Category Archives: Big Business

Marketers Launch Sneaky Campaigns at Kids

Some of the consumer groups have published a new report documenting some of the marketing practices aimed at kids. Like this one:

KFC used a high-pitched tone as a promotional “buzz ? device for a recent “interactive advertising campaign. ? The MosquitoTone™ was embedded in TV commercials to launch KFC’s new “Boneless Variety Bucket™. ? In its press release, the company explained that the popular cell phone ring tone “is too highpitched for most adults to hear because most people begin to lose the ability to hear high frequency tones starting at age 20. This is a fact not lost on young Americans who seek the sound for clandestine ring tones that don’t turn the heads of nearby adults. ?

For those who don't realize how desperately the business world wants to connect to your kids, snare, and keep control of them, wake up! Many businesses will pull any dirty trick they can to make money.

EU Tells Google, 2 Years is 2 Long

Google recently announced that any data they stored that was more than 2 years old would become anonymized. While many applauded this (because at least they were going to anonymize it), many others say it doesn't go far enough.

When asked why they need personally identifiable information in the first place, their answer is for service optimization. I, as others, question what identifying someone has to do with search engine optimization at all.

Doctors Fight Data Rapists

Seattle pediatrician Rupin Thakkar's first inkling that the pharmaceutical industry was peering over his shoulder and into his prescription pad came in a letter from a drug representative about the generic drops Thakkar prescribes to treat infectious pinkeye.

In the letter, the salesperson wrote that Thakkar was causing his patients to miss more days of school than they would if he put them on Vigamox, a more expensive brand-name medicine made by Alcon Laboratories.

"My initial thought was 'How does she know what I'm prescribing?' " Thakkar said. "It feels intrusive. . . . I just feel strongly that medical encounters need to be private."

It appears that several drug marketers have been tracking what physicians have been prescribing in order to custom tailor their marketing pitches.

I think It's pretty clear by now what my feeling are on this type of practice.

(H/T to Privacy.org for the link)

Using Data Rape to Take the Elderly

You know all those times I've complained about Data Rape and how companies are able to hit us where we are weakest because of all they learn and profile about us?

I'm not just making this stuff up you know.

Mr. Guthrie, who lives in Iowa, had entered a few sweepstakes that caused his name to appear in a database advertised by infoUSA, one of the largest compilers of consumer information. InfoUSA sold his name, and data on scores of other elderly Americans, to known lawbreakers, regulators say.

InfoUSA advertised lists of “Elderly Opportunity Seekers, ? 3.3 million older people “looking for ways to make money, ? and “Suffering Seniors, ? 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. “Oldies but Goodies ? contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for 8.5 cents apiece. One list said: “These people are gullible. They want to believe that their luck can change.

Would someone in congress please start paying attention to this?

Confessions of a Payday Loan Manager

A former payday scum manager comes clean in a video released by The Center for Responsible Lending.

In this 4 minute video, Rebecca tells how payday loans are rarely two-week loans. Most of her customers came in payday after payday to renew the loan—after the first time, they couldn't afford to pay it off. Rebecca tells how she and her co-workers explained away the 400% interest rate, and how tough their collection tactics were. And she tells how she came to understand that rather than help her customers, these loans were "keeping them poor."

Now if Virginia would just kick out the whole industry like West Virginia did.

Confessions of a Geek Squad Technician

This is an amazing essay from a former Geek Squad tech as to why Geek Squad was great, but isn't anymore.

The fact is that you are no more likely to see a real technician at a Geek Squad today than you would be to see a real 5'10" mouse, wearing red suspenders at Disneyland. It is all an act… a show to provide what the customer assumes they need to see. The shoes, the ties, the badges, the pants, the socks, and the shirts do not increase the persons ability to fix your computer, they merely fulfill the customer's subconscious expectation of what a competent computer technician looks like.

He talks of the time he opened a "new" computer only to find that it was in reality, used. His manager told him to clean it off and give it to the customers like nothing had happened of which he said "On this day, I would favor the respect of my superior, rather than that of my integrity".

Wow.

Then there's the time that they were backlogged on computers to repair so management decided that things like crashes and viruses could be fixed easily by wiping all data on every computer. They don't have to worry about legal rammifications because customers are forced to sign a disclaimer that says they've backed up all their data.

And don't forget that Geeks are lonely. If you have (or had) any porn on your machine, they'll find it and save a copy:

If there were a competition between a Playboy editor, a photo lab technician, and a voyeur for the person who has seen the most random pictures of naked people… the only way any of them would win is if the Geek Squad agent was late to the contest.

RFID Worst Case Scenario Has Arrived

The people over at CASPIAN have warned about how companies are trying hard to get RFID tags into all their products without people knowing. Well, now they will. The anti-theft tags that nearly every product currently has will be combined with RFID technology so that nearly every item you walk out of the store with will also transmit a unique identifying number to any reader nearby. Theives, marketers and big brother are salivating.

You don't believe that companies are desperately interested in what you do every waking moment? Then you haven't been paying attention.

Putting Parental Fears In Perspective

For those who weren't paying attention, fears of child abduction and abuse are fairly overblown.

Although statistics show that rates of child abduction and sexual abuse have marched steadily downward since the early 1990s, fear of these crimes is at an all-time high. Even the panic-inducing Megan's Law Web site says stranger abduction is rare and that 90 percent of child sexual-abuse cases are committed by someone known to the child. Yet we still suffer a crucial disconnect between perception of crime and its statistical reality. A child is almost as likely to be struck by lightning as kidnapped by a stranger, but it's not fear of lightning strikes that parents cite as the reason for keeping children indoors watching television instead of out on the sidewalk skipping rope.

Why is this important? Because companies that want humans to accept RFID implantation will try to use fears of child abduction to sell their products. The industry wants this badly (and possibly the government too), because once people begin implanting children, no one will get them removed as adults and eventually, every citizen will have them. Once we are all tagged, we can be tracked whereever we go and whatever we do. Imagine how easy it is to control and manipulate people once you know all that about them.

(H/T to Schneier's Blog for the link).

Forced RFID Implantation Illegal in North Dakota

From the "don't forget we're people, not products" department, North Dakota is the second state to ban forced RFID implantation. However, even if this is a step in the right direction, does it do enough? It doesn't ban voluntary implantation and last I checked a lot of things that aren't really "voluntary" are treated such under law. Here's a quote from the article of someone who agrees with me:

But Michael Shamos, a professor who specializes in security issues at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, believes the law is too vague to do much good. For instance, it only addresses situations where a chip is injected, even though RFID tags can also be swallowed. And it doesn't clearly define what a forced implant really is; someone could make chipping a requirement for a financial reward.

"Suppose I offer to pay you $10,000 if you have an RFID [chip] implanted?" he asked. "Is that 'requiring' if it's totally voluntary on your part?"

It's a poor example, but the right idea. Instead, what if you are offered a high paying job and move your family to a new state, get settled and begin the orientation process for your new job. You find out that they require RFID implants for "security" (which has been proven to weaken security). How much free will do you have in this instance? Can you really afford not to take the job now? You'd have to have an almost religious mentality to refuse it at this point.

Another example, perhaps not so drastic. Companies push and push and finally get most everyone to use RFID implants as identification and method of payment. Because you're smart enough to know what a bad thing this is, you refuse, but find yourself inconvenienced everywhere. You can only shop at certain stores that still have non-RFID checkout. You pay an extra "cash handling" fee for not using the new methods. You have to drive 20 miles away to the only gas station around that's equiped to take non-RFID transactions.

Is it still a choice?

Note that both Spychips.com and Privacy.org are carrying this story and that Spychips lists Ohio, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Florida as more states with anti-implantation bills in the works. The first state to pass such a bill was Wisconsin (note the same flaw as the ND bill).

Before someone leaves a comment saying "well, you complain, but don't offer solutions!", here's the wording I would add to each of these bills:

Futher, any company who offers RFID based services must also accept non-implanted RFID for those same services (ie, a RFID enabled card or token). Any company who offers incentive plans or otherwise implements hurdles, difficulties, or hardships for customers who chose not to use implanted RFID will be in violation of this law and subject to fines, per day per offense.

Any company who provides chip implantation services must make their customers aware of this law and have them sign a disclaimer before implantation. Should such a company be found to have misrepresented the law, minimized the law, or made it appear as if implantation were artificially superior in order to influence the customer to proceed with the implantation, that company shall be liable for the full cost of removing the chips at their expense and may additionally be fined or decertified.

There. That's a good start.

How to Tell When It’s Bait and Switch

This is useful. A short write-up on how to tell when someone can get away with not giving you what was advertised vs when you can force them to honor a deal to their detriment.

Here's the interesting part:

Employs compensation methods that discourage or penalize sales people for selling the bait.

So that means that any kind of negative reinforcement used to make sales people not want to sell the advertised "junker" is bait and switch too. Employees take note.

Beating the Four-Square Shakedown When Buying a Car

Maybe not beating, but at least not falling for it. The Consumerist hosted a fantastic expose on how dealers use a four square piece of paper to rip people off right in front of their eyes. I have actually seen this before and don't remember what the result was, but I'm pretty sure we walked away thinking we had "won" when we got a lower monthly payment.

Wow was I stupid back then.

Private Lenders Turn Away People on The Terrorist Watch List

Great. Now the terrorist watch list is making it to our everyday lives.

Private businesses such as rental and mortgage companies and car dealers are checking the names of customers against a list of suspected terrorists and drug traffickers made publicly available by the Treasury Department, sometimes denying services to ordinary people whose names are similar to those on the list.

Yet anyone who does business with a person or group on the list risks penalties of up to $10 million and 10 to 30 years in prison, a powerful incentive for businesses to comply.

"It prohibits anyone from doing business with anyone who's on the list. It does not have a minimum dollar amount. . . . The local deli, if it sells a sandwich to someone whose name appears on the list, has violated the law."

This might be a good thing if it actually worked. Judging on how the no-fly list works, I'm guessing it doesn't.

So what happens when the terrorists start using names like:

  • John Smith
  • Mike Brown
  • Chris Anderson
  • Mary Jones
  • Beth Miller

If one or two terrorists use something like that as an alias, our whole country will shut down.

(H/T to privacy.org for the link to the original article)

University of Nebraska Stands Up to RIAA for Students

From the "WOO-HOO!" and "Heck Yeah!" departments comes the story of the University of Nebraska. Wisconsin may have refused to help the RIAA, but the U of N actually took it all the way:

If there were any doubt that the university is really irritated by the RIAA's requests, it has requested that the RIAA pay the university to reimburse its expenses from dealing with this

That's so awesome 😀

Sixwise Betrays Readers – Promotes “Web Informercial”

A while ago, I subscribed to the Sixwise newsletter based mostly on this description of themselves:

SixWise.com's mission is to help you and your loved ones be safe, live longer and prosper in all aspects of life by providing you the key insights, top recommendations and most practical solutions culled from the world's leading experts and specialists to:

* Best protect yourself, your children and other loved ones from environmental toxins, crime and violence, natural disasters, and life's other dangers.

* Most effectively build your financial security with proven strategies while avoiding serious risks, scams and other pitfalls.

* Keep your home and valuable assets safe and secure from theft, costly damages, and other threats.

* Avoid getting taken advantage of by anyone — identity thieves online and offline, scam artists, unscrupulous businesses, and more.

Their newsletter was interesting, though nothing to blog home about, until I recieved this: A sensationalist advertisement posing as an actual recommendation.

Dear SixWise.com Subscriber,

This is a very special announcement, so please read on.

I need to tell you about something that has been concerning me of late … if you've watched the news, read the newspaper or visited your local mall, you'll know exactly what I am about talk to you about.

He goes on to list statistics and facts about the obesity problem in America, but don't worry, there is a solution. It's a secret that no one is telling you about and it's only available to the FIRST 1000 takers! [Oh NOES! I better sign up right away!!!!11!].

So I clicked the link to see what was up and found myself on a site extolling the virtures of "Ultrametabolism" thereby confirming that it was nothing but an cheesy, manipulative infomercial in web form. They ask for your name and e-mail address to give you "access to over $171 worth of companion tools for free". I used 10-minute-mail to see what kind of e-mail I would get and it's just what you'd expect.

Use of my first name as if talking to a friend, sensationalist speech, appeal to emotion, quoting of statistics that have little to do with you personally, and liberal use of the words "free" and "bonus" (do a Google search for the words "guarantee free bonus" and see what kinds of pages come up. Looks just like Ultrametabolism to me).

I realize there may be some legitimacy to all of this, but it's the sensationalism and manipulation I have a problem with. For example, Sixwise says these are things "you aren't told about", but all of the stuff I read about Ultrametabolism (fully posted on CBS's website for your instant viewing pleasure) is not new information, just a compilation of stuff most people already know or could learn with minimal effort (don't eat refined sugars… Woo! What a revelation!).

The point is that Sixwise is supposed to help you fight off marketing and manipulation. What difference does it make if the product has legitimacy if it's packaged and wrapped in deception?

Car Dealership Forces Thumbprints to Sell a Car?

In my last experience buying a car, they tried to take my Social Security Number even though I had financing from someone else. If I hadn't been who I am, I might have allowed it, but I didn't. I fought them for a half hour and nearly left the place until a manager got involved and saw the writing on the wall.

Now, it's getting worse. public-citizen's blog points to an article about a car dealership that data-rapes customers for their thumbprints before selling them a car. First seen at banks, the practice seems to be spreading.