The last few weeks have been interesting as far as news cycles go. With the first US Ebola diagnosis, growing concerns over this disease have dominated news channels and websites everywhere. However, buried under the concerns that the disease might spread farther than ever before, have been a few noteworthy items that those active on the Internet should take note of.
Facebook's New Safety Check Feature
On March 12, 2014, an EF4 tornado devastated my small town in southern Indiana. As the vicious monster took out roofs, houses, trees and the local school, it also took down phone lines and all means of communication with the outside world.
Frantic relatives and friends were worried sick about us and it wasn't until hours and hours later that we were able to get enough signal to get out a quick text or two and let a handful know we were okay.
Facebook has come up with a solution to this problem and it's quite brilliant. It is called Safety Check.
This app uses Facebook to both let family and friends know you are okay during times of crisis and for you to check on those you may be worried about.
In addition, if the app senses you are in an area affected by disaster, it will send you a reminder to check in and let your loved ones know you're safe or not in the area impacted by the disaster. The app will then update your Facebook wall and your friends will see that you're okay.
Brilliant. I wish this app had been around two years ago.
Microsoft Azure and Ebola Cures
You may have heard of Microsoft Azure for Research. Azure is a project that lets scientists use Microsoft's cloud to upload experiments and work with other scientists in the field.
Microsoft announced on October 20th that access to Azure would be free to any qualified Ebola researcher.
By putting information on the cloud, researchers can more easily develop vaccines and treatments. It will also be used to distribute information on containing and treating the disease.
There is one rule of thumb, however. Those applying need to be not only qualified in the field of Ebola research but affiliated with an academic institution, such as an accredited university.
AT&T Plays with Fire and Pays
The FCC and the FTC joined together and fined AT&T $105 for mobile cramming. This simply means that they allowed mobile charges that were unauthorized by the user to be billed to consumers and then took a kickback of about 35%.
According to Tech Dirt, this was also the largest fine ever given by the FCC.
AT&Ts decision to charge for premium services may have impacted you, especially if you used your mobile device to access the Internet.
As a business owner, being able to access your email, social media and check your websites without fear of incurring out of control charges is a vital part of doing business.
Time magazine estimates that about 350,000 customers have already asked for refunds. Do you feel you were charged for premium services, such as horoscopes or other tips that you did not actually subscribe to? If so, you have until May 1, 2015 to file a claim with the FTC.
Those are three of the important Internet news items in this cycle.