The Center for Digital Democracy

Have you ever had that feeling that a digital company has gone a bit too far in targeting you and your “private” information? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Chances are, the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) is there to fight for your right to have you private information stay private. The CDD was founded in 2001, but its work was started in the early nineties when the Center for Media Education was founded to promote “greater public participation in media and telecommunications issues.”

The CDD was formally launched in 2001, and has played a major role in developing the campaign for an open broadband Internet, helping educate the public about the plans of the phone and cable companies to operate a more tightly-controlled broadband system and leading the efforts at the Federal Trade Commission to promote new policies governing online privacy and responsible interactive marketing. The CDD has also served as an “early warning” system for journalists, policymakers and the public about emerging public interest issues.

If companies begin to implement practices that use Facebook’s Open Graph, you can bet the CDD will be knocking on the doors of Facebook, speaking out for the consumer. In the age of social media, the idea of privacy has gone out of the window, and the CDD is aiming to protect the little amount that we have left. The CDD believes that the Internet should be a democracy, especially in a democratic state. Consumers should have the right to choose whether their information can be collected and their online actions be tracked.

So how does this all relate to Facebook’s Open Graph? It’s simple. The CDD is trying to inform the public about the dangers of allowing companies and organizations access information along the Open Graph without any sort of rules and regulation that is required for democratic societies. The CDD is currently working with the FTC to protect the privacy of consumers by limiting the amount of data being collected. In short, the FTC’s bill aims to “enact legislation to rein in the data broker industry” in an effort to curb the selling and collecting of valuable data, including financial habits and health interests. While the FTC is working towards controlling data collection, the CDD believes the FTC still isn’t doing enough. The CDD is trying to get the FTC to explain in specifics how consumers can choose to control the collection and use of their information, rather than putting the Do-Not-Track icon on a website that the consumer has to click on.

Facebook isn’t the only company that the CDD is after. It is putting pressure on Google to explain why there was such a drastic change to its privacy policy. The Internet giant has yet to come out and explicitly explain that the policy changed to make it easier companies to track and learn about its users. The CDD believes that Google and Facebook are both suffering from poor leadership by not coming out and admitting the reasons for the privacy, or lack there of, policies.

The CDD isn’t going away and neither are its goals. In fact it is probably going to become even more involved in digital democracy and legislation as Open Graph becomes more prevalent. The CDD will continue to push for the right of consumers to choose whether their information and be used for purposes other than what it was originally intended. As Open Graph becomes more popular, consumers also going to become more aware, causing a need for an organization to be there to defend them to the Washington and corporate bigwigs. Until then, the CDD will continue its fight to bring digital consumer privacy to the forefront of American minds and stop its mining before the idea of privacy is gone.

 


Hungry? Foodspotter Knows What You Want

I was born in the South and love soul food. I can’t get enough of it, actually. I think it’s because it reminds me of home. It reminds me of sitting in the kitchen while my mom makes fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and biscuits. When I moved out of my parent’s house and into a new city, I longed for a restaurant that even remotely reminded me of the smells that filled my parent’s kitchen. More so than that, I wanted a piece of fried chicken that took me back to the house I grew up in. Knowing that it was near impossible to find a specific dish, I set out trying different restaurants in North Carolina to no avail.

The story that you just read is true and it happened to me in 2008, one year before Foodspotting was launched by a journalist, a designer and a social media exec who realized that, while there were plenty of restaurant review apps, there wasn’t one that located that perfect dish. Foodspotting doesn’t just find restaurants that you might like; it relies on normal, everyday people to find specific dishes. Foodspotting is different than many of the other food apps out there because it focuses on the good and understands that “even a ‘one-star restaurant’ can have one amazing dish.”

Foodspotting became wildly successful, but wasn’t all that user friendly. If you ate a great dish, you had to take a picture of it, email it to the company and wait for someone to post. That’s when Foodspotting developers decided to get creative and make it a Facebook application. Now, spotting food became infinitely quicker and easier. Once the application was developed, the developers realized that they had a wealth of information at their fingertips and have since become a leader in using Facebook’s Open Graph to grow their business.

How does it work? The Foodspotting team started off simple, by encouraging existing users to add Foodspotting to their Timeline. Once the user clicked “agree,” their food photos began to show up in their Timeline. The next step was searching through status updates for key words like “spot-dish” and “love-dish” that help create interest in the app. Since the implementation of Open Graph, Foodspotting has seen four times the referrals and twice the number of active monthly users.

Now that Foodspotting has seen the rewards for using Open Graph, what’s next? Imagine posting a status that says you’re heading to Cleveland for a business trip. With the access that it has to your data, Foodspotting can recommend specific dishes at specific restaurants based on the information that you have posted earlier. Sounds great, right? As of now, Foodspotting has the Facebook market cornered because of its understanding of how Open Graph works and its willingness to dive full force into the data pool that is Facebook.

Did I ever find that perfect piece of fried chicken? Well, no. I was disappointed too many times and gave up looking and finally learned to make it myself. When I moved to Athens, I jumpstarted my search for the perfect reminder of my mom’s cooking. This time though, I used Foodspotting and discovered Peaches. Weaver D’s might be the best soul food restaurant, but thanks to my fellow Foodspotters, I found the piece of chicken that took me home.


A New Kind Kind of Fast Food…

I’m 30 years old. I’m married and have two kids. My husband and I are both educated and have good jobs. We own a house and have two cars. We live in Boston are involved in the community  and church and like to spend time and visit places that share our interests and values. We were running errands last weekend and stopped at a fast food restaurant. We stood in line to order our food and when we got to the front of the line, the person behind the counter was so disinterested in working there. I had to repeat the order four times because she wasn’t paying attention. While we were waiting, we had to listen to gossip and cursing behind the counter. When we got our food, they forgot part of it and what they didn’t get wrong was cold. We tried to get it fixed and they blamed us for the ordering being wrong. After that debacle, I told my husband that I wished there was a fast food restaurant that had a nice ambiance and I felt comfortable in.

I kind of put that experience out of mind until a friend of mine and I took our kids to lunch on the way to the park. We went to another fast food restaurant after I told her my last experience. It was like de ja vu. On top of that, there were no healthy options for the kids or us. I rehashed my frustration at the fact that there were no other options.

I got home and logged onto Facebook and vented my frustrations to anyone that would listen. A few days later, I saw something in my newsfeed. It was a post about a new restaurant coming to the Boston area that wanted to be referred to as a quick service restaurant. It focuses on a good customer experience, had healthy options and had strong family values. I immediately called my friend and told her about this place called Chick Fil A. We set up a time a week or two later to meet there and try this new “quick service” restaurant.

We walked in and were greeted by friendly staff. I placed my order, a chicken sandwich with no pickles since I am allergic, a Coke and two kid’s meals. I paid and thanked the person and to my surprise heard a “my pleasure.” The food came out piping hot but my sandwich had pickles on it. I walked back to the counter to ask for a new sandwich, and received a heartfelt apology, a new sandwich and a coupon for a free meal on my next trip.

I couldn’t believe it! A place that was pleasant! People who cared! An environment I felt comfortable with my kids in! I walked out of Chick Fil A a little bit happier than when I walked in. I knew that I would be back and probably often.


It’s what I do…

“This is one of the most competitive businesses there is. It’s my life. It’s my blood. It’s how I’m measured.” -Bill Parcels, 1986

I figure it’s best that I start with this quote from Bill Parcels, former NFL head coach. Why? Because it describes me and it describes how I feel about this crazy profession that I have chosen.

Why do I love this crazy world of fanfare so much? It’s simple really. I think I am so passionate about college sports because it brings people together in a way that few things do. I have heard the National Anthem played a million times at sporting events, but I still get chills when I hear 90,000 fans sing it in perfect harmony. I get goosebumps when I hear 2001 playing. When I hear the calls made by legendary broadcasters, I can’t help but get excited. “My God a freshman!” and “Look at the sugar falling out of the sky!” are calls that don’t happen anymore. I wasn’t around when Larry Munson made those calls for the boys in the silver britches, but hearing them now makes me appreciate what it was all about. It was about making sure that the people sitting at home knew exactly what was happening.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I love what I do. I am fortunate to be around players and coaches that bring so much excitement and joy to so many people. I love what I do because it’s more than a job to me. I am first and foremost a fan and realize just how lucky I am to be a part of something, even if it’s in the smallest way. When I worked at Elon, I worked 80 hours weeks and didn’t have time to think. To say that I was busy was the understatement of the century. I did get burnt out at times, but at the end of the day, I remembered that I got paid to watch football. I got paid to sit on the sidelines of some of the most historic college sports venues in the country. I saw three pointers made at the Dean Dome, I was able to see Coach K do what he does best, lead Duke to a win in front of the Cameron Crazies at Cameron Indoor. I have witnessed just how special these moments are to the people who fill the stands. And I got to do it all courtside. At the end of the day, I know that there are 1,000 people ready to take my job and would probably do it for free, just to see what it’s like.

There are people in the business that don’t see it like that, and I truly feel bad for them. I feel bad that they don’t understand how fortunate they are to be doing something so fun. The moment I start feeling that way is the moment I know that it’s time to find a new calling. Not solely because of me, but because I want to make sure that someone else gets to feel the excitement of 90,000 screaming people shaking the press box. Or what it sounds like to hear those same people sing their Alma Mater, some with tears in their eyes. Or what it’s like to be a part of something that makes so many people happy. I’m not saying that I call the plays that score winning touchdowns or that my job is even a 1/4 as important as that. My job is to let the fans read about the game. My job is to write the picture’s 1000 words. My job is to let fans read about the players that are leaving it all out on the field. My job is let people know about the walk-on who earned playing time after being on the scout team or the player who graduated a year early with a 4.00 GPA and stuck around because he didn’t want his playing days to end. And that’s just with football…

I said before that I am a fan first, which is what makes my job fun. I love my Alma Mater. You don’t understand, I LOVE South Carolina, probably more than is healthy. Heck, I have the Palmetto Tree and Crescent Moon in garnet and black tattooed on my shoulder.

You want proof? This was me on my wedding day…

Image

I was in the stands for embarrassing losses and unbelievable victories. I watched every pitch, every hit, every single second of the first College World Series and was in tears when Whit Merrifield hit the single the right to score Scott Wingo from third and seal the win. I watched on the edge of my seat when South Carolina beat #1 Kentucky in basketball and saw the students handing dollars to the AD because they knew that the school just got fined for storming the court. My friends and I drove through the night to see the Gamecocks play in the NIT Championship at Madison Square Garden, only to turn around and drive back home. I stood, by myself, in my house screaming like an idiot when South Carolina beat #1 Alabama in football last year. I watched South Carolina take the field at the CWS for the second time in as many years and for the first time, maybe ever, I expected that team to win. It wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t by chance. South Carolina fought, clawed and scratched their way to its second title in as many years. I was a part of some of the absolute BEST moments in South Carolina history and the sounds of 2001 still gets me. Seeing now-NFL player Eric Norwood turn Erin Andrews around to sing the Alma Mater still is one of my top-5 sports moments. Why? Because it showed that people who go to that school, love that school. It shows that Gamecock fans are some of the best in the country. How many other places would sell out their stadium after a 0-21 streak? How many would celebrate at win over New Mexico State by bringing down the goal posts because it broke that streak? How many, win or lose, will always see the promise of “next year”?

I’m a fan first, and that’s the reason I love what I do. I know what it feels like to celebrate the wins and lament the losses. And since I’ve been on the other side, I know what it feels like to be at least a small part of something great, and it feels just as good, maybe better.


Four More Topics

Looks like I am late to the party on the four additional topics. Some of the ones that I have chosen have already been discussed, but here they are:

Creep Factor – I think something on people’s creep factor and how they have changed over time would be helpful for this. Some companies (and people) seem to have some trouble with this and it might be helpful to see where it is now and where it was a long time ago. Also in this section, we could reassure our clients that all of the information that we are gaining is information that the individual has decided to share on their own. It’s not like we’re going through phone records, credit card receipts and the like.

Examples – I am a HUGE proponent of examples, especially when we are talking about things that clearly not a lot of people understand. I was thinking we should have some examples of what is currently being done with open graph. What companies have tried it, how its worked, etc. My thinking is that once people see a real-life example, they may be more willing to listen (and even excited to listen) about the ways we have come up with for them to use the information.

Definition of Permeable Data Sources, Open Graph – I’m not talking about a glossary or anything, but I think explaining what it is we will be referring to for the rest of the package would be helpful.

Moneyball Approach – I was thinking about something like this and I think Jackie summed it up the best so I will defer to her on this one. I know, for me, it was nice reading something that had to do with changing the way things are done.


Finding Food Made Easy

Why are some food apps more successful than others? What makes them special? How can they be used successfully? By this time, I figure we’ve all checked out our fair share of applications to see how they work and why the company would use them. And, by now, we know the answer-to better understand the customer. Food apps like Foodspotting, Foodily and to some extent Yelp! have helped make our food choices easier and given us new ideas for things to try. Since I am working with a restaurant, I decided to focus on Foodspotting because I think it has the greatest potential to learn from for my company. Here is Foodspotting in a nutshell:

Foodspotting: Allows users to find and recommend not only restaurants, but also specific dishes. Are you craving a pulled pork barbeque sandwich and your visiting Birmingham, Ala.? Foodspotting allows you to see that most people recommend Dreamland. Maybe you want Mexican. Foodspotting gives suggestions on the must-try places in your area. After visiting the Foodspotting website, I found that, unlike other apps, Foodspotting encourages people to post positive things – food that people like. Foodspotting has made it pretty easy for people to spot dishes, even if they aren’t on Foodspotting. They have an iPhone app and allow you to share photos of food on Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, Facebook and Flickr. They also make it easy for restaurants. It allows restaurants owners to take photos of their own food and post it.

This works because some restaurants might be new or have a new dish that people want to try. This idea works because at some point, nearly everyone travels somewhere that they aren’t familiar with and everyone needs to eat. It takes the guesswork out of finding a good spot and also allows people to try. How can this apply to Chick Fil A? I’m thinking, since Chick Fil A is still doesn’t have a national reach (besides the Chick Fil A Bowl), the CFA app could use data about where people live or are from and suggest CFA when they go on a trip.

I’m not sure all of the ways that other apps might help me come up with a way that CFA can get to know its customers better, but this is a start!


Chick Fil A Introduction

Hello,

My name is Jen Galas and I am a master’s candidate at the University of Georgia. As part of my curriculum, I have be challenged to create an application that will allow you to comb through data that will allow you to really understand your constituents. This application will be developed using Facebook, largely because of its use of open graph that allows developers to gain access to a wealth of information about current and potential customers.

Chick Fil A already has a strong following of customers, but I would like to develop a way for it to market towards specific clientele. The idea is that this application could comb through the “family” information that someone has and see that a person has a daughter who is turning 10. Chick Fil A could then post in that person’s news feed and suggest that they hold the child’s birthday party at their local Chick Fil A. Suppose a person comments on or “likes” fitness articles, then Chick Fil A can have a post that suggests healthier menu items. There is valuable information that is there for the taking and I would love to have the opportunity to figure out a way for you to access this information.

As a client, I will devote anywhere from six to 15 hours per week on designing this application. All I ask for in return is that you be available by email five times over the next three months, that you accept an introductory phone call that would allow me to further introduce myself and finally, for you to attend Georgia’s New Media Institute’s Show Off on May 5. It is important you attend the Show Off, as that will be the day that you will be able to see the final package that I will have created. Thank you for your time and I look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

Jen Galas


Google+ – All Your Social Media in One Neat, Little Package

What is Google+? If you’re like me, you probably think that it’s a Facebook rip off. If that’s what you think, you’re mostly right. Google+ is Google’s latest attempt in hopping on the social media bandwagon. Google’s goal is to make the things that we already do easier.

Have you ever posted a status about your crazy night out on Facebook, only to get a call from Grandma? Well, Google+ tries to eliminate that embarrassing mishap. It allows its members and users to group your friends together in “circles” such as family, work, college, etc. By creating these “circles,” you can share information with the appropriate group of people.

Google+ also has a system that sends the user content that it thinks you would like based on the “add interest” button. It basically is like the Facebook “like” button, except that information is used to send you content that you might find interesting.

Google+ also came up with a modern day chat room, you know, the infamous rooms that AOL created? Google+’s version of these rooms is called “huddles” and is an expansion on Facebook messaging.

The goal of Google+ is to make what you already do easier by not making you go to 10 different sites. Basically, Google+ allows you to text, Skype, Tweet, send a photo and arrange a party all in one site.

In theory it makes sense. Who wouldn’t want a one-stop shop for everything social media? The problem with this is that I think Google+ was a little late to the party. People become really “brand” or “website” loyal when it comes their social media and it takes a lot to get them to switch. A review of Google+ said “I kept running into the same problem – there was no one in the sandbox but me.” Google+ is having a little trouble populating its social media network because Facebook and Skype are already so intertwined in our lives.

As I perused reviews of Google+, I kept getting the same information. I kept reading that people that it was a neat idea, could be helpful and that Google is really on the right track, but that they just don’t think the general public is ready for it yet.

I agree with that. I think Google is on the threshold of something great, but they need the public to get on board. I’ll give my opinion on this. I think that once there are too many things for people to work with, they will start moving toward using Google+. The idea makes sense. Put all of the stuff I use daily (or hourly, whatever) in one neat little package and let me go from there. The problem is that I am not annoyed that I have to go to Twitter, Facebook and Skype to get my social networking done. When I do, I would think about moving to Google+.


ThyssenKrupp Really Gets the Community

ThyssenKrupp (TK) is a company that is based out of Germany, however the elevator division is based out of Atlanta, Ga. I’m not going to beat around the bush and say that this company will be easy to work with. The reason for this is because it is the world’s largest supplier of steel and they have a completely different public that what, say, Cox Radio’s Valpak users. The people who are interested in buying still or having an elevator put in probably won’t care a whole lot about a cool, new Facebook application.

This company being challenging is why I think it could work. I know that it would be easier to work with a company that has a product to sell. What I think could work with ThyssenKrupp is focusing more on creating awareness for the community involvement that the company focuses on. The company is committed on volunteering and giving back to the communities that they have branch offices in.

The average person probably doesn’t have a strong opinion about (TK). In fact, the average person probably doesn’t know what TK is or what it produces. One way that the company can create brand recognition is by promoting what it does in the community. TK has a longstanding policy of community activism in each of the cities that it has an office is. I have listed a few of these community initiatives below. Instead of trying to sell a product, why can’t TK use big data to sell itself to the community that it is a part of?

 

Community Initiatives:

ThyssenKrupp Elevator’s U.S. Offices Donate Denim to Cotton, Incorporated’s from Blue to Green® Project

Southwest Regional Senior Management Habitat for Humanity Report

ThyssenKrupp Elevator Scholarship Program

ThyssenKrupp Employees Contribute to Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation

Corporate Offices in Frisco, TX Help Provide School Supplies to Local Kids in Need

ThyssenKrupp Teams Up with Charitable Recycling to Collect Cell Phones and Donate Proceeds to Remote Area Medical® (RAM) Volunteer Corps

ThyssenKrupp Toronto Pearson Airport BBQ

 

What I propose is to take a community initiative that TK has a strong connection to and promote that initiative to the community in hopes to let the community know who the company is and hopefully create a positive feeling towards the company. While some might see this as “fluff,” I think this is the best approach to working with a company whose products aren’t regularly used by the normal population.

I was thinking that the Scholarship Program might be a good one to use because the target population is one that would typically use Facebook. It could also create strong ties to the scholarship recipient, a potential TK employee upon graduation.

 

Constituents: College-bound people in the Atlanta area.

What does the company want to get out of the interaction: TK hopes to gain recognition among a younger generation, so that when those scholarship applicants and recipients are entering the work force, they remember TK.

What does the constituency want to get out of interaction: scholarship money for education.

 

What do you guys think of this? Think it could work, even because it is a company that doesn’t have a product that could be sold using open-source data?


Facebook Sells to Who?

As I sat down to research who, if anyone, Facebook sells information to, I expected to find that they sell it to anyone and everyone willing to pay for the idea that I “Like” South Carolina athletics.

The first article that I found was written in May, 2010, the month that Facebook introduced its new privacy settings, which were developed because users engaged in a public outcry on how difficult the previous settings were to use.

The author of the Businessweek article asked a Facebook spokesman whether or not the social media giant would be interested in selling the information that its users so freely gave. The spokesman’s response? “People share so freely on Facebook, in part, because they trust that we’re not going to sell their information. We don’t have any interest in violating that trust.”

Wow. Just wow. Who knew that Facebook valued the trust that its users had in it? I was skeptical about this, because it’s Facebook and there are literally billions of things on its server that businesses could use for their benefit. I travelled on over to the Facebook privacy page, where Facebook adamantly denies that they have and will never sell your information.

The one caveat to this is that whatever information you put on your profile as “public” can then be seen by anyone, regardless of friend status or even if they have a Facebook page. There are several bits of information that Facebook deems “public information” regardless of your privacy settings. That information includes your name, profile photo, network and user name. Anyone or any company can see this information.

I know what you all are thinking. ‘Well, if they don’t sell my information, then how come the ads on the right side of my page changed to wedding photographers when I changed my relationship status?’ Facebook has found a way to provide information to outside sources without selling information directly to them. According to the ad interaction/targeting policy, ads are anonymously targeted at segments of the population who fit certain criteria. Say a wedding photographer wants to target “female” who are between the ages of “18-30” who live in the “Southeast” who recently became “engaged.” Well, the Facebook system then randomly finds any and all persons who fit those specific criteria. It’s the same reason that once you go from being “engaged” to “married” the ads change from wedding photographers to baby clothes. Basically, while your personal data is not being sold, your demographics are, but without any identifying information attached to them. According to Facebook, I will never see an ad that says “Jen, are you planning on starting a family soon?” rather just “are you planning on starting a family soon?”

Some more of you might be thinking ‘If they don’t sell ads, then how did I see my friend’s photo used for an online wedding website service?’ Facebook answered that rather easily as well. According to its privacy policy, Facebook will use a friends image if they have a direct connection with the service the ad is for. It is a way for that service to be like “Hey! You’re friend uses us, why don’t you?” Your face isn’t being seen by millions of people in various parts of the world. Facebook also points out that privacy settings do not control the behaviors of apps, but Facebook will make sure that any apps that are seen violating the privacy settings will be dealt with. Case in point

All of this might seem a little too good to be true. That’s because it is. While Facebook claims that it will never sell private information to advertisers, it can and will sell the service of demographics and data mining for any information that has been added to the website voluntarily by the user who decided to not make it private. Did you like a page about the Georgia Bulldogs and your privacy settings are listed as “public?” Well, that information might have been given to a collegiate apparel company who wanted information on “Georgia Bulldog fans.” Some of the same privacy policies apply though; such as no identifying information will be given to companies.

I’ll be the first to admit that I think the ever-changing ads on my Facebook page are a little creepy. After really looking into the Facebook privacy laws, I feel a little more relaxed about the whole thing. The company seems pretty set on not selling its wealth of information. At least for now.