ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Friday, October 28, 2011

BBC's What's Your Number: A Brilliant Way to Collect Private Information

BBC's webmaster
Nobody knows the world's exact population figures, but the United Nations decided - partly to raise awareness, partly as a publicity stunt - to arbitrarily pick October 31st, 2011 as the date when the number of people on earth will cross 7 billion. There's a lot of discussion about the 7B mark all over the place, so I'll leave that to the experts. What I wanted to talk about is BBC's What's Your Number application, launched just in time to coincide with the UN's announcement.
The idea is that you enter you birth date, country, and sex, and the application will provide you with a number - for example, 4,534,132,121 - which is an estimate of how many people were alive on the date of your birth, along with other statistics. Many people are playing around with this cool application, posting their "number" on Facebook or Twitter.

While this application is fun to play with, BBC has done a brilliant thing here: People from all over the world - tens or hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions - are voluntarily sharing private information with the website. The date-of-birth and sex, along with the user's IP address, is valuable information. And people are unlikely to fake the information here - they are dying to know their "number". So this information is most likely very accurate, and thus very valuable. The BBC is amassing a small treasure here. There a good reason to believe this information will be used by the BBC for their own commercial purpose, which might be annoying, but probably not harmful. However, if the information is shared with governments, or if there is a security breach and it's stolen - and this is not a rare event - and the data falls into the wrong hands, there's some chance that the information will be abused.

My recommendation: Be mindful. Think twice before sharing your personal information on the web.