Browsing articles from "April, 2011"

Apple issues response to concerns about data-tracking in Q&A-style press release

Apr 27, 2011   //   by admin   //   Media blog  //  No Comments

By Chris Hogg

Apple has been facing tremendous heat in the tech world after it was recently revealed iPhones and 3G-enabled iPads are keeping track of location information from its users. Concerns were raised about why, how and if that data was being used.

Last week it was revealed that some Apple devices have been keeping detailed recordings about where the device, and thus the user, has been. Questions immediately surfaced around why Apple was recording location data; whether the move was intentional; and if there was a security risk in having all of ones movements tracked and recorded.

The data is recorded on an iPhone or 3G-enabled iPad and then backed-up to a computer when the phone is synced. There are also apps now available that let you open and visualize your own data.

Some in the tech world simply didn’t care, others thought it was kind of cool, and others say it’s a big risk because the data could be accessed by anyone who can get to your computer.

Apple blogger John Gruber says this tracking was either a glitch or an oversight on Apple’s part.

Apple has finally responded to concerns by issuing a press release in a Q&A format to address concerns. An Apple representative sent Digital Journal the following Q&A:

The email starts out by saying, “Apple would like to respond to the questions we have recently received about the gathering and use of location information by our devices.” It then outlines 10 of the top questions the company has been asked:

1. Why is Apple tracking the location of my iPhone?

Apple says: “Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.”

2. Then why is everyone so concerned about this?

Apple says: “Providing mobile users with fast and accurate location information while preserving their security and privacy has raised some very complex technical issues which are hard to communicate in a soundbite. Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date.”

3. Why is my iPhone logging my location?

Apple says: “The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it’s maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested. Calculating a phone’s location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data to quickly find GPS satellites, and even triangulate its location using just Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data when GPS is not available (such as indoors or in basements). These calculations are performed live on the iPhone using a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple.”

4. Is this crowd-sourced database stored on the iPhone?

Apple says: “The entire crowd-sourced database is too big to store on an iPhone, so we download an appropriate subset (cache) onto each iPhone. This cache is protected but not encrypted, and is backed up in iTunes whenever you back up your iPhone. The backup is encrypted or not, depending on the user settings in iTunes. The location data that researchers are seeing on the iPhone is not the past or present location of the iPhone, but rather the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone’s location, which can be more than one hundred miles away from the iPhone. We plan to cease backing up this cache in a software update coming soon (see Software Update section below).”

5. Can Apple locate me based on my geo-tagged Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?

Apple says: “No. This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data.”

6. People have identified up to a year’s worth of location data being stored on the iPhone. Why does my iPhone need so much data in order to assist it in finding my location today?

Apple says: “This data is not the iPhone’s location data—it is a subset (cache) of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database which is downloaded from Apple into the iPhone to assist the iPhone in rapidly and accurately calculating location. The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below). We don’t think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data.”

7. When I turn off Location Services, why does my iPhone sometimes continue updating its Wi-Fi and cell tower data from Apple’s crowd-sourced database?

Apple says: “It shouldn’t. This is a bug, which we plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below).”

8. What other location data is Apple collecting from the iPhone besides crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?

Apple says: “Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.”

9. Does Apple currently provide any data collected from iPhones to third parties?

Apple says: “We provide anonymous crash logs from users that have opted in to third-party developers to help them debug their apps. Our iAds advertising system can use location as a factor in targeting ads. Location is not shared with any third party or ad unless the user explicitly approves giving the current location to the current ad (for example, to request the ad locate the Target store nearest them).”

10. Does Apple believe that personal information security and privacy are important?

Apple says: “Yes, we strongly do. For example, iPhone was the first to ask users to give their permission for each and every app that wanted to use location. Apple will continue to be one of the leaders in strengthening personal information security and privacy.”

Software Update

Apple says: Sometime in the next few weeks Apple will release a free iOS software update that:

  • reduces the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone
  • ceases backing up this cache, and
  • deletes this cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.

In the next major iOS software release the cache will also be encrypted on the iPhone.

Nielsen: American media cover Royal Wedding more frequently than UK

Apr 26, 2011   //   by admin   //   Media blog  //  No Comments

by David Silverberg

If you thought UK media publishers were more obsessed with the William-Kate wedding on Friday than other regions, think again. A new Nielsen study found American news media out-published their UK counterparts with overwhelming coverage of the Royal Wedding.

The study found “the United States has the highest share of news coverage by traditional news sources, such as the online versions of newspapers and magazines.” Since the couple announced their engagement in November 2010, American coverage of the Royal Wedding accounted for .3 percent of all U.S. news coverage immediately after the announcement. Afterward, that percentage dipped and then rose again in early April, and continued to double the percentage enjoyed by the UK news media.

Nielsen’s study follows other reports of frenzied coverage by American media. CNN is reportedly sending at least 125 journalist to cover the wedding. Also, the New York Times found “wedding experts” to be particularly hot on American TV the past few weeks. More than 2 billion people are expected to watch the Royal Wedding Friday morning.

But with all the news media reports and online chatter about the Royal Wedding, who’s getting more frequent coverage, Kate or Will? The Nielsen study concludes: “Though Kate has received considerable interest online, Prince William continues to be the more popular subject of social media discussion in the United Kingdom.”


Video: Future of Media, April 2011

Apr 21, 2011   //   by admin   //   Future of Media 2011, Media blog  //  No Comments

For those who missed the Future of Media event on April 6, 2011, the following clips have been made available. You can also read a written recap of Future of Media 2011 here.

The discussion topic centered on the relationship between start-ups and media companies; entrepreneurial journalism; gamification; paywalls; and the future of media. The panel was made up of the following individuals:

  1. Jamie Angus, Acting Head of News at BBC World News.
  2. Jon Taylor is Senior Director of Content for CTV Digital Media.
  3. Mathew Ingram, a senior writer with the technology blog network GigaOM.
  4. Chris Boutet is the senior producer for digital media at the National Post.
  5. Kathy Vey is Editor-in-Chief of OpenFile

The panel discussion was moderated by Managing Editor, David Silverberg. The clips from Future of Media April 2011 event are in order below.

Each clip is rendered in low- and high-resolution versions depending on your bandwidth. You can view each clip in high-definition.:

Part 1: How optimistic should we be about media’s future?

Part 2: Digital-first strategies

Part 3: Journalists, Twitter & Facebook

Part 4: Mobile

Part 5: BBC’s coverage of the election using social media, user-generated content

Part 6: Revenue, paywalls

Part 7: Start-ups working in news

Part 8: ROI from tablets/mobile development

Part 9: Augmented reality

Part 10: Is the news media over-staffed for the global age?

Part 11: News sites VS. aggregators

A review of Trove, Washington Post’s news aggregation service

Apr 20, 2011   //   by admin   //   Blog, Media blog  //  No Comments

by David Silverberg

The Washington Post is betting you are being overwhelmed by so much online news, you’ll need a hand sorting out what you like. The newspaper company launched Trove today, and the site is being billed as a “new digital news experience that gives you easy access to the information you care about,” as WaPo CEO Don Graham explained in a welcome note.

He goes on to say, “As a Trove user, you’ll have the power to create your own channels, which you can use to follow the people, places, things, and information sources that catch your eye.”

How does Trove work? You are encouraged to sign in with your Facebook account, using Connect, in order for Trove to determine what interests you based on the things you “like” on Facebook. So when I used Connect to try out Trove, the site immediately knew I was interested in Stephen Colbert, citizen journalism, basketball, the tech blog Mashable, and so on. It included a channel on the Golden Globes for some reason, which means I must’ve “liked” something related to the Globes recently, even though it’s not a Page I frequent.

When you reach the Trove front page, you are confronted with a display of various channels, such as one on basketball or Osama bin Laden, depending on your interests. These channels pull from 10,000 sources, not all of them mainstream. So for my Colbert channel, I can see recent stories from Truthdig or Slashfood or The Atlantic. Trove tells me 78 articles include mentions of Colbert, although some are simply blog posts from those I normally wouldn’t find, which can be interesting or disappointing.

You can also create custom channels. I decided to create a news stream relating to all things Toronto, so I found sources such as the Toronto Star and Metro News Toronto to include in this channel. I also included any news relating to the Toronto Raptors, my favourite local sports team. Unfortunately, Trove couldn’t find my ideal Toronto blogs, Torontoist and blogTO, so I’m assuming Trove isn’t pulling from under-the-radar sources on a hyperlocal level.

The left side of the front page showcases “Editor’s Picks”, ranging from world to tech news. More well-known news sites are listed here, such as USA Today, The Guardian and, of course, the Washington Post.

Problem is, if you have a lot of channels it can be difficult to find them on the front page. I added the Toronto channel but Trove only displayed a few of my channels on the front page, such as basketball and Colbert and citizen journalism. Where was my Toronto page? I had to dig around to find it, and Trove didn’t seem to allow me to customize what channels appear where. It is the first day in public beta, so bugs are bound to occur.

Another section, Conversations, lets you comment on a certain topic, such as basketball, or one a certain news outlet, such as the New York Times. But right now, it’s somewhat dead there, since Trove just launched, but I posted a topic-starter in the Jeopardy section, so will wait to see if anyone replies. I’m curious to find out how people will come across my conversation, too.

Trove has also rolled out an Android app, with iPhone, iPad and Blackberry apps coming soon. I have an iPhone so I wasn’t able to test the Android app.

Have you tried out Trove? What do you think of personalized news services?

Inside ICUC, the comment-moderation company favoured by media outlets

Apr 18, 2011   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

by David Silverberg

Last week, the Boston Globe announced it was outsourcing its comment moderation work to a Winnipeg-based company called ICUC. But who is ICUC, what do they do exactly, and what makes outside comment moderation so attractive to venerable media outlets such as the San Francisco Chronicle, the Globe and Mail and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation?

ICUC has been developing online content solutions for nine years, with headquarters in Winnipeg and editors across the world. In an interview, CEO Keith Bilous says 78 clients use their services, from news outlets to brands such as Unilever. ICUC handles the flood of comments swamping many news sites, while also managing Facebook and Twitter feeds, if the clients requests those services.

Why wouldn’t news outlets keep their comment editors in-house? “The volume of content has outgrown a newsroom’s abilities, and resources are stretched,” says Bilous. “Often the economics don’t seem to work for publishing giants because their people can be doing other things than moderating comments.” He adds how bandwidth costs also deter publishers from keeping commenting in-house.

ICUC editors work closely with clients, ironing out details on how strict moderation should be and what articles should be open to comments in the first place. Guidelines are set during these initial meetings.

For instance, the Boston Globe’s moderation policy states: “As a rule, we permanently disable comments on all stories about people who have experienced a personal tragedy, as well as all obituaries.”

Closing a story off from comments may seem detrimental to a news site’s goal to better engage with readers. But Bilous disagrees, saying some stories just aren’t ideal for commentary. For stories about horrific crimes, for instance, “what’s the value of opening it up to commenters? Out of 1,000 comments, 998 will say nothing but bad things…Does it really serve the community to have a discussion about killers such as Russell Williams?

Bilous addressed the oft-discussed topic of whether journalists should reply to comments and questions posted on their articles. “No question a comment community is more vibrant and responsive if someone who had written the story responded to their concerns. An up-and-coming journalist could reply and engage with readers and drive more conversations. Unfortunately there are a number of journalists who still don’t get that view. There are battles in many newsrooms over this issue.”

The major online commenting news this year involved Facebook’s Comments feature for third-party sites (much like on and TechCrunch). People could comment on news articles using their Facebook profile, and the conversation would appear on the social network site. And vice versa. Shouldn’t companies like ICUC and Disqus be worried about this development?

Bilous brushes off the Facebook Comments rollout. “Even when Facebook launched this project, we got more calls from publishers so it hasn’t impacted our business negatively.” He asks rhetorically, “Does the world want to truly go to a 100 percent non-anonymous commenting environment?”

ICUC envisions only more business ahead, Bilous says. “With all the volume of content continue to weight down publishers, the future is very bright for us.” And due to increased revenue, is Bilous profitable? “Very,” he answers immediately, without citing specific figures. “We’re definitely in the black.”