Monthly Archives: February 2017

Breach Brief – Arby’s

Eaten at an Arby’s lately? Well now is a good time to check your bank and credit card statements. Arby’s Restaurant Group reported that some of the payments systems at 1,000 corporate owned stores have been breached.

According to KrebsOnSecurity the chain did not immediately release the information to the public by request of the FBI. PSCU  credit union issued an alert to member banks saying the incident occurred between October 25, 2016, and January 19, 2017, and compromised more than 355,000 credit and debit cards from both Visa and MasterCard. Arby’s says as soon as the breach was uncovered it took immediate steps to fully eradicate the malware on point-of-sale systems. The investigation is ongoing.

Last year fast food restaurant Wendy’s was also hit by a serious breach. Becasue the malware could not be fully removed from the company’s systems customers accounts were repeatedly compromised. As a result banks and credit unions were forced re-issue payment cards multiple times.

Christopher Fuller, Arby’s senior vice president of communications said of the breach, “Although there are over 1,000 corporate Arby’s restaurants, not all of the corporate restaurants were affected. But this is the most important point: That we have fully contained and eradicated the malware that was on our point-of-sale systems.”

Facebook Fights Ad Discrimination


Facebook is fighting back against advertisers that discriminate. The world’s largest social media website has been severely criticized for its ethnic affinity advertising tool. The technology, while not intended to be used as a discrimination tool, has been used for just that. Ethnic affinity has been used to advertise for jobs, housing and financial services carefully targeted to eliminate certain groups from seeing the ad. 

Ethnic affinity works by allowing advertisers to craft ads targeted to highy specific audiences. As a result many advertisers were using it to block the ads from being seen by minorities and other groups. The tool can weed out people by profiles that includes specifics such as race, gender, age, favorite movies, food preferences and geography.

The issue became known in early 2016 and lawmakers, civil rights groups and other advocates quickly pounced. The tool apparently violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits this type of discrimination.

Facebook annouced in November of last year it was going to makes changes to the policies that govern the use of the tool. Facebook’s  policies “make it clear that advertisers may not discriminate against people based on personal attributes such as race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, disability, medical or genetic condition.” The company also announced that will help educate advertisers on anti-discrimination practices.

Facebook also annouced that it will use machine learning technology together with the new policies.  The technology will help identify advertisers that exclude users who show interest in African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic content on the site.

Facebook will still offer the ethnic affinity tool but ads offering housing, employment, and credit opportunities that include or exclude certain demographic groups will be disapproved. Ads  targeted toward another audience section will be prompted to certify that the advertisement complies with the new policy. Advertisers will have the ability to request a manual review of ads that get flagged under the new rules.

Breaking It Down

This is a great step by Facebook but discrmination is not so easily discouraged or defeated. The whole idea of advertsing is to reach a desired audience. But stereotypes are inherent in the mind of all people. This leads to the idea that certain groups are racially or culturally inadequate for a certain product or service. Permitting the marketer to specify who he wants to do business with is not exactly wrong. However, allowing the advertiser to exclude people based on inherent biases is wrong and creates the type of second class citizen that the Civil Rights Act was meant to eliminate.  This is a tough situation for Facebook and I respect their reaction. But, in all honesty, we as society need to to continue to work on how we see one another. Maybe social media can help. Maybe not. But one thing for sure, at least Facebook has not shied away from the fight.

New FCC Chair Scrutinizing Lifeline Program

Trump appointed Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai is rolling back some of his predecessors actions. The new chairman has already begun to make changes to programs that help schools and low income families. Arguing that the the FCC’s Lifeline program is riddled by fraud, waste and abuse he has shut down a small expansion to the program. Lifeline discounts $9.25 per month off broadband or phone services for households near or beneath the poverty line. Pai claimed last year that the program loses around $476 million annually to waste. Others disagree with these numbers. But the statement highlights Pai’s concerns with the program.

Broadband service providers have to apply to the commission before offering these subsidies to customers. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler had extended the program to nine more providers. Pai  has decided to delay their approval until changes are made to the program. However there is no threat the Lifeline program is being eliminated. Currently there 900 companies participating in the Lifeline program. Most are offering subsidized phone or Internet services and some are offering both.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

According to Pai the system needs to be tweaked to prevent companies from enrolling people who are not eligible.

In addition to his rollback of the Lifeline program, the FCC has also withdrew a progress report on the expansion of E-rate. E-Rate is a program that subsidizes broadband and computer equipment for  low income school districts. Changes could be coming to this program as well. The commission has not commented on future plans to revisit the Lifeline and E-rate proceedings.

But the question remains whether Pai’s changes will legitimately fight abuse or will the FCC make it harder for legitimate low-income households and school districts to participate.

One of the major problems of the digital age is what has become known as the digital divide. This is the gap between those that can afford high speed acess to the Internet for things like education and those who cannot. This socio-economic group, made up of mostly minority households, maybe left behind in the age of information. Being left out out of the Internet revolution has some serious consequences. 

Schools and education suffer because of lack of high speed Internet access. According to a Pew Foundation study 56 percent of teachers in low income schools say that their student’s inadequate access to technology is a ‘major challenge’ for using technology as a teaching aid.  Only 18 percent said their students had adequate access at home. Urban teachers are more likely to say students have poor access to Internet at school, while rural teachers are more likely to report that students have poor access at home. This issue creates a class of students who are unabe to fully particiate in a technology based economy. 

Today’s workforce requires technology skills but the lack of these skills, practiced at school and home, creates a disadvantage in the search for jobs. The digital divide increases the difficulty of finding a job. This means it lowers not only the chance of finding a suitable job but also the ability to secure a decent income.

Most employers recieve job applications online. But this method creates inequality among job seekers by dividing them into two classes, those who are computer literate, and those who are not. These workers lack knowledge of Internet based information and communication tools. People caught on the wrong side of the digital divide with no access to the Internet lack the technology and digital skills that the modern workplace requires. All these factors create a class of people who are locked in poverty caused by low wages and inadequate education.

A good example is the city of Detroit, MI. This city is stricken by poverty among urban blacks who simply cannot afford computers and Internet access. According to the FCC Detroit has the worst rate of Internet access of any major American city. Four in 10 of its 689,000 residents lack broadband Internet access.

Detroit is not alone. Among the worst cities for Internet connectivity are Cleveand, OH, Memphis, TN, Birmingham, AL and Miami FL. These are the people that federal programs like E-rate and Lifeline is intended to help.

Now you know

 

Pre-Paid Cell Providers Offering More Data

More and cheaper data is coming your way. Pre-paid cell phone providers are boosting the amount of data you can get but not boosting the price. Right now the cellular phone service market is a brutal, cut throat game. New customers are hard to come by and new technologies, small providers and competition makes it hard to increase prices. Its just a tough business to be in right now.

U.S. Cellular is a regional provider of pre-paid cell phone service but even so, it is the fifth largest cell provider in the country. The company’s Simple Connect Prepaid $45 monthly plan boosts the available data from 1GB to to 3GB.  Their $60 monthly plan also gets a boost from 5GB to 6GB. The companyis also offering a new plan that is $75  a month that includes 12GB of high-speed data.

U.S. Cellular also offers the Ready Connect Prepaid plan. Only Walmart and Dollar General store sell these plans. Customers can pay $45 for 4GB, $55 for 8GB and a $75 plan than offers 12GB of high-speed data.  If you enroll for auto-pay you take off another $5 off the $45 and $55 monthly plans, or $10 off the $75 plan.

Cricket Wireless is also at the data boosting party. On January 27th Cricket boosted high-speed data allowances for several of its plans. The new plans offer customers with the basic $40 a month plan and the $60 a month plan data boosts to 3GB and 12GB. Thats only a half a gig for the $40 plan but 2 GB for the $60 plan.

Cricket is also going to retain an existing promotion that upped the data limit from 5GB to 8GB for its $50 a month. From now on 8GB will be Crickets’s standard at that price level. Like U.S. Cellular if you enroll in auto pay you save $5 a month.

For the record its not a concidence that two pre-paid phone companies are offering data increases at the same time. Its actually about timing. According to U.S. Cellular Vice President of Brand Management, “February and March are popular months for prepaid wireless purchases, so our updated plans provide an even better experience to our current customers as well as any consumers looking for a better prepaid deal.”

Cell phone service does not have to be expensive. But you have to shop around, know your needs and your budget. A smart consumer can get the phone and the service plan for the price they are looking for if they just do a little homework.

The website Android Police did a little leg work for you. They found that MetroPCS is the cheapest cell  carrier offering a $30 a month plan that comes with 1GB of data. The cheapest prepaid providers are T-Mobile and Boost. The carriers tied for the cheapest with $30/month plans. But here is the catch, T-Mobile doesn’t advertise the plan it some of the compnaies reps don’t even know it exists. Android Police also warns against buying any kind of family plan. Apparently you can save money by just getting the  individual planes with more data. Check out “The Cheapest Cell Phone Plans in America”

We know in this country there are the truly needy. And no one should be isolated from the world because they can’t pay a phone bill. SafeLink Wireless offers free cell phone service for those less fortunate.  User can get a phone and 500 minutes absolutely free and free text messaging.

Now you know.

Celebrity Cyber Report – Ludacris

Ludachris


Rapper Ludacris
is introducing a new mobile word game that recognizes slang.

The Grammy-winning rapper hooked up with Edwin Benton to drop  Slang N’ Friendz. The phone based game “gives players of all ages the chance to communicate using their favorite words by incorporating a dictionary database of slang words compiled from across the globe.”

Slang N’ Friendz recognizes words that are commonly thought of as slang. The free game is meant to encourage players to use both traditional as well as more hip words. The game is meant to remain up to date with both cultural and traditional language changes because there are nearly no rules and players can customize and even add new words to the game’s database.

Benton, the CEO and founder of Slang N’ Friendz said of the game, “Our goal is to provide users with a fun, compelling and un-intimidating word game where they can be themselves, learn and represent where they come from. Our purpose is to connect people across the world and allow users to engage with someone they wouldn’t normally meet. Slang is universal and could be the driving factor that brings us together and one day, possibly change the world.”

Getting the game is fairly simple just download the free app and get connected to players all over the globe. Players can choose to play against anybody with the app, a friend, or even on your own. Similar to Scrabble, Words with Friends, or other popular word games, you will be able to place your given letter tiles on a board to form a word. The difference with Slang N’ Friendz is what exactly is as a word?

“In a time when so much of the world is divided, technology has the opportunity to bring us together. Slang N’ Friendz encourages users to connect, be friendly and identify what they have in common through language,” Ludacris said. “It’s also a chance for different generations to learn about each other’s unique forms of communication and find ways to use language to bridge generation gaps.”

Ludacris, aka Christopher Bridges, is not new to the tech game. He first jumped in in September 2015 when he dropped the delivery app Roadie to get into the emerging peer-to-peer shipping market. Ludacris, like many black artists and athletes, understand that technology is the future and are aware of the huge benefits of investing in that sector. 

Being a savvy business man Ludacris has continued to invest in tech companies but won’t show his hand by telling his business. 

Slang N’ Friendz is available for  Apple and Android devices

Breaking It Down

This is a powerful idea that has great potential and I think Ludicris and Benton get it. We live in an age, especially in the United States, where cultural changes are often reflected in the language.  Learning and understanding this dynamic leads to less misunderstanding of not only words but intentions. Young people adapt to linguistic changes and quickly incorporate then into everyday conversation. Its called slang. But slang takes on a life of its own and becomes part of everyday speech. You feel me? Playing Slang N’ Friendz is buildng a bridge not just across generations, but cultures and even oceans. Some might feel I am pumping this game up but I’m just being real with you.