Superfish, more like super fail

Last week Lenovo made national headlines.  Unfortunately, not all PR is good PR.  The computer company was filed with a lawsuit for malware installation without the consumer’s knowledge.  The malware, Superfish, presents major security risks and Lenovo consumers are extremely unhappy (understandably).  Lenovo handled the situation as best it could – the company released a press statement the morning the issue went viral, it accepted full responsibility for the issue, and it provided information as to how to detect and remove the malware.  This may be a PR nightmare but it also raises questions as to what other software we are unaware of. If a major computer company doesn’t detect security threats in software, how are we supposed to?

The risk of Superfish is that it essentially shares information from computer to computer as long as they are on the same network – this includes passwords, documents, you name it.  Clearly a major issue.  As part of its PR response, Lenovo promised to pursue PC cleansing in order to win back their consumers through preventative measures.  In a statement released by the CTO, Lenovo quickly figured out how to detect and remove Superfish and shared links for users to do it themselves.  While Lenovo did its best to resolve the issue, it broke a major trust pact with loyal customers.  Lenovo claims it was phasing out the software due to unpopularity among users but was unaware of the security risks involved.

If it is so easy for users to fix the issue themselves then how did this problem spiral so out of control?  Hopefully after this disaster other companies prioritize testing their software to prevent a similar issue. In today’s day and age, our entire lives are saved on our computer.  When this information ends up in the wrong hands, it could be detrimental and in this case, putting all the blame on Lenovo.

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Facebook place tips

Facebook is at it again.  Rather than connecting users with just their friends, this time Facebook is aiming to connect users with the world.  It’s introduction of “place tips” was tested in New York City at the end of January.  Place tips is a timeline feature that utilizes users’ locations by providing information, pictures and menu items of stores/shops/landmarks nearby.  The feature will also show any friend’s post or photo relevant to the location, connecting a shared interest between the two users.

Based on our security discussion yesterday, will this feature be a new threat? By sharing a photo with your location will that share your location with Facebook users you aren’t friends with? The feature says that this only works with people who have their location services on, but isn’t that the vast majority of us, even unknowingly?

The increase of technological advances, like this, have become an overall threat to our security, privacy, and ultimately safety.  Although there are ways to opt out, it’s usually the more difficult way and therefore, unknown to many users.  As previously stated, I fully believe that internet users are accountable for the actions they take and posts they share when signing up for a service, but behind every new update seems to be a whole new set of risks.

This feature and those similar to it do give you the option to “hide” its services, but does that really turn it off? Most likely not.  Upon further investigation I found that Facebook says “users would only share their location if they choose to.” I applaud them for attempting to give users the opt out but there always seems to be a loophole.  In several instances I’ve found that I cannot access certain parts of apps unless I consent to sharing my location and I assume this feature will be similar.

I’m not necessarily bashing the new Facebook feature, I’m simply offering precautionary advice.  I think the idea is great – similar to Instagram’s geotag where users can search photos from the same location.  New location based features like these are just allowing one more intrusion into our lives, no matter what the privacy terms may say.

#askhermore

This weekend’s Oscars sparked the Ask Her More Campaign, a twitter campaign designed to eliminate sexism in the entertainment industry.  Oscar attendees like Reese Witherspoon, Amy Poehler, and Lena Dunham took to social media to spread the campaign’s message.

After the Sony hack last year which revealed income discrepancies between male and female actors, celebrities are taking to social media to take a stand.  Its 2015, why are women still being objectified on the red carpet while men are asked about their professional accomplishments?  Although I am a fan of pre-award show red carpet segments, I too would like to hear about something besides these women’s designer dresses and jewels.  They may look gorgeous, but that’s not the reason they’re standing there.

Buzzfeed’s article hits the nail on the head. “Bradley Cooper gets asked about the community of actors, Lupita gets asked about her dress,” says Rossalyn Warren, a Buzzfeed news reporter.

The #askhermore campaign allows celebrities and fans to tweet questions that they would like to be asked on the red carpet, rather than “who are you wearing?”  Reese Witherspoon posted a message on Instagram, heading the campaign, that seemed to actually resonate with red carpet reporters.  The E! red carpet reporters attempted to feign interest in topics outside of fashion, before asking the wardrobe questions, and tried to even the playing field by also asking the men.

I applaud this campaign and the women supporting it but am curious why it is just now making headlines when awards season is over.  There have been many nationally televised red carpet events over the last several months where women have been pestered with the same tiresome questions and although some do complain, it hasn’t been on this type of scale. With all of the women involved, I expect to see more on this campaign in the coming weeks, but its effectiveness will present itself come next awards season.

Mobile-game revenue growth

For those who still actually watch commercials on live TV (the pain…), you might have noticed a new trend.  Since when have game apps advertised their services through commercials? The most memorable of these features Kate Upton, a model who has literally nothing to do with these products whatsoever but hey, these advertisers seem to know what they’re doing.  Anyway, these commercials seem to be the result of a projected 2015 revenue growth of U.S. mobile-game downloads, projected to reach $3.04 billion.

The mobile-game download revenue is compared against e-books, music, and video.  Although e-books are still the most profitable, their projected revenue increase is only a fourth of the mobile games, at 16.5%.

As an entertainment seeking population, why is this a new trend? Haven’t people been playing games for years. Or have game companies changed their apps to become more profitable? I’m not a tech savvy person but I would say with the increasing use of mobile apps, these companies redesigned their marketing skills as well as the games themselves to attract a wider user base and eventually turn a profit.

As discussed in the Wall Street Journal, eMarketer analyst Martin Uteras explains another reason for increased growth.  “There’s more room to grow in terms of demographics for gaming. Mobile opened the gate for a lot of people who were not traditionally gamers,”

The next couple months will prove if these projections are correct.  Hopefully the mobile game revenue growth proves more successful than its commercials let on…

Time to redesign

During print’s age of decline, re design is on the mind.  The New York Times is taking a major leap by introducing a whole new look for their magazine.  “There will be new columns, new columnists, new page concepts and layouts, new features and new typefaces.” A month prior, the Times announced their web redesign.  NYTimes.com will look just like the print version you see on your kitchen table every morning.  New York Times aims to maintain their identity and strengthen their brand.

In addition to the new look, the news source aims to increase their readership among young users with the use of the NYT Now app.  Currently offered for $7.99 a month, the Times is considering making this app free.  Although missing out on a profit, increasing subscribers is of greater importance, especially if it means opening its brand up to a new generation – specifically the generation eliminating the newspaper.

These two major changes would seriously change up the traditional news source and raises questions as to whether other competitors will follow in their footsteps.  The threat of digital news putting print sources out of business is causing the New York Times and others to reconsider their methods.  This makes me curious what other actions will be taken in the future.  How will print news sources reach out to their readers in 10 years? Even 5? The digital age is moving at such a fast pace no one can keep up, let alone lead the pack.

Is Apple Pay on the outs already?

Big news was released yesterday in the technology world.  Apple’s lead in technological advances has come to an end.  Its competitor, Samsung announced the expected release of LoopPay, rivaling Apple Pay.  Samsung announced a deal to purchase LoopPay in hopes of eventually launching a holistic mobile wallet.

As discussed in class today, the technological field is filled with fierce competition.  When one company launches an innovative idea, other brands jump on the idea in attempts to outdo the other and wow the consumer (think Google Glass now branching to Microsoft, Sony, etc).  The convenience of leaving your wallet at home is appealing to most all consumers, therefore providing great incentive to invest in a product that can provide such a service.

After the investment of LoopPay, Samsung intends to build the technology into its future mobile devices, suddenly creating competition between the iPhone’s mobile pay services and Samsung’s.  The question is who will outshine the other?

I completely understand the need to compete with one another, but from the viewpoint of the consumer this makes buying decisions that much more difficult.  Whereas the iPhone used to sell itself with its one-of-a-kind features, other devices are quickly adapting similar features that may even be better.  As we head into the future of technology the question of which product has more features will be obsolete – instead we will be asking which one is better.  In the case of Samsung, they might even have a leg up.  Whereas Apple Pay only works with certain retailers, Samsung’s LoopPay will work with even more retailers.

I, and I’m sure many others, are curious to see how this all plays out.  Will Samsung come out on top in terms of the mobile wallet or will Apple continue to be the reigning champ? Stay tuned.

Has Twitter plateaued?

Although it may be one of our favorite social media platforms, Twitter has reached a plateau.  One of the most popular forms of social media has announced its numbers, and they aren’t pretty in the eyes of investors.  Twitter’s stagnant user growth is a bit of concern since the company went public only a few months ago.  In the last month only one million users signed up (only…). But in terms of other social media sites that might as well be nothing.

Just after this announcement was released, a stock analyst changed Twitter’s rating from “neutral” to “underperform,” ouch… This is bad news for advertisers who need a constant flow of new eyeballs on their products and who rely on Twitter to bring results.

Even after these ratings, I don’t think Twitter is anywhere close to being on the outs.  Stagnant doesn’t necessarily mean hurting.  Maybe Twitter needs to work on marketing to new users but the strong relationship it has built with its existing users is enough to keep Twitter at the top of its game.  How many millions of users are already actively using Twitter? I think  to make these analyses more accurate the research should be conducted based on active users versus one time sign-ups.  Marketers have nothing to worry about if those one million users that registered in the last month are about to become Twitter’s biggest fans.  It all depends on how often users view their feeds rather than how many have profiles.

Investors will have to keep watch over Twitter’s growth in the next quarter but it’s unlikely that the company will continue to decline after so much success.

Say no to Tinder

While reading a magazine article about the sexual inequalities women experience in the workplace, I stumbled upon the case of a Tinder co-founder filing a lawsuit for sexual assault.  My first thought, was I the only one who missed this headline (apparently so)? My second being, how disgustingly ironic that a sexualized dating app settled a lawsuit for sexual harassment in their own workplace.

First off, Tinder – in my opinion this “dating site” is a joke. How can you expect to find a lasting relationship via cheesy pickup lines from total strangers, most of whom use the site for anything but a relationship (advertised as “casual” dating).  The fact that the prospects users see is based on proximity rather than similar interests is devaluing the point of dating.  We’ve all seen the ridiculous Buzzfeed articles of men desperately looking for attention and women choosing to play along for a good laugh – a laugh is exactly what comes to mind when I think of Tinder.  Despite my opinion, it continues to be one of the most successful apps out there.

Tinder was co-founded in 2012 by two males and one female, Whitney Wolfe.  In the lawsuit Wolfe claims that during her time at the company she was subjected to “sexist, racist and otherwise inappropriate comments, emails, and text messages.”  Not only did her co-founders speak inappropriately to her, but the corporate supervisor stood back and did nothing.

The case has since been resolved but I think is (or should be) a negative reflection of Tinder’s brand.  How can a dating app continue to get such positive reviews when the founders of the brand are reflecting such a poor image? More importantly, why is sexual harassment in the workplace such a reoccurring issue? This lawsuit in particular sparked a conversation about the common mistreatment of women working in tech.  Hopefully Tinder learned its lesson – maybe it could apply a thing or two to change the policies its app promotes to spark a “relationship.”

Clean up your act

It’s that time of year for upperclassmen.  Seniors are stressing about post -graduation plans and juniors are stressing to find an internship (in hopes of actually being hired after graduation).  Around this time every year I notice it suddenly becomes much more difficult to identify my Facebook friends or even view their profiles.  They change their names to hide from future employers or delete every existing picture they have.  Just yesterday my roommate’s mother called her saying her firm was searching through a potential intern’s Facebook profile and was appalled at what they found.  After a very confrontational interview, the interviewee admitted although inappropriate, he was under the impression that his profile was private – meaning that employers didn’t have access to his photos.

After hearing this, I obviously became concerned for my own image on social media.  Yes, I have written about starting fresh on Twitter out of new interests – but Facebook is different. I don’t want to delete old memories with high school friends, I just don’t want employers to see them. I’m a firm advocate of internet users electronically signing an agreement contract, essentially handing over all shared information with the general public.  But to play devil’s advocate, are we under the assumption that social media sites, like Facebook, are giving us a false sense of privacy? Are our “private” profiles really private?

Based on my findings it seems to be a common trend for employers to ask interviewees to log onto their Facebooks during an interview.  In this case, no matter how many privacy settings are in place, your profile is in full view and essentially determining your chance of being hired. The debate as to whether this is fair or unfair will be saved for another time but should resonate with all of us during our application process. There is a distinct line between inappropriate content and unprofessional content. There may be certain photos, posts, etc that I wouldn’t want to share with my boss, but that may not necessarily be inappropriate.  Our generation must be careful when determining what to post and who views it – it could cost you a job down the road.

Kudos to ad agencies

And were back. Although the Superbowl is “old news” in the world of communications, its underlying themes are making headlines in many different forms of social media this week.  Buzzfeed, Instagram, Twitter. Whether they are simply showcasing their favorite ads or making a parody out of them – they seem to be trying to hold onto their themes for as long as possible.  We all saw the chilling Nationwide  ad – what starts off as a cute kid ends in a serious scare of fatal accidents.  The extremely necessary PR move by the NFL, sponsoring a domestic abuse ad. And then the lighthearted Budweiser ad with a heartwarming reunion between a puppy and his owner.

Anastasia put it perfectly – I wasn’t expecting to see social issues during the Super Bowl, but it’s actually the perfect platform.

Generally Superbowl ads remain relevant for a few weeks after the fact but their social media presence are taking on a whole new meaning. Although some advertising companies have received criticism for introducing serious topics during an entertaining sports event, I think these companies did exactly what they intended to do – got people talking about the issue.

Whether or not it was an appropriate time, we all paid attention. Almost a week later I can still picture a handful of these commercials, even if I had zero interest in their product. Maybe advertisers will stick with this attention grabbing tactic and continue producing ads that address social issues, rather than attempting to make their audience laugh.