Current Affairs

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October 04, 2015

Lawyers Finding Business Via Text Messaging?


Navigating the laws that regulate advertising options for lawyers can be tricky.  Changing times bring up changing opinions on what constitutes forbidden telephone solicitation, and what does not.

Contacting potential clients via text messaging is a practice that has recently been reviewed by the Florida Bar. This method of communication has been deemed acceptable, but there are still restrictions that an attorney must follow. 

As a lawyer, how do you keep up with technology, communicating in a way that most people now do, while following state laws and regulations? Let’s take a closer look at how text messaging can work for an attorney and how lawyers are finding business via text messaging.


Acceptable and Unacceptable Means of Communication

Lawyers are not allowed to solicit business in person. They are also not allowed to call someone on the telephone and ask to be hired. But, an attorney can send a text message, according to a recent Florida Bar decision. 

In-person and telephone solicitations are forbidden because, the American Bar Association says, “the situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and over-reaching.” Just this past February, a Florida Bar committee said the in-person and telephone ban on advertising also barred text messages. But, the Bar’s board of governors reversed that ruling in July. They concluded that texts are more like emails than phone calls. 


Times are Changing

Bar President, Ramon Abadin, says that text messages are “an adaptation to reality.” He states, “Most people communicate by mobile data devices that happen to be phones, too.”

Abadin notes that a change in perspective regarding text messaging is “part of the national dialogue. It’s what we should be doing as professionals. We should be looking at how best to serve our clients.”

An attorney, Abadin says, should be looking at the ways in which his or her clients want to be communicated with, and the ways that communication could appear as inappropriate. The issue of text messaging arose when law firms inquired to the Bar as to whether or not texts were appropriate. An Orlando law firm that sent a second inquiry succeeded in getting text messages approved as logical means of communications. 

The firm described how it planned to send texts to criminal defendants, those whose email addresses were not available. It offered the argument that “criminal charges can change your life forever,” and suggested that a solid sample message might say, “You might feel scared and alone. The government accusing you has power; it has money; it has police; and it has many lawyers who will be working to convict and punish you. You should have a lawyer, too.” 

This law firm presented data showing that 90% of adults in Florida have at least one mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. It also showed that 90% of them use these devices for text messaging. 

The Board concluded that laws needed to be updated to reflect this change in American culture. Text messaging for lawyers is now a viable way to gain clients needing representation in a variety of circumstances. There are, however, regulations that must be adhered to even when sending text messages, and it’s important to keep these in mind to avoid breaking the law.



September 30, 2015

Crammers Charged with Multi-Million Dollar SMS Scam


Two men are facing charges of running a ‘cramming’ scam that netted them tens of millions of dollars by charging mobile users premium rates for unwanted text messages. 

Six defendants were charged in a New York federal court with an ‘auto-subscribe’ fraud. The scam involved sending text messages containing celebrity gossip, horoscopes and other trivia - and charging up to $10 per month to the unsuspecting recipients bill. The fraud charges were brought by a New York attorney, Preet Bharara, who had previously lodged charges against another six defendants connected with the scam, alleged to have taken place between 2011 and 2013. 

The case is just the tip of the cramming iceberg. So how do they work? And how can you stay vigilant for the signs of a scam? 

Crammers use local exchange carrier (LEC) billing to charge mobile users through their local telephone company accounts. By doing this (rather than charging through the providers of the product or service) the cost to the customer often goes unnoticed. Charges might be made for premium messaging services, special ringtones, apps or long-distance calling. Anything the crammers believe they can slip ‘under the radar’ on a phone bill is fair game. It won’t work on people who - as we all should - check their bills carefully, but, like all scams, the hit rate doesn’t need to be very high to make it worthwhile for the fraudsters. Add automation technology into the mix and crammers are able to target thousands of people in a short space of time, with minimal effort. 

The defendants at the center of the most recent cramming scandal were charging close to $10 a month for text messages sent without the users consent. Most users simply ignored the messages because the amounts were not big enough to ring any alarm bells. The scam is designed that way, which is why such schemes can levy huge amounts of money without being detected.

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) offers some useful tips to prevent mobile users falling prey to scammers. Recommendation #1 is to cast a careful eye over your monthly statement to check for unusual charges. They may appear as a one-time charge or on a monthly auto-renewal basis. Be wary of generic-sounding fees, company names or services. Also look out for unsolicited text messages. If you receive text messages from a source you don’t recognize, relating to services you didn’t ask for, you should view this as a Big Red Flag. Knowing what’s going on with your phone bill, and contacting your service provider if you see anything suspicious, should keep you safe from being stung by crammers.

September 13, 2015

8 Apps to Get You Through NY Fashion Week


“There’s an app for that.”  

These words now apply to the fashion industry, with numerous apps cropping up to help fashion addicts get more of what they love. Let’s look at a few of the many nifty apps to take full advantage of during New York Fashion Week


Fashion’s Night Out

Fashion’s Night Out is an app from Vogue that makes it easy to decide which fashion-tastic after-party to attend while enjoying the famous New York event. The app customizes recommendations based on your favorite stores as well as your current location so you get where you need to go without walking a long distance in high heels, or missing shindigs featuring favorite duds. 



Milk is one of New York Fashion Week’s premier hosts, and created a companion app to help you navigate the ins and outs of the runway. The app streams images of models as they saunter down said runway, and can sync with the show you’re attending by listening to the room’s audio. Interesting... and a tad creepy?


Lifebooker App 

Lifebooker’s super-cool app is a great thing to have during fashion week, as it provides access to fantastic discounts on manicures, facials, and haircuts. It also offers discounts on local restaurants and entertainment options so you can make it a (relatively) inexpensive evening out. 



If you’ve been fascinated with runway models since the heyday of Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell, you’ll love Modelinia. The app gives access to model “stats” as well as their coolest beauty, travel, and fashion tips.  



Svpply is likened to “polyvore for grown-ups,” as it’s a wishlist creation platform that’s also an app. It allows you to follow new products available through most-favorite stores and organize wishlists by category—up to 30 categories, to be exact.


AHA Life 

Want to “shop the world’s most unique designers and artisans” via mobile device? AHA Life is the app for you. It makes it possible to shop over 1,000 designers and artisans in more than 45 countries, and is curated by Tim Gunn and the one and only Diane Von Furstenberg. Find favorite fashions, as well as foods, purses and wallets, books, headphones, and a slew of other great items.



Hailed as “the Instagram of fashion,” Trendabi gives users the opportunity to share pictures of their most style-tastic outfits and tag them according to the store, label, or price. Comment and like favorite ensembles, and get inspiration for new looks. 



Looking to do a bit of urban streetwear blog-consolidating? ChicFeed does the work for you by providing a feed of the latest Fashion Week streetwear images. 


September 05, 2015

5 Ways to Mobil-ize Your Fall Marketing Strategy


As kids return to school and tans start to fade, you know summer is officially over. For mobile marketing campaign managers, the shifting seasons provide an ideal opportunity to regroup and devise some thematically-appropriate ideas. To help you, we’ve put together some mobile marketing tactics sure to boost revenues during Fall…


Autumn-ate Your Website

Give your homepage a Fall makeover to show your audience that you are up to the minute. A themed blog post or two can - if this one is anything to go by - will give you fresh, topical content! 


Think of the Children!

Offer school-related special offers and promotions. If you’re in clothing retail, push seasonal outfits - try the local college campus to reach students, and give them discounts to engender brand loyalty.


Support Local Sports Events

Most of the major sports seasons kick or tip off during Fall. Capitalize on this by getting involved with your local team. Many large high schools have established, sponsored athletics programs, and small schools currently lacking something similar might be amenable to you approaching them with ideas. Of course, sponsorship requires an outlay of money, the return on which may not be easy to track. One thing you can be sure of: if you get your name attached to a team, there’s a guaranteed weekly audience for the rest of the season. If you’ve got the budget to go all out with free t-shirts, samples and coupons, it could turn into a lucrative long-term partnership.


Thematic Social Media Engagement

As with your website, letting your audience know that you’re constantly in tune with current events will project a positive brand image. Use social media to engage your audience, and share seasonal links and special offers. Social media is a great tool for receiving feedback, so listen to what your audience has to say and respond in kind.


Mark the Main Events

Fall is punctuated by two main holidays: Halloween and Thanksgiving. You’d be crazy to ignore these massive commercial opportunities, so make sure your office does something for each. If appropriate for your business, why not run a Trick or Treat day for kids? Encourage your workforce to dress up, and document the event for sharing on social media. When Thanksgiving rolls around, send out cards to your customers to let them know you’re grateful for their business.

Making the most of Fall is easy with mobile. You can easily scale up a mobile marketing strategy that seemed to work at the micro level, and if you want to keep everything low-budget, there is still much you can do - you just have to get creative. 


September 04, 2015

MiTu Goes Mobile Following Acquisition of Video Company


On April 30, HIP Entertainment Group launched MiTu—a bilingual network that’s part of a digital multi-platform initiative aimed at capturing contemporary Latin/Hispanic millennials—on Youtube. Network executives like Beatriz Acevedo, as well as Doug Greiff, partner and chief creative officer, are looking to capitalize on a growing Latino audience as well as an increasingly mobile one. 

This month, MiTu announced the launch of it’s own technology platform that will work in unison with MiTu’s recently acquired mobile video company, Lightt. Lightt’s video platform allows users to generate unique video content, edit and share videos with other users.

According to MiTu’s website, “We reach millions every day through video and social content on more than 1,500 YouTube channels, nearly 5,000 social channels, and leading destinations for today's Latino millennials and content creators.”


What MiTu Offers 

The new technology platform will allow users to discover, upload, and manage creators and social commentary from multiple sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

The platform will also help MiTu better understand growing analytical data on the 100 million global users. With this data, MiTu will be better equipped to manage advertising and monetize content across various platforms. 

According to Roy Burstin, MiTú's CEO, “…Our expanded technology ecosystem... gives us the ability to offer a data-driven approach to both our influencers and our brand and media partners.” 

The partnerships he’s referring to include Discovery, Spanish-language network Televisa, AOL, and Univision as well as brands like Microsoft, Pepsi, Bud Light, and Ford.

It’s an empowering sentiment that MiTu sees a value in proliferating Latino/Hispanic content to this underrepresented group in popular media. Developing the technology platform and increasing the visibility of these content creators and social influences will hopefully allow their voices to be more equally represented in the democratic space of online content. 

Alex Mostoufi, MiTu’s chief technology officer and founder of Lightt, said the users are highly creative and engaged in media creation. 

“We are building a platform that is truly state-of-the-art in digital media," he added.

On the other hand, the smarter these analytical tools get while spreading user-generated content, the more accessible this market will become to advertisers and other marketing schemes across emerging mobile platforms.

So while it’s terrific to empower the underrepresented, it’s likely not in the best interest of those it seeks to represent—Mitu likely serves a different master in the market economy.

September 03, 2015

Infographic: Tackling the Flu with Text Messaging

The flu virus costs our economy billions each year. By promoting vaccinations for workers and children, it's possible to reduce the number of sick days and alleviate the annual burden placed on the healthcare system. We've put together an infographic that highlights the scale of the problem and demonstrates the role text messaging can play in increasing vaccination rates...


August 28, 2015

Election Campaigners Are Using SMS to Consolidate Support


It comes as no surprise that presidential candidates are looking at mobile technology to sound the political battle cry. After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the pervasive nature of smartphones with the essence of the democratic process—a vote from every registered voter with a cell phone would equal the greatest voter turnout in history! However unlikely that outcome is, the principles driving the candidates to communicate with voters via mobile are redefining the campaign trail, from dusty road to digital highway.  


In particular, campaigners are relying on SMS or text messaging to ignite passionate volunteers to action, as well as for updating supporters on rally meetings, local campaign groups, and other related information. Texting is an immediate form of communication that hits about as close to home as one can get—without actually going door-to-door. 


Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, hasn’t spent a dime on advertising political rallies. Instead, his staff has focused on adding data specialists to the team, refining methods of gathering data on rally attendees, and working to convert those people into campaign volunteers/supporters. 


In July, Sanders hosted a simulcast from a Washington, D.C., apartment to 3,500 event locations across the country. Instead of soliciting for email addresses, Sanders called upon more than 100,000 viewers to text “work” to the organizing number. 


According to the New York Times, nearly 50,000 people became volunteers for the grassroots-style movement that evening.


Sanders isn’t the only candidate connecting with voters via text. Senator Ted Cruz, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Rand Paul have all incorporated aspects of SMS messaging into their campaign initiatives. What’s more, this isn’t the first time texting has been used in the political process. In 2008 President Obama managed to curate a list of more than 1 million people, although according to his staff, the campaign was unable to do much with it at the time. 


The 78-year-old Sanders, however, is taking the technology and running with it.

According to Billy Howard, a Sanders supporter from Reno, Nevada, the effects of the mobile rallying efforts have increased volunteer leadership in the area—surpassing what Howard saw in Reno during Obama’s 2008 presidential bid. 

“That means Sen. Sanders isn’t going to have to spend as much money as Obama did,” Howard said.


August 26, 2015

Leak Reveals Snapchat Revenues of Just $3.1M in 2014


Snapchat is a photo messaging service prized by more than 100 million daily active users that provides a sense of inconspicuousness on the web. Snapchat doesn’t save images but instead provides quick “snaps” of content for seconds before they’re zapped from existence permanently. It was a profoundly unique idea when it hit the scene, particularly among young users who now characterize the app and its advertising market. 

In the beginning, evaluations were set high, and the chances of acquisition became both possible and likely. In 2013, Snapchat walked away from Facebook’s $3 billion offer. The startup’s current evaluation floats around $20 billion. 

So, maybe Facebook was a little off the mark? At least, it would have seemed that way prior to the financial records leaked by Gawker earlier this month. The balance sheets revealed Snapchat’s financial records from 2014.

According to the leaked documents, Snapchat lost $128 million last year. Revenue was just over $3 million, which isn’t something to scoff at; however, it’s a far cry from what Facebook had offered the year before.  

To be fair, the report doesn’t take into account the advertising schemes put into place last October or the ad revenue from the “Discover” feature, which made a huge impression due to notoriously high usage rates. While not accounted for on the balance sheets, these revenue sources would still not close the gap on Snapchat’s unusually high expenses.  

“Outside Services” for example, was one of the largest expenses, approaching $14 million in 2014. What that means exactly remains unknown, although it’s likely paying for a mix of contractors, accountants, and similar advisory positions.  

Surprisingly, Snapchat spends very little ($600,000) on advertising—something unusual for an app with more than 100 million users. 

If you’re a Snapchat fan don’t worry. The company has 300 million in the bank which, according to Mike Dempsey of venture capital analytics firm CB Insights, will keep the business afloat long enough to make up lost ground.  

“If Snapchat is at a similar point right now in its business lifecycle as 2012-2013 Twitter, the new funding probably gives them a multi-year runway,” he said.

There’s still plenty of time for Snapchat to recover from a seemingly bad financial year as well as this PR debacle. As the company moves forward with aggressive advertising plans, it’s likely the balance sheets won’t look this grim in the future—that is, if they ever get leaked again.

August 24, 2015

Little Red Corvette: You Need Security That's Going to Last


During the 20th Century, the greatest selection pressure on the automotive industry was the imperative to produce safer cars. Mechanical functions became computerized wherever possible, bringing the wonders of interactive dashboards, sensors, mapping technology and cameras - even to new cars in the most affordable price range.  

Now, if you own a car manufactured in the last ten years, chances are it has some type of computer network running the show. The consensus is that all these technical advancements have improved safety - perhaps cutting traffic fatalities by as much as a third in the last three years. 

The fly in the ointment? All this fancy-dan technology has exposed new vulnerabilities, even as they’ve swept away old ones.  

Researchers from the University of California have developed a method of hacking cars using insurance black boxes - and SMS. Testing their methods on a 2013 Chevrolet Corvette (because you may as well do science in style), the team worked out how to control the windscreen wipers and - eek! - the brakes using text messages. They say the method can be adapted to access other control systems like transmission, locks and steering. This shouldn’t be possible right?

The researchers are expected to deliver their findings at the USENIX security conference in Washington this November. The report - “Fast and Vulnerable: A Story of Telematic Failures” - states that on-board network devices can be ‘discovered, targeted and compromised by a remote attacker,’ essentially allowing nefarious hackers to turn your vehicle into a remote controlled car.

The black-box system which acted as the portal for the team to hack into the controls is usually used to store data for insurance purposes. Because it needs to log data on braking, speed and location, it must be embedded into the vehicle’s CAN (or internal network) - making it vulnerable to hackers. Once the researchers had gained access they were able to wireless control the car using SMS messages. 

This particular hack has now been patched by the manufacturers, but it’s indicative of just how easy it is to expose and exploit systems designed to make automotive travel safer. 

Another car hack was recently performed on the Jeep Cherokee. Demonstrations of how easily the vehicle’s uConnect software could be compromised using an IP address caused widespread concern. Other car manufacturers, including General Motors, have also been shown to have vulnerabilities to hackers. 

The irony is that insurance companies are incentivizing the installation of data loggers, and have been for years. And the kinds of technology used in the hacks aren’t regulated because, like SMS messaging, they are so widely available. It’s safe to assume that the hacks performed so far by researchers represent the tip of the iceberg. With millions of cars using data logging technology, we could see more cases of dangerous security breaches emerging in due course.

August 17, 2015

Apple Dodges 'Lost Messages' Lawsuit


Earlier this month, Apple escaped what could have become a major headache: a lawsuit that threatened to open the floodgates to many more. Had it moved forward, Apple stood to lose millions of dollars in damages.

The class action related to the widely-publicized iMessage glitch that saw millions of messages go undelivered. The gremlin affected a specific subset of mobile users who had switched from iOS devices to Androids within their existing contracts. 

According to the plaintiffs, Apple willfully kept SMS messages sent from iMessage to non-Apple devices, failing to notify either the sender or receiver that they had not been delivered. Furthermore, the company was accused of taking insufficient action to remedy the problem, leaving Android users to find solutions of their own. 

What nobody disputes is that Apple knew about the bug. When it first emerged last year, they unceremoniously introduced a microsite where users could deregister their iMessage accounts. Although this went some way towards alleviating the problem, the solution was poorly advertised, leaving many Android ‘defectors’ in the dark. Apple also faced criticism for offering a solution that required users to fix the problem themselves. 

Savvy Android users with their ears to the digital-ground did find their own solutions, such as requesting their iPhone contacts to sever the iMessage connection between phone numbers.  

Despite the widespread inconvenience caused by Apple’s inaction, US District Judge Lucy Koh ruled that the class action lawsuit couldn’t move forward. Judge Koh said that the plaintiffs could not prove they were inconvenienced by any ‘contractual breach or interference’ owing to the iMessage glitch. She went on to say, however, that individual claims could still be filed against Apple, offering some hope to other parties affected by the issue. 

Judge Koh stated:

“[The] Plaintiff does not have to allege an absolute right to receive every text message in order to allege that Apple’s intentional acts have caused an ‘actual breach or disruption’ of the contractual relationship.”

Though the ruling offers a legal opportunity for further lawsuits, the reality of mounting a case against one of the biggest corporations in the world is likely to prove prohibitively expensive. Whether they acted, or failed to act, out of malice - as some cynics have suggested - or whether it was an honest oversight with an inadequate response, it looks like Apple has had a lucky escape from a potentially disastrous slew of lawsuits.