Updates from May, 2018 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Geebo 9:31 am on May 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , banned, , returns   

    Amazon banning customers for too many returns 

    Amazon banning customers for too many returns

    Amazon offers a lot of incentives to get customers to try to use their service extensively. For example, Amazon offers its Prime membership to its users so the customer can have free shipping for the length of their membership, usually paid in an annual fee. Another one of those features was Amazon’s easy return policy. However, while Amazon wants you to order as many items as possible they’ll send out for ‘free’, don’t send back too many or you may not be an Amazon customer anymore.

    Reports came out this week that Amazon was banning customers who made excessive returns. Amazon claims it’s to prevent fraudulent returns but many customers say they were banned even though they made reasonable returns. Like too many tech companies, Amazon relies on an algorithm to identify potential abusers and only worries about false positives if the banned customer calls to complain. Apparently, Amazon lives by the edict that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

    Let’s be honest, mistakes happen in all retail spaces. Sometimes you get the wrong order or the product wasn’t exactly what you imagined when you received it. Now let’s translate Amazon’s policy to brick and mortar space. For example, Walmart has a very generous return policy. You can almost return a half-eaten fish stick to Walmart without a receipt and still get a refund. Now imagine you returned too many things to WalMart and you were not only banned from your local store but also from all the other Walmarts in the country.

    Amazon would do well to remember who it is that allows them to make all those billions of dollars in profit before customers start leaving their service without being banned.

     
  • Geebo 9:08 am on May 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Facebook: Our monopoly keeps you safe 

    Facebook: Our monopoly keeps you safe

    This past Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared before the Parliament of the European Union to address concerns about user privacy among other matters. To the EU Parliament’s credit, they asked much more poignant questions to Zuckerberg than the sometimes clueless US Congress did. However, much like he did with Congress. Mr. Zuckerberg was largely evasive when it came to the big topics raised by the EU?

    One of the major topics that Mr. Zuckerberg seemed to constantly avoid was that of ‘is Facebook a monopoly?’ Zuckerberg would name platforms like Twitter and Google, but as one Parliament member pointed out, that would be like saying a car manufacturer that has a monopoly telling people they could take a plane instead. Mr. Zuckerberg closed his appearance stating that Facebook would respond to many of the EU’s concerns in writing and that they did, sort of. In addressing concerns that it is a monopoly Facebook issued a statement claiming that its dominance in the social media and messaging space keeps its users safe.

    The company answered Wednesday in an online post, saying there are “many consumer benefits” to having Facebook control so much of the world’s communication. “By working together we have been able to improve safety across all these services,” the company wrote. When Facebook sees spam, exploitative images or illegal content, for example, it can obliterate it on all platforms at once.

    Forgive us for beating a dead horse, but this sounds almost exactly like the claim Backpage used to make that they were a leading tool in the fight against human trafficking. A platform cannot be both the cause of and solution to a problem. As far as obliterating harmful content across all of its properties, Facebook can barely handle that as many people who have complained about harmful content are told that the content in question doesn’t meet their vague community standards for deletion.

    The European Union has a history of taking a dim view against corporations that appear to violate their antitrust guidelines and have ruled against companies that ended up having worldwide ramifications, just ask Microsoft. Could we see a similar blow made against Facebook? If history is any indicator, we will.

     
  • Geebo 9:51 am on May 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , facial recognition, Rekognition   

    Is Amazon watching us? 

    Is Amazon watching us?

    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos not looking Orwellian at all.

    Ever since George Orwell published his dystopian novel 1984 it’s become a cliché to accuse whatever political party you’re opposed to of being Big Brother. What if it’s not the government you have to worry about surveilling us without our knowledge? Instead, what if it’s one of the largest corporations in the world? Amazon has found itself amid a controversy lately after many civil liberty groups have called upon Amazon to stop selling its facial recognition software called Rekognition to police departments around the country.

    Now the advantages and drawbacks to law enforcement using such software can be debated ad nauseam. However, when you combine this Amazon technology with some other aspects of Amazon’s business a disconcerting picture starts to form. For example, how many of us have Amazon Echo’s in our homes with its microphone always listening for the command word from its user? Amazon claims the units aren’t recording our ambient conversations but that could potentially change at any time with just a firmware update.

    Yet the most ominous aspect of Amazon’s business holdings is the fact that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns one of the country’s most respected media outlets in the Washington Post. Jim Morrison once said that “Whoever controls the media controls the mind” while Orwell himself said “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” While we’re not ones to usually indulge in conspiracy theories, separately these actions by Amazon can be seen as benign, but when looked at as a whole it shows a potential future where corporate monoliths can become so overreaching into our lives they could have almost unparalleled influence in our daily lives.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on May 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Samaritan, ,   

    Startup app hopes to better connect homeless to the public 

    Startup app hopes to better connect homeless to the public

    Most startup apps hope to accomplish one of two things. The first is to try to innovate some new social trend that existing social platforms haven’t thought of yet. In the crowded social space, those innovative ideas are few and far between. The other things most startup apps try to do to is to be bought out by a larger company like Facebook, Google, or Twitter in hopes of making a quick fortune. Rarely do we hear about a startup app that’s trying to help those less fortunate in society, but now a startup app out of Seattle is trying to help one of society’s most marginalized people.

    The way the Samaritan app works is that someone who is homeless can get a Bluetooth beacon from any one of Samaritan’s outreach partners. This beacon allows its holder to share their story through their app so they’re not just a faceless person holding a cardboard sign. Many of us have reasons why we don’t give money to homeless people. Some of us don’t carry cash while others have social anxieties that prevent them from talking to people they don’t know, and of course, there are some of us that don’t believe some of those needing help are truly homeless. The Samaritan app helps with a lot of those problems as money can be donated directly to a homeless person in your area who the app notifies you about. Once you receive a notification on the app, you can donate money to that person directly electronically. Users of the beacon can then use the money to get foods and services at many partnered locations, however, alcohol cannot be bought using the Samaritan service.

    So far, the app is available for both iOS and Android devices, but currently, the program is only running in Seattle. They hope to expand into 100 cities within the year. So far, the results in Seattle have been nothing short of amazing, helping people not only to get money to find food but others have been able to find housing and employment through the program. Startup culture and angel investors need to start cultivating more apps like Samaritan and fewer apps that are highlighted by some form of Kardashian.

     
  • Geebo 9:04 am on May 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: extortion, , mugshots.com   

    Owners of exploitative website arrested 

    Owners of exploitative website arrested

    If you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of being arrested, you know how much of a harrowing experience it can be. Between prohibitive bail costs and court fees, worrying about your family, and how the arrest might affect the rest of your life, an arrest can be very devastating. Now imagine you’ve been arrested, but the charges are later dropped. The problem with that is your mugshot is still out there and a matter of public record. Sadly, there are websites out there looking to take advantage of that whether or not you’re innocent or not.

    One of those websites is Mugshots.com. The website would scour public databases looking for mugshots then would post them on their site. If you wanted to have the mugshot removed Mugshots.com would ask you for a nominal fee to have the mugshot remove, allegedly exploiting an already financially charged situation. If this sounds a lot like extortion to you the California Attorney General agrees, as the alleged owners of the site have been arrested and charged with various crimes from extortion to money laundering.

    Not everyone who’s been arrested deserves our scorn. More people are probably arrested for minor incidents such as minor traffic offenses and the like than major crimes. A lot of these people are just trying to get through their lives to put food on their family’s table and having their mugshot online like that could prevent them from doing so. So it’s only fitting that these profiteers of misfortune are about to have their mugshots plastered across the internet.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on May 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Geebo is the best craigslist alternative 

    Geebo is the best craigslist alternative

    We’d like to thank Nate Sterling of Magnum Star News for selecting Geebo as one of the top craigslist alternatives. In his article entitled ‘5 Best Alternative Sites to Craigslist’, Mr. Sterling states that in his opinion Geebo is one of the best classified websites. With all due respect to our esteemed competition mentioned in Mr. Sterling’s list, we like to think that we are the best.

    In the close to two decades that Geebo has been in business, we’ve been an industry pioneer in many aspects. For example, we are very proud of the fact that we manually review our ads in order to greatly lessen the possibility of scams and illegal content. Geebo has always prided itself on not only being the safer community classifieds but also being a family friendly classifieds. While some classifieds sites have made their money through illicit means, Geebo has refused to follow that path.

    And while the other classifieds sites mentioned in Mr. Sterling’s list have their own good qualities, a number of them still have personal ad sections. As craigslist and Backpage have shown, unmoderated personal ads can be abused by online predators and human traffickers. As an industry leader, Geebo removed its personal ads section in order to avoid putting our users in danger years before it became an issue with other websites.

    While some see us as a craigslist alternative, we see ourselves more as the standard bearers for the online classifieds industry.

     
  • Geebo 9:22 am on May 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Is Armslist fueling Chicago’s gun violence? 

    Is Armslist fueling Chcago's gun violence?

    The City of Chicago is one with a rich history steeped in tradition. Unfortunately, a lot of that history is the notorious kind. With names like Al Capone, Richard Speck, John Wayne Gacy, and John Dillinger, the Windy City has been no stranger to violence over its storied past. In more modern times Chicago has gained a reputation for being one of if not the most gun-violent cities in the country, having earned the nickname Chiraq comparing itself to the embattled Middle Eastern country of Iraq. In 2014, Chicago tried to curb the violence by banning all firearm sales within the city limits, but the ban was struck down as unconstitutional. While the city did enact strict new laws to try to prevent further bloodshed, the flow of guns continues into the city.

    One of the ways illegal guns keep making their way into Chicago is through Armslist, the so-called craigslist of guns. Last week, three men were arrested for allegedly trafficking guns into Chicago by buying them in Kentucky off of Armslist before supplying the guns to gangs in Chicago. As we have discussed before, Armslist allows private gun owners to sell and trade guns between themselves. In states like Kentucky, a background check is not required in sales between private owners making Armslist a go-to place for people with a criminal record to try to buy guns. The only thing keeping criminals from buying guns on Armslist is a button they have to click agreeing not to use Armslist for any illegal reason. In honesty that seems more like Armslist trying to protect itself from prosecution and lawsuits rather than protecting the public.

    However, while Armslist cashes checks written in the blood of Chicago’s dead, the city s not without hope. One of its most infamous crimes, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, was the impetus that launched the National Firearms Act of 1934 which made it illegal for anyone to own a machine gun. Maybe, just maybe, modern lawmakers will finally grow a conscience and enact real legislation to curb the gun violence not only in Chicago but in the rest of the country too, putting a stop to the illegal gun sales like the ones that take place through Armslist.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on May 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cambridge, , , mypersonality   

    Facebook exposes millions of users’ data…again 

    Facebook exposes millions of users' data...again

    Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A personality quiz on Facebook compiled data from at least 6 million users and at least half of those users had their personal data exposed. Much like the Cambridge Analytica scandal, this data was freely available for four years before Facebook finally banned the app.

    New Scientist reports that an app called myPersonality was distributed by the University of Cambridge for an academic project. The problem was that the information collected was distributed to researchers on a website that was not very secure. It seems that a username and password for the website was could be found publicly by doing a web search. From there, anyone could steal the information which included the names of the quiz participants.

    Those in tech circles are known for calling on Facebook to tighten its security protocol, however, normal users of the platform really don’t have those concerns. In too many instances Facebook users are willing to sacrifice their own privacy for the sake of convenience, entertainment, or just plain boredom. While no major damage has been done from Facebook’s data breaches, it’s only a matter of time before so much data is lost that it causes the average Facebook user to stand up and take notice. If Facebook is not going to protect our data, maybe it’s time we stopped giving Facebook all of our information.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on May 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Smart rental service allows scammers to rent houses they don’t own 

    Smart rental service allows scammers to rent houses they don't own

    We’ve discussed rental service Rently before on this blog. Basically, they are a service that allows rental properties to be seen by prospective renters without anyone having to be there. While it sounds like an idea of great convenience on paper, it’s allowed scammers to take advantage of renters.

    For example, in Indiana, a family found themselves out of $1700 after they thought they had legitimately rented a home that they found on craigslist. That’s not to say there weren’t warning signs. The fake renter claimed he was out-of-town for a wedding but gave the family the access code to the lockbox which contained the keys to the property. Due to the fact that the family had access to the keys, they felt like this transaction was on the level. They then wired the money to the phony seller. As it turns out, it’s not exactly difficult to get the keys from a Rently lockbox. According to a local news report, all you need to do is answer a few questions in order to gain access to the lockbox. What you can do with the keys after that is up to your imagination. Their introduction video from their website even mentions that their service could be vulnerable to scammers.

    The video also notes that anyone wishing to gain access to a property needs to have a valid credit or debit card, however, that can be easily circumvented.

    While the idea of Rently sounds great in theory, there are too many ways to exploit the service to make it a viable alternative to having a real estate agent or property manager show someone around the home. When security is sacrificed in the name of convenience, you don’t really have either.

     
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