Virtual Skinny: Friday Alert!


Good to Know: The U.S. FAA just hit the red alert button on Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones. Don’t even think about turning it on during a flight on account of its explosive batteries.  Exhibit A.    



When You Make the Effort …

AirBnB is stepping its anti-discrimination policy game all the way up.  

When You’ve Been Exposed …

In Dec. 2015, Harvard University hosted its very own #ExposeParty when it dropped a bombshell of a report calling out some exclusionary behavior taking place on AirBnB.  The paper said that users with ‘African-American- sounding names’ had a hard time simply booking reservations. It’s the ole “we’re booked for those dates” excuse. #AirbnbWhileBlack

When You’ve Gotta Move Quick …

Can you say damage control? AirBnB brought in heavy-hitters like former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former director of American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office Laura W. Murphy to give their two cents on what it can do to reduce discrimination on its platform.

When You Want to Hear Solutions …

Murphy put together the 32-page report with some practical fixes. Starting Nov. 1, users must agree to treat others on the platform fairly and sans bias. Other things will happen like ‘instant booking’ so people can make reservations without first getting approval from the host. And, AirBnB plans to focus less on users’ photos and more on objective information on people’s profiles.

When You’ll Wait and See…

Verdict is still out on whether these changes will actually work. Mixed reviews from advocacy groups and even from founders of competing startups targeting people of color. But, it all raises a bigger question of Internet companies’ role in changing social attitudes and perceptions.


Out with the Old, In with the New …

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission wants to make your cable TV watching a little easier. This week, the agency put out its final proposal on those expensive cable boxes. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler doesn’t want your cable provider (think: Comcast) to force you to rent pricey cable boxes. He’d much rather the provider offer an app for people to stream content on their device of choice (Apple TV, Roku, etc.). Wheeler says the change would be good innovation. The agency is set to vote on the proposal later this month (Sept. 29). Who knows? The cable industry may finally catch up to 2016. #SorryNotSorry

Trying to Stop A Moving Train …

Fun Fact: For many years, the U.S. oversaw the basic operations of the Internet. But like most good things, that is coming to an end. The U.S. plans to transition its oversight duties to ICANN. Formally, known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The nonprofit group deals with the Internet’s daily operations. The transition is supposed to go down October 1st, but some Republicans aren’t having it. Four top Republicans just sent a letter to the Obama Administration basically saying that the switch won’t be going down on their watch. Reason for the opposition? They don’t want the U.S. to “giv[e] up control” of the Interwebs. The Internet and broader tech community says that’s not the case. The community sees it as a positive for the Internet’s global support. Republicans probably don’t have the votes to stop the transition, but it’ll at least make for good political drama heading into election season this fall.


The 90s comeback game is so strong. Super Mario is coming to the iPhone. mario

Alphabet (formerly known as Google) is teaming up with Chipotle to deliver burritos via drone. Virginia Tech will be the first test-site because it’s FAA approved. 

You can now hail a ride from Lyft or Gett directly from Google Maps

Norway is calling out Facebook for removing its Prime Minister’s post of the Pulitzer-prize winning ‘napalm girl’ photo during the Vietnam war.

Snapchat just hired Morgan Stanley to take out a new line of credit. The Information is reporting that the company’s gearing up for an IPO. Maybe, maybe not … 


While we’re on Snapchat, the company just hired former White House strategic communications advisor Rachel Racusen. Racusen is Snapchat’s new Director of Communications . 


IPO: Known as ‘initial public offering.’  The first time when a private company releases stock to the public. Reasons for an IPO vary (e.g., to raise money to grow the company more or to allow the company’s owners and employees to make money off of their company stock).

The Virtual Skinny: #GivingTuesday


Good to Know:  Today is World Aids Day. If you’re on Snapchat today, your Snaps could go a long way. Bono’s RED organization, which fights AIDS, is partnering with Snapchat on special filters. Apply one of their three filters to your Snaps, and Bill and Melinda Gates will pump US $3 into RED for each Snap sent. #GivingTuesday 


Shut It Down … 

This past Sunday, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) bowed out of collecting American’s phone records.

Wait, What? 

The NSA collecting phone records on millions of Americans was a thing until the USA Freedom Act came along. The act is the U.S. Congress’s solution to make things better after ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked info about the intelligence agency’s government surveillance practices. Part of the law requires that the NSA put an end to phone data collection in the name of protecting American’s privacy.

What’s the Catch? 

Just because the NSA is ending this practice, doesn’t mean that it’s also getting rid of some of the data already collected. See, the nonprofit organization Electronic Frontier Foundation is currently suing the NSA over whether its phone program was even legal in the first place. The NSA says a case can’t be made unless it holds onto some previously collected data. So for now, the NSA won’t be hitting “delete” on that info.  Those fighting for Americans’ privacy are concerned that the government will figure out ways around the law to continue collecting info about people’s domestic calls.


You Always Have Options … 

Getting financial institutions to lend money to people in emerging markets doesn’t quite work the same way as it would in “developed” worlds. Silicon Valley startups are on the case. These startups are looking at alternative data points collected via smartphones to help establish people’s creditworthiness in these markets.  Makes sense since mobile banking and smartphone adoption in areas like South Africa (34%), Kenya (15%), and Nigeria (27%) are on the up and up. Companies are looking at things like what time of day people are making phone calls, their texting behavior, their Facebook network, etc.  All of this sounds off privacy alarm bells for consumer advocates.  But, looks like people aren’t worried about that. Philanthropic investment firm Omidyar Network discovered that people in emerging markets will happily share that type of info in exchange for funds and lower interest rates. #Tradeoffs

It’s A Party, It’s A Party, It’s A Par-tay … 

Turns out that Argentina produces some pretty creative hackers, and tech companies are interested.  Rumor has it that business execs, government reps, contractors, etc. jetted off to the South American country this past October to scout out the talent during the 11th annual EkoParty, Latin America’s biggest hacking conference. Argentina’s hackers are turning their hobbies into profitable businesses by selling their exploitative tools as “spy tools” to governments like Iran.  Sometimes, it pays to be bad.


It’s holiday season, which means online retailer Amazon is grabbing headlines. The e-commerce company has a new hybrid drone prototype expected to make deliveries in about 30 minutes. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration seems supportive and is trying to be more flexible with commercial applications of the technology.

Facebook’s shopping feed is off to a rough start with limited product selection and browsing options. In a nutshell, there’s quite a bit of room for improvement.

Mobile technology company NextBit is on a Euro tour with its new Robin Android smartphone.  It’s all about the “cloud.”

Some Brazilians aren’t cool with people’s hateful online posts so they’ve come up with a deterrent. An Afro-Brazilian civil rights organization Criola is putting some of their fellow Brazilians’ offensive comments on blast via billboard displays in their neighborhoods. Yikes!