Morning Coffee Feb 23 2012

Washington and Silicon Valley's Data Dance

By joseph walker

President Barack Obama has proposed an online privacy "bill of rights" that would give consumers more control over the personal data that companies collect. The proposal comes at a time when there is increasing concern in Congress about the surreptitious ways that Internet companies store and track user data.

For tech companies, regulation of their data practices could drastically affect the way they develop products. "Big data" is the Internet's most valuable currency, enabling companies like Google and Facebook to offer targeted, personalized advertising, and video game makers like Zynga to adjust the mechanics of their games based on user activity.

Following the revelation that mobile application maker Path, along with many others, was uploading user address books to its own servers, the California Attorney General reached an agreement with mobile device makers on privacy policies for apps. Companies like Google, Apple and Research In Motion will now require app makers to include privacy policies with their apps. The companies are not, however, required to enforce the privacy policies of their app makers or suspend app makers who violate their policies. Also, today comes word that Internet companies like Google have agreed to implement a "do-not-track" button in their Web browsers.

Each of these moves, while perhaps laudable on their own, amount to a hodgepodge of policies that won't likely stanch debate over how corporations store, track and use our data in the 21st century. How far companies can go in tracking their users, and how far lawmakers can go in regulating the Internet, remains to be seen.

Visualizing a Job (FINS)

New York's Visual Revenue Inc. plans to hire at least 10 new employees this year including engineers familiar with the database technology MongoDB and the Python programming language. The company just raised $1.7 million from IA Ventures and SoftBank Capital.

Age Gap (FINS)

The workplace is full of landmines, not least of all the discomfort that comes from people of various ages working together. The generation gap has become more acute as the seniority system breaks down and skill sets become obsolete faster than ever.

No Comeback Yet (WSJ)

Hewlett-Packard's profit plunged 44% last quarter to $1.5 billion. The company is in the early stages of a turnaround attempt led by Chief Executive Meg Whitman, who suggested the company will be condensing its product line but not its staff.

Curtain Lifted (ABC News)

Apple opened up its Chinese factories to TV news cameras, giving America its first look into how iPhones and iPads are made. The footage shows the dormitories and Internet cafes that the factories provide to workers -- and also the suicide nets that flank the buildings.

Productivity Gains (WSJ)

Keeping track of how you spend your time will reveal that you're not working nearly as hard as you think you are. Author Laura Vanderkam says that by logging her activities, she works 15 hours less and gained 10 hours of sleep a week.

Leaving the Mothership (Business Insider)

It might be hard to believe that anyone would leave a job at Google, a wildly profitable company with some of the greatest perks in corporate America. But people do, and the reasons range from feeling disconnected from the company's headquarters to getting compelling offers from competitors like Facebook.

Trickle Down (Reuters)

Dell and Hewlett-Packard think that rising wages of Chinese manufacturing workers could lead to higher prices for their products in the U.S. Foxconn, the dominant Chinese electronics maker, recently hiked its workers' salaries in response to negative press reports about working conditions at its factories.

Buzz Around the Office

King for a Day (YouTube)

Will Ferrell gives his blessings at Mardi Gras.

List of the Day: Being Too Busy

If the hours seem to be slipping away from you, take stock of the situation to figure out how truly busy you are.

1. Keep a time log.

2. Be honest with yourself on how you'd like to spend your time.

3. Figure out what truly needs to get done.

(Source: WSJ)

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