14 October 2010

Companies scrape your personal information from private forums

Are you aware that your posts in online forums -- even private, password-protected forums -- may be collected, deposited into a massive database, and even linked to you personally?  And these personally-identifiable data about you may be sold repeatedly, even used by prospective employers?  As this article from the Wall Street Journal reveals, there's an arms race between web site operators and data 'scrapers,' and our privacy is in the cross hairs.

The article is one of a WSJ series on digital privacy.  The special section may be found here.  Some articles are behind a pay wall; to view them, simple copy the headlines, paste into Google, and click the links back to the articles.   

It's not just your online behavior and identity that are tracked.  A recent study showed that 68% of popular free iPhone apps transmitted unique identifying data when launched, including the user's name, phone number, and even location.  Android apps did this, too.

Unfortunately it seems there's little we can do to protect our privacy.  We can attempt to keep our online personae completely separate from our real identities, but that's exceedingly difficult.  Another WSJ article details how to request your profile deletion from multiple databases, but this, too, is not a complete solution. 

Do you post information online that you would consider private?  Will this knowledge of 'scrapers' make you change your behavior?  Should we have an expectation of digital privacy, especially when posting in "private" forums?  Are these 'scrapers' any different than those who would tap a phone line to listen to your conversations (which is illegal)?  Should we ask Congress or the FCC to get in the middle of this debate, or will they just make matters worse?

Article excerpts after the jump.

24 August 2010

Michael Been of The Call dead at 60

Many of my peers who came of age with the music of the '80s have never heard of The Call, although they'd likely recognize a song or two.  But those of us into the Simple Minds, The Alarm, U2, and Big Country know the every note of the Reconciled, Into the Woods, and Let the Day Begin albums.  And now we mourn the passing of singer/bassist Michael Been, who died of an apparent heart attack while working with his son's band at a music festival in Belgium.  He was 60, which seems old for a rocker from my youth, but young given my age of 40.

One of my first concerts was The Call opening for The Simple Minds at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine, around 1987.  The band's hits were "Everywhere I Go" and "I Still Believe."  I wore out my Reconciled tape, and didn't yet own a CD player, so I listened to bootlegs and tapes recorded off the radio.

The San Jose Mercury News opens its obituary thusly:
"He played John the Baptist in a Martin Scorsese film. He once beat John Belushi in a comedy competition. He counted as friends Bono and Peter Gabriel. Al Gore borrowed one of his songs as the theme for his 2000 presidential campaign."
So dust off your box of tapes, listen to music from your youth, appreciate the synthesizers, and thank gosh your friends didn't have camera phones in high school.

Watch videos after the break...

15 August 2010

In this fascinating TED talk, British author Matt Ridley argues that, through history, the engine of human progress and prosperity has been, and is, "ideas having sex with each other."  A few quotes to whet your appetite:
"Trade is ten times older than farming."
"What's relevant to a society is how well people are communicating their ideas and how well they're cooperating, now how clever the individuals are." 

02 August 2010

How hot is it?

Here's the thermometer. Granted, the paved parking lot is warmer than the air temperature, but 108F is still hot. Africa hot.

 Yeah, I gotta dust my dashboard.

01 August 2010

Just how long are Red Sox games?

ESPN columnist and Boston sports fan Bill Simmons recently wrote about the boring nature of the 2010 Boston Red Sox. The factors he listed were:
  • Injuries - 10%
  • Front-Office Paralysis - 5%
  • The Hangover - 15% (I believe this should be 25%)
  • Bandwagon Effect - 5% (I'd drop this to 0%)
  • Steroid Era Hangover - 5%
  • Decline of Baseball in General - 5% (I'd increase this to 10%)
  • Time of the Games - 55% (I'd drop to 45%)
For the last point regarding the length of games Simmons provided data on game times through eight significant seasons, starting in 1975 and running through 2010.  Generally data mean more to me when presented visually, so I plotted them on a bar graph (less the incomplete 2010 season).  Note the ever-expanding purple bands, which denote games that lasted between three and four hours.  Not shown is that through 101 games in 2010, the Red Sox have played one (1) game in less than 2:30 hours.  Maybe I was spoiled by watching a number of Greg Maddux's two-hour masterpieces in Atlanta, but this is absurd.  Bud Selig would do well to adopt a few of Simmons' suggestions.



22 July 2010

The Last Navigator

On July 12th the world lost master navigator Mau Piailug, as noted in this obituary from The Economist.  You may have seen The Last Navigator on TV as part of PBS's Adventure series, or read the book by Steve Thomas on which it was based. 

Steve writes on his web site about the lessons learned from Piailug during their time together.  One late night Piailug shared this wisdom with Steve:

"To be a palu you must have three qualities: fierceness, strength, and wisdom; The knowledge of navigation brings all three. Fierceness, strength, and wisdom, Steve. That is a navigator, and a navigator is a man."


15 July 2010

After a year, what could possibly inspire me to post?

In these turbulent times we are desperate for heroes to step forth and lead us back into prosperity. Today I found my hero. A courageous man on a mission to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of Mullet-Americans and eliminate mullet prejudice.

Read the blog. Watch the videos. Feel his pain. Share his dream.

BIFPIB, my friends.