Thursday, April 28, 2011

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

(This is a response to an article in the New York Times titled "Tracking File Found in iPhones ." The author was Nick Bilton. You can find the article here.)

Tracking devices are often associated with nervous parents seeking the locations of their teenagers behind the wheel or dangerous suspects in crime investigations. One normally would not associate a tracking device with their iPhone or iPad. 

A report came from a technology conference in San Francisco. Two computer programmers presented their research that the iPhone and 3G versions of the iPad began logging users' locations around a year ago. This occurred when Apple updated its mobile operating system.

Updates are constantly available for the iPhone and iPad, but one update caused a new hidden file to periodically store location data. This data was retrieved from Wi-Fi networks and cellphone towers. To some privacy advocates, this location technology crossed the line. 

Executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center Marc Rotenberg said, "The secretive collection of location data crosses the privacy line. Apple should know better than to track iPhone users in this way." 

This type of location tracking is used by law enforcement agents, but they must contact the cellphone provider directly. Most officers need a search warrant before doing so. Now, the tracking information is synced to the computer when the user plugs the iPad or iPhone in. The data is more vulnerable to access by hackers. This information could also be accessible to strangers if the iPhone or iPad is lost or stolen. 

Many questions are left unanswered. Apple has not provided any response as to why this information is being tracked at all or whether or not they are gaining access to this information. Many wonder if this is fair treatment by Apple to their customers.

A lawyer specializing in privacy and copyright Christina Gagnier said, "Collecting this data is not illegal, but it does matter or not this is explicitly spelled out in Apple's terms of use. Apple constantly changes their privacy policy, and it's questionable whether most users are aware this is happening." 

Whether or not this is legal, this information did give Apple bad publicity. A vice president of Forrester Research who specializes in security and risk Chenxi Wang said, "It doesn't matter how Apple explains its way out of this, just the fact that consumers know that their phone is being tracked is a very big deal."

I own an iPhone and was not aware of this tracking information until I read this article. It is very startling to me that this has been going on for over a year now. It makes me wonder why Apple set up this hidden file in the first place. Also, I want to know whether or not Apple is accessing this information and for what purpose. It scares me to know that if my phone was to be stolen, the criminal would know where I had been for however long I had owned my phone. Especially with all the danger in the world today, I do not want my location information to be available to anyone. Also, this is upsetting because I had no knowledge that this was occurring.

The article itself was very heavily supported with numerous quotes from various fields. It provided a firm argument for the issue at hand. I would say that the article is biased. It is clearly against the idea of the tracking locations without the knowledge of the consumers. Apple has hurt itself because of this new information outbreak. I am glad someone caught it before it went on too long. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Can I Even Add President Obama as a Facebook Friend???

(This is a response to an article in the New York Times titled "Obama and Facebook in Warm Embrace." The author was Miguel Helft. You can find the article here.)

Social media has taken over the journalism world. Many people see it as the next step to careers in journalism. Quickly, companies and businesses are hiring younger generations to help them get ahead in the cyber race. Twitter, Facebook and many more networks help businesses get connected with a younger, computer savvy audience. Not only are companies and businesses doing this, but the President of the United States as well. It seems that Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg are pals.

via Google
On Wednesday, April 20th 2011, President Obama attended a townhall meeting at Facebook Headquarters to discuss some hot topics. He took questions from the audience and also logged on Facebook to chat with 'friends' from all over the country. During these discussions, Mr. Obama bashed Republican Congressman Paul Ryan for his budget proposal of spending and tax cuts. Mr. Obama also discussed the economy, health care, education and immigration reform.

Throughout the entire event, Mr. Obama and Mark Zuckerberg appeared to be buddies. At one point Zuckerberg said to Mr. Obama, "“I think the Race to the Top stuff that you guys have done is one of the most under-appreciated and most important things that your administration has done."

The hot topics of the night were the importance of math and science education and the need to make it possible for highly skilled immigrants to stay in the United States. Mr. Obama asked, "If we’ve got smart people who want to come here and start businesses and are Ph.D.’s in math and science and computer science, why don’t we want them to stay?” He stressed the importance of those immigrants starting their businesses in the United States rather than in their home countries.

The seemingly close relationship between Washington and Facebook is bringing fear to some privacy advocates. They think it will allow the social networking company to escape government scrutiny. But Facebook has become irresistable to politicans. They can reach out to younger audiences that do not watch political debates but will get on Facebook.

My friend attended the Facebook 'townhall meeting' and said it was strange. It seemed almost wrong that the President of the United States was addressing the public via cyperspace. It becomes impersonal and almost as if talking to a pal on Facebook chat. The idea of social networks and the Government working closely together also scares me. I do not understand the reason why the ties need to be so close. I understand the importance of campaigning through social media networks. That is how Mr. Obama gained such a wide, young following. The danger is when it becomes too much of a friendship that the social media networks do not undergo the same kind of scrutiny that other companies too. I do not want them to be overlooked or have special treatment.

The article itself was well-done and hit all the highlights of the meeting. It included quotes from both Mr. Obama and Zuckerberg. Those quotes showed both sides of the parties being represented and showed how truly 'close' those two men are. They were chummy and praising each other for their accomplishments. Even after reading this article, I am not sure I will ever be alright with my President chatting with me on Facebook.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Put Your Pen Away

(This is a response to an article in the New York Times titled "Would You Sign My Kindle?" The author was Stephanie Rosenbloom. You can find the article here.)

E-readers have become increasingly popular in the past few years. Devices such as the Nook and Kindle allow readers to experience their books electronically. Although still not as common as actual books, readers are catching on. After purchasing an e-reader, eBooks can be bought and instantly downloaded.  According to Forrester Research, sales of eBooks in the United States are expected to triple to nearly $3 billion by 2015. 

via Google
Book signings have been popular at bookstores all around the country. Authors go on tour to promote their books and meet their fans. Signing autographs gives the readers bragging rights and a little bit of the author to take home with them. The book becomes more personal, but authors cannot sign e-readers.

Author of "Hyperformance" and senior consultant for United States Special Operations Command Headquarters T.J. Waters said, "How come the tech world can put a man on the moon and I can’t sign an eBook?”

Spurred by the growing demand of electronic autographing, Waters and softwares companies began to create the technology needed. Waters and Robert Barrett, an information technology executive, plan to debut Autography. This technology allows for the reader to take a picture with the author by using the author's iPad camera or digital camera. By using Bluetooth, the image from the digital camera is sent to the eBook. The picture immediately shows up, and the author uses a stylus to scrawl a digital greeting on the photograph. After tapping a button, the picture is sent to the reader's e-mail, which can then be downloaded onto their eBook. 

These pictures can be instantly downloaded onto Facebook and Twitter for bragging rights. Autography has been tested at multiple book signings and worked quite well. The chief marketing officer for Open Road Integrated Media Rachel Chou said, "Within the year consumers should expect to see a variety of advances in digital signing, including eBooks that are sold with blank pages for that purpose." Sony's Reader already has their own solution which is a stylus that can sign a certain page on its screen. 

I have never been to a book signing, but I can see the appeal of "showing off" that you met someone famous. The digital autographs will make putting the image on social media sites extremely easy and fast. That gives instant bragging rights to the individual, which is why people usually put up photographs like that anyways. I do believe there will continue to be a rise in eBook and e-reader sales as the technology increases. The article made me think about what the future of books will look like, and whether or not everything will eventually be digital. I am not ready to see the death of paperback books. 

The article itself was scattered with quotes from various sources in different fields. An actual author was included which made the point more valid. By including details of companies that have already created the technology necessary, it stressed the reality of the future of virtual autographs. I might have to go out and buy an e-reader in the future. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Check Your Facebook.

(This is a response to an article in the New York Times titled "Police Lesson: Social Network Tools Have Two Edges." The author was Erica Goode. You can find the article here.)

Social media networks are great tools for keeping in touch with friends and sharing experiences. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and more are used all around the world. People use them for leisure and for work. Businesses have now begun adopting them to promote coupons and their items or services. Before being hired, bosses will often check the future employee's social media site to look at their pictures and comments. Although these sites are great tools for fun, they can also bring harm. 

Police forces have learned this lesson the hard way. Although social media networks can be valuable assets for law enforcement agencies, the networks can also get them into trouble. Officer Trey Economidy of the Albuerque police listed his occupation on Facebook as "human waste disposal." This reference shocked his department and took away from the value of human life. He was immediately placed on desk duty. Economidy said, "It was extremely inappropriate and a lapse of judgement on my part."
Image via Google
A careless posting can put an officer in danger. Criminals can find the officers' pages and decipher where they will be and when. Also, defense lawyers can look through social networking sites for evidence that could impeach a police officer's testimony. Once something is on the Internet, it is in cyberspace forever. 

Police departments across the country are hurrying to implement regulations on what officers can and cannot do online. The president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Mark A. Marshall said, "This is something that all the police chiefs around the country, if you’re not dealing with it, you better deal with it." Many new regulations include prohibitions against posting any statements that could discredit or reflect badly on a department, illustrating reckless behavior, ideas that disparage people based on race, religion or sexual orientation and posting crime scene photos. 

A spokesman for the State Police First Sgt. David Bursten said, “Don’t do or say anything that you wouldn’t be proud to have your mother see or hear.”

I have always been told to be careful of what I put on Facebook because anyone can see it. My future bosses will most likely check it or search me on Google, and I do not want any incriminating pictures or quotes. I had never thought of social networking sites damaging police reputation. The article made me think about the potential danger of officers in the field. Crime scene investigation information could easily be leaked on these social networking sites. Although it is hard to put laws on what people say outside of the work field, it is important to put regulations on police officers. These regulations would be not only for their safety, but also the safety of the victims. Information is so easily passed along in this age of technology. 

The article itself was full of quotes from various resources which made it more credible. Loaded with examples of mess-ups in the police force, it reinforced the idea that a solution must be made to fix this problem. The police force must step up and make some changes before someone gets hurt. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where's the Backspace?

(This is a response to an article in the New York Times titled "Click, Clack, Ding! Sigh..." The author was Jessica Bruder. You can find the article here.)

Technology dominates the 21st century. The Internet, iPods, iTouches, iPads, laptops and more are found all over cities and homes. From college campuses to public libraries, people can find high-tech devices with Internet and more. What is the next step to laptops and computers? The typewriter has been resurrected from its grave and has taken on a whole new persona. 

A growing movement of consumers, especially young ones, buying typewriters has emerged. The younger generations have converted to using a typewriter for various reasons. 28 year-old typewriter owner Louis Smith said, "It’s about permanence, not being able to hit delete, you have to have some conviction in your thoughts. And that’s my whole philosophy of typewriters.”

Events have been held in honor of typewriters and their owners. "Type-ins" take place in bars and bookstores to display a post-digital style. The group type out letters to send via snail mail and hold competitions to see who can type the fastest. Type-ins have been seen in cities from coast to coast and even overseas. 

Owner of Brady & Kowalski Writing Machines Brandi Kowalski said, "You type so much quicker than you can think on a computer. On a typewriter, you have to think."

Why are people attracted to typewriters for the second time around? Old typewriters are built like battleships. They can suffer damage and get banged up. Repairs can be made to typewriters, but laptops and smartphones loose much of their value after they leave the store. Typewriters are also very simple. They can only perform one task: putting words on paper. Checking e-mail and browsing Facebook are not options on a typewriter. It makes the task of writing a paper easier to do, and one can focus more on the project. The older generations understand why younger people are so attracted to typewriters. 

The Pulitzer-winning biographer of Robert Moses Robert A. Caro said, “I’m actually not surprised. One reason I type is it simply makes me feel closer to my words. It’s like being a cabinetmaker. It’s like laying down the planks. This is the way it’s supposed to feel.”

The article peaked my curiosity concerning typewriters. I had never thought about the idea of owning one. By using quotes from a spectrum of people in the typewriter world, the article becomes more credible. After reading the thoughts of the typewriter users, I am anxious to try one out. As an aspiring journalist, I understand the idea of wanting to feel close to my words. There is no delete button a typewriter. It makes typing more focused, and the writer becomes more connected with the story being told. 

Whether or not people go out and buy typewriters is up to them, but I certainly would enjoy owning one. I love the idea of old becoming new. Our generation should step up and embrace our history. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Simple Swiping

(This is a response to an article in the New York Times titled "As Phones Become Mobile Wallets, Businesses Want a Share." The authors were Tara Siegal Bernard and Claire Cain Miller. You can find the article here.)

Credit and debit cards fill wallets. Known to be easily accessible and less bulky than a wad of cash, these small plastic cards have taken over the world. Visa, Mastercard, Chase, American Express and many other companies rule the buying power. Swiping a credit card takes seconds to process while pulling out the correct amount of cash can slow things down. Credit cards have proven to be vital to consumers, but a new type of buying method may be taking over. Cell phones could be the new credit card.

Instead of swiping the credit card, the cell phone would simply have to be waved. The technology is out there to make this happen, but big companies are battling for who gets dibs on the most cash. The companies include mobile phone carriers, credit card issuers, banks, retailers and technology companies. The solution of where the money will go and how it will be divided must be decided upon before more steps can be taken. 

Chief executive of mFoundry, which makes mobile payment software for merchants and banks, Drew Sievers said, "“It all comes down to who gets paid and who makes money, you have banks competing with carriers competing with Apple and Google, and it’s pretty much a goat rodeo until someone sorts it out.”

Now that the technology for 'mobile wallets' has finally come about, the pieces are falling into place. Although it is still unclear how the players will get paid, meetings are being held with the biggest companies in order to come to an agreement. Currently, several companies are coming together in order to sort out the kinks. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Discover are creating their own mobile wallet that should be out in early 2012. 

Although the idea behind mobile wallets is intriguing, a lot of issues must be worked out. 
Executive creative director at the design firm Frog Design Jan Chipchase said, "“Is it possible to make a system that’s too easy to use, where you reduce so much friction from the transaction process that people aren’t necessarily aware of what they’re spending on something?”

After taking the Dave Ramsey course in high school, I learned that spending cash is neurologically registered as pain. People have a much harder time parting with their visible cash than charging the purchase to a piece of plastic. Many Americans are in enough debt as it is. Also, the problem with dividing the money between the companies will be a meticulous process. Retailers must also acquire the machines necessary to use the mobile wallets. Ultimately, the consumers will decide whether or not the mobile wallet is a hit or a flop. Until then, credit cards will be swiped. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Caffeine Crazy

(This is a response to an article in the New York Times titled "‘Heat Damages Colombian Coffee, Raising Prices." The author was Elisabeth Rosenthal. You can find the article here.)

The addiction to coffee is evident among Americans. In the fast-paced society Americans live in, grabbing some caffeine to ward off drowsiness is common. Places like Starbucks, O Henry's and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf  are popping up all over cities, and attract both young and old with frothy concoctions. The downfall to such coffee drinks is that they are not cheap. Recently, prices have been rising due to climate issues in Colombia. 

Colombia is known for the Arabica coffee produced. Hearty flavor combined with smooth texture makes for one of the world's most known and most expensive coffees. Coffee yields have been suffering greatly due to rising temperatures and unpredictable rains. Coffee pests thrive in warmer climates and have been destroying the crop. 

Not only is this problem hurting Colombian coffee farmers, but also American coffee lovers. Prices in coffee shops have risen to an all time high.There is talk of the world hitting "peak coffee". Similar to the shortage of oil, the world is experiencing a type of coffee shortage. 

Rosenthal wrote, "The Specialty Coffee Association of America warned this year, “It is not too far-fetched to begin questioning the very existence of specialty coffee.”

Global warming plays a huge part in the extinction of Arabica coffee beans. A specialist in Agroclimatology at Cenicafé Néstor Riaño said, "Half a degree can make a big difference for coffee — it is adapted to a very specific zone." Cenicafé is the national coffee research center. 

Action is now being taken to inform the farmers on how to rid their farms of the pests who destroy the coffee beans. There is also a newer, hardier strain of Arabica that has been developed as a hybrid. Farmers are taking these steps in order to safe their livelihoods.

Coffee drinkers around the world do not need to panic yet. According to this article, the proper steps are being taken to insure that coffee beans will be continue to be available. Colombian farmers are gaining knowledge about how to take care of their crops during weird weather patterns. I will continue to get my drink at Starbucks and keep a steady eye on the prices. Only time will tell whether or not if Arabica beans will become extinct. One can only hope that Colombians figure out a solution to keep Americans on caffeine highs.