Is Your Information Safe Online?
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Do you know all the ways that you’re being tracked through the Internet and your smartphone? Data aggregators, including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and more, are tracking everything you do. Are you okay with that?
When we post things online, perform web searches, and write emails, many of us assume that that information is private. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The information that is found through this mining is stored on a database and with the right resources, this information can be pulled together and given to those interested.
Reported in the New York Times article, “The Web Means the End of Forgetting,” such a thing happened to Stacy Snyder, a 25-year-old student teacher who in 2008 posted a picture of herself drunk on her MySpace page. Because of that photo, the university denied her degree just weeks before her impending graduation. She’s not the only one. Others have lost jobs for posting negative things on Facebook about their jobs. Some companies even require you to login to Facebook before they will hire you. Suddenly, there’s no disconnect between your personal life and your professional life; the Internet is bridging the gap.
Apps Tracking What You Do
But it’s not just the Internet that is tracking what you do. Apps that you put on your phone can track you as well. For example, Pandora reportedly asks you to give it permission to track your location. Many apps ask for this; it makes sense for a map app or for one that helps you find cheap gas near where you’re at. But why would Pandora need to know where you are?
Other apps are doing even worse. Researchers analyzed 10,000 apps for Android cell phones and found that 8 percent of them ask users for access to the International Mobile Equipment Identity number, a unique code given to each cell phone. There is no reason these apps would need this unique identifier.
Is It Possible to Be Private Online?
In an interview with Tom Ashbrook on Boston’s NPR station, Michael Fertik privacy advocate and CEO of Reputation.com, shared the idea that there needs to be a barrier between us and the companies that we interact with.
So if you want to go on Netflix and indicate which movies you like and what you don’t like, it’s anonymous. Instead of connecting these preferences to our real names, it would be connected to something like user10537. So it is possible, but will it happen?
For now, be careful about what you post online and check the privacy settings on all social media websites.
Roqbot Promises to be the Jukebox Reborn
In many ways, the jukebox hasn’t been a relevant or practical item for quite a few years now. Even before the advent of the iPod, many establishments that once used them prominently suddenly started preferring TV sets and house music to stand in for the old nickelodeon. Yet even though time has diminished the prominence of the jukebox, it has only added to the machine’s mystique. When imagining any good old time diner or gin joint, the jukebox is sure to spring to mind in its home right in the corner, as some classic tune frames another undisputed image of Americana.
It was only a matter of time, though, before the idea of a musical public centerpiece entered the digital age in full effect, and now it appears that thanks to a smartphone app called Roqbot, that time has come.
The idea is that a restaurant, bar or other type of patron establishment will register themselves as a Roqbot location and install a corresponding system. You can even help your favorite local joint become a member by recommending them on the Facebook campaign, “Jukebox Reborn,” Then, you can use your smartphone to check in to the affiliated location and see what’s playing, help create set lists, recommend the music, and even check out specials and other information about the place, thus allowing customers to truly set the music selection of their favorite hangouts like never before.
It’s an idea that’s time has come, and depending on the participation of venues and users, is one that could become popular fast. But I can’t help but lament that this is a clear sign the days of jukeboxes are truly done. Yes, their selection is very limited, and they’re extremely bulky and prone to break down, but besides the romantic aspect of seeing one, there is the fun of flipping through the sheets and finding that perfect song, or just knowing the number of your favorite by heart.
Also, the limited selection of a jukebox helps to truly define a good bar. I take comfort in knowing a little hole in the wall whose jukebox is loaded with Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and Eric Clapton because I know that for the cost of some quarters, I have found a safe haven from club beats and dance music, and am around common souls whose heads start to nod and feet start to tap as the music fills the room, letting me know it was a good selection. I don’t know if an unlimited public playlist selection can offer that same kind of community.
But hey, maybe I’m just an old fashioned.
Even if the Roqbot is the wave of the future, though, I’m still going to go down to my favorite dives and give a quarter of tribute to one of the most pure fun inventions of all time.
Verizon abandons new fees
Public pressure can build quickly in the social media age. Verizon tried to push through a new $2 fee and ended up with a PR nightmare.
Verizon Wireless bowed to a torrent of criticism on Friday and reversed a day-old plan to impose a $2 bill-paying fee that would have applied to only some customers.
The consumer vitriol, which cascaded across Twitter and onto blogs and petitions all around the Web, struck a chord with a company that was clearly not expecting it.
“The company made the decision in response to customer feedback about the plan, which was designed to improve the efficiency of those transactions,” Verizon Wireless said in a statement referring to the reversal.
Everything is changing, as consumers have real power now with social media.
Google launches Google+
It’s been a long time coming, but Google has finally made a serious entry into the social media market. It took three attempts – you remember Wave and Buzz right? No? That’s okay, no one does – but it looks like Google may finally have a winner on its hands.
Still, Google+ has a long way to go. The service has launched to a relatively small group of users and continue to be limited by invites, but that could provide the kind of hype Google wants for a new service. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote about the service for Bullz-Eye:
One of the coolest parts of Google+ is Hangout, which allows users to jump into text and video chat rooms with customizable accessibility. It’s a product that could easily punch a hole in Skype and become an amazing productivity tool. That’s especially true for the companies that have made the transition to Google’s online products.
Sparks, on the other hand, is the service’s big flop. It’s meant to be some sort of social news feed, but it’s cumbersome instead of sleek, slow instead of fast, and skimpy where it should be overflowing with information. Sparks actually surprises me in its shortcomings. Google has mountains of information about me. I’m always signed in to its email service, I use the search engine exclusively, I have an Android phone, I use Google Reader on a daily basis, and I’m writing this article in Google Docs. Why is it so hard for me to get a decent feed on Sparks?
For the rest of the article, head over to the Bullz-Eye Gadgets channel.
Did Facebook already peak?
There’s more talk than usual about Facebook these days, thanks to the big investment from Goldman-Sachs that could lead to an IPO this year. As investment opportunity looms large for the social giant, a lot of people are carefully examining the company to see whether or not it’s worth dropping some cash on shares.
There’s a lot to read, and while some of it is virtually useless (sorry, I don’t care whether 50 Cent thinks Facebook is worth $50 billion or not), there are a couple of standout articles. The most interesting I found was an article on CNN, in which Douglas Rushkoff compares the potential Facebook IPO to the AOL/Time Warner merger. It sounds a little off base, until you see just what Rushkoff is talking about.
Here’s a peek:
Indeed, 11 years ago this week, when AOL announced its $350 billion merger with Time Warner, I was asked to write an OpEd for the New York Times explaining what the deal between old and new media companies really meant. I said that AOL was cashing in its over-valued dotcom stock in order to purchase a stake in a “real” media company with movie studios, theme parks and even cable. In short, the deal meant AOL knew their reign was over.
The Times didn’t run the piece. Of course, the merger turned out to be a disaster: AOL’s revenue stream was reduced to a trickle as net users ventured out onto the Web directly.
Rushkoff goes on to cite other examples of overvaluation in the tech sector and makes a compelling case against a Facebook boom.
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Tags: facebook, facebook investment, facebook ipo, facebook overvaluation, facebook shares, facebook valuation, goldman sachs, investment, tech bubble, tech valuation
Facebook serving as an election predictor?
There’s some interesting data around this year’s election results and the number of people who became “fans” of the winning candidates on Facebook. According to All Facebook, 74 percent of the House and 81 percent of the Senate victories were accurately predicted by the number of fans the winning candidates received.
Obviously this stat is a bit anecdotal without all the supporting evidence required to back it up (Did the fans actually vote? Did they vote for that candidate? etc.), but it’s interesting to see how Facebook engages the political spectrum. So much of what happens on Facebook is drivel, but everyone has that friend, you know, the one constantly sending you cause invites and voting reminders and all that. Those people, at least in my experience, tend to behave the same way in public – constantly talking politics and causes, so maybe it’s not so different.
At any rate, give a looksee to All Facebook and their awesome election tracker for more intimate details on each race and the Facebook correlation.
Twitter starts in-stream advertising
Here’s some big news. Twitter started running in-stream ads at some point this week. It’s a big deal because it’s so insanely intrusive. I’m not a Twitter user, but I do check a few accounts here and there, and I would hate to see this kind of crap show up on a regular basis.
As you can see from the photo (which comes from Allen Stern at Center Networks), Twitter inserted an ad in between actual tweets from users, calling it a “promoted tweet.” I don’t really have a problem with these things showing up in search results, but in my own feed? How often will I have to see them? Can I opt out? Will that be a ‘Twitter Pro’ feature?
Whatever the case, it’s a shitty move by Twitter.