(TMU) — Recent reports indicate that data gathered by automakers and tech companies could be the next front in the battle over digital privacy.
In early January, companies at the CES 2020 displayed their plans for making use of the surprising amounts of data gathered by newer model vehicles. Amazon, Intel, Qualcomm, and Blackberry were among the companies seeking partnerships with automakers who are also searching for methods to monetize the data gathered by their vehicles.
Bloomberg reports that “modern cars roll out of factories packed with cellular connections, powerful processors and growing suite of sensors, including cameras, radar and microphones. That’s turning them into the next information goldmine, rivaling the data-creating capabilities of smartphones.”
Bloomberg also notes that Intel announced a new stage of its Mobileye technology which allows for driver-assistance and Intel to gather data from cameras, chips, and sensors within the vehicle. Intel says this anonymous information is used to create detailed maps to enhance vehicle navigation systems. Intel has estimated that data gathered by vehicles will be worth as much as $3.5 billion by 2030. Bloomberg reports that consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates that “up to $750 billion of value would created from car-related data by 2030.”
As the financial incentive for automotive data increases more companies will seek to enter this emerging marketplace. However, there are already serious privacy concerns related to the data being gathered by the vehicles. In December 2019 the Washington Post investigated how much information is gathered by one single computer in a 2017 Chevy Volt. The Post writes:
“In the 2020 model year, most new cars sold in the United States will come with built-in Internet connections, including 100 percent of Fords, GMs and BMWs and all but one model Toyota and Volkswagen. (This independent cellular service is often included free or sold as an add-on.) Cars are becoming smartphones on wheels, sending and receiving data from apps, insurance firms and pretty much wherever their makers want. Some brands even reserve the right to use the data to track you down if you don’t pay your bills.”
To determine just how much data was being collected, the Post worked with automotive technology expert Jim Mason to catch a glimpse of what vehicle manufacturers are capable of seeing. The Post and their expert learned that the vehicle was collecting a wide range of data including vehicle location and phone call records. Mason noted that any time you plug a smart phone into a vehicle the vehicle will likely copy personal data.
“Among the trove of data points were unique identifiers for my and Doug’s phones, and a detailed log of phone calls from the previous week. There was a long list of contacts, right down to people’s address, emails and even photos,” the Post reported. The vehicle also collected information on “acceleration and braking style, beaming back reports to its maker General Motors over an always-on Internet connection,” the Post added. “Coming next: face data, used to personalize the vehicle and track driver attention.”
Chevrolet does not currently have a policy of informing drivers about the data being recorded and the owner’s manual does not mention data collection. A spokesman for Chevrolet owner General Motors declined to offer specific details on data collection. However, the spokesman did note that data gathered by GM falls into three categories: vehicle location, vehicle performance, and driver behavior.
Unsurprisingly, the Post notes that with the coming 5G cellular network that promises to link cars to the internet, wireless connections will get cheaper, data more valuable, and “anything the car knows about you is fair game.”
Data collection by smart vehicles is only one of a myriad of privacy concerns related to the coming 5G Smart Grid where cities, vehicles, phones, streetlights, and clothes are fitted with sensors as part of the Internet of Things. It’s important to become educated about the threats posed by these emerging “smart devices.”
Only by actively fighting for and defending privacy can we hope to maintain any semblance of it.
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.
Get Castrated If You Want to Age Slower and Live Longer, Scientists Say
New research suggests that if men want to delay their aging in an effective way, all they have to do is – wait for it – get castrated.
A study by an international team of scientists from New Zealand’s University of Otago found that the castration of male sheep successfully delayed their aging compared to males whose genitalia was intact – and the same principle would hold for human males.
The study could give us some crucial insights into why women live longer than men.
“Both farmers and scientists have known for some time that castrated male sheep live on average much longer than their intact counterparts; however, this is the first time anyone has looked at DNA to see if it also ages slower,” said the lead author of the study, Victoria Sugrue.
The study also shows how cutting-edge technology has allowed us to gain surprising insights from DNA and the rate at which it ages, including the ability to estimate the age of humans based solely on analyzing their DNA.
“We developed a way to measure biological age in a broad range of mammals — we have looked at over 200 species so far and discovered surprising commonality in which animals age,” said study co-author Steve Horvath of UCLA. “But the sheep study was unique in that it specifically isolated the effects of male hormones on aging.”
Using an “epigenetic clock” invented by Horvath to measure age, researchers were able to find that male and female sheep had quite different aging patterns for their DNA.
“We found that males and females have very different patterns of DNA aging in sheep; and that despite being male, the castrates [wethers] had very feminine characteristics at specific DNA sites,” said research team co-leader Tim Hore.
These findings can also apply to humans.
“Interestingly, those sites most affected by castration also bind to receptors of male hormones in humans at a much greater rate than we would expect by chance,” Hore said. “This provides a clear link between castration, male hormones and sex-specific differences in DNA aging.”
Scientists Find Possible New Signs of Alien Life on Saturn’s Icy Moon
A new study suggests that Saturn moon Enceladus, which is covered in an icy crust, could be a great place for life to exist.
New evidence collected by NASA’s retired Cassini spacecraft offers tantalizing details on the chemical makeup of the water plumes erupting from Enceladus.
The heavy amount of methane – a gas associated with life on Earth – suggests that underneath the icy crust of Enceladus, there could be a huge ocean of briny water potentially teeming with life.
The new study by researchers from the University of Arizona and Paris Sciences & Lettres University also found that there was a relatively high concentration of molecules of dihydrogen and carbon dioxide.
“We wanted to know: Could Earthlike microbes that ‘eat’ the dihydrogen and produce methane explain the surprisingly large amount of methane detected by Cassini?” asked University of Arizona associate professor and lead author of the study Prof. Regis Ferriere.
Scientists have long speculated that conditions on Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and sources of warmth, could be conducive to the development of living creatures.
However, one possible explanation for the chemical composition of water on Enceladus could be the existence of microbes on the Saturn moon.
“In other words, we can’t discard the ‘life hypothesis’ as highly improbable,” Ferriere noted. “To reject the life hypothesis, we need more data from future missions.”
Confirmation of the “life hypothesis” will likely remain elusive for the foreseeable future.
“Searching for such microbes, known as methanogens, at Enceladus’ seafloor would require extremely challenging deep-dive missions that are not in sight for several decades,” Ferriere said.