An entrepreneur’s smartphone and tablet are stuffed with sensitive information, from customer lists to business strategy notes. Loss or theft isn’t the only way it can fall into the wrong hands. Cyberthieves and unprincipled or ignorant companies could use apps to take data without your even realizing it.
Mobile apps — whether for business or entertainment — can upload your contact lists and access your location and email, though in almost all cases you must give them permission to do so. They may also store personal and other sensitive information, and sell it or share it, without your knowledge.
Your phone is “highly personal and facilitates a huge level of data collection,” says Sarah Downey, a privacy analyst at Abine Inc., a Boston-based privacy software firm. You owe it to yourself, your business and your clients — especially if your company promises them confidentiality — to keep your devices free of malicious apps and to put privacy protections in place.
Here are five tips to consider before downloading a new app on your device:
1. Shop wisely.
Despite the media hype, malware on mobile devices is not yet a significant problem. Although malware incidents are on the rise, the majority involve apps acquired from random, untrustworthy websites. Most have targeted the Symbian operating system and, more recently, Android. You can reduce your risk of downloading an outright malicious app to almost zero by acquiring apps only from your operating system maker’s app store.
Google scrutinizes the security of apps sold through Google Play (formerly the Android Market), takes user complaints and removes apps that violate its policies. Apple also vets apps before allowing them to grace its App Store which, experts say, has never distributed a malicious app. Microsoft does the same in its Windows Phone 7 marketplace.
2. Be cautious.
Before downloading an app from a company you’ve never heard of, do a quick web search to make sure it’s legitimate and reputable. People love to complain online, and their grumbles could protect you from a bad actor — or a sloppy newcomer that ignores user privacy.
3. Be socially discerning.
Don’t use your personal Facebook or Twitter account to sign in to a business app. “You want to keep a separation between church and state,” says Pam Dixon, executive director of World Privacy Forum, a San Diego-based advocacy group. “We don’t know all the dangers yet … You need to make sure client data is not getting sucked in [to social networks]. It could be a real competitive issue down the road.”
4. Demand privacy.
Don’t buy an app it if requires permission to access data or take other actions you find intrusive or unnecessary. Few apps need your contacts list or physical location. Even fewer need to access your emails, send text messages or listen in via your microphone.
App developers often seek more permissions than they need in case they might want them for a new feature down the road, Downey says. Many apps don’t have privacy polices (though more will soon), and they often fail to disclose or are vague about how they’ll use your data.
Also, check privacy policies, the documents that give you legal recourse if data are misused. You can use your computer to visit the app store, find the app and click through to the developer’s site to look for the policy. If necessary, email the app maker for more information. Does your note-taking app store a copy of your scribblings on its own servers? Does your project planner transmit your client list?
If you’re not comfortable after your due diligence, don’t install the app and let the maker know why. Mobile privacy is new territory that’s beginning to get public, corporate and government attention.
5. Check your existing apps.
It isn’t quick, easy or fun, but it is helpful to review the privacy policies and permissions given to apps you already own.
Android users can review permissions for individual apps by going to the Settings screen and choosing Device and then Apps. Both Android and iPhone let you adjust or totally turn off their GPS location features within settings. With iPhone, you can see which apps access location and turn each one on or off. Apple plans to provide a similar tool for adjusting permissions to access contacts lists in a future operating system update.
Independent resources for understanding app privacy and security are limited. WhatApp.org has some useful expert reviews but covers a very small number of apps. Common Sense Mediareviews games and other apps popular with kids.
Concerned users may want to consider security software to defend against mobile malware, including spyware apps like FlexiSPY, which are most often planted by jealous lovers but presumably could be installed by corporate spies.
Lookout Inc., a mobile security software maker, offers Privacy Advisor as part of its premium security software package for Android phones and tablets ($3 a month or $30 a year). Privacy Advisor provides a list of which of your apps can access private data, along with reports that explain the risks and capabilities of each app.
Riva Richmond is a freelance journalist who has covered technology for more than 10 years. She writes regularly on electronic security and privacy for The New York Times and its Gadgetwise and Bits blogs. She has also written extensively about small business for The Wall Street Journal and was previously a technology reporter at Dow Jones Newswires.
The crazy kids at Twitter have been busy turning a revolution into a business. Led by ex-Googler (and ex-improv comedian) Dick Costolo, the five-year-old company bagged $260 million in revenues last year on the way towards justifying their $8 billion secondary market valuation. Costolo has deftly nudged the Twitter team towards subtle forms of monetization centered on sponsored tweets and sponsored trends that allow corporate marketers to place their message front and center. This is part of the now nearly decade-old shift towards what Web guru John Battelle has long called conversational marketing.
In the next few months, Twitter plans on rolling out tools to help local merchants also buy tweets. To date, Twitter has primarily targeted larger businesses with bigger marketing budgets ranging from several thousand a month well up into the hundreds of thousands. McDonalds and GM have played the game, albeit with serious investments in monitoring social media and responding to comments in the stream relating to their sponsored tweets and trends. For their part, many local merchants that are already Twitter savvy are doing it for free, tweeting deals and messages to their followers and responding to comments. So the obvious question is, will they pay for what they are getting for free? And how can Twitter add additional value for local merchants bombarded by marketing tools claiming to solve their problems?
I know a number of local merchants who are aggressive users of Twitter. Their answer to me has been, thus far, it depends. And what they recognize is this: For Twitter to prove real value and garner the additional revenue for sponsored deals from Mom-and-Pop shops, it needs to move from becoming a vehicle for communication to a vehicle for discovery. At present, savvy merchants use Twitter to communicate with existing followers. These are usually people who have had physical contact or actually used the good or service on offer. (They also can use Twitter as a customer service channel, but that largely relates to bigger companies with more complex services – phone companies and the like). And it works beautifully for local merchants who man the channel and regularly Tweet useful things.
But what happens when these merchants try to use Twitter to spark interest from people they never met before and have no real connection with? Twitter apparently plans to address this by directing the sponsored Tweets at people who are more likely to be interested in this local trend or Tweet. How granular they can go is of critical importance. I am a fan of brick-oven pizza. But I won’t travel more than a few miles out of my way to get it. How likely am I to find a brick-oven pizza deal or a Tweet related to this topic within my geofence will determine the value of this advertising medium to me.
Temporal aspects of the sponsored Tweets will also be essential. Just as display ads served incessantly condition Web surfers not to look, ever present Tweets that are not temporally relevant (a pizza Tweet served at 10 pm on a Sunday night) will encourage the development of “Twitter blinders”. On the subject of time, one thing that the local merchants do not have is time. So Twitter’s core value proposition that merchants pay only for actions — retweets, follows and clicks — will seem less alluring to small shops pressed for time and less willing to experiment.
That said, if Twitter makes it easy or clear enough to buy, then they can tap easily into the fast growing cadre of small businesses that are already buying ads online via self-service — a group that can only grow. Costolo, too, has shown deference to the medium, weaving ad offerings artfully into the Twitter ecosystem in ways that seem natural.
With a ton of money in the bank, too, Twitter is in the game for the long-haul. Nearly a decade after Google went self-service with ads, only now are we starting to see serious penetration at the local level of the self-service business model. And, like Twitter, Google could easily have poisoned the search engine well by pouring on too many ads and turning off searchers. So Costolo is entirely justified in his go-slow approach. In the local business, expect a slow-burn from the Twitter kids as they learn more about Mom-and-Pop and make sure not to offend the faithful. And, frankly, that’s just fine.
Google’s Matt Cutts announced that Google is working on a search ranking penalty for sites that are “over-optimized” or “overly SEO’ed.”
Matt announced this during a panel Search Engine Land’s Editor-In-Chief, Danny Sullivan and Microsoft’s Senior Product Marketing Manager of Bing at SXSW named Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better!. The audio for the session has been published where I learned that Google has been working on a new penalty that targets site’s that overly optimize for search engines for the past few months.
Matt Cutts said the new over optimization penalty will be introduced into the search results in the upcoming month or next few weeks. The purpose is to “level the playing field,” Cutts said. To give sites that have great content a better shot at ranking above sites that have content that is not as great but do a better job with SEO.
Here is the audio clip, you can find Matt saying this about 1/3rd the way in. I have tried to transcribe it below but note, it is not 100% word for word.
Here is the transcription:
“What about the people optimizing really hard and doing a lot of SEO. We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there is something we are working in the last few months and hope to release it in the next months or few weeks. We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.”
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I was reading an infographic from Craig Newmark’s CraigConnects and realized that the statistics within the image were brilliant. I wanted to outline some of the top stats and give you some ideas in regards to how the top nonprofits are using social media.
“The deal is, it’s not about money, it’s about getting people to talk with each other to make people’s lives better,” said Newmark.
Visit Newmark’s Facebook page for the infographic, which includes an explanation of the methodology and sources used in its development.
1. 92 % of Nonprofit Websites Contain At Least One Social Media Button
This is important because 92% of them have a Facebook button. What is even more glaring is that only 12% of them have a LinkedIn
2. Only 12% of Nonprofits Use LinkedIN on their Website
This was a crazy concept to me. Out of all the socia media sites, LinkedIn has the higher income bracket and (probably) the higher level of engagement with business professionals. Why is it hard for nonprofits to understand the important of a networking website like LinkedIN?
3. YMCA has almost 500,000 less fans than the American Red Cross but $2 billion or more in budget.
4. PBS has the larget Twitter following at 840,653 (at the time of the creation of the infographic)
5. PBS is also the most talkative on Twitter at 877 tweets in a two month period of time.
6. 90% of Nonprofits have a Twitter share button on their website
Remember it is important to give users every opportunity to share your content.
7. Only 22% of Nonprofits have an RSS feed on their website.
This is interesting to me because it tells me that only 22% of nonprofits actively blog. This is a shame. Content is king and storytelling should be everything to the nonprofit entities on this list. Storytelling is what drives interaction and engagement among constituents.
8. C.A.R.E is the second most talkative Twitter account with over 860 tweets over a two month period of time.
This stat probably fluctuates based on what is happening within the nonprofit entity.
9. PBS is also the most commented nonprofit on Facebook averaging 17,205 comments over a two month period of time.
10. The size of the social media following of the nonprofit was not dependent on the budget size.
11. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society was last on the list on income but has over 97,000 fans on Facebook.
12. The 3rd most commented Facebook page is the Nature Conservancy with around 5,336 comments.
13. The organization with the highest net income, the YMCA, only posted 19 times to Facebook in two months, but has over 24,000 fans.
Is the YMCA missing something?
14. The American Red Cross was the first organization on the list to create a Twitter account.
15. Food for the Poor is the most talkative nonprofit on the list on Facebook, and has posted 220 posts over the course of two months.
It appears that income does not increase a nonprofit’s visibility and interactions in the social media world. Some of the most social media savvy organizations are in the bottom quarter income bracket, yet they are clearly active on social media.