Behavioural Data

Who knew! God wants your mobile data too

Cartoon God

So long story short I stumbled across a great site for you to check out privacy ratings called PrivacyGrade.  I actually found this through reading an article by Kim Komando highlighting the cost to our privacy when we acquire free apps.  Of course some apps need our personal information such as google maps, but what about apps like the Despicable Me game or Fruit Ninja? Why on God’s earth do they need this information?  Speaking of God… more on that later.

We all know we don’t read the terms and conditions and unless you are on iOS you can’t set your own privacy settings on a case by case basis. This is where PrivacyGrade can help and it is run by a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University who have devised a simple grading system from A+ to D.  This grading model measures the gap between our expectations of privacy behavior vs the actual behavior.

For example when you download Google Maps you know they will need access to your location data, or Gmail will need access to your contacts to make sending emails easier, you know what to expect and therefor both these apps get an A.  “It does what it says on the tin” so to speak.

In terms of the low scorers the most surprising was the #1 Holy Bible app which scored a D, the lowest grade.  This app’s permissions require full access to your network, your user accounts, your phone status and identity, can read your contacts and track your approximate location.  Not only that but you also give permissions to third parties such as Flurry, Facebook, Tapjoy, Jsoup and Oauth!  Who would have thought catching up on ‘His Word’  would require so much of your passive data.

Also concerning is the related app Bible for Kids which requires the same permissions. This was graded C which I don’t understand as the details are pretty much the same and I would have thought that our expectations would be stronger around privacy considering the target audience.  Targeted advertising to your kids anyone?

If you can’t be bothered to read the T&C’s check out the Privacy Guide




Dear Cable Guy. Sorry it is you, not me

cable guy


We have finally rid ourselves of our cable network!  In Canada there is pretty much a choice of two service providers Bell and Rogers (courtesy of the medium’s regulator, the CRTC), and this frustrating minimal competitive landscape has hindered the overall service levels and of course the price of said services.

We pay a whopping $190 a month for cable TV, Phone and Internet, which is an apparent “good deal” after 2 years of haggling and spending copious amounts when we go over our data limit.  As a proud Brit I was pretty disappointed with the TV programming and interface in Canada.  The main hoity complaint from yours truly is the lack of highbrow shows that we get on the Beeb but a close second, third and fourth is the is the glitchy interactive display, ridiculous amounts of advertising and PRICE, did I mention price?  I was paying the equivalent of $90 a month with BT Vision in the UK and it was a much better experience user wise and I got unlimited internet usage. I love BT Vision.

So goodbye traditional cable with your endless adverts and “scheduled programming” and hello streaming and Netflix on demand, ridding myself of 18 minutes per hour of advertising time versus maybe 6 minutes an hour (on average) via streaming.

I am part of a growing crowd that are leaving traditional television to move to more affordable, better quality and more tailored viewing that comes with Netflix, Crackle, CouchTuner and Hulu to name a few. Ok there may be some limited advertising with the likes of Hulu and CouchTuner but it is still greatly reduced and we have freedom to watch what we want and when we want.

I am presenting a biased opinion, as I am a HUGE fan of Netflix and this is where I see real benefits to the collection of my personal data. Not only do they make good recommendations based on my previous viewing but they have also provided the most riveting shows recently like Derek, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Why so successful? They are looking at our viewing behaviours and making awesome choices through what we are watching. Take “House of Cards” for example, they found through our data that those of us who had watched the original BBC miniseries (also by the same name) were also likely to view movies with Kevin Spacey and/or directed by David Fincher. They combined the three of these and committed $100 million for two 13 episode seasons. Thank you again Netflix… genius. There is also another big advantage with this, they do not have to spend millions on advertising and promotion which we find rather intolerable anyway, they just influence us through suggested programs

“We don’t have to spend millions to get people to tune into this,” “Through our algorithms we can determine who might be interested in Kevin Spacey or political drama and say to them, ‘You might want to watch this.’” Steve Swasey, Netflix’s V.P. of corporate communications, told GigaOm last March.