The Private Citizen 97: The App Tracking Transparency Smoke Screen

I am currently preparing tomorrow’s TPC episode. It’ll be about the ineffectiveness of iOS’ Do Not Track feature. I’ve been meaning to do this episode for a long time now.

Do you have any input on this? Ideas, experiences, questions you want answered?

I’m experimenting with letting the forum know ahead of time what I am working on so that you guys can provide input and be more involved in the show. I probably won’t be doing this for every episode, but it could be a nice way to get even more audience participation going once in a while.

I think I posted before in the old forum this paper (it seems somewhat related to the topic)

These guys used jailbroken devices to reverse engineer the “telemetry” messages that are sent to apple, on devices that were idle and opted out on everything possible.

Seems that iOS still sends your GPS location together with all device ids, and for extra fun also nearby MAC addresses it finds in the wifi (these device ids can probably be connected to your apple account and real details, no?).
Situation in Android is more or less the same…

Oh - I see that you refer to the “App tracking transparency” feature (third-party tracking). So the paper I pointed to above is probably NOT related to the topic. Sorry…

Yeah, it’s not. I actually wrote that story up for heise online after you tipped me to it. :kissing_smiling_eyes:

No worries about mixing things up and quoting that here. :slightly_smiling_face:

Just released the episode:

Just uploading the stream recording video:

re: skin-tone genetics.
Specifically the “dark x light → something in the middle” description. Genetics does not work that way. In fact, this was exactly the discovery of Mendel, whom you also mentioned (as people married to proffessionals in related fields, we should be careful. I will try :worried:).

I believe that the reason for all the shades, and that there is some truth in your description, is because “skin color” is a polygenetic phenotype (nothing is ever simple in biology).
However, most likely one of the major genes involved, probably a mutation that causes light shades of skin, is recessive. So, if one of the parents has a recessive homozygote allele pair (so will have the light-skin phenotype) while the other has heterozygote pair (resulting in darker skin phenotype), then the offsprings will have exactly 50% chance of having the “light-skin” (recessive homozygote) combination. I think this matches clearly what I see in my own kids (they definitely look similar to each other, but have visibly different skin shades - not “something in the middle” :slight_smile:). Of course, this is just cute details - does not change the big picture, and maybe even supports your main argument.

I’ll have to admit: I currently don’t understand how that differs from what I said. :sweat_smile:

OK. I brought this upon myself, now I’ll have to try to explain :slight_smile:

Basically it’s “continuous vs discrete”. In Mendel’s time, it was thought that e.g. if one parent has color 0.7 and the other 0.3, then the descendant will have some color in between, e.g. 0.5. As opposed, Mendel’s rules apply to discrete “factors” (genes), as described in item 1. in this discoveries list.
It sounded to me as if you were claiming the continuous case (maybe I should listen again), whereas what might be more relevant to your argument is discovery 5. - that different genes are independent (i.e. other traits are independent from skin color).

What I was trying to stress was that even with more complex “polygenic” traits like skin color, the “continuous” description does not apply, and you have discrete combinations that follow specific rules (e.g. if only one of the genes involved is different between parents, you can use simple 2x2 tables “Punnet Squares” to determine the possible outcomes).

In particular, the example I chose follows the Carrier x Affected diagram, where you can see that the descendants always follow either the father or the mother’s phenotype, not anything else (in this case you will get only 2 options even for genes with incomplete dominance, where there are 3 possible phenotypes).

I think you are over-analysing an off-the-cuff example I pulled out of my arse to try to illustrate a point.

The fact that I can’t fully comprehend the difference between the two examples you just made, makes me think I didn’t ever think about it in this detail. At least not since high school bio class.

I any case, I think it distracts from what I actually wanted to say. Which is that classifying human phenotype collections into something called “race” is unscientific and dumb.

Not if you’re an ER doctor who quickly needs a rough assessment of whether your patient has a great chance of a particular disease commonly found in people of one particular race geographic origin of ancestry. Of course, it in no way substitutes the proper tests and such, but when you’re pressed for time (and/or other resources) to save a life, any piece of information that changes the relative weights of your decision tree branches counts.

You don’t need something like a “race” specification to do that. Seems lazy. You can go by the phenotype in question. Like skin colour. Or even by ethnic background.

Well, phenotype doesn’t cover it, and ethnic background is a whole other can of worms which I, living in Russia, won’t touch with a ten-feet pole. The Russian Far North, Siberian North and Russian Far East have dozens of ethnic groups that are genetically close enough to collectively fall into the “indigenous peoples of the North” as far as medicine goes, but calling a Yukaghir a Chukcha, or calling an Itelmen an Evenk (as well as calling both of them Eskimos) is a horrible idea if you want these people to keep talking to you. Northern Caucasus is even worse: not only is nearly every valley home to a separate folk, but that folk is also a blood enemy to half the neighbours, so I wouldn’t dare tell a Chechen he’s the same as Ingush (though he likely mostly is, genetically speaking, and definitely is, medically speaking).

Which is why I prefer to call it geographic origin of ancestry as long as I have time to pronounce or write this mouthful. But that’s just a politically correct term, and race is a nice short word to use in emergencies…

There may come the time when, due to globalization, our whole species blends into a single race. Or that time may never come, who knows. It hasn’t come yet, that’s a medical fact. There’s no point in denying that Africans can run faster than Asians, on average, or that indigenous peoples of the North tolerate alcohol worse than Europeans, on average. Inter-species variety is actually a good thing for our evolution, and I think it’s OK to admit we have it, even to the point of having distinct races inside our species. Just as long as no one declares one race better or worse than the others.

How? A phenotype is how a gene expresses itself in the body. Literally any aspect of a person is covered by one or more phenotypes.

There is no such thing as race in humans. How often do I have to say this?

I never said that wasn’t the case. But there is literally no such thing as a distinct race within a species. It’s not a scientific concept as far as modern biology is concerned. You’re probably not using Freud‘a dream analysis to find out what is wrong with people anymore either, I suspect? Kinda the same thing.

True. But this concept is not always usable in practice. Let’s say I’m interested whether a patient has a good chance of a gene variation that leads to them having a broken protein that can be causing the condition I’m observing. I know that this gene variation is common among one folk in Northern Caucasus, but not the others. Yes, the broken protein is a phenotype, technically. No, I have no way of checking it other than a test that takes several days to be processed. And people of the folk in question look very much the same as other folks of Northern Caucasus that are not affected. The phenotype is there, it’s just useless as it can’t inform the decision I have to make now. The geographic origin of ancestry, on the other hand, works.

This is a terminological question. Race lacks a strict definition, or rather, this term has too many definitions in biology alone. In some senses, it doesn’t exist. In other senses, it does.

It’s the same thing, in the sense that we still use a lot of Freud’s concepts in today’s psychiatry, although for many of them we have re-thought the definitions and the implications. I agree that races don’t exist in humans in the sense that you can’t say a particular human belongs to any particular race in many cases. Yet in many (other) cases you can safely say a particular human (another one) belongs to a particular — well, race, for the lack of a better word. Or whatever you want to call it instead, but I have yet to think of a better term.

It’s not the same, though. Because race is not a biological term when it comes to humans. It’s specifically not used because of the historic background. It’s used for animals and microbes, but not humans. It’s kinda like you wouldn’t call a biological phenomenon in connection to evolutionary processes spontaneous generation any more. Because that theory was rejected and things could get confusing.

A funny thing: part of my work is clinical trials of new medications, and part of that is reporting suspected serious adverse reactions. I had to fill one such report today. I can’t share a picture, unfortunately, as the document is confidential, but the form has a “race” field (and a separate “ethnicity” field) that had to be filled.

These forms vary between different regulation entities (if we’re talking open reporting regarding the medications that are already on the market) and different study initiators (for the new medications; the study initiator is usually the company that develops the drug, but can also be a university or a governing entity), so I made a little research. Of the seven different templates I had at hand in my office, five included a “race” field marked with this very word. :wink:

Someone I know identifies more or less as “white”, as I understand it (getting it all second hand, I don’t want to ask him about it), which is more or less how he’s perceived in the country where he grew up. But in the country he now studies in he’s very much considered “black”.

Plainly there’s no coherent biological basis for racial labels. And yet people use words and even choose identities with the expectation we are to accept their own definitions for such things.

It might be helpful to me to take this no such thing as race idea as a mantra to avoid mistakes. It might avoid some stupider thoughts, e.g. on the less harmful side of the spectrum, “you like Iron Maiden? I wouldn’t have, er, uh, never mind, sorry.”

But on the other hand, I encounter people who self identify as a given “race” or will be identified so whether they like or not and that, unfortunately, goes along with experiences people of that “race” end up sharing which I, having a different “race”, have no experience or much understanding of. E.g. when a youth, no police ever held a shotgun to my head cause me and my freinds drove in a car and looked a little bit like five other guys the police were after. Likewise, was never at a heavy metal concert where skinheads punched me in the face out of the blue for no reason. I’ve worked with guys with each of these experiences. In an ideal world the experiences wouldn’t go with the messy, maybe nonsensical concepts and words, but in this world they do. Sometimes efficient communication requires commonly used words to be used, and language is not reasonable (maybe German is moreso than English).