April 22nd, 2011 in Consumers, Wireless Technology

Wisconsin’s going wireless

The number of wireless-only households has increased 10 percent in two years, according to a federal report. The report says that about 25 percent of Wisconsin adults live in a wireless-only household. This is up from 15 percent two years ago.

This study was done by the National Center for Health Statistics. The report covers the 12-month period from July 2009 to June 2010.

While the number of cell-phone only homes in Wisconsin is average compared to the rest of the nation, the increase shows that Wisconsin remains competitive when it comes to wireless technology. Milwaukee is a state leader in wireless dependence: 31 percent of households are cellphone-only, compared to 24 percent in the rest of Wisconsin.

Here’s the rundown for the state according to the Associated Press story:

  • 17 percent of adults live in a house that uses only a landline.
  • 25 percent live in homes that rely about equally on landlines and cellphones.
  • Nearly everyone else has access to both kinds of phones: 21 percent prefer landlines and 10 percent favor cellphones.
  • One percent has no phone service.

More and more people are going wireless and we need to make sure the infrastructure and regulations in place reflect that.

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January 28th, 2011 in Consumers, Privacy

Facebook’s new security features

Facebook is often picked on for its hard to navigate and less than effective security features. It’s been called a scammer’s paradise. Even using the wifi at the local café could compromise your account.

Thankfully, Facebook is rolling out some new security features to make your account safer.

The best new feature is the availability of secure browsing using HTTPS. To use encrypted HTTPS protocol, go to ‘Account Settings’ > ‘Account Security’ > ‘Secure Browsing’. This keeps your login information safe, although browsing might be a little slower.

Another new feature is what Facebook calls ‘social authentication’ – verifying your identity by asking you to identify your friends in photos.

Mark Zuckerburg’s profile may have been hacked recently, but hopefully with these new features, yours won’t be.

Read more about Facebook’s new security features: Facebook to offer secure connection, better authentication

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August 23rd, 2010 in Consumers, Privacy

How Secure Is Your Online Information?

Is your online data really secure? As we increasingly use the Internet to manage personal information, the stakes are getting higher for ensuring you have a strong enough password.

A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology, reported by CNN, has found that the safest passwords should contain at least 12 characters. At 12 characters, according to researchers, it would take hackers 17,134 years to crack you data.

“The researchers recommend 12-character passwords — as opposed to those with 11 or, say, 13 characters — because that number strikes a balance between ‘convenience and security.’”

What’s even better than 12-character passwords? Full sentences. While this isn’t an option for many sites yet, researchers claim full sentence passwords are the best way for users to protect their online data from hackers of all types.

What do you do to increase security for your online accounts? Have you had any problems with security? Let us know in the comments.

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July 21st, 2010 in Consumers, Government, News, Privacy

38 State Attorney Generals Investigate Google Street View – Where’s WI?

Connecticut’s Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is leading attorney generals from 37 other states in an investigation of Google’s Street View software.

Blumenthanl says in a release, “Google’s responses continue to generate more questions than they answer. Our powerful multistate coalition — 38 states so far — is demanding that Google reveal whether it tested Street View software, which should have revealed that it was collecting payload data.”

The release does not disclose all 38 states participating because some state laws prevent disclosure of investigations. Blumenthal, however, says his office is seeking permission to disclose the other states. Those listed include:

New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island

The issue of consumer privacy is important to Wired Wisconsin, and we applaud those states that are working to ensure people’s privacy is protected. Why has Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen not signed on to participate in the investigation? Technology growth is key to developing Wisconsin’s economy and is also dependent on consumer’s trust that their private content is being protected.  Committing to this investigation would be a key step in sending the message to Wisconsin residents that their privacy is valued and protected.

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May 20th, 2010 in Consumers, Government

FCC Looking to Improve Technology Accessibility for All

Imagine the frustration you feel when the internet is down or you don’t have the right plugin to watch a video. Losing that immediate access to information can be a major hindrance in this hyper-connected time. People with disabilities often experience similar frustration with the barriers they face accessing technology. In an effort to help overcome these obstacles, The National Broadband Plan (NBP), a division of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is seeking comments to help launch their new Accessibility and Innovation Forum in July.

The Forum’s goal is to promote innovative solutions to broadband and other communications technology barriers by encouraging input with ongoing online efforts, workshops, field events, and facilitated dialogues.  Currently they’re seeking input on launching an online clearinghouse.  To provide feedback, or to find out more about their future initiatives, visit their blog.

Wired Wisconsin partner IndependenceFirst is another great resource for people with disabilities who want to find out more about improving their access to technology. The organization’s mission is to “effectively facilitate empowerment of individuals with disabilities.” As part of this mission they have developed an Assistive Technology Program.  They provide information about products and services about assistive technology and adaptive equipment that help people with disabilities find technology that works for them.

Ensuring that everyone has reliable and convenient access to technology is essential. Both the FCC and IndependenceFirst are doing great things to ensure technology is accessible to all demographics.

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March 26th, 2010 in Consumers, News

With Facebook Currently King of the Hill, You Have to Play by Its Rules

So you’re on Facebook and you’re already careful about what information you post, but is that enough anymore?  Facebook recently announced that it would be providing user’s information to third party websites.  This would be done with cookies from Facebook.  If users are highly informed and proactive they can remove third-parties’ access to their profiles, but if they don’t, their information will automatically be shared.  Although Facebook is a free site, that doesn’t mean it comes without costs.  Many users don’t think twice about the rights they give up when they click “I agree” under Privacy Policy. 

So what info exactly will these sites have access to?  “You and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, connections, and any content shared using the ‘Everyone’ privacy setting,” says the new Facebook privacy policy.  While it’s helpful that users can opt out of this new setting, it is worrisome that pictures and other personal information will be shared without explicit consent.  We’ve said it before but it bears repeating, consumer privacy controls in the form of future-thinking technology policies  have to develop alongside new advancements of social media technology.

Link: http://techcrunch.com/2010/03/26/facebooks-plan-to-automatically-share-your-data-with-sites-you-never-signed-up-for/

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March 10th, 2010 in Consumers, E-Learning, Government

12th Annual National Consumer Protection Week AND You

This week, March 7-13, marks the 12th Annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW). The purpose of this week is to encourage consumers to be more knowledgeable about what their law-protected rights are as consumers.

Digging a little deeper into the consumer.gov website, I found many useful tools consumers should use to educate themselves on a variety of issues such as ways to avoid identity theft and how to safely get out of debt.

President Obama and Congress have been working hard to ensure the proper consumer protections are in place and passing the new credit card laws were a good step. I don’t know about you, but seeing how long it would take to pay off my credit card by only making the minimum payment really put things into perspective.

All the new technologies enabled by the advent of the internet (did you know the internet was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize last year?) are great, but it’s important that we have policies that reflect the ever-changing tech landscape AND continue to provide consumer protections like proper oversight over things like billing, sales, consumer fraud, and collections.

So educate yourself friends!

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection and the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions also have great websites full of free resources for consumers looking to get a better handle on their financial situation as well as protect themselves from scams.




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February 10th, 2010 in Consumers, News

When’s the Bus Coming?

I’m a bus rider and when I’m waiting outside in the frigid Wisconsin cold, I would love to know how soon the next bus will get there.  Is it running late or right on time?  Well, Professor Jingnesh Patel at The University of Wisconsin-Madison has developed technology for smart phones and laptops that can provide real-time information on, not only the location of buses, but much more.

As this UW article describes, Patel’s innovation can help with serious needs such as helping doctor’s locate exactly were an organ donation is.  However, it can also simply increase convenience by being able to locate the nearest restaurants and even provide e-coupons for those restaurants.

This technology also provides the ability to locate other people, but the great thing is it does provide for consumer privacy.  In the article Patel states that consumer privacy is “a major concern” so “built-in privacy options are part of the DNA of the system’s architecture.”  We applaud this dedication to consumer privacy because at Wired Wisconsin we firmly believe that as new technology develops privacy controls must be created simultaneously.

Patel’s location awareness technology is just one more development that shows how technology enhances our lives.  As new technologies keep getting smarter and smarter, quickly becoming a part of our personal and professional lives, we soon begin to wonder, how did we ever live without this?

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January 13th, 2010 in Consumers

Is Privacy Dead?

Can a person still share personal information with friends but keep it private from professional contacts and strangers in the age of the internet?  Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, the most popular social networking site, doesn’t seem to think so.

In an interview with TechCrunch.com, Zuckerberg argues that users offering more personal info is the new “social norm” and that loosening privacy regulations is just a way to “reflect what the current social norms are.”

With blogs and social networking sites becoming a part of everyone’s daily life, new privacy challenges are evolving.   

One common-sense way to protect one’s privacy is just to refrain from sharing information publically that is sensitive.  Personally I use the grandma-boss test.  Would you be embarrassed if your grandma or boss saw what you posted?

However, even though it’s smart to be cautious about the public information you share, at Wired Wisconsin we believe that developers and providers must respect consumer privacy.  Privacy protections must develop alongside the progress of the internet which is why future thinking technology policies are essential.

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November 17th, 2009 in Broadband, Consumers, Government

New Cable Bill Bad for Consumers, Economy

A new bill has been introduced in the Wisconsin State Legislature that would undo the progress our state has made in expanding consumer access to video and internet options, improving infrastructure, and creating new jobs.

The “Cable Consumer Repair Bill” was introduced by Rep. Hebl on Tuesday, and seeks to overturn the system of cable competition that was set up under the Video Competition Act (VCA), which was enacted in January of 2008.

Even though the VCA was passed less than two years ago, we’ve already seen a great deal of progress under the bill.  It’s generated real competition, helped improve prices, created hundreds of new jobs, spurred millions in investment in infrastructure, improved customer service and expanded consumers’ access to new video providers, services and features all across the state.

But this new bill would make it significantly harder for new companies to enter the marketplace while simultaneously discouraging future investment in our state.

Especially in these tough economic times, it’s vital to our state’s future that we do everything in our power to encourage infrastructure development in high-tech industries like video and internet services.

We need to let the current bill continue to do its job, rather than put the economic benefits we’ve seen in jeopardy.

Thad Nation, Executive Director

Wired Wisconsin

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