Posted tagged ‘Technology Law’

How Paying By Mobile Can Work

3 August 2010

AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and others are in a deal with Barclays Bank and Discover Financial Services to allow consumers to buy products and services with a “contactless” swipe of their mobile phones.

A pilot program will begin at retailers in Atlanta and three other selected cities.

I’m glad to see that this is not being done by Visa and Mastercard since those idiots do not know how to make paying-by-mobile work. If it was up to them they would be assessing fees of a dollar or more per transaction, basically killing the whole thing at the start.

Stock at the two largest credit card companies plummeted on the news while at Discover, the fourth-largest credit card processor behind Visa, MasterCard and American Express, shares jumped nearly 3 percent.

If you are a retailer you most likely have no love for Visa or MasterCard because of their constant raising of transaction fees. Congress last month passed restrictions on the fees these vultures can charge to retailers on debit transactions.

Hopefully Discover will do the right thing and charge very small fees for transactions that fall below ten dollars. How many times have we seen retailers put up notes on cash registers that tell us that they require transactions of at least ten dollars to qualify for payment by credit card? After all, who can make money selling a roll of mints for a dollar and incurring fees of more than 50 cents?

I’m not talking about percent transaction fees, usually 1 to 5 percent of the billed amount, I’m talking about the per transaction fees, minimum monthly fees, and other exhorbitant fees that merchant account providers assess. While Visa and Mastercard will gladly suck the blood out of credit card users and retailers, some merchant account providers make Vlad the Impaler look like a boy scout.

For example, some providers may charge 25 to 50 cents per transaction in addition to adding a small percentage fee of their own on top of those of the credit card issuers. Some even charge a minimum monthly transaction fee which requires that the merchant process a set amount of billing each month. These fees are around $15 each month although I have seen much higher.

If this new payment alliance wants to see pay-by-cell succeed not just in replacing the use of credit cards but in small one buck transactions as well then they have to insure that merchant account providers treat small transactions differently.

If they can do this, then we can be on our way to paying for everything with our cellphones. I mean everything: parking meters, candy machines, subway tolls.

But the real deal would be in micropayments, such as paying for reading a news article online or downloading a copyrighted work. I certainly would never pay 2 or 3 bucks a week to read an online newspaper in the UK but I would not hesitate to pay 1/20th of a penny to read a single article from the same source. It wouldn’t bother me if at the end of the month I spend ten or twenty bucks getting information I need from hundreds of sources. There are hundreds of millions of me in the world. Do the math.


LifeLock -When You Become Victim of your own Scam

3 June 2010

You have probably seen this ad, or heard this guy on the radio offering his social security number and then challenging scamsters to try and steal his identity.

lifelock ad

But now if you visit their website, you will not see that dare offered anymore. According to Threat Level | the company’s CEO has been a victim of identity theft at least 13 times.

In March the company was fined $12 million by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive advertising.

A careful reader at the Lifelock website will notice their disclaimer: “Due to New York state law restrictions, the Service Guarantee is not offered, applicable or available to residents of the state of New York.”

If the company’s own CEO cannot protect his identity, then obviously they cannot protect yours.

Chalk this up as another scam company.

Anybody Else out there Vertwittered?

15 January 2010

kids at beach

Ver·twit·ter (fuh-twitta)
1. To wear out completely with tweets, twitters, twhirls, twitter widgets, twitter tools, twitter gadgets, PocketTweets, Twellow directories, Twubble, Twittie Me, Twitdir, Twitstats, and 50,000 other twitter apps.
2. To drain one’s resources and energy by downloading 8 hours of twitter applications every day without the possibility of ever using any more than one or two of them in a lifetime.
3. To exhaust your friends, family, work associates with a constant flow of meaningless, useless, never-ending minutia of whatever you are doing every single minute of every single day.

Since its rollout in 2006, developers and websites now offer Twitter apps in the tens of thousands. Take for example Twitpic which Tech Crunch informs us is one of the top 20 Twitter apps with more that 1.2 million unique visitors in January 2009.

See the photo of the young folks at the beach? Do you know any of them? Neither do I. Do you care? Neither do I. I don’t want to see photos of people I know – why would I want to go look at random photos from people I don’t know? OK, OK, there exist twitterholics who do not have a life and this is very exciting for them, I understand. However, isn’t there an overabundance of photo websites already on the Web?

I find it unbelievable that more than 4 million twits follow Britney Spears. I don’t believe we need to waterboard any terrorists, just read Britney’s tweets to them for an hour or so and they’ll quickly drop a dime on Osama Bin Laden’s butt.

The Telephone was invented in 1876. The First APP for the telephone was the answering machine which came in 1935. The second APP, call-waiting came in 1971 along with Three-Way Calling, Call Forwarding, and Speed Calling.

A few apps over the course of a century made it easy for people to learn to use the phone and the applications at least were actually useful. I suppose if Bell had invented the phone today there would be 50,000 useless apps like: press *2543839 to listen to people who have indicated (by pressing *1088766) that they are from Miami and talking to someone from New York. Yeah, that’s right; certain phone users would pre-agree (by certain touchtones) that they don’t mind having other people listen in on the conversation. After all, what are tweets but textual phone conversations.

Don’t want to listen? There’s an APP for that – hang up.

Laws in the Digital World

28 October 2009

In the beginning there was one law: the Law of the Jungle. It was quite simple: “eat or get eaten”. About 3500 years ago Moses set down ten laws and ever since, laws have multiplied almost without number.

Go into any decent law library and you will wonder how it is possible for a modern American NOT to break any laws. In his new book “Three Felonies a Day,” Boston civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate estimates the average American now unwittingly commits three felony crimes every day. Digital technology has become so complex that lawmakers are unable to write laws that are simple enough for anyone to understand, even prosecutors and judges.

As confusing as that may sound, consider the following:

L. GORDON CROVITZ in the WSJ, You Commit Three Felonies a Day

In 2001, a man named Bradford Councilman was charged in Massachusetts with violating the wiretap laws. He worked at a company that offered an online book-listing service and also acted as an Internet service provider to book dealers. As an ISP, the company routinely intercepted and copied emails as part of the process of shuttling them through the Web to recipients.

The federal wiretap laws, Mr. Silverglate writes, were “written before the dawn of the Internet, often amended, not always clear, and frequently lagging behind the whipcrack speed of technological change.” Prosecutors chose to interpret the ISP role of momentarily copying messages as they made their way through the system as akin to impermissibly listening in on communications. The case went through several rounds of litigation, with no judge making the obvious point that this is how ISPs operate. After six years, a jury found Mr. Councilman not guilty.

Patent Law as well has yet to catch up to new technology. There are now idiots who are getting patents for bogus “technology” because those who grant these patents have no expertise in the fields they are reviewing. Consider patent number 7,113,911 issued September 26, 2006:

Voice communication concerning a local entity , Abstract

A local entity without its own means of voice communication is provided with the semblance of having a voice interaction capability. This is done by providing a beacon device at or near the entity, the beacon device transmitting, over a short-range communication link, contact data identifying a voice service associated with, but hosted separately from, the entity. The transmitted contact data is picked up by equipment carried by a nearby person and used to contact the voice service over a wireless network. The person then interacts with the voice service, the latter acting as a voice proxy for the local entity. The contact data can be presented to the user in other ways, for example, by being inscribed on the local entity for scanning or user input into the equipment.

Patent Sharks
Photo: Many Worlds

This is so vague and so general that it can describe any number of possibilities: a text to speech browser that lets you text a webpage into your phone and reads the page back to you; or a system where you call a service in India and they read back the text of a webpage, or you place a speaker next to a dog and a dog translator interprets what the dog wishes to say to you, and so on.

Nonsense like this has enabled patent sharks like the extortion patent holding company NTP which sued BlackBerry maker Research in Motion in 2006 for violation of their supposed NTP “patents” which RIM settled for over $600 million even though those “patents” were later declared invalid.

I almost feel like trying to patent the ‘e’ key on the keyboard. I believe I might actually get a patent for it. This way, every time someone types the letters eBay, they’ll have to pay me 25 cents. I leave the other letters to others, after all, I’m not a greedy person.