Sep 252015

Spoiler alert: the answer is “poorly”.

Government regulations continue to expand and options available to consumers corresponding diminish, as called out in the linked article. Bureaucrats make choices about what is ‘best’ for consumers but these often fly in the face of choices that rational consumers would make in their own interests; officials’ track record is one of promoting decisions which are best for them … not consumers.

 Posted by at 9:36 am on September 25, 2015
Jul 162015

We link to this article today because it gives us another example of why we actually measure instead of just declare victory in a belief we’ve done something good.

Intending to reduce waste (a worthy goal itself), the University of Vermont chose to simply ban plastic water bottles. Problem solved, right?

However, a study found that students elected to drink more sugary bottled beverages, and did so at a higher rate. (Not only did the ban fail to reduce plastic waste, it also failed to help students’ waistlines.) So the trendy and politically correct move actually had the effect of subverting the ostensible goals of the policy change.

But I’m sure those who enacted the ban feel good about themselves.

 Posted by at 7:45 am on July 16, 2015
Jun 262015

Government documentation of police misconduct need not be disclosed to the public, says Maryland’s Court of Appeals, in a ruling that the state’s Public Information Act. The linked article describes the case, wherein an officer made disparaging comments about a person after he thought her answering machine had concluded recording his business message. Because of this ruling, the target of that inappropriate police behavior will not know what consequences – if any – befell the officer following her complaint.

 Posted by at 7:51 am on June 26, 2015
Jun 142015

A Post article about VCU illustrates nicely what this campus could have pioneered a decade ago if leadership wasn’t afraid of what analysis might show.

Unfortunately, data sufficient to show best practices which improve outcomes, reduce costs and offer just opportunities are also data which expose business practices which, at best, don’t place some of our leadership team in a good light, and at worst don’t stand up well in sunshine at all. Don’t hold your breath waiting for this Provost to unlock the data that entrenched interests have bottled up here in College Park.

 Posted by at 9:23 pm on June 14, 2015
Apr 032015

Though rebuffed before, DHS is coming back again for access to ALPRS databases — automated license plate reader system databases.

Their previous attempts to create a national database which tracks where everyone has been recorded as traveling were panned by privacy advocates. This time DHS declares this won’t be a problem, and so propose the standard dodge we’re surprised they did not use before – private tracking. Many things which are proscribed to Big Brother are perfectly legal if tracked and compiled commercially, never mind that government regulations are specifically crafted to enable select businesses to compile and immense amount of private data. Having enabled compilation of such data, the feds say “look, we didn’t compile anything”, and then simply purchase access to those databases. That is now what they propose for the license plate scanning tools, which don’t fall under any particular regulatory structure to limit how said data might be used at all.

 Posted by at 10:31 am on April 3, 2015
Mar 312015

A Chicago woman was killed after her husband followed their car’s GPS navigation off a partially demolished bridge that has been closed since 2009“, according to reports.

This however is not the first example of such a calamity. The first we noted well more than a decade ago was of a motorist in Germany who, while fog and poor visibility, followed his GPS and map off the end of a roadway into a river. The map source incorrectly noted a bridge at that point, not the ferry crossing which he might have waited to take.

 Posted by at 6:57 pm on March 31, 2015
Mar 202015

But of course, there is no real news in that revelation.

Two Wall Street Journal articles address this in some detail. One details an FTC probe into Google practices (including the FTC leadership’s decision to override staff recommendations and not pursue the company) and another discusses the effects of Google’s manipulation.

The focus of this reporting was on results which favored the company commercially. Less prominent, but no less important in this study, is that Google manipulates results in order to favor social issues preferred by the company.

 Posted by at 10:52 am on March 20, 2015