If you’ve ever looked at the Trending Topics in the top right of your Facebook newsfeed, just to see chatter about some video game character right next to news about a massive natural disaster, you’ve probably thought, “who on earth is deciding what shows up here?” Well, now it’s what, not a who, and it… might still need some refining.
Websites collect information about the people who use them, and the people who end up not using them. If you’ve even visited the website of Airbnb, the company has used your data to improve its offerings or its site in some way. [More]
The future’s really cool sometimes: We get to use all sorts of new technology tools and cloud-based services to help us manage our health. That constellation of apps, trackers, tests, and gadgets gives huge insight into our health and bodies, which is useful to millions… but it also lets a stunning amount of the most personal data out into the wild, unregulated and uncontrolled.
The new CEO of JCPenney, a chain of department stores that had a brief and disastrous attempt at becoming more hip and upscale, says that the company is done “patching holes” in its business, and that it’s time to start building itself up for the future. That includes something that retailers now generally take for granted: using its customer data to sell more stuff to the customers that it has. [More]
Many teenagers’ parents want to give their kids every possible advantage when it comes to the SATs. They pony up a few thousand dollars and buy Junior a test-prep course. It’s expensive, but at least it’s the same kind of expensive for everyone, right? Well, no, it’s not. And worst of all: there sure is an awfully high correlation between the race of the family doing the buying and the price that they get charged.
Earlier this year Facebook announced it would dip its toes into the pool of mobile payments by launching a system that allowed users to send money to friends via the Messenger app. Now it appears the company may take things a bit farther after receiving approval for a patent this week that would allow creditors to determine whether or not someone is worthy of a loan based on their circle of friends on the social networking site. [More]
You’ve signed up for a dating site, and it has promised up and down not to sell your data for marketing purposes. One year in, so far so good. Except the site folds, and someone else buys its assets — and those assets include all your personal info. The new owners made no privacy promise, and now your likes, dislikes, and dating history are floating down you-know-what creek without you.
Facial recognition still kind of sounds like science fiction, but is a tech reality. It is, however, still a fairly new and unregulated reality — nobody quite knows how to handle it. So the Commerce Department brought together privacy advocates and industry representatives to hammer out a new code of conduct… and it is not going well. In fact, several of the advocates claim, the process is so broken that it can’t be fixed, and they are walking out.
Here in the Northeast, people who are allergic to pollen are having a harsh spring. They should take comfort, though, that there isn’t a corresponding shortage of allergy medicines, as there apparently was five years ago. Drug companies have learned how to take global climate data and turn it into more plentiful antihistamines when people need them. [More]
Sometimes products are unsafe. From bacteria-filled food to shrapnel-shooting airbags, on occasion even the most conscientious company will find itself needing to recall a product if it turns out to be harmful to consumers. But recalls are a big pain in the butt all around. One of the biggest issues? Actually letting consumers know that the stuff in their hands or on their shelves has, in fact, actually been recalled.
Everything you do online — on your phone, on your computer, with anything — leaves a digital wake. Put those trails together and you’ve got one massive big data industry that can (and does) track it all and sell it to the highest bidder. After decades of digital detritus building up, regulators and Congress both are contemplating some steps that would help protect consumers’ info.
We all kind of know that credit card data isn’t terribly secure, and that the payment information is likely to get swiped eventually. But that information is all theoretically anonymous. Without a name, address, or ZIP code attached, our credit card information doesn’t say much about us personally, right? Wrong.
By now we know that every purchase a consumer makes is added to a list detailing one’s spending and life-style habit, which is used to target people for marketing campaigns and other services. But how would you feel if that information was used by your doctors to keep tabs on your health? [More]
Do you know everywhere your car has been in the past week? Month? Year? You may or may not remember it all, but there’s a good chance that your license plate has had its photo snapped, and its location recorded, a whole bunch of times in that period. And anyone who can pony up the cash for a subscription to that database can tell exactly where you’ve been.
Savvy consumers all know that their lifetime debt history ends up in their credit score, and that lenders use that score to try to predict if someone is a good bet for a big loan like a mortgage. But even the most-connected consumer may not realize how many hundreds of other scores we all now trail in our wakes too, thanks to the advent of big data. Do you know, to the last decimal, how likely are you to buy jewelry? To sign up for cable? To have a kid in the next year? Someone, somewhere, is tallying all of that information about almost everyone. But good luck finding out what’s out there, who’s scoring it, and if your numbers are even actually about you at all.
More than 64 million Americans are cut off from access to traditional banking because they lack credit history. To better serve these unbanked consumers financial institutions are relying on the promises of big data brokers to accurately determine the creditworthiness of consumers. But is the new method a reliable way to provide affordable access to credit? Not really, a new report by the National Consumer Law Center points out. [More]