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Facebook Enters Stage of World Politics

By Dr. Nick Oberheiden, Esq.

When political and military leaders from around the world convene this week for the annual Munich Security Conference, one attendee does not seem to quite fit the convention’s profile: Mark Zuckerberg. The CEO of Facebook will sit next to over 40 heads of state, intelligence officers, and military commanders at the world’s preeminent international security conference.

Zuckerberg’s visit marks a dramatic shift in world politics. Governments and law enforcement agencies have discovered the enormous utility of platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram to connect people, places, and events. China and Russia have expanded their definition of national security to include virtually any data set: from military drone footage to online tracing to consumer behavior. Zuckerberg does not wear a military uniform, nor is he an elected or appointed official, but Facebook plays a pivotal role on this intensifying cyberspace battlefield.

With over 2 billion Facebook users, Facebook controls an unimaginable amount of digital data such as user contact information, physical whereabouts, cell-site locations, email addresses, IP addresses of websites visited, and records of interpersonal communications. Zuckerberg is the king of information. Facebook has transformed into a hybrid platform where commercial businesses and political activists spread messages, inform (and misinform) to influence politics, the economy, and society. The few publicly available numbers confirm this heightened political dimension of Facebook. Year over year, Facebook reports an increase of FBI National Security Letter (NSL) requests pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 2709 (Section 201 of the Electronics Communications Privacy Act of 1986).

In this war of information, the United States is at a crossroads. While some lawmakers support consumer activists who attack Facebook for its criticized handling of privacy rights, too many American politicians still overlook the strategic value Facebook plays in what Zuckerberg himself called an “ongoing arms race” with Russia and China in his 2018 congressional testimony. Others hesitate to introduce legislation that could be seen as infringing on the First Amendment rights of speech and association – which apply to corporations as well as natural persons.

When governmental agencies begin to depend on commercial businesses for information, it’s time to rethink national security in this country. For example, how should U.S. companies respond when a foreign country that is considered an enemy of the United States requests sensitive economic information from such a private company? Revised legislation may be needed to capture the geopolitical threats of our time. Congress may need to step in to define how much intel U.S. companies may share with foreign governments and whether the dissemination of certain national security data to non-NATO partner countries may be penalized. Checkpoint Charlie does not exist anymore. Today’s files are carried digitally, no longer by spies with a suitcase. The need for prevention and deterrence, however, remains. Traitors and defectors tempted to cash out by offering critical data are the spies of our time.

Zuckerberg knows that he is holding the oil of the 21st century: sensitive information. Coincidence or not, Zuckerberg’s journey takes him from Munich to Europe’s capital Brussels to negotiate Facebook’s tax and antitrust deal with European lawmakers, many of whom will fawn over him at the Munich Conference. Zuckerberg will enter these negotiations from a position of strength.

Dr. Nick Oberheiden is the founder of federal litigation and trial law firm Oberheiden P.C., which is largely comprised of former Justice Department attorneys.

Things You Should Never Ignore When Looking for Broadband Deals

If you are not a tech savvy person, the idea of changing your internet could send cold shivers through you. If you are not that way minded, how can you find the best broadband and phone deals? The adverts make all the deals sound perfect. Perhaps these pointers will help you see through all the glitz and sparkle and get down to what really matters about your broadband deal.

There are key factors you should never ignore when searching for a new broadband deal, such as:

Advertised Speed

There is often a huge difference between the advertised speed and actual speed received by the users. Most broadband providers advertise the speed that is the maximum received by its users during peak hours. This speed is not even received by half of the users and the half does don’t experience it all the time.

To resolve the speed issue opt for a code of practice that clearly indicates how much speed you will receive on an average and also what the minimum speed will be. Being able to refer to the provider’s own code of practice helps if you are constantly receiving speed lower than the minimum range and there may be compensation.

Broadband Only Deals

Most broadband deals come with a landline service because you need a landline to use it. There are very few broadband-only deals and they are often expensive. It’s always a better idea to opt for broadband and landline deals rather than broadband-only.Even if you are not using it with a broadband and landline deal, you have to pay the rental charges. Sometimes this cancels out the discount but there are still offers around.

Glitches of Limited Data

Broadband deals with limited data are much cheaper than unlimited data deals. But beware, these limited data deals cost way more in excess usage.

Whenever you opt for a limited data deal and your use exceeds the limit, you have to pay a good price for each extra Mb. The sum of these charges for extra Mb sometimes exceeds the cost of the unlimited data package.

In the era of online gaming, streaming, surfing it is almost impossible to stay within data limits. This is the reason now most of the broadband packages come with unlimited data and they are not much more expensive. So instead of constraining your use and checking used Mb every now and then, it’s better to opt for a broadband deal with the convenience of unlimited data.

The difficulty for gamers is a problem any of us could face in the future. It’s real easy to find your household demand for smooth, reliable internet access outstripping your provision and find yourself paying as much in extra charges as you do your subscription or perhaps worse, suffering with a jumpy, buffering connection. It’s an easy fix. You can upgrade your contract at any time and without any interruption to your service. Providers are more than happy to jump at the chance to make more money. A quick phone call, and a bit more cash is usually all it takes.

Expert comment on Telegram cyber attack

Expert comment on Telegram cyber attack from Mark Skilton, Professor of Practice at Warwick Business School, who researches and consults on cyber security.

He said: “This type of attack is government censorship using cyber tools to block internet traffic. In this case it was massive overwhelming traffic noise targeting Telegram servers and networks to slow down the service in what is called ‘denial of service’.

“This was not a specific technology, but a distributed network attack on the internet ISP and NSP network providers. The strong encryption inside the Telegram app had no defence against the traffic level protocols and volume of traffic.

“To stop this type of attack would need new technology to block adversaries’ traffic before the network, something that is not possible if the Chinese government control and have access to that network currently. What typically happens is alternative telecoms networks might be used. But I suspect those too would be targeted for a full scale attack.

“However, we don’t know if it was a full wide scale internet attack or if it was a complete network wide attack. It seems some sophistication was used to target the Telegram app and user service. This may be a symptom of a more advanced distributed ‘denial of service’ acting as a swarm of attacks against specific targets.”

Is It Time to Revamp Your Ecommerce Store?

The fact that technology never stops evolving is a double-edged sword. Innovations have allowed ecommerce merchants to sell to consumers via mobile devices, personalize product recommendations, and accept a flexible variety of payment gateways—all of which help strengthen bottom lines.

The flip side of this is the effort required to keep up with the latest advances. Just when you feel you’ve implemented a new tool or tweaked your website for the better, a new trend emerges.

As a result, the answer to the question “Is it time to revamp my ecommerce store?” is almost always yes. There’s always something you can do to improve your methods of doing business.

User Experience Is Key

First, consider your user experience (UX). When people visit your website, can they find what they need without hassle? Are you facilitating smooth forward and backward navigation? Are there any changes you can make to your layout or menu options to help speed up the customer’s journey?

Conduct an audit on your own website, paying close attention to navigation and design. Analyze visitor behavioral data to see where people are dropping out of your sales funnel—then turn to your website to see why that might be. Any hiccups or hurdles customers are experiencing may be enough to cause them to abandon their efforts, so this is a chance to eliminate friction and improve the overall UX.

While the simplest ecommerce definition is “conducting transactions online”, merchants must be aware of all of the processes that must occur before customers are ready to click “Confirm Purchase.” Only then do they take advantage of the opportunity to optimize the purchasing journey from start to finish.

Said simply, it’s always a good time to refine your UX.

Optimize Checkout to Reduce Cart Abandonment

It’s incredibly frustrating to discover how many consumers put items in shopping carts only to abandon the checkout process before completion. Shopping cart abandonment hovers somewhere around 70 percent these days. If your shoppers are bailing out before making a purchase, take a closer look at why they may be doing so to improve your site.

According to one survey, here are a handful of the top reasons for abandonment during checkout:

– Website required users to create an account (35 percent)
– The checkout process was too long or complicated (27 percent)
– Customers could not see or calculate their costs up front (24 percent)
– The merchant did not accept enough payment methods (8 percent)

The best ecommerce checkout processes are simple and flexible. Allow customers to check out as guests instead of scaring them off by requiring account creation. Show consumers where they are in the process with a progress bar. Be transparent with costs early in the process. Integrate a variety of secure, flexible payment methods with your platform so customers can conduct transactions their way.

Update Your Site Design

Website design has more to do with your bottom line than you may think. You want your web store to look great—perpetuating your brand personality—while also remaining highly functional. For example, fast loading is non-negotiable, as load times over a few seconds start to deter customers, especially on mobile.

Is it time to revamp your ecommerce store? Yes. But don’t panic yet. If you keep abreast of the latest trends and best practices, you’ll only have to make small tweaks as you go.