Tag Archives: Tracking

China to Make RFID Chips Mandatory in Cars So the Government Can Track Citizens on the Road

The Chinese government, in its ongoing pursuit to create the dystopian police state dreamed up in many a science fiction tale, is reportedly readying a new vehicle identification system that will be capable of monitoring the movement of citizens.

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Sherbit Visualizes and Interprets All the Data Your Online Services Collect

Sherbit Visualizes and Interprets All the Data Your Online Services Collect

iOS: You use a lot of online services that track a lot of data, but how much do you really know about it all? Sherbit puts all that data into one place so you can quickly understand how it all relates through attractive visualizations.

Do I spend more money on gas or on Lyft rides? How much time do I spend working compared to fooling around on social media? Are my Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter posts getting more likes on average? These are the sorts of questions Sherbit can answer by taking data from various services you use and visualizing that data to create a comparison.

Creating a visualization requires only a few simple steps. First you choose a service you want to use, then a trackable metric, and then you repeat that process with another service and metric. For example, if you wanted to find out if you were less active on days you worked more you could figure that out by adding steps counted by your FitBit and productivity hours tracked by RescueTime. You’ll need to log in to each service the first time you request data, but after that Sherbit will remember and pull the data in automatically.

After you create a visualization you save it by tapping a heart icon in the upper right corner and then it’ll appear on your dashboard. If you don’t like the visualization you created, just go back and change it up. Once you’ve saved a few, you can just check your dashboard now and again to find out the data you’re looking for.

Sherbit’s new so it still has more services yet to come (and HealthKit is only sort of supported through an optional toggle in the settings), but it still offers quite a few options already. If you’re looking for a way to make sense out of the data you’re already tracking, you can grab the app for free on iTunes and see what you come up with.

Sherbit (Free) | iTunes App Store

Opera Releases a Free and Unlimited VPN for iPhone

iPhone: Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are often a costly affair, but Opera, the company best known for its browser, released a free, unlimited VPN for iOS today that allows you to access the internet securely from a variety of locations.

http://lifehacker.com/5940565/why-yo…

Opera VPN works just like any other VPN app on iOS, and connects using SurfEasy VPN. You can connect to the internet in the United States, or route your traffic through Canada, Netherlands, Germany, or Singapore. Alongside giving you a new region, Opera VPN also blocks ads and trackers. Opera’s promising the VPN will be free for life and according to The Verge, Opera’s not planning on serving up ads for the time being. We haven’t put Opera VPN through its paces, and the desktop version was leaking user’s IP addresses at launch, so if you’re especially worried about security, you might want to hold off a bit. Otherwise, as far as simply changes regions goes, Opera VPN does the job as its supposed to.

http://lifehacker.com/stop-opera-s-n…

Opera VPN (Free) | iTunes App Store

Opera Releases a Free and Unlimited VPN for iPhone

iPhone: Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are often a costly affair, but Opera, the company best known for its browser, released a free, unlimited VPN for iOS today that allows you to access the internet securely from a variety of locations.

http://lifehacker.com/5940565/why-yo…

Opera VPN works just like any other VPN app on iOS, and connects using SurfEasy VPN. You can connect to the internet in the United States, or route your traffic through Canada, Netherlands, Germany, or Singapore. Alongside giving you a new region, Opera VPN also blocks ads and trackers. Opera’s promising the VPN will be free for life and according to The Verge, Opera’s not planning on serving up ads for the time being. We haven’t put Opera VPN through its paces, and the desktop version was leaking user’s IP addresses at launch, so if you’re especially worried about security, you might want to hold off a bit. Otherwise, as far as simply changes regions goes, Opera VPN does the job as its supposed to.

http://lifehacker.com/stop-opera-s-n…

Opera VPN (Free) | iTunes App Store

You Can Hack the Amazon Dash Buttons to Track Any Kind of Data You Want

Amazon Dash lets you to order specific products with the press of a small button, but there are other ways to use those simple devices. You can hijack the buttons and use them to track any kind of data you like.http://lifehacker.com/amazon-dash-bu…

At the blog Medium, Ted Benson explains how he intercepted his Amazon Dash button’s signal and turned it into an easy way to track his newborn baby’s poops. Using a simple Python program, Benson was able to search for the button on his Wi-Fi network, snag its MAC address, and set it up to record data into a spreadsheet. The buttons are basically just a Wi-Fi radio and a battery that you can hijack and use to collect whatever kind of data you want. The parts probably don’t cost much, but for $4.99 apiece, you don’t have to worry about assembly. You could use the buttons to track the progress of a new habit, remind yourself the last time you did something around the house, or count off the number of times you’ve completed a task. The sky’s the limit. You can find the complete guide at the link below. What would you do with your hacked Dash button?

How I Hacked Amazon’s $5 WiFi Button to Track Baby Data | Medium via BoingBoing

You’re Not Managing Your Finances If You’re Not Tracking Your Expenses

You're Not Managing Your Finances If You're Not Tracking Your Expenses

Here’s a shocking secret about money that regularly goes unnoticed: if you’re not tracking every dollar that you spend, you’re not really “managing” your finances. Crazy, right?

As personal finance blog Makin the Bacon puts it, rather succinctly, “You can’t change what you don’t measure.” If you’re trying to get a handle on your finances, but you can’t point to the specific things that cost you money, you’re not really managing your finances at all. If your “budget” consists of rent, a car payment, and half a paycheck’s worth of “miscellaneous,” you’re not budgeting. And until you actually start tracking every dollar, you’re fooling yourself.

Every time someone complains to me about their state of finances, the first question I ask them is this, “Do you track and record your expenses?” or “Do you know where your dollars are going?”. Most of the time, they will shrug and say, “No”. And there…right there you have it, the main problem with their finances is the fact that they’re not keeping track of their dollars.

Personal finance software like Mint give you all the tools you need to start tracking your expenses. Start by using them every single time you spend money. If Mint doesn’t work with your bank, create a spreadsheet. Write it in a notebook. Whatever works best for you. But don’t just glance at your bank account every few days and assume you know what’s going on.

You Can’t Change What You Don’t Measure | Makin the Bacon via Rockstar Finance

Photo by Trenton Kelley.

You Don’t Need to Obsess Over Every Detail to Make Fitness Progress

You Don't Need to Obsess Over Every Detail to Make Fitness Progress

Are you the type of person that meticulously tracks calories, until you’re left deciphering the contents of General Tso’s chicken only to say "screw it?" For many, there’s a fine line between obsession to detail and not caring. Here’s why extreme detail might not be necessary.

First of all not everyone requires the same level of detail when it comes to their diet and exercise program. According to nutritionist and author Lyle McDonald:

How detail oriented you need or have to be depends on a lot of factors. One of these is where you’re starting out. Someone going from 30% bodyfat to 25% bodyfat or just trying to lose a few pounds won’t have to pay nearly the attention to the details as the individual trying to get from 10% bodyfat to 5% bodyfat with no muscle loss.

Most people reading this will be fine with tracking detail when you can, while learning to estimate portions when you can’t. Black-and-white thinking is what leads to the never-ending diet rollercoaster.

When you can’t be super meticulous, it’s important to know that you don’t have to throw in the towel. We recommend that you buy a kitchen scale and measuring cups for tracking at home when you can, then eyeball the closest match on your favorite tracker (like MyFitnessPal) when this isn’t possible.

For more details on finding the balance between eyeballing and obsession, as well as why you shouldn’t mess with something if it’s working, check out the full article below.

How Detail Oriented Do You Need to Be | BodyRecomposition.com

Image by Janine.


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You Can Now Opt Out of Verizon’s Supercookie Mobile Tracking Program

You Can Now Opt Out of Verizon's Supercookie Mobile Tracking Program

Not too long ago, it was discovered that Verizon was undeletable injecting “supercookies” to track mobile subscribers’ web surfing and the only way you could protect your privacy was through third-party apps. Verizon now, however, lets you opt-out of this program so it will stop inserting the unique identifier (UIDH) if you tell them to.

To disable the tracking, sign into your account on Verizon’s website and opt-out of the program called “Relevant Mobile Advertising” or call 1-866-211-0874. While you’re there, if you haven’t already, you might want to opt out also of Verizon selling your app usage data to advertisers.

It’s a shame that this is opt-out rather than opt-in and that Verizon even continues using these headers when AT&T has stopped its similar program. Still, at least we have the option now.

Verizon Wireless Customers Can Now Opt Out of “Supercookies” | The New York Times

Photo by JeepersMedia.

Why ResearchKit Is the Most Exciting Thing Apple Announced Yesterday

Why ResearchKit Is the Most Exciting Thing Apple Announced Yesterday

Apple announced several things yesterday, but ResearchKit, the company’s new medical research and health platform, is clearly the technology with the most potential to actually improve people’s lives. Services like it are already at work around the globe, helping doctors and patients manage symptoms and improve health. Here’s why it’s important, and how it could actually change health care for the better.

In a press conference dominated by new consumer gadgets like the Apple Watch and the new MacBook, Apple’s ResearchKit stuck out like a sore thumb. The platform aims to give anyone with an iOS device the opportunity to participate in medical research, join programs that can help them track their symptoms, or share information with their doctors. Like any new technology, it’ll take some time to ramp up, but the eventual uses—and some already in development—have the potential to really help people.

Quantified Self Works Best when Someone Qualified Reviews the Data

"Quantified Self" is the idea that the key to improving your life is to track everything you do and use that information to identify patterns and make positive changes. For many of us, that means tracking our steps, logging our meals and our workouts, and even tracking our sleep. Of course, not all of the data we get from those trackers is reliable, and the information we see is even trickier to interpret if you’re not sure what you’re seeing, or how it plays into your overall health picture.

That’s where ResearchKit could step in to make a difference. By linking your phone with health institutions and research organizations, the information you log, steps you take, and trials you participate in all go back to the people who designed them—presumably doctors and researchers who are able (and eager) to sift through the information you provide. As doctors specifically get on board with tools like this, they can introduce tests and tools that let you log your meals, steps, and activity, and help you understand exactly why you’re walking 10,000 steps a day but not losing weight, or sleeping eight hours a night but still having trouble staying awake during the day.

In short, we can track our own activity as much as we like, but unless we’re knowledgeable enough to look at the complete picture and understand what we’re seeing (as well as identify outliers and see trends in the data) we’re just spinning our wheels. If ResearchKit can build a bridge between that information and the people most qualified to examine it and offer us feedback, the possible implications for health on an individual level are huge.

Where ResearchKit-Like Technology Is Already In Use

Apple’s approach here is interesting because it transforms the devices that millions of people already own into tools that can improve their health. However, many research institutions have been using technology like ResearchKit for their own trials and experiments for years. For example, a Madison, Wisconsin company called Propeller Health has been working with hospitals and public health agencies for years to help asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) sufferers manage their symptoms, track their movements, log their attacks and when they have to take medication, and funnel all of that information back to their doctor.

In a pilot program in Louisville, Kentucky, asthma sufferers were given GPS-enabled, Bluetooth-connected rescue inhalers and asked to go about their daily lives as normal. Every time they used their inhaler, the device mounted on it would log the person’s position, send it to their smartphone, and their smartphone would log the event, where they were, the time of day, and some other useful information about the time, place, and duration of the attack. The impact of the research was immediate.

For one patient, her doctors were able to review the data her inhaler and smartphone collected, and quickly noted that she, semi-regularly, had asthma attacks when walking through a park that was close to her office during her lunch hour. At first her doctors assumed she was allergic to something in the park, but upon closer inspection and testing, her records revealed she wasn’t—there were no unusual plants or animals in the park that were uncommon near her home. By cross-referencing where she had her attacks with the time of day, as well as wind patterns and weather data from weather stations in the same city, researchers were able to determine that a chicken farm—a few miles upwind of the park and at higher elevation—was the culprit. On the days she reported attacks, the wind was blowing down from the farm, bringing with it the allergens that likely caused her attacks. Without the kind of real-time tracking platform they used to collect this information, they likely would never have been able to put the pieces together.

The whole experiment was outlined in this old NHK World documentary, and you can read more about how the platform works in this article at TheBlaze, but the impact of the experiment went far beyond one woman’s health (although honestly, that would be enough if that’s all it were.) The pilot program here had hundreds of participants, all using the same internet-connected health tracking software in the same town. The city’s public health administrator was able to work with the local research hospital to track asthma cases and attacks all over the city, with the eventual goal of improving air quality and—in the long term—reducing the number of asthma sufferers in their community.

How ResearchKit Could Make "Big Health Data" A Reality Everywhere

Why ResearchKit Is the Most Exciting Thing Apple Announced Yesterday

Apple’s ResearchKit offers companies like Propeller Health and municipalities like Louisville a common platform to build experiments and public tests like this—all without having to reinvent the wheel themselves first. In the future, we could see programs like this pop up all over the globe, with lower entry costs and time to deployment. Best of all, since every iOS device in the wild will already be compatible with the tools those researchers choose to build, your doctor could someday hand you a device to wear on your arm, tell you to download a ResearchKit app, and come back for a follow-up appointment in a few months, after he’s collected enough information to diagnose your condition.

But what about privacy and security? We’ve established that lots of health companies are selling your data, but Apple went out of their way yesterday to say that Apple never sees the data you provide through ResearchKit—which is good, considering much of it will be used either for medical research, studies, or individual patient care. However, who the research institutions, hospitals, and doctors share that data with is up to them (although still governed by laws like HIPAA.)

Similarly, Apple said yesterday that ResearchKit will be open source. That means, presumably, that security researchers will be able to poke and prod it from the outside, make sure leaks and holes are plugged, vulnerabilities are identified, and the apps that are built for it are equally secure (or, at least, can be secured.) Open source in this case doesn’t make me believe that we’ll see ResearchKit on non-Apple or non-iOS devices anytime soon (so expect Google and Microsoft to make their own pushes in this realm shortly), but it does mean that developers, non-profits, and cash-strapped medical professionals who actually want to help people can get involved and do just that.

Where HealthKit Goes Gimmicky, ResearchKit May Actually Help People

Why ResearchKit Is the Most Exciting Thing Apple Announced Yesterday

Apple’s HealthKit follows in the same vein as most other fitness trackers and apps. It’ll track your activity levels, estimate calories burned, help you track your diet—all those things you’re already used to. That’s all great, but we’ve established that an info dump doesn’t equal better health. Don’t get that confused with ResearchKit. ResearchKit on the other hand, just by giving your data to the people who can actually use it to help you (and to help others), and by offering a platform for those same people to build better tools, already has real promise.

Doctors and hospitals are already using it for asthma, like we mentioned above. In Apple’s announcement yesterday we saw a ResearchKit app designed to help people with Parkinson’s Disease measure dexterity, balance, and agility. There’s another app designed to help diabetes patients manage their conditions, one aimed to help people gauge their risk of heart disease, and another for breast cancer patients to help track their post-treatment experiences. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Title photo made using Natykach Nataliia (Shutterstock). Additional photos by Intel Free Press and HealthGauge.

The Apps That Protect You Against Verizon’s Mobile Tracking 

The Apps That Protect You Against Verizon's Mobile Tracking 

Verizon has been tracking its mobile subscribers’ web surfing by injecting undeleteable unique identifier headers (UIDH), and an advertising company Turn.com can also use these to respawn deleted cookies. If you’re concerned about this privacy invasion, the EFF has listed the apps that can protect you.

On mobile, Disconnect Pro protects against both Verizon and Turn (as well as other eavesdropping and tracking companies), as does Orbot + Orweb on Android and Onion Browser on iOS. Or you can use a mobile VPN.

The EFF notes that if you tether your laptop to a Verizon device or use a Verizon mobile hotspot, your computer will be subject to these perma-cookies as well, but Tor Browser Bundle protects against this on the desktop.

Verizon’s advice for protecting your privacy? Don’t use Verizon Wireless.

Which Apps Protect Against Verizon and Turn’s Invasive User Tracking? | The Electronic Frontier Foundation via Macworld