Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Monday, 2 June 2014

Puppy drives a car into Massachusetts pond -

Puppy drives a car into Massachusetts pond - 

After going for a walk, a German shepherd puppy owned by a Massachusetts man decided to go for a drive -- straight into a pond.

John Costello tells WFXT-TV that his 12-week-old puppy, Rosie, was so excited Sunday after going for a walk at Bolivar Pond in Canton that she jumped in his running car, hit the gear stick and shifted into drive, before falling onto the gas pedal and sending the car careening into the water.

A couple of passers-by saw the commotion and helped Costello rescue Rosie. Nobody was injured, but Costello says the Dodge Neon is a total loss.

The 911 call surprised even police. Officer Robert Quirk says he has never heard of a dog driving into a pond.


Big Data knows you're sick, tired and depressed - and you play Candy Crush -

Big Data knows you're sick, tired and depressed - and you play Candy Crush - 

From the diseases you battle to the pills you pop, your most personal health information could be for sale.
That's because some data brokers are collecting information from the surveys you take, websites you visit, products you buy and mobile apps you use to create lists of consumers with certain health issues or medical conditions. They then sell this information to marketers and other companies.

Diabetes, depression, herpes, yeast infections, erectile dysfunction and bed-wetting are just a few of the highly sensitive conditions for which consumer lists are available.
Federal law dictates that this information can't be used to deny anyone for a job or insurance coverage. But with little transparency about who is buying and using these lists, lawmakers and federal regulators say they are worried about other potentially harmful ways the information might be used.
For example, while a "diabetes interest" list could be used by a food manufacturer to offer coupons on sugar-free products, that same list could be used by an insurance company to classify a consumer as higher risk, regulators wrote in a recent Federal Trade Commission report.

Data broker Paramount Lists sells a list of "depression sufferers" who it says can be further targeted based on drugs that they've reported taking, like Zoloft or Prozac. It advertises that these consumers have likely "been encouraged to change their lifestyle habits in the way they live and the products they buy," making them ripe for marketing offers.
Paramount deferred to the Direct Marketing Association, an industry trade group, for comment.
Another company, Great Lakes List Management, hawks a list of households where Alzheimer's patients reside. It says the list could be used by "a pharmaceutical company offering new medications." Great Lakes did not respond to requests for comment.
Many consumers assume that their medical information is protected by strict federal health privacy laws -- called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.
However, HIPAA only applies to "covered entities" -- namely your doctor, health plan and any health care clearinghouse that processes your medical or billing information. That means your medical and prescription drug history stored by your doctor or local pharmacy are protected.

Say you get home from the doctor's and visit several websites to learn more about a diagnosis or register for a website that offers online support. Or you fill out a survey about the medication you're taking in the hopes of landing discounted prescription drugs, or buy over-the-counter products related to your ailment.
All of that information falls outside of HIPAA and can be gathered and sold by data brokers.
Often, the fact that your information could be collected and shared is buried deep in privacy policies, said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit advocacy group.
"People who are sick and really need support aren't necessarily thinking privacy. They're just not," she said. "They're thinking I need help."

The Federal Trade Commission recently recommended that Congress pass a law requiring companies to get "express consent" from consumers when sharing sensitive health information.
The Direct Marketing Association said its ethical guidelines dictate that consumers who are asked to provide their health information should be given "clear notice" that their data will be used by marketers.
And some large data brokers say they have their own internal protections in place. Acxiom, for example, says it already classifies health-related data as "sensitive," and restricts who can purchase the information.
Still, Dixon argues that many companies could make the collection of health data more transparent.
"It's not clear to people at all," she said. "If there was a big sign that said, 'We will sell this information to data brokers,' people would never give it." 


Google: 12,000 'forgotten' requests on first day -

Google: 12,000 'forgotten' requests on first day - 

Google and other internet companies find themselves in a quandary over how to strike a balance between privacy and freedom of information as the top world search engine took a first step towards upholding an EU privacy ruling.

Google moved overnight to put up an online form that will allow European citizens to request that links to obsolete information be taken down - its first response to the ruling by Europe's top court on "the right to be forgotten".

The ruling on May 13 upheld a 1995 European law on data protection and ordered Google to remove links to a 1998 newspaper article about the repossession of a Spanish man's home.

That puts Google and other internet companies in the position of having to interpret the court's broad criteria for information that is "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" as well as developing criteria for distinguishing public figures from private individuals.

After putting up the online form in the early hours of Friday, Google received 12,000 requests across Europe, sometimes averaging 20 per minute, by late in the day, the company said.

"The court's ruling requires Google to make difficult judgements about an individual's right to be forgotten and the public's right to know," a Google spokesman said.

Read more -