Tracked while reading about being tracked at work

While reading this NYT article, by Jodi Kantor and Arya Sundaram, on the drawbacks of activity and time tracking for work, the article itself tracks your reading behavior. You see counters for the time you spend reading and scrolling, clicks, keystrokes, idle time, and active time. It comes complete with snippy comments and a final grade — and a bitter taste for productivity tracking.

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Google Maps incorrectly pointing people to crisis pregnancy centers

Davey Alba and Jack Gillum, for Bloomberg, found that Google Maps commonly points people to crisis pregnancy centers, non-medical locations that encourage women to follow through with pregnancy, when they search for “abortion clinic”.

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Visual explanations for machine learning

As part of a teaching initiative by Amazon, MLU-Explain is a series of interactive explainers on core machine learning concepts. Learn about training sets, decision trees, random forests, and more. Seems like a good way to spend a Friday night if you ask me.

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Where the data from your car flows

Jon Keegan and Alfred Ng, for The Markup, identified 37 companies that collect data from connected cars. On where it goes and how the companies profit:

Once a driver gets into a car, dozens of sensors emit data points that flow to the car’s computer: The driver door is unlocked; a passenger is in the driver’s seat; the internal cabin temperature is 86° F; the sunroof is opened; the ignition button is pressed; a trip has started from this location.

These data points are processed by the car’s computers and transmitted via cellular radio back to the car manufacturer’s servers.

As the trip continues, additional information is collected: the vehicle location and speed, whether the brakes are applied, which song is playing on the entertainment system, whether the headlights are on or the oil level is low.

The data then begins its own journey from the car manufacturer to companies known as “vehicle data hubs” and on through the connected vehicle data marketplace.

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Looking for falsified images in Alzheimer’s study

Charles Piller, for Science, highlights the work of Matthew Schrag, who uses image analysis to look for falsified data, recently scrutinizing a link between a protein and Alzheimer’s:

“So much in our field is not reproducible, so it’s a huge advantage to understand when data streams might not be reliable,” Schrag says. “Some of that’s going to happen reproducing data on the bench. But if it can happen in simpler, faster ways—such as image analysis—it should.” Eventually Schrag ran across the seminal Nature paper, the basis for many others. It, too, seemed to contain multiple doctored images.

Science asked two independent image analysts—Bik and Jana Christopher—to review Schrag’s findings about that paper and others by Lesné. They say some supposed manipulation might be digital artifacts that can occur inadvertently during image processing, a possibility Schrag concedes. But Bik found his conclusions compelling and sound. Christopher concurred about the many duplicated images and some markings suggesting cut-and-pasted Western blots flagged by Schrag. She also identified additional dubious blots and backgrounds he had missed.

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✚ Edit the Chart

Welcome to issue #201 of The Process, the newsletter for FlowingData members that looks closer at how the charts get made. I’m Nathan Yau, and this week I’m editing the details of a government-made chart, working within the limitations of the format.

Become a member for access to this — plus tutorials, courses, and guides.

Serena Williams’ career rankings

Serena Williams announced her retirement from professional tennis. As is required for any milestone by a great athlete, a step chart from The New York Times shows her world ranking over time.

I like the focus on the higher rankings, which is fitting for the occasion, and dotted lines that indicate the smaller chunks of time Williams ranked below 20.

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EV charging road trip

We hear about electric vehicles being the future, but for that to happen, people eventually need to be able to drive long distances without getting stranded. For Bloomberg Green, Kyle Stock and Jeremy C.F. Lin frame this in the context of American summer road trip. If you drive a non-Tesla EV, you’re going to run into some challenges.

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Finding illegal airstrips in Brazil

Using a combination of satellite imagery, crowdsourced databases, and analyses, The New York Times identified airstrips used for illegal mining in Brazil:

To confirm these locations and connect them with illicit mining, Times reporters built a tool to help analyze thousands of satellite images. They examined historical satellite imagery to determine that 1,269 unregistered airstrips still appeared in active use within the past year. They documented telltale signs of mining nearby, such as clear cut areas of rainforest and pools that miners use to separate dirt from ore. And they determined that hundreds of the airstrips in mining areas are within Indigenous and protected lands, where any form of mining is against the law.

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Indicators for a recession

People disagree whether the United States is in a recession or not, because there isn’t a generalized formula you can just plug some numbers into. Instead, the translation of of many economic indicators to a binary definition is more complicated. For The Washington Post, Alyssa Fowers and Kevin Schaul report on work from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

A set of baseline charts show how indicators currently compare to past recessions. Things feels worse, but some indicators show better days. The pandemic, surprise, makes these current times more of a challenge to define.

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