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Wickr, the James Bond of online privacy


If you’re like me, when you get sensitive information via snail mail, that you’re finished using, you shred it.  But what about receiving sensitive information via email?  We all know that it’s impossible to delete information from the Internet.

Enter Wickr.

A new mobile application for Apple devices called Wickr lets people exchange files and messages without leaving digital traces that could be examined by law enforcement or cyberspies.

Wickr, released on Wednesday, addresses the raft of privacy concerns that arise when a person sends a sensitive message: email providers, ISPs, mobile phone companies and social networking sites all retain detailed records of activity on their networks.

(CIO – Wickr, a Mobile Privacy Application, Sweeps Digital Crumbs Away)

Wickr’s mission:

…to provide secure communications that Leave No Trace. People are being tracked online and their information is being sold in ways they do not understand by numerous governments and corporations throughout the world. Your private communications are worth money. Online communications should be untraceable by default.

(Wickr – About)

Robert Statica, an information technology professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology, who cofounded Wickr with Nico Sell, Christopher Howell and Kara Coppa, describes how the idea for the company came about:

“This began when we were sitting around in a cafe in San Francisco, talking about Anthony Weiner and laughing,” adds Statica. “But the more we spoke about it, the more we began to think seriously about this problem.” And the tool they came up with, Statica says, is meant to go beyond mere “sexting” or gossip to corporate or medical environments, any situation where the most secure record of communications is no record at all.

(Forbes – Wickr Lets Your iPhone Send Both Encrypted And Self-Destructing Messages)

Senders of a message or photo can set a self-destruct time for the data ranging from a few seconds to six days in the free version of Wickr. As soon as the recipient who has Wickr installed opens the message, the countdown begins.

“No matter what can do, you cannot stop the clock,” said Robert Statica.

…The only real way to see something sent to a Wickr user would be to steal the person’s phone. Even then, five wrong attempts at the password will cause Wickr to erase itself.

(CIO – Wickr, a Mobile Privacy Application, Sweeps Digital Crumbs Away)

I wonder how this app will affect social media, especially with the latest news that GM is apparently considering to return to Facebook advertising.  Time will tell.

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Filed under: Business, Marketing, Social Media, Tech, World, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Consumers 2, Big Corporations 0


It’s times like these (read: major global financial crisis) that companies should know that it’s wiser to cultivate their relationships with existing customers, rather than attempt to isolate them.  Further, ever since the Occupy Wall Street movement has gained sympathizers, it seems like the average US citizen’s voice has been found.  And s/he is not afraid to use it.

Consumer 1, Corporation 0
On September 19th, I received an email from Netflix CEO – Reed Hastings, alerting me of some major company changes. Namely, the renaming their bread and butter – DVD by mail service – to “Qwikster”. 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Netflix Kill[ed]s, its DVD-only business before [its] launch.

The people (customers) had spoken, and in a smart, yet rash decision, Netflix decided to retreat.

Hastings admits now: “In hindsight, it is hard to justify. Having separate brands can in theory make sense. However after the price increase, Qwikster became the symbol of Netflix not listening.”

As of September 14th, NFLX stood at $208.71/share, and today it’s at $80.09.  That’s a 60%+ drop!  Ouch.

Consumer 2, Corporation 0

On November 1, Bank of America announced that they’ve eliminated their plan for [the] $5 debt card fee.  This AFTER backlash from existing customers.

The bank canceled the fee, which would have started in January, after listening “to our customers very closely,” David Darnell, co-chief operating officer, said in a statement today.

As a non-CEO of a publicly traded company, maybe my views are skewed, but I’ve always believed that a company should strive to maintain its relationships with existing customers, regardless of the state of the economy.   Happy customers tell their friends = more customers (that’s the best kind of marketing).

Let’s hope that “third time’s a charm”, isn’t relevant here, and big corporations have taken note.

Filed under: Business, Finance, Marketing, World, , , , , , ,

Friday: The sky is falling…or just a defunct satellite.


If you haven’t heard it by now, a defunct satellite is due to reach Earth this afternoon (September 23rd).

The defunct satellite is

NASA’s Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite (UARS), which launched in 1991 and was shut down in 2005 after completing its mission.

It was originally thought that the UARS was to make landfall in late September/early October, but:

 NASA spokeswoman Beth Dickey confirmed with SPACE.com earlier today that the reason UARS is expected to fall early in its re-entry window is because of the sharp uptick in solar activity. Solar effects from the sun can create an extra drag on satellites in space because they can heat the Earth’s atmosphere, causing it to expand, agency officials have said.    (Space.com – September 16)

So why is this UARS falling to Earth?

Generally, satellites in Earth orbit naturally lose altitude slowly over time if they have no fuel to boost to higher orbit. The orbit of UARS has slowly decayed over the years following its deactivation, to the point that it will soon begin its final dive toward the ground, pulled in by gravity.

It’s important to note the “no fuel” part.  So aside from this bus-sized 6 ton object falling, it will not have any toxic components.

I’m not sure about you, but I have no grasp of what 1 ton, let alone 6 tons looks like!?  So in an effort to learn more, consider this a fun lesson.

1 ton = 2,000 pound

= 5,000 – 14,000 lbs (or 2.5 – 7 tons)

= 6 tons

Ok, fantastic.  So an object the size of a bus, that weighs anywhere between 2 large African elephants to 1 Killer Whale, may fall where?

NASA may only know for sure, 2-3 hours before.  But the debris (apparently 26 large pieces..how do they know this?) is due to cover 500 miles (roughly the length between San Diego to San Francisco).

The satellite is rotating in an uncontrolled pattern, which is why no one knows where it will land.

Where will the satellite fall? (WashPo) Click to view larger.

Apparently the satellite is not expected to fall in North America.

Though, dear reader, if you aren’t located in North America, fear not.

There is a 1-in-3,200 chance that UARS debris could hit a person, though NASA considers that scenario extremely remote.

Filed under: Random, Science, World, , , , , ,

2011 Holiday Party in Liechtenstein?


While Americans are quite pessimistic about the current state of the economy and the future…

CNN Money:

In 2010, chief executives at some of the nation’s largest companies earned an average of $11.4 million in total pay — 343 times more than a typical American worker, according to the AFL-CIO.

What’s a CEO to do with all this extra cash?

First they should hire more people…and then to celebrate, why not rent the country of Liechtenstein for a night or two?

Airbnb, a Couchsurfing-like website for properties, has partnered with an event company in the tiny but gorgeous principality of Liechtenstein to offer, well, the country itself for rent.

What’s the price tag?

Renting Liechtenstein, which sports also great skiing, magnificent castles and offshore banks, will set you back about $70,000 a night, but, understandably, the minimum stay is two nights.

Click on the shirt to brush up on your Liechtenstein knowledge. (Wikipedia)

Filed under: Business, Finance, Random, World, , , ,

Apparel industry leaders team up, for green’s sake


Have you ever really looked at your clothes and wondered how they were made? And then go a step further… and wonder how the creation of your favorite article of clothing affected the environment?  Isn’t it strange that there aren’t any regulations on how clothes are made?  Especially since most of the apparel industry is produced globally…

Well, that’s about to change.

They call themselves the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and include

…leading apparel and footwear brands, retailers, manufacturers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic experts, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency…

from companies like:

Adidas, Arvind Mills, C&A, Duke University, Environmental Defense Fund, Esprit, Esquel, Gap Inc., H&M, HanesBrands, Intradeco, JC Penney, Lenzing, Levi Strauss & Co., Li & Fung, Marks & Spencer, Mountain Equipment Co-op, New Balance, Nike, Nordstrom, Otto Group, Outdoor Industry Association, Patagonia, Pentland Brands, REI, TAL Apparel, Target, Timberland, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Verité, VF Corp, and Walmart.

The new Coalition formally debuted today, and announced that their goal is

…to lead the industry toward a shared vision of sustainability built on an industry-wide index for businesses to use to measure and evaluate apparel and footwear product sustainability performance.

The NYTimes article explains this in layman terms:

The coalition’s tool is meant to be a database of scores assigned to all the players in the life cycle of a garment — cotton growers, synthetic fabric makers, dye suppliers, textile mill owners, as well as packagers, shippers, retailers and consumers — based on a variety of social and environmental measures like water and land use, energy efficiency, waste production, chemical use, greenhouse gases and labor practices.

Jeffrey Swartz, CEO of Timberland explains how this relates to the consumer,

“…This will ultimately put the power in the hands of the consumers, because the apparel industry is saying out loud, ‘We’re going to find a way to disclose to you what’s behind this purchase decision — beyond color, size and fit.’ ”

From a supply chain with no regulation, to allowing the consumer to have all of this information disclosed…is pretty awesome.

Similarly to learning how my favorite  restaurant in NYC was graded, I’m a tad nervous to learn the truth about the clothing supply chain… only because I know that what we’ll learn won’t be pretty.

Filed under: Business, Green, World, , , , , , , , , ,

Is Rolls-Royce going to steal Tesla’s thunder?


On March 1, of this year, Rolls Royce is planning to debut their electric prototype at the Geneva Motor Show.

If you’ve been keeping up with the electric vehicle (EV) news, you know that currently there is only one high-end EV on the market – the Tesla Roadster.

A bit about Tesla, in their own words:

TESLA MOTORS was founded in 2003 by a group of intrepid Silicon Valley engineers who set out to prove that electric vehicles could be awesome.

THE TESLA ROADSTER hit the streets in early 2008 as a car with no equal. Two years later, over 1,500 Roadsters drive emissions-free in more than 30 countries.

I guess this was inevitable…there has been virtually no competition in the high-end EV market, until now.

Rolls-Royce said the prototype, dubbed the 102EX and based on its top-end “Phantom” model, will be put through various tests throughout 2011.

Stay tuned…

Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos is scheduled to hold a press briefing in Singapore later on Monday.

Something tells me that if Rolls-Royce does in fact put an EV on the market…it’s going to be in a league of its own, the “higher high-end”.  A regular, bad-for-the-environment Phantom costs around $380K, while the Roadster costs a mere $100K.

I say “mere” in jest, as both are a tad out of my league.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the Nissan Leaf (check out my previous posting – http://bit.ly/fsrMp0).

If you’d like to join the discussion on luxury EVs, Rolls-Royce has started a blog – www.electricluxury.com.

Filed under: Automobiles, Business, Green, World, , , , , , , , ,

Jimmy Fallon, putting QR codes on the (USA) map


I first started reading about QR codes in early 2008.  Turns out they were invented by a Japanese company named Denso Wave in 1994. So even though I thought I was in the loop, I apparently had arrived late to the party by about 14 years..

So what are QR codes?  Well QR stands for “Quick Response”, as the intended use was to decode information quickly.  How is this relevant to you?  In order to scan the code, you need to download a (free) QR reader app to your phone.  Immediately after you scan the code, you are linked to whatever is embedded in the code.

Around the same time I first read about QR codes, Polo Ralph Lauren launched their mobile initiative, and introduced us to QR codes by putting them in their print advertising.  While it was a great initiative, I think America wasn’t ready for that type of technology.

I was in Japan in January, and literally saw QR codes EVERYWHERE – from descriptions on plaques of holy shrines, to bus passes, to random advertising on the streets.  Japan is overflowing with QR codes.  America, not so much. But on February 16th, Jimmy Fallon brought QR codes front and center.

Fallon had Tyler, The Creator and Hodgy Beats of Odd Future on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday. Before the performance, Fallon held up an LP-size QR code that, when viewed with the proper app, led viewers to oddfuture.com, which features a video of Tyler The Creator’s “Yonkers.”

I hope that Jimmy Fallon’s awesome initiative brings America up-to-speed on QR codes and other new technology.

As a test, I have created my own QR code (see below).  Go ahead people, download the app, join the movement.

Filed under: Business, Marketing, Social Media, Tech, World, , , , , , , , , ,

Banning plastic bags, everybody’s doin it


It’s only January 11th, and already 4 different locations have enacted the plastic bag ban.

Italy started off the year, banning plastic bags as of January 1st.

The government of Italy has become the first in the European Union to outlaw the use of plastic bags by all retailers, signaling a large shift in a country which uses over 20 billion bags per year (400 per person) – an amount equal to 25 percent of the total produced and used in the entire EU.

On January 5th, the great city of Brownsville (15th largest city in Texas), joined the bandwagon, and today, both Kaua’i and Maui, HI, can proudly say that they’re part of the club.

After doing a little research, it turns out that a lot of other places ban plastic bags too.

2002 – Dhaka, Bangladesh enacted the ban.

2003 – rural Alaska & South Africa joined

2005 – Eritrea & the Republic of Somalialand

2006 – Rwanda, Tanzania, & Zanzibar

2007 – Kenya & Uganda, and San Francisco, CA

2008 – China

2009 – Buenos Aires, Argentina & American Samoa

2010 – Mexico City, Mexico

Click here and here for additional locations I may have missed.

It’s interesting that the list above includes countries like Eritrea (3rd world), and China, which is the 2nd strongest GDP and has a population which accounts for 19.5% of the word’s entire population.

Something tells me that if this smorgasbord of a list can do it, so can the rest of the world.

Filed under: Business, Green, World, , , , , , , , , , ,

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