Tag Archives: Privacy

The Reality Behind Social Location Apps

22 Jun

Digital services company Beyond compiled the results of their research into location-based apps, and designed this infographic summarizing the results; Check-In Data: The Reality Behind the Hype.  Released in conjuction with the Social-Loco conference in San Francisco, CA on May 5th.

As part of our involvement in the Social-Loco conference we have done some research to try to understand the difference between what people are saying online compared to the actions of early adopters and the views of the rest of the US population when it comes to their mobile check-in habits.

The results give us a clear understanding of who the winners and losers are likely to be, as well as the types of things that will motivate the mass consumer to adopt location-based apps. They also highlight some of the real challenges there are to consumers embracing this technology.

The data is very interesting.  Personally, I continue to use Foursquare, but find myself checking in less and less because I don’t get any direct benefits out of it.

From a design standpoint, I like the circle clusters, but I don’t like data separate in a legend on the side.  I appreciate that the color-coding remains the same, so Twitter is the same color in each visualization.  I would have included the logo images for the social location-based apps, and connected the data directly to the circles.  Data legends like this make your readers work harder to understand the information.

I also think that the most interesting learning from the study is the comparison between how people interact with national brands and small, local businesses.  However, this is the last visualization at the bottom, and gets lost.



Men get the pervy candid camera treatment

12 Jun

TubeCrush publishes cellphone shots of unknowing hot guys. Is there a double standard afoot?

Men get the candid camera treatment

When I hear about candid subway photos posted online, I think of upskirt and down-the-blouse snapshots. Next, Hollaback-style captures of fondlers and flashers come to mind. But a coed group of Londoners is subjecting men to unwitting Internet objectification with TubeCrush.net, a site devoted to hot guys encountered on the Underground. User-submitted shots are posted on the site with some eyebrow-wiggling commentary (e.g. “we just know there is a six-pack under that coat”) and visitors can give them a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down.

It’s getting a lot of coverage across the pond and, unsurprisingly, stirring up some controversy. The Guardian’s Sunny Hundul criticized the Evening Standard’s coverage of the site, which he argued was all too flippant and embraced an unfair double standard. He asked, “If the sexes had been reversed, would it have been seen so benign? Probably not.” Gail Dines and Wendy J Murphy also targeted the site in a recent Op-Ed:

The recent TubeCrush phenomenon, where young women take pictures of men they find attractive on the London tube and post them to a website, illustrates how easily women copy dominant societal norms of sexual objectification rather than exploring something new and creative.

I bristle at the suggestion that women who sexually objectify men are necessarily “copying” mainstream male sexuality (maybe they’re, I dunno, expressing how they really feel). In fact, I’m often tempted to celebrate mildly piggish female behavior — to a point — just because it at least contradicts the stereotype that female sexuality is adequately represented by, say, Twilight fan-fiction. (And isn’t fan-fiction just another mode of objectification, anyway?) I also happen to think that sexual objectification isn’t always a bad thing; it’s all about context and consent. (Dines is an anti-pornography activist, though, so we know where she stands on that issue.) It’s also interesting to think about the difference between candid shots taken for a street-style fashion blog versus a sexy-person-on-the-train blog: Why does the former seem so much more innocuous and reasonably objectifying?

Now, it’s important to point out the crucial difference between the photos that make it on TubeCrush and the explicitly sexual candids — most often of women — available all over the Web. These represent very different privacy issues: In one scenario, the one I’m concerned with here, a person’s photo is taken in a public space and then broadcast to a whole new audience, and in an unregulated venue for anonymous commentary; in the other case, a clear personal boundary — like a hemline — is trespassed in a public space and then the evidence is broadcast to a greater audience. Although, as I’ve written about before, the law doesn’t always distinguish between these two circumstances; there isn’t always a “reasonable expectation of privacy” beyond your hemline.

As for these tame shapshots, the legality isn’t as much an issue as the creep factor, which is entirely subjective (and not only dependent on the nature of the photograph but also the commentary that accompanies it). One unwitting TubeCrush subject tweeted that he was “5% demeaned, 35% flattered, 60% surprised” to find himself on the site. Now, he doesn’t speak for all men, and certainly plenty would find it far more unsettling than flattering, but that’s about the reaction one would expect from a straight man who discovers that a woman found him so drop-dead handsome she just had to snap his photo. That’s in part because most men are unaccustomed to objectification by women. (For example, after I brought a straight guy friend to a gay male dance club, he told me in awe: “I’ve never felt so attractive before in my life!”)

Women, on the other hand, are trained to be wary of strangers’ attention at every turn — and we know just how quickly compliments on the street or in the subway can become abusive and threatening. That isn’t a strong enough defense of a double standard when it comes to candid snapshots, though. Once we move beyond the question of whether women deserve a special pass for piggish behavior, we get to the far trickier privacy issues brought up by technology — and we’ll be trying to untangle those for quite some time to come.

Ultimately, sites like TubeCrush get at an essential truth about the Internet: People like to look at other people. After all, Mark Zuckerberg, King of The Web, got his start with a site that allowed visitors to rate people’s attractiveness online without their permission. And it also tells us something about the objectifying nature of human sexuality. As Camille Paglia put it, “Turning people into sex objects is one of the specialties of our species.”



The dubious joys of perving over fellow passengers online.


Some examples:

Taking him home to meet mum

Date: 3rd June 2011

Line: Piccadilly Line

Submitted By: SF

How sweet and innocent does this guy look? We love a guy that would make mum happy. we love even more the dirty glint in his eye. Oh the possibilities

Vote This Post DownVote This Post Up (+90 rating, 156 votes)

Crutchless Sitters


Date: 10th June 2011

Line: Northern

This very handsome man was lucky to get a seat to lighten his load on the way back from the office. He had better hurry up and get better, now he has been featured on TubeCrush he can start sweeping Londons ladies off their feet.

119 rating, 139 votes119 rating, 139 votes (+119 rating, 139 votes, rated)

Big Brother catches the greatest drunk walk ever

12 Jun

Closed-circuit footage of one sorry sot goes viral. But just how closely monitored is the UK?

By Emma Mustich

CCTV's greatest hits

A drunk man is caught flipping over a banister closed-circuit television in London.

A closed-circuit television (CCTV) video that shows an extremely drunk man staggering home through the streets of London has taken the web by storm this week (you can watch it below). Although it’s primarily entertaining because of its sheer shock value, it also serves to illustrate the surprising — and, to many, alarming — extent of video surveillance in the U.K.

Camera coverage of London is so comprehensive that, in this particular man’s case, we can follow him from a truly cinematic variety of angles — and a full minute and a half — as he wanders further and further from the fancy Savoy Hotel, where he had been attending an awards event.

Just how closely are Brits watched? We’re often told that camera security in the U.K. is intense. A Daily Mail article from 2007 put the number of CCTV cameras in use across the kingdom at 4.2 million — “one for every 14 people and a fifth of the cameras in the entire world” — adding that this meant the U.K. was first globally in terms of the camera-to-person ratio. (“The average Londoner may be monitored by up to 300 [cameras] every day,” the Mail added at the time.) These same figures, gathered by academics a decade ago based on a study of two south London shopping streets, have been cited by the BBC and numerous other news organizations for years. However, “the only large-scale audit of surveillance cameras ever conducted” — described by the Guardian earlier this year — has recently called these numbers into question, claiming there are only about 1.85 million surveillance cameras in the country (one for every 32 residents). According to the Guardian, “the vast majority” of these cameras “are run by private companies.” It has long been said that there are hundreds of thousands of cameras in London alone.

In a useful 2008 explainer, the Independent noted that, although several high-profile cases (such as the murder of James Bulger) have been closed with the help of video footage, ultimately, “fewer than one crime in 30 is solved through CCTV.” And it doesn’t even appear to be much of a deterrent; the Independent goes on to explain:


One company that sells CCTV equipment makes the startling claim that “crime is dramatically reduced by up to 95 per cent where CCTV is installed.” If that were true, the U.K. would be most crime-free country in the world. The cameras are better at preventing low-level opportunist crime like break-ins, but are little deterrent to street violence, and they work better in semi-open spaces like car parks than in streets. Dover council introduced CCTV in 1993. After 12 years, they found that burglary in the areas covered had halved, car crime was down 87 per cent, but public disorder and crimes of violence had almost trebled.


Watch the sun’s viral video — and some other CCTV hits — here:



Facebook’s Face Problem

11 Jun

ABCNews Video: New Facebook Feature: Cool or Creepy?


The social networking company, which is repurposing personal information as its builds a database of facial images, should obtain its users’ permission for its automatic-identification feature.

Nothing gives people the creeps more than the sense that some hidden force is watching them. In George Orwell’s telling of this story, that force was a totalitarian government surveilling the public to suppress dissent. In the contemporary version, it’s a seemingly ubiquitous Internet company vacuuming up personal information to build profits. Like, say, Facebook.
In its latest privacy intrusion, the Silicon Valley powerhouse has built a gargantuan photo collection of the faces of Facebook users — and non-users. For now, the company is using the database and facial recognition software only to help users identify the people in the snapshots they upload to the social network. Nevertheless, it’s just the kind of repurposing of personal information that companies should obtain users’ permission for — a step that companies don’t like to take because it results in fewer people participating.

Facebook’s users collectively upload millions of photos daily, and the company has long encouraged them to add digital tags identifying the people in them. What it didn’t tell users was that it was using that information to build a database of facial images. Late last year it started using this database to identify people automatically, although the person uploading the photo still had to confirm the tag.

The feature isn’t as disturbing as it could be. When someone uploads a photo, Facebook suggests identities only for the people whose images it recognizes within the uploader’s circle of Facebook friends. It also notifies people when they are named in a photo so they can delete the tag if they choose to, and it lets users change their privacy settings to prevent them from being identified automatically.

Still, the system encourages people even more strongly to disclose information about others who might not welcome the exposure. When someone tags you in a photo, the social network’s default setting is to notify all of your Facebook friends. If it’s an image you’d prefer not to be seen, by the time you remove the tag it’s probably too late.

A larger concern is what Facebook may eventually do with its growing collection of facial images — for example, how it might make the technology available to advertisers, or how it would respond to subpoenas. European regulators are investigating the facial recognition system; a group of U.S. privacy advocates are asking the Federal Trade Commission to do the same, arguing that Facebook hoodwinked users into providing the images and tags for the database. Facebook has issued a partial mea culpa, saying it should have given users a clearer heads-up when automatic identification was enabled. What it really should have done, though, was ask them to opt in instead of merely, quietly, giving them a way out.

Source: latimes.com

More about:

Is Facebook’s facial recognition tool as creepy as it seems?

EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) Draft FTC Complaint Vilifies Facebook’s Facial Recognition

Deutsche Kritik an Facebook-Gesichtserkennung

Gesichtskontrolle: Vor Facebooks Foto-Erkennung gibt es kaum Entkommen

How your Facebook info would sound in the real world

21 May

Trying to imagine our online behaviors in an offline world has been the subject of many a viral video.

The latest installment in this vein is “The Offline Social Network.” This clip comes from Australian comedy show Hungry Beast and personifies the ubiquitous Facebook as the sort of earnest evangelicals who ask passers-by about the eventual destination of their eternal souls.

And the result? Let’s just say “What is your sexual orientation?” is as awkward a point-blank question as “Do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?”

This video reminded us of a few other funny Facebook-as-real-life videos, so we’ve put together a brief gallery of viral clips for your enjoyment.

Watch and enjoy, but do try to get outside a bit as the weekend winds down … And whatever you do, don’t go “poking” anyone in person.

Two guys walking around asking people the same questions they get asked when they sign up to Facebook. Will hilarity ensue? You betcha!