Archive for the ‘Apps’ Category

Service of Upgrades that Are and Aren’t

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Photo: pixabay

Shiny Apple

Some upgrades are amazing. Apple gave my iPhone 6 a new lease on life with a recent upgrade that allows it to act pretty much like one of its pricey new phones. I read that this was the latest marketing strategy for the company that formerly encouraged customers to upgrade frequently.

iPhone 6. Photo: gadgets.ndtv.com

Even so, hearing the word “upgrade” these days sends shivers my way and, in my experience, for good reason.

No Service Self Service

Have you tried the new USPS self service mailing machines? They don’t work. I don’t mean they are complicated—they literally don’t function and the old ones worked like a charm.

I tried to use several at the Grand Central post office on different days and at a satellite office with no employees. The former wouldn’t respond to light or heavy finger touches by me and countless others who ended up behind me on line for a clerk; the scale didn’t work in the latter which was problematic because I had a package to mail.

Exploding Devices

Last week almost 3,000 new body cam devices were pulled from use by the NYC police department. Why? One exploded.

Out of Order Train App & Info Man

Photo: play.google.com

The Metro-North app. “TrainTime” has issues. I couldn’t link from the TrainTime app to the specifics about substitute busses for trains I usually take so I stopped in at Grand Central Station’s customer service desk. The link was dead last Friday. The attendant explained that Metro-North needs to upgrade the app. He also misinformed me about the bus situation. Fortunately, another staffer set him—and me—straight. His excuse: “I just got to the desk.”

Not My Car

Photo: gm.com

General Motors emailed to tell me that my 2016 Chevrolet has a soft tire and to bring the car in for service. I knew this had to do with the 2016 we turned in for a 2018 earlier this year because that car always had tire issues. So I informed the dealership, from which we’ve bought and leased cars for 20 years, that GM needs to update its records. When we first dealt with the dealership our salesman took care of everything and there was never a hiccup. Since then it has upgraded with specialists in various areas of the business. This is the second such glitch we’ve encountered since we leased the 2018 model so the specialists aren’t clicking our info in all the right places.

Does the word “upgrade” excite you or make you anxious? Was it always thus? Have you encountered either super or dismal results from a recent upgrade?

Photo: siteuptime.com

Service of Strangers Knowing More About You Than Your Family Does

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Photo: rmbo.org

Photo: rmbo.org

Len Berman and Todd Schnitt

I wake up to Len Berman and Todd Schnitt in the Morning on WOR 710 Radio, a welcome addition to the NYC media scene since January. Last Thursday Schnitt, [on the right in the photo with Berman, at right], said he’d deleted the Uber app from his Android phone because he didn’t want to give the company access to his address book nor did he want the company to know his location even if he hadn’t opened the app. He said the latter intrusion will happen in July. Schnitt said he takes yellow cabs to work every morning at 4a.m.–the show runs from 6 am to 10–and plans to look for a different car booking company, like Lyft.

I asked a friend (in her 20s) what she thought about all this surveillance, shadowing and privacy invasion. She said, “I always just think/sort of joke around that my iPhone knows more about me than I do. The other day my phone told me how long it would be for me to get to Columbia [University] from midtown — I never put that in as a home address or anything. The phone just sort of figured out on its own that I was there a lot. Creepy. 

“As for Uber,” the recent Columbia Journalism grad student continued, “there was that ‘God view’ feature which gave away a users’ location. Not sure if that is still in use. It makes sense to a certain extent so the driver can find you but access beyond that they shouldn’t have—such as your contacts’ info!”

Dog tracking scent Photo: pbs.org

Dog tracking scent Photo: pbs.org

According to Insurance Journal, “The car booking company now more clearly tells its customers it can pretty much track everything they do while using the Uber app, after facing criticism over privacy, especially its use of a tool called God View enabling the company to know where its riders were at any given moment.” Eric Newcomer, who wrote “Uber Discloses Expanded Customer Data Tracking,” continued: “the firm said Uber needed to make sure it was clearer and more transparent, rather than significantly altering its existing policies.” The [law] firm referred to is Hogan Lovells.

“The new privacy policy is clear,” wrote Newcomer. “…The company can read text messages you send to drivers, follow your location as you ride in an Uber and store your address book on its servers. Customers can find the policy on the app and the company’s website.”

Newcomer reinforced what talk show host Schnitt said. He wrote: “With the new update, which takes effect July 15, Uber can ask permission to track a rider’s location even when the application isn’t open.” And “Uber retains permission to hand over data to third parties. If a rider is using Uber for business, the startup can turn over data to the rider’s employer.”

Remember the prehistoric slogan about customers always being right?Customer is always right right At Uber the drivers rate customers. If you keep a driver waiting, if you aren’t as polite or friendly as a driver expects a passenger to be, you’ll get a bad grade. Why does this matter? If you are looking for transportation at rush hour or after an event, you very well might be left waiting on the curb.

Sidebar: Why did Uber hire the law firm in the first place? According to Newcomer: “Uber hired Hogan Lovells after the company faced criticism for prying into journalists’ private lives.”

Uber, available around the world, has caught on like wildfire [though it’s encountering legal glitches in France, Germany and South Korea according to techcrunch.com]. In February alone, according to fusion.net, the company attracted $2.8 billion in venture capital.

Is the public so in love with clever technology that it accepts every–and anything–from a company that’s expert at it? Have you used the service? Will you continue to after July 15?

Privacy

Service of Patterns: Amazon.com, The New York Times Online and Nasdaq darkened; Pleasant Hospital Staff and Apps & Privacy

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

quilt pattern

Disconnect

Within less than a month nobody could access The New York Times online or Amazon.com, for hours, and Nasdaq closed down for 180 minutes causing millions to land on starvation diets of news, shopping, reviews and research. Whatever the reasons–computer glitches or hackers–the coincidences are unsettling.

keyboardIs this a pattern and is something fishy going on?

Healing

My husband was in two emergency rooms in one week, one, Lenox Hill, in NYC and one in a rural community, Sharon Hospital, Conn.[He’s fine.] We were encouraged and delighted by the warm, professional, smart care he received by medical and support staff in both places.

smiling nursesThe entire health care/insurance industries are in a sling these days so this pattern of behavior is especially reassuring.

None of Your Business

We’ve come a long way since party lines when telephones were new, especially in rural areas, and many homes were connected to the same line. Nosey neighbors had only to pick up the phone while someone else was talking to catch some juicy tidbits. No doubt the operator who placed the calls was a town’s gossip action central.

party lineThese days it’s a lot more than the N.S.A. listening in and I get the feeling that millions have no clue what their own actions are doing to them. Health apps are among the culprits according to Consumer Bob on nbcsandiego.com. In “Health Apps May Share Personal Information: A San Diego privacy group says many of those apps are selling personal information they collect from users.” He wrote: “Collecting data on websites is nothing new. Everyone from Facebook to Google use profiles to market products and services to their users. But few people know their health and fitness apps may be doing the same thing.”

He also noted that “Many of these free applications will then sell your information to third-party advertisers.”

In the July/August issue of Dwell magazine I read about an app that for $20 stores photos and barcodes of all your furniture and appliances in case of fire or theft. There’s an option that tells you if you are adequately insured. But imagine the hacking possibilities and repercussions should this happen especially on a local level. Once you’ve collected all the information an old fashioned flash file backed by a hard copy would seem less potentially intrusive.

What do you think is going on with technology and big brands? How is it that hospitals big and small, rural and urban, have [finally] realized that a positive and pleasant atmosphere helps in healing? Are most people aware that the more they share in a digital world the more they give up their privacy?

 privacy please

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