Who’s Health Is It?

February 18, 2019

Regular readers will perhaps recall that I have written about State and corporate surveillance quite often in the past. My distaste for our lack of personal privacy — or, rather, the rapacious way in which our personal information is collected for other people’s use — is the reason I have never had a cell or smart phone, and is one of the reasons I don’t have a car, preferring the anonymity of public transit, cabs for cash, and walking.

Now we have another example of employers and health care corporations tracking, quite literally every breath you take.

“Welcome to a rapidly growing phenomenon in the workplace: constant health surveillance … Devices worn on employees’ bodies are an increasingly valuable source of workforce health intelligence for employers and insurance companies. It’s fueling a boom in the use of wrist-borne health and fitness monitors such as those made by Fitbit, Garmin and Apple … The ever-more-sophisticated devices are measuring not just steps and distance walked but also the hours a worker spends in a sedentary state, 24/7 heart rate, and sleep duration and quality …

But the volume of highly sensitive health data scooped up from individual employees is … raising privacy concerns and adding a new dimension to the relationship of workers and their employers. Often the information is not covered by federal rules that protect health records from disclosure. And when it’s combined with data such as credit scores, employees are giving up more insights about themselves than they realize …

[P]rivacy and workforce specialists warn the data could be abused to favor the healthiest employees while punishing or stigmatizing those who are less healthy, or who show signs of unhealthy behavior such as heavy drinking or drug use.” [emphasis added]

I’m certainly not the only one concerned about this:

““The Fitbit or Apple Watch applications . . . may yield clues to things about you that you are not even aware of, or not ready for other people to know,’’ said Electronic Frontier’s [Lee] Tien. “Individuals and consumers who are buying these devices don’t understand that is a potential consequence.’’



The Ages Of The World

February 15, 2019

I found this fascinating map at the always reliable VisualCapitalist.com:


The difference in the age of populations between Africa and anywhere else in the world is striking.

Select image for a closer look.   There is a lot more data in the article.


Reason #236 NOT To Use Facebook

February 3, 2019

From TechCrunch:

“Facebook  has been secretly paying people to install a “Facebook Research” VPN that lets the company suck in all of a user’s phone and web activity, similar to Facebook’s Onavo Protect app that Apple banned in June and that was removed in August. Facebook sidesteps the App Store and rewards teenagers and adults to download the Research app and give it root access to network traffic in what may be a violation of Apple policy so the social network can decrypt and analyze their phone activity, a TechCrunch investigation confirms …

Since 2016, Facebook has been paying users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month plus referral fees to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android “Facebook Research” app … The program is administered through beta testing services Applause, BetaBound and uTest to cloak Facebook’s involvement ,,, For kids short on cash, the payments could coerce them to sell their privacy to Facebook.”

Seven hours after this story was published, Facebook told TechCrunch it would shut down the iOS version of its Research app in the wake of the report.



Previous Reasons NOT To Use Facebook.

Continuing Adult Education

January 22, 2019

I was waiting for a bus at a stop on Commercial the other day.  A gentleman who appeared to be about my age approached and sat down. He clearly wanted to chat.  English was not his first language, but we managed well enough.

After some small talk about the weather and buses, he asked me whether I worked or was retired. “Retired,” I beamed. He asked me if I liked being retired and why.  I explained that I have been retired for almost a decade, and that I love the lack of schedules, the ability to avoid doing things I didn’t enjoy, the lack of a boss. But what about money, he asked?  I told him that, for me, being free and self-managing was a lot better than being rich and under the gun.

He didn’t look convinced. It turns out that he retired just last November and he hasn’t yet gotten used to it.  I suspect that though money was an issue, he was much more concerned about lack of structure and lack of regular human contact.

It would be useful for corporations, perhaps, to help train their workers about the non-financial aspects of retirement. I don’t claim to know what that training should include, but over the years I have come across numerous retired workers who seem somewhat lost and confused without the structure and social relationships of a job.

Now that we live so long, retirement can be for decades. To manage that length of time a decent pension is vital, but it is far from the whole enchilada.

Reason #235 NOT To Use Facebook

January 20, 2019

RevealNews.org has uncovered documents showing how Facebook made money (or”inappropriately profited”) from children by exploiting the confusion some kids have between real and fantasy money.

“The lead plaintiff in the case was a child who used his mother’s credit card to pay $20 while playing a game on Facebook. The child, referred to as “I.B.” in the case, did not know the social media giant had stored his mom’s payment information. As he continued to play the game, Ninja Saga, Facebook continued to charge his mom’s credit card, racking up several hundred dollars in just a few weeks. The child “believed these purchases were being made with virtual currency, and that his mother’s credit card was not being charged for these purchases,” according to a previous ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Beth Freeman.  When the bill came, his mom requested Facebook refund the money, saying she never authorized any charges beyond the original $20. But the company never refunded any money, forcing the family to file a lawsuit in pursuit of a refund.

The documents — which have been withheld by the company for years — reveal “widespread confusion by children and their parents, who didn’t understand Facebook continued to charge them as they played games.”  Even Facebook employees worried about the issue:

“In nearly all cases the parents knew their child was playing Angry Birds, but didn’t think the child would be allowed to buy anything without their password or authorization first,” according to an internal Facebook memo. The memo noted that on other platforms, such as Apple’s iPhone, people were required to reauthorize additional purchases, such as by re-entering a password … Yet the company continued to deny refunds to children, profiting from their confusion.”


Previous Reasons Not To Use Facebook.

Morality Clauses and Twitter

January 18, 2019

Lionel Shriver has a fascinating piece in the Spectator USA about “morality clauses” in modern publishing contracts; clauses that void contracts “if, in a magazine’s ‘sole judgement’, they were the subject of ‘public disrepute, contempt, complaints or scandals’.”

Shriver gives an account of the use of such clauses in Hollywood to control writers, directors, and stars, and which in part led to the McCarthyite blacklists.  He goes on to note:

In kind, today’s broad, nonspecific publishing opt-outs in the event of an author’s incurring ‘disrepute’ readily extend to thought crime — and the contemporary basket of ideological no-nos does nothing but burgeon. Off the top of my head, too-hot-to-handle topics now include anything to do with gender, sex, race, immigration, disability, social class, obesity and Islam (surely that list is too short).

The reason for their recent resurgence?  Twitter, says Shriver.

Enshrining mob rule in legal contracts can only further embolden the cranks, the kooks, the grumps — the sanctimonious, the embittered, the aggrieved. As word spreads that outrage on digital steroids can not only hound and intimidate writers, but can consign years of their hard work to the bin, the Twits are further motivated to crucify anyone who breaks their imaginary rules …

Yet this is a much larger matter than writers whingeing about their writery problems in their little writery world. It’s an issue for readers, of course, but it extends beyond readers as well. All forms of employment are now altogether too contingent on not attracting the contumely of the crowd.

Shriver concludes with advice for publishers:

It’s time for folks with institutional power to exercise independent judgment, rather than immediately disavowing overnight pariahs who only yesterday were their friends and colleagues. To refuse to respond to every mob at the door by picking up a baseball bat and joining the throng. You know who you are.

Well worth the read.

Bravo to Gillette!

January 16, 2019


This is a very brave corporate statement in support of #MeToo, noting that a large number of men need to change their actions and their thinking if we are ever to rid ourselves of a domineering patriarchy.

I’m not dumb enough to think they put this out without massive research in focus groups and elsewhere where they learned that it would not be a fatal mistake to launch such an “attack” on its own target market.  However, I am intelligent enough to recognise that Gillette didn’t need to do this, didn’t need to take the risk but did it away because it was the right thing to do.

The risk, of course, comes from the response to the ad by the large number of unreconstructed males, the very same group who perpetuate the problems highlighted in the ad.  A wide variety of these responses can be found most easily in the 1,650 comments on the YouTube video.

Some are simply sticking their head in the sand and hoping it will go away:  “RIP Gillette”, “Goodbye Gillette”, “buy anything but this product”, “you just lost a customer for life”, “what a bunch of fools”, etc.

Others were more expressive: “it feels like Gillette is calling me a rapist”, “the entire country is sick of feminism,” and the ad is “dripping with contempt for men.”

But the antediluvian rednecks were loudest: “Men get treated like they’re bad just for being a man,” for example. (Compare and contrast: “Nazis get treated like they’re bad just for being Nazis.”) Those responsible for the ad should be “put in camps to be worked to death”. They say the ad is “misogynistic and racist” but is “still not quite gay enough.” “Now we can’t even shave without radical feminist ideology.”

It is “left wing propaganda” paid for by “your liberal masters,” and is “a garbage political narrative.” One even suggested that “big corporation sides with communists in the culture war.”

How can the idea of treating people as people rather than as sexual or dominatable objects be considered “radical”?

Unfortunately, the number and extent of these comments proves that there is a genuine need for more public service messages of this kind.