Life Insurance Policies, Massachusetts Educators, Google Sites, More: Friday Buzz, November 25, 2016


The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has launched a new nationwide finding tool for life insurance policies. “The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) today announced a national service that provides consumers with search capabilities to help them find a deceased person’s lost life insurance policies and annuities…. Consumer requests are encrypted and secured to maintain confidentiality. Participating insurers will compare submitted requests with available policyholder information and report all matches to state insurance departments through the locator. Companies will then contact beneficiaries or their authorized representatives.”

The state of Massachusetts has launched a new search engine for educator licensure. “The Department frequently receives inquiries about individuals’ licensure status. In creating the public lookup, ESE is both making that information easier for the public to find and joining the majority of states nationally that already offer such a tool. The Department’s public lookup tool provides information about the current status of licenses that educators hold. All information on the site is a matter of public record, and ESE consulted with teachers’ unions, principals’ associations, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents and the Massachusetts Association of School Personnel Administrators when developing the tool.”


Google’s new Google Sites has gone live. Which is great because I didn’t find the old Google Sites good for much of anything. “Google Sites is essentially a drag-and-drop website builder for creating both public facing web pages and intranet sites that’s deeply integrated with the rest of Google’s tools. You can easily insert documents from Google Docs, Slides, Sheets and the rest of the (unfortunately named) G Suite tools into any site, for example. It also directly integrates with Google Analytics. The new sites now also allows multiple users to collaboratively edit a site (using the same tech the company also uses in Google Docs).”

Apparently Amazon is still deleting tons of sketchy reviews. “Amazon is making good on its promise to ban ‘incentivized’ reviews from its website, according to a new analysis of over 32,000 products and around 65 million reviews. The ban was meant to address the growing problem of less trustworthy reviews that had been plaguing the retailer’s site, leading to products with higher ratings than they would otherwise deserve.”

Ars Technica: Google flip flops on Google Cast/Chromecast branding again. “The Chromecast is Google’s most popular hardware product, but the company has never really been sure what to call it. After launching a scheme to rename much of the Chromecast ecosystem to ‘Google Cast’ earlier this year, Google seems to be flip-flopping on the branding and going back to ‘Chromecast’ again.”


If your library uses Google Scholar this is a cool thing to know: Building a Google Scholar search form with links to full text. A quick addition to a search form can put your library’s links to full text in the search results.

Wondering what the videos from Snapchat Spectacles look like? Here ya go. “Notably, Snapchat’s parent-company Snap Inc. describes itself as a camera company instead of a social media platform. Consumers who love Snapchat’s zingy approach should expect the same from Snap, which is about to go public at a value as much as $25 billion. Can’t wait to try on the Spectacles? Here are some creative ways Spectacles owners are using the sunglasses right now.”


NYT Magazine: Is Social Media Disconnecting Us From the Big Picture? “In April, Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, addressed a room of developers about the importance of his social network. Facebook, he said, has the power to bring people together who might otherwise never have the chance to meet. ‘The internet has enabled all of us to access and share more ideas and information than ever before,’ he said. ‘We’ve gone from a world of isolated communities to one global community, and we are all better off for it.’ But that’s not what has happened. Zuckerberg’s idealism is belied by his desire to duck responsibility for mediating the content of his site.”


Wow. Department of Justice press release: Leader of Teenage Drug Smuggling Ring Pleads Guilty; Used Facebook to Coordinate Drug Trafficking. “Roberto Torres Jr., 22, pleaded guilty in federal court today to leading a drug smuggling ring that used young adults and teenagers to smuggle vast quantities of methamphetamine into the United States. Torres, a U.S. citizen, admitted that he and his co-conspirators recruited dozens of minors, some as young as 15 years old, from Imperial Valley, California high schools and elsewhere to transport narcotics from Mexico into the United States. Torres used Facebook, the social networking platform, to coordinate the drug trafficking activity with his young smugglers. ”


Really depressing but really important, from the Wall Street Journal: Most Students Don’t Know When News Is Fake, Stanford Study Finds. “Some 82% of middle-schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled ‘sponsored content’ and a real news story on a website, according to a Stanford University study of 7,804 students from middle school through college. The study… is the biggest so far on how teens evaluate information they find online. Many students judged the credibility of newsy tweets based on how much detail they contained or whether a large photo was attached, rather than on the source.”

Sophos: Google secures five-year access to health data of 1.6m people. “Artificial intelligence firm DeepMind and a London hospital trust, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, have signed a five-year deal to develop a clinical app called Streams. The deal extends the already controversial partnership between the London-based startup, which was bought by Google in 2014, and the healthcare trust.”

Twitter is having trouble on all kinds of fronts put apparently it’s getting really good at compressing images. “Twitter has long been interested in compression—more than 300 million tweets are sent each day, many of them with attachments. In June, Twitter acquired Magic Pony Technology, an artificial-intelligence startup focused on making pictures look better at smaller file sizes, to jumpstart its machine-learning team. That team, now known as Twitter Cortex, earlier this month announced one of its first major successes: a machine-learning algorithm that can compress a photo more efficiently than JPEG2000 (an industry standard more modern but less common than just JPEG). Put plainly, that means sharper pictures that take up less space.” Good morning, Internet…

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