
Top CEO Pay Ratios
Robert McMillan explains what happens to the data generated and stored with Siri queries: "Once the voice recording is six months old, Apple “disassociates” your user number from the clip
, deleting the number from the voice file. But it keeps these disassociated files for up to 18 more months for testing and product improvement purposes." [Wired]