Virtual Skinny: Open Me!


Good to Know: Open floor plans are the worst! Not even programmers like it. Hey companies! Are you paying attention? 


When Big Brother Is Watching…

Chicago-based startup Geofeedia has been keeping tabs on people via their social media posts and then sharing that info with U.S. law enforcement.  

When You’re like Wait, Come Again?

Yesterday, the ACLU dropped a huge report uncovering how Geofeedia’s relationship with social networks helps law enforcement monitor and locate alleged criminals and protesters. Since users’ posts often come with personal info like their location, this isn’t  surveillanceexactly going over well. The ACLU says Geofeedia’s, helps police ‘disproportionately’ target black people, compromises free speech, and leads police directly to protest sites.
Just ask actress 
Shailene Woodley.

When You’re Waiting for Reactions …

After the ACLU let us in on Geofeedia’s secrets, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram immediately cut off the company’s access to their data. Geofeedia CEO Phil Harris says the company’s all for ‘personal privacy [and] transparency.’ #SideEye He needs more people because we don’t believe him. Meanwhile, ACLU says good for social platforms in cutting of Geofeedia’s access. But now, they need these companies to put public policies in place to prevent something like this from happening again.


When You should be open to responding… 

Sometimes, you can’t go high when they go low. You’re probably well aware of the email leaks and hacks that’s causing quite the storm during this year’s U.S. presidential debate. The U.S. blames Russia, and it won’t be sitting idly. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama’s working on a ‘proportional’ response. The rest of us will be kept in the dark on what exactly that means, and it’s unclear whether we’ll ever find out. 


Holiday season’s coming up. Can’t afford a flight for your winter vay-cay? Say hello to black-owned company Airfordable. It’s lets folks pay for plane tickets in installments aka layaway. No more excuses … flight

Sony wants to turn its business around with its first major foray into virtual reality (VR) –  its US $399 Playstation VR headset.

Jungle Book director Jon Favreau wants in on the virtual reality game too. He’s working on a new movie with the studio Wevr called Gnomes and Goblins. It’ll be an interactive VR experience. Sign.Us.UP!

VR, it’s not just for games and entertainment. Chinese Internet company Alibaba’s financial arm is out with VR Pay – a new payment system. How does it work? Use VR goggles to shop VR malls. See something you like? Just nod your head, and it’s yours! No worries … Retailers will know it’s you buying up a storm and not a ‘rando’ by using account logins and passwords to verify. VR Pay is available commercial use by the end of year.   

Rumor has it that Amazon’s looking to open up convenience stores in California to help support its possible drive-through grocery pick up locations. The company has yet to confirm or deny. But, what is confirmed? Amazon’s Alexa-powered music service aka Amazon Music Unlimited goes live today for US $4/month. #HappyListening 

Service robots to take care of persona and domestic tasks will be a thing at least for the next three years.


Or not … Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg is staying put. She has no plans to join a potential Hillary Clinton Administration. #ForTheRecord

The Virtual Skinny: Brace Yourself …


Good to Know: In 2015, you all cared a lot about Caitlyn Jenner and Lamar Odom. Don’t try to deny it. Google’s put you on blast. 


Here We Go Again … 

Last night, the U.S. Republican presidential candidates threw down in their fifth round of debates. Everything from terrorism and immigration to the Internet were on the table.

Um, What Now? 

Not one to disappoint, Donald Trump had some thoughts on fighting terrorist group ISIS. He says shutting down parts of the Internet and “penetrat[ing] the Internet [to[ find out exactly where ISIS is and everything about ISIS” is the way to go.

When Other People Have Stuff to Say … 

When it comes to the Internet, Trump’s fellow Republican candidate Senator Marco Rubio is the one to watch.  He recently put his name to a letter basically letting the U.S. Federal Communications Commission know that he doesn’t support its efforts to help local cities and towns set up their very own, publicly run Internet providers. In the past, he’s also said that he’s unimpressed with China’s online censorship.


Can We Live? 

China’s definitely got a bad rap when it comes to allowing people to do as they please online.  People are saying China’s launched an “all-out assault on Internet freedoms.” Speaking at the World Internet Conference this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping hit back and his message to the global community is pretty clear: Stay out of how we handle our biz.  He thinks countries should have the right to handle the Internet they way they see fit, and no one should have anything to say about it.   But, others aren’t buying it. There’s speculation that China is being shady and is on the low trying to extend its views on surveillance and online censorship across the globe.

When Someone Needs their mouth washed out with soap… 

Internet companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter are falling in line with Germany’s anti-hate speech rules. This year, Germany’s opened up its borders to about 1 million refugees.  It’s also seen an influx of a lot of hate talk online.  So now, Germany wants online platforms to help out in monitoring comments that go a little too far. These platforms already have policies against that type of thing, but they’ll do better in allowing users to easily flag hate speech.  In Germany, saying hateful things about someone’s race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or disability could get you five years in the slammer. Companies have 24 hours to make good on their promise.

It’s Officially Off-ish …

Internet companies had their eyes set on Europe yesterday.  The European Union’s (EU) been trying to figure out new EU-wide privacy laws and looks like they finally came to an agreement.  Things like upping fines on companies’ that violate the law and putting restrictions on how advertising companies’ can use people’s personal information is in. One thing that’s making people’s heads turn is what it says about kids 16 years or younger. The new law would ban these kids from using online services that collect data without parental consent. It’s bad news for the kids and online platforms. Meaning, there goes kids FB-ing, snapchatting, tweeting, instagramming w/o their parents giving the go ahead. And for companies, there goes potential users and ad $$$. #NoBueno


Google’s serious about getting more people in India online.  It’s working on partnerships with India’s government and is also looking to the country as a place to test out new products. Getting people online means more dolla dolla bills for the company in terms of ad revenue.

Facebook isn’t one to stay in its lane.  The social network is now taking on recommendation sites like Yelp and Angie’s List with its new local-service site. It’s also easing up on its “real name” policy.

It’s the holiday season, which means holiday office parties.  Yahoo’s been going through some tough times (it plans to shut down its Dubai office), but that didn’t stop the company from throwing its employees an alleged $7 million party Great-Gatsby themed.  Employee morale can go a long way.