Morricone (188)

An icon died today and therefore I’m listening to his music while writing this. Though I never listen to Morricone’s music on purpose, his music has always been part of my life. My parents must have introduced me to the music from Once Upon a Time in the West and ever since then, in my mind, the harmonica is forever associated with Morricone. A little later in life as a young teenager I watched Once Upon a Time in America. I loved the film instantly. It was so much more than any of the films I had seen before. Morricone’s music is an integral part of this film and especially Deborah’s theme evokes nostalgic sentiment when I listen to it. The combination of Leone and Morricone, inimitable. Parts of Morricone’s scores were on my music stand when I played in various orchestras. And I never realised until today that one of the pieces I practiced as a teenager were written by him as well. I would have loved to record myself playing it, but my oboe is unplayable due to long disuse. Therefore you’ll just have to do with a link to Gabriel’s oboe on Spotify. Long live his music.

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The curious case of Headspace turning up in my Facebook data

I downloaded my fb data and started digging in the data. The folder ads_and_businesses was my biggest interest. Not very surprising, but there is little data to go through. Five brands under ‘Who Uploaded a Contact List With Your Information’. Seven brands under ‘Your Off-Facebook Activity’. One brand on this list surprised me. Headspace. Headspace is a wonderful service to help me meditate. I’ve been a subscriber to Headspace for six years. It has been a big help to get me through rough patches in life. I pay good money for this service on a yearly basis (just under €45) so I was surprised to see Headspace participating in surveillance capitalism. Also, how could they make a match between my Headspace account and my Facebook account? Time to dive deeper into privacy policies and data collected by Headspace.

Headspace proactively shares data with Facebook, including paying customers

This is what fb logged on my Headspace behavior in the past few months. It does not seem to be a complete list.

Headspace has a well formulated privacy policy. Facebook is mentioned a couple of times.


  • Facebook profile information, such as name, email address, and Facebook ID, if you choose to log in to the Products through Facebook


  • To serve our advertisements to you through third party platforms, such as Facebook or Google, on other sites and apps or across your devices, to the extent that you have provided consent for such uses under applicable law.


  • With third parties, such as Facebook, in order to serve Headspace advertisements on such third party platforms, to the extent that you have consented to such practices under applicable law.

This means Headspace uses my profile information to advertise to me, as long as I have provided consent. I wasn’t aware of my consent, but when I logged in on the Headspace website (I normally use the iPhone app) I got noticed there was a new privacy policy to accept. I clicked through and discovered a section where I can manage my privacy settings. Not a lot of options. Just ‘personalized ads’ and ‘email offers about our partners’. Both were turned on, so I switched them off.

I have to admit after reading Headspace’s privacy policy I felt hugely disappointed. It is fine if they want to track my behaviour on their platform to create a better service, but why do they have to reveal to fb I’m a user of their service? I feel offended that Headspace gives away a tiny sliver of knowledge about me, a paying customer, to a company I’m trying hard to tell as little about me as possible. What makes things worse is that I only know about this information exchange, because I made a data request to fb and dug into the information fb has on record. Strangely enough, Headspace turns up in the data I received through the .zip-file, but there is no mentioning of Headspace on the ads preferences pages accessible when logged in. (By the way, there are more discrepancies between the info in the .zip-file and what available in your profile. That’s for another post.)

I’m already a customer, so Headspace doesn’t have to show me ads on fb. If they want to communicate with me, they have a valid email address to connect with me. The only reason I can think of they want a connection to fb through me is to reach my friends. Well, guess what. I already recommend the service to my friends, by telling them in person. Way more convincing than an ad on fb. But knowing what I know now, they make me think twice about recommending Headspace to my friends. They even make me re-evaluate whether I’ll want to renew my subscription.

In a week or two I will file a new data request with fb to see if new data on Headspace log ins showed up or not. I’ll report back on that in a few weeks, when I have a better answer to the more disturbing question:

How does Headspace know who I am on Facebook?

The curious thing about this case is that I have absolutely no idea how Headspace was able to match my Headspace id with that of my fb account. In this article fb explains how businesses can match their clients with fb users. By uploading phone numbers, which will then be encoded, businesses can serve ads to their clients using fb. Fb implies this is done using email addresses, phone numbers or other personal information. Now here’s the thing. I can’t think of a single piece of information Headspace has on me to match me with fb. I use unique email addresses for both Headspace and Facebook. That can’t provide a match. And as far to my knowledge I never provided my telephone number to Headspace. I use a nickname for my Headspace account, and payment for the service is done through paypal, again using an unique email address. So how does Headspace know what my Facebook account is? In order to find this out I sent a data request to Headspace for my full record. Perhaps they know more of me than they show me in my account information. This story will be continued.

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A song to put on repeat (184)

In response to the racism debate in the US, there have been a lot of discussions in Dutch media. Racism is here as well, though perhaps less obvious to white citizens than in the US. That makes it even harder to take action against it. Protesters in NL have been on the streets to show that black lives matter. I agree. I’m not the protesting kind. Rather, I’d like to share a song with you today of H.E.R. which says a lot of the things that need to be repeated: I can’t breathe.

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Music & Clowns (183)

I watched this short video today. It’s a conversation of a man with his parents about his brother who has Down’s. I love the way the creator chose to animate the audio recording and then mix it with other material. The things being said are wonderful too.

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Are audio beacons still in use?

While I’m diving into the dark side of online advertising, I came across the upheaval three years ago about audio beacons being used to listen to people to, guess what, collect more personal data to, guess what, sell even more stuff to them. Here are some articles to read on that:

Does your phone listen to you for ads? (Or is it just coincidence?)

How Audio Beacons Monitor You Via Smartphone

And most importantly this paper published in 2017, in which the researchers found 234 Android applications that are constantly listening for ultrasonic beacons in the background without the user’s knowledge: Privacy Threats through Ultrasonic Side Channels on Mobile Devices (2017)

Obviously there was a lot of critique on this technique and therefore it seems to have disappeared from the advertiser’s radar. But I’m wondering whether how much of this nifty technique is currently still in use without us knowing. Just recently a friend of mine had one of those ‘they’re listening to my conversations’-moment. So far the information I can find on this are all from 2017 or still referring to the research paper I mentioned above. If you’re reading this and know more about recent use of ultrasonic or audio beacons, I’m interested!

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A pinch hole in the black box called school (182)

The Man and I were able to speak to one of Daughter’s teachers today. Due to the corona rules in school (no parents inside the school), we’ve hardly had any contact with the teachers. Today they scheduled a ten minute update for us parents. Ten minutes is not long, but a lot can be exchanged within that time frame. I learned that Daughter is actively participating at school, not afraid of putting her finger up to try stuff first in gym class. I also learned her teacher has a bit of a gender bias. Based on Daughter’s looks (I guess she meant the combination of a delicate face, nordic eye/hair color and the dresses Daughter prefers to wear) the teacher was (pleasantly) surprised Daughter prefers building blocks over dolls to play with. She made a sturdy impression on the teacher. Yay for Daughter. Her mother is proud she fares so well in her new environment.

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