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American Airlines Has Too Much Baggage

American Airlines
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

As usual with any airline that's not Southwest, boarding is a pain. People rush the line, desperate not to be the last on the plane and have to search for overhead space that might not be near their seat. That is, that's how it used to be.

Moving from inconvenience to outright abuse, American Air has started "gate checking" your carry-on baggage if you're boarding near the back of the plane (group 7 and up). Assuming they have competent engineers, there should be plenty of room for everyone's carry-ons even without their new practice of asking everyone to put their "personal item" under the seat in front of them. There's no excuse for American to not have plenty of overhead room for every passenger… but it gets worse.

The bags taken during the boarding process aren't guaranteed to be there when you land. They didn't lose them between the walkway and the tarmac, they deliberately separated them to go on a later flight. How do I know? Because the "lost luggage" counter where a full staff of 5 employees was ready and waiting told me so just before they handed me the "sorry, not sorry" toiletries bag (nicely embossed with the American logo).

Sorry not sorry pack.
It's well stocked which I suppose is easy when you've perfected the process of customer inconvenience.

It's pretty easy to put the pieces together. There's no legroom, there's no baggage room, and they won't even put the bags in the hold of the plane that was already there and had the baggage door open and waiting. This is about maximizing people on each flight and spreading the luggage weight around. Or, put simply, profit before service. Of course, I got my bag the next day because their contract-delivery service (which I imagine is busy every day), delivered it as promised, but that's no excuse for getting it right in the first place.

Besides my own two instances of issues, the other attendees of my business trip reported late luggage and cancelled flights; always on American. I will definitely be looking to fly with someone who doesn't play stupid games with passengers.

Mint Data Lets You See Anonymous Purchase Trends

I've never liked Mint.com. Not because they're bad at what they do (they're not), but because you have to give them too much access to take advantage of it. So you get a little money management help, so what? You have to give away your password to do it. Not only that, Mint is (surprise, surprise) using all that juicy data you provide for their own purposes.

For now, it seems that they're not actually telling you who purchased what, but there's no telling when and if they'll start selling your valuable personal data to 3rd parties. Until then, showing truly anonymous purchase information is kind of neat so long as they don't take it further than that.

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WellPoint Data Breach Due to Carelessness

Surprise, surprise. A company has giant data breach due to negligent security, but not to worry! They'll protect you by offering you credit monitoring for one year free!

Credit monitoring is a waste of your time and is likely only offered to make it seem like they're doing something for you when they probably don't. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the credit monitoring companies have a "data breach plan" where companies can get a bulk discount by offering monitoring to all their victims.

It's a classic win-win-lose. The breach company wins PR points, the monitoring companies continue to make money for not providing any real service, and we all lose.

If you're worried about id theft, just freeze your credit reports!

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Kellogg’s Cereals Ordered to Stop Lying… Again

Liar, liar...

Would it surprise you to know that sugary cereals really aren't healthy? Sure! They have a vitamin or two and probably some kind of grain buried under all the fat and sugar and chemicals, but why pay attention to that?

Instead, Kellogg's corporation has been busy touting the healthy benefits of their kid's breakfast "foods":

Kellogg has agreed to expand a settlement order that was reached last year after the FTC alleged that the company made false claims that its Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal was “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%.”

At about the same time that Kellogg agreed to stop making these kinds of false claims in its cereal ads, the company began a new advertising campaign promoting the purported health benefits of Rice Krispies, according to the FTC. On product packaging, Kellogg claimed that Rice Krispies cereal “now helps support your child’s immunity,” with “25 percent Daily Value of Antioxidants and Nutrients – Vitamins A, B, C, and E.” The back of the cereal box stated that “Kellogg’s Rice Krispies has been improved to include antioxidants and nutrients that your family needs to help them stay healthy.”

What did they get for such a misleading and blatantly manipulative campaign? An order from the FTC to stop making claims without proper scientific backing. Ooooh! Burn!

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ACLU and EFF to Cripple RIAA Lawsuits

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While I don't support downloading music and movies instead of buying them, I also don't support abusing the legal system to bully people and make money. The RIAA has been doing just that for a long time according to several consumer groups.

In this case, the The American Civil Liberties Union - ACLU and the The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are arguing that when the The RIAA - Who They Are In a Nutshell sues thousands of "infringers", they have to file thousands of separate lawsuits and not just one.

Filing one is cheaper and easier, but makes it harder and is unfair for the victims… er, I mean defendants.

If the court adopts the approach suggested here, the costs of the current anti-P2P litigation strategy could become untenable. If each anonymous defendant requires several hundred dollars in filing fees, individual paperwork, individual subpoenas, and detailed information on their alleged distribution, settling for a mere $1,500 doesn't sound so hot.

Let's hope for the best. Leave people alone and worry about pirating organizations and criminal groups instead.

Source: Ars Technica

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Despite Promises, Lifelock Knows Public Data is A Risk

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Todd Davis didn't post his social security number publicly because he thought his company could protect it. He did it as an advertising gimmick that netted him almost 2 million paying customers. At least, I have to assume that's what Todd's motivations were because I'm guessing he's not an idiot and knew his service wouldn't actually prevent ID theft. Even if he were, there have been so particularly telling clues recently such as:

  1. Having his own identity robbed 13 times since the stunt began.
  2. The 12 million dollar settlement with the FTC over false advertising relating to their gross misrepresentation of being able to prevent ID theft.

That's why when an employee's sensitive data showed up online, they worked to have it removed. No one should have their social security number posted publicly because the risk is too great. Unless of course you're the CEO of a company that charges $10/month to almost 2 million people and can afford any amount of ID theft you're hit with.

For those that are bad at math, that's 20 million a month income. Makes that $12 million settlement seem kind of inconsequential doesn't it?

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Why You Shouldn’t Trust Facebook’s Apology

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I don't want this page to descend into an "everything about Facebook" page, but the news has been coming fast and hard the last few weeks. The article I found today isn't news, but instead a plea to the public to not buy in to Facebook's apology for their recent nastiness.

Parents of young children can spot an insincere apology from miles away.

"Sorry," your tot mumbles, after you find the dog half-shaved and your Xbox full of jam.

"Sorry for what?" you'll say. "Sorry for shaving the dog and putting jam in your Xbox," he'll say, looking at the floor. But he's lying. He's only sorry that he didn't get away with it.

Facebook's much-reported apology in the Washington Post is a bit like that. "Sorry," says Mark Zuckerberg. "Sorry for what?" the internet asks.

"Sorry for invading your privacy and making things confusing and stuff," Zuckerberg says. "Can I have an ice cream now?"

Funny and blisteringly accurate; that's a good combination. Check out the rest of the article here

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Facebook May Improve Privacy Control In Face of Public Hatred

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Facebook has found itself facing some tough choices when it comes to the direction of the company, specifically revolving around user privacy. As most Netizens know, Facebook has faced harsh criticism in recent months—which may be coming to a head after having built up slowly over the years—regarding how it handles user information. Now, the company is left deciding whether it wants to revert to its old principles and go against founder Mark Zuckerberg's policy of forging ahead, privacy be damned.

Also this:

Luckily, there are now third-party tools that help users patch up their Facebook settings, such as the incredibly helpful bookmarklet from Reclaim Privacy that lets users see what their settings are and change them automatically. These tools shouldn't be necessary, however.

The Reclaim Privacy tool is very easy to use and effective too! I haven't checked the code personally to see if it's safe, but my virus scanner didn't blip at all and I have nothing in my profile that I'm worried about sharing publicly so there was little risk. Also, since the tool is completely open-source, I'm willing to bet that someone somewhere has taken the time to look it over and would have raised a flag by now.

The author could change the code at any time, but I suspect he's legitimately trying to build attention to his website and isn't looking to quickly become tossed aside by adding attack code. Still, use at your own risk.


It's unlikely that such a user-friendly utopia will arrive anytime soon, though, especially given Zuckerberg's now-legendary disregard for privacy. That said, Zuckerberg was the one who called last week's company meeting to discuss the current state of Facebook privacy and user trust, so it's possible that he's beginning to warm to the idea of giving users what they want.

Source: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/05/facebook-privacy-comes-to-a-head-changes-may-be-imminent.ars

If you don't know what they mean by recent privacy issues, check out these:

Facebook Secretly Adds Applications to Your Profile
10 Reasons to Quit Facebook
Finding a Name For Bully Data Practices Leads to Facebook
Senators Send Angry E-mail to Facebook Over Privacy Changes
Facebook Forces Users to Display Hometown, Work, Interests

Maybe it's because of things like that that led to this interesting result being found as a top result for Google's suggest feature:

How do I....Delete facebook?

Classmates.com Settles Over Deceptive Advertising Lawsuit

I doubt this surprises anyone:

Classmates.com was sued because it allegedly sent out e-mails to anyone registered for its free service, suggesting that their fellow graduates were looking to contact them—they could find out who that person was if they'd simply upgrade to one of the subscription tiers. At least two individuals did so and quickly discovered that the mystery classmate didn't exist—nobody they knew had been looking.

Still, this is good news because companies shouldn't be allowed to lie outright the way Classmates has.

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$12 Million Settlement Against Lifelock for Deceptive Advertising

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I'm not surprised about the fine, just that it took this long. Of course, they'll just shrug it off and any other lawsuit so long as they make more money than they spend.

Sadly, by the time someone actually shuts Lifelock down (if ever), the people responsible for it will be so rich that it won't make any difference. But until then, we can feel a little happier knowing that there are some organizations that are making them pay for their dishonesty; although 12 million dollars is less than one month of Lifelock's income on their almost 2 million reported customers.

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