Of Pokémon, Pikachu, parents, and privacy

“What the [Pokémon Go] app is actually doing — meaning the broad swath of information the app is collecting — is creepy. It’s not just kids playing the game, and it’s not just privacy advocates who are concerned.” — Anne McKenna, Penn State assistant professor of law

We were curious about the Pokémon Go craze that has infiltrated much of the world and wanted to get a legal perspective on the situation. Cyber and privacy attorney Anne McKenna graciously sat down with us to answer some questions.

Research Matters: Pokémon Go seems innocent enough, but it’s causing concern among many privacy advocates. Why is that?

Anne McKenna: On July 6, 2016, Niantic, Inc., released Pokémon Go, an app game that requires users to walk around in real world locations to collect Pokémon. It’s a global obsession. According to the BBC, in the app’s first week of release, there were 15.3 million tweets about it worldwide. For perspective, there were only 11.7 million Brexit-related tweets during the week of the UK referendum. SimilarWeb, an apps analytics firm, says that Pokémon Go users are playing it on average 43 minutes a day — perspective again: that’s more time than users spend on Instagram, Snapchat, or Whatsapp.

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Focus on research: How did a polarized America react to Orlando?

As Americans grieved after the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last month, Democrats and Republicans reacted quite differently to the news, according to a new “Mood of the Nation” poll developed by Penn State’s McCourtney Institute for Democracy. Our findings indicate that while this tragedy brought us together as a nation, it also demonstrates the extent that the issue of gun control has come to divide our political parties.

The “Mood of the Nation Poll” is a new periodic scientific poll that assesses opinions by posing a series of open-ended questions to a representative sample of 1,000 Americans. It allows ordinary citizens to tell us what is on their minds, without being restricted to a small number of predetermined answers. The first poll of its kind, we asked 500 people in our sample to tell us what it was in the news that made them angry and what made them proud; we asked another 500 people what in the news made them ashamed or what made them hopeful.

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Apps and art: New version of app ready for festival

The fields of arts and sciences will connect on the streets of State College and Penn State’s University Park campus this week to help visitors get the best of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

The College of IST’s Center for Human-Computer Interaction is again working with the Arts Festival to develop a mobile application. Over the years, each version of the app retained its core features, such as a schedule and program of events, location data, and profiles of the visiting artists and performers. The researchers have experimented with various types of social features and interactions in previous versions. In 2014, for example, the app was used to play a “selfie” game among attendees, and last year’s app included a set of profile-style interest categories and a series of social media inspired interactions, such as the ability to create custom events for the festival program.

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Focus on research: Big data jobs are out there — are you ready?

By Jungwoo Ryoo

Big data is increasingly becoming part of everyday life. Network security companies use it to improve the accuracy of their intrusion detection services. Dating services use it to help clients find soulmates. It can enhance the efficiency and accuracy of fraud detection, in turn helping protect your personal finances.

“Big data” is a catchall term for any data set of exceedingly large volume. It could be transaction information at a credit card company, invoice data at an online retailer, meteorological measurements from a weather station. All these data sets have unique characteristics that make it extremely difficult to use conventional computing technologies and techniques to store and process them for analysis. Their variety is daunting, and high velocity is required to handle them in a timely manner.

Organizations in any field can use big data to enhance their effectiveness, which is why there are seemingly unlimited career opportunities in big data these days. The big data industry is growing fast, with the market predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.1 percent over the 2014-2019 period.

Continue reading Focus on research: Big data jobs are out there — are you ready?

Probing Question: How can we save coral reefs?

Penn State biologist Todd LaJeunesse studies coral reefs, a crucial ecosystem in decline worldwide. In this Probing Question video, LaJeunesse touches on what people can do to reverse this trend and allow the reefs to recover.

Probing Questions videos showcase our faculty as they share their views on the question of the day, ranging from scientific advances to social trends and pop culture. We invite you to follow along! Please email series producer Melissa Beattie-Moss at mbmoss@psu.edu with ideas, comments, and questions.

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