National News

Apple Buys Dr. Dre's Beats Electronics For $3 Billion

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 13:34

Apple's acquisition of the audio equipment and subscription streaming music service co-founded by Dre and record-producer Jimmy Iovine is the computer-maker's largest-ever such purchase.

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Data brokers set the price tag on your head

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-28 13:25

Big data is the topic at issue in a report issued by the Federal Trade Commission this week.

To be more specific, the FTC took a deep dive into the business of data brokers. Data brokers collect information on us, create profiles using that data and sell those profiles to marketers and other entities. The facts the FTC collected were pretty mind boggling—one data broker it looked at had 3,000 pieces of data on nearly every U.S. consumer; another had more than 1 billion transactions in its data bases. 

Data brokers gather up or buy bits of information about us: public records, online purchases, social media posts, trips to the drug store.

"There’s thousands and thousands of data elements on each consumer," says Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau for Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission. She says data brokers use the information to slot us into categories, which they sell to marketers. "The level of specificity and detail are mind-boggling. They have 'Urban Scramble', which is a category referring to low income and minority consumers; they have 'Thrifty Elders'; they have 'Diabetes Interest'; 'Bible Lifestyle'... 'Biker Lifestyle'."

This information is used in all kinds of ways--to show us ads for things we're likely to be interested in and to set insurance premiums and interest rates. Good luck getting life insurance if you fall into the 'Biker Lifestyle' category," says Rich.

"More and more, the stories that are told about us are told through numbers and the collection of data about us," says Joseph Turow, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication and author of "The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry Is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth""Some of those stories help people--some prevent fraud, but, like the FTC report says, a lot of them may be dangerous for us and for the kinds of opportunities we have in life." 

The FTC report calls on Congress to require data brokers to be transparent and allow consumers to see the data that's been collected on them. They're also supposed to have the ability to opt out of having that data sold and used for marketing.

"At the end of the day, The FTC makes some pretty good points," says Russell Glass, CEO of Bizo, a data-profiling company that specializes in business professionals. It sells those profiles to more than 1,000 clients, including American Express and UPS. Bizo gets its information from about 2,000 sources, and it shares its revenue with them. Glass says a little regulation in the industry would be a good thing.

"Nobody really knows what the rules are," says Glass. "There’s this self-regulation that some people follow and some people don’t. Some degree of smart regulation, I think that would be a net positive for the industry. Right now a lot of this is the monster under the bed syndrome. Right? Where everything seems really scary in the dark."

Bizo lets the 190 million businesspeople it profiles see the data it’s collected on them and gives them the choice of opting up. Glass says fewer than 1 percent of the people who look at their profiles opt out. He says the rest want the convenience and the tailored marketing that comes with a data profile.

If you want to see your Bizo profile, check it out right here.

Data brokers set the price tag on your head

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-28 13:25

Big data is the topic at issue in a report issued by the Federal Trade Commission this week.

To be more specific, the FTC took a deep dive into the business of data brokers. Data brokers collect information on us, create profiles using that data and sell those profiles to marketers and other entities. The facts the FTC collected were pretty mind boggling—one data broker it looked at had 3,000 pieces of data on nearly every U.S. consumer; another had more than 1 billion transactions in its data bases. 

Data brokers gather up or buy bits of information about us: public records, online purchases, social media posts, trips to the drug store.

"There’s thousands and thousands of data elements on each consumer," says Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau for Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission. She says data brokers use the information to slot us into categories, which they sell to marketers. "The level of specificity and detail are mind-boggling. They have 'Urban Scramble', which is a category referring to low income and minority consumers; they have 'Thrifty Elders'; they have 'Diabetes Interest'; 'Bible Lifestyle'... 'Biker Lifestyle'."

This information is used in all kinds of ways--to show us ads for things we're likely to be interested in and to set insurance premiums and interest rates. Good luck getting life insurance if you fall into the 'Biker Lifestyle' category," says Rich.

"More and more, the stories that are told about us are told through numbers and the collection of data about us," says Joseph Turow, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication and author of "The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry Is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth""Some of those stories help people--some prevent fraud, but, like the FTC report says, a lot of them may be dangerous for us and for the kinds of opportunities we have in life." 

The FTC report calls on Congress to require data brokers to be transparent and allow consumers to see the data that's been collected on them. They're also supposed to have the ability to opt out of having that data sold and used for marketing.

"At the end of the day, The FTC makes some pretty good points," says Russell Glass, CEO of Bizo, a data-profiling company that specializes in business professionals. It sells those profiles to more than 1,000 clients, including American Express and UPS. Bizo gets its information from about 2,000 sources, and it shares its revenue with them. Glass says a little regulation in the industry would be a good thing.

"Nobody really knows what the rules are," says Glass. "There’s this self-regulation that some people follow and some people don’t. Some degree of smart regulation, I think that would be a net positive for the industry. Right now a lot of this is the monster under the bed syndrome. Right? Where everything seems really scary in the dark."

Bizo lets the 190 million businesspeople it profiles see the data it’s collected on them and gives them the choice of opting up. Glass says fewer than 1 percent of the people who look at their profiles opt out. He says the rest want the convenience and the tailored marketing that comes with a data profile.

If you want to see your Bizo profile, check it out right here.

Lost in translation? Skype hopes not

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-28 13:13

It’s one of those “living in the future” technologies. Microsoft is unveiling a live translation feature coming to its Skype service later this year. You have a conversation with someone in another language, and a moment later, the software translates it.

Gurdeep Singh Pall, a Microsoft Vice President, demonstrated the technology on stage at Re/code’s Code Conference this week, and the company says an early version of Skype Translator will debut later this year.

“It has some syntax problems, but yeah, wow, it’s good,” says Alice Leri, who teaches at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, and speaks German. 

Her colleague, Ken Erickson, a business anthropologist at the school, was a bit more skeptical. This kind of electronic translation, good as it is, “lulls you into a sense of comfort where you should be not so comfortable,” he says. 

A lot can get lost in translation in international business. Computer translations can send the opposite meaning than you intended in languages like Chinese. Skype Translator might be useful for simple things like scheduling a meeting, but, “if you want to negotiate a contract, you better not rely on something like this,” Erickson says.  

Microsoft admits the technology is still not ready for primetime. It will likely first be used by regular Skype users, who don’t have the same demands for accuracy as business customers. 

“It makes more sense to introduce the technology is through consumer applications,” says Raúl Castañón, a senior analyst with the Yankee Group. 

And, the tech giants are all becoming more interested in translation services. Google recently bought Word Lens, an app that uses a smartphone's camera to translate text on signs and menus. 

Law & Order: tech edition

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-28 13:07
Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 04:00 NBC/Jeff Thompson

An early appearance of a computer in Season 1 of Law & Order

For those who have spent an entire day on the couch letting Netflix dominate the tv or laptop screen, binge watching is not such a new phenomenon. Artist Jeff Thompson is certainly no stranger to the concept: he has watched all 456 episodes of the original Law & Order franchise. But unlike the rest of us, he was getting paid to do it.

That's because Thompson received a grant from Rhizome to track the use of technology throughout the show's 20 year history. The fact that the show thrived on being "ripped from the headlines" (i.e. as current as possible), produced a weekly episode, and ran for such a long time make it a particularly useful series for such a project. 

Aside from maintaining a blog of screenshots of every computer that makes an appearance on the show, Thompson used the opportunity to track other technology-related data. For example, he maintained a list of every URL used throughout the series, as well as a chart that tracked the parallels between the drop off of computer useage on the show in tandem with the burst of the dot-com bubble. The chart below shows the number of computers used per season, while the following chart tracks the closing price of the Nasdaq (in light grey) over the same years.

A chart of the computer count in every episode of Law & Order

The light grey portion charts the closing price of the Nasdaq

Thompson also saw an opportunity to track the evolution of our attitude towards technology as well. In the beginning of the series, computers generally sat in a corner, eventually making their way onto individual's desks as their use became more ubiquitous. It's these minute details that really interested Thompson. He points out that while a lot of people document and write about the history of technology, the seemingly boring details are not as thoroughly documented. In fact, when asked about his favorite bit of technology in the series, he points to a pretty mundane piece of furniture: the computer desk. 

Marketplace Tech for Thursday, May 29, 2014by Podcast Title Law & Order: tech editionStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Pakistani Taliban Reportedly Split Over 'Un-Islamic' Practices

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 13:07

After months of bloody clashes between the two factions, one group says it has left because bombings of public places, extortion and kidnappings are "un-Islamic."

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What Google's driverless car actually means

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-28 13:01

Imagine for a moment that it is the year 2050. You are watching TV, a movie from the early 2000s. It’s a rom-com and a couple is at the end of a date, about to kiss awkwardly in their car, when your eight-year-old grandkid walks into the room, looks at the screen and says, “What’s that round thing?” That, you answer, is a steering wheel.

This scenario is not entirely unlikely. Google just unveiled the second generation of its self-driving car. The big difference between Google’s new driverless car and the old one is that the new version has no brake pedal and no steering wheel. So passengers are controlled completely by Goggle’s software.

“Now for some people, this might not be a big deal. For some people, this might be a benefit,” says Thilo Koslowski, an analyst with Gartner.

The self-driving car presents us with all kinds of opportunities. The elderly would be less isolated, blind people could hop in a car and go anywhere, at any time. The designated driver could get hammered. And everyone would be on safer roads because traffic could be coordinated.

“The question we will have to ask ourselves as a society,” says Koslowski, “is are we willing to give up some of that freedom in exchange for fewer accidents and improved traffic flow.”

Along with that freedom, we would also be giving up even more of our privacy. Tech companies would not only know our movements at all times, they would have control over them.

Eric Noble is with The Car Lab. He believes the best estimates about the growth of autonomous vehicles is a report by IHS titled "Emerging Technologies: Autonomous cars-Not if But When". “By 2035 they predicted 54 million automated vehicles [will be] on the road,” says Noble.

To put that in perspective, that’s roughly a quarter of all the cars on the road. The IHS report predicted that nearly all of the vehicles in use are likely to be self-driving sometime after 2050.

Increase your v-o-c-a-b-u-l-a-r-y

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:43
Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 13:26 Alex Wong/Getty Images

Nathan J. Marcisz of Marion, Indiana, tries to spell a word during the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee competition in Washington, DC. Spellers participate in the annual competition to become the best spelling bee of the year.

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Thursday, May 29:

John F. Kennedy was born 97 years ago. He was the youngest man elected President.

In Washington, the Commerce Department releases its second estimate for first quarter domestic product.

The National Association of Realtors issues its April Pending Home Sales Index.

Wisconsin joined the Union on May 29th, 1848.

And kids compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship Finals. You can watch it live on ESPN while gripping your dictionary.

Marketplace for Wednesday May 28, 2014by Michelle PhilippePodcast Title Increase your v-o-c-a-b-u-l-a-r-yStory Type BlogSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Thriving Towns In East Africa Are Good News For A Parasitic Worm

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:32

The worm causes a debilitating intestinal disease called schistosomiasis. And the parasite is spreading rapidly because of an economic boom along the shores of East Africa's Lake Malawi.

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Texas Tea Party Gives GOP Establishment The Blues

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:26

This was starting to look like a bad year for the Tea Party, with primary losses to GOP establishment candidates beginning to pile up. Then came Texas.

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Study Questions Need For Employer Health Care Requirement

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:19

The component of Obamacare that requires employers to provide health insurance has been delayed twice. Now, groups on both sides of the political spectrum are arguing to get rid of it altogether.

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Obama Calls For Further Support Of Syrian Rebels: What's Changed?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:13

Steve Inskeep of NPR's Morning Edition spoke with President Obama shortly after the president's speech to West Point graduates. He offers a brief preview of that conversation.

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Today's Heroin Addict Is Young, White And Suburban

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:08

Heroin became notorious in the 1960s as an urban drug of abuse, but its resurgence is fueled by young people in rural and suburban areas, a study finds. Most first used prescription opioids.

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A Peat Bog As Big As England, And A Rare Glimpse At Earth's History

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:06

Dr. Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds has discovered a vast peatland in a remote part of the Republic of Congo. The bog covers an area the size of England and is thought to contain billions of tons of peat. Scientists say that investigating the carbon-rich material could shed light on 10,000 years of environmental change in this little-studied region.

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Finding The Fine Line Between Isolation And The 'Allure Of Normalcy'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:06

Robert Siegel speaks to Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution and Michele Flournoy, the former undersecretary of defense, about President Obama's commencement speech to West Point graduates.

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Force And Fear In The Air, As Syrian Refugees Go To Polls In Lebanon

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:06

Syrian refugees in Lebanon are already voting in an election that's seen as Bashar Assad's rigged bid for legitimacy. Many refugees believe that if they don't vote, they'll never be allowed back home.

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Report Finds Systemic Problems With VA Wait Lists

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:06

In a new report released Wednesday, the inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs says that the department has frequently manipulated records to hide medical care delays. Investigators focused their probe on a hospital in Phoenix, Ariz.

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Obama Auditions Foreign Policy Speech Before Graduating Cadets

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:06

President Obama visited the U.S. Military Academy Wednesday, delivering a commencement speech to West Point cadets. He used the occasion to lay out a foreign policy vision based in pragmatism.

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Church Group Announces Boycott Of NPR Over 'Tell Me More' Cancellation

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:03

The National Black Church Initiative is calling for its members not to give money to NPR, telling the network it "has abandoned the African American community, and we must turn a deaf ear to you."

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Goodbye driver's ed, hello self-driving car

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-28 12:00

Google has released a new prototype in its long mission to put self-driving cars on the road. Proponets of the technology say it has the potential to free up parking lot real estate in cities, make delivery services more efficient, and make roads safer. Though, certain features (or lack thereof) make others uneasy: This latest Google car doesn't have a steering wheel, or break pedals.

It's hard to be nervous about a vehicle that's so adorable, though. Michelle Krebs, an analyst at Auto Trader, says the minimalistic look of the car reminds her of a Volkswagen Bug. The retro design makes sense when considering the fact that, at least in its debut outing, the audience for the self-driving car is largely baby boomers, says Krebs:

"I think absolutely the older generation will be interested, because you get older, you're driving is not as good, and people are very reluctant to give up their driver's license."

Krebs also points out that the technology could be very popular with millenials for a completely different reason:

"On the opposite side of the spectrum, you've got the millenials, who haven't...shown much of an interest in driving. Although, this isn't going to be inexpensive technology right away, so whether they can afford it or not is the question."

Krebs says that while the technology is largely there for self-driving cars to be a reality, the stumbling blocks of regulation and legality still remain. In her mind, the next step is most likely cars that give the driver an option of driving, or letting the vehicle take control. 

 

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