When Apps Ruin Your Credit Score

SAP Guest

 By Shandy Lo

What happens when apps like Angry Birds sell your personal data to third parties? In the wrong hands, this can actually make it impossible for you to obtain credit.

Picture: iStockphoto

There’s no doubt that smartphones and apps make our lives easier in many respects: Whether we’re trying to find our way around a strange city, sending free messages to friends via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, or searching for a recipe on the fly. But are they really as harmless as they seem? According to data protection specialists and Stiftung Warentest (an unbiased German organization that investigates and compares consumer goods), apps are dangerous “spies”. This article looks at the main risks of apps and explains what you can do to avoid them.

Simone Vintz from Stiftung Warentest looked at the levels of security offered by app stores such asAndroid MarketWindows Phone Marketplace, and iTunes. Her aim was to find out how much information consumers are given when they purchase an app, what kind of data app suppliers gather from consumer smartphones, and what happens with this data.

Privacy policies that no-one understands

Vintz criticizes the fact that the terms of use (or terms of service) published on app stores are often highly technical, and that some stores’ privacy policies contain vague and ambiguous formulations. Moreover, she found that certain stores’ terms and conditions even contained a large number of legally inadmissible clauses. Be that as it may, she says, “It’s unlikely that any more than a handful of people will wade through 20 pages of terms and conditions.”

If a consumer wants to ask a question about an app or report a problem, it can be almost impossible to make contact with the supplier. Around 50% of the app stores that Simone Vintz investigated did not even contain company information or contact details.

A major risk is posed by apps that do not use encryption, such as WhatsApp and iTranslate. Unsecured wireless networks, such as those that are commonly found in airport terminals and coffee shops, are particularly prone to this threat, because any curious individual can intercept unencrypted texts sent via these networks quickly and with ease. Complete strangers need nothing more than a few simple programs to read private texts and access e-mail addresses and personal data.

However, an even greater danger threatens when passwords − for e-mail inboxes, social networks, and even online banking − are cracked. “Many people use the same or very similar passwords for multiple online activities. But programs exist that enable hackers to try out all the possible combinations of one known password until they find the right password for another site,” says Simone Vintz. She therefore advises everyone to think of a different password for each app and to use as many different characters and numbers in these passwords as possible.

The market for personal data

Some apps, such as WhatsApp, pass users’ personal and address book data to third parties without their prior consent. These real names, real telephone numbers, and real e-mail addresses are passed on in clear text and not as anonymous hash values.

The terms of use/service published on app stores often state that the app supplier will share data with “a partner”.  However, it is not always clear who this partner is. In most cases, though, it is a marketing group such as Flurry, Inc. Its objective is to create highly accurate customer profiles that can be sold to advertisers, who then use it to conduct targeted online advertising in a process known as “retargeting”.

Another problem is that data passed on in this way can also be aggregated and evaluated in order to create profiles of entire customer groups – a process that can have negative consequences for individual “members” of those groups. “Consumers get pigeonholed,” says Simone Vintz. For example, a consumer may suddenly find that he or she is unable to make online purchases by direct debit. Why? Because his or her “customer-group profile” predicts that the probability of him or her having good creditworthiness is low – even if this is absolutely untrue. This happens because the consumer’s creditworthiness is not assessed on the basis of his or her individual data but on general parameters for an entire group of people.

Angry Birds works with a device ID that sends all of a user’s game movements to Flurry, Inc. The marketing company then knows how, when, and where each user plays the game. This enables a  categorization process to take place, which can even lead to users being unable to obtain credit.  “The affected person is in a catch-22 situation. Who can he complain to? The app supplier, the bank, the app store?” asks Simone Vintz. She is strongly in favor of greater transparency in this area. App suppliers, she says, should specify whom they pass data to so that the consumer knows precisely which companies have access to their personal information.

Automatic updates are cost-traps

Marcus Pritsch, a project lead at Stiftung Warentest, considers malware as a major threat to consumers who download apps without knowing their precise origin. The larger stores such as iTunesAndroid Market, Windows Phone Marketplace, and BlackBerry App World generally check apps for malware before they offer them for download.  It is therefore better to steer clear of downloading apps from private websites, says Pritsch, because nobody can guarantee that they are safe to use.

Many apps update themselves automatically. One example are map services. These updates can rapidly turn into cost-traps, however, if, for example, you want to quickly check your e-mails or surf in social networks while you’re traveling abroad and you forget to cancel your Internet access again afterwards.

Marcus Pritsch advises consumers to look carefully at the access rights they grant to apps when they download them to their smartphones in order to avoid becoming “visible to all”. If in doubt, he says, it’s safer not to download them at all!



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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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Why New Technology Has An Adoption Problem

Danielle Beurteaux

When 3D printing became a practical reality, in the sense that the actual printers became more efficient, less expensive, and more accessible to the average consumer, there was an assumption that the consumer 3D printing market was going to take off. We’d all have printers at home printing…. what? Our clothes? Toys? Spare organs?

That has yet to happen. 3D printing company MakerBot just went through its second employee layoff this year, driven by a market that’s developing much slower than predicted.

That same thinking is in play with a somewhat more prosaic technology – digital wallets. Apple Pay was released this year, as was Samsung Pay. There’s also Google’s Android Pay. During an earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “We are more confident than ever that 2015 will be the year of Apple Pay.” But that expectation has yet to be realized, at least vis-à-vis consumers.

Consumers aren’t using any of the digital wallets en masse. According to Bloomberg, payments made via mobile wallets – all of them – make up a mere 1% of retail purchases in the U.S. The reason is that consumers just don’t see a compelling reason to use them. There’s no real reward for them to change from SOP.

Both these instances highlight a problem with assumptions about mass adoption for new technology – just because it’s cool, interesting, and accessible doesn’t mean a market-worthy mass of people will use it.

Who is more likely to use mobile wallets? Emerging economies without a stable financial and banking systems. In those environments, digital payments present a more secure and quicker method for purchasing. These are the same areas where mobile adoption leapfrogged older technologies because there was a lack of telecommunications infrastructure, i.e. many never had a landline phone to begin with, and they went directly to mobile. The value-add already exists. (But there are also security issues, to which consumers are becoming more sensitive. A hack of Samsung’s U.S. subsidiary LoopPay network was uncovered five months post-hack. Although one was expert quoted as saying the hackers may not have been interested in selling consumer financial info but instead in tracking individuals.)

Here’s some interesting data and a good point made: mobile payments are most popular in situations where the buyer already has his or her phone in hand and the transaction is made even quicker than swiping plastic. For example, purchases made for London Transit rides are responsible for a good portion of the U.K.’s mobile payments.

Mass technology adoption is no longer driven simply by the release of a new product. There are too many products released constantly now, the market is too diverse, and the products often lack a true raison d’être.

Learn more about how creative and innovative companies are finding their customers. Read Compelling Shopping Moments: 4 Creative Ways Stores Connect With Their Customers.


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The Importance Of Leadership On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Charmian Solter

Here at Switch & Shift we strive to illuminate effective leadership practices. We pride ourselves on creating cutting-edge solutions for employee engagement, communication, and creating company culture, to name a few.

Why are these topics so important? Well, according to The Importance of Employee Engagement infographic by NBRI, courtesy of Brandon Gaille, if leadership doesn’t step up and affect change and build trust and engagement, their employees will be busy doing anything but work while on the job! This infographic says it all.


For more on developing more engaged, loyal, and productive workers, see How Empowering Employees Creates a More Engaged Workforce.


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