My watch is watching me

I’d been thinking about buying an Apple Watch for a while, but the price of such a device is high and the benefits not entirely clear. But then I noticed in the past few months that I’m moving about less and less. When going out is not necessary, and the weather is uninvitingly wet, working from home starts taking its toll. My niece got a fitbit for her tenth birthday and the idea of an activity tracker became more and more attractive to me too. Especially with the wet, cold weather that comes with autumn and winter ahead of me. A device that nudges me to move my body seemed to be less and less of a luxury and more and more a health necessity.

I did my research on these devices, comparing Fitbits with Apple Watches and Samsung watches. Samsung is really for Android users. Fitbit requires an account for their services and thus all data collected is stored on Fitbit servers. Since Google bought Fitbit (though EU is still investigating this acquisition), and I don’t believe Google’s promise not to use Fitbit data for targeted advertising (if not for the data, what is Google buying Fitbit for?), I decided the Apple Watch is the best option. The data is stored on iCloud, but not accessible by Apple or third parties, unless you give explicit consent to use the data. For instance when installing apps that you allow to read the data.

And then The Man, Daughter and my parents gifted me an Apple Watch for my birthday. I now own an Apple Watch 3, which comes a lot cheaper than model 5. In The Netherlands there is still no phone provider that is willing to accept eSims for Apple Watch yet. The cellular version is not for sale here. I have the simple GPS only version instead.

Initial set-up was easy enough. The only issue I had was to connect my Airpods to the watch. I needed to clear the Airpods in the Bluetooth menu on my phone and create a new connection again. Then it worked.

I’ve been wearing it for four days now. So far I’m using Apple’s monitoring apps for activity and nothing else. I did install some practical apps: headspace, weather and Philips Hue (to turn on and off lamps in my home). Though bulky on my wrist it is less annoying than I expected. I hardly feel the weight on my wrist.

I really appreciate the gentle nudges by lightly vibrating to remind me to stand up every hour. This is one of the biggest issues when writing a lot: it’s all done sitting down.

I also appreciate the activity monitoring. It gives a much better insight in whether I move enough or not. Of course I’ve been enthusiastically walking and cycling outdoors the past few days to reach my daily goals.

I love the fact that I can style the phone as well. I can choose clock-faces in a lot of different colours and vary the shortcuts to different apps. That way you can style to phone to match your outfit. In addition to the standard white wristband I ordered more. I found a website where they offered five for the price of three for €35. A good deal. Changing the band is really easy.

The one thing that I wish it had was cellular connection. The iPhone Xr is so big, that there are many moments during the week I wish I could do without taking it with me. I don’t mind being out of phone’s reach, but on a warm day, while wearing a pocketless skirt and heading into the park with Daughter, it would be nice to at least be able to text The Man when we’re running late, or invite a friend to come as well. I dislike the need to carry a purse just for my iPhone all the time.

In the end I hope wearing the watch will keep me physically active. I will check in a few months’ time how my activity levels change over time.

Door |2020-09-03T11:53:55+02:003 september 2020|datadieet, flow|2 Reacties

Mailchimp gives me more than I want

I discovered a disturbing thing yesterday when exporting my Mailchimp e-mail contacts for IFF. Mailchimp has more personal data than I asked for. When signing up for my weekly digest, all I want to know is an e-mail address. It’s the only thing I need to know for sending an e-mail to a person. I deliberately do not ask for names or other details. The less I know, the better considering the chances of data breaches and GDPR legislation. After exporting my contact list from Mailchimp I found out the service has more data on record than I asked for. For instance for one person who registered for my e-mail subscription list I have a first name, a last name and birthday on record. I’ve never had input fields for that information in my subscription form, so how do those personal details end up in my contact list on Mailchimp?

The only explanation I can think of is that Mailchimp keeps unique ID’s based on an e-mail address. The data that person discloses to a Mailchimp mailing list then ends up in all other mailing lists that person subscribes to using the same mail address. A hint for that explanation are the ID numbers that I also received in my data export from Mailchimp. All users are assigned two ID numbers, a LEID and an EUID. This is Mailchimp’s explanation about these ID’s:

LEID is the unique identifier for a contact, specific to an audience. EUID is the unique identifier for a contact on the account level, across all audiences.

Whatever the reason and mechanics behind Mailchimp’s user ID’s, I’m really shocked to find out I own personal data I never asked for. Even worse, the person subscribing to my mailing list never agreed for me to have that data. A serious breach of trust (and the law).

There is more data in the export file. IP address is logged at opt in and again when confirming ones subscription. Latitude and longitude. And based on that information country and province are logged. I was under the assumption I only asked for an e-mail address and that would be the only thing on record. I was wrong.

My conclusion is that I should never have used Mailchimp in the first place for sending my automated blog digest. I exposed my readers to a data collector. I deeply apologize for that.

I am now switching to a WordPress plugin called Mailpoet. The sign-up data is stored in the database belonging to this blog. The only data I transferred from Mailchimp to my blog are e-mail addresses, as subscribers agreed to when signing up. The only extra information that is logged are IP addresses when signing up and confirming. With that data I can prove consent for signing up to anyone asking (or a subscriber to prove an e-mail address was misused for signing up). I will delete my account for IFF with Mailchimp and remove the export files on my computer.

This case clearly shows how easy it is to collect excess data. Lesson learned.

Door |2020-08-04T15:24:41+02:004 augustus 2020|datadieet, flow|2 Reacties

One step closer to leaving Mailchimp

Following Frank’s lead, I started to migrate out of Mailchimp’s data collection empire. I use Mailchimp for three e-mail subscription lists, all of them below a hundred subscribers. Mailchimp is so much overkill for the simple task of the occasional e-mail I send to a handful of people. Most of them are friends and family anyway. Therefore I decided to download Mailpoet on this website and recreate the e-mail subscription process to my blog posts. Apparently they are revamping the whole tool, but Mailpoet has everything I need for automatically sending a summary of all blog posts written in the past week.

In two hours time I:

  • created a new list and imported my subscribers;
  • set up an account to be able to use Mailpoets mailservice (free for less than 1000 subscribers);
  • created a new subscription form to replace the Mailchimp form;
  • had dinner;
  • changed some language in the basic messages for singing up;
  • created a template for the e-mail and scheduled it to be sent out on every Sunday again;
  • tested the sign-up process and all seems to be working.

Fingers crossed e-mail subscribers will see this message in their inbox next Sunday. And in case you want to receive the e-mail yourself, you can subscribe here.

Door |2020-08-03T20:55:59+02:003 augustus 2020|datadieet|0 Reacties

Strong emotion wins in the sharing competition

On my other website I published a fairly long piece of writing (in Dutch). The starting point for writing that piece was a screenshot of a facebook post that was included in an academic paper which analysed all posts on HPV vaccination within a certain time frame. This particular post got a special mention since it was by far the most shared and commented on. The whole lay-out and wording used in that post sent out warning signals for being untrue. I got curious. What are the actual facts and arguments behind this message?

I thought I would write a blog post about it. Then I started documenting my findings during my search and quickly the whole exercise to follow my curiousity resulted in a three week long research into the use of false arguments, misinterpretations of statistics and scientific research results. I came to the conclusion that the group of authors I came across during my research try to win a political debate by using tragic illnesses and deaths of young people as a starting point to discredit a company and the government.

Through my research I learned some lessons about how false arguments and interpretations spread between websites, what kind of tricks organisations use to look more credible than they really are and what types of signals to look for when checking for credibility of messages. By sharing these lessons I hope to vaccinate the reader against the next fake news story that plays your emotion.

So instead of a blog post, I published a blog research article of about 7500 words. If you’re fluent in Dutch, go to Storymines and check it out. Get yourself lost in a world of thoughts that might not be yours. I really enjoyed writing it and I hope you will be immunized afterwards.

Door |2020-07-13T16:51:57+02:0013 juli 2020|datadieet, flow|0 Reacties

When social media become mandatory (192)

I just finished listening to an episode of Recode Decode in which the authors of the book called The Hive, the couple Lyga and Baden, were a guest. They talked about their Young Adult book in which they explore the idea what the consequences would be for people when acting on social media is mandatory and your behaviour on it has real, think financial or physical, consequences. The book, published in 2019, sounds like something I should read. Its theme fits perfectly within the research I’m doing on Facebook right now. On the to order list. The podcast episode was wonderful to listen to as well, as it was an interesting discussion on whether and how we can fix it for the next generation. A direct link to the episode is not available, so you’ll have to search for it in your podcast app. It’s called Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden: What if everyone had to use social media?

Door |2020-07-10T13:16:29+02:0010 juli 2020|366, datadieet, flow|0 Reacties
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