Good Monday Morning

Welcome back. It’s November 28. Breaking late Sunday was news of yet another mass shooting. One person is dead and four others are injured at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. There have been 652 mass shootings nationwide since Jan. 1, an average of one every 12 hours.

Today’s Spotlight is 805 words — about 4 ½ minutes to read.

Spotlight On … Companies Behaving Badly

A new year often prompts us to reexamine our financial decisions. We have compiled a list of warnings and examples of companies behaving badly online.

Internet pricing is confusing and suffers from a lack of competition. 

A Consumer Reports study published just before Thanksgiving found that internet service providers often charge additional, confusing monthly fees that can reach $9.95 and may be avoidable. About half of the bills they studied came from companies with no competitors.

Websites disguise ads, hide terms, or make it difficult to cancel.

In October, the FTC warned about all companies behaving badly using the jargony term “dark patterns”, citing subscriptions that are hard to cancel, opt-outs that protect private data being hidden, and disguised ads. Despite being owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the Washington Post created an impressive graphic showing disguised ads on Amazon.  

According to the FTC, Credit Karma falsely represented that 90% of consumers would qualify or were pre-approved for credit cards when only about 33% did. Those who didn’t also experienced credit score penalties. 

Tax software sites shared data with Facebook

The Markup reported that H&R Block and Tax Act returned user income, tax filing status, scholarship information, and refund amounts to Facebook despite Facebook’s program allowing advertisers to easily avoid sending that information.

Auto companies are building features into cars, but only enabling them with ongoing subscriptions.

Mercedes is the latest carmaker to demand subscriptions. It costs $100/month to activate the enhanced acceleration already installed in some Mercedes models. In the past, BMW offered a similar subscription program requiring $18 monthly to activate heated seats that were also already installed.

 3 More Stories to Know

1)  Google will pay $392 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a coalition of 40 states over its Location History data collection policies.

New and inconclusive: security researchers from Mysk claim that Apple usage data includes a permanent, unchangeable ID number assigned to each consumer.

2 Ransomware hackers targeting a Belgian local government instead hacked a Belgian police department. The police claim that only administrative or personnel records were exposed. Apparently unrelated was a cyberattack on the European Parliament’s website last Wednesday that made it unavailable for several hours.

3) Anti-vaccination content is gaining traction on Twitter under new ownership, as entities have purchased the once-prestigious “verified” status for $8. According to The Guardian, vaccine scientist Peter Hoetz criticized the move for promoting anti-vaccine disinformation.

Trends and Spends

Did That Really Happen? — Sen. Cornyn Signs Tweet As Sen. Cruz

The Twitter account belonging to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) posted a Thanksgiving greeting from fellow Texas Republican Ted Cruz and Mrs. Cruz. The jokes were funny and many pointed out that the lawmakers might share a digital firm that committed the error or that the senator or someone on his staff did a sloppy copy and paste job.

Following Up — 1Password Buying Passkey Company

We wrote last week about passkeys, the next evolution of security beyond passwords. Now there’s news that password manager software company 1Password is buying Passage to also offer passkey products.

Protip — Remove Your Home’s Image from Google Maps

You’ve probably seen street-level views on Google Maps that show you pictures of each building. Now there’s an easy way to request that Google blur the image of your house from its Maps software.

Screening Room — US Cellular’s Poignant “Right Number”

Science Fiction World — Robots Cleaning Skyscraper Windows

Israeli firm Skyline Robotics has introduced Ozmo, a window cleaning robot for skyscrapers that operates without people aboard or the previous 10 story height restriction. This articles shows Ozmo in action at the 15 story RXR plaza in Uniondale, NY.

Coffee Break — Free Palm Pilot Apps Online

The amazing Internet Archive strikes again with a new Palm Pilot emulator and access to more than 500 apps that will work on your smart phone. Sean Hollister at The Verge says it best: “You can reach out and touch a 1996 pocket computer with your 2022 pocket computer and it works like a charm. It’s a tiny interactive window into the pre-iPhone era.”

Sign of the Times

Good Monday Morning

It’s November 14. NASA’s Artemis 1 launch window opens at 1 a.m. ET Wednesday for an uncrewed mission. If all goes well, humanity returns to the moon on Artemis II.

Today’s Spotlight is 645 words — about 4 minutes to read.

Spotlight On … Twitter Spirals Out Of Control

Lilly’s market capitalization hasn’t fully recovered after this fake tweet last Thursday afternoon caused more than $10 billion in losses.

Other imposters:

  • a fake LeBron James demanding a trade
  • Doja Cat, Valerie Bertinelli, and Kathy Griffin impersonating Musk
  • an image of Nintendo’s Mario making a rude gesture
  • a reporter impersonating Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) with his permission

During the chaos over Musk’s sale of blue check indicators, which previously identified “verified” accounts, Musk and Markey traded public insults. The spat, brand damage, loss of trust, and Musk’s capriciousness are only some of the reasons for Twitter’s spirals from carnival square to

Musk continues to create confusion with changes that global platforms usually make over a much longer time. A number of Twitter accounts recently displayed gray “official” flags, and social media experts questioned how the accounts got them or if they were real.

Twitter also faced backlash after mistakenly terminating employees during mass layoffs and then making reinstatement offers. After many top executives resigned and Musk fired others in just days, the FTC publicly expressed concern about the company’s ability to comply with earlier privacy consent decrees.

3 More Stories to Know

1)  Big Tech is facing new financial troubles. Amazon is considering cost reductions at its Alexa unit that posted a $5 billion operating loss. Disney+ also lost over $1.4 billion last year and plans to freeze hiring.  Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery have already cut jobs this year among streaming losses.

Bright spot: Zoom is introducing new Mail and Calendar software to link hybrid workforce software with a new zmail dot com address.

2 A ransomware gang targeting Australian insurance giant Medibank released records of more than 100 patients that included information about drug addiction, HIV infections, and mental health diagnoses. The criminals reportedly accessed 10 million health records.

3)  AT&T telephone operators will no longer be available for directory assistance or operator assisted calls after December 31. The company founded by telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell had a U.S. monopoly until 1984 and once employed 350,000 telephone operators.

Trends & Spends

Did That Really Happen? — Post Office Warns About Theft From Blue Mailboxes

The USPS is advising people to avoid dropping mail into blue collection boxes after the last collection of the day or on Sundays or holidays because that’s when thieves target them.

Following Up — TikTok Shop Opens

We told you in October that TikTok was creating fulfillment centers in the U.S. and now they’ve launched a registration page for American companies to sell on the platform.

Protip — Those Yeti Cooler & Dick’s Sporting Goods Emails

You’re not alone in wondering why these emails are getting through Google’s awesome spam filters. They’re obviously spam (don’t click anything there) and even Dick’s has posted an online warning about them. 

Screening Room — John Lewis’ “The Beginner” tearjerker

Science Fiction World — Google’s FlyThrough Videos

Google announced a new feature that allows imaging software to create perpetually looping videos from a single image using machine learning to create enhanced scenery. Have a look at them here.

Coffee Break — The 2038 Problem

You survived Y2K, but what about the 2038 Problem? Programs built using the C programming language have a similar but smaller issue facing them on January 19, 2038. Good news–next after that is 2116.

Sign of the Times