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How retailers use tech hacks to get you to spend more

(TECH NEWS) Tech hacks or Jedi mind tricks? How retailers are getting sneaky about collecting your data, and how you can prevent it.

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Hold onto your butts

Did you even know there are (creepy) ways retailers get all up in your private data to encourage you to spend?

Thanks, tech innovations.

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Accordingly, SaveMyBills.com recently detailed the ways retailers use tech to swipe your private data and keep you buying.

Here at AG, we can’t help but think about how companies collect and employ data, and how they’re allowed to collect and employ said data, and well, let’s just say the fact that the Venn diagram on that one ain’t exactly a circle is serious business.

That being the case, here are five changes to your spending habits that can both increase benefit to you, and keep the serious creepsters out of your digital biz:

Fight the urge of convenience

Your phone:

Retailers are known to pull information straight from your smartphone.

Obviously as long as you’re paying with plastic your retailer can track your transactions based on your phone number, but – The More You Know – it’s also perfectly legal for them to track your actual physical movements as soon as you plug into their in-house WiFi.

By itself that’s not much more than store staff and cameras (we’ll get to the latter) would be doing anyway, but store-level data security is comparable to private data security, and as we’ve written over on the Real Daily, private data security is more than a bit effed.

The fix:

Not to state the obvious, but stay off the WiFi.

This is why *Insert Deity Here* gave us Airplane Mode. Even if you feel the need to text while you shop or Instagram some hilaaaarious filters onto a nearby mannequin, as long as you get your bars from your mobile connection instead of the local WiFi, you should be able to do so without uninvited segments of the store or internet staring at you.

Just assume someone is watching always

CCTV:

On the subject of being stared at, closed-circuit cameras are incredibly loosely regulated.

Seriously, the intended function of a security camera sits at the intersection of fighting crime and keeping-other-people’s-filthy-hands-off-your-stuff.

Those are literally America’s two favorite things. They certainly trump (see what I did there?) minor concerns like having your every move recorded by a piece of hardware that’s almost certainly connected to the Internet, because everything is, and whose password is probably “password.”

The fix:

I’m afraid can’t save you from the creepy robot eyes.

This may shock some of you, but I am not a Supreme Court justice. I am not in a position to inspire a reassessment of the value of personal privacy weighed against the importance of protecting material assets by our nation’s legal system.

That said, this is why you handle your own data security, and why you shop online.

Make exceptions only for retailers valuable enough to you that you don’t mind them recording you in their store in a format that may become publicly available.

Tidy up your browser

Digital shopping, like digital everything, offers a much broader array of tools for protecting your privacy. We’ll be addressing that presently with…

Cookies:

Not nearly as delicious as they sound. Cookies are the OG data mining tools, itty bitty bits of data that track useful information about how customers use a given online service.

The fix:

As with their tastier namesakes, cookies are fine in moderation. Most digital cookies delete themselves at the end of your session or a set length of time anyway, and the few that don’t carry little enough information that it takes zillions to represent a serious liability.

Clear your browser cache on the regs and you’re golden.

What’s in it for you?

Loyalty Cards

Things are flippin’ everywhere all of a sudden, right? Gas, groceries, pharmacies: everybody wants your card or your phone number. As we’ve noted before, that may not lead to fun times.

The fix:

Think retailers present loyalty cards as merely as coupons or bonus points for your transactions?

Think otherwise.

The card comes before the transaction.

Choose your purveyor of drugs and noms based at least in part on what the card buys you, because committing to the right one can yield crazy benefits.

I personally shop one grocery rather than another because getting my tea and Fritos there earns me fuel points. I haven’t paid retail for gas in a year.

That adds up.

Stranger danger

Purchasing data:

Ugh. I hate this. Older even than HTML cookies, this is the contemptible practice of companies buying and selling the personal information of their customers. Historically it’s been phone numbers and other contact info, but of course people willing to swipe your home phone will cheerfully swipe anything else they can get their grubby mitts on.

The fix:

This is probably unfixable on the grand scale, which we know because public and private sectors alike have tried. There is apparently a market here, which boggles my mind. I call out in desperation to the people supporting this market.

Stop buying things from unsolicited phone calls. Stop buying things from unsolicited emails.

If someone gets in touch with you without being asked, do not, for any reason, give them money.

Don’t ignore them, either. Go through their unsubscribe process, or call them back and tell them nothing except “I’m not interested. Take me off your list.”

Only scary until it works for you

In an interconnected world, the concept of privacy is drastically changing. That can be super scary. I mean, your TV watching you for the government, which was literally in 1984, is now a real thing, and even Orwell didn’t think we’d pay for the privilege.

But this isn’t dystopia.

We’ve been altering how money and privacy interact since there has been money. Cash stopped being exchangeable for a fixed amount of an anonymous commodity in the far-off year of.. 1971. It didn’t go properly digital until ten years later.

Every new system means new rules. As always, they’re only scary until you make them work for you.

#RetailHacks

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

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Tech News

Facebook starts handing out merit badges like we’re Girl Scouts

(TECH NEWS) Facebook offers merit badges to users, and it’s pretty neat, but we’re also rolling our eyes.

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According to some Facebook Group administrators, Facebook has today rolled out merit badges. So far in the wild, we’ve spotted “Conversation Starter” which praises the admin (or user) for starting engaging posts that got the conversation going.

We have asked numerous users if they’ve seen these badges, and so far it appears that only one badge has been rolled out, potentially with more on the way. Upon logging into the group where you have earned a badge, you’ll see a notification at the top of the feed informing you of your new badge (get out your vest, it’s time to start collecting them all)!

The merit badge that you’ve earned shows up in your profile when other group members (where you’ve earned the merit badge) click on your face:

Currently, when an Admin posts in the group, it still only has their Admin badge next to their name, not the “Conversation Starter” or other badges lined up next to it, but if a regular group member has posted something engaging, the badge appears next to their name (it may be a one-badge-limit so far, maybe hold off on buying a Girl Scout vest for your badge collection):

Lastly, users apparently do have control over the display of whichever neato merit badges we eventually earn or collect:

There is no word on what the ultimate plan is or what merit badges will be awarded, and it appears to be limited to Facebook Groups at the present.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update the story as we learn more. For now, if you want a badge, you can at least get a “Conversation Starter” badge in Facebook Groups, so go get ’em – we’ll soon know which other badges we can earn slash collect slash compete for slash game.

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Tech News

Slack video messaging tool for the ultra lazy (or productive) person

(TECHNOLOGY) Courtesy of a company called Standuply, Slack’s notable lack of video-messaging options is finally addressed.

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Slack — the popular chat and workflow app — is still going strong despite its numerous technical shortcomings, one of which is its notable lack of native video or audio chat. If you’re an avid Slack user, you might be interested in Standuply’s solution to this missing feature: video and audio messaging.

While it isn’t quite the Skype-esque experience for which one might hope when booting up Slack, Standuply’s video messages add-on gives you the ability to record and send a video or audio recording to any Slack channel. This makes things like multitasking a breeze; unless you’re a god among mortals, your talking speed is significantly faster than your typing, making video- or audio-messaging a viable productivity move.

The way you’ll record and send the video or audio message is a bit convoluted: using a web browser and a private Slack link, you can record up to five minutes of content, after which point the content is uploaded to YouTube as a private item. You can then use the item’s link to send the video or audio clip to your Skype channel.

While this is a fairly roundabout way of introducing video chat into Slack, the end result is still a visual conversation which is conducive to long-term use.

Sending video and audio messages may feel like an exercise in futility (why use a third-party tool when one could just type?) but the amount of time and energy you can save while simultaneously responding to feedback or beginning your next task adds up.

Similarly, having a video that your team can circle back to instead of requiring them to scroll through until they find your text post on a given topic is better for long-term productivity.

And, if all else falls short, it’s nice to see your remote team’s faces and hear their voices every once in a while—if for no other reason than to reassure yourself that they aren’t figments of your overly caffeinated imagination.

At the time of this writing, the video chat portion of the Slack bot is free; however, subsequent pricing tiers include advanced aspects such as integration with existing services, analytics, and unlimited respondents.

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Tech News

This phishing simulator tests your company’s (lack of) readiness

(TECHNOLOGY) Phishero is a tool which tests your organization’s resistance to phishing attacks. Pro tip: Most companies aren’t ready.

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phishing simulator

In the wake of any round of cyberattacks, many organizations question whether they’re prepared to defend themselves against things like hacking or other forms of information theft. In reality, the bulk of workplace data thievery comes from a classic trick: phishing.

Phishing is a catch-all phrase for a specific type of information theft which involves emailing. Typically, a phishing email will include a request for sensitive data, such as a password, a copy of a W-4, or an account’s details (e.g., security questions); the email itself will often appear to come from someone within the organization.

Similar approaches include emailing a link which acts as a login page for a familiar site (e.g., Facebook) but actually stores your account information when you sign in.

Luckily, there’s a way for you to test your business’ phishing readiness.

Phishero, a tool designed to test employee resistance to phishing attacks, is a simple solution for any business looking to find any weak links in their cybersecurity.

The tool itself is designed to do four main things: identify potential targets, find a way to design a convincing phishing scheme, implement the phishing attack, and analyze the results.

Once Phishero has a list of your employees, it is able to create an email based on the same web design used for your company’s internal communications. This email is then sent to your selected recipient pool, from which point you’ll be able to monitor who opens the email.

Once you’ve concluded the test, you can use Phishero’s built-in analytics to give you an at-a-glance overview of your organization’s security.

The test results also include specific information such as which employees gave information, what information was given, and pain points in your current cybersecurity setup.

Phishing attacks are incredibly common, and employees – especially those who may not be as generationally skeptical of emails – are the only things standing between your company and catastrophic losses if they occur in your business. While training your employees on proper email protocol out of the gate is a must, Phishero provides an easy way to see how effective your policies actually are.

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