Bytes: What’s new in tech
Facebook is bumming us out
A comprehensive new study suggests “the more we use Facebook, the less happy we feel,” said Cassie Werber in Qz.com. The report, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, is the first longitudinal study to compare Facebook data to thousands of users’ offline relationships. Researchers found that “the more hours Facebook users logged on the social network over time, the more their sense of well-being and happiness declined.” Those who spent the largest amounts of time on the social network “showed meaningful decreases in physical and mental health compared with the average.” Those who spent more time on real-world relationships reported being happier. “Investing more into Facebook relationships appeared to take a toll on offline friendships, the researchers found, perhaps because people have only so much time and energy to spend on either one.”
Fingerprint security isn’t foolproof
“That fingerprint sensor on your phone is not as safe as you think,” said Vindu Goel in The New York Times. New research suggests “that smartphones can easily be fooled by fake fingerprints.” Using computer simulations, researchers at New York University and Michigan State University were able to create a set of artificial “master prints,” composed of “common features” found in many human prints. These fake fingerprints were able to match those used by phones as much as 65 per cent of the time. While “full human fingerprints are difficult to falsify,” smartphones only read partial fingerprints. The study’s authors say that a theoretical glove made with the master prints could access 40 to 50 percent of iPhones within five tries.
23andMe tests approved
The Food and Drug Administration just cleared the way for at-home genetic health tests, said Samantha Masunaga in the Los Angeles Times. Testing firm 23andMe has been granted approval to sell reports showing customers whether they have an increased risk of developing certain conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and late-onset Alzheimer’s. “The go-ahead is the first time the federal agency has approved such direct-to-consumer genetic tests.” It comes three years after the FDA blocked 23andMe from marketing its health reports for lacking agency authorization. Since then, the company has shown enough data to satisfy the FDA that the tests are accurate. ■