I’m not here to bash Google or Google Maps. I use both regularly and I definitely appreciate the convenience they’ve added to my life (the time before Google Search seems more and more like the dark ages these days).
But with added convenience often comes added cost. One of those costs is allowing Google to track your movements using GPS satellites.
This allows them to give you a very high level of accuracy during navigation, but it also allows them to store your movement history, just like they’ve stored every Google search since the website launched. We can only speculate on what they do with that data.
The good news is, there’s a way to see everywhere that Google knows you’ve been: an interactive map that allows you to see your tracking history.
The map includes a timeline (below it) that you can scroll over to see exactly where you were at certain times, as well as how far away you were from your home base at that time.
But the coolest feature: the map can be “played” as an animation, allowing you to go back in time and watch your movements as they unfolded.
Login to whichever Google account you use the most (or if you have a specific one for your phone, use that one), and then click on the picture below to try it out.
Tip: Use the calender to the left of the map to select a wider range of days and see a more complete picture of your movements:
For any of you that are familiar with Austin, Texas, I promise I don’t go to 6th as often as the map above makes it seem. Apparently, I just always seem to need my location services when I’m there for some reason…
What things will you learn about yourself when you check out your own tracking history?
BONUS: While doing research for this post, I tried to find the total number of Google searches since Google’s official first year in 1998.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that number, at least not from a credible source. But I did, however find some statistics about recent years.
In 2013, for example, there were nearly 6 billion Google searches every day, for a total of about 2.16 trillion searches for the year.
I’m really sorry to disappoint you but there’s no real study. I made it up because I thought the headline would make you more likely to read this. It’s a trick being used more and more often lately, but most websites won’t admit the lie straight off the bat like I just did.
If you use Facebook fairly regularly, chances are you’ve been conned at least once by a “satirical” website. I put satirical in quotes because what these sites do is a dagger in the side of all the real satirists out there.
The Onion, founded in 1988 in Chicago, was the first major satirical news outlet. Their stories were clearly fake, but they gained readers because the writing was clever and genuinely funny.
This shit is not the Onion. Excuse my French but it’s my job as a journalist to tell the truth as I see it, and the truth is, what these sites are doing is shit. They are exploiting ill-informed, gullible yet passionate people by intentionally generating “news” designed to take advantage of our most powerful emotions.
One of the largest of these new websites is The Daily Currant, a site that refers to itself as “The Global Satirical Newspaper of Record”.
This completely joke-free “satire” website got famous after a fake article they wrote about a New York pizzeria owner refusing Mayor Michael Bloomberg a second slice of pizza (because of his proposed ban on large sodas) made it onto the front page of the Drudge Report.
The article talks about a new law passed by the Texas legislature that forces women getting abortions to,
“…not only hear their fetus’ heartbeat, but must also come up with male and female baby names, speak with at least one faculty member from the local school district, and examine no fewer than 30 baby photos.”
The article also claims that any woman who gets an abortion will have to write a letter to a judge explaining her reasons for getting it, and that the judge could recommend her name and photo be published in an online abortion registry.
To a well-educated person who keeps up with government and politics, this article throws up a number of red flags pretty quickly, but to someone who is passionate about this issue and simultaneously ill-informed on it, these red flags are almost a welcome sight: they are confirmation of the belief that the Texas legislature (and conservatives in general) are waging a draconian war on women’s rights.
These political devils and male chauvinists must be exposed! This information must be shared with the world! And just like that, the lie spreads. That article is only two weeks old and already has over 3,000 shares and over 14,000 comments on Facebook.
The worst part is the 112 responses on the actual article. The moderators made sure to censor any comments revealing that the story is fake, and passionate people from both sides clash in an insane series of conversations which includes tidbits like this one:
…and this one:
These conversations may sound ridiculous to you, but go read the rest of the comments for yourself. Real people are having real conversations, feeling veryreal feelings of anger and hate towards one another, all based off of a fake piece of news.
Despite the fact that this headline may seem pretty fake to most, Empire News (like most of these sites) combines good, journalistic-sounding writing with a total lack of humor to make gullible readers mistake these supposed “satire” sites for reliable news sources. The student debt article is at 24,678 shares and 44,177 likes on Facebook already.
I know a lot of you are probably thinking, ‘Hey, if people are dumb enough to believe those fake stories, that’s their problem.’ Well, the fake sources are getting more sophisticated, and even intelligent people are falling for the trap.
Recently an article entitled “Big Hospital Finally Telling the Truth About Cancer” claimed to have obatined a “Cancer Update” e-mail from world-famous Johns Hopkins Hospital. The supposed update made a number of false claims about cancer (like “everyone has cancer cells”), but cleverly mixed in some legitimate elements of holistic treatment, like carefully monitoring your diet.
The result? 634,366 likes, 474,147 shares and 335,023 comments on Facebook, as well as 6,012 shares on Twitter and 6,416 on Pinterest (the website has since removed the article).
And this doesn’t account for the hundreds of sites that re-posted the fake information on their own pages. I even considered posting about it on here until I read all of the overly bold claims it made.
With more and more people gaining access to modern technology, we get an increasingly large amount of our information from social media, relying on others to share good, reliable stories so we don’t have to find them ourselves.
“roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week.”
Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat (which measures realtime traffic for sites like Upworthy), recently added,
“We’ve found effectively no correlation between social shares and people actually reading [the content].”
These websites know that most people never even put in the time to read an article, let alone investigate its accuracy, so they design their articles specifically to push our most sensitive buttons.
The admins of some of these sites are making $100,000+ a year selling ad space on their sites, and the minimal amount of writing they do is all, quite literally, a bunch of made up shit.
Social media has been great in terms of increasing the voice of the individual and helping to break some of the media monopoly that was built during the rise of television, but it has also had the unintended consequence of increasing the amount of false info out there.
So how do we fight this growing monster of lies and targeted misinformation? Well, there’s a few things we have to stop doing on Facebook.
First off, if a headline catches your eye because it seems unbelievable, chances are it probably is. Don’t let your desire for the story to be true override your logic and skepticism.
If you are skeptical about a claim, try searching key phrases from the article on Google, adding the word “fake” or “satire”. People call out these stories for being false pretty early on, but you usually won’t find the debunkings on social media.
But by far the single most important thing you can do is to STOP sharing, commenting on or even liking links unless you are willing to vouch for what is in them. Don’t let others judge credibility for you.
With major media outlets become increasingly more like the tabloids in their sensationalist journalism, it’s going to be up to us, the individuals, to demand credibility and accountability from our news sources.
Otherwise, we may soon live in a world so saturated with falsehoods that the truth will become virtually impossible to extract.
NOTE: All of the specific stats on social media shares came from sharedcount.com. You can use this site to check the total number of shares for any public web address.
Here at the Higher Learning we try to put a strong focus on space exploration and the space industry as it continues to develop and progress.
Just this month an artist named Mikael Genberg and representatives supporting a project called “the Moonhouse project”, announced plans to land a small, robotic, self-assembling house on the surface of the Moon.
It would be the first art piece on the lunar surface, symbolic of both our accomplishments in space so far and the direction we are heading in the future as colonization becomes feasible.
The Moonhouse will be red with white gables, resembling, “a typical Swedish red cottage,” says its artist. Measuring 2 by 3 meters (6 ½ x 10 feet) at the base, it will be more of an art project than actual human living quarters.
The artist leading the Moonhouse project says the house will stand as a symbol of,
“prosperity, of thinking bigger thoughts, breaking new mental barriers and actually making this planet a lot better.”
The video below was created by the Moonhouse project. Check it out to learn more about the details of their plan…
The Moonhouse is designed to fly to the moon folded up in a shoebox-sized package. After being placed on the moon, the art installation will unfold and self-assemble as an 8-foot-tall (2.5 meters) red house. It’s expected to take anywhere from five to 15 minutes for the Moonhouse to assemble.
“The team plans to send the project up to space in late 2015 atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with the group Astrobotic — a private spaceflight team competing for the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize grand prize.”
Before this project can become a reality, the Moonhouse project needs help from people here on Earth. The project is attempting to raise $15 million in a 186 day period in order to fund the project. Currently the Moonhouse project is far from it’s fundraising goal, last time I checked they were only at around $5,000.
That is why, if you support the project, you should make a contribution and spread the word so this project can actually happen.
In fact, people that pledge at least $50 will get their names engraved inside the real Moonhouse that will self-assemble on the lunar surface. Every dollar donated brings this project 82 feet closer to the Moon, according to Genberg.
Just last month, the House gutted the FREEDOM Act, which was put in place after the Snowden revelations to prevent mass cellular surveillance of American citizens in the future.
Internet and privacy activists alike have grown tired of the government’s empty promises about protecting internet privacy. So they decided to launch a campaign to take the issue out of Washington’s hands and put into the hands of the public.
The campaign, known as #ResetTheNet, was initiated by Fight for the Future, and encourages websites and individuals to start using encryption to protect their data. It kicks off today on the one year anniversary of the Edward Snowden revelations of NSA surveillance last year.
Hundreds of websites and other organizations are participating, including Reddit, Imgur, Mozilla, Greenpeace and Amnesty International. Google, who initially refrained from joining, has now endorsed the campaign, and added that they will be, “releasing email encryption tools and data, and supporting real surveillance reform.”
The goal is to not only educate people about encryption but to actually provide them with the online resources to begin encrypting their own information. The campaign’s splash page, which is displayed on many of the participating sites, includes lists of good encryption software and tips for both computers and mobile devices.
While encryption definitely makes your data significantly more secure, it is not completely impervious- the NSA has whole departments dedicated to cracking encrypted info.
However, organizers of the campaign believe that if encryption starts to become fairly common, the government simply will not have the resources to be trying to break through everyone’s encryption, forcing them to give up on mass internet surveillance.
Yesterday, Edward Snowden issued a statement with his support for the campaign. He ended it like this:
BONUS: The battle for net neutrality is also being waged right now. After approving a “fast-track” plan which would allow large corporations to pay for preferred real estate (ie. more visibility) on the internet, the FCC invited the public to comment for 120 days before they make their final decision.
Comedian and political satirist John Oliver used his new HBO series, Last Week Tonight, to explain what net neutrality is, why it’s so important, and how the major cable companies pushing to make it happen are screwing the consumer.
Oliver urged all of the internet trolls to take advantage of the FCC invitation to comment, saying,
“…for once in your lives, focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction.”
The massive comment volume following the airing of Oliver’s show crashed the FCC website for a while.
We’ve been experiencing technical difficulties with our comment system due to heavy traffic. We’re working to resolve these issues quickly.
Google has created a lunar landing competition for private teams and/or companies to compete in. The competition, known as the “Google Lunar XPRIZE“, is offering successful participants over $30 million and is being called the “largest international incentive based prize of all time”.
In order to win the prize, a team or company must fist safely land their craft on the surface of the Moon. Then, the craft must travel above, below, or across the moon’s surface for at least 500 meters.
Finally, it must send back at least two “Mooncasts” (a video transmitted live from the lunar surface) for viewers on Earth. All of these tasks must be completed by December 31, 2015.
Google obviously has a financial stake in the $30 million competition, whether it be for publicity, marketing, branding or whatever else, but these are not Google’s only motivations. According to Google Lunar XPRIZE’s official website, the competition also hopes to,
“…create a new “Apollo” moment for this generation and to spur continuous lunar exploration,”
referring to the Apollo 11 mission, which put man on the moon for the first time. The website also points out that,
“More than half of the world’s population has never had the opportunity to view a live transmission from the lunar surface.”
Google Lunar XPRIZE is offering a grand prize of $20 million for the first place winner, but teams will also be competing for bonus prizes throughout the competition by completing specific terrestrial or in-space milestones.
Offering these milestone prizes and extra bonuses helps to encourage teams to continue to compete and innovate for the entirety of the competition, since it gives them the opportunity to obtain a return on their investments even if they don’t ultimately win the grand prize.
Also, the competition will be great publicity for any up-and-coming aerospace and robotics engineers or companies taking part.
Check out the video below to learn a little bit more about Google Lunar XPRIZE…
The teams competing have come from all over the world, and range from groups of college kids to sophisticated engineering and technology companies.
Teams had to register in 2010 and meet specific requirements to be eligible. The count started with 33 qualified teams, but is now down to just 18.
Hopefully one or even several of these teams will soon be opening new doors to the moon.
On Tuesday (4/27), Google X, the company’s experimental technologies branch, released designs for their new driverless car. Google has been testing self-driving technology in Toyota vehicles for a while now, but the new prototype is fully automated, and doesn’t even have a steering wheel or pedals.
The design was announced by Google co-founder Sergey Brin at the annual Re/code Conference. 100 of the new driverless cars are being manufactured for testing in California this summer, with Google hoping that they can eventually see commercial use as “robo-taxis” that commuters can use to get rides on demand via a cell-phone app.
The vehicle seats two and is equipped with a plethora of onboard computers and sensors to ensure the safe transit of its passengers, including two steering and braking systems, in the case that one fails.
Google believes that its driverless cars, which react much faster than humans and aren’t susceptible to fatigue and distractions like we are, could reduce auto accidents by up to 90%.
“The reason I’m super excited about these prototypes is the ability to change the world and the community around you,”
said Brin during the announcement. The vehicles are fully electric and currently have a range of about 100 miles.
Homophobia in Africa has been growing at an alarming pace in recent years.
In January, The Higher Learning reported on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni refusing to approve a law passed by the Ugandan parliament that would have made homosexuality punishable by life in prison.
Earlier today (1/15/2014), human rights’ activists from the International Center on Advocacy for the Right to Health (CARH) reported the savage beating of 14 men in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
On Thursday (1/13/2014), Ifeanyi Orazulike, who works for the CARH, received a panicked e-mail from a colleague.
In the e-mail, the colleague (who’s name was not released) said he was hiding from a mob of about 40 men armed with wooden clubs and iron bars.
He sad that the mob started going door-to-door around 1 a.m., pulling suspected homosexual men from their homes, beating them and threatening death if they were to return to the neighborhood.
In May of last year, Nigeria passed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, first proposed in 2006.
This law doesn’t seem very severe compared to the proposed Ugandan legislation. Critics, however, say it only serves to encourage and embolden attacks like the one on Thursday, citing Nigeria’s long history of mob justice.