rDigital News: PDFs, online data, and online surveillance

Photo credit: Huji via Wikicommons

The news is essentially a compilation of information and this week’s headlines put the information that we access on the internet into question. From information that may be hidden away in World Bank pdf reports to the wealth of personal data that is being made available to officials via social media, this week’s news made us wonder:

Is how we access information influencing what we read and how we think? Is there such a thing as too much information? 

For all the information you need to know about this week’s biggest stories, here is rDigital News roundup:

Is the pdf hurting democracy?

According to a working report released this week by the World Bank, hundreds of reports by the organization remain out of sight and therefore, out of mind for the general public. The study looked at 1,611 reports and of those, only 25 were downloaded more than 1,000 times between 2008 and 2012. The Guardian looks at this study and makes suggestions about what it says about the information that people are, or potentially should be, reading.

Are there things that we should try not to know?

As we upload increasing amounts of data to the internet, companies and tech startups are keeping pace by finding new and inventive ways to work with that information. For instance, apps such as Jetpac can scan social media data and decipher it into points of interest for users. However, some of this information,such as analyzing uploaded photos to identify gay bars in Moscow, could be damaging if put in the wrong hands.

A recent article in the New York Times looks at this trend, what it is doing for users and what risks we run by making this amount of data available to governments and companies.

For more on the data bargain, check out this episode from our privacy series with on Walrus TV:

How much does the government know about you?

While headlines regarding governments ‘creeping’ the public’s online activity have focussed heavily on our American neighbours, this week, the Toronto Star reported that Ottawa may be doing the same. According to the interim privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier, when it comes to the collection of social media data, there are not enough guidelines for what can governments can search, why information can be search and what can be done with what is found online.

For more on privacy issues faced in our digital age, check out this episode from our series on Walrus TV: