If I hear ‘It’s free, that means you’re the product’ used in defense of unscrupulous app practices one more time, I’m going to become a supervillain.
We all already know: ‘Companies exist to make money’ ‘Servers are not free’, etc. No one should be impressed by this kind of milquetoast bootlickery, nor should we be deterred from speaking against corporate douchery by the lukewarmest takes this side of Dido’s tea.
Companies can do the wrong thing, not get punished for it, and get rewarded for it; and whether or not we’re enjoying their product has no bearing on if what they’re doing is morally acceptable. ‘The Jungle’ made the right people sick about eating incidentally canned orphan meat and things changed, at least domestically (child slave-labor laws are nil elsewhere, and our courts have decided it’s all good). The tracking and selling of consumer behavior and location is one of the current phenomena in ‘This is dystopian and horrible’ news, but unlike the sweep on swil-shilling workhouses, reform here seems slower and sans support.
Everyone who knows me knows that I didn’t care for the Batman Nolanverse of my younger adulthood. But one aspect of ‘The Dark Knight’ I appreciated was that (uncle) Lucius Fox refused on principle to ever recreate programming that would expose precise Gothamite location to anyone after The Joker was found.
It’d be nice to assume everyone with power will use it correctly and responsibly, but that doesn’t happen.
The US military was found mapping out locations of Muslim Americans through the locations sold them from a prayer app, for instance. Earlier this year, helicopter parent app, Life360, got slapped, er that is got convinced totally in boardrooms in planned meetings which had nothing to do with public opinion, into halting its very precise location sales to all but insurance branch company Arity. Precise location meaning ‘This child is at the good Denny’s’, not ‘This child is somewhere in a central middle-class zipcode’.
Chilling. So why aren’t there laws? We’re already twenty-plus years past the Law & Order episodes about cyber-bullying being untouchable by law—what’s the hold-up?
“They operate on the fact that the general public and people in Washington and other regulatory centers aren’t paying attention to what they’re doing”, said Duke Tech Policy lab fellow, Justin Sherman, of tracking data sellers to The Markup.
Then you have the issue of too little, too late policies by app stores. While both Apple and Google scan for, and forbid apps with data trading built-in from their storefronts, there is currently no ban on the more independent server-to-server exchange of information. In other words, the apps cannot contain tattle-tale software, but they CAN gather data to be separately downloaded and sold. Same effect with some extra steps, and the storefronts get to pretend they’re doing the consumer a favor.
I’m still bitter about how ListenOnRepeat got neutered. The lack of oversight is not due to lack of money or influence, make no mistake.
Some of you may be asking – where does personal choice come into all this? After all, a “responsible consumer” would read the user agreements, google whatever they couldn’t understand, and if they felt opposed, just not use that app right?
Well, that’s not how it works.
When was the last time you could opt out of an agreement for software and apps your job needed you to use? I personally never bothered reading the agreements for Slack, Asana, and other workplace productivity products, because the alternative to not using them was…not being employed anymore. Wage stagnation is another pillar of the increase in ‘consensual’ frittering away of privacy. After all, the more you make, the more pro-accounts you can afford, so companies have a more reliable way of keeping the lights on. Therefore the less you need to rely on becoming a permanent data point just to publicize your art, clock in digitally, or send work relevant documents via mobile.
If you have to uproot and make a life completely off the grid to be able to truly forbid companies from mining your data, selling that data, and continuing to be secretive about whether they’re doing it and who with…then you don’t really have a choice. And that is a feature, not a bug.
Anyway, how does Miss Information sound as a villain name? Too on the nose? Asking for a friend.
How to safeguard your small company’s data without distrusting staff
(TECHNOLOGY) Even a tiny company has valuable data that can be stolen from inside – without adopting a policy of distrust, you can take preventative action
Data breaches are scarily common in today’s digital world, and even gargantuan businesses can easily be brought to their knees should a wayward phishing attempt (or a disgruntled former employee) succeed in making off with valuable information.
While your small business probably doesn’t have all of the same calibre of worries as your more monolithic counterparts, don’t make the mistake of thinking that your data can’t be stolen to devastating effect, even if you think the data you have is irrelevant and not worthy of being stolen (you’re wrong).
Cloud storage and increased collaborative tool use means that things like sensitive documents and files are at increased risk of theft. Small businesses are especially susceptible to this due to a lower likelihood of advanced security usage, so it pays to know what kinds of things you might be at risk of losing.
According to MUO, employees are most likely to steal collaborative documents, consumer databases, and any resources devoted to research and development.
Safeguarding these items can be tricky due to their relatively high-traffic use, so a preventive strategy is your best defense.
It should be noted that trust in your employees is crucial, and treating them like they’re poised to steal from you at any moment is not a particularly effective management strategy.
However, it’s important to be aware of the following reasons – and possible preventive measures – for employee theft of data.
Firstly, corporate espionage (as dramatic as it sounds) is still something you have to worry about as a small business owner. It isn’t uncommon for competitors to bribe (or even simply persuade) current employees to share data, even if your competitors are relatively small themselves.
Your employees should know that data is sacred (and confidential), but employing things like intrusion systems and holding trainings for recognition of espionage can help prevent this problem.
Those competitors might also try to snag some of your employees, and not just for their work ethic. Employees may save their own copies of documents that they think will be helpful in their new workspace; in doing so, they can unwittingly aid your competitor with much more than their skillset. Again, reminding your employees that all work documents are both confidential and property of your brand can cut down on accidental data theft in this category.
Non-Compete agreements and NDAs can also prevent this kind of theft, intentional or otherwise; if an employee chooses to leave your business, making sure they are aware of their contractual obligations is key. Perhaps the worst competitor you can have is a former employee who launches their own business in your field, though, and this is a situation in which data theft can be intellectual. Once again, Non-Competes and NDAs are helpful in mitigating damage in this context.
Finally, angry employees can find themselves doing a myriad of dumb (and harmful) things, up to and including data theft.
As mentioned earlier, early prevention is the best way to keep your data on your servers and out of your departing employees’ hands. Restricting employee access to files and folders can limit the number of possible breaches, and the aforementioned Non-Compete and Nondisclosure agreements are absolutely crucial in any business that deals in data–just make sure you’re discussing the terms of those agreements with employees as they come and go.
Twitter bid on hold, Tesla stock plummets: What’s next for Musk?
(SOCIAL MEDIA) The surprising bid of $44B coming in for Twitter from none other than Elon Musk is now on hold and Tesla stock is down. Is Musk in hot water?
In the largest corporate privatization deal in U.S. history, Twitter has accepted Elon Musk’s offer to buy 100% of Twitter for 44 billion.
Musk plans to privatize the company and do away with ads, a nearly 5-billion-dollar revenue source for Twitter, which accounts for 90% of their total income. Musk’s plan to do away with ads was nothing short of strategic. Musk is a free speech absolutist – or someone who believes that free speech should be unrestricted at all costs.
Advertisers are the main reason speech is restricted on social media platforms. For social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter who rely on advertisers buying space on their platforms, as well as sponsored content, to make most of their profits eliminating this revenue stream is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Without these restrictions or community guidelines, advertisers would not advertise on social media, and the sites could not generate much of their revenue.
But, when your pockets run as deep as Musk’s, I suppose revenue doesn’t particularly matter.
Some changes Musk plans on making are as follows: He claims, that despite the lack of advertisements, he will quintuple Twitter revenue by 2028. He plans on doing this while cutting Twitter’s reliance on ads to less than 50% of the total revenue. He also plans on growing the platform’s user base. He claims by 2025 there will be 69 million users on Twitter (however, considering 69 is his favorite number I’m not sure if this is accurate or another one of his famous trolling stunts). He also plans on offering a paid service, Twitter Blue, which will allow users to customize their Twitter experience for only $3 a month.
However, advertising is not the only hurdle to free speech on a social media platform.
Now Musk will face a barrage of questions and restrictions from government watchdogs, regulators, and activists. Twitter could even end up being banned in other countries if Musk attempts to skirt regulations. Musk wants to strip back content moderation rules and stop the censorship of new organizations; he has also not answered questions about how he plans to go about this, only stating that he’d only allow free speech that “matches the law”.
However, several European countries are changing their laws. New laws in the United Kingdom and The European Union (which comprises 27 European countries). The EU, for example, has enacted the Digital Services Act and The Digital Markets Act which aims to create a safer digital space, while protecting the rights of users and leveling the playing field for businesses. These acts extend to social media. The acts, in part, heavily fine companies that refuse to curtail illegal content on their platforms. However, as of May 9th, 2022, EU Industry Chief, Thierry Brighton, met with Elon Musk in Texas and they have reached an agreement regarding free speech and The Digital Services Act. Yet, the pair has not gone into detail about what exactly their agreement entails. When asked, Musk simply stated that it “totally aligned with his thinking”.
Musk may have circumvented the largest spanning cyber laws, but that does not mean he’s out of the woods regarding governmental regulation of Twitter around the world.
Now, the decision for Musk to purchase Twitter, and go public was a polarizing one and was met with mixed reactions. People did not hold back, and many roasted Musk for his decisions.
Some of my favorite reaction tweets are:
Okay, but they make a good point. He’s been heralded as a “Real-life Tony Stark” and there’s nothing technically stopping him from being Iron Man.
Live your dreams I guess, Elon.
Sure some people are disgruntled by the whole ordeal, but there’s really not a way to boycott this. In fact, the user base is only projected to grow for Twitter, with Elon at the helm.
And, in true Musk fashion he trolled Twitter users, critics and fans by tweeting a series of Tweets detailing which companies he was going to buy next.
Musk then said would buy America’s most popular fast-food chain, and fix the most common complaint. I have to admit, I kind of want him to follow through on this one.
First, he threatened to buy Coca-Cola and put the cocaine back in, referring to the inception of the popular soft drink, when it first contained cocaine.
Lastly, the new Twitter CEO threatened to shut down the entire platform altogether, so that all the users go outside.
As of Friday the 13th (spooky), Musk announced his Twitter bid of 44 billion dollars is currently on hold.
He claims he still plans on following through with the acquisition, and he will owe Twitter a one-billion-dollar breakup fee if he does not follow through. However, if he can afford to spend 44 billion on a social media website, I have to assume one billion dollars isn’t much of a deterrent for him. The bid could be on hold for multiple reasons.
He could be trying to negotiate a better price for Twitter, the deal could be falling apart or he could simply be walking away. One issue is that he was going to borrow against his smart car company, Tesla, but Tesla stock has been plummeting as of late. A part of me wonders if this is some kind of bizarre stunt in order to get media coverage and attention prior to unveiling a new concept at either Tesla or SpaceX. After the frenzy the news of Musk purchasing Twitter has caused, the deal may not even go through, and once again, the future of Twitter remains uncertain.
How to audit your site to really make sure it’s built for visitors, not for YOU
(ENTREPRENEUR) As a business owner, you may find yourself taking a more “set it and forget it” approach to your website, but this isn’t getting you visitors
As a business owner, your business is likely on your mind more often than not. It should be. But the way you design your website should reflect your readers, clients, and customers. As hard as it may be to let go of your personal taste, that’s exactly what you need to do to better serve customers.
Let’s be honest; how often do you actually look at your website? Probably when something’s broken or right when you roll it out, but not much beyond that.
I’ve had more business owners than I can count that have wanted me to fix their site… but are clueless about how long there’s been an issue. It could be a months-long problem they were simply unaware of until someone brought it to their attention—or worse, they don’t even realize there’s a problem because no one spoke up. They just went elsewhere.
Prospective clients or customers want to do business with professionals. When they visit a broken website, they don’t see you as a serious business owner, but as someone who doesn’t even care enough to operate a functioning site. It’s harsh, but it is the truth. First impressions matter. Your website is that impression, and it needs to appeal to everyone who visits it.
If you’re fortunate enough to make a great first impression in person, you might be okay. But if not, say goodbye to all those potential clients and site visitors—they don’t have time to waste waiting for your website to load or to refresh the page to get what they need.
Don’t set it and forget it
You’ve got so much going on with your business that your website simply won’t be top of mind for you. I get it. It’s like the guest bedroom or bathroom in your home. You set them up once with fancy towels and soaps, brand new pillows that aren’t crazy comfortable, and bedspreads that never change. Not exactly the best experience for your guests—the same goes for your website.
Did you design your guest bathroom with no input or consideration for your guests? If so, you may have done the same with your website, which means you’re not addressing their needs. What do they need from you? What are they looking for on your site? Are you giving them a great experience? When you launch your website without input and then just set it and forget it, you can forget new clients and customers, too.
What do your clients or customers want from you?
“But I want a pretty website that looks like a brochure!” I get this all the time. I tell my clients that we can certainly build a website like a brochure in the sense of it being a sales tool, but it needs to have substance. Your website should be based on your visitors’ needs and it should be functional. You wouldn’t print a brochure with blurry photos or dozens of typos. Why launch a website that doesn’t operate how it’s supposed to?
Your visitors’ wants and needs
You can add all the bells and whistles to your website, but if they don’t serve your customers, who cares? Instead, start small. Hubspot suggests video:
- Adding video to your email marketing campaigns can boost click-through rates by 200-300%
- Embedding videos on your landing pages can increase conversion rates by 80%
- 90% of customers use product videos to help them make purchasing decisions
- 65% of customers are more likely to buy a product online after they watch a video about it
- 59% of decision-makers would rather watch a video than reading articles or blog posts
With numbers like that, why wouldn’t you add video?
Your customers are telling you they want video—do it! Consumers are also sharing interesting information about what they want and need, and how they respond when these needs aren’t met:
- 57% of internet users won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed website on mobile
- com revenues skyrocketed by 35% when they listened to their community by incorporating suggestions into their homepage redesign
- 88% of online customers won’t return to websites that are difficult to use and have a poor user experience
- 85% of UX issues can be resolved by leveraging a usability test on a group of as few as seven users
- Visitors judge a website’s credibility based on its aesthetics, concluding within 3.42 seconds
- 81% of website visitors think less of a brand if the website is outdated
- First impressions are 94% design-related
- 75% of consumers admit to making judgments on a company’s credibility based on website design
Are you focusing on the right things?
Arbitrarily making decisions about your website to cater to what you think customers want doesn’t do any good for you or your customers. Have you been obsessing over what colors to use on your site? Or what your logo should look like based on trends? Instead, focus on how to effectively market your company to your customers based on their needs.
It’s easy to pour yourself into your business. You may have built it from the ground up and be attached to your design, name, or logo. And hell, you may have even seen a lot of success. Congrats! But remember, you don’t want to set it and forget it. If you’ve reached a plateau or are spending too much on marketing, you may consider revamping your company’s image.
How do I get there?
Everyone needs help—yes, even you. Work with someone who can create an exceptional customer experience that isn’t dictated by your specific taste and preferences. They can help you build a website that helps them understand your business and what it’d be like to work with you. You’re creating that welcoming, comfortable guest bedroom—that first impression—online.
Gain an understanding of what potential visitors, clients, or customers are looking for when they come to your site. Once you’ve got that down, work with a creative team to bring your business to life. You’re here to tell them everything you know about your customers and their wants and desires. You’re not here to micromanage them and end up with a website that caters to you and you alone. Remember that.
A note to the creatives
You create stunning websites, designs, content, and more for your clients. But with your portfolio, everything seems to fall by the wayside. Clients want to see your work and how professional you are to work with. You may be very artistic, but do your clients understand what that means? Or are they looking at your portfolio, wondering what exactly you do?
Make it easy for potential clients to understand what you do, how to work with you, and how you’ll meet their needs. Remember, as much as your clients can get in their own way of success, so can you. Be clear, be professional, and highlight all you can do… for your clients.
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