Jakob Lazzaro Can't Let Go of Facebook spying and tattoos. Justin Curto clings to the death of journalism and his election, and Maggie Harden focuses on Trump’s mom and heart attacks. Stories featured in this episode hail from Reply All, WWD, the New York Times, and Politico.
[Music: Little Lily Swing]
Jakob Lazzaro: Hey, welcome back to Can't Let Go, the NBN podcast where we talk about those news and personal stories from this week that we can’t get out of our heads. I'm your host, Jakob Lazzaro, and I'm back with two returning guests – Justin Curto and Maggie Harden. Guys, you want to say hello?
Justin Curto: Hi.
Maggie Harden: Hi.
Jakob: So my story this week comes from a podcast, Reply All, I've talked about it on the show before. And this episode was all about Facebook spying on people, because there’s this theory floating around the internet and in the tech world that the Facebook app you have on your phone has the ability to turn the microphone on when you’re not using it and listen to conversations, and then the app will serve you ads based on what you’re talking about when you have your phone around. Which is very creepy.
Justin: This has literally happened to me.
Jakob: People from Facebook have officially denied that they do this, there’s no actual concrete evidence that Facebook uses the microphone in the app to spy on you, but the second half of the podcast is them… they open their phone line and basically people call in with stories on how they think the app spied on them with the microphone, and then the hosts would try to convince them that the app wasn’t spying on them with the microphone, it was just the other ways Facebook collects data. But in the end, everybody was just like “Nah, I still think it’s the microphone,” Because it’s creepy, right? That somebody could be listening to you. So basically, Facebook knows wherever you are, because whenever you log in they can track your IP address if you’re on a computer or through location services if you’re on your phone. So they know wherever you’re logging in from, and what that basically means is that if you’re in certain places, like the neighborhood that you live, they can make guesstimations on what you want based on your demographic profile – like how expensive it is to live in that neighborhood. They’ll know when you’re travelling if you log in in an airport or somewhere you don’t usually go. They're going to know your regular route to work, where you work, stuff that’s close by, which is really creepy, right? Something that’s even creepier is that they have this thing called the Facebook pixel, and a lot of other big internet companies do this – Google has one, I'm pretty sure. It’s a little tracker that’s embedded on millions of websites, and basically whenever you visit that website, Facebook knows you visited that website. So for example, if you go to Amazon, put something in your cart and then don’t buy it, Facebook will know that because of their tracker.
Justin: I had that happen to me! I was on a men’s underwear website and now I get ads for it all the time.
Jakob: Yeah, so then they will serve you up ads. They can also get a lot of other data on you from buying it. A good example is the big three credit reporting agencies – which are the bureaus that do credit scores and all that – they actually sell your data. So if you’re Facebook, you can go to TransUnion, Equifax – which is the one that got hacked really badly, recently – Experian and all them, and buy the data and use it to target their ads. So Facebook has data, likely, on your credit score, your credit cards, how much income you have, any loans you have, they have all that data. The creepiest thing in the episode was that they told you how to see all the categories that Facebook has placed you into for targeting ads. If you go to Facebook, go to your settings, and click on ads, you can scroll down there and click on – I can’t remember the name of it – it’s a thing that will tell you what categories they’ve put you into based on what they know about you. So you get stuff like student…
Justin: Like how my Facebook knows I'm gay!
Jakob: Lives away from home, gay, politically liberal, all sorts of categories which they then serve you ads based on that. So even though there's no evidence that they spy on you with the microphone, they do all this other tracking based on your entire online and non-online life through all this data they collect, they can still serve you these ads so we'll. That’s why one of the hosts, his argument was that they don’t even need the microphone because they already get all this information. So, wow.
Justin: You know what the scariest part is? The guy who came up with all this is going to be president.
Jakob: I… oh god. I don’t want to even think about Zuck…
Jakob: Zuckerberg, please don’t. I know you’re going to because you’re doing the whole going to the Iowa state fair thing, because who goes to that if you’re not from Iowa or running for something or going to run for something – and he did – but that’s a topic for another time.
Justin: So I have two stories this week that kind of intersect, they’re both about journalism because we’re journalists here. A lot of things are shutting down, like stopping printing, and it was just a really scary week when people tell you journalism’s dying because we’re watching it die right in front of us.
Jakob: Basically, it’s every week.
Justin: Yeah, but this week was big. I have two big stories, one is from WWD which is a business publication talking about… Condé Nast is going to stop printing Teen Vogue completely, they printed five issues a year previously and it’s still going to be online. GQ, Glamour, Allure, and Architectural Digest are getting cut an issue, Bon Appetit is getting cut an issue.
Jakob: But they’re still printing, they’re just printing less issues?
Justin: Yeah, yeah. And W and Traveller are getting cut by two issues. So that’s a lot, and now people are talking about where the editor in chief of Teen Vogue is going to move, because she’s really popular, and how they’re cutting all these print things even though these teens are like “I still want to read Teen Vogue, and you don’t believe in us.” On the online side of things, DNAinfo – which is a local reporting site that has sites for a bunch of different cities, including Chicago – shut down this week, and the owner also owns the Gothamist sites, which are Gothamist, Chicagoist, LAist, so on and so forth – another local reporting site. So the case with DNAinfo and Gothamist is that both the New York sites decided to unionize and the publisher didn’t like that, wrote a note, and shut down both sites.
Jakob: Did you guys know that the guy who owns DNAinfo and Gothamist, before he shut them down, is John Ricketts, who is part of the Ricketts family that owns the Chicago Cubs?
Justin: Oh, I did not know that.
Maggie: I did not know that either.
Justin: That’s so interesting.
Maggie: So my news story for this week is something that I read in Politico magazine online today, and it was a profile on Donald Trump’s mother called “The Mystery of Mary Trump.” It was super interesting, because I guess the media have only really looked at Donald Trump’s father as he was a super strong figure who pushed President Trump a lot when he was a kid.
Jakob: Big New York real estate guy.
Maggie: Yeah. But his mom, they interviewed a bunch of Trump’s friends from childhood and his mom was this mysterious figure who was kind of there but never really did anything, and so the profile looked at how she influenced how Donald Trump turned out and it was very interesting.
Jakob: So how did she influence how Donald Trump turned out?
Maggie: One of the things they talked about was when Donald Trump was two, she was pregnant with his younger sibling and she had a severe issue where she hemorrhaged and needed abdominal surgery, and she almost died. They were saying that the experience of having your mother almost die at such a young age kind of alienates you and makes you seek out attention more.
Maggie: Kind of crazy.
Justin: Ok, so I feel Trump never talks about his mom, ever.
Jakob: That’s true.
Justin: Like, I didn’t know he had a mom.
Jakob: Yeah that’s weird, you never hear about it. It’s always “My dad.” But yeah, I've never heard him talk about his mom. I didn’t even think about who his mom was.
Maggie: I kind of thought his parents divorced, but they didn’t.
Jakob: I mean, it was like, what, the 60s?
[Music: Little Lily Swing]
Justin: I have some breaking news fresh off the presses for my personal story. Granted, it won’t be breaking when you're listening to this. But my story is that half an hour ago or so, I found out that I'll be the new Editor in Chief of North by Northwestern come January, so like winter and spring quarter.
Justin: I don’t know if Jakob and Maggie are allowed to talk about this because they were on the search committee that interviewed me for it, but yeah. I guess my personal story is that it’s just weird because I didn’t anticipate applying until the term after this, which would have been the beginning of my junior year.
Jakob: Would have had all that experience.
Justin: Yeah, but I realized that I'm experienced enough as is, and it’s open – no one else is applying for it. I should.
Jakob: I don’t know man, no confidence was a strong challenger.
Maggie: No confidence put up a good fight.
Justin: No confidence… yeah, yeah.
Jakob: So my story this week actually involves both Maggie and Justin and also Paola and a few other people.
Justin: Because Jakob makes everything about himself.
Jakob: Wow, way to drag me, Justin.
Justin: Love you.
Jakob: You can’t see it – he’s hugging me now and it’s very sweet. Anyway, all of my close friends, it appears, have all gotten tattoos last week, and I feel left out. I'm kinda feeling like I should get a tattoo now but also I don’t want to get a tattoo, it’s a weird conflict. I like the concept of tattoos, but I also one, have no idea what i’d want tattooed on me, and two don’t want to go through the needle process of stitching ink into my skin, it just sounds really not great.
Maggie: It really does not hurt that bad.
Jakob: Now I'm surrounded by all these pro-tattoo people, and I'm afraid that I have a negative influence. Like, I'm going to wake up next weekend with 30 tattoos all over me and I won’t even remember how I got them, but it happened.
Maggie: That’s gonna be Justin. So my personal story this week actually happened this morning, and it’s that a person got on the Red Line in the middle of having a heart attack.
Jakob: Holy shit.
Justin: You, like, hinted this earlier and I'm shook.
Maggie: Yeah, it was crazy. So she got on and it was a little hard to tell if she was homeless or not because she was in pajamas and not very we'll dressed, but she was having a heart attack so obviously that’s excusable. So she got on, and she was complaining about her chest hurting but wouldn’t let anyone call the ambulance. So finally, this older women – kind of a grandmother type – pressed the emergency stop button.
Jakob: Were you between stations?
Maggie: Yeah, we were between stations.
Jakob: Oh, christ.
Maggie: And so we got the guy to come on and then we finally got her off – well, not we. I did not help. But people got her off the train and got her an ambulance. But it was wild. She was trying to, I guess, go to a really cheap hospital because she didn’t have a lot of money, so that’s why she got on the train at all.
Jakob: She probably didn’t have insurance. That’s probably why she didn’t want anyone to call an ambulance, because I know if you don’t have insurance ambulance rides are like 10k. Gotta love American health care, am I right?
Maggie: Yeah, so that happened.
Jakob: Wow. I'm just… having a heart attack just sounds so unpleasant.
Maggie: Especially on the Red Line.
Jakob: The Red Line’s not the place where i’d want to have a heart attack.
Maggie: She was kind of young, too. Like definitely younger than 40.
Jakob: Did you know there’s a type of heart attack, and I think women are actually more likely to get them, where you don’t have any symptoms?
Maggie: That’s terrifying.
Justin: Did you know that if you feel like you’re getting a heart attack you’re supposed to chew aspirin, because it will go into your bloodstream more quickly? That’s what Rosie O’Donnell did when she had her heart attack and that’s what they say saved her.
Jakob: Yeah, I can’t remember what the name of it is, but there’s a type of heart attack that’s asymptomatic so you don’t feel any symptoms until after you’ve had the heart attack. I know the traditional symptom is like, pain radiating up your left arm into your shoulder area which is next to your heart and all that, but yeah. You can have a heart attack with no symptoms. I know what I'm going to be worrying about now every time I'm on the Red Line. Like, put on my podcast and then I'll just be like what if I'm having a heart attack right now?
Justin: You’re not going to have a heart attack.
Jakob: Thanks, Justin.
Maggie: You never know.
Justin: I believe in you.
Jakob: I appreciate your belief in my heart, and my cardiovascular system.
[Music: Little Lily Swing]
Jakob: And on that note, we’re going to wrap things up for this week. So you can find our show and all other NBN podcasts on iTunes and the Google Play store. Just search North by Northwestern in the store, hit subscribe, and you’ll get a notification whenever there is a new episode. That’s how you know whenever we have new content. Our theme song is Little Lily Swing, by Tri-Tachyon which is under a Creative Commons Attribution License. I'm your host, Jakob Lazzaro.
Maggie: And I'm Maggie Harden.
Justin: I'm Justin Curto.
Jakob: And this is NBN Audio.
[Music: Little Lily Swing]