Consumer Tech & Heath – Spotlight #299

Good Monday morning. It’s June 24th. The first official debates of the 2020 presidential campaign start Wednesday night and conclude Thursday. 

Today’s Spotlight takes about 3 minutes to read.

1. News to Know Now

  • Dell is warning owners of its hardware using Windows 10 to download and install its latest updates to stop a software bug that can allow outside users to take over individual machines.
  • Amazon will add 15 planes to its air fleet and have 70 planes flying by 2021. FedEx owns nearly 400 planes and UPS owns 249. Amazon bought its first planes only three years ago, once again living by its “Get Big Fast” motto.
  • Facebook engagement metrics–likes, shares, and comments–is down about 20% since last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal according to The Guardian.  Facebook says that the number of active users continues increasing, but we’ve also shared that the time users spend on Facebook is decreasing.

2. Consumer Tech & Health

Alexa or Siri might soon alert emergency responders if you’re having a heart attack—without you asking for the call to be made. University of Washington researchers say that many people suffering cardiac arrest breathe in a “disordered gasping sound” that consumer tech devices like voice assistants can differentiate from normal breathing sounds around it. The team trained its algorithm using audio from phone calls to emergency lines and during sleep study tests.  Testing is still underway.  (Digital Trends)

Other researchers want to use what you type to help diagnose medical conditions—even undiagnosed ones. A team from Penn has published a peer-reviewed article that suggests the text Facebook users choose when posting their status updates can predict health conditions. The group identified 21 conditions and found it could accurately, including a 74% rate for diabetes and a 79% rate for pregnancy. The data research looks well done, the statistics are peer-reviewed, and the topic is fascinating. Think about the really great counselors and physicians that you know. Many do this type of analysis mentally while speaking to a patient. The paper is open-sourced and available to read free here.

Google Flu Trends, a project the company launched 11 years ago and shuttered over privacy concerns, was an early attempt at the same type of predictive analysis. Google focused on collective intelligence, not individual analysis. Tens of millions of searches were aggregated and compared to the expected rate of queries about symptoms of influenza illnesses. With its size and its knowledge of where users were communicating from, Google could alert public health officials to new outbreaks. Although the company no longer updates this project, it makes the data available to accredited researchers here.

3.  A Florida City Pays Ransom

We’ve been telling you about digital criminals holding Baltimore’s IT infrastructure hostage. We learned this week that Riviera Beach, Florida is paying hackers using a similar attack about $600,000 to restore access to its data. The county is also spending about $900,000 on new computers and insurance is only covering the first $300K. The end result is that this West Palm Beach suburb will spend about $44 per resident as a result of the attack that started when a police department employee engaged with an email hiding a virus.

4. In the Spotlight

  • Breaking Sunday:  news that Google’s Nest Cam Indoor continues to allow former owners to see images from the new owner’s home even if a factory reset is done. (The Wirecutter)
  • Humanity has not evolved a horn in its spine since the advent of mobile phones despite what hoodwinked editors allowed to be published this week, well, all over. The hoax’s gist: looking down at mobile phones causes a skeletal issue in the neck and spine. Clinicians agree that it can be bad for people, but humanity didn’t manage to evolve in two decades.

Sample headlines deserving your scorn:

Horns are growing on young people’s skulls. Phone use is to blame. – (Boston Globe)

Technology changing our skeletons, may promote ‘horns’ at base of skull in youth – NY Daily News

Smartphones might be to blame for odd bone spikes growing on skulls, study claims – Fox News

Shout out to DC news station WTOP for running the story and immediately questioning the study’s veracity. Few outlets did. And that’s why we need you to read everything with a critical eye. It’s also why we source what we write. 

The “science” was non-existent. The study was based on 1,200 people who were patients at the same chiropractic clinic. And the “study” didn’t measure cell phone usage for any participants. Smithsonian debunked the whole thing.

Confirmation bias always existed, but the ability to forward an article or share a link within seconds makes our society susceptible. Please keep a bookmark handy for a fact-checking site and question everything.

5. Protip: Google Photos and Drive Changing

If you use Google Photos and Google Drive together , the company wants you to know that videos and photos stored on Drive will no longer automatically post to Google Photos. Likewise deleting photos from one will no longer delete the other copy. 

Some of our nonprofit clients use Google Drive and Photos because of the free Nonprofits program and many people use the combination as consumers. Google explains everything that’s coming up at this link.

6. Great Data: UVA’s Racial Digital Map

You’ve seen scatter plots and you’ve seen color-coded maps. But have you seen color-coded scatters where one color-coded dot equals one person? The Demographics Research Group at UVA has a map that shows one color-coded dot for all people. The breakouts are by race: Caucasian, Black, Asian, Hispanic, and other races. 

My Chantilly, Virginia neighborhood is pretty diverse, but one look at the map showed clear concentrations of people of the same race at the street level. 

Hold the explanations for now and explore story-telling via data.

7.  Coffee Break

Remember comedian D.J. Pryor and his conversation with his toddler Kingston that went viral earlier this month?

DJ and Kingston are back in a Denny’s spot for Father’s Day, which is some of the most opportunistic promotion I’ve seen in a while. Good job, Denny’s.  Watch the new dad and Kingston converse about bacon.

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