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A golden age for spying, watching over kids, another close-up of me

A golden age for spying

"The bar's hopping. The guy's hot. She's curious. He's mysterious. She decides to go gumshoe on him," Patrick May writes for the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News. "The bathroom stall becomes her office, the smartphone her secretary. … From the ladies' room to the chat room to the tweet-stream in the next cubicle, America is becoming a society of amateur spies. With a burgeoning arsenal of websites offering cheap tricks to sniff out subterfuge, abetted by multitudes baring their souls on Facebook, everyday life has become a realm of nonstop intrigue: Spouses are snooping, business competitors are spying, sexting celebrities are apologizing. … Our vital statistics stretch behind us like vapour trails - cellphone records, e-mail accounts, family photos pasted all over Flickr for the world to see. Technology has brought inexpensive spy gadgets that would make the Hardy Boys squeal with delight. And the Internet spits out more snooping websites every day, with names like PeekYou, iSearch and Whozat."

Watching over kids

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"Two technology entrepreneurs are launching a company [this week]that they say will help parents better monitor their children's online activity," Jessica Guynn blogs for the Los Angeles Times. " is an online subscription service that compiles publicly available information and reports back to parents what kids are up to on the Web." Co-founder Geoffrey Arone said the company tries to be sensitive to kids and teens while giving their parents a way to protect their safety and reputation. "A big component of what we try to do," he said, "is to help engender positive relationships between parents and kids."

Blippy, meet Swipely

"The oversharing movement got a new player [this week]with the debut of Swipely, another site that allows people to publish information and start conversations about their everyday purchases," Brad Stone blogs for The New York Times." Swipely and its more prominent rival, Blippy, let users link their credit or debit cards to their sites and share information about everything they buy with their friends or with the wider Web. The idea is that this kind of sharing can generate authentic conversations around products and services - leading in turn to useful product recommendations, as well as money-making opportunities for targeted ads and e-commerce referrals."

Another close-up of me

"What happened to all those Punch cartoons predicated on the - unarguable, back then - idea that the nadir of human existence was looking at your friends' holiday movies/slides/photographs?" asks Michael Bywater, writing for The Independent. "How is it that something which was once the marker of a staid and suburban middle-aged lunacy … has become a staple of youth culture?"

Follow that seal

"Scientists from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif., have placed 61 satellite tags on several types of seals and penguins so researchers and the public can track the animals' movements through the winter in the southern latitudes," The San Diego Union-Tribune reports. "… 'Our research has led us to believe that the winter activities of these animals are important to their reproductive success - for example, their ability to forage during the winter is linked to their ability to reproduce and raise offspring the following summer,' said Amy Van Cise, an Antarctic ecosystem biologist for the fisheries centre."

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Guarding medical data

"Whether it's a seemingly harmless nosy neighbour who happens to work at a hospital or an identity thief attempting to access records, hospitals, doctors and others who keep patient data find they are spending more time and resources to protect that information from prying eyes," Beth Kassab writes for the Orlando Sentinel. More and more hospitals, she notes, are investing in expensive computer systems that flag unauthorized activity on patient files. "Orlando Health, one of the region's two large hospital systems, recently purchased such a system. … The software, made by FairWarning Software Inc., based in St. Petersburg, will allow the hospital to audit and detect snooping on patient records - something it's already done for years - faster and more efficiently. … To put a stop to those nosy neighbours, for example, the company has a program that can match the addresses of hospital employees with addresses of patients and find instances in which an employee has accessed records of people who live within a certain radius of their own homes."

Why not take all of me

"I like you," columnist Phil Bronstein writes for the San Francisco Chronicle. "That doesn't mean I want you to know I spent $43.41 at Blockbuster or what I rented. But digital sharing of everything all the time is the new black. … Do people necessarily want less privacy even as they dive into the deep end of the pool on social media? A recent University of California, Berkeley, study concluded that young people care as much about privacy as oldsters but are less aware of the potential threats. Dave Pell, a technologist, blogger, investor and humorist, puts it this way: 'Saying I have a blog and am therefore more comfortable sharing photos of my kids is like saying that because I opened the front door for the UPS guy, I'm probably also cool with him secretly installing a Webcam in my shower.' "

Thought du jour

"My mother used to say that there are no strangers, only friends you haven't met yet. She's now in a maximum security twilight home in Australia."

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- Dame Edna Everage (Barry Humphries)

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