Numlock News: October 25, 2018

By Walt Hickey

Good morning!

Thermometers That Make You See Ads

Kinsa makes a web-connected thermometer. They are in roughly 500,000 American households, which is just enough for Kinsa to ascertain illnesses spreading through communities. Naturally, this information is immediately hawked to advertisers, pharmacies and drug manufacturers eager to capitalize on increased or reduced demand on a county-by-county basis. Clorox bought that data and between November 2017 and March 2018 was able to increase consumer interactions with disinfectant ads by 22 percent, according to the company.

Sapna Maheshwari, The New York Times

Ordering In

The online delivery business is growing 20 percent every year and is forecasted to account for $75.9 billion in merchandise volume by 2022. The largest figure in that market is Grubhub — 52 percent market share — but UberEats is in the game. One innovation? Uber has actually been analyzing areas and figuring out latent demand for, say, a medium-tier burger joint, and then convincing restaurants in the area to make up a new, UberEats-only branding that fills that niche. The future is weird, but also I like medium-tier burgers, so I stand conflicted.

Kate Krader, Bloomberg

Virginia is for Vapers

Virginia saw a 5 percent drop in cigarette tax revenue between 2016 and 2017, and legislators are considering new levies on vape juice and devices that could reap between $10 million and $40 million for the commonwealth. Tobacco was first taxed in Virginia in 1960 with a 3 cent per pack tax, which dropped to 2.5 cents in 1966, rose to 20 cents per pack in 2004 and 30 cents per pack in 2005, the second-lowest in the country. Right now, the only tax on vapes in Virginia is the social cost of spewing the stench of sticky pineapple-saccharine fog in the Bojangles parking lot.

Mechelle Hankerson, Virginia Mercury

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The FDA approved Xofluza, the first new anti-flu pill in 20 years, which treats influenza with a single dose rather than the twice-a-day, five-day regimen of Tamiflu. There are drawbacks — sometimes viruses become less susceptible to the new treatment — but especially in uncomplicated pediatric flu cases the pill could be huge. There were 900,000 hospitalizations in the 2017-2018 flu season and 183 pediatric deaths.

Lisa Du, Bloomberg

Finally, Permits

Sagrada Familia, the iconic and incomplete basilica in Barcelona, has been under construction since 1882, but has been doing so off the books and is finally working to get its permits in order. Over the course of 10 years the basilica will pay the city €36 million to make good on 136 years of construction work without a proper building permit. This sends a distinct lesson to any other would-be builders who seek to subvert Spanish authorities: literally just wait a hundred years, it’s not a big deal. Also, it helps to become a UNESCO-listed culturally important tourist attraction.

India Block, Dezeen

Planned Obsolescence

Apple and Samsung saw European justice come much sooner for their mistakes, as the smartphone makers are being fined €10 million and €5 million respectively by Italy stemming from an investigation launched in January. This follows allegations that smartphone software updates had a negative effect on performance and slowed down older phones in an attempt to encourage consumers to buy a new phone. Each was hit with the maximum €5 million fine, but Apple got another €5 million fine for failing to inform customers about battery maintenance and replacement in iPhones. More than 60 U.S. class-action suits about iPhone slowings have been consolidated into a single suit in California, while France’s watchdog is mounting a similar probe and has the power to fine up to 5 percent of annual turnover.

Samuel Gibbs, The Guardian


Yahoo, which lost 200 million people’s account data in burglaries in 2013 and 2014 and didn’t disclose that fact until 2016, has also finagled its preferred slap on the wrist. The company — since stripped down and sold for parts to a telecom — will pay $50 million in damages and offer credit-monitoring services to those affected. Three billion Yahoo accounts were hit by hackers, but the settlement covers just a billion of those accounts held by an estimated 200 million people in the U.S. and Israel. Account holders get $25 per hour for time spent dealing with Yahoo’s foul up, and those with documented losses can ask for up to $375.

The Associated Press

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