Social networks

  • Venture capitalSecret raises $10 million at a $50 million valuation

    Secret allows users to post messages to their circles of contacts without identifying themselves as the source of the posted message. The start-up, which was launched in January, has closed a $10 million round of funding at a $50 million post-money valuation. The funding was led by Google Ventures, with participation from KPCB.

  • CybersecurityQR codes threaten Internet security

    Internet security experts have raised concerns about the growing use of Quick Response codes, also known as QR codes. Because the codes can only be read by a machine, such as a smart phone, it is difficult for people to determine what they are about to download. The codes, which are often used in marketing campaigns, could also be used to subscribe people to unwanted services, such as premium SMS.

  • PrivacyAnonymous messaging apps grow in popularity

    The recent surge in anonymous and ephemeral messaging apps like Backchat, Whipsper, Snapchat, Secret, and Ask.fm is a response to a growing demand for social media networks which allow users to interact without revealing their identify for fear of retribution or long-term stains on their personal records.

  • Social networksSocial networking makes us smarter now, but more stupid in the long run

    Does improved connectivity to other people through social networks makes us smarter or more stupid? Some say that connectivity allows us acquire information from other people as well as by direct experience. Many pundits say that in the Internet era, in which we have access to a diversity of information, humankind will learn to make more informed decisions. Others, however, suggest having so much information at our fingertips will limit our ability for concentration, contemplation, and reflection. Controlled tests show that both arguments are correct – but on different tike scales: Being able to copy from other people in vast networks means analytical responses rapidly spread – but only by making it easy and commonplace for people to reach analytical response without engaging analytical processing. The researchers conclude that this tendency to copy without thinking “can explain why increased connectivity may eventually make us stupid by making us smarter first.”

  • SurveillanceExpert calls for “surveillance minimization” to restore public trust

    Surveillance minimization — where surveillance is the exception, not the rule — could help rebuild public trust following revelations about the collection of personal data, according to an expert on privacy and surveillance. “Surveillance minimization requires surveillance to be targeted rather than universal, controlled and warranted at the point of data gathering rather than of data access, and performed for the minimum necessary time on the minimum necessary people,” he says.

  • EpidemicsTracking Internet searches to predict disease outbreak

    The habit of Googling for an online diagnosis before visiting a GP can provide early warning of an infectious disease epidemic. A new study found that Internet-based surveillance has been found to detect infectious diseases such Dengue Fever and Influenza up to two weeks earlier than traditional surveillance methods. Researchers say that when investigating the occurrence of epidemics, spikes in searches for information about infectious diseases could accurately predict outbreaks of that disease.

  • Law enforcementMaine police uses social media, sponsored apps to fight crime

    The accessibility of smartphones and the popularity of apps are making it easier for police to share and receive information from the public. Law enforcement agencies in Maine are using department-managed social media pages to engage with the public. Police department in money also use funds from recovered items and cash seized from drug busts to fund the development of apps which make it easier for the public to communicate with the police and report crimes.

  • Social network spyingSocial network spying may backfire, lead to low returns

    Organizations looking to hire new staff should rethink their clandestine use of social networking Web sites, such as Facebook, to screen new recruits. Researchers found that this practice could be seen as a breach of privacy and create a negative impression of the company for potential employees. This spying could even lead to law suits.

  • DisastersFlickr photos reflect Hurricane Sandy's impact

    A new study has discovered a striking connection between the number of pictures of Hurricane Sandy posted on Flickr and the atmospheric pressure in New Jersey as the hurricane crashed through the U.S. state in 2012.

  • Public healthNew apps to keep you healthy

    For those wanting to keep their distance from health threats like E. coli-contaminated lettuce or the flu, there are two upcoming apps for that. The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) hosted a competition this summer in which graduate students designed two mobile apps to fight the threats of food-related illnesses and the flu. The apps are called FoodFeed and FL•U (pronounced “flu you”).

  • Public healthFacebook, Twitter may yield clues on how to prevent the spread of disease

    Cold and flu season prompts society to find ways to prevent the spread of disease though measures like vaccination all the way through to covering our mouths when we cough and staying in bed. These social responses are much more difficult to predict than the way biological contagion will evolve, but new methods are being developed to do just that. Facebook and Twitter could provide vital clues to control infectious diseases by using mathematical models to understand how we respond socially to biological contagions.

  • Emergency responseSocial media analytics help emergency responders

    If you think keeping up with what is happening via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media is like drinking from a fire hose, multiply that by seven billion — and you will have a sense of what researchers who are working on SALSA (SociAL Sensor Analytics) are facing. Efforts of emergency responders and public health advocates could be boosted by SALSA.

  • Law enforcementNYPD issues strict guidelines for use of social media by officers

    The New York Police Department (NYPD) has issued strict guidelines for employees using social media, and ordered its employees to take a second look at their profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites to ensure they conform to the new rules. The NYPD follows other police departments around the country in insisting that police officers draw a clearer line between their private life, as reflected in their social media postings, and their official duties.

  • Quick takes // By Ben FrankelGoogle’s assault on privacy: a reminder

    A year ago, on 1 March 2012, Goggle launched its privacy-eroding policy of combining and collating users’ information across all of Goggle’s products. Google offers no opt-out option. Forcing consumers to share every aspect and nuance of their Internet practices with the company was not enough for Google. Yesterday, the attorney generals of thirty-eight states reached an agreement with Google concerning Google’s practice of spying on Wi-Fi users. The company sheepishly admitted that its Street View Vans collected 600GB of user data from unprotected Wi-Fi networks, and was fined a measly $7 million.

  • Infectious diseaseSurveillance system identifies, tracks emerging infectious diseases

    Researchers have developed a method to identify the cause of infectious disease outbreaks based on online reports about the symptoms, the season, and the ratio of cases to fatalities. Using data from the Internet outbreak reporting system ProMED-mail, the researchers applied this method to more than 100 outbreaks of encephalitis in South Asia, recently identified as an emerging infectious disease “hotspot.”