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The title of this column, Mobile for Good, seems like a bit of a misnomer for the crop of news I'm sharing this month. We've got net neutrality violations disguised as benefits, app security flaws, and a difficult-to-repair hot new phone. But being aware of all the negative news out there is a good thing and important for nonprofits and social good organizations to understand. To counteract all of this somewhat negative mobile news, I'm also highlighting a very positive story on digital inclusion and public libraries. Let's dig in!
Starting next month, Virgin customers put together a completely personalized plan. The plan goes beyond the traditional billing buckets of voice, text and data. You can now opt to have "unlimited Facebook" or "unlimited streaming music." Sounds great, right? Sure, a lot of us use certain social networks over others and paying a flat fee to use them seems quite convenient.
But singling out certain social networks or music apps and giving them preference by way of a billing plan feature goes against the basic principles of net neutrality. The Verge explains further:
"Virgin says none of these companies paid anything to be included as an add-on; it's just trying to pick things that people actually use every day."
We can't only point fingers at Virgin, however. T-Mobile got the ball rolling first with an unlimited music streaming plan for a handful of the most popular music plans. Time's Jared Newman called the move "the most insidious type of net neutrality violation." By disguising these unlimited plans for specific apps as benefits or perks, users probably won't even realize the net neutrality violation.
If you're posting pictures from your latest fundraiser to Instagram on a public Wi-Fi network, you might be exposing more personal data than you realize. Mazin Ahmed, a security expert, wrote about the issue on his blog. He set up a program to monitor traffic via a public Wi-Fi connection. As soon as he logged into the account on his phone, the program captured unencrypted data through the HTTP, which included pictures that a person might be looking at, Instagram username, and session cookies.
A representative from Instagram told The Verge that the company will be working on adding HTTPS protection across the app and would communicate the updates to the community. I checked the Instagram blog, however, and haven't seen an update as of August 4. On the other hand, I actually never had looked at the Instagram blog before and it is actually quite interesting. They showcase beautiful photos from around the world centered around a common theme, holiday, or event.
Our friends at iFixit recently did one of their teardowns of the Amazon Fire Phone. If you're not familiar with an iFixit teardown, it is essentially a test to see how repairable different devices are (everything from desktop PCs to cameras). We love these assessments because they're a great example of green technology. Stuff happens, technology breaks, and we don't want to see them in a landfill.
Back to the Amazon Fire Phone, iFixit gave it a sad 3 out 10 for Repairability (10 being the easiest to fix). You can read the whole teardown and explanation here.
Okay, I promised some good news in this column and I've saved it for last. Sometimes the media can be pretty harsh (and generally inaccurate) in their coverage of public libraries, but here's an article that gets it. The Marin Free Journal posted an editorial on how public libraries in Marin County are helping close the digital divide in their community. In addition to public access computers, Marin County libraries offer quite a few mobile services, such as a dedicated library app, a mobile catalog, access to the Mango mobile apps (for learning languages, and support for Overdrive e-books. Positive press for libraries is a big deal because it can be a huge funding opportunity and gets the general public up-to-speed on all that the library does.
Got any mobile for good news you want to share? Log in and let us know in the comments.
Image 1: Virgin Mobile USA Press Center
Image 2: Shutterstock
Image 3: iFixit
Ginny Mies is a Content Curator at TechSoup Global.