Sipping a Shanghai surprise

This ad appeared several times on websites I visited (e.g. xe.com) over a period of several days earlier this month. It illustrates a phenomenon which I have also observed on AirBnB and perhaps elsewhere. The website obviously determines two different locations: one for the currency symbol ("R") and another for the actual currency (displaying "1199") so that we see the price for (say) London but with the currency symbol for (say) Johannesburg. The result is a $79 intercontinental return flight.

It could be that this is a bug in a specific script language or that the content management system somehow uses different script languages for the currency symbol and for the currency amount and that these two return different location values. Anyway, I am a bit surprised that this has not been fixed yet... or that Lufthansa (not so surprised) have not updated their website software.


Schneier on surveillance and (too) big data

A conversation this week with Bruce Schneier (link below) that I heard this week, confirms my feeling that companies and institutions might in future store much less data about us than we suppose. The main reason is liability for losing it as well as the fact that much of it is fairly invasive but rather useless. For example, on my way to the office on a quiet suburban road, there is an stretch after an intersection which Google Maps tends to show as having moderate traffic. This is nonsense: it is merely a downhill bit where the single drivers they are tracking presumably slam on the brakes a bit. Google Maps is obviously inferring the "moderate traffic" by gathering the data of a single vehicle.

I believe that companies and institutions should store as much data as possible in hashed or encrypted form in order to reduce the potential liability arising from data breaches. If it's really necessary, they might want to consider offline storage!

A Reckoning for Big Data – http://www.cato.org/multimedia/daily-podcast/reckoning-big-data