Category Archives: Thoughts

Some of my thoughts, ideas and other text based entries

The privacy risks of Big Data

Kind of a follow up to the It’s not a question of if, but only of when post from a few weeks ago. A fascinating but also scary read how it is possible to identify individuals from theoretically anonymised data:

Riding with the Stars: Passenger Privacy in the NYC Taxicab Dataset

Similar to this there is a lot of information in an itemised bill. Or a record of all websites visited…

It’s not a question of if, but only of when…

… there will be a breach and some ISPs data of this will be leaked, causing all kinds of embarrassment for a lot of people (including those of the “I’ve got nothing to hide” brigade).

I wonder if Teresa May will laugh it off then as in her response to Keith Vaz:

Noting Mrs May likened it to an itemised phone bill, the Labour MP said:

There is a lot of information in an itemised bill. If I was to look at her itemised telephone bill and she was to look at mine, she might be surprised at who were were phoning.”

 “Speak for yourself”, someone could be heard shouting from the green benches – which Mrs May quipped was the “right response”.

PS: This is also a fairly comprehensive analysis of the surveillance bill draft announced today, including the risk of breaches

Peeple app, real or hoax?

Over the last few days a new upcoming app called Peeple raised quite a storm in the media, e.g. the BBC reports Peeple app for rating human beings causes uproar. Quite understandably if the app is real, I think it’s rather intrusive and wrong how it is forced even on people who don’t want to participate. I also very much doubt it is compliant with various European privacy and data protection laws.

However, reading a post Peeple Bleater on rumour/hoax slayer website Snopes.com makes me wonder if the app is real or if there might be something else behind it? Could it be an elaborate social media experiment? Or will it be real after all?

A question about the night sky for astronomers (and others who know this)

My knowledge about stars and the night sky is rather limited, so please stay with me even when I get the terms wrong:

Recently I’ve started to go for a quick walk before going to bed. Certainly at this time of year it’s dark by then. Recently we’ve had a few clear nights, allowing me to see the stars in the night sky. Which made me wonder about what we can see up there. For the purpose of this question I’m splitting the objects out there into two classes: Objects like the Sun, which is sending out light itself and objects like the Earth, the Moon, Mars, Venus and the others in our solar system which don’t send out light themselves but reflect light from the Sun.

Now, when I look up into the sky and see all these lights up there in the night sky, what share of these thousands of lights are objects like the Sun and what share are objects like the Earth etc just reflecting light from another Sun? Are they pretty much all objects like our Sun (i.e. far too hot to visit) or can we see objects just reflecting light outside of our solar system? I’m only talking about what we can see with the bare eyes, not using telescopes or other technology.

If you know about this kind of stuff, can you leave your answer in the comments? (Please note comment moderation is turned on, I will approve as soon as possible).