The Personal Website of Philip Fizur Psychology, Technology, Music, and Cooking Mon, 18 May 2015 02:40:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Privacy in the Age of the App Store Mon, 01 Sep 2014 18:10:15 +0000 Recently I have noticed a number of news outlets, blogs, and individuals on social networking sites raising concern about privacy settings for the new Facebook Messenger app. I recently engaged one individual in a discussion about the big picture issue with this app and Internet-connected technologies in general. I am sharing that conversation here in the hopes that it will spark further discussion and debate in the name of helping us consider what our relationship to technology is now and where that relationship is headed.

Posting Individual (PI): fb messenger have permissions on your phone!! i just unistalled on the phone .. taking videos and photographs and recording audio, tracking you text messages for advertising purposes. (Link to video entitled “Big Brother is Watching You!! – Facebook Messenger will kidnap your whole family. Delete it.”)

Philip Fizur (PF): This is just my perspective, take it for what it’s worth. There are only a few subjects I feel qualified to give my opinion on, tech being one of them. This guy is misrepresenting the fundamentals of this topic and generally asking the wrong questions. He reads the permissions and then conjectures about what he thinks they will be used for. I’m not denying that anything he says is a possibility but the likelihood is minimal and, based on my testing and the testing of many others, these things are just not happening at the moment. He speaks as if most of these things are the intention of the application and are already happening which there is no evidence for.

The more important thing to discuss is the fact that the vast majority of the apps on Android and iPhone devices have similar or the same capabilities to those people are concerned about in the Messenger app (the ones on my phone include Instagram, Gmail, Google+, MyFitnessPal, Runtastic, Skype, Twitter, and Weather), so if individuals are not comfortable with Messenger they should rethink whether or not they want to be using a smartphone at all.

I also want to address one specific problem he raises as it it less a Facebook issue and more a user error issue. Regarding his concerns about contacts disappearing or appearing, this is user error. During the setup you are given the option of keeping your address book as-is, merging it with your Facebook contacts, or replacing your contacts with Facebook. If you chose the wrong thing then, yes, things will disappear or appear. When in doubt, always chose the option “keep address book as-is/don’t merge” Regarding children and this app I think, again, it should be more a discussion of whether they should have smartphones at all. If their parents deem the child is ready for a smartphone it means being ready for everything that comes with it, if not they should not have a smartphone and, I’d argue, no child really needs one. They could be given simple flip phones to keep with them in case of emergency.

Again, I’m not saying there is not cause for concern, I’m saying this guy is blowing things way out of proportion, misinforming the public, and not presenting information in a way that generates meaningful discussion or consideration of the big picture issues.

PI: I have checked permissions on other applications and they are the same as messenger. Don’t know what to think

Friend of PI: I told U!!!!!!

PF: There are a few things to consider and it comes down to what each person is comfortable with. First you need to ask yourself if you trust these companies. If the answer is yes, end of discussion. If there answer is no (and in some cases that answer is well warranted) you then ask yourself if you trust the tech community at large to keep you well informed as to what these applications are really doing. If the answer is yes, again, you can go back to resting comfortable. If the answer is no then you find yourself in a place of not trusting the companies and not trusting technology in general so you then have to ask yourself if the convenience offered by these apps (easier communication with friends/family, easier way of taking and storing videos, easier access to music, video, news, etc) is worth the risk to your privacy. If the answer is yes then you go about using the phone but try to keep track yourself of what apps you have installed and what they are doing. If the answer is no it might be time to switch back to a flip phone and rely more on your desktop computer.

Part of the problem is that these technologies have matured so quickly that nobody has really taken the time to really consider in depth what the implications of their use are. They are just so ever-present and are all constantly evolving so we get caught up in the excitement. While I do not at all agree with the way this person represents the issue I think it is great we are all at least slowing down to consider what role technology will have in our lives going forward, especially in a world where self-driving cars are just a few years a way and where everything from our TVs to our refrigerators to our health products (glucose meters, pill counters, etc) are Internet-connected.

This all has implications for my own work as well. I’ve developed a website to help cancer patients cope with the demands of treatment as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is delivered both over the web and via phone. One of my biggest fears is that people won’t use it due to privacy concerns.

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Effectiveness of an Online Group Course for Depression in Adolescents and Young Adults: A Randomized Trial Tue, 19 Jun 2012 01:26:14 +0000 Depression is a serious mental health problem, whose first onset is usually in adolescence. Online treatment may offer a solution for the current undertreatment of depression in youth. For adults with depressive symptoms, the effectiveness of Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy has been demonstrated. This study is one of the first randomized controlled trials to investigate the effectiveness online depression treatment for young people with depressive complaints and the first to focus on an online group course. Read the full article at the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

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An Honest Perspective on Working with Children with ASD Wed, 04 Jan 2012 03:05:33 +0000 When asked what the most rewarding experience he has had in working with a child with autism Dr. Robert Naseef responded as follows: “I take great joy in seeing parents fall in love with their child all over again. First, I try to help people look at their grief. It doesn’t help to pretend to be positive when underneath you may be lonely, afraid, or sad.I learned we don’t have to lie to ourselves. You can grieve. You can complain. You can mourn. This helps you to go on, make the best of the situation, and enjoy life.” This is an important perspective to consider and share with parents living with children on the spectrum.

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Slower Reaction Times in the Elderly Sun, 01 Jan 2012 17:31:36 +0000 Recently, Scientific American dedicated their “60-Second Mind” post to the topic of cognitive processing speed in the elderly, supposing that they may respond more slowly to specific tasks not because their cognitive skills are slower but rather because they are more determined to get the task right on the first try. This is certainly not ground breaking research, but those interested might read the full Scientific American article and, if interested, check out a few additional resources provided below related to the impact of aging on other cognitive processes. Happy new year!

  • Rogers, W. A. (2000). Attention and aging. In D. Park & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Cognitive aging. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press.
  • Ebner, N. C. & Johnson, M. K.  (2009). Young and older emotional faces: Are there age group differences in expression identification and memory?  Emotion, 9(3), 329-339.
  • Salthouse, T (1991). Mediation of Adult Age Differences in Cognition by Reductions in Working Memory and Speed of Processing. Psychological Science, 2(3), 179-183.
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Dr. William Miller: Motivational Interviewing: Facilitating Change Across Boundaries Thu, 20 Oct 2011 18:33:54 +0000 This presentation was given byDr. William Miller on March 6, 2009 at the Fourth Annual Health Disparities Conference presented by the Teachers College of Columbia University. Entitled “Motivational Interviewing: Facilitating Change Across Boundaries”, it is a look into the past, present, and possible future directions of Motivational Interviewing and is a great primer for anyone new to the concept.

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Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn at Google San Francisco Mon, 17 Oct 2011 17:17:30 +0000 Jon Kabat-Zinn (né Kabat) (born June 5, 1944) is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Kabat-Zinn was a student of Zen Master Seung Sahn and a founding member of Cambridge Zen Center. His practice of yoga and studies with Buddhist teachers led him to integrate their teachings with those of Western science. He teaches mindfulness meditation as a technique to help people cope with stressanxietypain and illness. Here he  leads a session on Mindfulness at Google San Francisco.

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The Neurology Of Near-Death Experiences Mon, 16 May 2011 00:15:35 +0000
From Happiness in this World: “I’ve never had a patient confess to having had a near-death experience (NDE), but recently I came across a fascinating book called The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain by Kevin Nelson, M.D. that reports as many as 18 million Americans may have had one. If true, the odds are not only that some of my patients have been among them, but also some of my friends. Which got me wondering: just what does science have to tell us about their cause?” [More]

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Thinking Outside the Column: New Insights Into Brain Structure Reveal New Facets of Information Processing in Nervous System Sat, 30 Apr 2011 13:51:59 +0000 From ScienceDaily: “For more than 50 years, a dominating assumption in brain research was that nerve cells in the cortex of the brain are organised in the form of microscopically small columns. Subsequently, it became a textbook standard that connections are created predominantly between nerve cells within these columns. In a review article for the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, Clemens Boucsein and colleagues from the Bernstein Centers in Freiburg and Berlin show that this view has to be revised: input from cells that lie outside this column plays a much more important role than hitherto assumed.”

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The structure of musical preferences: A five-factor model Fri, 29 Apr 2011 19:06:01 +0000 From the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: “Music is a cross-cultural universal, a ubiquitous activity found in every known human culture. Individuals demonstrate manifestly different preferences in music, and yet relatively little is known about the underlying structure of those preferences. Here, we introduce a model of musical preferences based on listeners’ affective reactions to excerpts of music from a wide variety of musical genres. The findings from 3 independent studies converged to suggest that there exists a latent 5-factor structure underlying music preferences that is genre free and reflects primarily emotional/affective responses to music. We have interpreted and labeled these factors as (a) a Mellow factor comprising smooth and relaxing styles; (b) an Unpretentious factor comprising a variety of different styles of sincere and rootsy music such as is often found in country and singer–songwriter genres; (c) a Sophisticated factor that includes classical, operatic, world, and jazz; (d) an Intense factor defined by loud, forceful, and energetic music; and (e) a Contemporary factor defined largely by rhythmic and percussive music, such as is found in rap, funk, and acid jazz. The findings from a fourth study suggest that preferences for the MUSIC factors are affected by both the social and the auditory characteristics of the music.” [More]

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Biomedical technology and the clinic of the future Fri, 29 Apr 2011 14:35:40 +0000 From “To date, large-scale ‘omics data sets and systems approaches in biology have had a relatively minor impact on the practice of medicine. As new technology brings individual genome sequencing closer to reality and large-scale biology continues to progress, opportunities are likely to open up in disease prediction, prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Here the views of two researchers on the potential of disruptive biomedical technologies in clinical practice are contrasted with the perspectives of a clinician and an entrepreneur in commercial clinical information technology.”

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