Apps that spy: are they good or are they bad?

This is a brilliant post from Mistress Fiona on how easy it can be to make judgements about peoples’ state of ind out of context. I do hope that charity to which she appears to refer will take heed.

musingsofmistressfiona

There appears to have been much disquiet within my twitter time line regarding an application a well-known charity has created that enables users to be alerted if anyone they follow on twitter uses words or phrases related to possible suicidal ideation.

I have read the updates information on the charity website and apparently it is possible to have your tweets opted out of the app. I am however concerned and share the reservations some people have regarding intrusion but also the responsibility – what to do if you receive an email alerting you that someone you do not know in real life and cannot contact is distress.

Not wishing to comment on the charity and their intentions, which I am certain are only for the good, I am going to discuss this via tweets relating to #TheArchers. For those not familiar with twitter, the use of the hash tag #…

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2 thoughts on “Apps that spy: are they good or are they bad?

  1. What’s maybe most interesting about this whole farrago, and MistressFiona very much touches on this, is that it’s incredibly hard for a machine to actually understand what’s going on in a tweet, indeed I’d argue at anything much below 1,500 characters the scope for ambiguity is colossal, and to really grasp things you need to look at context and an awful lot more than just some trigger keywords.

    There are some very clever people wrestling with this (for example Diana Maynard at Sheffield, see http://www.slideshare.net/dianamaynard/do-we-really-know-what-people-mean-when-they-tweet) – and I suppose it’s possible that the charity in question has made a massive breakthrough in machine understanding, but I somehow doubt it.

    1. Yes. I completely agree. It would appear that the charity in question is digging in its heels with ineffectual press release after ineffectual press release, despite much disquiet from volunteers. Ironic, since its whole ethos is that of listening.

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