Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Facebook goes bad(der)

Below is an article published by the Times - big brother is watching.

Facebook faces a major backlash over privacy today after its photo-sharing service Instagram changed its rules to give it the right to sell users’ photographs without paying them or asking their permission.
The move gives Instagram, which Facebook acquired in April, the perpetual right to “license” all public photos that are posted online through the app, allowing the pictures to be used for commercial purposes such as advertising.
Privacy groups have condemned the move, saying that the policy shift could allow advertisers to buy young people’s photos without gaining their or their parent’s permission.
Analysts said that this could mean that people could soon appear in adverts on television or online, without their knowledge or being paid for photos that they have taken.
Instagram was acquired by Facebook in April this year, in a deal which was then worth $1billion. Facebook announced this year that it has grown to having 1 billion users worldwide, while Instagram has 100 million users.
Last night, Instagram announced its sweeping changes to privacy policies and terms of service. The changes will go into effect on January 16 2013. Photos taken before that time will not affected by the move.
Many of the changes can be seen as an effort by Facebook to more easily obtain and use information gathered by Instagram to better incorporate advertising, so that Facebook ads could easily appear with Instagram’s app.
The changes to the privacy policies means that Instagram will be able to share information about its users - such as details about bands they have seen or restaurants they have eaten at - with Facebook, as well as outside groups and advertisers. It is thought that this change will allow Facebook to be able to better target its adverts to Instagram users.
The new terms of service also state: “You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”
This means that photos published on Instagram publicly can be used in adverts without the user’s knowledge and without the person taking the photograph being paid. The only way for users to reject the changes will be to leave Instagram and delete their accounts.
Of particular worry to privacy campaigners is a stipulation that the changes effect all users regardless of their age. Under US laws, only people aged above 13 can join Instagram. Under the new rules, a teenager’s images can also be licensed for use in advertising.
Jeffrey Chester, the executive director for the Centre for Digital Democracy, a US online privacy group, told Bloomberg that the move was “exploitative” and showed that Facebook “sees teens as a digital goldmine.”
Facebook spokespeople were not immediately available for comment.
In a blog post on Instagram’s website, the company said: “Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups. This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.”
But hundreds of users left comments beneath the blog post, many expressing anger at the changes. One said: “Why do all the good companies become sell-outs, seriously. They always start out with such a good thing.” Another wrote: “ And that’s why I’ll delete my instagram account.”

Latest UK population figures

See here in the Telegraph for more information.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Sunday polls

The figures for the Independent on Sunday are:

Conservative 28% (-3)
Labour 39% (-4)
UKIP 14% (+6)
Lib Dem 9% (-1)
Others 9% (+1)

Andrew Hawkins of Comres is quoted as saying:

"The Conservatives are leaking votes to UKIP – one in five (19%) of the party’s 2010 voters say that they now intend to vote UKIP. There is good evidence that many UKIP voters are erstwhile Conservatives on the rebound: large proportions are negative about David Cameron and George Osborne on the economy, and about Mr Cameron’s handling of gay marriage."

We also have an Opinium poll for the Obsever. The headline figures are:

Conservative 29%
Labour 39%
UKIP 14%
Liberal Democrats 8%

Meanwhile Anthony Wells of YouGov in the Sunday Times notes.

"Ed Miliband has maintained a double-digit lead over the Tories in this week's poll
This week's topline figures are: Conservatives 33%; Labour 45%; Lib Dems 9%; and UKIP 8%.

So not great for the Tories any which way you look at it. Meanwhile UKIP are flying at present but will it translate into votes.

See the ever good UK Polling Report for more detail.

How many homes are empty

All details below are copied from the empty homes website

710,000 empty homes are currently empty in England according to the 2012 Empty Homes Stats.

The latest (November 2012) empty homes statistics show that of these, 259,000 are long- term empty (meaning they have been empty for more than six months). These are the headline figures, and a detailed regional breakdown is now available by clicking below.

What about the rest of the UK?
We estimate that there are 920,000 empty homes across the UK, 330,000 of which are long term empty. However Empty Homes statistics are collected at different times and are not officially published in Wales and Northern Ireland (although we have obtained the information ourselves) . Our estimate is simply a sum of the most recent official statistics from each part of the UK.

Where do you get this information from?
The data is obtained from council tax information. The data is supplied by owners of empty homes who report their properties as empty to their council. Councils usually offer exemptions from council tax for empty homes, which gives an incentive for owners to report thier property as empty.

How accurate is it?

We believe that the information is reasonably accurate at a national level, and is the most reliable information available. However there may be some misreporting at a local level. Councils normally check for council tax fraud.
It is important to note that some homes are not included in the statistics. These include:

Uninhabitable homes: Homes in very poor condition can be excluded from council tax and so are not counted in these statistics. No data is available to quantify how many of these there are nationally. Recent research in Bradford showed that there were 5,000 uninhabitable homes in that city, this indicates that there are many thousands across the country.

Homes due for demolition: Again these are exempt from council tax. In our view these should not be counted unless demolition is in doubt or has been cancelled. Currently 40,000 homes that were due for demolition under now cancelled regeneration schemes stand empty.

Flats above shops. Many unused flats above shops have no residential planning use class even though they are clearly laid out as dwellings. These are charged under business rates and not council tax and so do not feature in empty homes statistics. A report carried out for the government in 2004 estimated that there were 300,000 flats in this state in England.

I’ve heard that there are million empty homes in the UK, is this true?
Probably, although our estimate based on official statistics show less (920,000) . If flats above shops, uninhabitable properties, and properties due for demolition are included it is likely the total would be much higher, but as no accurate statistics on these are published we do not include them.

From a housing supply point of view we think it is more important to concentrate on the long term empty homes. There are 259,000 in England, 330,000 in UK.

Why are these homes empty?

Most empty homes are privately owned. Our surveys show the majority of the owners own just one or two properties. Often they are rented homes that have fallen into disrepair; sometimes the owner has inherited the property. In many cases the owner lacks the funds or the skills to repair and manage the property.

There are also many empty houses and flats owned by and often located next to businesses. Many of these would originally have provided staff accommodation, but with changing employment patterns they are no longer used. In some areas cottages were tied to agricultural work, but increasing agricultural mechanisation means they are no longer needed. It is common in these cases for the business to lack the skills to make use of the empty homes.

In the last decade there have been many large regeneration schemes that have involved emptying homes in preparation for refurbishment or demolition. In the last three years falling house prices, restrictions on borrowing money and reduced government funding have caused many of these schemes to stall or even be abandoned. This has led to large areas of many social housing estates standing empty. In addition some regeneration schemes have taken the same approach to privately owned housing. Some of these have led to large numbers of homes standing empty.

There are also many developments of new flats in towns and cities that have high vacancy rates. Some are owned by investors who may be waiting for rental prices to pick up, other flats were never sold, and others are incomplete, the development having been abandoned.

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