Ng: Phone bills, app payments

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

A FEW years back, I was trying to understand how to use a digital camera when I saw, what was for me then, a really strange feature. It had to do with smiling. You could program the camera to detect the face and also the smile and not take a photo unless the person smiles. I have since been in many photo situations involving many cameras which presumably have this feature, but I have never had the experience of anybody using this feature. Is it useless technology?

Well, an artist recently introduced a conceptual TV, which is Smile TV. And the concept is the same. It is a TV, and it plays short video clips, but hidden behind the TV is a camera which observes the viewer. If you don’t smile, it will put static images on the screen, while if you smile, the program will go on. It is a good viral buzz that creates feedback – it only works when you smile.
Sometimes using technology can be exciting, but sometimes it can give you a shock. I encountered already so many times friends, and even family members who go abroad, use the cellphone and come home to face charges from the telco company anywhere from P10,000 to a few hundred thousand pesos in bills– all for a few days outside the country.

So you always have to be careful - if you have not tried it, always set data roaming in the cellphone to “No.”


The other one that would give you sticker price shock are app stores like that for Apple or Android store, or in this case, Amazon Store. I once looked at a small child playing an Android game, I think it was candy crush. I was quite impressed that she had passed so many levels. Then as I watched her play, I saw her buy additional move options, or additional weapons or chances. How could she afford that? It must be that her parent authorized her to buy these options but disabled the re-inputting of the identity that will unlock the credit card. My, that could run up to some thousands of pesos.

Apparently, this is also happening in Amazon. Amazon is famous for its one-click option, where sometimes if your device is already authenticated, you don’t have to re-input your credit card or your password when you buy something. Apparently there has been a lot of suits filed against this, and in recent news, the Federal Trade Commission of the United States noted that the company illegally billed parents for millions of dollars in unauthorized in-app charges made by children through their mobile devices. It’s the same banana- children can purchase virtual goods like extra coins or energy in a game, without any password requirements, which allows kids to buy them without restraints.

It can come in many forms. Most of them now require you to input a password whenever you want to charge something, but still some have shortcuts you have to be aware of. For instance, a parent complained that his child asked him to buy something, and he authorized it, but apparently the approval automatically allowed any other purchase for up to an hour after the approval. The Federal Trade commission for instance early this year asked Apple to refund at least $32.5 million to customers as part of this settlement. You need to be careful – we are not in the United States, and we don’t have any valid means to ask for refunds from American companies.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 15, 2014.


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