Archives April 30, 2019

How Much Do Amazon Deliveries Contribute To Global Warming?

It’s no coincidence that the number of trucks on the road has doubled since Amazon launched in 1994. That’s a huge deal for the climate, as Vox reported last year in an article on the environmental impact of online shopping: “In 2016, transportation overtook power plants as the top producer of carbon dioxide emissions in the US for the first time since 1979. Nearly a quarter of the transportation footprint comes from medium- and heavy-duty trucks. And increasingly the impact is coming in what people in the world of supply-chain logistics call ‘the last mile,’ meaning the final stretch from a distribution center to a package’s destination. (The ‘last mile’ can in truth be a dozen miles or more.)”

The good news is that e-commerce has the potential to be less carbon-intensive than brick-and-mortar retail. As Anne Goodchild, director of the University of Washington’s Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center, told BuzzFeed News, delivery trucks emit “between 20% and 75% less carbon dioxide per customer on average than passenger vehicles driving to [stores].” But that’s only if online stores choose the delivery times themselves. That way, they can pack trucks full of goods and optimize their routes. “When customers choose,” Goodchild noted, “the carbon savings are significantly smaller.”

Thus, Amazon could significantly cut its carbon footprint by prioritizing shipping optimization over consumer convenience…. Americans will have to begin thinking of Amazon.com and other e-commerce sites not as on-demand delivery services for every little thing, but stores that require just as much forethought as a trip to the mall did twenty years ago. And that might be too much to ask of the average consumer in the digital age. In which case, the government might have to step in.

Amazon’s biggest carbon impact comes from its AWS cloud servers, though by the end of 2018 they’d already converted 50% of that to renewable energy, according to the article. And more green efforts may be coming. “For the past eight years, Bezos has ignored requests from the nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project, which collects the carbon footprint data of large corporations. But last month, he agreed to eventually make the company’s emissions data public. It’s expected later this year.”

The article also raises the possibility of a future with delivery drones powered by renewable energy. But it adds tht until that day comes, expecting deliveries within 48 hours “is incompatible with solving global warming.”

Uber Admits It Wants To Take Riders Away From Public Transit

“Uber took down the taxi industry and now it wants a piece of public transit,” reports CNN, in an article shared by dryriver:
For years, as it aggressively entered new markets, Uber has maintained that it is a complement and ally of public transit. But that messaging changed earlier this month, when Uber released its S-1 ahead of its upcoming initial public offering. In the regulatory filing, Uber said its growth depends on better competing with public transportation, which it identifies as a $1 trillion market it can grab a share of over the long-term. Uber, which lost $1.8 billion in 2018, said it offers incentives to drivers to scale up its network to attract riders away from personal vehicles and public transportation.

Transportation experts say that if Uber grabs a big chunk of its target market — 4.4 trillion passenger miles on public transportation in the 63 countries in which it operates — cities would grind to a halt, as there would literally be no space to move on streets….

Uber’s rival Lyft didn’t describe public transportation as a competitor in its S-1. But while the corporate mission may be different, in practice there’s little difference, experts say.

“Try to imagine the island of Manhattan, and everyone taking the subway being in a rideshare. It just doesn’t function….” said Christof Spieler, who teaches transportation at Rice University and wrote the book Trains, Buses, People. “It’s a world in which large cities essentially break down.”

And transportation consultant Jarrett Walker tells CNN that while it may make business sense for Uber and Lyft to pursue this strategy, “it may also be a strategy that’s destroying the world.”

‘They’re Basically Lying’ – Mental Health Apps Caught Secretly Sharing Data

“Free apps marketed to people with depression or who want to quit smoking are hemorrhaging user data to third parties like Facebook and Google — but often don’t admit it in their privacy policies, a new study reports…” writes The Verge.

“You don’t have to be a user of Facebook’s or Google’s services for them to have enough breadcrumbs to ID you,” warns Slashdot schwit1. From the article:
By intercepting the data transmissions, they discovered that 92 percent of the 36 apps shared the data with at least one third party — mostly Facebook- and Google-run services that help with marketing, advertising, or data analytics. (Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.) But about half of those apps didn’t disclose that third-party data sharing, for a few different reasons: nine apps didn’t have a privacy policy at all; five apps did but didn’t say the data would be shared this way; and three apps actively said that this kind of data sharing wouldn’t happen. Those last three are the ones that stood out to Steven Chan, a physician at Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, who has collaborated with Torous in the past but wasn’t involved in the new study. “They’re basically lying,” he says of the apps.

Part of the problem is the business model for free apps, the study authors write: since insurance might not pay for an app that helps users quit smoking, for example, the only ways for free app developer to stay afloat is to either sell subscriptions or sell data. And if that app is branded as a wellness tool, the developers can skirt laws intended to keep medical information private.

A few apps even shared what The Verge calls “very sensitive information” like self reports about substance use and user names.

10% of Twitter Users Create 80% of the Tweets

In the United States, 10% of Twitter’s users create 80% of its tweets, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center:
The median user in the top 10% by tweet volume creates 138 tweets per month, “favorites” 70 posts per month, follows 456 accounts, and has 387 followers. By comparison, the median user in the bottom 90% of tweeters creates just two tweets per month, “favorites” one post per month, follows 74 accounts, and has 19 followers. And when asked to report how often they use the platform, fully 81% of these highly active tweeters say they do so every day; 47% of other Twitter users visit the platform with this regularity…

Twitter users also tend to have higher levels of household income and educational attainment relative to the general adult population. Some 42% of adult Twitter users have at least a bachelor’s degree — 11 percentage points higher than the overall share of the public with this level of education (31%). Similarly, the number of adult Twitter users reporting a household income above $75,000 is 9 points greater than the same figure in the general population: 41% vs. 32%.