Archive for September 2012


Facebook’s explanations check out after all

30.09.2012

After a day of worrying about a potential Facebook privacy breach—and some very simple questions no one seemed to be askingRichard MacManus’s Facebook status update attracted a comment from Jesse Stay:

Someone needs to go back through their email notifications, and if we can find one that matches a wall post, where the email notification says it was a private message, then we have a silver bullet.

   So I did.
   And it all checks out. Every wall-to-wall post that I was notified about before August 1, 2007 (the day I switched notifications off) correlates with what Facebook claims is a public post.
   They’re not completely off the hook as there are some from 2009 that are definitely private—one was from a friend who was under media scrutiny at the time and she would not have written that message publicly—but I’m convinced the majority are as Facebook said.
   Which leads me to wonder two things: did Facebook change the way it counted earlier wall posts last week? I’m still certain there were fewer in the 2007 total than 786. Perhaps it didn’t count wall-to-wall ones before?
   Naturally, after discovering this, I notified the Privacy Commissioner, Marie Shroff, so that we wouldn’t waste her time.
   With all the glitches I had documented, I would never normally go to the media as I did today. It really looked serious enough, corroborated by numerous friends, who had good reason to be concerned. And I still believe them: I believe that they did seize upon some breaches, but that those, like the 2009 ones I write about, are more isolated than I thought. I believe my friend when she says there were DMs relating to a contractual dispute that are on her wall—and a few other examples I heard which were very specific. I don’t for a second think their judgement was wrong.
   It reminds me that I tend to go public when I think others are involved and need my help, and after I check out the claims—but when it’s me alone, I usually put it down to the Frank Spencer effect I have with technology. It just looks like this case needed a few more checks—after all, Facebook has given me plenty of reasons to be sceptical, as documented on this blog many times—and I’m glad I stayed on the case today to give it a pass on many of these posts.

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Vodafone sends me invoices and spam (and I’m not even a customer)

29.09.2012

I recently posted this apt quotation on my Tumblr:

It’s marketing 101—[Vodafone New Zealand] seem to breach the rules quite regularly and you’d have to hope that these significant fines are a signal to them that they can’t continue to do that.

It’s from Sue Chetwin, CEO, Consumer New Zealand, on how Vodafone is cavalier about staying within the letter of the law in the Fair Trading Act.
   I can believe it. Because Vodafone sent me an invoice for 22¢ on September 7:

   And it is the principle: because since 2006, I have not been a Vodafone customer. And since 2009, one of my companies has not been a Vodafone customer. In fact, since March 2009, I have no ties with Vodafone whatsoever, either personally or as a director of a company that uses Vodafone.
   On the same invoice is an ‘Opening balance from last statement’ for $4·21, which they debited from my credit card on February 25, 2011. But that time, I received no invoice—they just went ahead and did it.
   When I called Vodafone, I was told that the charges were made on a calling card that was still valid. Problem: I have never had a calling card with Vodafone.
   And now, today, they revealed that they took $24 in 2010.
   But as Vodafone is guilty of 21 breaches of consumer law in a July case alone—and was found guilty of misleading customers over Vodafone Live and its $1 a day services the year before—you can summarize that something is very rotten there.
   I’d swore I’d never go back—nek minnit, they’ve acquired TelstraClear. Oligopoly much?
   At Vodafone’s request via Twitter, I have emailed them the following. It does contain the usual pleasantries at the beginning and the end, omitted here for brevity. This summarizes the entire case so far.

This is further to SS’s request on Twitter that I send you these details. I will note that two customer services’ officers on the call care centre have also been investigating.
   Attached you’ll find a bill that I was sent via email on September 7. You’ll see it’s for 22¢, and that in April 2011, another $4 was debited from my credit card. A phone call to Vodafone today revealed that over $20 was taken in 2010.
   The problem with all of this is that I have not been a Vodafone customer since March 2009. If you want to split hairs, I actually haven’t been one since 2006, I believe, but one of my companies was between 2006 and 2009.
   Here’s what I recall.

• Became an Ihug customer in 1998, but left Ihug for Saturn in 2000. I kept some toll calls with Ihug but switched back to TelstraClear some time during that decade. Your records show the account was closed in 2006—although I was also told a contradictory statement that the account was not closed.
• Lucire Ltd. was a Vodafone customer on a three-year contract between March 2006 and March 2009. I am a director of that company.

   Here’s what I understand from Vodafone (gleaned from conversations on September 8, 9 [I think] and 29).

• In 2010, Vodafone debited over $20 (I believe $24) from my credit card. In 2011, it debited $4. In 2012, I get a bill for 22¢. (Note: I’ve never received a bill from you since I left except for the 22¢ charge.)
• I have been told various things. On September 8–9, I was told that the 2011 and 2012 charges were due to a calling card. (Note: I have never had a Vodafone calling card.)
• Today I was told that the charges were due to toll calls. (Note: TelstraClear has handled all my toll calls since 2006, if not before.)

   I was promised a refund of the $4 in one of the early September phone calls. My credit card statement shows no such refund. I have confirmed that the credit card details you hold are correct. Worryingly, they are also current—which they cannot be if I left you in 2009 and my credit card originally expired that year.
   I also began receiving spam from you this week for a cellphone number that was with you, but has not been with you since 2009.
   Here’s what I don’t get if I was still a customer:

• I don’t hear from you guys for three years. All of a sudden I start getting spam from you;
• I’ve never received a single invoice from you for the money you’ve taken—at least not till September 7, 2012.

   So I’m pretty sure you know that I’m not a customer of yours.
   Now, I’m willing to take my share of the blame. I should be reading every line of my credit card statement. But, I’d also like you guys to refund what you’ve charged since I ceased being a customer.

   There’s also the buggy Air New Zealand site where they shifted the blame to me for not clearing the cookies or understanding how the back end of their website works, but I’ll leave that for another day. What they didn’t figure was my taking screen shots of what I did.

PS. (October 15): Vodafone has just emailed me asking that my credit card details be updated. So much for ‘We have made sure your account is cancelled.’ But since they updated them unilaterally in 2009, I imagine they will just do it again. Air New Zealand, meanwhile, sorted out its bug and apologized, so there will be no post about that.—JY

P.PS. (October 15): I’ve been on the phone with Vodafone. Now I’m told that in June 2009, I was charged $116·30; in July 2009, $43·43; in August 2009, $63·51. All for toll calls. All while not being a Vodafone customer. The amounts appear to have been debited from my credit card each time. No invoice was ever received this end though Vodafone claims that they sent them to me via email. This is dodgy already since I have never opted for emailed invoices, and that they had always come in the post prior. Lucire Ltd. was a Vodafone cellphone customer till, I recall, March 2009, and up till then, I had invoices mailed to me. I was an Ihug customer (allegedly till 2006) and also had invoices mailed. So why the change? I still find this very, very hard to believe—it’s as though Vodafone cheekily took money knowing that I was not a customer and is using email as an excuse—just as it originally claimed that I had a ‘calling card’ and that that was the reason I received my 22¢ bill.—JY

P.P.PS. (October 15): TelstraClear says I have been with them for tolls since May 6, 2008, which is later than I thought, and also later than the 2006 date Vodafone gave in the last September phone call. It doesn’t change the core argument though, but it does give us a precise date on which to start any inquiry.—JY

P.P.P.PS. (October 16): Chris from Vodafone calls and can find charges almost every month from May 2009, a few in 2010, and one in 2011. He’s promised to get them refunded. It really sounds like I’ve paid for tolls twice. He’s as puzzled as I am why I have never been posted bills since that was how Vodafone always did it while I was a customer till March 2009. Apparently the 2011 refund was never done.—JY

P.P.P.P.PS. (October 27): No sign of any refunds on my credit card statement.—JY

P.P.P.P.P.PS. (October 27): Aimée says she has organized a refund of NZ$433·11, which appears to be the total debited from me without notice between May 2009 and April 2011. (More disturbing is that my previous credit card expired in November 2009, so how they managed to continue billing without my updating my details is beyond me.)—JY

P.P.P.P.P.P.PS. (November 3): Vodafone emails me a PDF credit note for $433·11. Is it over? I hope so!—JY

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Posted in business, culture, New Zealand | 3 Comments »


This is not your Granddad’s Myspace

26.09.2012

The new Myspace from Myspace on Vimeo

Justin Timberlake may have played Sean Parker in The Social Network, but he’s had a real-life social networking role to play as an investor as Myspace (sans intercapitalized S) showed off its new look yesterday.
   And I like it.
   After being frustrated with another attempt at ordering photos in a Facebook album (viz. it doesn’t work any more), seeing that fan page views had gone way down (as Facebook forces us to pay for promoted statuses), and noticing that I was largely using Facebook as a glorified version of Digg, it dawned on me: there must be a better way. As I told Facebook in a survey tonight:

These are actually reasons to leave Facebook or to find an alternative—and right now, the MySpace reboot is looking way better. Facebook is little more to me than a glorified Digg now where I share some bookmarks, but not where I share my real statuses. And we all know what happened to Digg.

It’s a slight exaggeration as some of my closer friends get some status updates, but the majority come via Twitter, and that’s plugged in to my Facebook.
   Twitter, too, no longer has the effectiveness it once had in itself, unless you are directly contacting someone.
   About the only newer (2007 and on) platform I get any pleasure out of is Tumblr, but that’s not what I call a social network.
   It’s funny, because one year ago, I was raving about Facebook Timeline. How Facebook gave me instant gratification through “likes” and how it looked so clever. But then, as with the Oldsmobile Toronado, designers tinkered with it. They added unnecessary features, such as the second friends’ box. Anything that was ingenious about the original Timeline, such as the way it could guess your most significant past moments, disappeared or was pushed down—or rendered useless. The fact that fan pages still don’t update on the 1st of each month—a bug that existed when Facebook first created Timeline—suggests to me that the company doesn’t really care any more about the user experience. It’s all about the money, and when that happens, the lovin’ feeling’s gone—just as it had with Google, which I also used to rave about.
   While the pundits are saying that Myspace is great because it focuses on music, they are missing the other angle. Based on the preview, it’s a visual delight. It makes updating your social network look good, and you have a fleeting moment of pride as you see the next status go live. We’re so spoiled with technology now that we like those experiences—and the new Myspace user interface, created by Australian firm Josephmark, captures that part of us. I can dig updating in News Gothic.
   Freed from the clutches of the Murdoch Press, Myspace might come good again—at the perfect time as Facebook fatigue—and even a bit of Twitter fatigue—sets in. I never thought I would say that.
   I just hope the new management keep the website clean: don’t do a Facebook.
   And I still have more friends on Myspace than I do on Google Plus, so I am starting from a bigger number than I did on Facebook all those years ago.

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Posted in business, design, interests, internet, media, technology, USA | 4 Comments »