Saturday, November 15, 2014

Open thread: #SamaritansRadar, Amazon diversity, Facebook research

Suicide prevention charity Samaritans launched its Samaritans Radar website last week, with the aim of helping Twitter users know when friends “struggling to cope” might need their support.

In the days since, there’s been a lot of debate about the rights and wrongs of the launch, including claims that the new service is intrusive in the way it analyses and acts on people’s tweets without asking them to opt in first.

“Samaritans Radar must close,” was the headline of a blog post by Adrian Short, who said the site “has been a disaster for everyone concerned” including the people it’s intended to help. “The #SamaritansRadar hashtag is full of people saying that they’re leaving Twitter or locking their accounts, at least until Samaritans Radar closes,” he wrote.

The Information Rights and Wrongs blog provided its take on why Samaritans Radar is problematic for privacy issues, even though it’s using public data. The A Latent Existence blog expanded on the personal impact of this, calling for the charity to “try again”.

However, fellow Guardian journalist Hannah Jane Parkinson followed up our first news story with her personal take on Samaritans Radar, admitting that it’s currently a “crude tool” but suggesting that “most of the complaints about Radar do not stand up”.

“The point of Radar, however, is to catch people on the edge of the cliff face who would be truly grateful of a helping hand to pull them back up, but for whatever reason, didn’t feel they could say this outright,” she wrote. “And that’s a very good thing indeed.”

What do you think though? Not just whether Samaritans Radar in its current form is good or bad, but how it might develop positively, if you think that’s possible. For example, Samaritans has already announced that individuals – not just organisations – can now ask to be added to its no-monitoring “white list”.

The comments section is open for your views. What else is on the tech agenda this morning? A few links to chew over:

Incoming EC digital economy commissioner G√ľnther Oettinger is “considering establishing a data protection agency for the EU” claims the Wall Street Journal, although it notes a lack of clarity over how much influence he’ll have over data protection issues. Amazon has published its diversity numbers, revealing that 63% of its staff are men and 37% women, although for managers the split is 75-25. In the US, 60% of its staff are white, 15% black, 13% Asian, 9% Hispanic and 3% “other”. Recode’s Kara Swisher on Apple CEO Tim Cook’s decision to write about being gay. “While everyone searched yesterday for some kind of dramatic reason for the Cook declaration, it’s a fairly simple equation, even if you are out to friends, co-workers and family, as Cook apparently has been: You get tired of lying. You get tired of hiding. You get tired of not saying.” How did Google CEO Larry Page respond when Steve Jobs told him his company was “doing too much stuff”? He relates his defence as part of a long, interesting FT interview: “It’s unsatisfying to have all these people, and we have all these billions we should be investing to make people’s lives better. If we just do the same things we did before and don’t do something new, it seems like a crime to me.” News of another Facebook news-feed experiment, in the three months leading up to the US’ election day in 2012. “Facebook increased the amount of hard news stories at the top of the feeds of 1.9 million users. According to one Facebook data scientist, that change – which users were not alerted to –measurably increased civic engagement and voter turnout.” Nielsen has some new app stats, although many of us will be familiar with the patterns they describe. “While the average smartphone downloader has around 42 apps on their device, the majority (87%) claim they use less than 10 apps on a daily basis while 55% say they use between one and four apps and 32% report using between five and nine.” Grumpy Cat’s Christmas movie trailer has been released. The YouTube comments are... well, they’re quite grumpy.

What else have you been reading today that you think would spark discussion? The comments section is open for your suggestions, as well as your thoughts on the stories above.


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