Trump administration wants all coronavirus data to bypass the CDC

From The New York Times:

The Trump administration has ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send all Covid-19 patient information to a central database in Washington beginning on Wednesday. The move has alarmed health experts who fear the data will be politicized or withheld from the public.

The new instructions were posted recently in a little-noticed document on the Department of Health and Human Services website. From now on, the department — not the C.D.C. — will collect daily reports about the patients that each hospital is treating, the number of available beds and ventilators, and other information vital to tracking the pandemic.

To make matters worse, the HHS data archives are not open to the public — meaning the American people cannot independently verify any of the information. In other words, the Republicans are consolidating control of data in the hands of a centralized big government, because it's one that they have power over.

A spokesperson for HHS told the Times that the decision was made because CDC's data collection was inefficient. That spokesperson claimed that CDC's data was lagging about a week behind, and that CDC and HHS would ultimately be sharing data. But this conflicts with a memo from the HHS, which states, "As of July 15, 2020, hospitals should no longer report the Covid-19 information in this document to the National Healthcare Safety Network site."

Instead, HHS will route their data through a private company called TeleTracking, based in Pittsburgh. Read the rest

Fashion trends at Goodwill

Goodwill Hunting is a fascinating data-driven exploration of trends at the thriftstore chain's online shop. It is quite exhaustive, breaking down regional trends, brands, prices and much else besides in a panoply of gorgeous interactive charts. Given that Goodwill deletes sold items and doesn't provide an API, it's an amazing work of data journalism.

Basically, after finding that data of old listings aren't available on the Goodwill website, I went rogue. I set up a script on my computer to crawl through sale item pages on the Goodwill website item id by item id and checked the page name and description to see if it was a women's top. This was a slow process, but I wasn't interested in overwhelming the Goodwill website, and, again, there is no real pressing need for statistics on Goodwill sales.

Read the rest

Topography of U.S. states in ridgeline (Joy Division 'Unknown Pleasures') style

IMGURian @KRANKARTA6 did an awesome topography visualization project in the "Ridgeline Style" that reminds us of the album cover for Joy Division's classic LP 'Unknown Pleasures.' Read the rest

These are the two COVID-19 data sites I incessantly check

Even tho they are only updated once a day (at most) I check, check and re-check 91-divoc and the IHME COVID-19 Projections.

The linear scale graphs on 91-divoc have given me the best picture of 'is the curve flattening' for the regions I watch. Tribalism runs rampant during Trump's Pandemic and I am naturally more focused on the regions where my loved ones live.

IHME's projections give me an idea about what to expect based on data and models they've explained and I can trust. What comes out of the Orange one's mouth is useless.

Please help me add to my list... Read the rest

Father knitted a data viz blanket of his infant's sleep patterns

Seung Lee double knit this blanket based on data about his son's sleep patterns during his first year of life.

"Each stitch represents 6 minutes of time spent awake or asleep," Lee tweeted.

The blanket is 42" x 45," contains approximately 185,000 stitches and took around 300 hours to make. From Twitter:

The original plan was to crochet the entire blanket but I switched to double knitting because the data was much more clearly visualized and the color changes (of which there were literally thousands) were significantly easier..

The sleep data was collected with the BabyConnect app which lets you export to CSV. The CSVs were filtered and converted into JSON (using Google Apps Script and Python) which could then be used for visualization and tracking...

I built a tool in HTML/JavaScript so I could position stitch markers for the color changes and track overall progress. I made it browser based so I could pull it up on any device wherever I was...

(via Kottke) Read the rest

Very fun algorithm guesses your name with surprising accuracy

Nathan Yau created this fun and fascinating name guessing algorithm. You select "male" or "female," the decade you were born, and then type in the first letter of your name. I tried more than a dozen times for people I know and it nailed it on the first letter about 80% of the time. On those that it screwed up after the first letter, it got it right after I entered a second letter. From the project description:

This is based on data from the Social Security Administration, up to 2018. It’s relatively comprehensive, but there are a few limitations. First, it’s data for the United States, so the numbers don’t really apply elsewhere. Second, the SSA doesn’t include names with fewer than five people in a year, so the chart doesn’t cover more unique names. Third, there were no Social Security Numbers before 1935, so the name counts are fuzzier for years before that.

But like I said, the data still has a wide range. I aggregated the annual data by decade and calculated percentages by dividing name counts by total number of Social Security Numbers provided.

Before you enter anything, the chart shows the most popular names for the given sex and decade. Then as you enter a name, the chart shows conditional probabilities. The more information you give it, the stronger the guess.

"Guessing Names Based on What They Start With" (FlowingData) Read the rest

BLS to remove computers from data 'lockups,' chief denies it's aimed at Michael Bloomberg

The U.S. Labor Department Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) today announced changes to BLS economic data “lockup” procedures that involve removing a number of legacy computers from its Washington newsroom, effective March 1. There has been controversy around whether the change initiated today by the federal government under Donald Trump may have been aimed at Michael Bloomberg, which BLS denies. It's complicated. Read the rest

'Cars now run on the new oil — your data.'

What data does your car gather about you? Where does it go? Who has access to it? Read the rest

New 'Star Trek: Picard' trailer

He calls his cat Number One.

I also dig Riker's 'Stringfellow Hawk' dock on the lake. Read the rest

Collecting user data is a competitive disadvantage

Warren Buffet is famous for identifying the need for businesses to have "moats" and "walls" around their profit-centers to keep competitors out, and data-centric companies often cite their massive collections of user-data as "moats" that benefit from "network effects" to make their businesses good investments. Read the rest

The Mueller report, thumbnailed for redaction appreciation

From FlowingData, this is the redacted Mueller report in a "thumbnailed view for a sense of the redactions."

There's still plenty to read between the (black) lines.

(Thanks, Ted Weinstein!) Read the rest

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

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