Facebook applications data mining your information.

Where is your facebook personal information going?
How is your facebook information used?
Which companies are using your facebook information?
Do you trust businesses that are farming your friend's and your personal information?
The short answer, nobody knows where or what is going on with your facebook profile information!

How a facebook application works:
Imagine your facebook page, which runs the any application, as an electronic picture frame, simply a border.
Your facebook application is written, coded, etc, just like this website.
With one exception. You can view the coding for this website. With a facebook application, game, picture changer, etc, you cannot.
The facebook application appears in your electronic picture frame, ie, with your facebook links all around it.
It is running on an entirely seperate website from facebook.
How do you view the coding for it so you know what's going on with information?
Unless you are a computer buff, you can't!

A new facebook friend started using a regular photo app and invited me to use it also.
I attempted to block the photo app from access to my data.
On the first screen giving me a chance to accept or decline the app, it listed all the information it required.

* Full access to my newsfeed, wall, email, photographs, videos and friends.
* Full access to my updates, fan pages and groups that I'd joined.
[Read: Everything I had placed on facebook]

I declined, another screen popped up.

"For the app to work, it will also have access to:"

* My friends list.
* My friend's newsfeeds.
* My friend's pictures and videos.
* My friend's email.
* My friend's groups, fan pages and "like" selections.
* MY friend's walls, profile information and settings.

This can include home and mobile phone numbers, email addresses, personal home addresses, family associations, shopping habits, products you "like"... you get the picture.

Is all this information really neccessary?
I think not.

More alarming, was the facebook application's "Terms and conditions" for anyone using the "service"!
Never, have I seen a more vague and contradictive set of terms and conditions and trust me, I've come across some dodgy ones in my time on this planet.

"We will not sell or pass on your information to any other company [*Notice nothing is said about your friend's information!]"
Two lines later....
"We reserve the right to pass on your information to any of our affiliate, corporate or parent companies"
So what about protection of all my friend's and my data?
"Your data will be stored in a secure way at all times"
A few lines further on...
"We cannot guarantee that your information will be always be stored in areas that are covered by data protection"
Hardly trustworthy is it.
So what about the actual information/pictures, etc.
This becomes their company's property and can be used as they so wish.
Hold on a mo, these are my pictures, my information, my email address, shouldn't they belong to me at all times facebook?

I tracked the facebook application back to the company website to try and learn about the company behind it.
A quick check on the website on which the facebook application is running reveals they have 9 other facebook applications running from the same domain name (website address) all different from the photo application that wanted to mine all this data.
Further digging on the owners of the company reveals they have received millions of dollars in loans to set up the company after they worked in a big corporation, so successful has their business been that they recently paid off their loans early and sold their business to a market leading corporation in their industry.
The industry the company is in, is called "Content Delivery Network" or CDN.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_delivery_network

Companies in this field are in the business of providing streaming videos, for example, saving server space, faster speeds, etc.
I am presuming their facebook applications business is a sideline?
Hard to though when the company has been sold?

So when you have friends who play games, change photographs, etc, on facebook, using an application, they are already "sharing" your information, pics, etc.
They will have already accepted the terms and conditions of the company running the facebook app.
There are no safeguards, security procedures or legal bodies that can track what your information is being used for and protect it.
Consumer bodies have mentioned about official government offices having access to the information out there, I would suggest tightening up controls and getting a grip on what the private sector are doing in the first instance, BEFORE anymore of our information is shared.

One disturbing point, that will be looked at in the future posts, is facebook's role in all of this.
I use an email address as a secure log in name, to log on to my account with them. I do not expect, or have ever been asked, if this secure email address is/can be distributed to every company that owns and runs a facebook application!

Financial Ombudsman Service rule against PPI refund claim on the basis of psychic powers?

A PPI refund claim, which I raised with the financial ombudsman's service (FOS) has been declined, because the ombudsman, was not "persuaded that the customer would most likely have acted differently [read: refused to buy] had they been properly advised, informed and fully understood the position [of the PPI sale]"

This statement in itself, acknowledges that the ombudsman agreed with the claim, that the customer WAS NOT properly advised and informed so they could have fully understood the PPI product being sold.
How the FOS can rule against a PPI complaint because they couldn't prove that they wouldn't have bought the PPI had they been accurately informed, is a complete joke!

I wasn't aware that to find in favour of a customer reclaiming against a PPI product being mis sold, the customer must convince the FOS that, had they been given accurate information at the point of sale, they would not have bought the product?
Something that cannot be physically proven cannot be the basis of any sound judgement!
How can anyone prove that they would or wouldn't have done something, had something else been done differently?

I was under the impression that for a claim to be upheld in favour of a customer, the FOS would need to see proof that;
* The company gave the customer information [about the PPI product] that was clear, fair and not misleading, in order to put the customer in a position where they could make an informed choice about the insurance they were buying.
* In giving any advice or recommendation, that the company took adequate steps to ensure that the PPI product it recommended was suitable for the customer's needs.

If the customer can prove that any aspects of the selling process of the PPI were misleading, untrue, false, etc, or that information given about the benefits of the PPI were not as the company said they were, then surely this is ample grounds for upholding the claim and finding in favour of the customer getting a refund?
At the end of the Ombudsman's letter they acknowledge that the customer was not properly advised, therefore mislead.

Of course the real reason for refusing the complaint here is related to "middle man" company, that acts as a filter to protect the individual business from Financial services authority audit and complaints to the ombudsman.

Heres how it works: Individual business (ie. car dealership the customer buys from) - Middle man company (which receives fees from individual business for training staff in updates of FSA policies, complaint prevention,etc. and pays fees to the FSA) - financial ombudsman service (Which have ombudsmen put in place by the fee receiving FSA, the same FSA that "advises" the middle man company on policy for fees).

- Customer complains to the dealership and gets fobbed off.
- Complaint is handed over to middle man company. After "extensive review" *Ever heard a company ruling against it's own training service for which it is getting paid? No, me neither!
- Complaint is refused and customer given option to go to FOS.
- FOS looks at complaint, but never contacts the dealership in any of it's investigations, instead contacts the middle man company.
- FOS agrees with customer that they were mislead in sales process, that cancellation fees existed for PPI but customer was told they were not.
- FOS then refuses the complaint, on the grounds that they were not convinced that the customer wouldn't have bought the PPI had they known the cancellation fees existed - this is despite evidence given and witnesses to the sale backing up the complaint, that the PPI was only signed for on the premise that no cancellation fees existed!

Where the middle man company comes into it, is that the financial ombudsman service will not rule against a middle man company, as they are designated training companies of the FSA!
To rule against the middle man company would then force the FSA to stop the work of the middle man company auditing individual businesses for them, and action would have to be taken against them, which would damage their financial connection.
If the middle man company are suspended/awarded against for any reason, it would cut funding to the FSA.
How many companies do you know, that will cut their own funding by choice? *I know of none!

A clear conflict of interest exists, which the FOS and the FSA both deny.

So how about the FSA and the FOS tell us how many times they have ruled against one of these middle man companies? (There are just over 600 middle man companies, each one can have thousands of individual businesses paying them fees)
They refused.
Freedom of Information act will force them to reveal?
The act doesn't apply to the FSA or the FOS.
What about just the name of any other middle man company so they can be checked?
They refused.

This is why a complaint against a middle man company must satisfy the financial ombudsman of something that has nor will, ever happen.
I could understand the ombudsman ruling against the complaint because they were not convinced that anything misleading took place, but as they admitted in writing, they were satisfied that this was the case.
So why is it not enough to prove your case with facts, witnesses, etc?

There were other major points regarding being mislead at the point of sale, the ombudsman did their "extensive" review of the case then forgot to mention a single one of them in their refusal letter. When asked why there was no mention of them, they said, "No comment!"

If the psychic powers of the ombudsman rule that in a parallel universe, somewhere in the future, you would have bought the PPI policy had you known you were being mislead anyway, then you have no chance of winning your complaint.

Eon misleading customers on "6% price cut" claims

Heard the one about Eon and it's "6% price cut for electricity"?
If you are with Eon I would contact them and check the facts, as I did, and with electricity price and standing charge cuts combined, are not as Eon's press office have claimed!

After recent press announcements that Eon were "cutting price of electricity by 6%" I contacted Eon via their twitter feed (http://www.twitter.com/EONhelp) to ask if they would also be cutting their standard charge, which had increased by 19% at the same time as their recent price increases of 19%.
I was assured that their standing charges were being cut also, in my area, once the exact details were available they would come back to me.

Today Eon came back to me.
Quoting reduction in electricity price per kWh and reduction in standing charge in pence per day.
Put these reductions into percentages and it's easy to see why Eon chose to present the reductions in pence per day and pence per kWh - "6% cut" claims are false!

FACT - Our electricity with Eon has fallen by only 5.3%
FACT - Our standing charge has fallen by just 0.6%

Via Eon's twitter feed today, the emphasis is on percentages in the press, stated by Eon, as being "an average" percentage.

Let's provide some evidence of these "average of 6% cut" claims from Eon;

* "Energy company E.On is to cut its standard electricity prices by 6%, from Monday 27 February." (16-1-2012) source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16580323 - No mention of an average percentage cut on the BBC website.

* "E.ON announces 6% cut in electricity prices
 E.ON has today (MON 16 JAN) announced a 6% decrease in its standard electricity prices" (16-1-2012) source:
http://pressreleases.eon-uk.com/blogs//eonukpressreleases/archive/2012/01/16/1778.aspx - No mention of an average percentage cut on Eon's own website.

* "We've announced a cut in our electricty price of 6%" (16-1-2012) source: Eon's official twitter feed post which can be found at https://twitter.com/talkingenergy - no mention of an average percentage cut there.

* "Eon to cut electricity prices - Standard electricity tariff will drop by 6%" (16-1-2012) source: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2012/01/eon-to-cut-electricity-prices-276886/ - no mention of an average percentage cut there either.

The same results from a number of other high profile media websites:
- Guardian
- telegraph
- sky
You get the picture.

Eon have been stating the following;
"We have announced a 6% decrease in our standard electricity prices. The decrease, which equates to £31 off the average annual bill, will take effect from Monday 27th February 2012"
The £31 off the average bill claims give no indication whatsoever that they were arrived at by an average percentage reduction in their electricity prices - instead pointing to the figure of £31 being "Based on an Ofgem average of 3,300 kWh per annum paying by fixed monthly Direct Debit" source:
http://www.eonenergy.com/Price+decrease.htm

Now to you and me, a 6% reduction in electricity prices claim should be exactly that. Eon's price of electricity should fall by 6%, so why is ours only falling by 5.3%?

Now for the standing charge "cut"
Our standing charge costs our home £99.60 per year - whether we spend one penny piece on electricity or not - it is being "cut" by a staggering 0.6%
This equates to *Brace yourself... a whopping 1.15p per week!
Or to put it another way, a saving of 5p per calendar month!

Here are some of the twitter questions and answers from todays exchanges (Mine in bold):
@EONhelp Thanks for the #standingcharge info, however, if you cut 6% from 27.29p per day [standing charge], it should be 25.65p not 27.13p per day?
- @frugal_ways 6% is average across all tariffs, regions & levels of usage. Some will be more, some less. Your kWh price down 5.3%
@EONhelp C'mon, even you have to admit that #eon's standing charge "cut" of just 0.6% for #Lancashire is laughable after a 19% rise!

@EONhelp standing charge now £99.60 a year - after 6% "cut" it will be £99.02 a year a "saving" of 58p per year or just 1.1p per week #poor
- No reply
No reply because it is not being cut by 6%?

@EONhelp So Lancashire's kWh price down 5.3% which means other areas get a bigger than 6% (average) cut, name them please?
* If my cut is below average, by definition there must be some areas that will have their prices cut by more than the stated 6%
- @frugal_ways % cut depends on many things. Tariff, E7 or 1 rate, usage etc. Varies within regions as well as between regions

@EONhelp "% cut depends on usage" - don't follow that at all? What about the standing charge "cut" - 1.1p per week is pathetic do you agree?
- @frugal_ways Cut in press is average based on combo of things. Use one. Your SC cut less than some but SC still cheaper than most

So no other area given which receives a bigger percentage cut than 6%
No answer to what Eon mean by "percentage cut depends on usage"
How does this stack up with the press releases and marketing about "6% cut in Eon's electricity price"?
Even on official Eon web pages, there is no mention of the "% cut depends on many things. Tariff, E7 or 1 rate, usage etc"

The reason why there is no mention or disclaimer, is because Eon have been caught out with their proverbial pants down.
Putting out a statement saying they have "cut electricity prices by 6%" is misleading. The BBC website even includes a diagram listing "-6%" under Eon's electricity price column.

If you are an Eon customer, get in touch with them and find out what your real percentage "cut" is. I'd wager that there's not many in the country that will see their electricity price per kWh fall by exactly the 6% they are claiming!

Eon want to "reset" their relations with their customers, to win back their trust - this misleading behaviour is one of the main reasons customers do not trust Eon in the first place!

UPDATE:
Straight from Eon themselves this morning;

6% is average cut. Some will have more/some less/some exactly 6%.

I have asked;
My area will only get a 5.3% cut, name an area that will get a cut greater than 6%?
- No answer
What do you mean by "% cut will depend on usage"? - (after this twitter reply " % cut depends on many things. Tariff, E7 or 1 rate, usage etc. Varies within regions as well as between regions ")
- No answer

I have posted them a link to this post, they have no comment to make, nothing to say.
I wonder why that is?
Eon's latest top down campaign, is to "reset" relations with their customers to regain "trust" - yet Eon tell their customers that "we are cutting our standard electricity price by 6%" when in fact, they are not.

Santander error is my own fault?

Just before Christmas, we drew £50 from a speedbank. Whilst checking our statement a week later we noticed that Santander had taken the money from our balance twice. A mistake Santander blamed the owner of the speedbank for.
Despite being able to see the duplicated withdrawal on the account, it took the best part of a week and three longwinded and unhelpful phone calls to get the money back.
I would have thought it good practice to safeguard a Santander customer's account by putting safeguards in place to avoid duplicate withdrawals?
Santander staff did not see the logic in this.

At no stage, did Santander accept any blame, as it was "not our cash machine that made the error."

In light of this we put it down to a genuine error/mistake, somewhere between Santander and Tesco, who's cash machine it was.
There was no apology or explanation as to what happened.

On Saturday, when using Santander's "make payments" set up on the Santander website, we had the following experience;

After five payments were made without a problem, a sixth payment was selected. An amount was put into the box and we clicked to confirm.
There was a few minutes delay, as the website attempted to confirm the payment had been made, so I clicked to cancel the transaction.
A box popped up immediately, asking for confirmation of the cancellation, I clicked on yes and the website went back to the main "payments" screen.

I clicked to make a payment on the transaction I had just cancelled, went straight through and made the payment without any delays. After a couple more payments, I went to the main account screen to make sure I hadn't missed a payment out, only to find that the delayed payment, I had clicked to confirm NOT TO PAY, had in fact been paid regardless of my instruction!
Now we have the same monthly bill being paid twice.
A phone call to Santander's telephone banking team went as follows...

* Had to confirm four forms of ID - including the security number on the back of the bank card, that itself would allow a customer service advisor to commit fraud if they so wished - NOT very "secure" are you Santander!

- Using your bill payment system via the website, there was a delayed response, so I clicked to cancel the payment, the confirm box popped up and was clicked. I've gone back into the account and found that your internet banking system ignored my request to cancel before paying and ignored my request to confirm this. Can you put the money back into the account please as it is needed?
* Yes, I can see from your account that it has indeed been paid twice. I will just speak to someone in the internet banking department to see if there are any current issues...
- With respect, I'm not interested in your "systems" and "internet issues" I just want the money paid back as it is needed!
* I won't be a moment.
[Tap your fingers for five minutes on hold with music]
* Hello, I have spoken to the internet banking department and they have informed me that they have no known issues at this time.
- Can we have the money back as it is needed?
* I'm afraid I can't help you with that, but I have a member of our internet banking team on the phone whom you can speak to...
- Can they credit the money back, that your "banking" system took in error?
* No.
- So what's the point of putting me through to another department then? Are you just passing the buck?
* I'm not passing the buck sir...
- Yes you are, all I want is the money back that Santander's error caused to be taken from the account, how do you think that will be sorted out by passing me onto another department that cannot pay the money back?
* They will be able to tell you any problems that the system might be having...
- I am not interested in your systems, I just want the money paid back into the account because it is needed!
* I will let the advsisor from the internet banking department go then as they won't be able to help with that.

[Which begs the question: Why bother getting in touch with them and keeping me on hold whilst you explain the first place?]

- So can you give me the money back your bank's error paid out?
* No! As I told you right at the beginning, I cannot do that!
- So get me a manager that can please?
* We can't give you the money back, you'll have to and ask the company it's been paid to as the payment has gone...
- So now I have to wait until monday to contact the company that Santander have paid twice, then and only then, if they agree to refund, it will take three working days before it appears back in the account, which if I'm lucky will be next friday, almost a week after Santander made the original error?
* There's nothing we can do!

So there you have it folks, if Santander make a mistake by paying a company twice because their website IGNORES your choice to cancel then IGNORES your confirmation of that request to cancel, you are stuffed.
It is not their fault - even though it is - they will refer you to a department that has no influence or power to reverse their own mistake - the department you speak to in the first instance will not have any power to refund their own error, you will have to phone the company (more expense to you) and ask for a refund yourself.

It is irrelevant that Santander made the mistake, their advisors can view it immediately on their screens that it has been paid twice and totally not the fault of the Santander "system" as it has "No known issues at this time"
Funny how Santander's systems always seem to benefit them and not the customer, when a mistake has been made. I wonder why that is???

Trading standards are doing nothing about supermarkets!

Supermarkets can ineffect get away with anything that they want. They are not subjected to the same laws/regulations as anyone else with a business. They are a law unto themselves and we are suffering in our pockets because of it.

I've just come off the phone with a trading standards officer, what a complete joke!

I reported Asda in my area and on a national scale for clearly misleading customers in their recent "price drop" campaign.

Asda:
On January 3rd 2012, Asda post on twitter about their "price drop" campaign, linking to their national blog on the Asda website (No doubt an email campaign as well?) stating that "Warburtons toastie loaf was now only £1.15 down from £1.35" alongside some other products that were reduced.
I replied that this was not the case at all.
The price in the week of 10th Dec 2011 the price was £1.15 and reminded them that they had increased the price to £1.30 from the week of the 18th Dec 2011, over the Christmas and New Year period (ie, the previous 14 days).
The new price of £1.35 represented another increase of 5p per loaf, both instore and on their website.
I could not find any store that was offering the £1.15 "price drop" price advertised.
I reminded them that a higher price must be charged for 28 days before it can be claimed to be "on sale"
Asda did not reply.

24 hours later, I notified Asda again.
Asda staff on twitter did not know which blog post I was referring to, despite these same staff posting on twitter about it and including a direct link to it.
I sent them the links to both their national campaign blog and to their website price checker showing the new higher price of £1.35
I received a reply back saying "Thanks - we'll look into it" around teatime on the 4th of January 2012.
That evening, their national blog was changed to drop the claim that warburtons toastie loaf (and some other products advertised in the same paragraph) was part of their "price drop". Nothing from Asda since and the price continues to be the increased price of £1.35

I notified Trading standards of this and awaited a call back.

This morning I spoke with my local trading standards office.
I'm told that trading standards have "home authority agreements" with other trading standards departments - which means trading standards in the area of asda's head office would have complaints referred to them for investigation.
This complaint will be referred to them but they may not act upon it, as it's only an individual complaint.
- How many complaints are required before trading standards will act?
* It doesn't go off the number of complaints!
- So breaking the law doesn't mean that a complaint will be acted upon?
* But this is just one complaint... it will be logged. They [trading standards in asda head office area] will be working closely with asda...
- I hear this all the time about how official bodies are "working closely" with companies, it's usually code for "doing nothing," and the logged complaint will be dropped after a short while. Who is working closely for us, the customers?
* [Silence!]
- We the taxpayer, fund trading standards to monitor supermarkets and other businesses, and to act when the law is broken, as is clearly the case here
* We do monitor the supermarkets!
- So how did trading standards manage to miss a national blog that mentioned a product directly, miss twitter posts of which trading standards is listed as a user of, miss a national advertising campaign, miss that the price hasn't been charged for 28 days at the higher price and now state that it won't act upon clear information given?
* We can't monitor every single price...
- I'm not talking about our local asda having one wrong price, this is a national campaign probably backed up by an email campaign?, a prime time television promotion, promoted via twitter, facebook, etc, and listed on their national website and instores across the UK at an inflated price which doesn't tally with their advertised "price drop"?
Don't you think this is reason enough to act?
* We do not have the time or resources available...
- Resources? It is free, costs are claimed back when the case is put before a court.
* We are going around in circles now...

Always the same response from businesses when they don't have an answer... "we are going around in circles now" - we wouldn't be going around in circles if they provided us with a straight answer!

I left the trading standards officer with one more issue - how could it be, that despite claims that there is no collusion between the big supermarkets, yet for the entire Christmas and New Year period, rival supermarkets across the country had exactly the same opening and closing times?
* There is nothing wrong with having the same store times between supermarkets...

Totally and utterly useless.
If I were to run my business in this way, trading standards would be all over me like a rash.
It would appear that supermarkets can do whatever they like, and that regulation and trading standards are quite happy to do nothing about it what so ever!
If trading standards are not working for us, why do we continue to pay them millions of taxpayer's money each year?
Even more worrying, who will stand up for us, the customer?

At a time when family finances are stretched to the limit, we need to know that trading standards are doing their job correctly and on our behalf, not on behalf of the big four. Clearly, this is another example of a watchdog/regulator not being fit for purpose!

UPDATE:
In response to comments received, I have provided information on laws and codes of practice that can be applied, in this case. Where possible, I have also provided links to information online for your reference.

Section 20 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 makes it a criminal offence for a person in the course of his business to give consumers a misleading price indication about goods, services, accommodation (including the sale of new homes) or facilities. It applies however you give the price indication - for example, in a TV or press advertisement, on a website, by email or text message, in a catalogue or leaflet, on notices, price tickets or shelf-edge marking in stores, or if you give it orally, for example on the telephone.

Under section 25 of the Act, the act gives the Secretary of State power to approve codes of practice to give practical guidance to traders. It is addressed to traders and sets out what is good practice to follow in giving price indications in a wide range of different circumstances, so as to avoid giving misleading price indications.
It is guidance, rather than mandatory, although it may be taken into account in establishing whether an offence has been committed under the Act.

 

If a Trading Standards Officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that a business has given a misleading price indication, the Act gives the Officer power to require them to produce any records relating to their business and to seize and detain goods or records which the Officer has reasonable grounds for believing may be required as evidence in court proceedings.
It is in the business' interest to be able to demonstrate that any claims they have made are accurate and valid. The Act makes it an offence to obstruct a Trading Standards Officer intentionally or to fail (without good cause) to give any assistance or information the Officer may reasonably require to carry out his duties under the Act.
This code of practice deals only with the requirements of Part III of the Consumer Protection Act 1987.

Where a reduced price is claimed then the product should have been offered for sale at the higher price for at least 28 days in the previous 6 months in the same outlet. If the comparison does not meet those criteria then they should provide an explanation which is unambiguous, easily identifiable and clearly legible to the consumer

Where traders make use of advertisements they should have regard to the relevant rules governing misleading advertising via the Advertising Standards Association.

Other law:
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 -
As published on Trading standards own website
http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/advice/advice-business-ftbussum3.cfm

As is clear, there are many grounds for action by trading standards, a convincing argument for ignoring a legitimate complaint about a national campaign I have yet to hear.

No retraction was made by asda, no acknowledgement was published to thousands of people it advertised to that it got it wrong, made an error, etc.
It took almost 2 days before asda simply removed the text claims from their blog post. Nothing more about it was said.