The Customer-Stories Edition Saturday, February 23, 2019

Apple's Health Strategy: Democratize Patient Data, by Jonah Comstock, Mobihealthnews

"Listen, as a doc I’m cynical too. It’s part of the DNA of being a physician — we [tend to worry] about a lot of things. … We were very concerned about ‘What is the impact this is going to have on the medical community?’ Because we don’t want to add to the burden. I mean, many of us are physicians and we still see patients. So this isn’t a group of doctors who don’t actually practice anymore. So we were very thoughtful about that."

"The feedback has been pretty decent so far. I’ve heard some cardiologists say ‘Yep, I started getting ECGs mailed to me right away.’ And their biggest frustration isn’t around so much getting the ECG, because they’ve found that helpful, but it’s that the health systems are still figuring out the right way to handle that type of incoming."

"But the customer stories have actually been really amazing. We’ve gotten a number of letters to Tim where we have customers saying ‘I took an ECG. I found this issue of atrial fibrillation. I went into the emergency room. They confirmed my ECG was indeed atrial fibrillation and I had X, Y, Z happen and my physician told me that had I not come in at that time I actually could have had a worse outcome or it could have been serious.’"

Popular Apps Caught Secretly Sending Health Data And More To Facebook, Should Apple Intervene?, by Michael Potuck, 9to5Mac

A new investigative report from The Wall Street Journal today looks into the controversial practice of popular third-party iOS and Android apps sending very personal user data to Facebook. In some cases, this happened immediately after an app recorded new data, even if the user wasn’t logged into Facebook or wasn’t a Facebook user at all. Notably, the report highlights that Apple and Google don’t require apps to divulge all the partners that user data is shared with.


The tricky part for users is that iOS and Android apps aren’t required by Apple and Google to disclose all of the partners that have access to your data. What’s more, with the apps tested, there was no clear way to prevent them from sending data to Facebook.

Period Tracking App Says It Will Stop Sharing Health Data With Facebook, by Karissa Bell, Mashable

The extremely personal nature of period tracking apps makes this type of data sharing all the more alarming. Millions of women use these apps, not just to track their menstrual cycles, but to log aspects of fertility including ovulation and attempts to conceive. Flo also has a "pregnancy mode," which lets users input and save information related to their pregnancy.

That this information could be used for targeted advertising without making that clear to users is cause for concern, according to privacy advocates. Flo and other developers may have valid reasons to use analytics tools that help them learn about how their apps are used, but the company's privacy policy stated that users' health data was not shared to third parties, according to The Wall Street Journal. Flo's privacy policy was updated Feb. 19, according to its website.

Phone Relationship

Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone And Unbroke My Brain, by Kevin Roose, New York Times

I’ve been a heavy phone user for my entire adult life. But sometime last year, I crossed the invisible line into problem territory. My symptoms were all the typical ones: I found myself incapable of reading books, watching full-length movies or having long uninterrupted conversations. Social media made me angry and anxious, and even the digital spaces I once found soothing (group texts, podcasts, YouTube k-holes) weren’t helping. I tried various tricks to curb my usage, like deleting Twitter every weekend, turning my screen grayscale and installing app-blockers. But I always relapsed.

Eventually, in late December, I decided that enough was enough. I called Catherine Price, a science journalist and the author of “How to Break Up With Your Phone,” a 30-day guide to eliminating bad phone habits. And I begged her for help.

Mercifully, she agreed to be my phone coach for the month of January, and walk me through her plan, step by step. Together, we would build a healthy relationship with my phone, and try to unbreak my brain.

What I Gave My Kid Instead Of A Smartphone, by Anastasia Basil, Medium

Since publication, the question I’m most often asked is: Did you buckle under pressure and give your daughter a smartphone for middle school, or did you strap some old soup cans to her body and tell her to shake wildly if she needs to reach you? The answer: I bought her a Gizmo Gadget watch. And it’s been great! I call her, she calls me. I can text and send reminders from my smartphone to her watch, for which I pay a monthly fee of $5. She can text back limited characters. She can also leave me voice messages, which she sometimes does in whisper-screams from school: “You packed me apples again! Everyone else gets Doritos. This needs to STOP!”

I’m not sure how long she’ll have the watch, but it’s been the perfect device for our needs since she started school last fall. I’ve been looking at the Light Phone II — a “dumb” 4G phone that seems too good to be true. It’s beautifully designed, non-addictive, and smart in its own Zen way. It’s not available yet, but when it is, I’ll take two: one for my daughter and one for me! It’s high time I break up with my soul-sucking smartphone.

That question is one of dozens I’ve received about raising kids who abstain from social media. (I don’t like the word abstain, it sounds like asbestos. Let’s say opt out.) After talking and emailing with hundreds of parents over the past year, I’ve compiled the most common questions — and my answers — below.

Business of Retail

Apple Confirms Its Plans To Close Retail Stores In The Patent Troll-Favored Eastern District Of Texas, by Sarah Perez, TechCrunch

Apple has confirmed its plans to close retail stores in the Eastern District of Texas — a move that will allow the company to better protect itself from patent infringement lawsuits, according to Apple news sites 9to5Mac and MacRumors, which broke the news of the stores’ closures. Apple says that the impacted retail employees will be offered new jobs with the company as a result of these changes.

The company will shut down its Apple Willow Bend store in Plano, Texas as well as its Apple Stonebriar store in Frisco, Texas, MacRumors reported, and Apple confirmed. These stores will permanently close up shop on Friday, April 12. Customers in the region will instead be served by a new Apple store located at the Galleria Dallas Shopping Mall, which is expected to open April 13.

Also: Apple Wants Federal Cicuit To Undo A $439 Million Patent Judgement, by Apple World Today

Genius Barred: What To Do When You Can't Wait For Apple Support,by Molly McHugh, The Ringer

But in reality, consumers don’t need more space to kill time and play with their iPhones—the existing Apple Stores have already filled that role very well. What is lacking and what they do need are well-trained and readily available support services to help with them. Slivka says that while Ahrendts did redesign the Genius Bar to be more physically integrated into Apple Store’s layouts, little else changed on the support side. He says he’s optimistic about what her replacement, Deirdre O’Brien, a 30-year Apple veteran, will do with the retail operations moving forward.

In the meantime, mounting consumer frustration and less-than-preferable work environments have created a market for third-party, Apple-certified businesses.


An Office Designed For Workers With Autism, by Susan Dominus, New York Times

The challenges of navigating the social complexities of a workplace is one reason unemployment even among college-educated people with autism appears to be disproportionately high. No good national data exist, but various small studies suggest the problem of joblessness is chronic, says Paul Shattuck, a professor of public health at Drexel University who studies autism outcomes. Anxiety, commonly experienced in people with autism, can make typical workplace competition unbearable; one Auticon employee, in a BBC report, compared his experience at his last job to the television show “Survivor.” The interview process alone is a sociability test that many people with autism are destined to fail or inclined to avoid altogether. (Some members of the autism community prefer to be described as “autistic.” Others, including those I interviewed at Auticon, preferred to be described as “on the spectrum” or as “a person with autism.” “Just don’t call me late for dinner,” said one who did not have a preference.)

Major technology businesses like Microsoft and SAP have made significant efforts over the past several years to hire more people with strong cognitive skills who are on the spectrum, recognizing that they represent untapped potential in the job market. Human-resource departments have modified interview processes, trained staff to accommodate certain sensitivities (to sounds or disruptions) and helped co-workers and managers adjust to those colleagues’ needs (for example, closer supervision). Auticon goes one step further; it is an office where people who have autism are a majority. Employees on the spectrum do not make up a pod within a company; instead, they define the predominant culture.

Has Samsung Killed The Blu-ray Disc?, by Ty Pendlebury, CNET

Whether it's the latest artist or the hip new show on Netflix, streaming media is the norm today, and owning a streaming movie is more convenient than ever, thanks to digital copies and services like Movies Anywhere. One result is that the popularity of cheap media streamers like Roku and Amazon Fire TV are on the rise, while Blu-ray player sales are declining.

But people still continue to buy disc players, and 4K Blu-ray delivers best audio and video quality you can buy in home video -- without the need for a fast Internet connection. Samsung made the first 4K Blu-ray player, the UDB-K8500, and still makes plenty of high-end TVs, so as a Blu-ray player reviewer, its exit came as a surprise to me. Some experts say that Samsung's new partnership with Apple had an influence on the decision. But I can't help but wonder how long the Blu-ray format can survive without the Big S.

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I think I still have some DVDs that I've bought years ago that I haven't even watched.


Thanks for reading.