Dirty Talk

Love Your Cellphone? You
May Not Like Its Friends

When you finally get a hold of your own iPhone 5, and call everyone to tell the news, you may be able to tell whether it’s all that’s cracked up to be. Does it really have a better camera? Does its bigger screen make a difference? Can you actually make a call with it?
You may be able to answer these and other questions. But you may get stuck with the two biggest costs of our craving for smartphones: our privacy, and the well being of those who labor to make them. The first issue is now very popular; the other one, not so much.
To be fair, you may even hate the hype surrounding Apple’s newest gadget; but it’d be hard to argue that it may give the depressed U.S. economy an end-of-the-year boost. It’s an opinion shared by Nobel Winner Paul Krugman, who mentions a recent research note from JPMorgan about it.
Which may be just as well, since there’s hardly any other big corporation, or the so-called ‘job creators,’ looking remotely interested in developing and marketing new consumer products of lately. So if people think they need another mousetrap, who’s to stand on their way?
Still, the computer-in-your-pocket that these things represent is a thing of technological beauty, and even with only incremental improvements compared to the previous model, they are getting somewhere. And the pack will put on some speed on their chase after the industry leaders. So, it’s all good, right?
Not so fast, you’re breaking up. We’re not quite there yet, wherever ‘there’ means, and ours being a society of whiners, there will never be shortage of complaints about performance, customer service, price, you know, the usual. And it’s really too bad that only now the awareness Continue reading

Facing the Music?

As Criticism of Facebook Grows,
Zuckerberg’s Nowhere to Be Seen

It’s ironic that the creator of a social network that ostensibly trades in the private lives of its clients is himself a highly private person. As hostility towards Facebook’s business model is on the rise, Mark Zuckerberg, the Harvard dropout boy wonder who founded it and became an overnight billionaire, has been less than visible these days.
For some, it’s all about poetic justice. While Zuckerberg fights accusations of having secretly profited from Facebook’s failed IPO, while thousands lost money with it, a tech site’s offering cash in exchange for unguarded pictures of him. His company’s also fighting European regulators over how it stores personal data, and, in the U.S., scrutiny for luring children under 13 onto its social network.
For the record, Facebook’s definitely not the only one being accused of unauthorized use of its members’ most intimate details. Google, another giant of the Internet age, faces similar charges by the European Union. And pretty much every other site, community board, job exchange and even smartphone apps are, in one way or another, guilty of making a so far illegal buck out of its users.
Facebook, though, for being arguably the most popular, and for depending exclusively of customer-generated content to attract advertisers, seems to be setting the (low) business practice standards for the industry. How successful efforts by regulators, consumer advocates, public officials and even some politicians will be, curbing its privacy-busting ways, remains to be seen.
But anything that may help prevent it from becoming the nightmarish, big-brother-like corporation some say it already is, may also establish a new consumer-driven regulatory framework for all other companies, Continue reading

About Face

We Don’t Need Another Friend, but Don’t
Throw the Book at Social Networking Yet

Facebook’s discreet rollout of its Face-Recognition feature, which so incensed its users, shouldn’t have caught anyone without their shirts on, as it just reaffirms a pattern.
After all, this is the same company that just last fall was accused of sending users’ personal information to dozens of advertising and Internet monitoring companies. Then, as now, Facebook’s attitude was less than up-front about it.
The fact that overnight billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg has a complicate public image doesn’t endear him either. A Continue reading