The Damaging Effects of Inaccurate Information

The Damaging Effects of Inaccurate Information

The Damaging Effects of Inaccurate Information

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OpenAI is facing a defamation lawsuit due to false information generated by the AI system. A radio host is suing OpenAI after ChatGPT wrongly stated that he had defrauded and embezzled funds from a non-profit organization. This case highlights the issue of AI systems, like ChatGPT, generating inaccurate information that can potentially harm individuals. This is probably the biggest downfall, particularly for researchers, and one you should not forget! ChatGPT can quickly produce plausible-sounding but completely incorrect, misleading responses.

While ChatGPT is a powerful tool, just like all the other tools in our toolbelt, 🔨 that can boost the writing process for researchers. When using any resources for research, individuals can follow several strategies to avoid using inaccurate information that could potentially harm others. 

Here are some helpful tips:

Evaluate the source and use credible sources

Evaluate the source and use credible sources

Pay attention to the credibility and expertise of the information source. Look for reputable websites, official sources, or articles from trusted organizations. Avoid relying solely on personal blogs or forums that may lack credibility. Rely on experts, professionals, or reputable organizations with subject-matter expertise. They have the knowledge, experience, and qualifications to provide reliable information in their respective fields. Relying on their expertise ensures that you access accurate information that has been vetted by knowledgeable individuals or institutions.

Updated and relevant information

Credible sources prioritize staying current with the latest developments and research in their field. They regularly review and update their content to reflect new information or changes. By relying on these sources, you can access current and relevant information, avoiding outdated or inaccurate data that may harm individuals due to its irrelevance.

Trust and reputation

Credible sources have earned a reputation for their reliability, accuracy, and trustworthiness over time. They often have a track record of delivering high-quality information and maintaining ethical standards. Relying on such sources helps build trust in the information you consume and reduces the chances of unintentionally harming individuals by spreading misinformation.

Cross-reference multiple sources

Verify information by consulting multiple reliable sources. If the same information is consistently presented across reputable websites, it is more likely to be accurate. Be cautious if information appears only on a single source or if it lacks supporting evidence.

Check for authorship and credentials

Assess the qualifications and expertise of the author or the organization behind the information. Look for their credentials, affiliations, and relevant experience in the field. Established experts or institutions are more likely to provide accurate information.

Examine the date and relevance

Confirm the currency of the information you find. Outdated information may not reflect the latest knowledge or developments. Ensure that the information you use is relevant to your specific context or situation.

Be critical and skeptical

Develop a healthy skepticism when encountering potentially controversial or sensationalist information. Question the source's motives, potential biases, or conflicts of interest. Look for supporting evidence, logical reasoning, and a balanced presentation of facts.

Utilize fact-checking tools

Fact-checking websites can help verify the accuracy of specific claims or debunk misinformation. Platforms like Snopes,, or PolitiFact provide reliable fact-checking services for various topics.

Consider peer-reviewed research

peer-reviewed research

If you require scientific or academic information, prioritize peer-reviewed articles published in reputable journals. These publications undergo a rigorous review process, ensuring higher accuracy and reliability.

Engage in critical thinking

Develop your critical thinking skills to assess information critically. Question assumptions, consider alternative viewpoints, and evaluate the strength of arguments and evidence presented. Be cautious of logical fallacies or emotional appeals that may undermine the accuracy of the information.

Seek expert opinions

Seek expert opinions

When dealing with complex or specialized topics, consult experts or professionals in the field. They can provide insights based on their expertise and help validate information or guide you toward reliable sources.

Report and flag inaccuracies

If you come across misleading or harmful information, consider reporting it to the search engine or the platform hosting it. Many search engines and websites have reporting mechanisms to address misinformation and protect users.

By following these strategies, individuals can reduce the risk of relying on inaccurate information from searching online and make more informed decisions while safeguarding themselves and others. It ensures access to accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information from trusted experts and organizations, allowing for informed decision-making and responsible dissemination of knowledge.

Two Experts: Search Engine Optimization and Online Research By a Pro: A Perfect Partnership

Search Engine Optimization and Online Research By a Pro

Two Experts: Search Engine Optimization and Online Research By a Pro: A Perfect Partnership

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Search engine optimization (SEO) is a process of optimizing a website or blog post to increase its visibility for relevant searches in search engine result pages (SERPs). This process involves optimizing website content, HTML, and associated coding and managing the website's content to ensure it is crawled and indexed by search engine algorithms. The goal of SEO is to make the website more visible to the right people at the right time and improve the overall success of a website.

Research is an essential part of SEO. Researching relevant keywords and topics will help you create content that is more likely to be found by search engines and more likely to be shared and engaged with by readers. When researching for blog posts, it's essential to understand the needs and interests of your target audience. 

Having good research will help you create content that is more relevant and engaging to them. Researching keywords and topics can also help you create SEO-friendly titles and content so it's easier for search engines to understand what your blog post is about.

Why SEO Research is Essential for Content Creation: A Professional Researcher's Perspective

Search Engine Optimization

SEO and research go hand in hand. When creating content optimized for search engines and engaging for readers, it's essential to do the research upfront. Researching relevant topics and keywords.

I often give my clients high-quality content marketing assets (essentially highly researched and authored as a subject matter expert would). Still, search optimization needs to be added to the whole equation once they get the content marketing on their websites. Sometimes there is a gap between the keyword recommendations my clients receive from their agency vs. the content I provide. Luckily, we are now in a world where keywords are an overused word, and searcher intent is more important… that gives us some latitude with how we approach content creation.

Some organizations may be hesitant to bring in outside researchers for various reasons. One reason is that it is perceived as an admission that the company needs to be adequately staffed or skilled to handle online research. After all, anyone can search Google. It can also be seen as an external party being brought in to judge the current processes, thus creating a feeling of distrust, fear, or insecurity. 

Furthermore, the associated costs and potential organizational disruption can be a deterrent. Additionally, some organizations may be reluctant to embrace change, and bringing in an outside researcher may cause an uncomfortable or unwelcome shift in the status quo.

Hiring an outside researcher can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. An external researcher can bring a fresh perspective and unbiased analysis of the content an organization might publish. We have expertise and access to resources that a typical business organization does not have. We can offer insights on how to keep content unique and different from the competition. Finally, an outside researcher can help an organization to save time and money by providing a cost-effective and more efficient way to gather data and analyze results since this is something we do consistently.

Professional researchers can connect disparate pieces of information, collect and analyze data from multiple sources, determine relationships between the data points, and then draw conclusions based on the connections made. These are the dots we connect that can make the content unique. By creating links between pieces of information, patterns and trends are identified to help make decisions or gain insights.

My clients often need to gain the skill set to optimize the content I'm providing, but if the content I provide is high quality, they should.

So recently, I teamed up with an SEO agency to provide a client with the ultimate content experience; the content had to be strong and fulfill relevancy. I wanted to provide them with optimized content they could use without changing.

It can be a complex process when two oppositional teams work together for the first time. Both sides may have preconceived notions about each other and their agendas and objectives that need to be addressed. Creating an environment where both teams can openly discuss their issues and concerns is essential. Creating this environment can involve setting clear ground rules and expectations and establishing trust and respect. 

Through open dialogue, teams can begin to understand each other’s perspectives and work together to develop a plan of action. Once trust is established, the teams can start collaborating on tasks and projects and hopefully create a better understanding of each other’s goals and objectives.

The process wasn't without hurdles; It was clear that the agency had not previously worked with someone with my understanding and skill set. But the final article written by my team with Input from the marketing agency was stellar. The body of the article provided detailed analysis and evidence to support the main point and the critical keywords. It included evidence and examples from reliable sources, such as studies, case studies, and primary sources. 

The article synthesized the evidence, drawing connections between sources and ideas and explaining why each point was important. The conclusion summarized the main points and analyzed the implications for the reader were they to invest in my client's product. It also included a list of references for further reading.

How Finding Common Ground Lead to a Positive Outcome

How Finding Common Ground Lead to a Positive Outcome

In a business leaders community where I'm a member, there are frequent discussions about SEO. I sometimes felt tension whenever I commented to SEO specialists from a professional researcher's point of view. Some of my opinions sometimes could have aligned better with an SEO specialist's ideas or point of view.

After having been in the same discussions about SEO several times, I reached out to Graeme Knight, an expert at keyword research, technical SEO, content creation, and link building. He helped me understand the SEO expert's point of view, which was invaluable. Talking with Graeme gave me the confidence to work with my client and their marketing agency. I was delighted that he grasped and affirmed my perspective. After some discussion, Graeme provided recommendations as to how the process of working together should go, and I agree.

1. Let's assume that this SEO effort is the main priority for my client rather than beautifully crafted content marketing. In which case, driving it from an SEO point of view would be correct.

2. The SEO team would have already completed a content audit and keyword research and prioritized the keywords with the client.

3. Once prioritized, I expect the SEO team to create some documents for my team – the SMEs / writers. I expect a meeting with the client, myself, and the SEO expert to discuss the content creation plan.

4. SEO Strategy. What are we aiming to achieve with the content asset we are creating, the competing pages, how are the SERPs made up, and of what (videos, images, PPA, snippets, FAQ…), etc. As content creators, we need to understand the underline search intent in detail, the assets that rank, and how they are created. We can't compete if we don't know this (it's like throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping we channel Van Gogh).

5. A Content Brief. This would tell my team precisely the distribution of phrases and words we want in line with other content that ranks for this search intent. It would also tell us things like style and use of language and gear our result close to what would engage a reader. It would also include Word count range, primary keyword/phrase to target, title and descriptions, number of exact keyword mentions, the goal of content, who the audience is, formality and tone, intent, formatting, images (if we are responsible for this), links to include and anchor text, and general outline.

6. A competitor analysis is needed to explain who ranks for this search term in the top 5. Knowing everything about these pages at this time, including backlink gap analysis, word densities they use, domain strengths, page strengths, referring domains and strengths, as well as a qualitative competitor analysis.

What are their strengths and weaknesses that we can capitalize on?

Now, as the content creators, my team might only get the brief. Still, there should be enough information to create an excellent content asset satisfying search intent, precisely the level needed to compete, without any question at all. We need to know what is necessary to do an excellent job.

It's essential to know the answer to one question:

What is my client's endgame with my high-quality and well-researched content?

If it's Google rankings, then I have an opportunity to take care of that for them before THEY kill our beautiful content themselves.

Graeme Knight is a Software dev by trade and also an e-commerce store owner and obsessive SEO consultant. Expert at keyword research, technical SEO, content creation, and link building.

Jodi Gregory is a professional researcher with over 20 years as principal of Seek Information Services. She can be contacted at he***@se******.com.

Are We a Good Fit? Pre-Screening Potential Clients With Kindness and Respect

Are We a Good Fit? Pre-Screening Potential Clients With Kindness and Respect

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Recently I reached out to a company through their calendar link to inquire about their bookkeeping services. While booking the appointment, they asked me several questions about my income. The income ranges were broad. I do not know much about this company, so I am eager to find out if they are someone with whom I can trust my financial information. After the booking was completed, I was encouraged to watch a video to “prepare” for our meeting. The presenter mentioned that they only accepted income levels beginning at a specified amount and used the phrase “good fit” in the video so many times I didn’t even complete watching it.

I’ve been a thriving woman-owned home-based business for over 20 years. I’ve worked with several Fortune 50 companies, which did not happen due to incompetency or lack of business acumen. After 20 years, I’m more selective in my work. 

I earned my income for the first quarter of this year intentionally. The questionnaire did not involve any inquiries about the number of transactions I conduct, which I presume is significantly lower than most other businesses. I don’t have payroll, which is a time-consuming part of bookkeeping. Neither did they ask about the length of time my business has been operating. I would have been an easy client for this firm. I can afford their rate.

Pre-Screening Potential Clients

I work with several accountants as I help with forensic accounting research. I could be a strong referral base for them by letting them know about my accountant clients who refer business owners who need bookkeeping.

After hearing “good fit” one too many times, I canceled my appointment. The person who had scheduled my appointment contacted me via email. She said she reviewed my website and questionnaire answers and believed her company could assist with my bookkeeping requirements. She requested additional information from me to determine whether we would be a good fit. Oh, that phrase again. We’ve already spent the same amount of time in this exchange that we could have spent conversing in a Zoom call.

Research shows good reasons for qualifying the best-suited type of client for our businesses. However, reading through the results, you will find many ways that experts suggest you determine fit, and most of those require more conversation than this company asked of me before warning me we might not be a good fit.

Reasons for Not Pre-Screening Potential Clients

Reasons for Not Pre-Screening Potential Clients

There is nothing wrong with getting to know a potential client to understand if they will fit into your ideal client avatar.

There are several advantages to not screening potential clients before you get to know them:

Increased client base:

By not pre-screening potential clients, you open yourself up to a larger pool of potential customers.

A larger pool of potential customers can lead to more business and greater profits.

More diverse clients:

When you pre-screen clients, you may unintentionally exclude certain groups of people. By not screening, you can attract a more diverse range of clients, bringing fresh perspectives and ideas to your business.

Increased trust:

When you don't pre-screen potential clients, you show that you trust people to do the right thing. This can increase their trust in you and your business, leading to more positive relationships.

Reduced administrative burden:

Screening potential clients can be time-consuming and expensive. By not screening, you can reduce the administrative burden on your business and focus on other areas that require attention.

More growth opportunities:

By not screening, you may attract clients looking for something unique or different. This can lead to new opportunities for the growth and expansion of your business.

Alternative Methods for Pre-Screening Potential Clients

I agree that prescreening potential clients is a necessary process to ensure that you are working with individuals or organizations that align with your business goals and values.

Here are some unique methods for prescreening potential clients:

Online quizzes:

Create an online quiz that asks questions related to your business goals and values. This can help you assess whether potential clients share similar beliefs and interests.

Initial consultation:

Offer a free initial consultation to potential clients to discuss their needs and goals. This can help you determine if they are a good fit for your business. Personally, I would not make it as apparent as it was in my experience.

Referral program:

Develop a referral program that requires current clients to refer new clients. This can help you attract clients who have already been prescreened by someone who knows your business well.

Social media screening:

Check out potential clients' social media profiles to understand their interests, values, and behavior. This can provide valuable insights into whether they are a good fit for your business.

Collaboration projects:

Consider collaborating on a project or working on a smaller scale with potential clients to test out whether your working styles and values align.

Thoughtful Ways Of Prescreening Potential Clients

To sum up, prescreening potential clients can help you avoid working with individuals or organizations that may not align with your business goals and values. It's essential to approach this process with kindness and respect for potential clients.

Here are some thoughtful ways of prescreening potential clients:

Ask open-ended questions:

Instead of asking yes or no questions, ask open-ended questions that allow potential clients to express themselves fully. This can help you understand their needs and goals better.

Offer helpful resources:

Provide potential clients with helpful resources and information related to your business. This can demonstrate your expertise and build trust with them. In all honesty, the firm did offer me a link to an audio course.

Be transparent:

Communicate your business goals and values to potential clients. This can help them determine if your business is a good fit for their needs and goals. This firm should have offered me information about the ability to keep my information secure, their knowledge about bookkeeping, or why they were asking me the questions.

Use positive language:

Use positive language when communicating with potential clients. This can help build a positive relationship with them, even if they may not be a “good fit” for your business.

Offer referrals:

If potential clients are not a good fit for your business, offer referrals to other companies or organizations that may better meet their needs. This can show that you care about their success, even if it's not with your business.

Remember, businesses prescreening potential clients should do so with kindness and respect. These approaches can help you build positive relationships with potential clients, even if they may not ultimately become clients of your business.

Super Searcher Tools - Audio Transcription Services

Super Searcher Tools ~ Transcription Services

Super Searcher Tools - Audio Transcription Services

Super Searcher Tools - Audio Transcription Services

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With audio and video being so prevalent recently, and the many podcasts being produced, it is becoming necessary to be able to transcribe audio recordings when the content is needed for research projects.

I have recently tried several services by uploading various types of audio which include phone conversations, podcasts, and audio taken from videos. I recorded the audio in three ways:

  • With a Shure microphone, placed on my desktop.
  • With my iPhone 6S Plus, using the app to record, placed next to the computer speaker during a Zoom meeting.
  • With a YouTube video placed next to my external computer speaker.

Some services I tested were free and others require payment.


Descript is an multi-faceted product with capabilities for video editing, screen recording, transcription and more. It's new Overdub feature allows for text to speech voice cloning which lets you create a model of your voice or select from one of their very realistic stock voices.


  • All-in-one product with fast transcription and the ability to remove filler words
  • Studio sound has all drastically improved the quality of my recordings making them have a professional quality
  • Audiogram capability 
  • Automated speaker assignment feature
  • Easy editing similar to MS Word
  • Integrates with other tools such as Zoom to create transcription of meetings
  • Responsive technical support along with a Discord community


  • More features available with paid plans
  • Their nomenclature can be confusing. They use “project” and “collaboration” in different ways than I expect
  • At the time of this writing, it did not work with HD/4K video


Temi is an audio recorder that captures and transcribes recordings for $0.25 / minute. It is a favorite among journalists. Your transcript is synced to your recording so you can review the most important parts of your conversation.


  • Allows file search
  • It provides the ability to adjust playback speed and skip forward and back during playback.
  • Allows trimming.
  • Provides time stamps
  • Accepts all file types for upload
  • Save & export your transcript as MS Word, PDF, SRT, VTT and more.


  • Problems with transmitting
  • Included words that were not in the original audio.
  • Capitalization is not consistent.


Trint is an audio recorder that utilizes artificial intelligence to transcribe files you “drop” into their web-based AI transcription software.


  • The ability to upload from many sources including Dropbox, Google Drive, and FTP or by link.
  • Asks a few helpful questions about background noise, cross-talk and more before the upload begins for better accuracy
  • Speaker identification
  • Sends emails when transcription is ready


  • Included words that were not in the original audio.
  • Capitalization is not consistent.
  • A monthly payment plan is required but plans can be paused.

Happy Scribe

If you're in need of a reliable transcription tool that saves you time and effort, might just be what you're looking for. This online platform allows you to automatically transcribe audio and video files in a matter of minutes, with the added bonus of being able to edit and export the transcriptions in various formats. Whether you're a journalist, researcher, or content creator, can make your life a whole lot easier.


  • Most accurate of all reviewed.
  • Sends emails when transcription is ready.
  • Quick to transcribe compared to other services.


  • Often separates speakers into different paragraphs.
  • Lacks the ability to upload from multiple sources, find and replace text.
  • Not as easy to read as with Trint due to the lack of differentiating speakers.

Google Docs

My favorite free, transcribing solution. It’s free, easy, and requires no fancy apps, artificial intelligence, or downloads—just Google Docs. Google Docs includes a dictation software tool called Voice Typing. It comes pre-installed and requires no plugins. When you speak or audio is played, the tool listens and transcribes into a Google Doc. The feature is intended for people who cannot easily type or who prefer to dictate notes, but it can also be used to cut the time it takes to transcribe an audio recording down to nearly the same time as the recording itself. Basically, I play the recording or meeting (either on my phone or computer) and the Voice Typing tool transcribes the words that are spoken.


  • Shockingly most accurate of all reviewed.
  • You can view the transcription as it is happening.
  • Quick to transcribe compared to other services.
  • FREE


  • Will at times, mischaracterize words and phrases.
  • Not easy to use on a smartphone.
  • You are unable to do anything else on your computer while the transcription is taking place.
What You Should Know If You Are Getting Married

What You Should Know If You Are Getting Married

What You Should Know If You Are Getting Married

What You Should Know If You Are Getting Married

Getting married? The arrival of summer is also the start of the wedding season. Marriage changes many things! Our research shows there are a few things you should know about tax and legal considerations as you are getting ready to tie the knot!

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Couple Taxes

The IRS provides a tax checklist for newly married couples:

Name and address changes:

Name – When a name changes through marriage, it is important to report that change to the Social Security Administration. The name on a person's tax return must match what is on file at the SSA. If it doesn't, it could delay any tax refund. To update information, taxpayers should file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. It is available on, by calling 800-772-1213 or at a local SSA office.

Address – If marriage means a change of address, the IRS and U.S. Postal Service need to know. To do that, people should send the IRS Form 8822, Change of Address. Taxpayers should also notify the postal service to forward their mail by going online at or their local post office.


After getting married, couples should consider changing their withholding. Newly married couples must give their employers a new Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance within 10 days. If both spouses work, they may move into a higher tax bracket or be affected by the additional Medicare tax. They can use the Tax Withholding Estimator on to help complete a new Form W-4. Taxpayers should review Publication 505, Tax Withholding, and Estimated Tax for more information.

Filing status:

Married people can choose to file their federal income taxes jointly or separately each year. While filing jointly is usually more beneficial, it's best to figure the tax both ways to find out which works best. Remember, if a couple is married as of December 31, the law says they're married for the whole year for tax purposes.

When you get married, your tax filing status changes for the whole year. Before you file, take the time to learn the different filing statuses and which one is best for you:

Legal Issues

The writers at Findlaw suggest that it is also always important to check the marriage requirements in your state and/or to speak with a family law attorney because each state is different when it comes to marriage-related issues such as the legal requirements for marriage and the specifics of pre-marital agreements. How many couples do not think of this as they make marriage arrangements?

Legal Marriage Requirements:

Each state has its own requirements for couples wanting to get married, including marriage licenses, blood tests, residency requirements, among others. Make sure you and your future spouse have fulfilled all marriage requirements in your state prior to the big day.

Marriage Ceremonies:

Most states have legal requirements pertaining to the marriage ceremony itself, including who may perform the marriage ceremony (i.e. a justice of the peace or a minister) and whether witnesses to the ceremony are required.

Prenuptial Agreements:

A prenuptial (or “pre-marital”) agreement can help define the property and financial rights and obligations of marrying spouses, including what will happen if the marriage relationship ends. If you're considering entering into a pre-marital agreement, law experts say you should be aware of legal requirements that must be met in order for the agreement to be considered valid and enforceable. More information on prenuptial agreements can be found here.

Changing Your Name After Marriage:

Although neither spouse is legally required to take the other spouse's last name after marriage, many new spouses choose to change their name for traditional and symbolic reasons. There are a number of steps you can take to make a name change quickly and effectively. Here's a list compiled by Findlaw.

Marriage, Money, and Property:

When you get married, your property and finances will (to a certain extent) merge with those of your spouse. You should become familiar with what is and is not considered marital or “community” property, and understand how to keep certain assets as separate property if you wish to do so. Other financial issues to keep in mind before you get married include pre-existing debts and tax considerations.

Related FindLaw Resources

Visit the Findlaw links below for specific information on the following marriage-related topics:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

DNA Strand

What You Should Know Before You Submit Your DNA to Anyone

What You Should Know Before You Submit Your DNA to Anyone



Before you submit your DNA to anyone, we suggest you consider the following.

Forensic science has advanced human knowledge and provided definite benefits in a number of fields. Two commercial DNA analysis companies are using their customers’ genomes to study how genetics determine the severity of COVID-19 symptoms patients experience. The nightly news and plenty of television police dramas remind us of the importance of DNA in crime scene investigation.

Sophisticated genetic analysis was largely responsible for the capture and conviction of the Golden State Killer. Putting a man who committed as many as a dozen murders and 50 rapes no doubt is a happy ending. But the case also raised serious privacy implications that could give genealogists and family tree-tracers pause. If you’re not careful, trying to trace your ethnic composition, trying to find out about potential allergies and susceptibility to certain diseases, or learning if you’re related to Abraham Lincoln or George Clooney could expose you and your family to unwanted scrutiny, suspicion, and harassment.

Genetic Breadcrumbs

Submitting DNA samples to popular sites like 23andMe,, MyHeritage, and FamilyTreeDNA – which, combined, warehouse the chromosomal codes of more than 30 million people – is anything but secure. Compounding matters, uploading your DNA also uploads partial sequences of people related to you. Posting your genome to a commercial database provides a direct link to your parents and siblings and a scent that bloodhounds can follow to more distant relatives and vice versa.

“So, you aren’t just putting your own DNA out there, possibly to be used in police investigations. You’re putting theirs out there too, without necessarily having their consent”, Debbie Kennett, an honorary research associate in the Department of Genetics at University College of London, told The Independent.

That’s how police apprehended the Golden State Killer. Investigators uploaded DNA fragments from the serial killer’s crime scenes to a website that aggregates results from the commercial testing services. The site compared them to millions of voluntarily submitted samples and led police to several people who shared some of those DNA sequences because they are somehow related to the suspect. Those results led them to other relatives and greater DNA similarities until they narrowed their search to Joseph James DeAngelo. He was a perfect match, and the cops had their man.

It’s not hard to imagine law enforcement badgering relatives of people they consider suspects to surrender their DNA for comparison.

Other Hazards


Sending the police to call on your Aunt Eloise isn’t the only potential collateral damage commercial DNA testing can incur


 • Scams – There are limits to what DNA can reveal, but some less-than-scrupulous companies may not make that clear. They may make sweeping generalizations about a person’s ideal diet, athletic ability, or other physical attributes. Relying on these dubious claims as the basis for nutrition, exercise regimens, or dating targets is destined to prove foolhardy.

• Identity Theft – Security measures increasingly are using biometrics and genetic traits to prevent identity theft. But crooks are just as quick to find ways around these measures. GEDmatch – the same company that played an unwitting role in the Golden State Killer’s capture – recently reported a “sophisticated attack” that exposed the DNA profiles on its servers to police perusal for several hours. The next attack might make give access to the shadowy figures lurking on the dark web.

• Secrets Exposed – Because DNA reveals familial relations, people researching their heritage may accidentally find out their dad is not really their dad. One family man was taken aback when a young woman reached out to him only days after he submitted his DNA for testing. She was his daughter, conceived with sperm he donated more than two decades before. She had tracked him down through a donor profile and her own DNA-matching skills. He has since made contact with nearly 20 more offspring conceived the same way.
Unlike undergoing a DNA test in a hospital or clinic, trusting a consumer testing service forfeits HIPAA protections. “[With] genetic data that’s generated outside of the health care setting, there’s a relatively low baseline of protection, and that’s provided generally by the Federal Trade Commission,” Dr. James Hazel, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Genetic Privacy, told the New York Times. “So, the Federal Trade Commission…has the ability to police unfair and deceptive business practices across all industries. Other than that, there are
really no laws in the United States that apply…”

Attempt to Protect Yourself

While there are no guarantees, you can safeguard your DNA privacy by using only large companies whose names you recognize. Stick with 23andMe,, and a few other industry leaders.

Also, read the user agreements and opt-out of any services that make you uncomfortable or may yield too many clues to your identity. Some vendors ask permission to use samples for academic studies. They always strip away names and other identifiers, but there’s still the chance for human error.

Some companies offer to store your DNA for retesting if and when technologies advance to the point where a reexamination could lend additional insights. You may prefer your sample to be destroyed after mapping.

Finally, all leading sites offer the option of deleting your information from their databases. See the specific services’ websites for information. Regulations may require the sites to keep some information, but it will not be used or searched after you revoke permission.  Follow-up with them later to ensure they actually deleted your information.

Here are some additional stories that have been published before and after our initial writing of this article:

The 2020 Census and Your Privacy ~ What You Should Know

The 2020 Census is coming! In exactly one month, households will begin receiving official Census Bureau mail with detailed info on how to respond to the Census online, by phone, or by mail. The online and telephone response options are available starting March 12.

More than 1,000 advertisements designed to reach 99% of U.S. households will advertise the coming of the census in English and 12 other languages over the next couple of months.

You may be surprised to learn that the U.S. Constitution requires the government to count every person living in the country once a decade.

The report compiled using census statistics is called the American Community Survey (ACS). The American Community Survey (ACS) is the premier source for detailed population and housing information about the United States.

How Census Data is Used

Modern census facts and figures are commonly used for research, business marketing, and planning. The changes over time can cause a ripple effect. Info from the census survey gets broken down to a neighborhood-like level.

The census may show that the population is migrating from large cities to the suburbs and smaller cities which will affect consumer preferences.

Homebuilders, police departments, and town and city planners are among the many private- and public-sector decision-makers who count on these annual results to plan services and policies: from building roads,2 deciding where highways are expanded, building power plants to attracting jobs and planning emergency evacuations. These statistics help determine how federal funding is spent on infrastructure and services. As an example, the ACS contains many questions related to housing. These include the age of your home, its plumbing, its insurance costs, and the type of heating fuel used.  

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and the Mortgage Bankers Association are just a few of the dozen organizations that have previously lobbied to protect the ACS, saying it's vital for developing business investment.

About 3.5 million households participate in the ACS, with the respondents picked at random and scattered around the country in a way designed to capture the full extent of the diversity. The response rate is 97 percent, so only three of every 100 people contacted refuse to cooperate. Info from the survey gets broken down to a neighborhood-like level.

As a researcher, I and therefore, my clients, have been a beneficiary of the statistics gathered in each Census. I use industry reports quite often to help clients who want to learn about a market into which they may be entering. I have used census statistics to help clients determine where or whether to build schools, plan school bus routes, and prepare school superintendents for the future of their districts.

What to Expect

You probably have already received a letter in the mail. Those who decide not to respond will most likely receive a follow-up phone call from a Census employee. You may also have someone come to your home to interview you.

To increase convenience and save money, the ACS also is available to complete online. You still have the option of a paper questionnaire or phone interview.

In the past, the Census has called people on their cell phones. You may be surprised that the unanswered questionnaire mailed to you will ask about your investment income and utility bills (a Census question since 1940). you may also be disturbed by questions about the location of your children's school and the pattern of your commute to work (an avenue of Census inquiry that started in 1960).

Skipping a Census question

Refusing to answer any census question is against the law and could be costly. The census law (Title 13, United States Code, Section 224), coupled with the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (Title 18, Sections 3551, 3559, and 3571), provides for penalties of up to $5,000 for failure to report, and $10,000 for intentionally providing false information, the bureau separately says online, citing Section 3571 of Title 18.


Although the Census provides useful statistical information about a population, the availability of this information can sometimes lead to abuses, political or otherwise, by the linking of individuals' identities to anonymous census data. This is particularly important when individuals' census responses are made available at detailed levels. Still, even aggregate-level data can result in privacy breaches when dealing with small areas and rare subpopulations.

For instance, when reporting data from a large city, it might be appropriate to give the average income for minority females aged between 30 and 50. However, doing this for a town that only has two minority females in this age group would be a breach of privacy because either of those persons, knowing her income and the reported average, could determine the other woman's pay.

Persons concerned about the privacy of their answers should know that, under federal law, all employees and officials of the Census Bureau are prohibited from sharing a person's personal information with anyone else, including welfare agencies, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service, courts, police, and the military. Violation of this law carries penalties of $5,000 in fines and up to five years in prison.

What To Do to Protect your Privacy

There isn't much you can do. This article from NPR reports that for the first time, personal information from federal and state records, such as tax returns and Medicaid applications, as well as public utility records will be used to fill in the blanks on 2020 census forms.

We can see from the recent news that our data is pretty likely to be breached at some point in the future. Considering all of the computers and databases which will be used to compile the census data and all the agencies with connecting networks using the information, it could be just a matter of time..

In a study conducted by two students at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, who explored data leaks for their final project in Privacy and Technology, they showed that a cybercriminal doesn’t have to have a specific victim in mind. They can now search for victims who meet a certain set of criteria. The census information can help criminals find that data.

For example, in less than 10 seconds one of the students produced a dataset with more than 1,000 people who have a high net worth, are married, have children, and also have a username or password on a cheating website. Another query pulled up a list of senior-level politicians, revealing the credit scores, phone numbers, and addresses of three U.S. senators, three U.S. representatives, the mayor of Washington, D.C., and a Cabinet member.

Steps You Can Take

One thing you should not do is lie (it's a crime) and don't provide false answers. Remember if you pay property taxes or utility bills, your residence is not unknown to the government. Complete your form because not completing it is against the law as well although a lesser crime than lying. Drawing attention to yourself by breaking the law will not be helpful. A chart of response rates from shows that they do have a maximum contact attempt rate so they do keep trying to reach you.

Do use a Voice Over Internet ( VOIP) number such as Google Voice when asked for a phone number. Don't use your cell phone number.

In the article entitled “How to Protect Yourself After a Data Breach, it is suggested that we “Follow the news. It is not a bad idea to type “data breach” into Google News once a day to see who the latest company has been. Then if you shopped at that store or restaurant, or provided your information on the site, you know to be extra vigilant about your credit card activity.”


Avoiding Confirmation Bias

Avoiding Confirmation Bias When Conducting Research


Browsing around your Facebook feed or doing a few searches on Google, you may notice that a lot of the posts and search results appear to be the same. The algorithms used by big tech companies are able to filter out the noise you don’t want to hear and really focus in on the topics and opinions that interest you. Not the worst thing, right? You know what you like and you’re happy to get more of it.

Maybe not.
When you’re only hearing one side of an argument or seeing endless new stories written on one angle, you can start to fall victim to a phenomenon called confirmation bias. If you’ve never heard the term, confirmation bias is a distortion of the truth that occurs when you over or underestimate certain information based on previously-held opinions. In short, if you see a whole lot of something you’re more likely to believe it as fact, whether it is or not. For example, those touting climate change as a fad often quote the scientific minority or even those outside of the scientific community. They also seem to somehow miss all the leading experts on the subject and discount any research pointing toward climate change.

Recently, I conducted some research about how research contributes to better decision making. As I expected, I was able to find several articles that confirmed this and I was ecstatic. However, soon I encountered an academic article with

Confirmation bias is something that affects all of us but until now, few people have considered what effect it may have on content marketing specifically. Are you thinking critically about your audience and what they’re looking for? What about the data you’re getting back – are you cherry picking data to fit a previously held belief about content success?

Writing in Forbes Magazine, content marketing mogul Jayson DeMers told us how this trend affects our efforts, and what we can do to overcome it.

Content targeting

When planning or writing content, you may make assumptions about the target audience that are wide of the mark. This can result in important information being ignored, or buyer behaviors assumed, leading to less relevant content.

Raw data analysis

If you already have an assumption for how well a marketing campaign should be doing, you’re likely to pick out figures from raw analytics data that back up this perspective rather than ones that provide a true overview.

Company branding

Taking a snapshot of your company from social media (including hyperbolas negative or positive comments that align with your opinion) isn’t likely to paint an accurate picture, resulting in you taking the wrong action.

DeMers recommends adopting a more scientific approach to overcome confirmation bias. In his article, he suggests treating everything as an experiment, wiping your mind clean of any prior hypotheses, seeking to disprove yourself and collating data/opinion from multiple sources.