Category Archives: General

Don’t Believe Everything You Read on Facebook

Our parents used to tell us “don’t believe everything you see on TV.” Their parents told them, “don’t believe everything you read.” Has the time come to warn our kids about the dangers of believing every Facebook update they encounter? Sadly, the answer appears to be yes…and it’s not just kids who are the gullible ones, we are too!

Not everything that grows on Facebook is so pleasant. Photo credit: mkhmarketing
Not everything that grows on Facebook is so pleasant. Photo credit: mkhmarketing

In fact, according to a recent survey, a majority of Americans now view search engines (something Facebook aspires to be) as a more credible source of news than actual news sites. This might be considered disturbing for a number of reasons, not least of which involves the “right to forget” controversy impacting Google in Europe.

On the bright side, it seems like news aggregators such as Facebook are taking their newfound powers seriously, by adjusting their algorithms to root out news sources of questionable quality, as well as outright hoaxers.

Gawker offered up a comprehensive article outlining some of the worst offenders. These are sites that rely on click bait from controversial and often straight-up false headlines to drive surges of traffic to their sites. While Facebook can be applauded for improving the aggregation of their news content, it’s good to keep in mind this won’t solve everything.

Here are additional ways you can get tripped up by fake Facebook news:

1. Uncle Bob’s impassioned theories about the IRS/vaccines/other

We all have a friend or family member with “out there” views that we have either hidden from our news feed or keep on it just to laugh at.

Keep in mind that all 450 of your friends also have an Uncle Bob connected to them, and not everyone agrees on the definition of “crazy.”

Many people on your news feed and connected to it will think nothing of sharing and promoting opinions as fact. Before you click the share button…investigate and verify.

2. Satirical Articles

Satire can be hilarious and brilliant, but when casually scanning your Facebook feed it can be easy to get caught up by sources other than The Onion.

Many serious news sites like the New Yorker and New York Times utilize comic writers and satirists and will promote their work on Facebook. Before you share a “news item” make sure it’s real or soon you will be the butt of jokes among your Facebook friends.

3. Scams

More concerning than your crazy uncle or taking a satirical article seriously is falling for one of the multitude of scams that live on Facebook.

From “viral video” links that load malware on your hard drive to a new “free giveaway” that tricks you into giving up your personal information to hackers, there are many ways to get ripped on Facebook from seemingly innocuous information.

Kim Komando has a good roundup of the methods scammers use to separate users from their money.

As social media becomes an increasingly normal part of life for people of all ages, it’s good to be conscious of the fact that misinformation that used to spread by TV, radio and phone will all find a natural home on social media platforms like Facebook. Use common sense, your intuition and verify the information before you trust it.

Data Science Goes Mainstream With White House Appointment

 

Last week, President Obama appointed the nation’s first chief data scientist, Dr. DJ Patil.

Dr. Patil was instrumental in developing the field and famously called data science “the sexiest job of the 21st century.” In fact, Patil is credited with creating the term “data scientist” in the first place.

The word everyone is focused on these days. Photo credit: justgrimes
The word everyone is focused on these days. Photo credit: justgrimes

Highlighted below are some resources to catch you up on the career of the nation’s first Chief Data Scientist and why data science is gaining so much attention with businesses and governments worldwide.

And don’t forget, if you have a strong data science background, BeenVerified is looking for a data scientist of our own. Check out the details of the position on our careers page if you’re interested.

Here’s a summary of the key announcements and background behind the naming of DJ Patil as Chief Data Scientist and what he will focus on while holding the office.

The White House Names Dr. DJ Patil as the First U.S. Chief Data Scientist

A Memo to the American People from U.S. Chief Data Scientist Dr. DJ Patil

Fast Company profile on the rise of DJ Patil from 2012.

How many times will you move in your life?

 

According to data blog FiveThirtyEight, the average person will move 11.4 times in his or her lifetime. That’s a lot of moves in its own right, but the potential for younger people to move even more than that is a real possibility.

The average American will move homes more than 11 times. Photo credit: Nick Aldwin
The average American will move homes more than 11 times. Photo credit: Nick Aldwin

There are a number of reasons for this, including the effects of the financial crisis which some pundits have speculated means more younger people renting rather than buying their homes. This could naturally lead to more people moving as their leases expire for a better deal elsewhere.

Another reason for a potentially higher number of moves also has to do with the economy and people’s willingness to change cities for work. This is particularly true of younger people, who are increasingly delaying ties like marriage and having children, in addition to home ownership.

In his book, The New Geography of Jobs, Enrico Moretti argues that the United States is increasingly composed of “brain hubs” or cities with high quality jobs that attract clusters of knowledge workers. Young workers with decent skills and education may make many different circuits between cities like San Francisco, Austin, DC and New York as they seek new opportunities.

This type of brain hub landscape is a far cry from our grandparents’ world of securing a job for life in their hometowns.

However, the FiveThirtyEight article also notes that this increased mobility isn’t always the result of in demand workers chasing the next great opportunity:

When surveyed by the Census Bureau about why they moved in the past year, people gave reasons including searching for a better home (cited by 15 percent of movers), cheaper housing (8 percent), and foreclosure or eviction (2 percent). Sometimes staying put is a sign of stability.

No matter what reasons have caused your moves, there are a lot of reasons you may need to reference your past address information. If you need help remembering details you can utilize a background check service like BeenVerified’s which will give you historical address information in one report.

Check out the full article on what’s driving the moves of many Americans on FiveThirtyEight above and let us know if you are over or under the average for moves in the comments section.

Your Stupidly Simple Password Is Begging to Be Hacked

 

 2014 was finally the year that Internet and data security became mainstream concerns from the celebrity iCloud hack to the alleged cyber assault by North Korea on Sony Pictures.

Use a creative combination of letters and numbers for your password. Photo credit: Jhayne
Use a creative combination of letters and numbers for your password. Photo credit: Jhayne

Despite the constant headlines about the importance of a strong password, it seems few of us are taking that imperative seriously, based on the just released list of last year’s most popular passwords, compiled by SplashData.

As Fast Company reports, some of the most common passwords are so simple such as “123456” and the perennial favorite “password” that one wouldn’t need a degree in computer science to hack into your computer or cloud storage account.

While you can see the full list of laughably simple and obvious passwords here, you may need a refresher on what makes for good password hygiene.

According to SplashData, here are three simple steps to make a strong password:

1. Use passwords of eight characters or more with mixed types of characters.

2. Avoid using the same username/password combination for multiple websites.

3. Use a password manager to organize and protect passwords, generate random passwords, and automatically log into websites.

It’s no surprise that SplashData offers one such password manager solution, but others include the well-reviewed 1Password which allows you to use just one password across all sites while it encrypts your information quickly and relatively easily.

Until we reach the days of ubiquitous finger print readers and retina scanners, the traditional password will be dogging our digital lives. Make yours smarter and hopefully you will stay off this map in 2015.

Pinterest Improves Search With Data

 

pinterest
Pinterest is innovating its search feature. Photo credit: mkhmarketing

Visual discovery tool Pinterest announced today that it’s taking steps to improve the search functionality of its vast collection of pins.

It turns out that what other users search for can be predictive as to what you will likely search for. As Gigaom reports, they can utilize this power of the crowd through a platform called QueryJoin:

Pinterest uses a data-collection workflow called QueryJoin that helps with applying one user’s search queries and the data gleaned from those searches to other users in order to generate more relevant search results for everyone involved. QueryJoin contains data like search queries, demographic statistics, adjacent queries and pins.

Read the whole story on Gigaom here, which references Pinterest’s original blog post on the subject and has more technical info on QueryJoin.

As companies continue to harness and aggregate huge amounts of data, we can look forward to better, more intelligent searches on everything from social networks to Netflix and Amazon.

And speaking of Pinterest, check out BeenVerified’s Pinterest page where we follow our interests from beautiful craft IPAs to meditation and breathtaking data visualizations.

3 More Amazing Ways to Improve Your Life With Data

 

Earlier this week we wrote about how using public data available through background check services can potentially improve your dating life, finances and general decision-making. We suggested using data more in your life to help you reach your goals in 2015.

With the innovations in publicly accessible background checks available to you, there is no need to guess about the people and places around you anymore.

Get motivated for the new year.
Data will help keep you fit this year. Photo credit: Thomas Hawk

Equally exciting are some of the innovations involving your own personal data that you can harness to have a better year this year. Once you start tracking your data, just be careful with where and how you store it.

Here are three areas where data is set to make a big impact in your life in 2015:

Health

With Apple’s announcement of its forthcoming Watch and a string of health-related apps, 2014 was the year that smart watches and fitness trackers broke through to the mainstream.

2015 will be even better as heart rate and sleep monitors improve. You’ll soon be receiving specific recommendations about how to manage your diet, blood pressure and a personalized exercise program, if you desire it.

If Apple’s Watch is too much of a commitment, you can dip your toe into health and fitness trackers with budget models from Jawbone, Pebble or Garmin. In any case, the days of the simple pedometer are coming to an end and the data you are provided about your health with potentially help you lead a healthier life.

Car

Tired of paying higher car insurance premiums than you think are merited? Most people are. The same concept of personal fitness tracking also now applies to your car, with auto insurers and start-ups trying to disrupt the market.

Most major auto insurers now offer telematics devices that can track your mileage, the speed at which you drive and can even help determine fault in an accident. This way they can offer better rates to careful drivers.

Startups like Metromile and Automatic are taking telematics innovation further by offering per mile car insurance and the ability to run diagnostics on your car in real time.

Home

Many people are familiar with Nest, the startup recently acquired by Google and famous for their smart thermostat, and yet remotely controlling your home’s temperature is just the beginning.

Recent innovations on the market now allow you to create intelligent lighting patterns that make it appear that your are at home when on vacation, or even change color when your favorite sports team wins. Intelligent locks, home security systems and more are all in the early stages of hitting the market and are set to add value in 2015.

We hope our posts this week help you think about how you can improve your life with public and personal data.