Ever wondered how fast the rivers are flowing in the UK? Me neither, but it’s an interesting presentation from Matt Gluf, reminiscent of Cameron Beccario’s visualisation of the globe’s wind speeds and ocean currents.
Vice have seen a leaked document written by Facebook privacy engineers which sounds the alarm on how they deal with users’ data.
Facebook doesn’t know what it does with your data, or where it goes: Leaked document – Vice
“We’ve built systems with open borders. The result of these open systems and open culture is well described with an analogy: Imagine you hold a bottle of ink in your hand. This bottle of ink is a mixture of all kinds of user data (3PD, 1PD, SCD, Europe, etc.) You pour that ink into a lake of water (our open data systems; our open culture) … and it flows … everywhere,” the document read. “How do you put that ink back in the bottle? How do you organize it again, such that it only flows to the allowed places in the lake?”
An interesting analogy. Stop polluting the lake?
Photo by Jenn Wood
The start of another week. But what is a week, really? Here’s an essay on how we came to depend on the week despite its artificiality.
How we became weekly – Aeon
Weeks serve as powerful mnemonic anchors because they are fundamentally artificial. Unlike days, months and years, all of which track, approximate, mimic or at least allude to some natural process (with hours, minutes and seconds representing neat fractions of those larger units), the week finds its foundation entirely in history. To say ‘today is Tuesday’ is to make a claim about the past rather than about the stars or the tides or the weather. We are asserting that a certain number of days, reckoned by uninterrupted counts of seven, separate today from some earlier moment. And because those counts have no prospect of astronomical confirmation or alignment, weeks depend in some sense on meticulous historical recordkeeping. But practically speaking, weekly counts are reinforced by the habits and rituals of other people. When those habits and rituals were radically obscured or altered in 2020, the week itself seemed to unravel.
History professor David Henkin explores the background of this man-made construction and highlights the impact the pandemic has had on our experience of it. Though it’s mainly from a US perspective, they’ve chosen to head up the article with a glorious photo from my own county in the north of England.
Wherever the week has come from, it starts with coffee for most of us. But how many, that’s the question. Let Judit Bekker and David Lynch answer that for you.
Live-blogging a new project – Data muggle
I might sound like a broken record, but this year I got super crazy about Twin Peaks, and I can only viz about the things that interest me. So here it is: I’m gonna count all the damn fine coffees that were drunk in all 3 series. It’s 50+ hours of content, so my mind might just go to the Black Lodge by the time I finish. But there are not that many Twin Peaks data sets lurking around to be downloaded from the internet.
And here’s the final data visualisation of the 258 damn fine coffees she saw being enjoyed in Twin Peaks, which you can also see and interact with on Tableau Public.
Well done to the data team at The Economist, having to visualise a 12-year journey of a space probe as it makes a flying visit to eight different asteroids. They’ve made a very complicated journey look quite straightforward and elegant.
A probe intended to study the Trojan asteroids takes off – The Economist
Lucy, as this planetary-ancestor-investigating mission is dubbed, after a well-known specimen of Australopithecus, an early hominid, blasted off from Cape Canaveral, in Florida, and will now follow one of the most complex paths around the solar system yet devised by NASA’s orbital navigators. The diagram which shows Lucy’s journey, indicates how the craft will first pick up speed using two velocity-boosting fly-bys of Earth. It will then head for the Greek camp, passing, for a practice run at observation, by way of a convenient main-belt asteroid that the mission’s scientists have named Donaldjohanson, in honour of the discoverer of Lucy the Australopithecine. When it arrives at L4 in 2027, it will encounter five bodies: Eurybates and its tiny satellite Queta, Polymele, Leucus and Orus. Having examined each of these, it will leave the Greek camp in 2028 and cross, via another velocity-boosting fly-by of Earth, to the Trojan camp at L5. Its final planned encounter, when it reaches L5 in 2033, is with Patroclus and Menoetius.
Fortunately, they were able to call on the team at NASA’s Scientific Visualisation Studio for help.
Lucy mission trajectory – NASA Scientific Visualization Studio
Lucy will launch in October 2021 and, with boosts from Earth’s gravity, will complete a twelve-year journey to eight different asteroids — a Main Belt asteroid and seven Jupiter Trojans, the last two members of a “two-for-the-price-of-one” binary system. Lucy’s complex path will take it to both clusters of Trojans and give us our first close-up view of all three major types of bodies in the swarms (so-called C-, P- and D-types).
WhatsApp fined $267 million for breaching EU privacy law – The Verge
Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) announced the decision in an 89-page summary (PDF), noting that WhatsApp did not properly inform EU citizens how it handles their personal data, including how it shares that information with its parent company.
WhatsApp hit with €225M privacy fine – Politico
Ireland’s data regulator on Thursday fined WhatsApp €225 million for violating Europe’s privacy rules — a more than four-fold increase in the penalty compared to what the watchdog had initially proposed.
Ireland watchdog fines WhatsApp record sum for flouting EU data rules – The Guardian
Four “very serious” infringements violated the core of GDPR, said Dixon. “They go to the heart of the general principle of transparency and the fundamental right of the individual to protection of his/her personal data which stems from the free will and autonomy of the individual to share his/her personal data in a voluntary situation such as this.” The violations affected an “extremely high” number of people, said the watchdog.
Adrian Weckler explains WhatsApp’s €225m fine – Independent.ie: YouTube
The Irish Data Protection Commissioner has imposed a €225m fine on Facebook-owned Whatsapp, Europe’s second largest penalty so far under GDPR privacy laws. However, it did so only after being ordered to raise the amount by an EU data oversight board.
WhatsApp fined €225m for not telling users how it shared data with Facebook – Financial Times
The WhatsApp ruling came after Luxembourg fined Amazon a record €746m in July for breaching GDPR and Ireland fined Twitter €450m in December for not informing regulators about a data leak within 72 hours. The Irish Data Protection Commission has more than two dozen ongoing investigations into big tech companies. Amazon has said it will appeal against its fine.
Facebook: Let us tell you WhatsApp – we don’t want to pay that €225m GDPR fine – The Register
It’s reported to be the heftiest fine ever issued by the DPC and the second-largest handed out under EU data protection laws. It’s also small change for WhatsApp’s parent Facebook, which made a $30bn profit in its latest financial year. The fine is about one per cent of the social network’s annual net income. […]
As well as the fine, the DPC has also ordered WhatsApp to take “a range of specified remedial actions” which some sources claim could make privacy policies even less user friendly.
Do you remember reading about those Whitehouse officials whose job was to painstakingly tape back together all the fragments of paperwork Trump kept ripping up and throwing away? Well…
Piecing together the history of Stasi spying – The New York Times
When pro-democracy protesters stormed the secret police precincts in 1989 and 1990, they found officers at work inside, shredding, pulping and tearing documents by hand. The Ministry for State Security, known as the Stasi, was trying desperately to destroy the surveillance records it had collected over four decades of spying on its own citizens. […]
In the 30 years since, so-called “puzzlers” have been working to reconstruct the torn documents by hand, laboriously sorting and matching fragments of paper by color and handwriting, before taping them back together and submitting them to the archives. … The historian Timothy Garton Ash described the process as an exercise in “extraordinary, but some would say a bit crazy, perfectionism.” Some 500 sacks have already been reconstructed, with 15,500 left to go. […]
Since 1992, the researchers have been offering former citizens of East Germany the opportunity to view their personal Stasi file, a complicated rite of passage that often reveals that family members, friends or neighbors had reported their activities to the Stasi. […]
Ms. Riemann, who wrote a book about the experience with her husband, the journalist Torsten Sasse, said that the knowledge gained from the files was worth the pain. “You could read something in these files that will disturb you forever,” she said, “but the question of course is: Could you live with a lie?”
Imagine finally summoning up the courage to start therapy, to disclose your scariest thoughts and feelings, and then this happens.
They told their therapists everything. Hackers leaked it all – WIRED
“If we receive €200 worth of Bitcoin within 24 hours, your information will be permanently deleted from our servers,” the email said in Finnish. If Jere missed the first deadline, he’d have another 48 hours to fork over €500, or about $600. After that, “your information will be published for all to see.”
It’s a story that WIRED’s UK version had covered in a very similar way back in December.
A dying man, a therapist and the ransom raid that shook the world – WIRED UK
After a handful of sessions, Puro’s therapist moved on to find new work, supposedly saying he couldn’t do anything more to help. Puro has managed alone since then, but his story has taken another dark twist – one that has shaken him to the core. A data breach at Vastaamo led to Puro and thousands of other vulnerable people being extorted by criminals who threatened to expose their highly sensitive data.
Here’s The Guardian’s report from October.
‘Shocking’ hack of psychotherapy records in Finland affects thousands – The Guardian
Distressed patients flooded victim support services over the weekend as Finnish police revealed that hackers had accessed records belonging to the private company Vastaamo, which runs 25 therapy centres across Finland. Thousands have reportedly filed police complaints over the breach. Many patients reported receiving emails with a demand for €200 (£181) in bitcoin to prevent the contents of their discussions with therapists being made public.
Devastating for the patients affected as well as the therapy company itself, Vastaamo.
Vastaamo fires CEO, saying he knew about hacking for 18 months – Helsinki Times
The psychotherapy centre has determined that its database was hacked in November 2018. Nixu, a Finnish cybersecurity company, found later in its investigation that the centre was targeted also in another hacking, in March 2019. “It’s very likely that the chief executive has known about the issue at that point,” Kahri stated to Ilta-Sanomat.
Hacked Finnish therapy business collapses – Computer Weekly
Vastaamo, the Finland-based private psychotherapy practice that covered up a cyber attack on its patient record system in 2018 and then saw its patients directly extorted by cyber criminals, has collapsed into bankruptcy with its services to be acquired by medical services firm Verve.
Hacked psychotherapy centre Vastaamo files for bankruptcy – Yle Uutiset
The firm was placed under liquidation in late January. Lassi Nyyssönen from Fenno Attorneys at Law was appointed as liquidator, but after assessing the situation decided that it was not feasible to carry out liquidation proceedings. “It very quickly became clear that the company’s clear, undisputed debts exceed the amount of its assets. That does not of course include possible damages that it may have to pay due to the data breach,” Nyyssönen told Yle.
A sign of the times?
Vastaamo breach, bankruptcy indicate troubling trend – SearchSecurity
Prior to learning of the Vastaamo hack, Hypponen said he believed that most attackers are motivated by financial information. “If you’re trying to make money with your criminal attacks, medical information is not a very good target for you. Well turns out, I might have been wrong,” he said during the webinar. “It might be now the case that we are seeing the beginning of the next trend — a trend where medical information is becoming a prime target for financially motivated criminals. They might not just be blackmailing the organization with the encryption of data, but the patients themselves.”
Another striking data visualisation from Mona Chalabi, this time a simple bar chart showing what happens to US police officers after they have killed someone.
Two simple but fiendish online puzzles.
Cookie Consent Speed.Run
Since GDPR came into our lives, we’ve all had to struggle with obtaining our basic privacy rights. With each cookie banner we have all been honing our skills, learning to navigate ambiguous options and distrust obvious buttons. Now is your chance to show what you have learnt.
Fontemon: World’s first video game in a font! – codeRelay
Some interesting reads, courtesy of The Economist’s data analysis newsletter, Off The Charts. Let’s start with this question — are glasses-wearers really less conscientiousness than those who wear a headscarf?
Objective or Biased: On the questionable use of Artificial Intelligence for job applications – BR24
Software programs promise to identify the personality traits of job candidates based on short videos. With the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) they are supposed to make the selection process of candidates more objective and faster. An exclusive data analysis shows that an AI scrutinized by BR (Bavarian Broadcasting) journalists can be swayed by appearances. This might perpetuate stereotypes while potentially costing candidates the job.
Here, Stephanie Evergreen makes a solid, essential case for broadening our view of data visualisation and its history. I’ve mentioned khipus here before, but not within this context.
Decolonizing Data Viz – Evergreen Data
When we talked about these khipu and other forms of indigenous data visualization in a recent panel (with January O’Connor (Tlingit, Kake, Alaska), Mark Parman (Cherokee), & Nicky Bowman (Lunaape/Mohican)), someone in the audience commented, “It made me reflect on traditional Hmong clothing and how my ancestors have embroidered certain motifs on traditional clothing to communicate one’s clanship, what dialect of Hmong one spoke, marital status, everyday life, etc.” And this is one reason why it is so critically important to decolonize data visualization. When white men decide what counts (and doesn’t count) in terms of data, and what counts (and doesn’t count) as data visualization, and what counts (and doesn’t count) as data visualization history, they are actively gaslighting Black and Brown people about their legacy as data visualizers. When we shine a light on indigenous data visualization, we are intentionally saying the circle is much much wider and, as Nicky Bowman said, “There’s room for everyone in the lodge.”
After reconciling the past, let’s look to the future.
Who will shape the future of data visualization? Today’s kids! – Nightingale
Graphs are everywhere. So, with the proper instruction, I’d expect today’s kids to become adults that are more proficient at visualizing and interpreting data than today’s adults. Besides parents, teachers, or friends, news organizations also play a role in shaping today’s kids. As Jon pointed out, news organizations can do a great job explaining to us how to read more advanced graphs.
On the other hand, as Sharon and Michael mentioned, because graphs are everywhere, there’s a danger for kids to start thinking that graphs are objective. So it is important for adults to start teaching kids how to think critically, to not necessarily accept the graph and the data at face value. In other words, it’s essential for kids to develop a toolbox. This is good for them and good for democracy — eventually, today’s kids will become more informed citizens.
Something I’m sure Jonathan Schwabish would agree with.
Whilst MI5 gets accused of unlawfully handling their data, the police just lose theirs.
Home Office urged to explain 150,000 arrest records wiped in tech blunder – The Times
Priti Patel has been urged to explain an “extraordinarily serious security breach” after The Times revealed a technology blunder wiped more than 150,000 fingerprint, DNA and arrest history records off police databases. The error may allow offenders to go free because biometric evidence left at crime scenes will not be flagged up on the Police National Computer (PNC).
Priti Patel under fire as 150,000 police records accidentally lost – The Guardian
The Home Office released a statement from the policing minister, Kit Malthouse, but the shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said this was not good enough and called on Patel to provide an urgent statement.
Don’t worry about it, though. They’ll have that deleted data back in no time.
Police scrambling to recover more than 150,000 records wiped from UK database – The Independent
The policing minister, Kit Malthouse, said Home Office and law enforcement officials were working “at pace to recover the data”. “While the loss relates to individuals who were arrested and then released with no further action, I have asked officials and the police to confirm their initial assessment that there is no threat to public safety,” he added. “A fast time review has identified the problem and corrected the process so it cannot happen again.”
Dratted ‘housekeeping’, eh? 150k+ records deleted off UK’s Police National Computer database – The Register
It is reported that Home Office staff are trying to get some of the deleted information back. This implies, strongly, that they cannot simply restore the deleted information from backup files.
Well, as has been pointed out on Twitter, accidents happen.
Britain destroyed records of colonial crimes – The Guardian
Review finds thousands of papers detailing shameful acts were culled, while others were kept secret illegally.
114 child sex files linked to MPs have ‘vanished’ – Express
A total of 114 files linked to allegations of paedophile activity in Westminster may have been destroyed, MPs were told yesterday.
Grenfell files ‘lost forever’ after laptop wiped, inquiry hears – ITV News
Some emails, documents and design drawings relating to the Grenfell Tower refurbishment appear to have been lost forever after being wiped from a laptop, the inquiry into the fire has heard.
Home Office destroyed Windrush landing cards, says ex-staffer – The Guardian
Evidence of UK arrivals discarded despite case worker protests, says former employee.
Update – 16/01/2021
A day later and that initial total is now seen as a little on the low side.
Starmer urges home secretary to ‘take responsibility’ as it emerges 400,000 police records deleted in ‘human error’ – Sky News
Home Secretary Priti Patel has come under fire since it was first reported by The Times that 150,000 records were lost, although it is now understood the figure is much higher. Some 213,000 offence records were wiped from the Police National Computer, along with 175,000 arrest records and 15,000 person records.
Police probes compromised after computer records deleted – BBC News
[The letter from the National Police Chiefs’ Council] says that some of the records had been marked for indefinite retention following earlier convictions for serious offences. And it reveals that a “weeding system”, developed and deployed by a Home Office PNC team, started to delete records wrongly last November. The process was only brought to a halt at the start of this week. […]
It comes after about 40,000 alerts relating to European criminals were removed from the PNC following the UK’s post-Brexit security deal with the EU.
A year ago I shared an article about British Airways being fined a record £183,000,000 by the ICO for a data breach in 2018. Here’s an update to that story.
BA fined record £20m for customer data breach – The Guardian
The fine is the biggest ever issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), but a fraction of the £183m fine initially announced last year. This was reduced after investigators accepted BA’s representations about the circumstances of the attack; and was reduced further to take into account the dire financial position of BA since the onset of Covid-19.
They’re not having an easy time, to say the least. I wonder how successful this auction was for them.
Hit hard by travel disruptions, British Airways will sell a $1 million Bridget Riley painting and 16 other works at Sotheby’s this month – ArtNet News
The painting, titled Cool Edge, carries no guarantee and is estimated to bring in between £800,000 and £1.2 million ($1 million to $1.5 million) at the July 28 “Rembrandt to Richter” evening sale. It was previously on view in a luxury lounge at Heathrow airport in London. […]
With the exception of Terry Frost’s 1997 painting Colour Down the Side 1968, which is expected to go for £20,000 to £30,000 ($25,000 to $37,000), each work in the online sale is estimated below £15,000 ($19,000).
Well, that Bridget Riley looks to have sold for £1,875,000. That would have helped towards that ICO fine…
Meet the Excel warriors saving the world from spreadsheet disaster – Wired UK
Research suggests more than 90 per cent of spreadsheets have errors, and half of spreadsheet models used in large businesses have “material defects”. Given some 750 million people use Excel globally, there are plenty of errors needing attention. One prominent researcher calls spreadsheets the dark matter of corporate IT. And that’s why people like Lyford-Smith have become defenders of the spreadsheet, mitigating the risks by fixing everyone else’s mistakes.
You could say that Matan Stauber’s final year project at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design took millions and millions of years to create.
Histography – Timeline of History
“Histography” is interactive timeline that spans across 14 billion years of history, from the Big Bang to 2015. The site draws historical events from Wikipedia and self-updates daily with new recorded events. The interface allows for users to view between decades to millions of years.
Spreadsheet error led to Edinburgh hospital opening delay – BBC News
An NHS Lothian-commissioned review found a “human error” in a 2012 spreadsheet with the specifications for air flow in critical care rooms. The mistake was missed in what auditors describe as a “collective failure”. It was only when the hospital had been handed over to NHS Lothian, and £1.4m monthly repayments had started, that independent checks found the critical care rooms were operating with the wrong air flow. Remedial work worth £16m has since been carried out and the new Sick Kids building started hosting outpatient appointments in July.
The US Presidential election is just around the corner, and here, via FlowingData, are a couple of links to get us started.
FiveThirtyEight launches 2020 election forecast – FlowingData
The election is coming. FiveThirtyEight just launched their forecast with a look at the numbers from several angles. Maps, histograms, beeswarms, and line charts, oh my.
Lots of talk about masks and where we should be wearing them. David McCandless and the Information is Beautiful team have updated their set of coronavirus infographics (previously) with this presentation of the risks involved with certain activities.
COVID-19 CoronaVirus infographic datapack – Information is Beautiful
Created by David McCandless, Omid Kashan, Fabio Bergamaschi, Dr Stephanie Starling, Univers Labs, Tom Evans.
It doesn’t quite line up with this infographic from the Texas Medical Association, but I’d say it’s close enough, you get the point.
How risky is visiting a museum? This graphic about COVID-19 transmission provides come answers – Hyperallergic
TexMed characterizes things like getting restaurant takeout, getting gas, and even playing tennis as low-risk activities (two on a scale of one to 10). Grocery shopping, going on a walk with others, visiting a library or museum, and playing golf all fall in the moderate-low range (three to four) — that last is of course great news for the president! Highest-risk activities (eight or more) include, unsurprisingly, sports stadium events and concerts, going to a movie theater, attending religious services with 500+ worshippers, and going to a bar — which was a major cause of outbreak in Michigan last week. Texans shouldn’t despair, though! Based on this graphic, it is still safe to shoot guns in the air (at least with respect to COVID-19 complications), do outdoor line dances in rigid six-feet distance grids, and ride the open range.
Here are some other ways of looking at.
COVID Risk Chart – xkcd
First prize is a free ticket to the kissing booth.
Handy chart – The New Yorker Cartoons on Instagram
A cartoon by @rozchast.
Lots of reasons to wear a mask. But then again…
Why You Don’t Need A Mask – COVID-19
You don’t need a mask because…
Ireland, Luxembourg need more muscle to police tech giants, EU report says – Reuters
The report said that data protection agencies across the 27-country bloc had increased staff by 42% increase and budgets by 49% between 2016-2019, but the Irish and Luxembourg governments needed to do more.
“Given that the largest big tech multinationals are established in Ireland and Luxembourg, the data protection authorities of these countries act as lead authorities in many important cross-border cases and may need larger resources than their population would otherwise suggest,” the report said.
Commission pushes UK for ‘high degree of convergence’ in GDPR review – EURACTIV.com
The European Commission will tomorrow (24 June) highlight the importance of the UK abiding by EU data protection rules as part of a future relationship between the two parties, in the first review of the landmark general data protection regulation, obtained by EURACTIV.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the UK would seek to diverge from EU data protection law following its withdrawal from the bloc. […]
More recently, European parliamentarians took a stand against the UK’s data regime, adopting a report that said the EU’s move to grant the UK access to the bloc’s fingerprint data for law enforcement purposes “would create serious risks for the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals”.
In February Johnson said that as the UK nears the end of the post-Brexit transition period, it will “develop separate and independent policies” in a range of fields, including data protection, adding that the government would seek to maintain high standards.
Brexit’s still a thing too, in case you were wondering.
Brexit set to cost the UK more than £200 billion by the end of the year – The London Economic
Bloomberg research shows that Brexit is set to have cost the UK more than £200 billion in lost economic growth by the end of this year. This is a figure that almost eclipses the total amount the UK has paid into the EU budget over the past 47 years (£215 billion) since joining in 1973.
Research by Bloomberg Economics estimates that the economic cost of Brexit has already hit £130 billion ($170 billion), with a further £70 billion set to be added by the end of this year. The British economy is now 3 per cent smaller than it could have been EU membership had been maintained.
I think, whatever else is happening, there’s always one thing you can rely on to keep going. Data breaches.
Babylon Health data breach: GP app users able to see other people’s consultations – The Guardian
Babylon allows its members to speak to a doctor, therapist or other health specialist through a video call on a smartphone. It has more than 2.3 million registered users in the UK.
Babylon user Rory Glover told the BBC when he logged onto the app there were about 50 videos in the consultation replays section of the app that did not belong to him. “You don’t expect to see something like that when you’re using a trusted application. It’s shocking to see such a monumental mistake made,” he said.
Glover said he would not use the Babylon app again. “It’s an issue of doctor-patient confidentiality,” he said. “You expect anything you say to be private, not for it to be shared with a stranger.”
Don’t worry, though. The government’s on it.
Matt Hancock clueless about confidentiality breach at his own GP surgery – The Guardian
Speaking at the virtual CogX festival, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said he was unaware of the data breach, but that it did not affect his views on the value of private partnerships within the NHS. “What I care about is getting results,” Hancock said, “when companies will come and help in the middle of a pandemic. The honest truth is there is no way we would be able to deal with this without the support of the tech companies.”
After the panel had ended, the audio of Hancock’s conversation with his interviewer, the Telegraph’s Harry de Quetteville, continued to broadcast.
“[The] Babylon thing, I should have [known],” Hancock could be heard saying, “especially since they’re my GP.” After De Quetteville told him that the breach meant that someone may have been given access to his medical consultations, Hancock joked: “Honestly, they know more about my bunion than anybody.” The audio of the broadcast then cut off.