Google settles over privacy violations, Social media segregation, the era of big data, and more…

  • Google is reportedly reaching a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over an incident in which the Internet search giant violated an agreement with the FTC by tracking Safari users’ data. From the Associated Press:

Google is poised to pay a $22.5 million fine to resolve allegations that it broke a privacy promise by secretly tracking millions of Web surfers who rely on Apple’s Safari browser, according to a person familiar with settlement.

If approved by the FTC’s five commissioners, the $22.5 million penalty would be the largest the agency has ever imposed on a single company.

  • Adrianna Jeffries at BetaBeat covers a BBC report on how users of specific web sites break down along racial demographics. The article misleadingly refers to “segregation” in social media, but the information and analysis by danah boyd is interesting:

Pinterest is 70 percent female and 79 percent white, according to the BBC. By contrast, black and Latino users are overrepresented on Twitter versus the general population.

Ms. Boyd theorized that there was an exodus of users from Myspace to Facebook similar to white flight to the suburbs when the U.S. desegregated schools. Facebook, the vanilla of social media sites, was approaching the makeup of the U.S. population at the time of an analysis done in 2009. That was the year that white users stopped being overrepresented and black and Latino users stopped being underrepresented.

Among companies of more than 1,000 employees in 15 out of the economy’s 17 sectors, the average amount of data is a surreal 235 terabytes. That’s right — each of these companies has more info than the Library of Congress. And so, why should we care? Because data is valuable. The growth of digital networks and the networked sensors in everything from phones to cars to heavy machinery mean that data has a reach and sweep it has never had before. The key to Big Data is connecting these sensors to computing intelligence which can make sense of all this information (in pure Wall-E style, some theorists call this the Internet of Things).

  • This short post at Kethu.org presents survey data and rhetorically wonders whether social media behaviors negatively impact life enjoyment:

Consider this: 24% of respondents to one survey said they’ve missed out on enjoying special moments in person because — ironically enough — they were too busy trying to document their experiences for online sharing. Many of us have had to remind ourselves to “live in the now” — instead of worry about composing the perfect tweet or angling for just the right Instagram shot.

I’m coming to believe that classroom time is too limiting in the teaching of tools. At CUNY, we’ve seen over the years that students come in with widening gulfs in both their prior experience and their future ambitions in tools and technologies. My colleagues at CUNY, led by Sandeep Junnarkar, have implemented many new modules and courses to teach such topics as data journalism (gathering, analysis, visualization) and familiarity with programming.

Note well that I have argued since coming to CUNY that we should not and cannot turn out coders. I also do not subscribe to the belief that journalism’s salvation lies in hunting down that elusive unicorn, the coder-journalism, the hack-squared. I do believe that journalists must become conversant in technologies, sufficient to enable them to (a) know what’s possible, (b) specify what they want, and (c) work with the experts who can create that.

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