Issue 544

Monday, 18th December 2017
Just a heads up, the final issue of The Sizzle for 2017 will go out on the 22nd of December and will return for 2018 on Monday, the 8th of January. I'll be sending out a few "best of 2017" issues during that time, so if you get super bored over the holidays, I'll have some reheated content for ya to feast on.

In This Issue


Medicare's anonymous datasets weren't so anonymous

A group of researchers from the the University of Melbourne were able to identify individuals from a supposedly anonymised dataset publicly published in 2016 by the Australian federal health department. By using "de-identified Australian Medicare benefits scheme (MBS) and pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS) claims data" and matching it up with public information on the internet, they could find out who that private medical data belonged to. If public info failed, common commercially available datasets like bank billing info filled in the gaps. The dataset has been removed by the health department and the privacy commissioner is investigating.

The Californian health departments releases a warning about cell phones, kinda

The Californian health department has issued "guidance" on reducing your exposure to RF energy from mobile phones, even though there's still a lack of evidence suggesting they are harmful. The main reason this info was released was because a researcher sued the department, saying it should be public, and won. The CDC and Californian health department both think more research is required. However, the information released states that you should basically keep the RF emitting device as far away from you as possible at all times, limiting your exposure.

Uber has an offical and unethical dirt machine that spies on everyone

The letter an ex-Uber employee, Richard Jacobs, sent to Uber as part of his resignation and recently discovered by the judge involved in Uber's lawsuit against Waymo, has been made public. All 37-pages of it. The letter outlines the almost NSA/CIA-like actions of Uber's Marketplace Analytics team and Strategic Services Group that includes bugging meetings with transport regulators, bribing foreign officials, using undercover agents to gather intelligence on taxi companies and political figures and hacking into "protected computer databases" to lure drivers to its platform. It's pretty wild stuff and totally in-character for a company like Uber.

Facebook finally realises that Facebook might not be that awesome sometimes

Facebook has posted a fascinating blog post where it admits for the first time that social media isn't necessarily the answer to all the world's problems. Independent research, that Facebook itself quotes, has shown that if you spend a lot of time on Facebook, just browsing, with no or few friends on the service, you end up with worse mental health outcomes. This is a radical departure from the usual company line Facebook spins. Normally they ignore this stuff, but I guess things have become so obvious and the evidence so strong, that the big sacks of cash they use as a mattress no longer let them sleep comfortably.

Oracle to buy Melbourne based software company Aconex for $1.5b

Aconex probably isn't a name you're familiar with unless you're in the building industry, but they're Australia's latest IT unicorn. Aconex started in Melbourne in 2000, selling software to help building/construction companies manage their projects and crap like that. Think of it like SAP, but more of a niche. Today the Aconex board told its shareholders that Oracle (yes, that Oracle) wants to buy it, for a deal worth over $1.5b. I hope the Ferrari and Tesla dealers down on Swan Street haven't taken their holidays too early.

Not News, But Still Cool

Elon Musk has some weird takes on public transport

Elon Musk really hates public transport. At a Tesla event at some conference recently, he said that "I think public transport is painful. It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn't leave where you want it to leave, doesn't start where you want it to start, doesn't end where you want it to end? And it doesn't go all the time." and "That's why everyone doesn't like it. And there's like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great. And so that's why people like individualized transport, that goes where you want, when you want." So there you go. Rich dude who makes cars hates public transport. Elon's a weird unit.

QLD rolling out its own NBN sounds great, but is probably hot air

The newly re-elected Queensland government is promising to improve internet access to rural parts of its state. There's bugger all detail (as usual with this announcements), but the government is keen to use "available space capacity on optical fibre networks used by state-owned corporations such as Energy Queensland to boost connectivity for thousands of families". There's no mention of how they actually plan to do the last mile - that is getting premises hooked up to those existing networks - which is actually the expensive bit, particularly in regional areas. Good luck to em though, just don't get sucked in to the hype.

Good Guys have 20% off their eBay store

A fresh eBay sale! It's been a while, but The Good Guy's eBay store has 20% off using the code PTGG20. Some highlights:
Google Home - $102.40
Google Home Mini - $43.20
Google Chromecast 2 - $37.60
Kindle Paperwhite - $123.20 (black or white)
GoPro Hero 5 Black - $317.60
Netgear Orbi RBK50 - $399.20
PlayStation 4 Pro - $387.12
Seagate 2TB external HDD - $79.20

That's it, see ya tomorrow!