Tech round-up for March 21: Limit your data on Facebook, space changes your genes, driverless car kills pedestrian, flying taxis

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This week, we can learn so much from comparing twins, especially if they are astronauts. Plus, a driverless car kills a pedestrian and flying taxis may soon be in the skies of New Zealand. But first, here’s how you can limit your exposure on Facebook.

You have (some) control over how much Facebook can do with your data

With the revelation this week of what organizations can do with the data they can get from our Facebook profiles, more people than ever are talking about, musing, and even following through with deleting their profile from Facebook.

That’s certainly an option, but you can limit how much you expose yourself on the social platform and still be able to wish your best friend a happy birthday. Most of these can be configured through the settings page.

Stop apps from accessing your information

When you install and run Facebook applications, you grant those apps access to your information. You can revoke that permission at any time through the “Apps” settings.

Keep in mind that doing any of these things will limit your experiences on Facebook. You may not be able to use your Facebook profile to log in to other app accounts. You may not be able to play the Facebook games that help you get through the day in your cubicle.

You have discrete control here, so you can allow access to the apps you want to be using, and with some apps can even be specific about the information that can be used.

Strip personal data

You can also remove personal information from your Facebook profile. Edit the “About Me” section of your profile to strip out education and work history, phone numbers, and birthdates.

Prevent targeted advertising

It can be convenient to see an ad for your favourite hair conditioner just as you’re running out, but if you find that the least bit creepy, you can turn off the “interest-based ads” setting in Facebook to prevent the system and advertisers from targeting you based on your information.

Keep your info from traveling with friends

People you’re connected to on Facebook can take your information with them when they use their apps. That’s how you can get tokens from your friends who are playing the same games as you. But you can limit the information that travels with them so you don’t unnecessarily expose your data. You do this from the “Apps Others Use” section of the settings.

Prolonged time in space changes your genes

Scott Kelly is an astronaut who spent nearly a year in space at the International Space Station. NASA discovered that his gene expression changed while he was out there.

This is not to say that his DNA changed; Kelly did not begin the transformation into a new species while orbiting the Earth.

But his body did change at the molecular level. Among those changes was the parts of Scott’s chromosomes that get shorter as we age – telomeres have been suggested as being tied to the aging process – actually got longer in space, and then shortened again after Scott returned to terra firma.

Maybe that means that space travellers will live longer. (Probably not.)

First fatality caused by driverless car

A woman in Arizona was struck and killed by an Uber vehicle operating autonomously. The accident occurred at 10 p.m. at night. There was a human operator in the car at the time.

Uber has halted testing of its self-driving cars in other cities, including Toronto, while an investigation takes place.

The flying taxis of New Zealand

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, autonomous flying taxis may be in the air before long. Kitty Hawk, a company started by Larry Page, one of Google’s cofounders, has developed a two-person hybrid vehicle that has rotors for vertical take-off and landing, and a rear propeller for forward motion.


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