Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Google acquired Fitbit – and your fitness data, but wait there’s more


Anne says: Last week, when Google acquired Fitbit, some of the concerns about how our health data was being used came to fruition. Many years ago when Fitbit burst onto the fitness tracking market (back in 2007), many people willingly signed up to their new way of nudging us to move, keep fit and track our steps. But a deeper read on the user agreement did mention that they (Fitbit) could collect your data and use it to inform product development and… other uses. It was fairly discrete and didn’t attach your username to the data – so, who cares? Well, fast forward to November 2019. Now Google has that data

It’s been widely discussed over recent years that the big technology companies; Google, Apple, Amazon and Uber are all in a race to claim a slice of this enormous data market (reportedly worth US$200billion annually). The question we should all be asking – what do they intend to do with the data? And, is it anonymised or does our personal data become part of the data package?

We’re about to find out. Not only has Google acquired Fitbit, they’ve also gone into a relationship with Ascension (one of the biggest US health systems). There is a project, dubbed Nightingale, that is about developing (for free) a health platform that recommends treatments, plans and procedures. What’s scary is that it’s legal – under the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Apparently, it’s legal to share data with business associates, without patient consent. Ouch! 

However, there’s still a question as to why they need to share your personal details, with your medical data. Meanwhile, in the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulations (May 2018) has already found breaches where websites (like Bupa) have been found to use cookies that allowed third parties to track the users. 

It doesn’t give us, the users, much confidence in sharing our information with our health providers – let alone our Fitbit fitness tracker! Some people have asked: Why does it really matter? It matters – full stop. This sort of personal data, with medical information, could be used to profile people’s applications for jobs, insurance and much more. It’s a form of profiling that creates inequality based on health. 

However, Wired has released an article this week that shows you how to manage your data, what can or can’t be seen, across the main devices producers including Apple and Google. Good luck with that… and maybe we need a total overhaul of our systems of record and who has a right to them?


Google Shakes Up Its ‘TGIF’—and Ends Its Culture of Openness


Christoph says: Whilst the reversal of Yahoo’s work from home policy made huge waves around the globe back in 2013, the reversal of Google’s iconic ‘TGIF’ format seems to have gone pretty much unnoticed. Well, it is not an entire reversal but more an adaptation to the current state of affairs at Google. 

Google introduced its weekly employee all-hands meeting in 1999. The founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin ran those meetings up until they moved on to run the mother company Alphabet and Sundar Pichai took over as CEO of Google. What was unique about the format was the fact that there seemed to be a deep trust and openness among the growing workforce to ask and discuss even the most sensitive and perhaps controversial topics about product roadmaps or workplace issues. There seemed to be a special bond among Google employees, so that nothing was leaked. 

Fast forward to today and Google seems to have become a ‘normal’ company. Employees have become very vocal inside and outside their work about issues and topics that they feel are in stark contrast to the vision and values of the company. In summer this year, Google banned political discussions from internal messaging forums. In late October Pichai told employees in a leaked video that the company was struggling with employee trust. Google is now adapting the TGIF format. General topics and business updates will be provided on a monthly basis. More controversial workplace topics will be discussed in smaller, more intimate circles. 

Google had a large workforce of up to 80.000 employees even during Page’s and Brin’s tenure. Employee trust did not seem to be an issue. It seems to have deteriorated under the new leadership. The reasons for this could be manifold and complex, so I am not going to speculate on this. However, it does come to show how important Page and Brin were to employees. Initially, I thought Pichai would just want to get rid off a format in which educated and passionate employees would ask candid questions to the leadership team. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt though that he will work on the employee trust challenge. Thus, by offering smaller, more intimate formats to discuss contentious topics, Google management still has the opportunity to go into a direct and open dialogue with employees. I do not think that it’s the end of the famous Google culture but it’s definitely a wake-up call. 


Salary transparency is key to the future of workplace wellness


Jakkii says: I actually want to share this one with very little comment from me (it happens sometimes… alright, it happens rarely). A while ago, I found myself part of an interesting discussion where, amongst other aspects to the discussion, both sides wanted to see similar outcomes including fairness and pay parity, but disagreed on whether salaries and/or salary bands should be disclosed upfront in job listings. Now, this piece is largely about salary transparency and disclosure amongst existing employees, but I believe the principles to be the same. And so, what I really want to know is – what do you think about the topic of salary transparency? What do you think of the argument that salary transparency can help to achieve pay parity? Have a read of the article and get in touch – I’d really love to know what you think.


This Week in Social Media

Politics, democracy and regulation

Privacy and data

Cybersecurity and safety

Society and culture

Extremism, trolling and hate speech

Moderation and misinformation

Marketing, media, advertising and PR


Facebook’s Libra and Calibra

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: calling bullshit, sexist credit cards and death predictions with Jevin West. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

Our guest this week: Associate Professor Jevin West

The stories this week

00:45 Toilets are dangerous business, World Toilet Day

06:02 Apple’s credit card is being investigated for discriminating against women

19:41 AI can tell if you’re going to die soon, we just don’t know how it knows

Other stories we bring up

Calling Bullshit: data reasoning in a digital world

Jevin’s research centre, The Centre for an Informed Public

Jevin’s subject: Calling bullshit in the age of Big Data

Jevin’s TedX talk: We’re drowning in BS, but you can learn how to fight back

Jevin’s talk at CreativeMornings Seattle on bullshit

Japanese high-tech toilets are conquering the west

Software developer David Heinemeier Hansson complains on Twitter

We teach A.I. systems everything, including our biases

Our previous conversations about the ethics of AI

Our discussion with Professor Daniel Kahneman on bias and algorithms

Our previous conversation on women and the future of work

Our recap on algorithms


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