Posts Tagged ‘privacy’

Creativity and Technology Symposium (C.A.T.S.) at NCSU

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

This week I’m presenting at the Creativity and Technology Symposium hosted by the North Carolina State University Libraries.

Using our feline friends as a theme, we will explore a variety of topics that relate to the ever-expanding and complex work of libraries and academic institutions including: GIS-data enabled location tracking and the implications for privacy rights; the use of social media in research; how new technologies are expanding the possibilities for data gathering; and digital archiving as it relates to common computer usage and pop culture. Plus, we have a few special guests who will be paying a not-to-be-missed visit to the Libraries. All C.A.T.S. events are free and open to the public.

Track Your Cat
Researchers from NC State and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Oct 25, 2015, 3:00–4:00 PM
At the Cameron Village Regional Library
Image Macros, Memes, and Viral Content
Amanda Brennan, Tumblr
Oct 26, 2015, 3:00–4:00 PM
At the Auditorium (Hill), D. H. Hill Library
A Life-Changing Cat
Mike Bridavsky and Lil BUB
Oct 26, 2015, 7:00–8:00 PM
At the Auditorium (Hunt), James B. Hunt Jr. Library
Animals, Technology, and Us: How the Internet is Affecting Participatory Science
A panel discussion with Dr. Rob Dunn, associate professor of biological sciences at NC State, Amanda Brennan of Tumblr, and Professor Owen Mundy of Florida State
Oct 27, 2015, 7:00–8:00 PM
At the Auditorium (Hunt), James B. Hunt Jr. Library
Using Technology to Measure Pain in Animals
Oct 28, 2015, 7:00–8:00 PM
At the South Theater (College of VM), Veterinary Medicine Library, College of Veterinary Medicine; 1060 William Moore Drive, Main CVM Administration entrance, South Theatre

UPDATE: C.A.T.S. was a success, AND I met the famous Lil Bub!

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Art In The Age Of… Planetary Computation, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

I Know Where Your Cat Lives at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam.

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Opening of the exhibition ‘Art In The Age Of…Planetary Computation’, 21 May 2015. Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

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Opening of the exhibition ‘Art In The Age Of…Planetary Computation’, 21 May 2015. Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

Art In The Age Of… Planetary Computation
22 May – 16 August 2015
Opening: 21 May 2015, 5pm

With: Aram Bartholl, Rossella Biscotti, Nina Canell, John Gerrard, Femke Herregraven, Antonia Hirsch, David Jablonowski, Navine G. Khan-Dossos, John Menick, Owen Mundy, Trevor Paglen, Lucy Raven, Stephan Tillmans, Julia Weist

How would you draw a picture of the Internet; through the machines and ‘their’ language that broadcast and store ‘our’ messages, or through the affect and power relations that those messages and their movement produce?


Exhibition visitors guide

Art In The Age Of… Planetary Computation investigates how quantification, telecommunications, and our ever-expanding information apparati not only inform contemporary artistic production, but also how contemporary art can hold a mirror up to these processes and formations. The participating artists explore the fissure between literal infrastructure—code, machines, wires, and other like-vocabularies—and the subjective socio-political interactions fostered by using these devices. Guided not only by that which can be seen on the computer screen, and the various other black mirrors we stare into day in and day out, this exhibition also looks to what happens behind these screens. Moving from objects to subjects, we ask, how do these positions impact daily life, or said in another way: what does it mean to be ‘screened’?

Art In The Age Of… Planetary Computation is the second iteration of Art In The Age Of…, a three-part presentation series running throughout 2015, that investigates future vectors of art production in the 21st century.

witte_de_with_logoWitte de With
Center for Contemporary Art
Witte de Withstraat 50
3012 BR Rotterdam
The Netherlands
www.wdw.nl

Art and the Internet book published by Black Dog Publishing

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Here are some shots from the recently released Art and the Internet (Black Dog Publishing, London) with contributions from Joanne McNeil, Domenico Quaranta, and Nick Lambert. The book is a welcome update to writing on the subject and contains many well known works by artists I’ve admired for years. Nice to be included.

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Trust (Evidence Locker) (2004) Jill Magid. Essay by Joanne McNeil.

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Simple Net Art Diagram by MTAA (1997). Essay by Domenico Quaranta

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Colorflip.com (2008) by Rafaël Rozendaal

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Every Icon (1997) by John F Simon Jr

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Tommy Chat Just Emailed Me (2006) by Ryan Trecartin

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1:1 (1999-2002) by Lisa Jevbratt

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They Rule (2001) by Josh On

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My Generation (2010) by Eva and Franco Mattes

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Artist’s Statement No 45, 730,944: The Perfect Artistic Website (2000) Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries

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I am Unable to Fulfill Your Wish (2012) by Owen Mundy

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CYBER IN SECURITIES, Pepco Edison Place Gallery, Washington, DC

Friday, August 9th, 2013

CyberInSecurities_grid

clockwise l to r: Ricarada McDonald and Donna Szoke, and all watched over by machines of loving grace; Birgit Bachler, Walter Langelaar, Owen Mundy, and Tim Schwartz, Commodify.us; Lexie Mountain, Ball Hard; Whitefeather, Parent Folder

CYBER IN SECURITIES
Dates: August 30 – September 27, 2013
Location: Pepco Edison Place Gallery, 702 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC

Curated by: Lisa Moren, Professor, Department of Visual Art, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Participating Artists: Birgit Bachler, Walter Langelaar, Owen Mundy, and Tim Schwartz; Channel TWo (CH2): Adam Trowbridge and Jessica Westbrook, with Jesus Duran; Heather Dewey-Hagborg; Hasan Elahi; The Force of Freedom with Dave Young; Taylor Hokanson; Ricarda McDonald and Donna Szoke; Lexie Mountain; Preemptive Media; David Rokeby; Julia Kim Smith; and WhiteFeather

Opening Reception: Friday, August 30, 2013, 6-8pm
Exhibition Hours: Tuesday – Friday, 12pm-4pm

Experimental Media Video Screening Series
Juried by Jason Eppink, Associate Curator of Digital Media, Museum of the Moving Image, New York

Experimental Media Video Series Night One: Thursday, September 12, 2013, 6:30pm
Location: The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC

Experimental Media Video Series Night Two: Monday, September 24, 2013, 6:30pm
Location: The Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design, 500 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC

Experimental Media Symposium: Saturday, September 21, 2013
Location: Pepco Edison Place Gallery, 702 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC

Experimental Media 2013 will explore security, privacy, and surveillance in the digital age, through a gallery exhibition, video screenings series, and panel discussion.

Project Presentation and Mini-Seminar: Live Project Launch, Workshop Outcomes and Talks on [Social] Media Hacking

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Tonight Tim Schwartz, Walter Langelaar, Birgit Bachler, and I share our new project. The concept has taken a turn from the original plan, but will be exciting nonetheless.

Project Presentation and Mini-Seminar: Live Project Launch, Workshop Outcomes and Talks on [Social] Media Hacking
Friday, July 27, 2012

Tonight we launch the new version of “Give Me My Data!”, a project that together with Artists In Residence Tim C. Schwartz and Owen Mundy was revised and revived in WORM’s moddr_lab.

Give Me My Data offers functionality to its users with which they can retrieve and backup data and files from several key social networks; partly designed as a backup tool moreover targeted at networks that completely lack these functions.

Besides launching the project and am in-depth presentation by the artists, Walter Langelaar of WORM will give an introduction and overview of similar (art)works and earlier projects that came out of WORMs studios like the “Web2.0 Suicide Machine”.

Further more we’ll have presentations of current and ongoing projects from the lab, like Birgit Bachler’s ‘online social gardening’ platform “Talk To The Plant”, the Force of Freedom (Roel Roscam Abbing and Micha Prinsen) present “partsba.se”, and Geert Lovink talks about the “Unlike Us” initiative. The last addition to tonights programme is a presentation by Greenhost.nl on their very excellent RePress project; a WordPress plugin that automagically converts your site to a proxy-server countering censorship on the internet!

In conclusion there will be an open Q&A and panel discussion moderated by Florian Cramer of Creating010.

Projects & Speakers

Florian Cramer – Creating010
Florian Cramer, is a reader and programme director at the applied research center Creating 010 at Hogeschool Rotterdam, The Netherlands. he is a critical writer on arts, culture and information technology. Recent publications include: Exe.cut(up)able statements: Poetische Kalküle und Phantasmen des selbstausführenden Texts, Wilhelm Fink, 201.

Unlike Us / Geert Lovink
The aim of Unlike Us is to establish a research network of artists, designers, scholars, activists and programmers who work on ‘alternatives in social media’. Through workshops, conferences, online dialogues and publications, Unlike Us intends to both analyze the economic and cultural aspects of dominant social media platforms and to propagate the further development and proliferation of alternative, decentralized social media software.

Tim C. Schwartz – moddr_/WORM Artist in Residence
Tim Schwartz grew up in St. Louis, MO. He received a BA in Physics from Wesleyan University and an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego. In January 2010, he developed a technology to help reunited missing people affected by the earthquake in Haiti and now co-runs an organization dealing with family reunification. Last year Schwartz spent four months traveling the country in a mobile research laboratory investigating what is lost as archives become digital.

Birgit Bachler – moddr_/WORM
Birgit is an Austrian artist living and working in Rotterdam/NL.
She graduated as BA in Information Design / Media & Interactiondesign at the Universityof Applied Sciences in Graz/AT and is a recent graduate of the MA Networked Media at Piet Zwart Institute Rotterdam. She has a background in interactive, audiovisual media and programming. 
Her interests focus on the influence of new media on our everyday lives and the similarities and differences between human and computational behavior.

RePress / Greenhost.nl
“This plugin was made in response to the ongoing limitation of the Open Web. In the dawn of 2012 we found ourselves confronted with a court-ruling blocking the Piratebay.org in the Netherlands. On the other side of the ocean new laws are being discussed to curtail web-freedom even further.”

We zijn pioneer in groene hosting. We ontwikkelden een innovatief energiebesparend hostingplatform waardoor we 70% minder energie gebruiken dan andere hosters. Onze servers staat bij Evoswitch, het meest duurzame datacenter van Nederland.

Owen Mundy – moddr_/WORM Artist in Residence
Owen Mundy is an artist, designer, and programmer who investigates public space and its relationship to data. His artwork highlights inconspicuous trends and offers tools to make hackers out of everyday users. He has an MFA in Visual Art from the University of California, San Diego and is an Assistant Professor of Art at Florida State University.

partsba.se / Force Of Freedom
At partsba.se you can upload, share and download digital designs for real physical products. Partsba.se allows you to share designs of any nature, whether these designs are copyrighted or dangerous. Unlike other websites partsba.se does not claim any rights of your designs once you upload them.In the near future partsba.se will run on a fully secure and anonymous server.

We believe that users should be free to reverse engineer any everyday objects that surround them. Either to improve these objects, customize them, repair them or just to understand them.

The Force Of Freedom is a Rotterdam based collective founded by Micha Prinsen and Roel Roscam Abbing in 2009. Researching ways in which we can relate to things that happen on-line.

Kaarten
De volgende kaarten zijn beschikbaar:
Normaal 
Voorverkoop: € 5.00
Deurverkoop: € 5.00

Locatie
WORM
Boomgaardsstraat 71
3012 XA Rotterdam

Give Me My Data API Hacking Masterclass

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Give Me My Data API Hacking Masterclass
Thursday, July 27, 2012

A ‘hands-on’ workshop with technical and theoretical overview of contemporary ‘Application Programming Interfaces’ (API’s) of large social networks, en how to use these for your own project or application.

We will cover the ins and outs of creating Facebook apps, web applications, and how to play with the Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr and Instagram APIs.

With WORM’s current ‘Artists In Residence’ Tim C. Schwartz and Owen Mundy you’ll learn from a programmers perspective how to approach your target network, to subsequently make it do what you need it to…

As an example you can think of Owen’s project “Give Me My Data” or WORM’s previous release of the “Web2.0 Suicide Machine”

No specific technical skills required, but a curious mind towards the ins&outs of social networking is a must!

[EN] buy your ticket online or send your resrvation tomoddr@worm.org,

Participation is limited so act fast!
– reduced/discount tickets available for WORM volunteers & students (with ID)

Normaal 
Voorverkoop: € 15.00
Deurverkoop: € 15.00
Normaal reductie
Voorverkoop: € 10.00
Deurverkoop: € 10.00

Location: WORM, Boomgaardsstraat 71, 3012 XA Rotterdam

“Google” one-week performance at Transmediale

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

I am tele-participating in a one-week online performance of Google queries at Transmediale 2012 in Berlin. The project, plainly titled, “Google,” is organized by Johannes P. Osterhoff and will run from Jan 30 to Feb 5, 2012. Each participant edits the search method for their browser search bar so that everything they type in this box, from the personal to the mundane, becomes instantly visible at google-performance.org.

The project (“manifesto” below) makes public what Facebook, Google, and any online search engine, crowdsourcing website, or social network already does by harvesting searches from users, and re-representing that data in a new context. While Google uses these queries to build and sell condensed user demographic data to advertisers, Osterhoff’s project asks, who actually owns your search data?

We shall do an one-week performance piece.

The piece is called “Google” and documents all searches we perform withthe search engine of the same name.

The performance shall take place during transmediale 2012 and shall start on Monday, January 30 and shall end on Sunday, February 5, 2012.

We shall not use undocumented ways to use the search engine Google during this time.

Each of our search queries shall create a web page that is indexed by this search engine and thus makes our searches publicly available as search results for everybody.

 

Internet service just got creepy: How to set up a wireless router with Comcast internet service

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

I just moved back to Florida after a one year research project in Berlin and have subscribed to Comcast broadband service. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth, though not because the tech showed-up 2 hours after the installation appointment window. Nor was it because he held loud personal conversations on his cell phone while he was setting up the service. No, the icky feeling is more corporate and selfish, and impedes much more into my private space than “Joe the cable guy” ever could.

Comcast made me install software on my computer in order to use their broadband.

Upon his arrival, “Joe” announced he would need access to my computer to setup broadband service. Understanding that most of the people Joe deals with might not be IT whizzes, and could manage to not be able to connect their machines without his help, I decided to let him use it rather than attempt to prove I was not a member of the usual group. After half an hour of complaining about previous customers to his friend on his cellphone, waiting for an other Comcast person to flip a switch allowing him to do his job, and multiple trips to his truck, he showed me that the internet was indeed accessible on my computer.

At this point the laptop was directly connected to the cable modem via an ethernet cable. He announced I was to follow the steps on the screen and he was out the door. The web page he had left up required me to agree to some terms, create a username and then… install software? Really? I tried to access the net without the final step but nothing doing. Unless I installed this software I was stuck. So I did it, still not believing that a company had really initiated this final invasion onto every customer’s computer. After it was done I had new bookmarks everywhere, for Comcast email, security, and some branding nonsense called “XFINITY” (I thought “X” was out with the ’90’s and “X”games?)

So I thought, “OK, Comcast, you got me, hit me with your best marketing slime. Whatever, I can delete the bookmarklets you installed in my browser, just let me access the service I paid for, wirelessly, on whichever device I want.”

But this is where the relationship got really creepy. Apparently when I installed the Comcast (spyware?) on my machine, it made note of my MAC address, a unique identifier of networked machines, so that it would only allow my machine (or another machine with that MAC address) to connect to the internet. This means when I attached a wireless router to the cable modem I could connect to the wifi, but there was no internet.

So it turns-out that Comcast is not only forcing their adware on customers, it’s also making it difficult (though not impossible) for them use more than one device. Presumably Comcast is doing this in order to circumvent sharing of services among neighbors, but the end result is that you can’t share the service between more than one device, or between roommates or spouses for that matter.

An example (albeit a geeky one): between my wife and I we have 2 laptops, 2 smartphones, and a desktop computer that all might be talking to each other or accessing the net. Comcast’s so-called internet service didn’t allow for any such geekery because it only allows one device, with the correct MAC address, to connect.

So, here’s what I did, on my Mac, with some help from my sister’s boyfriend, Tom, and a lot from Google, to get my linksys wireless router to work with Comcast internet.

  1. Confirm you can access the internet with your machine connected directly to the Comcast cable modem.
  2. Open Terminal and type (without the quotes): “ifconfig en0 | grep ether”
  3. Now disconnect your computer from the modem and connect the modem ethernet cable to your wireless router. Make sure both are plugged-in.
  4. Connect to your wireless router via the airport on your machine.
  5. Go to the following link: http://192.168.1.1
  6. Under Setup, choose DHCP as the Internet Connection Type. Save Settings.
  7. Under Setup : Mac Address Clone, enter the alpha numeric characters returned from Terminal. Save Settings.
  8. Configure your wireless router like you normally would and you are up and running.
  9. Snicker at Comcast

Facebook’s God complex: No data for the “wicked”

Friday, July 8th, 2011

I was quoted recently in a TechCrunch article about the ongoing battle between Google and Facebook to draw users to their respective social networking services. In the article, The Only Backdoor Left To Sneak Your Facebook Friends Into Google+ Is Yahoo, Erick Schonfeld writes:

‘Over the weekend, Facebook blocked a Google Chrome extension called the Facebook Friend Exporter. And in fact, Facebook changed its OAuth 2.0 API in such a way that it “suddenly removed email addresses from the queries without warning,” says Owen Mundy, creator of Give Me My Data. Other data can still be exported, just not your friends’ email addresses.’ [1]

I wanted to clarify something about the above because my contribution is slightly vague. I also wanted to elaborate for other developers and people interested in how to get their data, specifically the email addresses *out* of Facebook.

Getting your data our of Facebook is a hot issue right now with the emergence of Google+. It’s important to be able to preserve your data, especially in the event you want to exit Facebook, or prepare for its possible demise. I think most people don’t care which social networking software they use, as long as they can stay in touch with their friends. Many depend on Facebook to keep their friends’ contact information up to date. Their friends’ phone numbers, emails, and physical addresses may have changed, but they can still be found on Facebook.

This is one great benefit of Facebook, but I think they’ve come to take a higher-than-thou approach to user data. For example, if I use a single software on my computer to manage contact data for my friends, send them messages with pictures, etc., I am not locked-into a contract with the machine nor the software. I physically have the device that stores this data in my possession, and therefore can do whatever I like with it—assuming I can wrangle my data out of it.

One of the great benefits of the cloud is access, right? Wrong. Facebook has a god’s eye view regarding the matter of our data. The view from on high is that they can do whatever benefits Facebook, not necessarily the user. So they continue profiting from our activity while protecting it’s evidence from any company/person/software which could compromise their lead in social networking. Unfortunately this includes us, so we are ultimately at their mercy.

But Facebook is not a merciless God. They don’t charge to use their service or store my data. This is the tradeoff. We sacrifice privacy—our right to not be tracked, advertised to, or sniffed by governments—in order to play games, have stupid political debates, and post pictures of our kids. So, they have the right to allow or prevent access to this information, regardless of whether it is right.

Regarding getting email addresses of your contacts, as far as I know, there are three ways to mass export your friends’ contact data, only one of which is currently allowed by Facebook.

Hacking

The Facebook Friend Exporter, created by Mohamed Mansour, is a browser extension that works independent of the Facebook API. It scrapes your friends’ contact data from the Facebook pages you visit and exports them as CSV. First, Facebook’s rules here for reusing this type of data are not exactly clear. While they don’t explicitly ban saving the contact info of your friends, the have a catch-all statement that tries to set guidelines for doing so. One could argue by accepting your friend request a user has already consented to sharing with you.

“If you collect information from users, you will: obtain their consent, make it clear you (and not Facebook) are the one collecting their information, and post a privacy policy explaining what information you collect and how you will use it.” [2]

One thing that is clear is the method the Facebook Friend Exporter extension uses is banned according to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities:

“You will not collect users’ content or information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers) without our permission.” [2]

And as expected, Facebook has taken measures to prevent Mansour’s app from working.

“Mansour says that Facebook removed emails from their mobile site, which were critical to the original design of his extension. He told me that the company had implemented a throttling mechanism: if you visit any friend page five times in a short period of time, the email field is removed.” [3]

This is not the first time Facebook has referenced their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to take measures to keep user data from hackers, artists, or competitors. In 2010 they served moddr and other makers of the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine with a cease and desist letter to prevent them from providing a service for Facebook users to delete their accounts. The letter, which claimed the project was guilty of “Soliciting users’ Facebook login information; Accessing a Facebook account belonging to someone else; Collecting Facebook users’ content or information using automated means such as scripts or scrapers without Facebook’s permission” was possibly effective. Currently only users of MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter can commit “virtual suicide.”

The Face to Facebook (see image on left) project by Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico stole one-million Facebook profiles, filtered them with face-recognition software, and then posted them on a fake dating website sorted by facial characteristics. From a statement by the makers:

“Everybody can steal personal data and re-contextualize it in a completely unexpected context. And that shows, once more, how fragile and potentially manipulable the online environment actually is.”

I agree, and I like the project. But in a public work such as this it’s hard to argue, in my opinion, that this project will help the average web user. While many may reconsider the type of information they post, more than likely they will think this project is another example of the “bad guys” (a.k.a. hackers) doing bad things. While it critiques, in a very amusing and relevant way, the issue of online privacy, it leaves the user feeling violated, not necessarily thoughtful. As a work of protest it encounters the same problem that holding a giant sign in someone’s face that says “go to hell”—It makes it hard for the other person to see your perspective when you do that.

While I appreciated the fun jab and reference to FaceMash, Facebook did not see the humor in the project. The creators received cease and desist letters and were threatened with multiple lawsuits from Facebook’s lawyers. And in a final spiteful measure, Facebook deleted their profiles [4]. Apparently the rule is, what happens on Facebook, stays on Facebook.

Using the API

While I was sure that in the past my app, Give Me My Data, was able to retrieve a user’s friend’s email address, when I tested it after the Facebook Friend Exporter news broke I found no emails. Looking around the web I can’t find any evidence that Facebook ever allowed this data to be accessed. While you can still export all other data from your Facebook profile using Give Me My Data, this tiny and important string of characters with an ‘@’ is one essential component Facebook won’t allow. Likely, the policy was spurred by spam prevention, but given the above, it has the added bonus of blocking an exodus of users from Facebook.

In any case when you run the following FQL (Facebook Query Language) against their API it doesn’t error. This means the field exists, but they have written a custom script to remove it from the results.

SELECT first_name, middle_name, last_name, email
FROM user
WHERE uid IN (SELECT uid2 FROM friend WHERE uid1 = me())

Becoming a Preferred Developer

In the article above, Schonfeld also explains how users can access their Facebook friend’s contact info by first importing it into a Yahoo! account and then exporting a CSV which can be imported into Google+ (or anything for that matter). I believe that Yahoo! belongs to the Facebook Preferred Developer Consultant Program which gives them access above and beyond regular developers:

“Facebook provides PDCs with increased access to its employees and training. PDCs are expected to abide by program expectations around policy compliance, integration quality, and high-level cooperation with Facebook.” [6]

Whatever kind of cooperation it is that Facebook is giving these preferred developers, one can be sure it includes access to data Facebook considers sensitive, like email addresses. While Yahoo! is not listed as a preferred developer on the Facebook page above, they have access to the emails so they clearly have some kind of arrangement.

Google, on the other hand, most definitely does not. This is not the first time Google and Facebook have gotten into a scuffle over sharing (or lack of) data. Late in 2010 Google stated they would no longer allow Facebook and other services access to their users’ data unless Facebook or the other service allowed data to be accessed by Google. [7]

In closing, we already know everyone wants our data. All the clicks, likes, comments, photos, and video we incur or upload are tracked, analyzed, and ultimately compiled and sold to advertisers or others in the business of molding consumer (or political) behavior. We’ve come a long way since Gutenberg, but just like when he was alive, it seems there will always be powerful groups in control of the media of the day. And, even with the utopian promise of a democratic internet, information continues to be manipulated or hidden in order to keep them powerful.

Notes

  1. Schonfeld, Erick, “The Only Backdoor Left To Sneak Your Facebook Friends Into Google+ Is Yahoo,” Jul 5, 2011, http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/05/google-facebook-friends-yahoo/
  2. “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,” Facebook, last revised April 26, 2011, http://www.facebook.com/terms.php
  3. Protalinski, Emil, “Facebook blocks Google Chrome extension for exporting friends,” July 5, 2011 http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/facebook-blocks-google-chrome-extension-for-exporting-friends/1935
  4. “Angry Victims and Eager Business Partners React to the “Face to Facebook” Art Stunt,” ARTINFO, February 11, 2011 http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/36963/status-update-angry-victims-and-eager-business-partners-react-to-the-face-to-facebook-art-stunt/
  5. Gayathri, Amrutha, “Why Facebook’s Acts of Desperation Are Not Enough to Stop Google+,” International Business Times, July 6, 2011, http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/174946/20110706/google-plus-facebook-chrome-extension-block-facebook-friends-exporter-disable-social-network-yahoo-b.htm
  6. “Facebook Preferred Developer Consultant Program FAQ,” http://developers.facebook.com/preferreddevelopers/#FAQ
  7. Oreskovic, Alexei, “Google bars data from Facebook as rivalry heats up,” Reuters, Nov 5, 2010, http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/11/05/us-google-facebook-idUSTRE6A455420101105

12 apps to track, share, and visualize personal data

Monday, July 4th, 2011

When it comes to personal data everyone’s first concern is usually privacy. But a lot of us want to share our data too, with friends, colleagues, and even complete strangers. While numbers have been used for centuries to improve the way we manufacture and do business, using them to quantify our personal lives is a recent phenomenon.

I’ve been thinking about this because one of my goals in creating Give Me My Data was to inspire others to reuse their data, and respond with images and objects they created. But I’m learning if you don’t know a programming language your choices are somewhat scattered and intimidating.

In a recent email exchange with Nicholas Felton, creator of daytum.com and other quality data products, I asked him what other user data sharing and/or visualization web applications he might have encountered while working on daytum.

Included in this article are the three apps he mentioned with my research plus nine additions of my own. All of the apps I mention help users access their own data to track, share, and/or visualize it either by recording it themselves or exporting it from another software. There’s a table at the end of the article to summarize and compare each.

Give Me My Data givememydata.com free

First, to give some context, Give Me My Data is a Facebook application that helps users export their data out of Facebook for reuse in visualizations, archives, or any possible method of digital storytelling. Data can be exported in common formats like CSV, XML, and JSON as well as customized network graph formats.

Status: operational, in-development

Daytum daytum.com free/$$

And to further contextualize, I’ll also address Daytum, an online app that allows users to collect, categorize, and share personal or other data. You can add any data that can be quantified or written down and organize and display it in many forms including bar and pie charts, plain text, and lists. There’s also a mobile site for quick submissions from your device or you can use their iphone app.

Status: operational, but not currently being developed

Geckoboard geckoboard.com $$

Geckoboard is a hosted real-time status board for all sorts of business (or personal) data. You can view web analytics, CRM, support, infrastructure, project management, etc., in one interface, on your computer or smart phone. To see data from other web services in your “dashboard” you add “widgets”—choose from a large list of APIs, give permissions, configure a variety of options, and see your data in a customized graph. Note though, this service is only for presenting data that is hosted elsewhere, and only in this interface. If you like looking at numbers all day, this is for you.

Status: operational

Track-n-Graph trackngraph.com free/$$

Track, graph, and share any information you can think of: your weight, gas mileage, coffee consumption, anything. The design is a little awkward, the graphs don’t display in Chrome or Safari (Mac), and as far as I can tell there’s no API, but the site seems very useful for storing and making simple graphs of your personal data. There are also various “templates” you can reuse to keep track of data like the Workout Tracker, which has fields for gender and age in addition to minutes you worked out, all of which are important in figuring other data (e.g. calories).

Status: operational

your.flowingdata.com your.flowingdata.com/ free

your.flowingdata lets you record your personal data with Twitter. With it you can collect, interact, customize views, and determine privacy by sending private tweets to your account. This project is created by Nathan Yau who writes Flowing Data and studies statistics at UCSD.

Status: operational, in-development

mycrocosm mycro.media.mit.edu free

Mycrocosm is a web service that allows you to track and share data and statistical graphs from the minutiae of daily life. Mycrocosm was developed by Yannick Assogba of the Sociable Media Group of the MIT Media Lab.

Status: operational, but not currently being developed

ManyEyes www-958.ibm.com free

ManyEyes is a project by the IBM Research and the IBM Cognos software group. On Many Eyes you can upload your own data and create visualizations, and view, discuss, and rate other’s visualizations and data sets. It is a great concept but it hasn’t evolved much since its original launch. In fact I’m finding the visualization technology has slowly devolved, leaving only about 20% of visualizations actually displaying (Chrome 12.0 on OSX 10.5.8 if folks are reading).

Status: operational

Fitbit fitbit.com $99.95

The Fitbit is a hardware device which tracks your motions and sleep throughout each day. This data can be uploaded and visualized on their website to realize information about your daily activities like calories burned, steps taken, distance traveled and sleep quality. The Fitbit contains a 3D motion sensor like the one found in the Nintendo Wii and plugs into a base station to upload the data.

Status: operational

Personal Google Search History google.com/history free

When I first saw this application on the Google site I was immediately alarmed. The amount of data they have collected is staggering; for example, “Total Google searches: 36323.” (since Jan 2006) This is a fantastic picture into the life of a user and what they are reading, watching, responding to. It’s like another, admittedly less manicured version, of Facebook. Instead of creating a profile, I am being profiled.

The privacy implications are serious here, which is probably why you have to login again to view it. It is also why a user’s search history draws the interest of interface artist, Johannes P. Osterhof, who is in the process of exploring the line between private and public data, as well as the even further-evaporated division between surveillance and social networks, in his one-year-long search history-made public project, simply titled, Google.

But, as everyone probably already knows, these big companies are making money and providing services. Google has the resources to take your privacy seriously. Well, kind of, because it mostly doesn’t fit into their business model to not track people.

Status: operational

Google Takeout google.com/takeout free

Speaking of funding, I’m quite impressed by this project. Google Takeout is developed by an engineering team at Google called the Data Liberation Front who take their jobs very seriously. In addition to their Google Takeout project, which allows you to export some of your data from Google, they have a really great website with current information about getting access to the data you store with Google.

Status: operational, in-development

gottaFeeling gottafeeling.com free/$$

gottaFeeling is an iphone application that allows you to track and share your feelings. It’s a simple concept, and while loaded down with a lot of rhetoric, reminds me of the amazing, “We Feel Fine.”

Status: in-development

BuzzData buzzdata.com unsure

Finally, I’ll end with BuzzData, a data-publishing platform that encourages the growth of communities around data. Not yet public, I’ve received a private taste of what this app will do, and it looks like it will be pretty cool. Think a mashup between Github and ManyEyes.

Status: still in-development, not public

So I’ll end with the table I created in my research. There are obviously many more types of ways to keep and manage data that I haven’t addressed here, but this is a good start. For further reading check out the Quantified Self blog/user community/conference created by Gary Wolf, who also authored, The Data-Driven Life, the New York Times article linked above.

track/ upload custom data types visualize publish privacy export mobile upload API price limits

Give Me
My Data

yes yes n/a no yes yes n/a no free none

Daytum

yes yes yes yes $$ yes mobile site and iphone app no free / $4/ month free account limited by amount

Geckoboard

no yes yes no yes no n/a only for viewing $9-$200
/ month
number of users

Track-n-Graph

yes yes yes yes yes no web-based no free / $25 per year free account limited by amount

your. flowingdata

yes yes yes yes yes yes via twitter via twitter free none

mycrocosm

yes yes yes yes yes no web-based email-based free none

ManyEyes

yes yes yes yes no yes no no free none

Buzzdata

yes yes yes yes yes yes email ??? ??? ???

Google Web History

yes n/a yes yes yes yes yes no free none

Google Takeout

yes yes n/a n/a yes yes n/a no free none

Fitbit

yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes $100 / website is free free web account limited by amount

gottaFeeling

yes no no yes yes no iphone no free none
track/upload Can you track or upload your own data?
custom data types Does the a support custom data types?
visualize Can you create visualizations with the app?
publish Can you publish your data with the software?
privacy Are there options for keeping your data private while using the app?
export Can you export the data back out?
mobile upload Are there options to track or upload data from a device?
API Is there an Application Program Interface that allows you to write code to manage data?
price Is there a free version?
limits What limits are imposed on the free version?

Update: Check out Google Guages and other Google Charts.