Tag Archives: samsung

Celebrity Cyber Report – JayZ, Kanye West and Tidal Music Streaming

JayZ continues to show that he still is a hip-hop force and businessman to be reckoned with. The rapper/businessman’s most recent release, 4:44, has gone platinum in less than a week. JayZ’s album was released on his Tidal music streaming service last week via the link 444.tidal.com.  JayZ’s partner and co-owner Sprint also released the album exclusively to Sprint customers.

But is this news real or fake? According to SPIN.com and Billboard.com all may not be as it appears. According to these industry websites Sprint may have played a role in the achievement by giving away the album for free. But a sale is a sale according to an RIAA spokesperson who said that “sales count toward certification if it’s either purchased by an individual or a business that purchases the release and offers it to customers.” So the bottom line seems to be that the album did achieve platinum status but not as a result of direct sales to fans. Either way it is considered a platinum album. This is not the first time that JayZ has used business smarts to achieve a platinum album. JayZ sold the first one million copies of his 2013Magna Carta Holy Grail” album to Samsung. Samsung, like Sprint, offered the album free to its customers. And for the record this is JayZ’s 17th platinum album more than any other hip-hop artist.

But even with this good news it seems that all is not well in JayZ’s world. Even though the album went platinum in days many fans were left out of the frenzy. New subscribers to Tidal were not permitted to download the album as they expected. According to Variety.com the album was only available to current Tidal subscribers and Sprint customers. It took 72 hours but the so called “glitch” was fixed and new subscribers were able to download the album.

Now, his friend and fellow hip-hop legend Kanye West  is not happy with Tidal. Reports have surfaced that Kanye maybe leaving the music streaming service due to a money dispute. TMZ reported that Kanye has terminated his contract with Tidal.

According to Kanye West Jay Z’s streaming service owes him almost $3 million and is in breach of contract. Kanye’s lawyer says he out but Tidal is refusing to recognize that termination and has threatened to sue.

Kanye joined Tidal after its 2015 launch making him one of the first artists to do so. The 2016 albumThe Life of Pablo” was released exclusively on Tidal. The album was the first ever to go platinum through streaming alone. According to West the release brought Tidal 1.5 million new subscribers. According to TMZ that number was supposed to come with a nice bonus check. West is apparently still waiting. West also claims Tidal failed to pay up for exclusive music videos. According to Tidal Kanye never produced the videos. Kanye says he will provide the videos when he is paid what he is owed. And so and so on.

How to Safely Buy a Used Smartphone

African-Americans rely heavily in their smartphones. We use these devices for everything from email to banking to reinforcing our faith.  So buying used technology like a smartphone, laptop or tablet could be a disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing. Saving money is the objective for African-Americans but saving yourself some headaches ranks right up there as well.

How should black people buy used technology? What should we be looking for? How do we avoid scams and just outright junk?

First of all stay away from Craigslist.  I am not saying you can’t get some good deals but Craigslist is crawling with scam artists. Why take the chance? Look into refurbished products. The refurbished technology market is a great place to shop and many of the tech devices are factory refurbished. This means that they are repaired and re-conditioned by the maker to their standards. And many come with the proper guarantees and warranties to ease your fears. Some products you find on the refurbished market are simply returns that have never been used. Others had minor damage from shipping or were flawed and repaired for re-sale.

You probably know that a new smartphone could run you as much as $750 for the new top of the line models.  As a matter of fact Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 8 smartphone will break the bank at over $900. You can sometimes get a discount on a new phone by signing a contract but you still pay in the long run.

As I said, the best kind of used smartphone is a refurbished phone. They are fully tested, factory reset, and certified. Buying a refurbished phone, usually last year’s model, is close to the experience of buying a new phone. Let’s be real, there are often minor upgrades to this years model over last year’s. But the price difference can be hundreds of dollars. And do you need all the fancy tricks, bells and whistles anyway?

Buying a refurbished iPhone from Apple is a great move. Apple takes great care and pride in it’s used products.  For example, your used iPhone will have a new battery, the outer case will look and feel brand new and probably is. It will come in a brand new box with all the needed accessories. All that and a one year warranty. Try that on Craigslist!

If possible always buy directly from the manufacturer or certified re-seller. These companies are highly motivated to sell problem free used products.

So where do you buy factory refurbished smartphones? Try Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, Samsung, or Walmart.   Also check eBay and Blinq.com.

If you buy a used phone from another source make sure you follow these tips.

  • Check the device throughly for damage and functionality. Make sure it works as it should. Sort of take it for a test drive.
  • Check for tell tale signs of it being stolen like being unable to unlock it or not having accessories like the charging cord.
  • Check for contacts, messages and photos on board. This may indicate the phone was lost or stolen.
  • Apple iPhone comes with several apps that can only be deleted through jail breaking. These apps are camera, photos, music, clock, settings, messages, phone, mail, Safari, App Store, weather, reminders, calculator, calendar, iTunes, Newsstand, videos, Compass, Game Center, contacts, stocks, voice memos, Notes, Passbook and Maps. If any of these are missing don’t buy!
  • Search the iPhone for “Cydia.” This application is present on almost all jailbroken iPhones as it gives access to Cydia apps.
  • Connect your iPhone to your computer and use the iTunes “Restore” function. Once the restore process is complete, you can be certain your phone is not jailbroken.
  • Never buy a phone that is not fully charged.
  • Finally the U.S .wireless industry trade group, CTIA, has launched a tool called the Stolen Phone Checker, which lets you look up whether a phone has been reported lost or stolen. You simply go to the website and enter the IMEI, MEID or ESN number. Keep in mind that these companies keep a database of stolen phones and will not allow the phone to connect to any service if it is reported stolen.
If you want to buy an unlocked phone capable of being used on any service then you may want to check into Amazon. The ‘sell you anything’ company is expanding its unlocked phone marketplace.  Unlocked phones are a growing market because people want to save money and have the flexibility to go with any service they desire. And let’s not forget that many carriers are no longer offering the subsidies and free phones with a contract like they used to.
 
 Now you know.
 
 

 

 

Sprint Buys a Piece of Tidal

Cellphone carrier Sprint just dropped $200 million on JayZ for a nice chunk of his Tidal music streaming service.

JayZ purchased Tidal in 2015 for the purpose of getting artist a greater share of the music royalties. He was effective in getting numerous artists to join the service including his wife Beyonce. But his investment seemed to turn sour from day one as Tidal encountered one crisis after another. The service has been mired in lawsuits from various artists including the Prince estate. Tidal has also been accused of falsifying the number of  subscribers. Several executives have been fired or resigned. And to top it all off the service has yet to turn a profit.

It appears that after two years of negotiations Sprint has made a substantial investment in Tidal. For their $200 million Sprint takes a 33 percent stake in the company. That cash will help shore up Tidal which has had problems paying music labels. For almost a year Tidal has been looking for a partner and briefly flirted with both Apple and Samsung before Sprint returned to the table.

For Sprint the deal could be used as an incentive to grow its subcribers by offering access to early tickets sales or private shows from some of Tidal’s artist/owners. This type of incentive has worked with other cell carriers. This not new territory for Sprint which partnered with Spotify for bundle offerings within its “Framily plans” in 2014.

According to Billboard.com the additional cash will allow Tidal to create of a $75 million marketing fund for Tidal artist exclusives and initiatives. This initiative could mean more exclusive releases coming to Tidal in 2017 along with more concerts and music videos. Billboard.com estimates Tidal’s market value to be nearly $600 million.

Officially Sprint and Tidal have not released any details as to how the two would mutually benefit but Sprint says more information will be “available soon.”

Breaking It Down

JayZ is fighter. Tidal has not been the jewel he thought it was when he purchased it but it is a jewel just the same. With all the problems and the money issues the streaming service has JayZ understands that music will always be in demand. He just has to figure how to tap into that demand. His fight is to find Tidal’s niche. Let me tell you this, if Apple and Samsung both were considering buying the company then it becomes obvious that it has value. This value includes a nice list of artists that both own a piece of Tidal as well as provide content.  So what is the niche? Well that answer is yet to come but one thing is for sure; $200 million will certain help find it. Sprint understands that to survive in the cellphone industry it must expand its offerings. Keep in mind that cellphone carriers are in a life and death struggle to survive against the constant rise of smaller carriers serving market niches with better prices and no contracts.  Offering the latest cellphones just doesn’t cut it anymore. Content is king. Tidal has content.

 

Samsung Note 7 Sentenced to Death

samsung-note-7Samsung has passed final judgement on the arson prone Note 7. And the sentence is death.

Although roughly 90 percent of the phones have been returned to the company plenty of people are still carrying around the Galaxy Note 7.  Soon the phone will be absolutely useless. In a statement issued Friday Samsung announced that it will release the software equivalent of a lethal injection to U.S. distributed Note 7 phones. The software update will prevent the phone from charging or working as mobile devices. Basically once the battery dies the phone is is dead forever. Remember Samsung recalled the phone because of explosions and fires. Because of this the FAA decided the phone was a hazard to aviation safety. A little over a month ago Samsung used software that capped charging on the Note 7 at 60 percent.

Samsung offered owners of the phone financial incentives to exchange their phones. Samsung has also issued updates in various countries that crippled, but didn’t kill, the phone. But Samsung customers are a loyal and hardy bunch and there are still people that have decided to keep their explosive devices…err phones.

But the day of reckoning is here. Samsung has spoken; Death to the Note 7.

Here is the full statement from Samsung.

“Consumer safety remains our highest priority and we’ve had overwhelming participation in the U.S. Note7 Refund and Exchange Program so far, with more than 93 percent of all recalled Galaxy Note7 devices returned.

To further increase participation, a software update will be released starting on December 19th and will be distributed within 30 days. This software update will prevent U.S. Galaxy Note7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices. Together with our carrier partners, we will be notifying consumers through multiple touchpoints to encourage any remaining Galaxy Note7 owners to participate in the program and to take advantage of the financial incentives available.

Anyone who has not yet returned their device should immediately power it down and contact their carrier to obtain a refund or exchange, or visit our website at Samsung.com/us/note7recall for more information.”

But is the sentence final? Apparently not.  The Verge is reporting that Verizon is refusing to pass along the update to the Note 7 on it’s network.   According to a Verizon statement killing the phone poses a risk to Galaxy Note 7 owners who do not have another phone.

The statement went on to say, “We will not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for the Note 7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation.”

Breaking It Down

Ok, so this looks like the makings of a pretty good legal fight. It looks a though Samsung is doing the right thing by recalling the Note 7. They understand that the defect in the phone is dangerous and could potentially kill someone. They have taken urgent measures to get the dangerous device off the market. Its the right thing to do.

So the question is all about liability. And lawyers love that. Verizon, a retail distributor of the product, is refusing efforts by the manufacturer to get a defective product off the market. Is Verizon liable if the recalled Samsung phone catches fire onboard a plane causing it to crash?  Or is Samsung liable if the phone suddenly dies and someone is unable to call the police or ambulance?

 This is a dangerous game of chicken being played by two huge corporations. Both companies have a responsibility to the safety and satisfaction of their customers. Both companies believed they are doing the right thing. Verizon wants to protect its customer from sudden outages and Samsung wants to avoid more lawsuits from sudden fires.

But the bottom line is that Samsung has the upper hand here. Why? Because Samsung will recover and probably release a kick-ass phone in the future. If Verizon refuses to play ball then Samsung may refuse to provide Verizon with the new phone in the future. That is a powerful incentive for Verizon to get those phone back. Let’s face reality, people love a new cellphone. Thats why they are constantly being updated and new models hit the market so often. If you don’t have the gadget then your customers go where they can get it. Verizon can’t afford that in the competitive cellphone service market. Get those phones back Verizon.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Goes Down in Flames!

samsung-note-7Its not often a company releases a product that is an absolute disaster. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it is history.  Samsung has joined the list of companies that have done so. Here is the history of the Galaxy Note 7.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 was thought to be another major success in the heavyweight battle between Samsung and Apple. It turned out to be a calamity of un-imagined dimension. As a result the Note 7, Samsung’s flagship smartphone, has been completely, totally and finally thrown on the crap pile of  epic product failures.

August 19, 2016 – Samsung released the Galaxy Note 7 to the market with great fanfare. Many critics hailed the waterproof device as the best smartphone ever.

August 24, 2016 – Reports surface of  Samsung’s new smartphone bursting into flames.

September 2, 2016 – Samsung announces the first recall of the Note 7. According to Samsung the reason the phones were catching fire was because of a faulty battery from a supplier.  It is one of two batteries that power the phone. Note 7’s sold in the U.S. were recalled. But the recall did not extend to other countries because, according to Samsung, they did not receive phones with the faulty battery. However the recall was delayed and not initiated until  September 21st. Consumers are left confused by the delay.

September 8, 2016The FAA warned owners of the Samsung phone not use the devices on board commercial flights. International and domestic carriers followed the directive and banned use of the phone on flights.

September 21, 2016Samsung initiates Note 7 product recall. The recall did little to correct the situation as replacement phones also began catching fire. This was followed by reports of phones catching fire in other countries like China where the was no recall in effect.

October 5, 2016 – A Southwest Airlines flight was evacuated when a Note 7 went up in smoke on board the plane. The owner of that phone reported that it was a replacement phone.

October  9, 2016 – AT&T refuses to exchange the Note 7 for replacement phones.“Based on recent reports, we’re no longer exchanging new Note 7s at this time, pending further investigation of these reported incidents,” an AT&T spokesman said in a email statement.

October 10, 2016 – Samsung ceases all production of the Note 7 phone but does not initiate a second recall of the device.

October 11, 2016 – Samsung announces the death of the Note 7 phone when it initiates the final global recall of the product. Owners can return the phone to the store for another device or a refund.

October 12, 2016 – Samsung begins to suffer the fall out from the Note 7 catastrophe.  The Korean technology company announced it has slashed its quarterly profit estimate by a third. The company will absorb a $2.3 billion direct hit from the flaming demise of it’s latest smartphone. Experts are already calling it one of the costliest product safety failures in tech history. Samsung has not been able to tell consumers what caused the phones to catch fire.

October 14, 2016In an effort to get the phones back Samsung announced an incentive to owners of the Note 7 who have not returned the device. Samsung is offering a $100 credit to owners who trade in the Note 7 for one of Samsung’s other devices like the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. Samsung is seeking to regain control of these dangerous devices by encouraging owners to return them.  Owners of the suspect phone who ask for a full refund or switch to another manufacturer’s phone will receive $25.

Tim Baxter president and chief operating officer of Samsung Electronics America said in a statement, “Customers’ safety remains a top priority and we ask consumers with an original or replacement Galaxy Note 7 to power down and take advantage of the remedies available.” 

But Samsung is encountering even more problems trying to retrieve the dangerous devices than it counted on. First many owners of the phone love it because of its waterproof construction, curved screen and excellent cameras. Another problem is the complicated process of packing the phone in the fire proof box provided by Samsung.

For more information and how to return your phone please got to Samsung Product Safety Recall.

Breaking It Down

Samsung is a smart company. It is also a caring company that takes a lot of pride in its products. They are some of the best on the market. So in the long run with solid business leadership this company will recover. But what the consumer is waiting for is a straight answer as to what caused the problem in the first place. Samsung, like Apple, have loyal customers who deserve an answer.  Hey Samsung if you read this; we’re waiting.

But lets look at the market as a result of the Samsung stumble. Look for makers of Android devices to step up marketing and manufacturing to fill the gap left by the Korean giant. Market share is up for grabs. Apple will also look to tear off a chunk of Samsung’s customer’s as well.  After all they are its primary competitor. From Samsung you will probably never hear of the Note product line again. Its gone.

For the foreseeable future its the battle for increased sales from the likes of Motorola, Lenovo, LG, heck even Microsoft might get something out of this.

As for Samsung, the future still looks bright because this company will comeback stronger than ever. Investors know this. Although the stock price has dropped, almost no one is selling. They know that this problem will be solved and Samsung phones will return to market. Most CEO’s understand that these things happen. Not often but they do. The trick is to keep your customers on your side until you get it fixed. Trust me, this is going to be a great business school lesson in few years. Hopefully with a happy ending. Good Luck Samsung.

 

 

 

Buying vs. Leasing Technology Hardware

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Courtesy Dream Designs

Lease or buy technology hardware?  Black consumers need to ask themselves this question because, as I have said before, Black people don’t play when it comes to money. 

Consider your cellphone; cell phone carriers have long practiced the art of selling you a cellphone with their service without actually selling you a cell phone. You know the deal, sign a two year contract and get the cellphone for free or at a discount. Cellphones have never been cheap and the true price of the phones are buried in your wireless bill. Now cell carriers are dropping those two year contracts, slashing monthly fees and creating new programs for the actual cost of the phone.  The option of buying or leasing a phone has become serious money choice.

Consider this, cheaper phones means a cheaper bill every month. If you are sensitive to the steep price of some of the more advanced phones you can drop your monthly bill by selecting a cheaper phone. 

But lets face it; the best way to save big money is to keep your old phone. Think about it, do your really need the latest smartphone just because it’s the newest thing on the market? That is what the cellphone makers want you to think!

Once your current phone is paid for that cost comes off your bill putting $20-30 a month back in your pocket.  Before the death of two year contracts service providers didn’t lower your bill even if you didn’t upgrade to a newer device.

If you must have a new phone for whatever reason you can always buy a nice refurbished smartphone. They are often just a year or two old and much cheaper than brand new phones. Many of these phones are refurbished by the manufacturer and are hard to tell from new. Finding these phones is simple just search online.

You have to do the math and see where your best deal is. Sprint and other carriers are offering some interesting deals where you get to upgrade the phone every two years without actually buying it. Sprint comes right out and says you are leasing it.

At the end of the lease you have the option of turning in the old phone (just two years) and getting an upgrade and keep paying. Or you can pay off the balance on the phone and just pay for the monthly service. 

AT&T recently has changed its phone plans making it tough to own a phone. Where it once offered three plans AT&T now offers only two. The new plan, titled AT&T Next Every Year, offers an annual upgrade and lets you trade-in your current phone as long as you’ve paid 50 percent of its retail value. The other option, AT&T’s Next plan, offers a 30-month financing plan. With AT&T Next you trade-in your phone after two years as long as you’ve paid 80 percent of its value. You also have the option of 24, 18 or 12 month lease plans. But you need to check the fine print on these plans. Both plans require you to trade-in the financed device meaning there’s no option to simply pay one off and start fresh with a new device or just buying a service plan. You just keep paying. The cellphone industry is getting tricky so you need to seriously consider buying versus leasing your next phone.

Another area to consider lease versus buy is your home Internet connectivity. Ask yourself this question; how long have you been leasing you Internet router and cable modem? Probably years. Now do the math. How much would a new router and modem cost you that you own free and clear? As little as $99 each. The average person can save as much as $250 dollars a year depending on the combination of router and service you currently pay for.  Starting to get the picture?

Here are a few things to think about when considering leasing versus buying a router and modem. To start make sure the equipment you buy is compatible with your Internet providers networks. You can usually find that information on their website or give them a call. Also consider technical things like learning how to configure it for maximum performance and security. If you have multiple wireless devices in your home you must consider how your router will perform and that includes television and telephone service. Some routers have a limited number of devices it can service effectively. Finally, if you have trouble or a breakdown of equipment you are responsible for repair or replacement of the equipment. 

With a lease you won’t have these worries. You just call your provider and problem solved.

Now you know.

 

 

Tidal Music Continues to Struggle

tidal-share.239a2bdcTidal music streaming service is still struggling to find its place in the music streaming game. Jay-Z’s baby is taking some serious body blows and its days could be numbered. Tidal has again had to shake up its leadership in the hopes surviving in this hyper competitive market. To make matters worse the company is currently fighting a lawsuit over royalties.

According Norwegian Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv  two of Tidal’s top executives, Chief Operating Officer Nils Juell and Chief Financial Officer Chris Hart have been shown the door.

Jay Z spent $56 million in 2015 to acquire Tidal. Since that time it has seen three CEOs and a host of high-level executives jump ship. After only two months Senior Vice President of Label Relations Zena Burns departed. Then former Chief Investment Officer Vania Schlogel also took a walk.

Inside the company things are getting pretty ugly. Tidal’s was once valued at $250 million. Now that number is about $100 million and Tidal is looking ripe for the picking as some companies are looking to purchase it.

Samsung, the Korean tech giant, has been eyeing Tidal for over a year.  Tidal and Samsung have been been rumored before to be ready to conclude a deal but nothing has happened. According to the New York Post the company is in negotiations to purchase the company again. Samsung has ongoing relationships with several of Tidal’s artists including Rihanna. Samsung spent $28 million to sponsor Rihanna’s new album and tour.

But Samsung is not the only player in the game. Google and Spotify are also eyeing the struggling music service. Tidal, for all its struggles, does have a nice artist collection and potential buyers see them as nice additions to their streaming offerings.

Current CEO Jeff Toig, who came over from struggling Sound Cloud,  has begun laying off staff and consolidating operations in the New York office. Tidal is also facing accusations that it failed to pay out royalties on time resulting in a class action lawsuit. Yesh Music hit Tidal with a $5 million lawsuit claiming the company stiffed them and John Emanuele​, a member of The American Dollar.

Tidal responded in a statement denying any knowledge of Yesh’s complaint. “Tidal is up to date on all royalties for the rights to the music stated in Yesh Music, LLC and John Emanuele’s claim and they are misinformed as to who, if anyone, owes royalty payments to them.”

Tidal has also fumbled the release new music. Critics blasted the company over the botched release of Rihanna’s latest album Anti, and Kanye West’s exclusive launch of his latest release “The Life of Pablo”  on Tidal. The criticism has been so harsh that some say this may go down as the worst release effort in the history of recorded music.

Jay-Z may have bitten off more than he can chew with Tidal. Music streaming is a highly competitive business and Tidal needs to get some traction quick. But that’s not to say the game is over. Jay-Z only paid $56 million for a company now worth $100 million. If he sells it for that much he still comes out a winner.

 

 

Technology’s Dirty Secrets Series – Child and Forced Labor

Child-Labor-in-ChinaTechnology makes our lives easier. But the world we live in has hidden corners where others suffer for our easy life. They are exploited, poisoned then buried under mountains of technology trash. These people are resigned to accept it as the way life is. This is the dirt and blood that coats the billions of dollars made manufacturing, selling and disposing of technology. In this series the African-American Cyber Report will expose the dirty secrets of the technology industry. In the second article of this series we examine the practice of child and forced labor.

In the previous report we wrote about the use of conflict minerals and the conditions of the mines where these minerals come from. We also pointed out that many children work in these mines.

The definition of child labor according to Australian based WorldVision Action report is “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity. Work that exceeds a minimum number of hours; work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and work that interferes with their schooling.”

The worlds largest phone and technology companies, Apple, Samsung and Microsoft, along with a list of others are being accused by Amnesty International of failing to perform even the most minor checks to ensure the minerals they use in their products are not mined by children.

According to report from United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates that there are approximately 40,000 children are working in mines in the Congo alone. In these mines children, sometimes along side their parents, work with their bare hands to dig out minerals used in our modern electronics. Theses mines are extremely dangerous and little of no safety equipment is provided. Children breath toxic dust and risk injury and death deep inside mineral mines.  In a quote from a 2012 report   “Jean-Bertin, a 34-year-old Congolese activist said he wants to end the “absolute silence” around the crimes committed in his country to exploit strategic raw materials like coltan. “It’s possible that two children died so that you could have that mobile phone,” he said

Yet major technology companies continue to buy these minerals from what is essentially slave labor providers sometime denying any knowledge of child forced labor.

An investigation by Amnesty International looked in to the business of Chinese Mineral giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd. The company is major supplier of mineral to technology companies.

According to a BBC report Amnesty contacted 16 multinational battery manufacturers that purchased minerals from companies who in turn source minerals from Huayou Cobalt.

One company admitted to buying the mineral while four others were uncertain of source of the cobalt they used. Five others denied sourcing the mineral from the company even though company documents listed them as customers.  Six other companies said they were investigating the claims.

But the issues of child and forced labor goes well beyond the African continent and the mining industry. In Asia many companies use indentured workers, forced child labor and even kidnappings in the manufacture of electronics.

According to the World Vision Action Report China is the producer of almost half world’s electronics products. It is also where worker exploitation has been widely reported. Workers in these Chinese electronics factories receive low wages and are forced to work excessive overtime to meet astronomical production goals. Some factories fail to offer employees protective clothing and equipment. The result is that workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals and odors. Other common complaints include discrimination, verbal harassment and excessive punishment from factory management.

Even in this sector of the electronics industry child labor is still an issue. Cases have been reported where children as young as nine years old have been found working in factories making electronics.  Due to a labor shortages in China children from poor, rural areas are recruited to work in factories. Recruiters sometimes send money to the child’s family on a monthly basis as an incentive to keep their child working.

Some children are kidnapped and forced to work in the factories.  Children are transported to cities and factories where kidnappers deal with factory owners to supply child labor and offer to attend the factories to beat the children if they are disobedient.   These children are threatened and beaten to prevent them from running away and work up to 12 hours a day with no idea or hope of ever seeing their home or parents again.

World Vision Action also reported that children being forced out of school to work as “student interns” or “apprentices” in factories to pay off debts, tuition and school fees. These are the factories making our smartphones and tablets. Should a student desire to quit and return to their family, school administrators threaten to fail them.  Other measures used to coerce students to stay in the factory include factory management withholding wages or confiscating identity papers if they attempt to leave.

What has the manufacturers said about this situation. Read their statements to TechCrunch.com here.

Now you know

Technology’s Dirty Secrets Series- Mining Coltan

Congolese miners dig at a gold mine in Montgbawalu, Ituri district, eastern Congo, September 8, 2005. The Democratic Republic of Congo's government will renegotiate the existing gold exploration venture it has with AngloGold Ashanti, the world's number two gold producer, the head of Congo's state mining agency OKIMO said on Thursday. Picture taken September 8, 2005. REUTERS/Jiro Ose

Young miners digging coltan

Technology makes for a convenient life. Easy communications. Easy shopping. Easy at home and easy at work. We depend on technology for our new electric and hybrid cars, more efficient appliances and dependable access to information. Technology makes life easy…for most people.

The world we live in has hidden corners where others suffer for our easy life. They are exploited, poisoned then buried under mountains of technology trash. These people are resigned to accept it as the way life is. This is the dirt and blood that coats the billions of dollars made manufacturing, selling and disposing of technology. In this series the African-American Cyber Report will expose the dirty secrets of the technology industry starting with the mining of the raw materials.

Modern technology manufacturing begins with the extraction of certain raw materials from the earth. Cellphones and computers have inside them rare and hard to come by minerals and metals. These are often mined in African countries by people working in conditions and for wages that are simply inhuman.

The mineral coltan is found almost exclusively in Africa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Refining coltan creates a metallic tantalum, a heat-resistant powder that can hold a high electrical charge. This electrical charge is crucial to the tiny circuit boards that power our iPhones, laptop computers, tablets and many other high-tech devices. The men who mine this rare and vital mineral dig using simple picks and shovels and sometimes their bare hands sometimes for 12 hours a day.  Workers often carry the heavy sacks of raw coltan out of the mine on their backs. Working conditions are abysmal and dangerous and there is no safety equipment or procedures.

Even though this mineral is vitally important to the technology industry wages are shockingly low for this crippling labor.  We may pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for our electronics.  Yet these miners toil under the hot sun daily earning just $5 a day for a 12-hour day. The minimum wage is $3 a day. Living in the horrific poverty of the Democratic Republic of the Congo these men have no choice but to endure these grueling and dangerous conditions. But it is not always men suffering in these conditions. Children as young as ten are employed in the mines and deaths are a regular occurrence.

Not only are people suffering for our technology products but the land is suffering as well. Mountains are often ripped apart to mine coltan leaving the land scarred and polluted. Rivers are often filled with silt from mine runoff  that sometimes contains mercury, cyanide and other dangerous chemicals. Large tracts of forests are wiped out in search of the minerals destroying wildlife habitats.

To compound the dangers and back breaking labor is the fact that these mines are often the prize among warring groups. The wealth created by the mines have fueled repeated wars not only among rebels and warlords but also with the government of the Congo for more than 20 years.

The National Congress for Defense of People or CNDP militia have used revenue from the sale of coltan to buy weapons and ammunition in their armed struggle against the army of the DRC. Thousands of innocent miners and civilians have been killed or driven from their homes as a result of these wars. As with all wars atrocities are frequent including rape, mutilations and the use of child soldiers.

A searing 2001 United Nations Report on the ‘Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources’, laid blame squarely on the sale of coltan and other precious minerals to multi-national corporations as the “engine of conflict in the DRC.”

Apple, Samsung and other electronics manufacturers admit they use coltan from these mines to make the smartphones we depend on everyday.  Without shame, these companies say they will will continue to do so.

In 2015 Apple reported to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission “that it is committed to driving economic development and creating opportunities to source conflict-free minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and adjoining countries.”’

The company went on to say that its suppliers must adhere to its code that; “every worker deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”

In a statement Samsung said it “recognizes the seriousness of human rights violations and environmental pollution problems of mineral mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

The U.S. Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act has led to a crack down in the use of so-called “conflict minerals.” The law requires western corporations to certify the origins of suspicious resources used in technology manufacturing such as coltan thus shutting off the cash financing warlords.

Apple, aware of the hardships suffered by those mining the mineral,  says it is dedicated to using only conflict free minerals in their products.

An Apple spokeswoman added: “The simplest path to calling Apple products conflict-free would be to redirect our demand through a small subset of smelters that are either conflict-free verified, or aren’t sourcing from Central Africa. But this approach would do little to influence the situation on the ground, something we care deeply about. That’s why we have been working to expand the number of verified sources in this region, so that more people can earn a good living, in better conditions.”

Samsung Electronics also supports the ban on conflict minerals saying,; “As a global manufacturer of consumer electronics, we understand the moral and ethical responsibility we have to our consumers and broader society. We remain committed to proactively participating in conversations and actions around the world to ban the use of conflict minerals and ensure responsibly source, conflict-free products.”

Now you know.

 

 

 

 

Protecting Your New Smartphone and Yourself

canstockphoto20668245Christmas is over and you got a new smartphone from Santa. This little device can become a vital part of your life. Today’s smartphones can hold vast amounts of data including credit card data and personal information. Protecting your phone means protecting yourself.

As you get to know your new gadget you need to learn when it is misbehaving. There are definitely signs when something is wrong and you need to spot them early. For example any app you download could be a hiding place for malware. Opening an attachment or visiting the wrong website could result in downloading an app that attacks your smartphone and even take control of it.

You should be especially cautious if you have a Android device. According to Forbes.com 97 percent of mobile malware is on Android. Much of the malware comes from unregulated apps. So stick to the Google PlayStore if you are smart. 

But if you have an Apple iPhone or other smartphone better be alert because they are not immune by any means.

According to Alcatel-Lucent’s Motive Security Labs more than 16 million mobile devices were hit by malware last yearZDNet  also reported an increase of 25 percent over 2013 infection. 

So how can you tell if you new smartphone is compromised or infected with malware? Here are the clues.

  1. Strange behavior – One of the first clues that something is wrong is that the phone or apps begin to act strangely.  You phone or the apps may cease working or the phone may crash.  This could indicate that some malicious code on your device is interfering with its normal operation. Sometimes an app may appear suddenly and without you doing anything. This could come from a suspect website. Make sure you know what apps are installed on your phone so you can quickly identify the intruder. Whenever you install an app make sure you carefully examine what permissions the app wants. An app that asks for administrators privileges can be difficult or impossible to uninstall. Use caution and delete any app you do not use. Deny any app that asks you to install it if you don’t know what it is or where it came from.
  2. Mysterious  calls or messages – Get in the habit of checking your call and message history regularly. Malware infections will try to make calls or send messages to expensive international numbers. If this happens you will get the bill and its hard to argue your way out of paying.
  3. Data hogging – Malicious apps will use up your allotted data to communicate with computers operated by cyber criminals. These cyber criminals are sending orders and updates to the malware. And the malware is sending stolen information back to the cybercriminals. Make sure you watch your data usage. If something is eating your data you need to act.
  4. Strange messages – Many cyber criminals use text messages to control malware. These messages can be interpreted by the malware to carry out tasks on your device. Sometimes the malware  is programmed to manipulate message logs to delete the message before you get suspicious. But some crooks don’t bother to program in this function resulting in strange messages appearing in your history. If your friend’s phone is infected you may see a strange message from them and vice versa. Be alert to strange text messages that don’t make sense or are completely unintelligible. Be alert if you get a strange message from a contact. This could mean they have become infected and it could spread to your phone. Be a friend and let them know.
  5. Watch your billExcessive text messages or data usage could cost you money. Examine your bill closely to detect suspicious charges quickly.

Be aware that a lot of malware can get into official app stores.  This malware can, and does, steal credit card data.  African-Americans do a lot banking and other financially related activities through our phones. If you regularly make payments or shop using your smartphone you should monitor your credit card bill and bank accounts for suspicious charges.

Prevention is key.

To enjoy and make the best and safest use of your new smartphone act to prevent an infection rather than trying to recover from a malware infection.

  • Keep your device’s operating system and apps updated.
  • Back up all important data on the device.
  • Use an anti malware and keep it up to date.
  • Buy or download your apps only from official stores. The possibility of downloading malware is lower but not impossible.
  • Use a screen lock. Make sure your code is at least six numbers. A pattern may be easy to guess and less secure than a PIN, and that a password is your best option.
  • Encrypt the content on your device.
  • Avoid rooting or jail breaking your smartphone.