Phone tracker aids fight against malaria

FACEPALM: Make sure you properly hide any wild Facebook antics before applying for any new jobs.
FACEPALM: Make sure you properly hide any wild Facebook antics before applying for any new jobs.

Ars Technia reports on a newly published study in Science that shows how technology can aid science.

Researchers in Kenya tracked 15 million mobile phones for a year to see which towns and cities are likely to be sources of malaria, or places where new infections will spring up.

Mosquitoes, which spread malaria, don't have a very large range, and most infections spread because humans carrying the illness move somewhere new. In a new location, local mosquitoes ingest the blood of someone infected by malaria and spread the disease to other humans.

To track the mobile phones, the phone company in Kenya provided coded IDs that allowed the researchers to follow the location, time and data of each call or text message. The researchers plotted phone users' trips around Kenya, and compared the data from the mobile phone tracking to the rates of malaria infection. They were able to identify towns and cities which harboured malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and which towns and cities had residents who travelled frequently and often brought new malarial infections home with them. This gives scientists the tools to tackle malaria hotspots, as well as understand more about how humans travel and how such diseases spread.

Want a job? Make your Facebook profile less visible.

It's examination season and that means many teenagers will soon be out looking for a summer job. Apparently, it also pays to clean up your Facebook page before you start.

McAfee's Australian cybermum, Alexis Merton-McCann, says employers are turning down some young people for jobs because of "wild" antics on Facebook photos.

According to Eurocom Worldwide, 40 per cent of British employers check out the public Facebook posts of a prospective employee, and 20 per cent of IT executives had rejected someone for a job based on the contents of their page.

Merton-McCann suggests that teens should present a Facebook profile that doesn't put off potential employers. This is where privacy settings are invaluable. Make anything that's a little less than squeaky clean available only to friends, rather than publicly visible. There's even an easy way to do this if you're starting a job search right now: head to your Facebook page, and click on the drop-down arrow next to Home in the top right. Select Privacy controls. In the list of options, look for "Limit the audience for past posts" and click "Manage Past Post Visibility". When you click "Limit Old Posts", and then click "Confirm", everything on your Timeline becomes friends only. It's an easy way to make sure nobody can see all the stuff you might want hidden.

Twitter users are anything but typical.

Twitter, the 140-character messaging social network, has been around for some years.

In 2010, an estimated 14 per cent of New Zealanders had a Twitter account, according to a study by Saatchi & Saatchi/Colmar Brunton. At the time, the same study estimated that 72 per cent of New Zealanders had a Facebook profile. A recent study of 36 million user profiles by monitoring service Beevolve suggests that the "average" Twitter user is female, in her mid-20s, uses an iPhone and has 208 followers. She has tweeted 794 times in her three years on the service, and uses a purple background on her Twitter profile page. Twitter is so divergent, however, that this "average user" is skewed by the fact that Twitter has a lot of users who tweet very little, and a few, like me, who tweet a lot.

Beevolve estimates that 80 per cent of Twitter users have fewer than 50 followers, and 60 per cent of users have no followers at all. Compare that to my follower count, which is about 1300. I'm among just 1 per cent of users with that many followers, but someone such as Ashton Kutcher, with 12 million followers, puts me to shame.

There's no New Zealand-specific data, but some interesting titbits came out of the study, such as that 70 per cent of smartphone/tablet views of Twitter are from iPhones or iPads, that 25 per cent of Twitter users never tweet, and that "love" is the most common word found in Twitter bios. Not on Twitter? Head to and make a profile.

Zara Baxter edits New Zealand PC World and has been reviewing gadgets for more than 15 years. Visit