Senators ask FCC to investigate their own identity fraud

FCC Schooley MitchellYou might remember that towards the end of 2017, millions of “fake net neutrality” comments were posted on the FCC’s website, with identical messages, that allegedly showed support of the FCC’s decision to overturn the Obama-era laws. Although the comments were pretty obviously made by bots, they used the identities of real people, including Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Now, according to Engadget, Merkley and Toomey have penned a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asking him to investigate the identity fraud.

In their letter, Merkley and Toomey said they were “among those whose identities were misused to express viewpoints [they] do not hold,” on the FCC’s previous proposals. These two senators would like the commission to identify who or what was behind the fake comment, as well as to “adopt safeguards to prevent the same incident from happening in the future,” says Engadget. They would also like the FCC to disclose the total number of fake comments, and to explain how it is working with the Department of Justice to determine if laws have been broken. They are also asking the FCC to answer how many of the posts were made by bots, and if the commission could implement a CAPTCHA feature in the future. Perhaps most seriously, they want to know if any foreign government was involved in the incident.

Merkley and Toomey should not be alone in their concern. When the FCC originally worked with the New York Attorney General’s Office in investigating the comments, it was revealed that as many as 2 million American identities were used in this fraud.

Merkley and Toomey have described the necessity of their bipartisan team-up; they believe that the comment process of legislation is “an essential part of [American] democracy” and therefore they have a duty to prevent “the deliberate misuse of Americans’ personal information.”

Source: engadget.com – Senators ask the FCC to investigate fake net neutrality comments
Published: May 22, 2018

Sprint Unlimited 55+ is now available

You might have heard buzz lately about Sprint releasing an Unlimited 55+ plan, similar to T-Mobile. If you are a Sprint customer who is 55 years or older, you can sign up for one line of unlimited service for $50 a month, or two lines for $70 a month. In comparison two lines of the typical Sprint unlimited plan – which include unlimited talk, text, data, limited international texting and data, and a mobile hot spot – costs $100 a month.

Maybe you’re thinking, “but didn’t T-Mobile just release the same thing?” Yes, they did. As explained by The Verge, Sprint’s deal “bears a shocking similarity to T-Mobile’s Unlimited 55+ plan, which, in addition to sharing the same name, also offers two lines of unlimited data for $70 a month (or $50 for one line).”

And maybe now you’re thinking, aren’t T-Mobile and Sprint merging anyway? Yes, yes they are. Soon enough this deal for the 55 and older demographic will come from one source, but until the merger, T-Mobile and Sprint are happily offering it separately.

Source: TheVerge.com – Sprint’s new Unlimited 55+ plan for seniors is now available
Published: May 18, 2018

Canadians pay the most in the world for telecom services

According to a new study by Rewheel, a specialist in mobile-data and marketing competition, Canadians face “some of the least competitive pricing… for their wireless plans.”

Rewheel’s study looked at how much data 30 Euros – or $46.13 CAD – buys in mobile broadband and smartphone plans in over 41 countries. Canada came last for mobile broadband, and 37th for smartphone plans, ahead of Greece, Korea, Hungary, and Malta.

This isn’t just a Canadian problem. North America in general is lagging behind Europe in a few ways. The study suggests that “Countries like Bulgaria and Lithuania are outperforming the United States and Canada by offering unlimited data.”

How can this change? In January of 2018, the CRTC was urged to hold a public inquiry into the telecom industry’s sales tactics. But can we ever reach a point where competition in Canada is as diverse as in the EU?

Source: news1130.com – Canadians paying most for data in developed world: report
Published: May 7, 2018

200 Facebook apps suspended over privacy concerns

In the latest addition to the post-Cambridge Analytica Facebook saga, the social media giant has suspended 200 third-party applications after a privacy audit. According to SlashGear, Facebook’s “data misuse investigation found signs that they may have been acting improperly.”

Cambridge Analytica has closed its doors following the scandal, but it was likely not the only company abusing data it collected from the platform. This is where the investigation of all apps that “had access to large amounts of information” became necessary. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised that all suspicious apps, as well as developers that refused to comply with the audit, would be banned.

On May 14, Facebook Vice President of Product Partnerships, Ime Archibong, confirmed that “thousands of apps have been investigated and around 200 have been suspended.” The apps will be investigated to ensure that they really did misuse data, and if they are found to have done so, will be permanently banned from Facebook.

If you are interested in learning more about this process, SlashGear says Facebook will be posting the results of its audit on a support page.

Source: slashgear.com – Facebook suspends around 200 apps in privacy audit
Published: May 14, 2018

Telus growing faster than expected in 2018

Canadian wireless giant Telus has recently revealed that its Q1 results were better than experts had predicted. According to Mobile Syrup, Telus “posted a consolidated operating revenue of 3.4 billion, an increase by six percent over the same period a year ago.”

Telus says its growth comes from the success of its wireline and wireless businesses. Its wireless business made “$1.5 billion in revenue, an increase of four percent over last year.” Telus also added 48,000 new subscribers to its wireless service – which is 4,000 more than it added in Q1 of 2017. Most analysts predicted Telus would add somewhere between 35,000 and 39,000.

Mobile Syrup explains that, although this is great news for Telus, the company is nowhere close to its main competitors: “The additions come in far below Rogers’ 95,000 net postpaid additions in Q1 2018, and under Bell’s approximately 68,000 Q1 2018 net postpaid additions.”

Telus has a total wireless subscriber base of around 8.9 million.

Source: mobilesyrup.com – Telus reports 48,000 net postpaid wireless additions in Q1 2018
Published: May 10, 2018

Your iPhone X might have a notable defect

One of Apple’s biggest boasts when selling its iPhone X device starting last November was Face ID. Face ID is a sophisticated AI that uses 3D-sensing for facial recognition. Unfortunately, many iPhone X owners may have noticed that the Face ID on their device is faulty, and according to BGR, Apple has “instructions for its stores and authorized service providers to repair or replace faulty devices.”

The solution is strange. If you take your iPhone X in tomorrow, citing these issues, chances are that the first thing they will do is try a repair procedure on the rear facing camera. However, the rear face camera does not impact Face ID.

To explain this procedure, MacRumours was able to find a copy of the instructions Apple gave its service providers:

“In order to provide the best customer experience, if a customer reports that their iPhone X is having Face ID issues, you may be able to resolve the issue with a rear camera repair. Run AST 2 on the customer’s device to check the camera. If the diagnostics find issue with the camera, perform the repair to see if the issue is resolved. If the issue is not resolved, perform a whole unit replacement instead of a same-unit display repair.”

Speculating on these instructions, BGR has said, “It’s unclear what the link between rear and front camera is, but it sure looks like an issue with the dual-lens camera on the back might hinder Face ID functionality.”

And if your Face ID simply isn’t working, back camera repaired or not, then Apple doesn’t seem to know exactly what’s wrong.

Source: bgr.com – Apple confirms a serious problem with the iPhone X – and an unlikely solution
Published: May 7, 2018

Do children need their own AI assistant?

Your kids might be delighted by your Amazon Alexa or Google Home, but there is always the danger that your child could interact inappropriately with your smart home assistant. What if they are asking for answers to their homework or even shopping online? Is there a need for a child-friendly home assistant? People are divided, but Amazon says yes. On May 9th, the company is releasing the Echo Dot Kids Edition in the United States – a child-friendly version of its Echo smart speaker.

One of the primary concerns is that this kid-friendly Echo Dot could seriously compromise children’s data. This is a reasonable fear, considering the current climate surrounding keeping your personal data safe. You might also be thinking, do children even need a AI assistant of their own, when they are likely exposed to all kinds of tech belonging to the adults in their life? While you might not be ready to let your child in on the machinations of the tech industry, Amazon is trying to combat these fears with promises of safety.

According to CBC, the device will allow parents to turn off voice purchasing. Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services, Dave Limp also says this new device “will give parents peace of mind knowing their kids are getting age-appropriate content while they listen to music and books and ask questions.”

One promising feature touted by Amazon is FreeTime, a dashboard that “lets parents choose which services and skills kids can use, and gives them the ability to set a bedtime or block off time for homework, so that kids can’t talk with Alexa when they’re supposed to be sleeping or focusing on other things.”

Source: cbc.ca – Amazon is launching a new virtual assistance for kids – what could possibly go wrong?
Published: May 7, 2018

Amazon creating 3,000 jobs in Vancouver

All Canadians can celebrate the news that Amazon recently announced it would be expanding its Vancouver-based technology hub. This move is promised to create 3,000 new “high-tech” in the city, according to The Financial Post.

The growth Vancouver can expect from Amazon is huge. It first opened a software development site in the city in 2011, and as of today there are over 1,000 employees working there.

The company’s general manager of web services, Jesse Dougherty, explained that the new corporate positions would focus on e-commerce tech, cloud computing, and machine learning. The jobs will also be housed in a new “38,000 square metre office tower” that the company will be building on the site of Vancouver’s old post office. Amazon promises that “The structure’s architectural heritage will be preserved, and the tower is expected to open in 2022.”

In his announcement at the site of the old Canada Post building, Dougherty explained that Amazon “chose to build and grow in Canada because we recognize the diverse and exceptionally talented workforce here.” He said, “As a homegrown British Columbian and a software engineer, I am so proud of living and working in a city that is recognized worldwide as a first-rate global tech hub.”

This announcement is also huge for Canadian university students. Dougherty says Amazon is working to build strong relationships with Canadian schools, especially those which focus on computer engineering, which he says produces some of the best graduates in the world.

“We’ve hired many graduates from schools right here in British Columbia,” he said, citing the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University as well as the universities of Toronto, Waterloo, and McGill.

Source: business.financialpost.com – Amazon to add 3,000 new jobs in Vancouver in tech hub expansion
Published: April 30, 2018

Watch out for this Google Maps scam

There are a lot of scams out there – and a lot of different avenues that scammers use. A surprising one, perhaps, is Google Maps. According to ZDNet, scammers have been using Google Maps URL-sharing feature to trick users into opening links to “shady websites.”

The security firm Sophos says this is a successful tactic because Google Maps “lacks a mechanism to report scammy links.” The main website that Sophos observed the links redirecting to was a Russian diet-pill scheme targeting English speakers.

“Between the legitimate Google URL shortener you’d probably trust, and the Russian URL you probably wouldn’t, the redirection chain bounces you through another Google URL belonging to Google Maps,” Sophos researcher Mark Stockley wrote for ZD Net.

Google can fix this problem, claims ZDNet, by ensuring that “if a URL in the link parameter isn’t a link to Google Maps, then it shouldn’t be allowed.”

In the meantime, if you use link sharing over Google Maps, be proactive and only open links from users you know and trust.

Source: zdnet.com – Google Maps user? Beware attackers using URL-sharing to send you to shady sites
Published: May 2, 2018

Toronto man wins important court case against Bell Canada

Canadians are growing increasingly unhappy with the way their telecoms provide service. Sometimes we feel powerless to do anything about it, but recently, a Toronto man proved that we can. According to CBC, “in a judgment issued last month in a Toronto small claims court, Deputy Judge William C. De Lucia said that Bell’s attempt to impose new terms after a verbal contract guaranteeing a monthly price for 24 months had been struck was “‘high-handed, arbitrary and unacceptable.’”

The plaintiff, David Ramsay, began his journey of discontent with Bell in November of 2016, when he called the company to sign up for TV and internet services. He ended up subscribing to Bell’s Fibe TV and internet services for $112.90 a month for 24 months. However, when he received an email confirmation of his contract, it said the prices were “subject to change” and “Bell was planning to increase its price for internet service by $5 two months later.”

Ramsay was understandably unhappy. “”I was stunned and appalled to find these buried terms in an email,” he told CBC. “I had a contract, and this ain’t that contract.”

Ramsay called Bell Canada to complain that the emailed contract was different from the verbal contract. On this call, he made an important request; a transcript of the original call where the service rep promised him a fixed price for two years. Bell was unrelenting, so Ramsay filed a complaint with the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (the CCTS), which insisted that Bell “had the right to increase prices and since the telecom had notified Ramsay of this fact — as well as an upcoming price increase —  it ruled that the telecom provider met its obligations and no further investigation was warranted.”

Left behind by the federal agency meant to help him, Ramsay consulted lawyers who agreed that a verbal agreement should be considered a binding contract. So Ramsay decided to take the matter to small claims court.

Several times, Bell offered to settle with Ramsay in return for a confidentiality agreement, but Ramsay declined. He told CBC, “I wanted a judge to rule on the merits of this case. And if I happened to win, I thought it’d be a useful case for others to know about.”

Ramsay’s biggest weapon in court was that sales transcript, where the sales rep states “Your total cost for the 24 months will be $112.90 per month” and “You’re going to get an email confirmation of everything that was just discussed.”

Deputy Judge De Lucia sided with Ramsay, and in his reasons for judgement, said “I find that Bell cannot unilaterally insert or impose new terms. Any imposition of new terms … is unenforceable.”

De Lucia ordered Bell to pay Ramsay $1,110 in damages for his time, inconveniences, and miscellaneous costs.

This case is important to Canadians for many reasons. Firstly, it could act as the trial case for a larger class action suit against telecoms who continue to use these unsavory sales tactics. It is also an example of telecoms being held accountable for their actions, and a rare case of the consumer coming out on top.

Source: CBC.ca – Customer takes Bell to court and wins, as judge agrees telecom giant can’t promise a price, then change it
Published: April 29, 2018