The Accurate-to-Within-a-Few-Yards Edition Monday, December 10, 2018

Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, And They’re Not Keeping It Secret, by Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, New York Times

At least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services to get local news and weather or other information, The Times found. Several of those businesses claim to track up to 200 million mobile devices in the United States — about half those in use last year. The database reviewed by The Times — a sample of information gathered in 2017 and held by one company — reveals people’s travels in startling detail, accurate to within a few yards and in some cases updated more than 14,000 times a day.

These companies sell, use or analyze the data to cater to advertisers, retail outlets and even hedge funds seeking insights into consumer behavior. It’s a hot market, with sales of location-targeted advertising reaching an estimated $21 billion this year. IBM has gotten into the industry, with its purchase of the Weather Channel’s apps. The social network Foursquare remade itself as a location marketing company. Prominent investors in location start-ups include Goldman Sachs and Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder.

How To Stop Apps From Tracking Your Location, by Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, New York Times

Some apps have internal settings where you can indicate that you don’t want your location used for targeted advertising or other purposes. But the easiest method is to go through your device’s main privacy menu.

How The Times Analyzed Location Tracking Companies, by New York Times

To examine the practices of the location tracking industry, The New York Times tested apps on the Google Android and Apple iOS platforms, and evaluated data from a company that analyzed thousands of mobile apps.

To See What She Sees

Rediscovering My Daughter Through Instagram, by Helene Stapinski, New York Times

Social media has been blamed for ruining our democracy, shortening our children’s attention spans and undermining the fabric of society. But through it, I was able to be with Paulina out in the world again, to see what she sees, to virtually stand beside her and witness the people and places she moves through, in nearly real time. Not in a parent-policing role, but in a wonderful-world sort of way.

Why We All Take The Same Travel Photos, by Laura Mallonee, Wired

The standardization of travel all started in the 18th century, as guidebooks began directing visitors to “picturesque” views that looked like paintings. They recorded them with the gadgets of the day: Claude glasses reflected tinted, fisheye scenes that were easy to sketch, while Camera Lucidas actually transposed them onto the page. Nifty as those tools were, they couldn't hold their own against the daguerreotype, a heavy wooden box camera introduced in 1839 that gentleman travelers soon began lugging to Greece and Egypt. But the early technology was still too cumbersome and time-consuming for most people, who just bought postcards.

Until Kodak. The introduction of George Eastman's lightweight, foolproof camera in 1888 meant hordes of tourists could quickly press a button to capture their individual experiences … which turned out to be more or less identical.


These Crocheted AirPods Cases Make Me Want To Buy AirPods, by Dami Lee, The Verge

AirPods accessories are having sort of a moment in South Korea, with online stores selling keychains, skins, and cases for the wireless earbuds with an enthusiasm that can’t be matched anywhere else. Although there are plenty of official accessory companies that offer AirPods cases that come with keychain holes and keychain accessories made specifically for AirPods cases, the real innovation is coming from artists and small business owners who sell their handmade goods through social networks like KakaoTalk and Instagram.

Hands On: Must-have Mac Audio Tool Loopback Reworked With Major Visual Changes, by William Gallagher, AppleInsider

The tool for routing audio between apps and audio devices gets a makeover and doesn't add new features but greatly refines what it has.


50 Years In Tech. Part 12: Cupertino Culture Trouble, by Jean-Louis Gassée, Monday Note

At Apple France, I was allowed to question anything about our work, all the way to the top of the organization, even if that meant that I would occasionally be sent back to my corner by a loyal, competent team that was as vociferous in their retorts as I was in my critique.

You see what’s coming. In Cupertino I fall into the classical trap of continuing to do one’s past job in the new one.

The Problem With Studies Saying Phones Are Bad For You, by Rachel Becker, The Verge

The actual research hasn’t come to one neat conclusion, and that may be because the field has relied on self-reports. It’s possible to measure how much time you spend on your phone; it’s just that most research — some 90 percent of it, estimates David Ellis, a lecturer in computational social science at Lancaster University — hasn’t. People are notoriously unreliable reporters of their own behavior: people misremember, forget, or fudge their responses to make themselves look better. We’ve seen it before with food diaries; we’re bad at remembering or even noticing how much we eat. Sometimes we lie to ourselves and, as a result, our food diaries, too. The unreliability of self-reports has been a major problem for nutrition research.

Bottom of the Page

Just finished reading: A Ladder to the Sky, by John Boyne. I thoroughly enjoy reading this book, which reminded me of both Chekhov's Gun, where a gun introduced in Act 1 will be fired in Act 3, as well as Alfred Hitchcock's bomb under the table. I do recommend this novel, especially if you enjoy suspense more than surprises.


Thanks for reading.