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Comment: It's called "puffery" (Score 1) 147

If I were selling a moving service, and I put out ads showing us moving an elephant, how on earth could I complain when a customer actually asked us to move an elephant? That's what was advertised, that's what they should deliver. End of story.

In your example, the ad showing the elephant would certainly be considered mere puffery and not give you a valid claim in court. See, e.g., Leonard v. Pepsico (in which a plaintiff tried to sue Pepsi for failing to deliver a Harrier jet as the prize in a contest based an a TV ad showing the jet as a prize).

The question is whether "unlimited" is a claim whose truth or falsity can be demonstrated, and what kind of expectations reasonable people have.

Comment: Wiretap laws are anachronistic (Score 1) 368

by langelgjm (#47657223) Attached to: Comcast Drops Spurious Fees When Customer Reveals Recording

Besides, would you really want this to be a prevalent feature on smartphones?

Yes. With virtually every other form of electronic communication we have today, we know that it can be (and likely is being) recorded and archived. E-mail, SMS, Facebook messages, video camera footage (without audio), license plate location details through ALPR, credit card usage information, utility usage information through smart meters... heck, even WHO you call and for how long is being recorded by the phone company and shared with law enforcement, no warrant required, since that's "just metadata" recorded by a "pen register" and doesn't fall under wiretap laws.

Now, ask yourself, who benefits from that fact that it's difficult for the average citizen to record their phone calls? And why is it that every entity with any significant power or revenue records their phone calls, and simply informs you of that fact without offering any choice? How exactly does it benefit me that all my interactions with Comcast or AT&T are recorded and kept by them and I have nothing?

Maybe you think there should be more protections for all the other forms of communication and data, but that's not going to happen. And just like it was in the interest of law enforcement for them to be able to record you, but not for you to be able to record them, I think you need to think hard about whether you really want to preserve an illusion of privacy, or actually be able level the playing field.

Comment: If it's that important to you... (Score 1) 218

by langelgjm (#47591009) Attached to: The Great Taxi Upheaval

Obviously with license plate scanners driving a car doesn't solve the anonymity problem. If being anonymous is that important to you, ride a bicycle or use public transit. Even where public transit doesn't directly accept cash, you can almost always purchase the RFID or smart card with cash. There will be a record of your trips, but it won't be linked to you.

FYI, public transit is often the transportation mode of choice for the marginalized.

Comment: The knowledge works both ways (Score 1) 218

by langelgjm (#47590999) Attached to: The Great Taxi Upheaval

Yes, records of the customers should make drivers safer. That knowledge also works in the other direction:

Last night I got a safety alert message from my university in DC saying that a female student had hailed a cab, and the driver had tried to sexually assault her. She escaped, and the driver took off and has not been found. The only description of the cab was a "silver van".

I've heard lots of worries that with Uber, "you don't know who's driving you" - but that's even more true with a regular cab. If this incident had happened with Uber, there would have been an electronic record of the hail, GPS tracking of the vehicle, etc. Maybe if you happen to get the cab number you can check in with the company to see which driver was operating at the time, but who is going to remember a cab number when they're being assaulted?

Comment: Taxicabs (Score 4, Insightful) 928

But are you actually proposing that a carrier of human cargo not be allowed to refuse service?

The idea isn't nearly as absurd as you make it sound. Regulated taxicabs in many cities are not allowed to refuse service - they must pick you up and take you where you want to go.

Comment: Advertising =/= scientific research (Score 1) 219

by langelgjm (#47349299) Attached to: Facebook's Emotion Experiment: Too Far, Or Social Network Norm?

It's different from A/B testing in that the experiment is explicitly designed to cause harm to half of the participants.

Presumably most A/B testing would be designed to figure out which choice performs better on a set of metrics. But going in, there is little evidence to point to one or the other, and the "harm" caused would simply be in user experience. In this experiment, the researchers had a prior theory about which choice would cause harm, and the harm is emotional and psychological.

All that aside, if this was purely internal research at Facebook, it would still likely be unethical but probably nothing out of the ordinary. The fundamental different is that this is being presented as scientific research. It's published in PNAS. It involve three co-authors from various universities. There are standards, both legal and ethical, that must be followed when engaging in scientific research, and the concern is that such standards were perhaps not followed.

Manipulation and even inducing harm may be widespread throughout the advertising industry, but that's advertising, not science.

Comment: It's called the Common Rule (Score 5, Interesting) 130

by langelgjm (#47344225) Attached to: In 2012, Facebook Altered Content To Tweak Readers' Emotions

It's called the Common Rule, although it generally only applies to federally funded research. There is some evidence that this study was in part federally funded. I think there are serious questions about whether a click-through agreement meets the standards of informed consent.

Although the study was approved by an institutional review board, I'm surprised, and the comment from the Princeton editor makes me wonder how well they understood the research design (or how clearly it was explained to them). This would never have gotten past my IRB.

Comment: Re:Some people may not afford to work less. (Score 1) 710

by langelgjm (#47314067) Attached to: Workaholism In America Is Hurting the Economy

I'm sure there are stats on this, but I was under the impression that most people working more than 40 hours a week were salaried and overtime exempt, so they don't see any extra income from the extra work.

I would be surprised if it were otherwise - employers loathe time-and-a-half overtime pay, and would consider it unaffordable to pay someone for all those extra hours.

Comment: What about statistics vs calculus (Score 4, Insightful) 155

by langelgjm (#47292757) Attached to: Computational Thinking: AP Computer Science Vs AP Statistics?

It's not really a new debate, but the assumption that high school students will on average be better served by taking calculus instead of statistics could use some scrutiny.

Practically speaking, basic familiarity with statistics is also a form of civics - teaching kids when to call BS on bogus claims, helping them to understand what statistical significance means and doesn't mean, etc.

Comment: No. (Score 1) 76

OP complained about use of the word "gifted," claiming it was derived from Farmville jargon. This is factually incorrect and demonstrably false. I have never heard "gifted" in the context of Farmville or any other Zynga game until this Slashdot discussion. I have, however, heard it many times in normal English usage, used in ways similar to the examples given by the OED.

Just because OP is not familiar with the English word, which predates Zynga by centuries, does not mean that all modern usage derives from Zynga, which appears to be what you are arguing.

Comment: Learn to use a dictionary (Score 5, Informative) 76

From the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of "gift" as a verb:

2. To bestow as a gift; to make a present of. Const. with to or dative. Also with away. Chiefly Sc.
1619 J. Sempill Sacrilege Sacredly Handled 31 If they object, that tithes, being gifted to Levi, in official inheritance, can stand no longer than Levi [etc.].
a1639 J. Spottiswood Hist. Church Scotl. (1677) v. 278 The recovery of a parcel of ground which the Queen had gifted to Mary Levinston.
1711 in A. McKay Hist. Kilmarnock (1880) 98 This bell was gifted by the Earl of Kilmarnock to the town of Kilmarnock for their Council~house.
1754 J. Erskine Princ. Law Scotl. (1809) i. 51 Where a fund is gifted for the establishment of a second minister, in a parish where the cure is thought too heavy for one [etc.].
1801 A. Ranken Hist. France I. 301 Parents were prohibited from selling, gifting, or pledging their children.
1829 J. Brown New Deeside Guide (1876) 19 College of Blairs..having been gifted to the Church of Rome by its proprietor.
1836 A. Alison Hist. Europe V. xlii. 697 Thus did Napoleon and D' away Sicily.
1878 J. C. Lees Abbey of Paisley xix. 201 The Regent Murray gifted all the Church Property to Lord Sempill.

I'm not sure when Zynga was founded, but I'm pretty sure it was after 1619.

If you hype something and it succeeds, you're a genius -- it wasn't a hype. If you hype it and it fails, then it was just a hype. -- Neil Bogart