Thursday, March 03, 2011

So, about those "friends" on Facebook....

If the reporting in this story wasn't so sound I'd be very skeptical, but I suppose it is possible that our military is spending millions to create fake online profiles.

I know that automatic profile generating software exists because when you search twitter or facebook for certain terms (imagine a hot product like p90x DVDs) you get a pile of profiles that are all virtually identical with minor tweaks to them.

Apparently, the military thought that there might come a time when they would want to control a message. For example, imagine 1 million angry facebook users complaining about human rights in your country, what if you could counter that with 10 million computer generated profiles that are pro-government supporters? Perhaps you can stem the tide and change the public's perception. Unfortunately, we're not talking about China, Iran or Saudi Arabia pursuing this plan, but rather our own military.

"Raw Story recently reported that the US Air Force had solicited private sector vendors for something called "persona management software." Such a technology would allow single individuals to command virtual armies of fake, digital "people" across numerous social media portals."

These "personas" were to have detailed, fictionalized backgrounds, to make them believable to outside observers, and a sophisticated identity protection service was to back them up, preventing suspicious readers from uncovering the real person behind the account. They even worked out ways to game geolocating services, so these "personas" could be virtually inserted anywhere in the world, providing ostensibly live commentary on real events."

Ah, the banks are always on our side right?

As part of the Wall St. Reform and Consumer Protection Act there is a clause that would limit debit card transaction fees to just $0.12 per transaction. Obviously, this is a win for consumers right? Ah, but the banks are already one step ahead of the legislation and they are considering instituting limits for debit card transactions to just $50-$100. Anything above that and they will say "Nope. We know it's your money but we're not getting paid sufficiently to hand it over to you. Please use your credit card."

The thinking there is that while debit card fees were capped at $0.12, credit card fees (charged to the seller) are now anywhere from 2-5% of the total transaction cost.

Buy your groceries at Wegmans for $164.19 for the week with a debit card and the bank gets $0.12. If they cap debit card use at $100 and you have to use your credit card, the bank might earn $3 to $8. The higher fees wouldn't be readily apparent to the end consumer but eventually it will translate into higher prices as retailers pass along their higher costs. Much like the bike registration issue, I'd expect such a substantial backlash that it would prevent this from becoming an actual industry standard.


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