Our President, the Google Narcissist


Does Google rig search results?  You bet it does! The Trump administration wants to regulate Google because Trump claims Google rigs search results. Well of course they do! That’s their business Mr. President, but not in the way you think. Google’s search algorithms are the secret sauce of their revenue, which last year amounted to $109.65 billion US dollars. Rigging search results is what makes them the dominant search engine in the market.

I’ve been tracking Internet trends since 1994 when the Web browser was first commercially released and take it from me, search engine algorithms have not only changed, they’ve gotten worse. Back then, a business owner could navigate through the various meta-tags and keyword policies that helped you boost your business listing. But now, Google makes 500-600 new algorithm updates in one year alone, and the small business owner has no way of keeping up unless they pay an SEO firm or fork out mega-dollars to Google for paid search results - which they created to push the other organic business listings further down.

The dream of a website used to be you could hang your shingle right next to the biggest corporation and still be seen, or at least get traffic by your own creative means. Now you’re one SEO tweak away from your blog or website tumbling down to the bottom of their search results never to be found again… I mean who really clicks after the first 2-3 result pages anyway?

So, is Google a monopoly that Congress should be seriously looking into if we want to remain a country where small business really matters? YES. Ask any small business owner if they feel overwhelmed by all the technology upgrades needed nowadays and then add search engine optimization spreadsheets and paid advertising dashboards to the mix, and they’ll tell you it’s a hot mess.

Face it, technology has outpaced our culture. It would seem a paradox because it all started out being a good thing: Google set up specific formulas to help promote business listings and champion free speech, however they’ve devolved into the corporate greed culture where the only thing that matters is money. Quarterly profits and stock prices are the gods they worship. They quietly removed the “Don’t Be Evil” clause from their code of conduct in May (!) and last month announced they are building a secret censored search engine in China which would block websites that are banned by the government and would not answer certain blacklisted questions. But they’ll all still make money, and their “answer boxes” will continue to divert website traffic away from small businesses thereby siphoning off even more of our online revenue dollars.

Rigging search results is only one example of Google’s monopoly, in fact there are MANY reasons why Google and other Big Tech companies should be investigated for anti-trust behavior (which I intend to explain one at a time). But we must also make sure Congress understands all of this Internet technology too (because quite frankly, it’s embarrassing to realize how our elected officials are so behind the digital times).

The real reason Trump’s administration is taking action is because he’s been ego-surfing! Trump has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and he’s concerned about HIS search results. He believes Google manipulates its search results to prominently display negative stories about HIM. There’s even a NetLingo word for it: Google narcissist. The fact is Mr. President, you just have a lot of negative news; right idea, wrong motive. You bet Google is rigging the system… for all of us… are we na├»ve in counting on Congress to care?

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com



Technology is Outpacing Culture

Dear Friends of NetLingo,
Due to the recent events of this crazy world and the random characters in it, I am re-activating the NetLingo blog because I've decided I can no longer stay quiet and watch Big Tech and Congress duel it out with so little input from Us: the Public, the Everyman, the Individual, the Business Owner, the Citizen.

I invite you to join me in my editorial journey as I continue to explain and comment on the important Tech Issues In The News today and how it impacts our lives. Thank you for your continued support.
See you online,
Erin




I was Time Magazine's Person of the Year in 2017

Word of the year: #metoo - the movement began and exposed a cultural ugly truth, also revealing the power of hashtag activism and a #word

2016 will forever be known as the Year Donald Trump Won

President Trump's victory in American politics brought on a slew of memes and acronyms from MAGA to ITMFAFilm at 11.

From Sunrise to Sunset, Thank You

Dear Friends of NetLingo,
As part of ongoing improvements, I am sunsetting the NetLingo blog because I've decided to add these insightful updates within the NetLingo definitions in the dictionary.

I invite you to submit your own terms, sign up for free emails of the day, join me on social media, get copies of NetLingo books on Amazon, shop the NetLingo store for new lists, and most importantly, keep coming back to the website to learn the newest terms. I appreciate your loyalty, keep in touch, stay safe, and I'll see you online...!
AMBW,
Erin

Hello HoloLens: Virtual New Reality for the Real New Year

Microsoft could be about to turn the promise of virtual reality into, well, a reality, said Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times. The company unveiled a prototype of the Microsoft HoloLens, a “wondrous” pair of high-tech glasses that overlay three-dimensional holograms onto the environment around you. During one demonstration, I put on the headset and saw a scene from the video game Minecraft superimposed on a real living room. A Microsoft minder showed me how to use my hands to select a virtual hammer—a tool in the game—and instructed me to smash the coffee table in front of me. “She wanted me, in other words, to use a digital object to interact with a real one.” I waved my index finger, brought the hammer down, and was stunned by what happened: The coffee table shattered into digital splinters and then disappeared. “HoloLens had perfectly erased the coffee table from the environment.”

This device isn’t just a fancy toy, said Jessi Hempel in Wired.com. Microsoft thinks it will usher in “the next era of computing,” in which workers will one day swap their keyboards and monitors for virtual reality headsets and “compute in the physical world, using voice and gesture to summon data and layer it atop physical objects.” I got a glimpse of this new reality in a hands-on test with HoloLens. I sculpted a digital model of a plastic snowman that could be produced on a 3-D printer and had a holographic Skype call with a motorcycle designer in Spain, who helped me “paint a three-dimensional fender atop a physical prototype.” The big question is whether a tech dinosaur like Microsoft can perfect HoloLens without messing it up, Devindra Hardawar in Engadget.com. “Given its history, there’s no guarantee it won’t.” The last time the company released a supposedly groundbreaking product, in 2012, the laptop-tablet hybrid Surface, it was “a fiery train wreck of a device that I wanted to catapult out the window.”

Still, HoloLens already looks as if it has more potential than Google Glass, said Christina Warren in Mashable.com. Glass was designed to be an always-on “smart companion” that users would wear in the car, at work, and at home—something few people wanted to do. The HoloLens, in contrast, is “something a person would only wear for short stretches of time” and for specific tasks, such as playing a video game or holding a teleconference. “By setting the expectation that HoloLens isn’t something you wear all the time,” Microsoft could make it into “an experience that you eventually want to have everywhere.”

-As seen in The Week
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Goodbye Google Glass

“Google Glass is finally dead,” said Will Oremus in Slate.com. This week, Google suspended sales of the “semifunctional and socially controversial” high-tech eyewear and all but admitted it was “going back to the drawing board.” Launched in 2013, Glass proved “a public relations disaster” from the start. The device was banned in bars, restaurants, and much of Las Vegas over privacy concerns, and early adopters were widely mocked as “Glassholes.” Some might argue that Google Glass was “too far ahead of its time for its own good,” said Rick Aristotle Munarriz in DailyFinance.com. But in truth, the specs were simply too “creepy” to catch on. No one wanted to sit next to a Glass-wearing stranger, wondering if his or her every move was being recorded, or put up with a Glass-bedecked dinner companion who might be secretly reading emails or even “watching porn.” And at $1,500 a pop, Glass was far “too expensive” and odd looking for a product that still had plenty of kinks.

Ignore these “premature obituaries,” said Fred O’Connor in PCWorld.com. Even though Google will no longer sell the specs in their current form, the company isn’t killing the project, just shifting it out of the company’s incubator, Google X, and into a stand-alone unit. The fact that Glass will now be overseen by Tony Fadell, an early designer of the iPod who is more recently responsible for the popular digital thermostat, Nest, also suggests Glass’s “future as a consumer device might not be over.” In the immediate term, analysts believe Google will redesign Glass for the workplace, since groups like “surgeons and engineers” have been far more embracing of the technology than everyday users.

If Google is smart, it will ditch the embedded camera altogether, said Jake Swearingen in TheAtlantic.com. Smart glasses are a promising type of wearable, since they give users “a hands-free way to look at a screen.” But new technology involves new social norms, and having a recording device attached to everyone’s faces is too much, too fast. Let this be a lesson to Silicon Valley about the “perils of developing hardware whose purpose isn’t clear,” said Conor Dougherty in NYTimes.com. Compared with the iPhone, which “cleverly combined products people already understood and used,” Glass has a value that has always seemed a little vague. In order for Google to be “the gateway through which people live every aspect of their lives,” the company must be smarter about creating products “that aren’t just useful but have more ethereal qualities like beauty and coolness.” Only time will tell if Google takes this “humbling retreat” to heart.

-As seen in The Week
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I’m a sucker for the conveniences of modern digital life, but...

A guest post from my favorite magazine The Week. Like most Americans, I’m a sucker for the conveniences of modern digital life. I bank on my phone, upload photos to the cloud, and keep my address saved with online retailers to save a few minutes at checkout.

I’ve also come to assume that my personal data have wound up in the hands of a hacker somewhere. I’d be a fool not to. Every week, it seems, there’s a data breach at a big corporation or a new leak of stolen celebrity nude selfies. JPMorgan Chase became the latest victim in 2014, revealing that the accounts of 84 million customers had been digitally ransacked.

Security experts say we should all simply presume our digital data have been stolen. But unless you’re Jennifer Lawrence or the head of IT at a megabank, it’s hard to get worked up about these breaches. For most of us, they mean a canceled card here, a changed password there. The hacks have become so commonplace that we’ve become numb to their dizzying scales and potential danger. Call it a case of data breach fatigue.

Psychologists would call it habituation—we sit up and take notice the first time something happens but tune out after the fourth or fifth occurrence. It’s that effect that causes the nation to collectively shrug when it hears about the latest major car recall, crisis in the Middle East, or tragic school shooting.

When consumers are asked why they tune out to massive data theft, they say the breaches are simply “unavoidable.” Yet it’s that same complacency that allows companies—and political leaders—to perpetuate the status quo. On second thought, excuse me while I go change my passwords.
- Carolyn O’Hara

-As seen in The Week
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Google Glass may not be inevitable after all

A guest post from my favorite editor William Falk of The Week. In these grim times, there is some hope for our species: Google Glass may not be inevitable after all.

Mat Honan of Wired, the bible of the technorati, spent a year trying out Google Glass, a futuristic pair of eyeglasses equipped with a voice-activated wireless computer and camera and a tiny Internet display in one lens. The trial didn’t go well. Honan reports back that the Glass’s ostentatious techiness—and its ability to photograph or video anything the wearer wants—made him the subject of derision and threats wherever he went. People “talk about you openly,” Honan marvels; he got used to hearing himself called a Glasshole. And despite some “cool” features, Honan found Glass “more novelty than utility”—just another way of “documenting rather than experiencing.”

You need not be a Luddite to be heartened by the Glass rebellion. It suggests we haven’t yet been seduced into surrendering the last vestiges of privacy and spontaneity. In recent months, young techies have been publicly questioning the toll that constant connectivity has taken on their relationships, their attention spans, and their ability to sit quietly with their thoughts. Burnouts are treating themselves to Internet “holidays” or checking into retreats promising “digital detox.” Last week, Web journalist David Sessions published a mea culpa in which he called much of Web journalism “stupid and worthless,” saying it “exists simply to produce the act of clicking.” His chastened advice: “New tools should be scrutinized intensely and skeptically, as should the people who stand to gain vast new forms of power and wealth when they are widely adopted.” Wise words, which I immediately shared with everyone I know via the Internet.

-As seen in The Week
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Drones: Google’s sky-high ambitions

Google is spreading its wings, said Alexis C. Madrigal in The Atlantic. The tech giant unveiled a drone delivery project called Project Wing last week, which aims to use “self-flying vehicles” to transport and deliver goods. The project has been in development for two years at Google X—the research lab responsible for Google’s self-driving cars and the Google Glass headset—and has run more than 30 test flights in Queensland, Australia, delivering items such as radios, candy bars, and cattle vaccines to farmers. With a wingspan of 5 feet and a weight of 19 pounds, the Project Wing drones take off vertically and then hover and winch packages down to the ground. Though Google says it will be years before the vehicles are ready for commercial use, it imagines a future in which its drones help reduce the carbon footprint of traditional delivery vehicles like planes and trucks, and goods can be delivered mere minutes after orders are placed.

Google is clearly trying to give Amazon a run for its money, said Will Oremus in Slate.com. The Internet retailer announced its own drone delivery ambitions last year, with plans to develop a system that could deliver orders to customers within half an hour. Both companies’ commercial aims are years away, but the drones they develop could have other applications, such as delivering emergency relief more efficiently or letting people rent certain items, like a power drill, “for only the few minutes that they need them before sending them on their way.” It’s too early to say how Google’s efforts stack up against Amazon’s. But one thing is clear: The drone war has begun.

Amazon may have at least one advantage, said Alex Wilhelm in TechCrunch.com. The company is already experienced in sourcing, shipping, and delivering goods. Still, “non-military drones remain a nascent area of technology,” and Google could quickly catch up. For now, both companies will face similar challenges if they want their drone experiments to really take off. That means building “fleets that are safe, and useful enough for the average consumer to want to summon,” but also economically viable. Government regulations will make that tough task more difficult, said Conor Dougherty in The New York Times. The Federal Aviation Administration has banned commercial drones in the U.S. pending new rules that are due next year, and the vehicles haven’t been tested in densely populated cities. That won’t stop Google or Amazon from moving forward, but the days of receiving “dog food, toothpaste, or whatever else a modern family might need” via hovering drone are still a distant prospect.

-As seen in The Week
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As governments invade privacy, tools for encryption grow more popular

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA collecting massive amounts of user meta-data, many people went in search of safer, more secure ways to use the internet anonymously. Once thought to be something only used by the tech-savvy, increased interest in end-to-end e-mail encryption has prompted both Google and Yahoo to develop user-friendly versions of the protocol that would, in theory, make personal messages exceedingly difficult to intercept.

GeeksPhone, a Spanish hardware manufacturer, and Silent Circle, U.S. communication firm, promise to provide the same kind of privacy with Blackphone, the first fully encrypted smartphone meant for the average consumer. While technically an Android device, Blackphone runs a forked version of the operating system called PrivatOS that rids the phone of any and all connections to Google’s servers.

Encrypting e-mail is effective, but requires that both the sender and recipient of a message use the same specific encryption protocol to maintain privacy. Blackphone, for all of the protection that it provides, cuts users off from most of the services–like games, maps, and other functions–so as to make sure that there are absolutely no gaps through which information might be extracted.

The Onion Router also known as Tor, a browser designed keep users entirely anonymous, is something of a happy medium, and the NSA is actively trying to scare people away from it. Tor guides its internet traffic through complex networks of layered encryption that hide a computer’s physical location and make it nearly impossible to monitor the IP addresses that it visits.

Post-Snowden, Tor saw a substantial increase in the number of people using its browser and network, undoubtedly in-part due to privacy concerns. Documents published by The Guardian revealed that the NSA were actively engaged with attempting to infiltrate Tor’s network, and considered the browser to be “the king of high-secure, low-latency anonymity.” Following widespread, successful-attempts at tracking Tor users’ activity, the FBI openly admitted to exploiting a loophole in Tor’s infrastructure as a part of a larger operation in pursuit of a child pornography ring.

Authorities have justified their pushes into the “anonymous internet,” asserting that by and large, much of Tor’s traffic is related to illegal activities, but that seems to be changing. Richard David James, better known by his stage name Aphex Twin, is a fixture in the electronic music scene. Earlier this week James announced his latest album using a website that could only be accessed using Tor, drawing in a significant number of pageviews in a single day.

The attention, says Tor executive director Andrew Lewman, is both a blessing and a curse. While Tor’s network was able to handle the 133,000 visits that Aphex Twin drew, he doubts whether it could withstand the kinds of gargantuan traffic that Facebook sees on a daily basis. Tor users, comparatively speaking, are rare–a fact that Lewman asserts is what makes them targets for governmental organizations.

“It’s been co-opted by GCHQ and the NSA that if you’re using Tor, you must be a criminal,” Lewman explained to The Guardian. “I know the NSA and GCHQ want you to believe that Tor users are already suspect, because, you know, god forbid who would want their privacy online, they must be terrorists.”

Proponents of Tor and other forms of ubiquitous encryption have called for the public to adopt the technologies on a larger scale, logic stating that if everyone is using encryption, then no one can be singled out for it. Rather than adopting the small, experimental proofs of concept like Tor, Lewman says, true privacy on the internet will come when internet juggernauts like Facebook, Twitter, and Google incorporate the technology into their platforms, making them the standard rather than the exception.

-As seen on PBS
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Facebook ready to spend billions to bring whole world online

Facebook is prepared to spend billions of dollars to reach its goal of bringing the Internet to everyone on the planet, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Friday.

"What we really care about is connecting everyone in the world," Zuckerberg said at an event in Mexico City hosted by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

"Even if it means that Facebook has to spend billions of dollars over the next decade making this happen, I believe that over the long term its gonna be a good thing for us and for the world."

Around 3 billion people will have access to the Internet by the end of 2014, according to International Telecommunications Union (ITU) statistics. Almost half that, 1.3 billion people, use Facebook.

Facebook, the world's largest social networking company, launched its Internet.org project last year to connect billions of people without Internet access in places such as Africa and Asia by working with phone operators.

"I believe that ... when everyone is on the Internet all of our businesses and economies will be better," Zuckerberg said.

-As seen on Reuters
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California passes law mandating smartphone kill switch

Smartphones sold in California will soon be required to have a kill switch that lets users remotely lock them and wipe them of data in the event they are lost or stolen.

The demand is the result of a new law, signed into effect on Monday, that applies to phones manufactured after July 1, 2015, and sold in the state.

While its legal reach does not extend beyond the state’s borders, the inefficiency of producing phones solely for California means the kill switch is expected to be adopted by phone makers on handsets sold across the U.S. and around the world.

The legislation requires a system that, if triggered by an authorized user, will lock a handset to essentially make it useless. The feature must be installed and activated in new smartphones, but users will be able to deactivate it if they desire, and it must be resistant to attempts to reinstall the operating system.

Police can also use the tool, but only under the conditions of the existing section 7908 of the California Public Utilities Code. That gives police the ability to cut off phone service in certain situations and typically requires a court order, except in an emergency that poses “immediate danger of death or great bodily injury.”

The law doesn’t specify how the system locks the phone, nor what happens to the data on the phone when it’s locked. Each manufacturer can come up with their own system.

The law follows pressure on phone makers from the state’s law enforcement community to do something about rising incidents of smartphone theft, which has become one of the most prevalent street crimes in the state.

Apple has already responded and added a feature called Activation Lock into its iOS 7 operating system, which meets all requirements of California’s kill switch law bar one—it doesn’t come enabled in new phones. That will have to change.

Both Google and Microsoft have said they are introducing similar features in upcoming revisions to their smartphone operating systems.

“California has just put smartphone thieves on notice,” California State Senator Mark Leno, the sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement. “Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities.”

The law makes California the second state in the U.S. to pass legislation aimed at reducing smartphone theft. Minnesota passed a law in June, but it doesn’t require the kill switch to be enabled as default. Law enforcement says that’s key because it will increase the chance that a new smartphone has the kill switch enabled, hopefully reducing its attractiveness to thieves.

The kill switch function was actively opposed by the wireless industry until earlier in 2014, when carriers and their lobbying group reversed course and came out in favor of the plan. They received more persuasion in the form of two additional bills introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

- As seen on PC World
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Goodbye To MSN Messenger, An Aughties Relic

Call it the Gchat effect.

MSN Messenger, the ubiquitous instant messaging platform of the early aughties, is no more. After 15 years of facilitating hookups between high school kids, Microsoft will finally pull the plug on its online chat program this fall.

Windows Live Messenger (as it's currently known) will officially be put to bed on October 31. And, while many believed it already extinct, it is still operational in China.

At its peak, Messenger claimed 300 million users, and held the title of the most widely used messaging service in the world. However, as Microsoft began focusing its attention on Skype — after purchasing the video chat platform for $8.5 billion — and Google unveiled their acclaimed Gchat, Messenger suddenly felt antiquated.

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People like Emojis, I prefer Emoticons :-)

Hieroglyphics are making an unlikely 21st century comeback, and it's all thanks to millennials' insatiable appetite for texting. Young people might hate history class, but they can't get enough of the cute little characters known as emoji, according to Daniel Wroclawski by Reviewed.com.

You're probably familiar with the bright yellow smiling, winking and frowning faces that seem to follow every text message these days. You probably even use them yourself. But you might not be aware that there are more than 1,500 to choose from.

Designed to symbolize everyday objects, expressions and ideas, they range from smiley faces, to foods, to sporting equipment, to holiday decorations and everything in between. And they're expressive enough to act as stand-ins for words or entire phrases.

Their eye-catching designs have propelled them to pop-culture fame, and that's made them fertile ground for research and experimentation by academics and artists. Just last summer, Emoji Dick, a translation of Moby Dick into emoji, was accepted into the Library of Congress. In December, the first all-emoji art exhibition was held in New York City.

Perhaps more important, the sheer diversity of emoji makes them a viable tool for crossing language and cultural barriers -- and could see them effectively become a pidgin language of their own. Italian art director Giorgio Mininno recently used emoji to help teach Chinese students about art, even though he couldn't speak a word of their language.

"The emoji helped them to find new ideas and facilitated the communication with us, sometimes breaking the language gap," Mininno told us. Eventually, he asked his students to create art out of the universally understood characters.

But while the characters seem simple, their meanings can vary in surprising ways.

"An emoji can mean a completely different thing to completely different people," said Nick Kendall. He's the co-creator of Emojicate, an app that asks its users to communicate solely through emoji.

Kendall has noticed this effect while chatting with his friends. Take the dumbbell emoji: Some friends use it to say, "Let's go to the gym," while others use it to tell him to "toughen up."

Despite their global appeal, emoji actually originated in Japan, and their unique cultural roots have created confusion over the intended meaning of certain symbols. Take the icon that depicts a woman with one hand outstretched, palm up. The official name of this emoji is "information desk person."

"There's something about her pose or the look on her face that people have read into," said Matthew Rothenberg, creator of Emojitracker. The site monitors emoji use on Twitter, revealing both real-time and long-term usage trends. "Everyone I know who uses that one, they use it to mean like ... she's the 'whatever' girl. Like, whatever."

(He pronounced that last "whatever" in a dead-on valley girl accent.)

But for all their diversity and flexibility, Mark Davis, president of the Unicode Consortium, says it doesn't take long before emoji users hit a conversational wall. There are only so many ideas the tiny pictographs can convey.

Still, that hasn't stopped people from trying. Some teenagers and young adults routinely converse using more emoji than words -- a trend reflected in the emoji-heavy lyric video for Katy Perry's 2013 hit single Roar.

While the video shows the pop star texting with the well-established WhatsApp messenger, new apps like Emojicate and an upcoming competitor called Emojli are swooping in to capitalize on the fad with specialized, emoji-only chat services.

Emojicate founder Kendall thinks emoji are especially useful because of their artful economy.

"Ten or 15 years ago, the idea that everything can be condensed into a 140-character tweet seemed ridiculous," Kendall said. But a single-character emoji, he argued, can convey the same information as 10 or more letters.

Unicode's Davis said he thinks emoji will be around for the next few years. What they'll evolve into after that is anyone's guess. For now, 1,500 emoji characters will have to do. Which do you prefer, emojis or emoticons?

- As seen in USA Today
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Apple and Home Depot Tread Lightly on Hacking Attacks

Don’t blame us. That’s what Apple is saying in a very carefully worded statement about the hacking of nude photos of celebrities. “None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone,” the company says.

According to a report filed by Richard Davies of ABC News Radio, if any weaknesses or bugs in Apple’s cloud-based systems were found, it would be a major embarrassment. The attacks come less than one week before Apple shows off its new iPhone.

“After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet,” Apple said in a statement. “To protect against this type of hacking attack, we advise all users to always use a strong password and enable two-step verification.”

Apple says the hacking attack involved user names, passwords and security questions of specific celebrity iCloud accounts.

ABC News’ Alex Stone reports: “In 2012, a Florida man admitted to – and was sent to prison for – hacking into celebrity email accounts and stealing nude photos,”

“He would get a celebrities’ email address and then click Forgot Password on the email welcome screen. When prompted to answer security question – like a mother’s maiden name – he was able to find the answers online and then gain access.”

Home Depot is also dealing with a possible hacking attack. The No 1. home improvement retailer says “we’re looking into some unusual activity.” The company is working with banks and law enforcement, including the Secret Service, after reports of a major credit card breach. “Protecting our customers’ information is something we take extremely seriously, and we are aggressively gathering facts at this point,” a spokeswoman said.

Hackers have broken security walls for several big retailers in recent months – including Target. The rash of breaches has rattled shoppers’ confidence in the security of their personal data and pushed retailers, banks and card companies to increase security by speeding the adoption of microchips into U.S. credit and debit cards.

Supporters say chip cards are safer because, unlike magnetic strip cards that transfer a credit card number when they are swiped at a point-of-sale terminal, chip cards use a one-time code that moves between the chip and the retailer’s register. The result is a transfer of data that is useless to anyone except the parties involved. Chip cards are also nearly impossible to copy, experts say.

The possible data breach at Home Depot was first reported by Brian Krebs of Krebs on Security, a website that focuses on cybersecurity. Krebs said multiple banks reported “evidence that Home Depot stores may be the source of a massive new batch of stolen credit and debit cards” that went on sale on the black market.

The breach may have affected all 2,200 Home Depot stores in the United, Krebs says. Several banks that were contacted said they believe the breach may have started in late April or early May.

“If that is accurate — and if even a majority of Home Depot stores were compromised — this breach could be many times larger than Target, which had 40 million credit and debit cards stolen over a three-week period,” the Krebs post said. Krebs said that the party responsible for the breach may be the same group of Russian and Ukrainian hackers suspected in the Target breach late last year.

It’s an open question whether repeated reports of hacking will change consumer behavior. Periodic cases fuel outrage, but there’s no retreat from digital engagement or any imminent promise of guaranteed privacy.

“We have this abstract belief that privacy is important, but the way we behave online often runs counter to that,” said author Nicholas Carr, who wrote the 2010 book, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

“I’d hope people would understand that anything you do online could be made public,” Carr said. “Yet there’s this illusion of security that tempers any nervousness. It’s hard to judge risks when presented with the opportunity to do something fun.”

-As seen on ABC
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Could Wearable Tech Like Google Glass Play a Role in Connected Education?

Google Glass Education
Guest post by: Online-PhD-Programs.org

Searching for better selfies

The world needs more selfie-friendly smartphones, said Molly Wood in The New York Times. For whatever reason, smartphone-makers haven’t “gotten the memo and made great forward-facing cameras.”

Selfies remain “unfocused, pixelated, dark, blown-out, backlit, grainy, and worst of all, distorted.” Part of the problem is that better cameras demand “bigger sensors and bigger optics, and that leads to thicker phones.”

Slender devices still dominate the market, “but bigger phones are becoming the rage.” In the meantime, customers looking to take better self-portraits should consider models with more megapixels, such as the HTC One or Nokia Lumia 1020. These cameras can’t take “good” photos, but they’re better than the Samsung Galaxy and iPhone, which both present would-be selfie-snappers with chronic focus and lighting issues. C'mon, get with the program!

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Apps: Why you should be wary of health trackers

The use of fitness apps “has exploded in recent years,” but you aren't the only one keeping an eye on the data.

The use of apps that track your health and fitness “has exploded in recent years,” said Emily Steel and April Dembosky in the Financial Times. But do you really know who else is keeping an eye on how much you run, sleep, eat, smoke, and weigh? According to new research our newspaper commissioned, health and fitness apps routinely share user data with digital analytics and advertising firms; one of the most popular, MapMyRun, shares data with 11 outside companies.

The developer, like most others in the sector, says that only aggregated data is sold to advertisers, and that no “personally identifiable information” goes to third parties without the user’s explicit permission. In fact, that’s how many of the apps make money. Developers often profit from actively collaborating with insurance firms, which use authorized personal data to set fitness and health goals for employee health plans. “When users meet certain fitness benchmarks, they are offered discounts on their health premiums.” Some employers even offer incentives like “vacuum cleaners or luxury vacations.”

“This isn’t a surprise,” said Stuart Dredge in The Guardian (U.K). In this privacy day and age, data sharing is inevitable. “Developers know this, and so do tech-savvy app users.” But providing—or selling—data to insurance providers is clearly “a particularly sensitive area.” Not everyone will want such information to get out. That’s why app developers “should be as transparent as possible with their users about how their data is being shared.” And before you start oversharing with your health app, ask yourself who might own that data down the road. “If your favorite fitness apps take off, they may be acquired by bigger fish in the health-care or insurance industry in the next few years.” Your data may well be part of the deal.

There are ways to minimize the risk of your health data going where you don’t want it to go, said Ann Carrns in The New York Times. Consumers should “consider the credibility of the health apps they choose.” Look for apps from better-known brands that have a track record and “more resources to spend on comprehensive data security.” Smaller developers might not encrypt your data before transmitting it to their servers, for instance. Inspect an app’s privacy policy; you may be able to opt out of certain information-sharing practices that raise a red flag. But don’t count on the law to be on your side—“there’s little regulatory protection for health information shared over consumer apps.”

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3 Good Reasons Why You Need to Like RATS

Of course no one likes actual rats, but since we have social-media-savvy tweens and teens, we do need to Recognize Acronyms and Text Shorthand (RATS  is my creative acronym, not the nasty rodent).

Could you spot a good acronym if you saw it? No, not LOL. I mean one that adolescents use with each other (FYI LOL is DOA with teens). Take this quick quiz to see how many acronyms or shorthand symbols you recognize (the answers are at the end of this post).

1) DDAS
2) 9
3) WRUDATM
4) ASL
5) BTOIYA

How do you think you did? Could you spot them in a text and know what they mean? I borrowed these from a website called NetLingo.com. Click here for the thorough list of chat acronyms and text shorthand. If your child uses odd letters and numbers in texts and chat messages, then this list will solve the mystery of the message. Get ready…it’s a long list and if you are like me you’ll shake you head at the lengths some will go to come up with certain words so they don’t have to type it out. You will also be shocked at the foul language and sexual innuendoes that have acronyms. They are horribly inappropriate! SMH!

Here are 3 reasons why we, as parents, need to watch out for odd combinations of letters and numbers within texts and chat messages:

1)  Our kids could be victims of bullying or they could be bullying others.
2) They could be dealing with pressure from their boyfriend/girlfriend to do something they shouldn’t do. They could also be the ones pressuring the boyfriend/girlfriend.
3) They are making bad choices with drugs, alcohol, child groomers or simply using inappropriate language that is not inline with your family values. The reasons vary in degree from family to family.

Granted, most of the acronyms and shorthand are light-hearted and innocent so 9 times out of 10 there is no reason for alarm. However, as a parent with a tween or teen, we need to have all the information we can get to keep our head above the water when it comes to social media.

Quiz your kids to see how many they know. My guess is they won’t know all of them but they are so used to seeing acronyms that they can figure them out quickly. *WARNING: many of them are inappropriate.

Let us know how you did on the quiz in the comments!

Answers to the quiz: 1) Don’t Do Anything Stupid; 2) parent is watching; 3) What Are You Doing At The Moment; 4) age/sex/location; 5) Be There Or It’s Your A** (sorry for that one but I wanted to give an example of the language that bullies could be using with other kids).

This is a guest post from our friends at CyberForward!