CR2 Kelvin's story

How Much Is Your Privacy Worth?

Most of us would shy away from making purchases in a foreign country if we didn't know the exchange rate. Yet, if privacy is the true currency of the Internet, as many argue, millions of us are doing that very thing every day. Meanwhile, Internet giants amend their privacy policies in ways that allow them to harvest and sell even more of our personal data. While privacy campaigners protest, users generally vote with their clicks and carry on regardless.

So should we conclude the Internet generation is happy to trade its privacy for free or cheaper Web services? Not according to Nicola Jentzsch of the German Institute of Research in Berlin, and colleagues, who last week published research showing that most people prefer to protect their personal data when given a choice and that a significant proportion are willing to pay extra to do so.

The researchers directed 443 students to a website offering tickets for a real movie showing, sold by two different vendors. Although the tickets were subsidized, the volunteers, who were able to purchase one, two, or no tickets, had to pay most of the cost themselves.

When both vendors offered tickets at the same price but only one required customers to enter their cell phone number, the more privacy-friendly vendor got 83% of sales. When participants were offered the same choice, but with an additional charge of 50 euro cents from the privacy-friendly cinema, its market share fell to 31%.

"It turns out that when you are good on privacy you can charge more and make a greater profit," says Sören Preibusch, of the University of Cambridge, one of the authors of the study, published by the European Network and Information Security Agency, an agency of the European Union.

When only one of the two vendors stated it would use the customer's e-mail address to send them advertisements, and both charged the same price for tickets, 62% of sales went to the privacy-friendly ticket retailer. But when the privacy-friendly vendor charged 50 euro cents more, its market share dropped to 13%.

"What people say in surveys is that they care about privacy, but what they actually do is spend their time constantly updating their status on Facebook," says Alessandro Acquisti, codirector of the Center for Behavioral Decision Research at Carnegie Mellon University, who was not connected with the new research. "This has led some to conclude that people no longer care about privacy. This new data, along with similar work we have done in the U.S., shows this is not the case, and that the desire for privacy is not dead after all."

Privacy protection is at a critical juncture on both sides of the Atlantic. In January, Google announced it would merge personal data gathered from the users of dozens of services, including YouTube, Gmail, and Google+, saying this would allow better searches and more targeted advertising. On Monday, France's National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties, which represents European regulators, wrote to Google that preliminary findings suggest that the new policy does not comply with the European Data Protection Directive.

The E.U. is working on new data protection rules that would include fines of up to 2 percent of a company's global revenue. Last month the Obama administration set out the framework for a new privacy code that would give consumers more control over the use of their personal data.

The smaller tracking devices become, the more applications they find.

RFID Enables Study of Chicken Pessimism

The coolest thing about RFID chips -- those ultra-cheap, ultra-tiny devices allow remote tracking, even without batteries -- is that these qualities make them suitable for types of research that would otherwise be impossible. Or at least challenging.

Other trackers have shrunk enough to enable research in a similar vein -- remember bats equipped with ultra-tiny GPS receivers? -- but implantable RFID chips smaller than a grain of rice are opening up even further horizons. Like the disposition of chickens.

Researchers at the University of New England in Australia are "taking a closer look at how chickens’ moods are connected to their desire to spend time outdoors," reports the Armidale Express.

It seems that sans technology, measuring the emotional state of chickens isn't easy. Most behavioral studies involve long hours of scoring either live behavior or videotapes of interactions. But using RFID chips allows researchers to automate the process of determining when chickens who are offered access to the outdoors take advantage of their "free range" status.

"[W]e set up a situation where birds have to make a choice and see if they make an optimistic or pessimistic choice," says Geoff Hinch, the professor at UNE heading up the study.

Access to the outdoors turns out to be a good litmus test for chicken mood, because chickens who are feeling good will make the "optimistic" choice to go outside, says Hinch. The point isn't to determine which hens should be put in chicken therapy, whatever that is. Rather, Hinch aims to understand which factors stress chickens, in hopes of figuring out how to make their well being compatible with high productivity.

The Craziest Fake Island Adventure Story You’ll Ever Read

Seven miles off the English coast and just 24 feet above the roiling waves of the North Sea is the Principality of Sealand. The nation’s total area amounts to just 120 x 50 feet, but its occupier and “ruler” since 1966, Major Paddy Royal Bates, has had outsized dreams for his former military platform out in the sea. Once, it was the home of HavenCo, that company that billed itself as a “data haven,” the Switzerland of data centers.
HavenCo was supposedly to be the home of businesses who didn’t want governments minding their business: porn, anonymous currencies, governments in exile. When Fox News reported that WikiLeaks was moving its servers to Sealand, it certainly seemed fitting but, alas, turned out to be just speculation. That led us to Ars Technica, where law professor James Grimmelmann has written what is probably the definitive history of Sealand and HavenCo, and it is a thrilling read. A few snippets from nation’s short history include a pirate radio broadcaster hurling Molotov cocktails, press wars over “marooned children,” and coup led by a former diamond dealer (possibly staged).