Oh, Facebook. The revelation of your controversial “emotional contagion” experiment was weeks ago, but people are still talking about it. (In case you were on vacation, too, this was the one where Facebook deliberately tampered with the feeds of about 700,000 users back in January 2012 and took note of how those people reacted to really negative or really positive postings — but the site never informed the affected users that they were being used as guinea pigs.) The news broke in mid-June when a paper on the study was published and now the editor of that academic journal, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has issued an Editorial Expression of Concern over the whole thing.
Facebook, facing a backlash, defended the its actions and said a clause in its terms of service informs users that their data may be used for research purposes. But, as The Daily Dot, Forbes and others point out, that policy wasn’t added until four months after the experiment took place. Why, yes, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has already filed a complaint against Facebook to the Federal Trade Commission. Regulators in Ireland and the United Kingdom are looking into the matter as well.
This is apparently nothing new on the Facebook campus, as a former data scientist for the company basically told The Wall Street Journal, hey, if you’re a Facebook user, you’ve been experimented on. Andrew Ledvina, on his blog, later clarified some of his statements and said several were taken out of context by the paper.
Also in the Department of Things Under Scrutiny: Linux users. New disclosures about the National Security Agency and its practices claim the NSA is particularly interested in visitors to the Linux Journal site, along with those who frequent the TOR (The Onion Router) and Tails Linux distro site.
If we’re going to have an Internet of Things, we’re gonna need some protocols and specifications. Wouldn’t you know it, major technology companies are jumping in to create an open-source standard for wirelessly connecting devices.The latest group is called the Open Interconnect Consortium and its founding members include Intel, Samsung, Dell, Wind River, Broadcom and others. However, this is not the first Internet of Things club. The Allseen Alliance, formed last year, counts Qualcomm, Microsoft, Cisco, LG, Panasonic, D-Link, HTC among its 50 or so members. (Will there be a nerd war over IoT standards?)
Interconnected smart homes are starting to go mainstream, though. Box-boxer The Home Depot, is now working with Wink, the app and platform that lets you control and monitor your connected thermostat, locks, lights, blinds and other household furnishings from your smartphone.
If you’re getting ready to study computer science at any of the top universities here in the States this fall, odds are you’ll probably be taking a Python course or two. According to the newsletter for the Association for Computing Machinery, Python has now passed Java as the most popular programming language taught in introductory computer-science courses. (If you can’t afford the time or money to go to college, you can take a free Python fundamentals course online at the Codeacademy.) And yes, the name is derived from the British comedy classic, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
Also in education news, alumni from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dropbox have teamed up on a new email platform called Inbox. The Inbox announcement comes a few weeks after Google announced its new Gmail API at the I/O conference.
The PC market, once thought on the decline thanks to the rise of tablets and mobile devices, has had a bit of an uptick — or perhaps, less of a slump than expected, According to Gartner Research, PC shipments will only drop 2.9 percent this year, compared to a plummet of 9.5 percent last year. Part of this change is said to be people upgrading from their ancient Windows XP machines at last.
And finally, the latest digital restoration technology is to thank for the restoration and re-release of A Hard Day’s Night, the 1964 film staring The Beatles in their youthful prime. The Criterion Collection folks created a 4K scan of the film from its original 35-millimeter negative to work with and added a 5.1 surround sound mix.
The restored film had a limited release in theaters last week and is also available on Blu-ray and DVD. Yes, it’s true, money can’t buy you love — but you can get a lovely restored classic piece of movie (and music) history on Blu-ray disc for less than $40.