Monthly Archives: December 2012

Watch Santa make his rounds this year

It’s that special time of the year again.

NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) has been helping Santa make his rounds for over 50 years. The site went live on December 1st for those who are ready to start searching for St. Nick. While you won’t actually get to track him until Christmas Eve, there are tons of resources, fun and games available on the site now http://www.noradsanta.org/en/activities.html.

You can also view a video direct from NORAD introducing NORAD Santa located here: http://www.noradsanta.org/en/videos.html

How does NORAD track Santa?
Santa Cams are ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras pre-positioned at many locations around the world only on Christmas Eve. The cameras capture images and videos of Santa and his reindeer as they make their journey around the world.

All the preparations for this year are in place! Be sure visit each day to get important updates from the North Pole and to discover new surprises in the Kids’ Countdown Village. Santa’s elves have been busier than usual this year preparing for Christmas Eve. Visit Santa’s Village to see what’s been going on, and join in the fun!

Santa Snacks
Santa takes breaks during his Christmas Eve trip around the world – especially for snacks left for him by children. Do you put a snack out for Santa? Kids all over the world do. Some even leave carrots for Santa’s reindeer. (carrots are their favorite food.) Be sure to check back on Christmas Eve to see how many cookies Santa eats during his journey. No wonder he’s so jolly and round!

This year you can track Santa in many different ways. In addition to the website you can use Cesium and Bing Maps or you can download the official NORAD tracking apps for your smart devices – get the links and info from the websites home page – http://www.noradsanta.org/en/track.html

So don’t miss out on the fun this year. Log in on Christmas Eve and watch as Santa makes his way around the world and more importantly – to your house!

Why Does NORAD Track Santa
Here’s the link explaining how this tradition got started by Colonel Harry Shoup (Retired USAF) as well as a short audio of his recounting that fateful night and the first phone call into NORAD headquarters.http://www.noradsanta.org/en/why.html

Want to know how NORAD accomplishes this tremendous task each year
http://www.noradsanta.org/en/how.html

How would you (or your child) like to talk to someone at NORAD to find out where Santa is during his Christmas eve trip?
The NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center is fully operational beginning at 4:00 a.m. MST on December 24. You can call 1 877 HI-NORAD (1.877.446.6723) to talk directly to a NORAD staff member who will be able to tell you Santa’s exact location!

Perhaps you’d like to end an email to NORAD to find out where Santa is located?
On December 24, you can send an email to noradtrackssanta@gmail.com. A NORAD staff member will give you Santa’s last known location in a return email.

Merry Christmas from all of Santa’s Elves at ACTSmart!

P.S. Check out this video of David, Devin, Debbie, Steven, and Beth lighting the Christmas tree! Play Video 

 

One More Just For Fun!

F.T.C. Voices Concerns Over Apps for Kids

Apps for Children Fall Short on Disclosure to Parents
Hundreds of mobile apps for children fail to provide parents with basic information on the kinds of sensitive information the apps collect and share about their children.

Only 20 percent of children’s applications found on portable computers and smartphones provided disclosures about their data collection practices, according to a staff report from the Federal Trade Commission released on Monday. The apps that did offer disclosures often provided links to long, dense, technical privacy policies “filled with irrelevant information,” according to the report. Other apps, it said, gave misleading information about their practices.

The agency’s study examined the privacy policies of 400 popular children’s apps — half of them available through the Apple App Store and the other half through Google’s Android Market — and compared the apps’ disclosures to their actual data collection practices.

Most apps failed to provide any information about the data collected through the app, let alone the type of data collected, the purpose of the collection, and who would obtain access to the data,” the F.T.C. report said. “Even more troubling, the results showed that many of the apps shared certain information” — like a device’s phone number, precise location or unique identification code — with third parties, according to the report.

More than half of the apps studied were transmitting children’s data, often to marketers. The researchers also reported that most apps failed to tell parents when they involved interactive features like advertising, social network sharing or allowing children to make purchases for virtual goods within the app. For instance, while 9 percent of the children’s apps disclosed to parents that they contained advertising, F.T.C. researchers found that 58 percent actually contained ads. Moreover, of the 24 apps that stated they did not contain in-app advertising, 10 actually contained ads, the report said.

The report added that some of these practices could violate the F.T.C.’s prohibition against unfair or deceptive practices. The practices could also violate a federal law, called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, known as Coppa for short. That law requires Web site operators to obtain parental permission before collecting or sharing the names, phone numbers, addresses or other personal information about children under 13.

Regulators said they were starting “numerous nonpublic investigations” to determine whether the discrepancies between the children’s apps’ disclosures and their actual practices violated the law.

In the report, regulators said their concern was that marketers and data collection companies could potentially use information from children’s apps to develop detailed profiles of children without their parents’ knowledge or consent. Children’s advocates have argued that such detailed profiling could potentially present a safety hazard — like the ability for strangers to contact or locate a child — as well as a risk that children could be unfairly discriminated against or influenced by marketers.

You can follow this story and the results by visiting:
http://www.ftc.gov/

 

Dont Get Scroogled

Because nearly half of all online shopping will start from search engines, we wanted all consumers to understand exactly what happens when they use search to find those deals.

Specifically, we wanted to alert you to what Google has done with their shopping site right in time for Christmas. Instead of showing you the most relevant shopping search results for the latest coffee maker you’re looking to buy mom, Google Shopping now decides what to show you – and how prominently to display what product offers they show — based partially on how much the merchant selling the product has paid them.

Merchants can literally pay to improve their chances to display their product offers higher than others inside of Google’s shopping “search,” even if it’s not better or cheaper for the consumer. The result of this new “pay-to-rank” system is that it’s easy for consumers to mistake an ad for an honest search result. That’s not right, it’s misleading and not what we should expect from a search engine.

In short, too many shoppers who use Google for their shopping searches are getting “Scroogled” when they should be getting fair, honest, open search. It’s like Ebenezer Scrooge met Google Shopping. Consumers should be aware what they’re seeing when they’re shopping online and to understand, without any hidden text or traps, the fine print of what their ‘search engine’ actually searches.

What Consumers Deserve from Search
Search is a relatively new business, but the rules that govern it are old. Success depends on consumer trust, and consumer trust depends on consumers believing that the results they see are both relevant and objective. Users want answers, not just ads.

Objectivity is particularly important in search, because it’s hard for consumers to see what’s going on inside a search engine’s algorithm. As Google’s founders explained when they started their company, “search engine bias – the practice of rewarding some companies over others, because they pay you – is particularly insidious… because it is not clear who ‘deserves’ to be there, and who is willing to pay money to be listed.”

What Google is Throwing Down the Chimney
Google now wants to break the rules that made it a trusted brand. They argue that the difference between answers and ads is shrinking. “After all,” they recently said, “ads are just more answers to users’ queries.”

According to Microsoft and their search engine BING, Google recently pulled down its “product search service” and replaced it with a “paid listing ads” service. Search for “Canon EOS” in Google Shopping and you receive pages that look like the old days, with “results” down the middle and ads mixed in. But the “results” are also ads. Every product offer within the shopping search results on that page paid to be there, and where and how high they appear is at least in part dependent on how much they paid. Meanwhile, at least one of biggest online retailers refused to pay Google’s new fee, so you won’t see any of their product offers and great holiday deals in shopping.

And that’s the rub. Shoppers visit the site they have used for years, conduct what they think is a “search,” and get a set of rankings that look like the objective results Google delivers elsewhere. Meanwhile, the lawyers at Google are now calling it a “listing.” They even call out – hidden behind a disclaimer or buried in a footer — “Payment is one of several factors used to rank these results.” Consumers are potentially getting a raw deal because “relevance” is now influenced by how much Google is getting paid, not just by things that matter to shoppers.

Microsoft made the following comments on what makes Bing different.
“Today, Bing renews its commitment to the old rules – to honoring our side of the bargain with shoppers by delivering better, more objectively ranked search results. We won’t let who pays us for ads or other services affect what you see in your search results. Search results are one thing; ads are another.”

“We won’t switch to pay-to-rank to allow some shopping search results to appear higher than others. We don’t believe shoppers should risk paying more, simply because they started their search at Google. We understand that search is evolving, and that’s why we are working hard to make sure all those new kinds of information and services get delivered, clearly and reliably, as either search results or ads.”

Bing Launched its “Don’t Get Scroogled” Campaign on Behalf of Consumers
To highlight Bing’s commitment to real “search” – and help explain the risks that come from Google’s paid ads that look like search, Bing is launching the “Don’t Get Scroogled” campaign. The effort will help consumers understand Google Shopping’s practice of “pay-to-rank,” where what shoppers are seeing are not search results like they see elsewhere on Google, but are actual ads ranked, in part, by who bids the most. Bing is also calling on Google to stop this “pay-to-rank” system for their shopping results and give shoppers what they expect – an honest search.

So for this holiday season, we just wanted to make sure shoppers know that when searching for that perfect gift for Cousin Harry on Google Shopping, the results they are seeing are partially optimized to benefit Google’s revenue, not the shopper’s pocketbook. If this practice has you concerned, complain to Google and let’s all try to get honest search results back.

For more information, visit www.scroogled.com and get up to speed on the issue by watching these video.
http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/112812/qmokwayt?from=us-Bing

Scroogled Alert website
http://www.scroogled.com

 

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