FTC fines app TikTok/Musical.ly $5.7 million for child data privacy violations

Today's FTC ruling impacts how the TikTok app works for users under the age of 13.

A roundup of 2018 roundups

From the Library Journal's Infodocket: "A Curated Collection of Recently Published or Updated Data-Rich Reports Available on the Web", from climate cost breakdowns to Nielsen's top nonalcoholic beverages (sparkling water is very much on-trend) and much, much more. (Thanks, Gary!) (Image: Meg Stewart, CC-BY) Read the rest

Apple's bi-annual report on government data requests is available to read

A couple of times a year, Apple plops out a report detailing all of the user data requests made by government and law enforcement agencies from around the world. In the latest bi-annual report, it looks like information requests have increased since the last reporting period.

From Engadget:

According to the report, which covers the first half of this year, Apple received 32,342 demands for user data from governments -- up 9 percent from the previous period -- spanning access to 163,823 devices. Germany made the most requests (42 percent), the majority of which were due to "stolen devices investigations," issuing 13,704 requests for data on 26,160 devices.

The US was in second place with 4,570 requests for 14,911 devices. More than half of these requests (2,397) were for users' basic account information or content, revealed Apple. The US also asked for 918 financial identifiers -- which cover suspected fraudulent credit, debit, or gift card transactions -- attributing them to iTunes gift card fraud.

It used to be that the report was only offered as a dense, boring PDF. But Apple, in an attempt to boost their corporate transparency, has made their report numbers available to peruse via an interactive website that can be searched by country and the month that the user data was requested.

According to Engadget, Apple's report doesn't include the number of FISA requests made, as there is a legally binding six-month delay required on reportage of such requests.

If you're an Apple hardware or services user, it's worth taking a quick jaunt over to the company's transparency website to see what kind of user information your government has been trying to get their hands on. Read the rest

20,000 Dear Abby letters analyzed in study of "American" anxieties

"30 Years of American Anxieties" is a report on what 20,000 letters to Dear Abby reveal about the alarming things in life— and a great data presentation. Read the rest

Customizable ethics checklists for Big Data researchers

Deon is a project to create automated "ethics checklists" for data science projects; by default, running the code creates a comprehensive checklist covering data collection and storage, modeling and deployment: the checklist items aren't specific actions, they're "meant to provoke discussion among good-faith actors who take their ethical responsibilities seriously. Because of this, most of the items are framed as prompts to discuss or consider. Teams will want to document these discussions and decisions for posterity." Read the rest

No identity theft protection for latest Facebook hack victims

Facebook will not provide fraud protection for victims of its latest data breach, details of which were announced in a Friday news dump. It set up a page where you can check if your Facebook account was breached.

One analyst told the BBC the decision was "unconscionable" ... For the most severely impacted users - a group of around 14 million, Facebook said - the stolen data included "username, gender, locale/language, relationship status, religion, hometown, self-reported current city, birthdate, device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches".

Typically, companies affected by large data breaches - such as Target, in 2013 - provide access to credit protection agencies and other methods to lower the risk of identity theft. Other hacked companies, such as on the Playstation Network, and credit monitoring agency Equifax, offered similar solutions.

A Facebook spokeswoman told the BBC it would not be taking this step "at this time". Users would instead be directed to the website's help section.

They're done caring. If you're still using Facebook, you're done caring too. Read the rest

TripMode 2 helps me keep my tethered data usage under control

Unless I'm in a cafe, hotel or staying at someone's home I connect to the internet over a tethered connection to my smartphone. I've got an unlimited data plan--but only the first five gigabytes of information that I send or receive is at LTE speeds. After that, things turn slow as molasses flowing uphill in January. To try and keep my data useage under control and, thus, my speeds higher for as long as possible, I use an application called TripMode 2. It's available for MacOS and Windows ten and, priced at eight bucks, it's ridiculously inexpensive to purchase a copy.

Once installed, TripMode is stupid easy to use. Activate the app, locate it in your Menu Bar (MacOS) and click it to get at its drop-down menu. There you'll see every piece of software on your computer that's begging for access to the interwebz. If you're not using the apps you see on the list, de-select the check mark next to it. Boom, they're cut off from using your tethered device's data. You'll note that at the bottom of the list, you can see how much data you've used since you started your session, during the course of a day, month or year. If you're on a plan with limited data, having that information is pure gold.

Best of all, when you're not using it, TripMode 2 can easy be shut off. It's easily up there with Scrivener, ProtonMail Bridge and Adobe Lightroom as one of the most important bits of software that I use on a regular basis. Read the rest

Animated "Income Mountains" for the world's continents, 1950-2015

Inkoativ charted income per day against population and animated the "mountains" that result for each continent. Click through to watch the developing world, well, develop. [via Data Is Beautiful] Read the rest

Arnold Schwarzenegger has appeared in over 15,000 published scientific studies

Vanessa Hill at BrainCraft got obsessed with tallying up how many times Arnold Schwarzenegger has appeared in scientific papers, but she wasn't prepared for the actual number of papers: over 15,000. Read the rest

Craiglist traffic fell sharply after FOSTA

Redditor datacanbeuseful charted the wounding of Craigslist and the death of Backpage. After a political panic over sex trafficking, the latter's domain was seized by the government. Craiglist, to avoid the prospect of a similar fate, shut down all its "casual encounters" and similar categories overnight. It turns out to have been a significant but not critical element of the site's traffic: about 25 percent, but only as inferred through Google Trends.

The figure is based on Google Trends data of search for terms "Craigslist" and "Backpage" before and after Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). It largely reflects the actual traffic at both sites. Chart created using Excel.

Because of FOSTA and the shutdown of Craigslist's Personals section, Craigslist lost a whopping 1/4 to 1/3 of the web traffic. Backpage, while enjoying a short lived traffic uptick, was soon shut down by law enforcement.

Where can this much traffic go? Does it just evaporate? Does it flow elsewhere?

Journalists usually suppose "the dark web" but reality surely involves more pimps and streetcorners. [via] Read the rest

Cambridge Analytica shut down

Cambridge Analytica, the firm that consulted on Trump's 2016 campaign and mined the data of 87 million Facebook users without their permission, has shut its doors. Same goes for the company's UK counterpart SCL. From Wired:

The decision to close the company's doors internationally was announced to employees during a town hall meeting in the firm's New York City offices Wednesday. One source says that NYC employees were told to pack up and leave immediately....

Just yesterday, Cambridge Analytica's official Twitter account tweeted out a link to a website refuting the waves of bad press the company has received with the caption, "Get the Facts Behind the Facebook Story."

(image by Mark Frauenfelder) Read the rest

The most common words in movie titles

AC-- on Reddit used IMDB's dataset to create a good old-fashined word cloud of the most common words in movie titles. The inevitable Vader movie should clearly be titled "One Big Black Love: Sex and Blood on the Death Star" [via] Read the rest

The case for storing digital data in DNA

Using DNA to store digital data has been a classic forecast in infotech futurism for more than two decades. The basic concept is that you could synthesize strands of DNA encoded with digital information and then decode it with DNA sequencing techniques. While several amazing experiments have demonstrated that DNA data storage is possible, it's mostly been thought of as too expensive and impractical. But as researchers continue to make technical strides in the technology, and the price of synthesizing and sequencing DNA has dropped exponentially, systems for backing up to the double helix may actually be closer than you think. From IEEE Spectrum:

Even as our data storage needs surge, traditional mass-storage technologies are starting to approach their limits. With hard-disk drives, we’re encountering a limit of 1 terabyte—1,000 GB—per square inch. Past that point, temperature fluctuations can induce the magnetically charged material of the disk to flip, corrupting the data it holds. We could try to use a more heat-resistant material, but we would have to drastically alter the technology we use to read and write on hard-disk drives, which would require huge new investments. The storage industry needs to look elsewhere....

It still may not match other data storage options for cost, but DNA has advantages that other options can’t match. Not only is it easily replicated, it also has an ultrahigh storage density—as much as 100 trillion (1012) GB per gram. While the data representing a human genome, base pair by base pair, can be stored digitally on a CD with room to spare, a cell nucleus stores that same amount of data in a space about 1/24,000 as large.

Read the rest

Eviction Lab: a comprehensive database of every eviction proceeding in America for the past 16 years

The Eviction Lab is a collaboration between Princeton University and Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City Paperback; the lab's team gathered the court records of ever landlord-tenant proceeding in every court in every county in America for the past 16 years. Read the rest

How to download and save your Facebook data before deleting

As #DeleteFacebook sweeps across the web in the wake of data misuse, some users are resisting because their account contains valuable information they don't want to lose. Saving all your data is easy to do and may make the decision easier. Read the rest

A "digital rosetta stone" for translating obsolete computer files

It's not for the public ("accessible in the Yale library"), but researchers are working on a "universal translator" for old computer files that might otherwise be lost to obsolescence. Jessica Leigh Hester, at Atlas Obscura:

When one CCA visitor wanted to take a look at a CD-ROM-based “multimedia website” produced in conjunction with a 1996 exhibition of work by the architect Benjamin Nicholson, Walsh needed to wind back the clock. He tracked down an old license for Windows NT and installed Netscape Navigator and an old version of Adobe Reader. This all enabled decades-old functionality on a two-year-old HP tower.

This strategy works, but it has drawbacks. “These environments are time-intensive to create, will only run on a local computer, and they typically require a lot of technical know-how to set up and use,” Walsh says. Ad hoc emulation is not for the novice or the busy.

Researchers at Yale are working to solve this problem by creating a kind of digital Rosetta Stone, a universal translator, through an emulation infrastructure that will live online. “A few clicks in your web browser will allow users to open files containing data that would otherwise be lost or corrupted,” said Cochrane, who is now the library’s digital preservation manager. “You’re removing the physical element of it,” says Seth Anderson, the library’s software preservation manager. “It’s a virtual computer running on a server, so it’s not tethered to a desktop.”

Image: Euan Cochrane/CC by 2.0 Read the rest

Data of 2.4 million more Equifax customers leaked

Equifax, a company that specializes in disseminating unsecured user information, upped its game. Despite having already loosed the personal data of around 143 million people into the wild, Equifax still felt that they could do better. After much effort, they've managed to pinch off the data of 2.4 million more people for identity fraud aficionados to leverage. What an amazing achievement!

According to Reuters, despite their zest for massive security breaches, the company has framed its latest efforts with a good deal of humility:

The company said the latest batch of consumers affected had their names and driver’s license information stolen, but noted less information was taken because it did not include home addresses, driver’s license states, dates of issuances, or expiration dates.

Oh, you should know that the company sometimes dabbles in providing credit score information, too. In a statement to the media, Equifax promised that they'll be reaching out to their newly affected millions to inform them of the breach as soon as possible.

Image: GotCredit/Flickr Read the rest

More posts