Posts tagged with "Mood"

Why Facebook may know when you last had sex

September 11, 2019

Did you think that you and your partner or spouse were the only ones who knew (maybe, aside from your next-door neighbors) when you two last had sex? Wrong. Facebook may know, too, according to a September 9 report in The New York Times. And they also may know when it’s “that time of the month.”

How is that possible?

According to the UK-based privacy watchdog, Privacy International, at least two menstruation- and ovulation-tracking apps, Maya and MIA Fem, have shared intimate details of users’ sexual health with Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, as well as other entities.

In some cases, the data shared with external social media (which are self-recorded by users in the app) included:

  • When a user last had sex,
  • The type of contraception used,
  • Her mood, and
  • Whether she was ovulating.

The Times notes, “The findings raise questions about the security of our most private information in an age where employers, insurers, and advertisers can use data to discriminate or target certain categories of people.”

The information was shared with the social media giant via the Facebook Software Development Kit, a product that allows developers to create apps for specific operating systems, track analytics, and monetize their apps through Facebook’s advertising network. Privacy International found that Maya and MIA began sharing data with Facebook as soon as a user installed the app on her phone and opened it, even before a privacy policy was signed.

Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne told the new outlet that advertisers did not have access to the sensitive health information shared by these apps. In a statement, he said Facebook’s ad system “does not leverage information gleaned from people’s activity across other apps or websites” when advertisers choose target users by interestBuzzFeed first reported the news.

However, the fact is that today, many apps still are not subject to the same rules as most health data.

Some of the apps even have come under scrutiny as powerful monitoring tools for employers and health insurers, which have aggressively pushed to gather more data about their workers’ lives than ever before under the banner of corporate wellness. Plus, it appears the data could be shared more broadly than many users recognize, as flagged by the Privacy International study.

Several period- and pregnancy-tracking apps have been called out for sharing health data with women’s employers and insurance companies, as well as for security flaws that reveal intimate information, the Times reports.

Deborah C. Peel, a psychiatrist and founder of the nonprofit Patient Privacy Rights, based in Austin, Texas,  told the Times that people expect their health data to be protected by the same laws that protect their health information in a doctors office, but that many apps aren’t subject to the same rules.

“Most people would want to make their own decisions about what’s known about their sex life, about whether it’s shared or not,” said Peel. “Right now we have no ability to do that.”

Research contact: @nytimes

All shook up: A dog feels its owner’s stress

June 7, 2019

Dogs don’t just love riding in cars: they come along on our emotional journeys, too. In fact, the levels of stress in dogs correlates with the stress of their owners, according to a new study from Linköping University, Sweden,  published on June 6 in the journal Scientific Reports.

Previous work has shown that individuals of the same species can mirror each other’s emotional states. There is, for example, a correlation between long-term stress in children and in their mothers.

But scientists also have speculated whether different species also can reflect each other’s tension—such as humans and dogs.  To answer that question, the Swedish researchers tracked stress levels over several months by measuring the concentration of a stress hormone, cortisol, in a few centimeters of hair from the dog and from its owner.

“We found that the levels of long-term cortisol in the dog and its owner were synchronized, such that owners with high cortisol levels have dogs with high cortisol levels, while owners with low cortisol levels have dogs with low levels,” says Ann-Sofie Sundman of the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM) at LiU, as well as principal author of the study and newly promoted doctor of Ethology.

The study examined 25 border collies and 33 Shetland sheepdogs—all of them, owned by women. The owners and the dogs provided hair samples on two occasions, a few months apart.

Since physical activity can increase cortisol levels, the researchers also wanted to compare companion dogs with dogs that competed in obedience or agility. The physical activity levels of the dogs were therefore recorded for a week using an activity collar.

Previous research has shown that levels of short-term cortisol in saliva rise in a synchronous manner in both the dog and its owner when they compete together. The study presented here, in contrast, found that physical activity in dogs does not affect the long-term cortisol in their hair. On the other hand, the stress level of competing dogs seems to be linked more strongly with that of the owner. The scientists speculate that this may be associated with a higher degree of active interaction between the owner and the dog when they train and compete together.

The dog owners were also asked to complete two validated questionnaires related to their own and their dog’s personality. The researchers investigated whether stress levels are correlated with personality traits.

Surprisingly enough, we found no major effect of the dog’s personality on long-term stress. The personality of the owner, on the other hand, had a strong effect. This has led us to suggest that the dog mirrors its owner’s stress,” says senior lecturer Lina Roth, also at IFM, and principal investigator for the study.

The result suggests that the match between an owner and a dog affects the dog’s stress level. Further studies are, however, needed before we can draw any conclusions about the cause of the correlation. The researchers are now planning to study other breeds. Both the border collie and the Shetland sheepdog are herding dogs, which have been bred to collaborate well with humans and respond accurately and quickly to signals.

The research group is planning to investigate whether a similar synchronization takes place between dogs and humans in, for example, hunting dogs, which have been trained to be independent. Another line of research will look at whether the sex of the owner plays a role.

“If we learn more about how different types of dog are influenced by humans, it will be possible to match dog and owner in a way that is better for both, from a stress-management point of view. It may be that certain breeds are not so deeply affected if their owner has a high stress level,” says Lina Roth.

Research contact: @liu_universitet

Life’s ‘greatest small victory’: Finding money in a coat pocket

September 19, 2018

Whether it’s “pennies from heaven” or a true windfall, one of life’s greatest small victories is finding cash in a long-unworn coat pocket, according to results of a study conducted on behalf of the online casino Casumo.com by OnePoll.

Other mood-boosters include receiving an unexpected discount at the checkout counter and spotting loose change on the street, according to a report on the study posted by SWNS Digital.

Greg Tatton-Brown, a marketing and management consultant based in London, commented on behalf of Casumo, “There’s something completely untainted about finding an extra fiver in a coat you haven’t worn in a long time, and it feels right that the experience was named the ultimate little victory in life.

In fact, any opportunity where our finances receive an unexpected boost, however minor, appears to be a key factor in brightening up our day when we need it,” Tatton-Brown said.

A list of the top 20 little victories we all celebrate, compiled by the researchers, includes the following:

  1. Finding money in a coat pocket;
  2. Learning at the checkout counter that your purchase is on sale;
  3. Finding money on the floor;
  4. Getting good weather for a special event;
  5. When a delivery scheduled between 8 m. and 5 p.m. arrives at 8.01 a.m.;
  6. Not needing any work done at the dentist;
  7. Receiving an unexpected tax refund;
  8. When you arrive in a full parking lot just as someone is leaving a space;
  9. Being upgraded to first class;
  10. Getting in a line at the front just before loads of other people arrive;
  11. Someone leaving a table in a busy pub just as you get there;
  12. Getting home just as the postman was about to leave a ‘Sorry we missed you’ card;
  13. Finding a parking space right outside the shop you are going into;
  14. Coming into the house just as it starts raining;
  15. Getting to the bus stop just as it arrives;
  16. When a social event you really don’t want to attend gets cancelled;
  17. Getting two chocolate bars instead of one from the vending machine;
  18. Hitting all the green lights on the way into work;
  19. Getting the last of something on offer in a supermarket; or
  20. Waking up in the night and realizing you still have hours left in bed before you have to get up.

Indeed, fully 74% of respondents think that a little win has the power to rescue a bad day from disaster and give them a sunnier perspective on things. One-quarter of survey participants said they are most likely to encounter a win at home, and only 5% of workers think they are most likely to score a little victory at work.

One in five also admit that they write a smug post on social media to publicly share their little win, no matter how small. Conversely, 37% get a little boost hearing about other people’s victories, and 48% say they do their best each day to make sure people they know get the little wins they need.

Tatton-Brown added: “They are innocuous in most cases, and often barely worth bringing up in conversation, but there is still a small and personal joy in getting a little win when things might not be going your way.

“Whether it’s spotting a lucky penny on the ground, landing a lucky win on an online game, or even swinging your car into a parking space flawlessly, life is full of little victories.

Research contact: grant.bailey@swns.com