Saturday, March 01, 2014

#TechSeven - The update your iPhone NOW edition

Every Friday between 2:00 and 2:30 p.m. Eastern, I chat live about the latest tech news with CJAD's Barry Morgan. CJAD is Montreal's top news/talk radio station, and it's where a much younger me got my first taste of a real newsroom.

As Barry was away this week, I got to chat with Dan Laxer, who long before those early radio adventures I got to hang out with at summer camp. Then I went to j-school and got to cross Barry's path in the student newsroom, as well.

It's a small world indeed.

In case you missed it, here's what we chatted about:

ONE - Apple and Google face the music over in-app purchases

Every parent has a horror story of handing the iPhone or iPad over to their kids, only to discover when the credit card bill comes in that they ran up hundreds of dollars of charges. Both iOS and Android devices already have some protections against kids spending the farm in the online app store. But so-called in-app purchases - where you can buy something from inside an app, including virtual clothing for your virtual characters, or new levels in a game - don't have the same degree of protection, and kids can still spend like crazy with apparent ease.

The European Union wants to put an end to it, and is holding talks aimed at enduring everyone plays fair. They want it to be more clear that an app that is "free to download" may no necessarily be "free to play".

No guarantees that any of this will result in solid legislation - or that it'll come to Canada. But the EU often starts the ball rolling on stuff like this, and it's only a matter of time before beleaguered Canadian parents see some relief. Until then, no iPad for the kids.

(Side note: there ARE parental controls in the settings of most popular devices from Apple and Google, and if they haven't done so yet, parents should dive in and activate them if they let their kids have access to their mobile devices.)

TWO - Speaking of Apple, did you update your Mac, iPhone or iPad?

Speaking of Apple, millions of its products were affected by a security vulnerability, and users need to take action before they become victimized by hackers.

The flaw affects both mobile (iOS - iPhone, iPad, iPod touch) devices as well as Macs running the Mac OS X operating system, and the risk is that a hacker could use the identified weakness to launch a so-called man-in-the-middle (MTM) attack. Simply put, the attack picks off your traffic between your device and the wireless network. And since it isn't encrypted (it should be...that's the problem) the hackers can easily scoop usernames, passwords and other sensitive info.

This kind of vulnerability isn't unique to Apple - indeed, every computing platform is vulnerable to identified weaknesses that hackers can exploit. But this time around, it's Apple's turn. Notably, Apple had been warned last year, and the security hole remained open for quite some time.

It's a sobering reminder that we as consumers have to keep our eyes and ears open, because now all iOS and Mac OS X users need to do their part by downloading and installing the updated versions of both operating systems. This will make everything delightfully secure again - until the next one is inevitably discovered down the road. The cat-and-mouse game never ends, and this is how we live, digitally, now.

If you haven't updated your device yet, I've posted detailed instructions here.

THREE - Will this be the first Twitter mayoralty campaign?

Karen Stintz, who's running for Toronto Mayor, learned the hard way that social media can bite back. Hard. She tweeted the following on Thursday:
"I am like you. I have a mortgage, kids, one car, and soccer games. Lets make it better. #TOconversation #karen4mayor #topoli"
Within minutes, her account was deluged with nasty responses from voters who took her to task for ignoring class differences - and the sensitivities of those who simply can't afford all the things she has.

The lesson? This campaign will be the most social media-infused in recent memory. And it'll set the tone for the provincial and federal campaigns to come. Get ready for it.

Oh, and don't think email is immune to the dark side of social media, either. One Kelly Blazek, who runs a popular online job bank in Cleveland, learned this the hard way when nasty email responses she had sent to a job seeker who wanted to connect on LinkedIn was shared online. Here's some of what she wrote:
"Your invite to connect is inappropriate, beneficial only to you, and tacky. Wow, I cannot wait to let every 26-year-old jobseeker mine my top-tier marketing connections to help them land a job. I love the sense of entitlement in your generation. You're welcome for your humility lesson for the year. Don't ever reach out to senior practitioners again and assume their carefully curated list of connections is available to you, just because you want to build your network."
As if she wasn't deep enough into karmic debt at this point, she then signed off with this gem:
"Don't ever write me again."
The pitchfork-wielding social media mob soon descended, and Ms. Blazek, once voted Cleveland's Communicator of the Year, is in virtual hiding after learning the hard lesson: anything you can and do share in email can be used against you in the court of social media public opinion. Case closed.

FOUR - Mark Zuckerberg wants the Internet to be free

Facebook's CEO is at it again. 5 billion of the world's 7 billion people don't have Internet access. Zuckerberg formed last August to try to address that. He partnered with Samsung, Nokia and Qualcomm, among others, to make global Internet access a priority. He wants industry and governments to work together to get more people online and erase the digital divide.

Now, he's upping the ante. In his keynote speech to the Mobile World Congress gathering in Barcelona, Spain this week (the biggest annual telecom/wireless gathering on the planet), he said he's looking for between 3 and 5 telecommunications companies who are serious about delivering free data service to people who can't afford it. How does he see it?
“I want to show that this model works, that’s why we’re looking for partners who are serious about this,” he said, adding that the undertaking will probably be loss-making for years. “If we do something that’s good for the world, we’ll eventually come up with a way to make money from it.”
Is this a little self-serving given Facebook's future depends on continuing to grow its audience? Sure. But I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, because greater access for all is good for the planet as well as for Facebook.

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