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

Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret

Anne says: This article caught my attention – I thought, another one of these articles about how much we’re being monitored, 1984 stuff. Then I read a little further.. and I thought.. wait! this is a little more sinister than I had expected… and then in another moment, they’re selling my data? And I don’t know about this? Oh – I must be naive, of course they are!

Enough of my ruminations! This article is important on a number of levels. Yes, it is another article about tracking your movements through your mobile, but it’s also about more than your device. This is about the behaviour of app developers and the way they are tracking your movements, then selling that data, without your consent. Now, you know the prompt you get: Allow this app to access your location – some of these do not specify that they are collecting your data, not only for the functionality of the app, but for other purposes. Read the examples to find out how the data is being used – it might surprise you.

While we talk about privacy (and how many of us read through the fine details on the apps we consent to use), the app providers explain the data is not identifying the individual users’ details. Not much comfort I’m afraid. The New York Times team have a number of examples where they are able to identify the individual by tracking their movements – it’s extraordinary and should send some shivers down your spine.

Are we responsible for figuring out how each app is going to use our data? Or is there some kind of regulatory step that needs to be enforced?

It’s getting complicated – and we need to be aware, but we’re also going to need to determine how we, as users, navigate (excuse the pun) this new layer of privacy and access to personal data.


Digital Platforms – Media and Advertising Moderators

Helen says: Whilst not directly related to my article last week about deterring fake news, the Digital Platforms Inquiry has the potential to contribute positively in this space. Apparently, it’s the first of its kind in the world and ACCC Chair Rod Sims is encouraging regulators from other parts of the globe to follow his lead. It’s aimed at taking a closer look at the market power wielded by digital platforms, in particular the big two, Facebook and Google. Preliminary recommendations were released this week and now is the period for feedback and submissions.

This article informs us why this inquiry is so important and summarises the ACCC’s far-reaching recommendations – but you’ll have to read the article for the list. The article quotes from the report statistics that help illustrate just how dominant Google and Facebook are in the Australian market. Between them, they collected more than half of the near $8 billion advertising spend in Australia (2017), and more than half the news that appears on Australian news websites comes via Google and Facebook. Our laws have not been able to keep up with the fast-paced changes that technology enables. We have seen major shifts in the way news is delivered and how advertisers reach us, and these changes have impacted on our privacy – we have seen many headlines this year highlighting privacy concerns. I think an inquiry is a good move and I hope it will provide our lawmakers with greater insights into the influence of digital platforms, enabling them to develop robust regulations that provide us with greater protection in what is currently a highly unregulated market. The final report is due to be released in June next year and I’ll be keeping an eye out for it!


Sorry mantis shrimp, the Dracula ant’s snap-jaw is faster

Joel says: If you thought Australia didn’t already have enough animals with deadly titles you’re in luck because a new species is being added to the list of top-tier animals that inhabit our country. We already had the largest crocodiles and the most venomous spiders and snakes in the world but now we’ve also been crowned as having the world’s fastest animal with a deadly strike.

Previously a title that belonged to the mantis shrimp, who was known for having the world’s fastest punch, it’s now been succeeded by the mandible strike of the Dracula ant.

In a recent study performed by the University of Illinois, they observed that the Dracula ant’s snapping jaw is able to strike faster than the punch of the mantis shrimp, officially confirming that the Dracula ant has the fastest animal movement on record.

The Dracula ant can snap its mandibles at over 200 mph (322 km/h). A mantis shrimp’s strike can reach speeds of over 50 mph (80 km/h). So, not exactly a close competition! It blows the mantis shrimp out of the water.

The researchers used a combination of cameras, X-ray machines and computer simulations to better understand how the jaws of the Dracula ant actually work.

But the best way to see what this ant is capable of is to check out the video below and see for yourself how the Dracula ant is capable of going from zero to 200 mph in 0.000015 seconds.

I found this piece quite interesting because I’ve posted a number of Friday Fave pieces this year about the study of animals and how understanding their movements and unique traits can be used to create better working robots and drones. If studies continue for the Dracula ant who knows what technological advancements could come in the future.


Why we all take the same travel photos

Jakkii says: I’m currently overseas, so naturally this piqued my interest and I immediately started to think about the photos I’ve taken while I’ve been away (the ones not of beer, anyway (wink)). And then I started to think about the millions of articles around titled ‘most Instagrammable places in (insert city here)’, and what I’ve taken photos of during past travels over the years. We really do tend to take the same pictures, hopefully putting our own spin on them, sure, but still of the same things. Why is that? Is social media to ‘blame’?

The standardization of travel all started in the 18th century, as guidebooks began directing visitors to “picturesque” views that looked like paintings.

Oh. Not social media, then.

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.

That’s because photographs actually created the attractions in the first place. As sociologist Dean MacCannell observed in his 1976 book The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class, images lift unknown landscapes from obscurity, marking them as significant and “setting the tourist in motion on his journey to find the true object.”

This is a philosopher’s, uh… something to tickle a philosopher pink. I immediately thought of Nat as I read this and how she’d have so much to say about identity, self and art, and the role of technology here as well, and I’d have loved to hear what she had to say. It’s a fascinating thought, that tourist attractions are tourist attractions because tourists made them attractions (say that three times fast!). The cynic might point to the role of advertising and marketing, of tourism boards and hoteliers and the like – but go back to that idea that this all started in the 18th century, and I think the role of us as people, as travellers, is pretty clear. It’s a self-fulfilling cycle, and one that continues to this day – we seek to see what others have seen, to go and experience and be known to have gone and experienced. It’s a mechanism of identity expression – and perhaps identity definition – that many of us participate in. I’m no philosopher, but I’m certainly fascinated by people – and I love to travel. The question, I think, for each of us to ask ourselves is how do we ensure we experience a place, and not just ‘collect’ it?

Jonas Larsen, professor of mobility at Roskilde University, has studied tourist behavior at attractions in Denmark. While some were hurriedly snapping away, others were taking their time, carefully studying their environment between snaps. “Rather than being reduced to something superficial, it can actually open you up to a more sustained kind of experience,” he says.

I really like that idea. That it’s not about not visiting the attractions, or not taking the photos – but rather immersing ourselves in the experience. Really studying and taking in where we are and what we’re there to see and experience. I’d like to think I do something like that already, but I’m going to challenge myself to be more intentional and aware next time I’m photographing an attraction – perhaps you might like to do the same.

Besides, if we’re all taking the same photos, it’s no wonder people’s holiday snap slideshows are so boring to sit through. We’ve seen it all before! (wink)


Why you should treat the tech you use at work like a colleague

Anne says: This is a great video and a perfect time to reflect on how technology is embraced (or not) in your workplace. Nadjia Yousif, from BCG, shares an approach that you may find useful for reframing the role of technology. What if it was a person? What if you added the platforms you use to your organisational charts? And what might that reveal?

Why not watch this over the Xmas/New Year break and experiment with this activity? We’d love to hear the outcomes!


This week in social media

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: food flavours, fish faces and China’s car data collection. 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.

The stories this week:

The AI that can map the way food tastes (or can it?)

Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources together with Microsoft uses AI for fish facial recognition

Other stories we bring up:

Analytical Flavor Systems’s  Gastrograph AI

What we really taste when we drink wine

CSIRO’s Wanda in training for fish recognition

The Nature Conservancy’s FishFace concept

Our previous discussion of Google’s Assistant and Google Duplex technology

Interview with Chinese official on electric vehicle data collection

Our previous episode on China’s electric buses


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