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What is LINE and why is it the fastest growing social chat app?

With all the chat apps on the market, how can a brand differentiate itself? Japan-based LINE has one answer and it’s working like magic.

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Have you heard of LINE?

With all the chat apps on the market, from Whatsapp to Kik, it is hard to imagine another platform throwing their hat into the ring and being successful, but that’s just what Japan-based LINE has done. LINE originated as a way for users to keep in touch without paying the wireless provider’s pay-per-message fees. However, given the availability of other apps doing the same thing, LINE wanted to do something different.

Oddly enough, what differentiated LINE from the pack was the introduction of stickers to express emotions that are difficult to quickly sum up in a text message. Their stickers are a bit like the now familiar Facebook stickers; large emojis that allow you to express yourself bigger and better. Now, LINE offers thousands of stickers. Users can get most sticker sets free, the rest can be purchased using “coins.” Coins can be bought or won through LINE connected games. If you think stickers are just a fad, consider that LINE users send close to 2 billion stickers a day, with new stickers added almost daily.

Another huge part of their success

I mentioned LINE games. Another large part of why LINE is successful is their partnerships with mobile gaming apps. They currently have partnerships with big names like Disney, Star Wars, and Peanuts for stickers, and these partnerships run over into their gaming apps. One of their biggest gaming apps is Disney Tsum Tsum; a Candy Crush-like game that allows users to collect virtual Disney plush, rather than candy.

Nix wireless fees, follow the Japanese!

Also, LINE operates a chain of retail stores in Japan. While Hello Kitty and Harajuku are insanely popular, LINE’s store, LINE Friends, is rapidly winning customers over. The store offers all the fan-favorite characters from the stickers and emojis. They carry quite an array of products, just like Harajuku, from sticky notes to stuffed animals and everything in between. A store owned not by a retail chain, but rather by a social media company is quite different, but could this be indicative of things to come? Will Facebook and Twitter parlay their brands into retail stores and if they did would anyone be interested? I do not think so. There is something unique in the novelty of the LINE stickers that makes it particularly attractive and so far it is definitely working for LINE.

The ability to text and talk whenever you like without wireless provider’s fees, plus the ability to express yourself through an impressive catalog of stickers, and buy any of these sticker-themed items in store, makes for an impressive combination; perhaps this is why the LINE brand is quickly becoming so popular.

#LINEapp

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Social Media

European court busts Facebook for illegally tracking people

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is in hot water again for how they track non-users (and many were unaware they ever did).

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Facebook has been collecting data from both users and non-users across the internet, and Europeans are not having it.

A Belgian court has ruled that Facebook violates privacy laws by using technologies like cookies, plug-ins, and pixels, to track internet users’ browsing behaviors on up to 10,000 websites, whether or not users even have a Facebook account. A similar ruling was handed down by a German court just last week.

The legal battle began in 2015 when the Belgian Privacy Commission brought a civil suit against Facebook, who attempted to argue, unsuccessfully, that because their European headquarters is in Ireland, they are outside of the jurisdiction of Belgian law.

Nonetheless, the Belgian court is charging Facebook fines of €250,000 per day, up to €100 million, or 124,000 million U.S. dollars, if they fail to comply. The court has ordered FB to cease tracking Belgian internet users and to destroy the data they’ve already collected.

What’s Facebook’s excuse for non-consensually gathering so much data? As usual, they try to sell users on giving up their privacy for a more “relevant” ad experience. But we all know this is just a coded way of saying that they do it for the advertisers.

Facebook also claims that this data gathering is consensual and that users have the option to opt out. “We require any business that uses our technologies to provide clear notice to end-users, and we give people the right to opt-out of having data collected on sites and apps off Facebook being used for ads,” says Richard Allen, Facebook’s vice president for public policy in Europe.

However, the court, and Belgian privacy watchdog groups, say that many of Facebook’s tracking mechanisms are invisible to the user, and that privacy controls are preset to opt-in, with opt-out options difficult to find. The Belgian court also says that Facebook isn’t being clear enough about how the data they’re collecting is being used.

Facebook plans to appeal the ruling, and the case could very well end up in the CJEU, Europe’s supreme court. The social media giant will probably have an increasingly difficult time getting away with tracking practices after the EU passes new rules, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, in May.

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Can you legally monitor your employees’ online activities? Kinda

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Are they ways you are monitoring your employees online even legal? Did you know there are illegal methods? Yep.

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Edward Snowden’s infamous info leak in 2013 brought to light the scope of surveillance measures, raising questions about legality of monitoring tactics. However, the breach also opened up broader discussion on best practices for protecting sensitive data.

No company wants to end up with a data breach situation on their hands, but businesses need to be careful when implementing monitoring systems to prevent data loss.

Monitoring your employee’s activity online can be a crucial part of safeguarding proprietary data. However, many legal risks are present when implementing data loss prevention (DLP) methods.

DLP tools like keystroke logging, natural language processing, and network traffic monitoring are all subject to federal and state privacy laws. Before putting any DLP solutions in place, companies need to assess privacy impact and legal risks.

First, identify your monitoring needs. Different laws apply to tracking data in transit versus data at rest. Data in transit is any data moving through a network, like sending an email. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) requires consent for tracking any data in transit.

Data at rest is anything relatively immobile, like information stored in a database or archives. Collecting data at rest can fall under the Stored Communications Act (SCA), which typically prohibits unauthorized access or disclosure of electronic communications.

While the SCA does not usually prevent employers from accessing their own systems, monitoring things like Gmail accounts could get messy without proper authorization.

Who you’re tracking matters as well regarding consent and prior notification. If you’re just monitoring your own employees, you may run into disclosure issues. Some states, like Delaware and Connecticut, prohibit employee monitoring without prior notice.

The ECPA also generally prohibits tracking electronic communication, but exceptions are granted for legitimate business purposes so long as consent is obtained.

Monitoring third party communications can get tricky with wiretapping laws. In California and Illinois, all parties must be notified of any tracking. This can involve disclosures on email signatures from outbound employee emails, or a broad notification on the company’s site.

Implied consent comes from third parties continuing communication even with disclaimers present.

If you’re wanting to install DLP software on personal devices used for work, like a company cellphone, you could face a series of fines for not gaining authorization. Incorrect implementation may fall under spyware and computer crime laws.

With any DLP tools and data monitoring, notification and consent are crucial. When planning monitoring, first assess what your privacy needs are, then identify potential risks of implementing any tracking programs.

Define who, where, and why DLP software will apply, and make sure every employee understands the need for tracking. Include consent in employee onboarding, and keep employees updated with changes to your monitoring tactics.

Protecting your company’s data is important, but make sure you’re not unintentionally bending privacy laws with your data loss prevention methods. Regularly check up on your approaches to make sure everything is in compliance with monitoring laws.

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What you need to know about Facebook’s collaborative stories

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook now allows Groups and Events to craft collaborative stories – here’s what you need to know.

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If you’re like me, you’ve never posted a story on Facebook. Many of you probably don’t even realize that Facebook got in the story game last year in an effort to compete with Snapchat and (sort of, maybe?) Instagram (even though they own it). Facebook is doing its best to change that by creating a more robust story experience that they hope will expand the networking possibilities of the already abundantly popular site.

Stories on Facebook seemed like a bit of a headscratcher at first, it seems like everyone has had enough story experience between their Snapchat and Instagram accounts, but according to Facebook, they plan on surpassing Snapchat’s capabilities by adding a number of features to boost usage.

Users of Facebook Groups and Events can now contribute to a Facebook story exclusive to the group’s members and can be controlled by admins. Their idea is that this could add excitement and momentum for social meetups, weddings, or parties. These collaborative stories will function similar to a hashtag, only it will be accessible only by those involved in the event or group.

While Snapchat has a group feature, you have to add members like a group chat, where Facebook’s idea gives the story feature a more open-ended scope that reaches a large amount of people where exclusivity is optional, rather than the purpose. Facebook is enabling groups based on hobbies, professions, locations, and ideologies to create their own niche content where you can go to blow off some steam or connect with people who love the same things you do.

Just think, you’ve always wanted to post a video into the Riverdale Facebook page arguing over Archie’s real age, now you can rant away without typing a word! Rather than spar with words, you can pontificate about Game of Thrones theories with all the gusto you can muster, emotions and all!

What was once lost in text will be lost no more.

Facebook will be giving page admins ultimate control over what gets posted or not, similar to how a page’s News Feed currently works. To encourage posting, Facebook has moved a bubble to the top of every event page for easy access.

Proving that they are serious about the future of collaborative stories, Facebook is working on integrating stories across the app instead of just throwing it in as a half-hearted extra for you to roll your eyes at. With Stories’ new abilities, users will be able to hit different groups and encourage sharing opportunities unavailable to Snapchat users. Rather than just liking or sharing a post you like, you’ll be able to share your opinion on the spot. Whether or not that’s a good thing is yet to be seen (troll on trollers!).

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