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November 2012
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7 posts from December 2012

A Smart Phone Gift And A Teachable Moment

Did you buy a smart phone or tablet as a Christmas gift for your child or grandchild? Smart phones are very popular gift items. A recent survey found that about 37% of shoppers planned to buy smart phones as gifts for the holidays.

Last week, an 11-year-old student in my tai chi class mentioned that his mother had purchased an iPhone 5 for him as a Christmas present. After hearing this comment, I began to wonder what I would teach an 11-year-old to prepare him/her to use a smart phone wisely to protect their self online... without over-sharing nor running up a huge monthly bill.

I didn't have to search far nor long. Blogger Janell Burley Hofmann developed a contract when she gave her 13-year-old a new iPhone as a Christmas gift. Hofmann's contract clearly outlines both her terms of the gift and her expectations of her teenager. This makes excellent sense. Some notable items from Hofmann's contract:

"1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren't I the greatest?
2. I will always know the password.
3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads "Mom" or "Dad." Not ever."

Some of the items on the list are obvious:

"7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.
8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person -- preferably me or your father...
18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together."

I like that Hofmann has included a no-sexting clause, since many teens now use Snapchat (instead of thinking that those risky photos disappear, but they don't:

"12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else's private parts. Don't laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear -- including a bad reputation."

Readers of the I've Been Mugged blog may remember smart phone insurance issues encountered by some consumers. So, it makes sense to clarify what happens if/when the smart phone breaks:

6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared."

Items I would add to the any smart phoone or tablet contract for a teenager:

19. You will receive spam via email, text messages, and at social networking websites. Learn how to recognize spam.

20. To avoid using up all of your monthly calling minutes, you will likely be tempted to use the WiFi setting on your smart phone instead. This means you will also be tempted to use public WiFi hotspots, which could make your smart phone vulnerable to malware and computer viruses. Don't. You can use our password-protected home WiFi. If you want to use public WiFi hotspots, you will ask your parents first for a VPN software recommendation.

21. You will install an anti-virus app to protect your smart phone just like this software protects your laptop computer. You will learn how to use that anti-virus software and keep it up-to date.

22. Learn how to read the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions Policy at websites. If you don't understand or don't like the policy at a website, don't use that website and don't register at that website, no matter how popular you think it is.

23. Read the Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions Policy before installing a mobile app. If an app doesn't have a policy, don't install nor use that app. If you don't understand or don't like an app's policy, don't install that app on your smart phone and don't use it.

24. Know the full price of an item or service, including any fees, before making an online purchase with your smart phone. If you are unsure what the price is, don't buy it. If the price is more than $10, get the approval of me or your father, first. If the price is less than $10, you will pay for it out of your weekly allowance.

What do you think of Hofmann's smart phone contract for her teen? What items would you add?

California AG Files Lawsuit Against Delta Airlines For Mobile App

Earlier this month, the California Attorney General (AG) announced a lawsuit against Delta Airlines regarding the company's mobile app for failing to comply with the state's Online Privacy Protection Act:

"The complaint alleges that since at least 2010, Delta has operated a mobile app called “Fly Delta” for use on smartphones and other electronic devices. The Fly Delta app may be used to check-in online for an airplane flight, view reservations for air travel, rebook cancelled or missed flights, pay for checked baggage, track checked baggage, access a user’s frequent flyer account, take photographs, and even save a user’s geo-location. Despite collecting substantial personally identifiable information such as a user’s full name, telephone number, email address, frequent flyer account number and pin code, photographs, and geo-location, the Fly Delta application does not have a privacy policy."

In November of this year, the California Attorney General's office notified several mobilde device app developers that their apps were in violation of the state's privacy law. The consequences for a non-compliant app includes $2,500 for each violation.

FDIC Publishes Money Guide For Young Adults And Teens

The fall issue of the quarterly Consumer News newsletter published by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) includes a money guide for young adults and teenage children. Topics include:

  • Choosing and using an account for everyday banking;
  • Mobile banking by smart phone;
  • Avoiding mistakes with credit cards;
  • Building a good credit record;
  • Obtaining and repaying student loans;
  • Getting a good deal on an auto loan;
  • Recovering from debt or bill-payment problems;
  • Saving money to meet specific goals, made easier with the help of automated services; and
  • Guarding against fraud, including identity theft.

Congress created the FDIC in 1933. The agency insures deposits at the nation's 7,181 banks and savings associations. It ensures the soundness of these institutions by identifying, monitoring and addressing risks. The FDIC is funded by fees it charges to the banks its oversees.

The section of the guide about how to avoid costly mistakes with credit cards includes sound advice:

"1. Read the fine print. Before you apply for a credit card, read all the terms and conditions... 2. You can avoid fees by being aware of your card’s credit limit. If you want your credit card issuer to permit transactions over your credit limit to go through, you must notify your lender that you want that service in advance and will pay the resulting fees... 3. Try to pay the entire balance in full and on time every month. That way, you will avoid interest charges and save money... 4. Think twice before applying for more credit cards. Special promotions, such as low introductory rates or discounts on purchases, make it tempting to apply for additional credit cards. But every time you apply for a card, it appears on your credit report. Multiple applications (called “inquiries” on a credit report) or new cards opened within a short time period can lower your credit score... 5. Take advantage of automated alerts from your card issuer. Many lenders and other companies can send customers messages by cell phone or e-mail, such as payment reminders, balance notifications to let you know if you’re close to your credit limit..."

The section about online banking with your smart phone includes several valuable tips:

"1. Ask your bank about the mobile banking services it offers and how much they may cost... 2. Understand your potential liability for unauthorized transactions... 3. Also be aware that the funds you place on a prepaid card may or may not be protected by FDIC insurance if the bank that holds the money (for you and other customers) were to fail... 4. As with any activity conducted online, keep security in mind. Protect your mobile device with a password that is hard for others to guess. Don’t lend your smartphone to others... Quickly report any unauthorized transactions or other suspicious activity."

You can read the money guide online or download a printable copy (Adobe PDF; 892K Bytes).

California AG Issues Safety Tips For Consumers For Shopping During The Holidays

The California Attorney General (AG) issued these safety tips for consumers to securely shop online:

"1. Shop on secure websites. One clue about which websites are safe and which are not is to look for a yellow padlock in the browser bar or ‘https’ in the web address (the ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’).

2. Don’t make purchases over a free Wi-Fi hotspot like at a coffee shop, which can be scanned by those looking to capture your passwords and other information.

3. Never send personal or financial information through e-mail. Legitimate companies will not ask you to do so because it is not a secure way to transfer sensitive information.

4. If you are receiving text messages on your cell phone saying you have won a prize or gift card, do not click on the link in the message – it is most likely a scam and may install a virus on your phone.

5. To get the full value of a gift card, use it right away. Gift cards that are lost or stolen are not always replaceable. Retailer or restaurant gift cards do not have expiration dates, but bank cards, like Visa or MasterCard gift cards, or cards issued by a mall that can be used at different stores, may sometimes have expiration dates.

6. Know the return policies of the retailers you shop with before you leave the store or conclude an online transaction. Many retailers will give you a refund if you have a receipt and your return is prompt, but some may only give store credit. Ask a clerk if the policy is not posted at the register."

This list is good advice year-round, not just during the holidays. To this list, I would add:

Boston Police Department Safety Alert About Door-To-Door Sales People

The following alert appeared on November 20, 2012 in the Boston Police Department (BPD) community blog:

"The Boston Police is receiving reports about a door-to-door sales person claiming to work for and represent a company called: Just Energy. At present, the group is allegedly soliciting business in the area of Newcastle Road in Brighton. The Boston Police Department is investigating the authenticity of the group..."

Readers of this blog are familiar with Just Energy. It is a valid company and you can browse its website or Better Business Bureau rating. In the above BPD alert, it seems that a criminal may be posing as a Just Energy representative. The BPD advises consumers to follow these safety tips should you encounter any door-to-door salesperson:

"1. Never open your door automatically to anyone without inquiring as to who it is and what they want.

2. If possible, use a ‘peep hole’ or window to see or identify any person knocking on your door or ringing your door bell.

3. When dealing with a person who shows up at your door unannounced or without prior notification (be it a cable provider, maintenance worker, plumber, salesperson) exercise healthy levels of caution and care before agreeing to anything. If a person shows up at your door without proper notification, promptly ask to see an ID, business card or supervisor’s phone number before conducting any further business. If an individual is unable to provide any of the aforementioned forms of identification, discontinue the interaction."

Trouble In Smart Phone Land

Where I live and work, it seems that most people have smart phones, and love to use them. However, I am getting the impression that many, if not most, have no idea how to protect themselves and their sensitive personal data. While discussing good data security habits, I have been asked the following question by several smart phone users:

Where do I find anti-virus software for my smart phone?

While most people understand the need and take action to protect their desktop and laptop computers with anti-virus software, it doesn't seem to translate to mobile devices. Some feel that their smart phones are immune to computer viruses and malware. Actually, experts warn that malware can infect your smart phone in 4 ways: text messages, email, Bluetooth, and web surfacing. So, I spent a few minutes the other day showing a person how to find anti-virus apps for her new Samsung galaxy III smartphone.

To find anti-virus apps for your smart phone, start with the app store your device is configured with. You can also visit and select:

Android App Directory > Tools > Security

Next, you'll see a list of familiar brands of anti-virus software providers. Kaspersky, McAfee, Norton, and others. Some brands offer bundle opportunities to protect several devices you might have at home: laptops, tables, and smart phones; or devices for several family members. Shop around, read the service agreements, and shop wisely.

Got an iPhone or iPad? Start shopping here for data security apps. For users with mobilde devices that run Windows® or other operating systems, start shopping here.

I wish that the industry called the devices "handheld computers" or "pocket computers" because that is what the devices are.The phrase "smart phone" seems antiquated for mobile devices that do so much more than make and receive telephone calls.

Smart Mannequins Coming Soon To A Retail Store Near You

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about facial recognition and what consumers need to know. Then, a couple articles appeared about EyeSee, a brand of the new version of bionic mannequins coming soon to retail stores.

I like to call them "smart mannequins," which seems to more aequately describe the technologies used.

Smart mannequins allow retailers to place cameras discretely (or secretly, dpending upon your point-of-view) throughout their stores at eye-level (or lower), unlike traditional security cameras mounted high-up on poles or in the ceilings. I am sure that some retailers hope that this new technology will decrease or deter shoplifting crime.

Also, there several implications for consumers. First, retailers can learn more about the types of consumers that enter their stores. How? The cameras can distinguish betwen gender (e.g., male and female), and age (e.g., children and adults). Some experts claim that the cameras in smart mannequins can determine a person's race. I highly doubt the accuracy of that claim since race is a social construct and since people's appearances vary widely within a race.

Second, retailers can learn more about your shopping habits, since smart mannequins utilize facial recognition technogy. The cameras record the store locations and times of day shoppers visit. The facial recognition component allows retailers to learn where within the store you visit, plus your shopping preferences -- even when you do not buy anything. Depending upon placement, the camera can record the types of clothing you review (e.g., pants, dresses, shoes), the size, and colors as your remove garments from the racks to inspect and/or try on.

This brings the data collection about shoppers and browsers at brick-and-mortar stores closer to the online data collection, where retailers learn about your preferences given the website pages you select and view. Together, it makes anonymous shopping more difficult.

And bionic mannequins raises issues about privacy, disclosure, and notification:

  • How long is the in-store collected data archived?
  • What other companies does the retailer share the in-store collected facial data with?
  • How long is the in-store collected data archived?
  • How can consumers opt out of the in-store data collection?
  • At what point during the in-store visit should a retailer present its privacy policy?
  • Or will a single policy "rule" both online and in-store data collection?
  • Should there be separate rules that govern retail store section with medical/health devices and products?
  • Should data be collected about children?
  • If data should be collected about some children, starting at what age?

The facial recognition guidelines recommended by the FTC include privacy by design, transparency, and choice (to opt in or out). The FTC and CDT support a tiered approach that distinguishes between facial recognition technologies that Count (Level 1), Target (Level 2), and Identify (Level 3) consumers.

Some privacy advocates propose a Digital Out Of Home (DOOH) structure to cover all of the various several technologies (e.g., auto license plate scanners, RFID skimmers, interactive billboards, drones, smart mannequins) which can be used to track consumers.

What's your opinion of smart mannequins and tracking within brick-and-mortar stores?