Monday, December 17, 2012

Trying to make sites more trustworthy with users' personal data

A new certification program aims to make websites more transparent about sharing users' personal data. 
 
(CNN) -- There's a lack of trust between Internet users and the websites that collect their private data.
These sites aren't going to stop gathering personal information anytime soon, but one company hopes to make the exchange less mysterious when people sign on to a site using a social-media profile.

Logging in to third-party sites or commenting systems with Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Google+ and other social profiles is common -- 53% of people have done it, according to a recent study by Gigya, which handles these social logins for major sites such as Pepsi, CBS and Verizon. But Gigya is more interested in the other 47% who don't use social logins and what it can do to change their minds.

In theory, signing in to a third-party site with an existing social-media account should make life a bit easier. There are no forms to fill out, no new passwords and login names to memorize. Just enter two bits of information you're already intimately familiar with from checking Facebook or Twitter a million times. Once logged in, you might even like how easy it is to share content on your profile, or enjoy seeing what your friends bought, read, listened to or watched.

In exchange for these benefits, you give that company access to personal information telling them who you are, such as your age, gender, location, e-mail address, list of friends and what your interests are. That data is extremely valuable, and is used to tailor the site or app experience to individual visitors. People who log in with a social-network profile are better customers. They stick around longer and are more engaged.
The holdouts who avoid signing in with social profiles don't want to give third-parties the keys to their personal data. They believe companies will take their profile information and sell it, spam their friends or post to their social networks without permission, according to the Gigya survey.

"There's a real question of transparency and trusting, and confusion as to what's happening," said Gigya CEO Patrick Salyer. He believes much of it is a "perception issue" and that increased transparency between companies and customers would be mutually beneficial.

That's where the Gigya's new SocialPrivacy Certification program comes in. In exchange for publicly promising to use data responsibly, sites can sport a seal proclaiming that they are certified as trustworthy. The companies must follow these rules: they will not sell your data or your friends' data, spam you with e-mails, post on your social networks or contact your friends without permission.

Gigya is training a team of 35 employees in its client-services department to audit companies to ensure they adhere to the criteria. The companies are vetted when they first request certification and audited regularly after they're signed up to make sure they're still sticking to the rules. Gigya has not settled on a price for the certification yet. Any site can apply for the program, and Gigya plans to develop a similar code of conduct for apps in the future.

In theory the certification will assuage consumers' fears, and in turn boost the usage of social logins across the web. To increase the program's credibility, Gigya consulted privacy experts and collaborated on the final product with the Future of Privacy Forum, a privacy think tank in D.C. supported by companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook.
Currently there aren't any laws regulating what sites and apps can do with your personal information, and companies are hoping to stave off any government regulation by taking matters into their own hands with initiatives like SocialPrivacy Certification.

"There's no obligation to be a good privacy citizen unless it's health or banking information," said Jules Polonetsky, director and co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum.

Facebook, Twitter and some other networks have guidelines for developers that prohibit some of these behaviors, including bans on selling data. But by taking it one step further and publicly declaring it won't misuse personal data, a site can suddenly be held accountable for any violations by a group with a bit more power: the Federal Trade Commission.

"The FTC can sue you for making a deceptive statement to users who relied on that when they signed onto your site," said Polonetsky.

The SocialPrivacy Certification program is launching with a handful or partners, including Martha Stewart and the Toronto Globe and Mail. Until it becomes standard across the industry, its usefulness will be limited. But as long as people remain paranoid and hesitant to share their information, sites that want that data will be motivated to be more transparent.
 

Wal-Mart slashes prices on iPhone and iPad




If you're looking for the cheapest iPhone or iPad that isn't used, Wal-Mart is the first place you should turn this holiday season.

The retail giant announced plans Friday to offer the 16 GB iPhone 5 for $127 (normally $189.97) and the 16GB iPhone 4S for $47 (normally $87.97), along with a two-year contract. They'll also sell the third-generation iPad for $399.

While it was reported elsewhere that Wal-Mart is discounting the recently announced fourth-generation iPad, a Wal-Mart spokesperson confirmed with CNNMoney that it is, in fact, the third-generation model, which has a less powerful CPU.

Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) discounts aren't unheard of this time of year, but Wal-Mart's (WMT, Fortune 500) will be tough to beat. Best Buy (BBY, Fortune 500) and Radio Shack (RSH) both have discounts on the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S, offering as much as $50 off advertised prices, along with gift certificates to sweeten the deal. Apple's own Black Friday sale offered up iPods and previous-geneneration iPads for $30-$40 off the regular price.

As for the iPad discount, Wal-Mart appears to be following in the footsteps of past sales. In July, Fry's knocked $100 off the iPad 2. But by then, the iPad 3 had already been available for almost six months.
While the iPad sales just seem like an offloading of stale products, Wal-Mart's motivations for discounting the iPhone aren't exactly clear. Some, such as the LA Times, speculate that dragging sales are to blame.

Whatever the case, it's best not to sleep on this deal if you're in the market for one of these devices. Wal-Mart told MacRumors that the sale is first come, first serve depending on inventory, and rain checks will not be issued.

May the shopping gods be with you. To top of page

HTML5: The future of the Web is finally here

HTML5, which will power the next generation of websites and smartphone apps, is now complete.

The tool that promises to launch the next era of websites, smartphone apps and online video is finally finished.

HTML5, the long-in-the-works update to the language that powers the Web, is "feature complete," according to an announcement made Monday by the standards-setting Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C). There's still some testing to be done, and it hasn't yet become an official Web standard -- that will come in 2014. But there won't be any new features added to HTML5, which means Web designers and app makers now have a "stable target" for implementing it, W3C said.

The HTML5 language lets developers deliver in-the-browser experiences that previously required standalone apps or additional software like Java, Adobe's (ADBE) Flash or Microsoft's (MSFT, Fortune 500) Silverlight. It supports lightning-fast video and geolocation services, offline tools and touch, among other bells and whistles.

The W3C has been developing the spec for the better part of a decade.

"As of today, businesses know what they can rely on for HTML5 in the coming years," W3C CEO Jeff Jaffe said in a prepared statement. "Likewise, developers will know what skills to cultivate to reach smart phones, cars, televisions, e-books, digital signs, and devices not yet known."

Most of the top browser makers didn't wait for the language to be 100% finished before building support for some elements into their software. The latest versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari are already compatible with most HTML5 elements.

App developers followed suit.

Netflix (NFLX) and Google's YouTube are two of the most prominent HTML5 adopters, but many others have also taken the leap. The Financial Times abandoned its smartphone app last year in favor of an HTML5 mobile website. The site looked and functioned like a native app -- with the advantage that FT didn't have to make changes to multiple versions of its code on multiple smartphone platforms. (Using a mobile website instead of a native app also let FT avoid paying Apple for in-app purchases.)

Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), a strong supporter of HTML5, produced a viral interactive video in 2010 with the help of rock band Arcade Fire that showed off the potential of the new Web features. Firefox browser maker Mozilla made a splash in February when it created a smartphone operating system called "Boot to Gecko," which is almost entirely based in HTML 5.

HTML5 grew prevalent enough by 2010 that then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs was able to unleash an epic rant against Flash and get away with it. A year later, Adobe more or less conceded that Jobs was right, abandoning its mobile Flash software in favor of HTML5 support. In November 2011 blog post, Adobe called HTML5 "the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms."

There's still more work to be done. W3C said that about 63% of Web and app developers are actively using HTML5 to make their sites and software, but "browser fragmentation" remains a big reason why many still aren't using it. Though most up-to-date browsers support at least some aspects of HTML5, older versions of some Web browsers like Microsoft's (MSFT, Fortune 500) Internet Explorer don't.

That's why W3C is working on cementing HTML5 as a new Web standard, making it interoperable and fully supported by any modern browser. It will take two years to complete the testing and standardization of HTML5, the consortium said.

What's next? W3C is already working on HTML 5.1, the first parts of which were just submitted in draft form. To top of page


AirAsia inks huge Airbus deal


AirAsia has ordered 264 A320neo and 211 A320ceo aircraft, according to an Airbus statement.
 
Malaysia-based low-cost carrier AirAsia has placed an order for 100 more Airbus aircraft.
Even before this new deal, AirAsia was Airbus’ best customer in the world for A320 jets.
The 100 new planes brings AirAsia's total Airbus A320 orders to 475.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron presided over the official signing ceremony at the UK Airbus wing manufacturing facility in Broughton for the reported US$9.3 billion deal.

“AirAsia is one of the great success stories of recent years in the airline business,” Airbus President and CEO Fabrice BrĂ©gier said in a press statement.

The new order comprises 36 A320 with the current engine option and 64 A320 jets featuring the new engine option with 15 percent lower fuel consumption.
 

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