I’m sure they’re the future, but until everyone has superfast speeds at home, digital game downloads on XBox One will – for most people – be a pain in the A.

My friend has been dying to “get ready for Titanfall”, so this morning he dutifully started downloading the game (today is its UK release date). He pinged me at 09:00 to say it was at 6%. At 17:30, I got this message:

33% in and still no play. But have mopped kitchen, been to tesco, had car cleaned, done front garden and walked dogs. Might hoover next!

XBox Live is already smart enough to asses the suitability of my network connection for multiplayer, so in this next-gen day of “digital first, physical second”, it should assess download suitability, too: “your internet connection sucks, mate; it’ll take you 2 days to complete this download. You’d be be better off purchasing a physical copy of the game from one of these fine outlets near you…”

Channel 4′s DataBaby Project

Channel 4 in the UK have launched an interesting experiment called Data Baby.

Using the online persona of a fictional 27 year-old woman called Rebecca Taylor, the idea is to highlight just how easily the breadcrumb trail we leave behind as we move around the internet can be tied together to identify us.

So far, the only tangible piece of Rebecca’s personal information the program makers have released is her her email address (they’ve disclosed her age, approximate location and a couple of hobbies, which I used to validate I’d found the “right” Rebecca Taylor – see below).

Now, I wouldn’t in any way consider myself an expert in digital surveillance or tracking¬† but using nothing more sophisticated than a Google search against her email address and then following the trail, I was able to find these details in less than 20 minutes:

(note – I’ve used white text for the answers, in case anyone reading this is playing along and doesn’t want to see any spoilers. Just highlight the section below to see what I found.)

Her Google+ page: https://plus.google.com/u/0/105863467672499482640/about
The Festival: Latitude (this was one of the data points C4 was after)
Went to Uni at: University of Manchester
Previous school: Cedar Mount Academy, Manchester
Currently works at the Green Deal Hub (http://www.thegreendealhub.co.uk/the-green-deal-hub-welcomes-rebecca-taylor/)
Her LinkedIn Page: uk.linkedin.com/pub/rebecca-taylor/68/8a9/4b3
Her Twitter Page: @BeccaInLondon
Her Pinterest Page: http://pinterest.com/beccainlondon/
Her Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/people/Rebecca-Taylor/100005380538070
Other breadcrumbs: She likes cupcakes and brownies, The XX, Daft Punk and De La Soul

I imagine that if I were smarter and a little more evil, I could probably use this information to socially engineer a password reset to something Rebecca really values.

Pretty scary when you consider it took me more effort to write this post than to find Rebecca’s details, but perhaps that’s the point of the project. Well, ok, maybe not to scare people, but to highlight why protecting our digital identities isn’t just something for the geeks and IT folk to worry about. We’ve all got skin in this game.

A fairer way to use AdBlock?

I wasn’t surprised to see Google remove ad-blocking apps from their Chrome store. Despite what most people think, Google’s core business isn’t search; it isn’t Chrome or Android. They’re an ad-distribution company albeit an ad-distribution company so successful they get to do cool things like build self-driving cars and AR spectacles.

Before moving on, we need to spend a minute to understand the two legs of Google’s ad platform. AdWords allows advertisers to create ads that appear in search results and across the AdSense partner network. AdSense displays the ads on websites; Google then pays the website for the ads that are displayed and (even better) clicked. Which is why they don’t like it when you – the end-user – block those ads. The problem is that, at worst, display ads can be intrusive and annoying, and at best, irrelevant. Let’s face it, if the ads added more value to the viewer, then utilities like AdBlock wouldn’t be needed.

I use AdBlock but I also understand that the websites I know and love need the income from AdSense to offset some of their costs, so I employ a simple rule:

  • if I visit a site more than 3 times, I disable AdBlock for that domain

It might be an oversimplified view of the world but to me it seems fair: I get to enjoy your content (or use your web service) for free, so you get to show me some ads.

I’m really quite excited about the prospect of Google Glass becoming available to the general public later this year, but I wonder how soon we’ll see them banned from places like art galleries and movie theatres?

Imagine wearing your Google Glass to the cinema: “Ok, Glass. Start a hangout”, and then streaming the movie while your Circles watch along with you.