This is a roundup of lies, good news and alarums.
Starting with an adventure in Slovakia. Or was it Czechoslovakia? It’s all a little confused. Renée Schuls-Jacobson at Lessons for Teachers and Twits knows all the juicy details. She’s been writing about how she and I first encountered each other face to face in her excellent post entitled - I’m Lying About How We Met.
Here’s a taster. It’s icky.
Blackwatertown and I met on a chilly day in Bratislava as we fled hand-in-hand across an icy river. We’d had to spend an uncomfortable night hiding in a chicken coop because we couldn’t find a proper hotel. Covered in feathers and fowl feces, we carefully made our way across the creaky ice. I am forever grateful that he was willing to share his single mitten.
Next, something to make you oscillate with optimism or boggle with bitterness – self-published author Louise Voss has sold 50,000 downloads on Amazon and now secured a four book publishing deal with HarperFiction. (Note to self - it can be done.) More details here.
Here’s something you never thought would happen. A hero defeats the dreaded junk mail dragon – and the junk mailer confesses himself abashed and vows not to do it again. Our hero is Póló – and you can find out how he did it here.
But now – be afraid, be very afraid - facial recognition surveillance software has just got cleverer. It’s not the government I’m worried about, but the prospect of junk mailers and cold callers tracking me and my preferences down via my ugly mug. (And with a horse head like mine, they’ll not find it difficult to pick me out from the crowd.)
Don’t think a fake name will save you. Here’s a taster:
Facial recognition software, social networking and cloud computing … they’re all technological advances that alone have thrown up questions regarding privacy. According to a recent Carnegie Mellon University study, however, the three technologies can be combined to learn peoples’ identities and other personal information about them, starting with just a photograph of their face.
“A person’s face is the veritable link between her offline and online identities,” said Alessandro Acquisti, associate professor of information technology and public policy, and leader of the study. “When we share tagged photos of ourselves online, it becomes possible for others to link our face to our names in situations where we would normally expect anonymity.”
Acquisti’s team used “off-the-shelf” PittPatt face recognition software, cloud computing, and publicly-accessible information from social networking sites to identify individuals based both on photographs posted online, and on photos that the researchers took themselves in the real world.
In one experiment, they were able to accurately identify people whose pictures were posted on an online dating service, where the members only use pseudonyms to identify themselves. In a second experiment, they were able to identify students walking on the campus grounds, by taking photographs of them, then matching those up with their Facebook profile photos.
And here’s an even more worrying development. It’s not just humans they can do it for. It’s happening with wild apes too. Can wild horses and kangaroos be far behind? Clearly the new Planet of the Apes trailer has made some people nervous.
I need some happier news. With book shops closing or threatened, it’s good to see a new book store come to life before your eyes. Click here to see it. This one is in San Antonio, Texas. (OK, it’s a discount bookstore, but even so.)
And finally here’s a public transport innovation that is being tried in Utrecht in Holland. It’s officially known as a “transfer accelerator” – that’s a slide to you and me. Maybe it could catch on where you are. As well as taking ace photographs, Exile Imaging is a public transit expert. Maybe he can advise?
To see it in action, click here. Looks like fun. Trust the Dutch news team to start filming when a girl in a short skirt tried it out.