How-to

Privacy

A newly published study from Oxford's Jon Penney provides empirical evidence for a key argument long made by privacy advocates: that the mere existence of a surveillance state breeds fear and conformity and stifles free expression. Reporting on the study, the Washington Post this morning described this phenomenon: “If we think that authorities are watching our online actions, we might stop visiting certain websites or not say certain things just to avoid seeming suspicious.”

Tech

If you've ever ventured out of the house in the few hours or days after a huge snow storm, you've likely noticed something different about street corners. Namely, that they are covered in inches of snow. Despite snow plows' best efforts, these mountains of snow build up over days and can stick out many feet from the curb. And this leftover snow can actually reveal valuable information: the places where cars don't drive.

One of the best ways to prevent the spread of HIV is to treat those at high risk with a daily prophylactic pill. Unfortunately, this week Stanford University health researchers concluded that it's simply too expensive to pre-treat even a fraction of people at increased risk for HIV. But what if healthcare providers could track a brewing outbreak in real-time, and quickly help those at highest risk of infection? Thanks to big data and crackerjack new software, Canada’s westernmost province is doing just that.

Online movie ratings have become serious business. Hollywood generates something on the order of $10 billion annually at the U.S. box office, and online ratings aggregators may hold increasing sway over where that money goes. Sites like Rotten Tomatoes that aggregate movie reviews into one overall rating are being blamed for poor opening weekends. A single movie critic can't make or break a film anymore, but maybe thousands of critics, professional and amateur together, can. [...] as I’m writing this, scores on Fandango.com are skewed even higher because of the weird way Fandango aggregates its users’ reviews. And while other sites that gather user reviews are often tangentially connected to the media industry, Fandango has an immediate interest in your desire to see a movie: The company sells tickets directly to consumers.

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