Our Privacy is Shit And You Know It

privacy in India

Privacy is one of those things we don’t talk about a lot in India. Every now and then there’s a small debate in some corner of the social web, where concerned citizens get together and discuss how our privacy is shit. It’s clear by now that we don’t have any major privacy laws in the country.

Things will only get worse from here. More people are signing up for internet access, the government itself wants to promote the vision of a digital India, and more internet connectivity is exploding thanks to the current 4G LTE wave. You’d imagine by now we would have a serious discussion regarding our privacy. But no.

All of us are up for sale on the internet. If you have ever purchased anything online, chances are you are very likely to be on some sort of database that’s up for grabs. These databases sell for anywhere between Rs.5,000-Rs.15,000 depending on the weight. The details include names, addresses, primary cell phone numbers, preferred mode of payment, and even mode of transaction with amount.

Websites are openly selling user data at a flat price.

That’s a lot of sensitive information. Sometimes that’s all you need to break into someone’s account using basic social engineering skills. Now the question is who is leaking all these details? It could be the e-commerce companies, logistics partners, or third-party service providers to e-commerce companies. The points of leaks can be endless.

Local e-commerce companies treat your personal data like it doesn’t matter. Someone I knew in the industry, who worked in marketing, was regularly given dumps of customer data for manual segmentation. There was nothing in place to prevent him to take home all this sensitive information, and sell outside. Then there are logistics partners which ask for customer details like phone numbers during delivery.

Last year a market research firm reached out to me, saying they were doing a survey for Paytm. On being asked if Paytm shared my personal details with them, the person on the other end politely declined. I don’t even know what’s going on anymore.

The offline world isn’t any better. Most offline retail stores now ask for a phone number while checking out. They do this to send you text messages every now and then. Then there are loyalty programs at retail stores, petrol pumps, and all across. All this data finds its way into databases that are up for grabs.

Once the spamming begins there’s no DND (do not disturb) in the world to make it stop. These spammers find loopholes there too. Another area where this information gets misused is to steal users’ identity. Getting personal information makes it super easy for just about anyone to break into your personal accounts, be it a social networking website or a financial entity.

With the government expanding its coverage of Aadhaar, it’s only obvious for them to come up with privacy laws. Apart from protecting the rights of its citizens, it can also help instil a level of confidence amongst everyone for government projects like UID.

The same problems exist with privacy regarding Aadhaar. The ways in which both government and non-government entities are collecting Aadhaar numbers and putting them up on the web makes it a nightmare for everyone. Some educational institutions also go to the extent of uploading highly sensitive information like phone numbers, bank account numbers, Aadhaar number, etc. It’s only a matter of time before Aadhaar based databases go up on sale.

Privacy is shit, no doubt. What can one do about it? Not much. You can ensure you don’t buy online on shady websites. You could give out fake numbers at retail stores. But all this isn’t really bulletproof. One way or the other you’re likely to fall into their trap because nothing is keeping these guys scared from doing what they do.

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love My Aadhaar Card

Aadhar card india

It took me a few months to get my hands on my Aadhar card. But once I had it, there were no emotions to express my joy. After moving to a new place, it became my only valid proof of residence. That means I could sign up for an internet service, get a new post-paid mobile connection, or even open a brand new bank account.

One ID to rule them all. Certainly.

According to the numbers, around 88% of the Indian population has already signed up for an Aadhar number. Two things that helped achieve this number are benefits linked exclusively to Aadhar subscribers by the government, and secondly the ease of signing up for one.

But Aadhaar isn’t all that green. It is the world’s biggest biometric database which makes it more attractive for security breaches. Privacy remains a strong concern for a large chunk of the Indian population given how we don’t have a single solid privacy law in the country.

Another thing that annoys most people (and sometimes me as well) is the way the government keeps on making Aadhaar mandatory for key services. Just yesterday, we got to know Aadhaar would be mandatory for filing taxes now. If you thought having a PAN was enough, think again. That’s not all. The government is keen on linking Aadhaar to all bank accounts, and in all probability a major chunk of all other things one can imagine.

The next note-bandi might be just Aadhaar-bandi

Aadhaar will basically serve as an easy identifier for the government linked databases. This will also include all financial holdings for citizens, which was earlier tied to PAN. Imagine all medical, financial, government records tied to one single identification number in the near future. It sounds convenient but it’s equally scary too.

The current government which loved to make all sorts of jokes about the whole UID project is now keen on making it a grand success. The Supreme Court doesn’t want the government to extend support for Aadhaar in a way that makes it mandatory but the government is the legitimate mafia. They continue to find loopholes to bring Aadhar in everyone’s pocket.

But if you pack all your worries in a sack and think about the advantages you may just start loving Aadhaar. I don’t know if it’s the convenience of walking in to a mobile phone operator’s store, and walking out with a working connection in less than 30 minutes or getting banks to open a new account without multiple IDs or introductions from existing customers, all I know is Aadhaar has a grand vision to make our lives easier.

I do understand it will take a lot more for the government to reassure the citizens. I do agree we need a strong privacy bill right now. I also know we are highly likely to have security breaches and misuses going forward. All these still need to be addressed.

But for now, I’m happy to press my thumb against a fingerprint reader in the hope of better, and quicker services.

The Great Indian Festive Season Sale 2016

Diwali offers on electronics

Diwali is certainly the Indian Christmas. There’s joy all around and everyone is happy to empty their wallets and bank accounts. For years offline retailers have tried to make the most out of it. The growing Indian e-commerce scene is throwing them away from consumers’ shopping goals quickly.

There three major festive season sales that are worth checking out this year are:

  1. Amazon Great Indian Festival Sale (October 1-5)
  2. Flipkart Big Billion Day Sale (October 2-6)
  3. Snapdeal Unbox Diwali Sale (October 2-6)

Who doesn’t like a great discount and a no-nonsense shopping experience?

This year the stakes are even higher. Major online marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, and Snapdeal are pushing themselves to go even further. The goal is to get as many sales as possible. Diwali shopping accounts for the maximum sales for these online retail giants in the country.

Almost all major players have poured in millions in cash, added new warehouses, and streamlined logistics operations to ensure customers get a smooth overall experience. The last couple of festive season sales have helped provide a decent amount of feedback for online retailers.

It’s a great time for consumers to enjoy shopping online. There’s going to be a good number of deals and offers available across all product categories. Some of the products that sell the most during these sales include smartphones, LED TVs, tablets, laptops, fashion apparel, computer accessories, etc.

This year Flipkart has laid out several specific days on which different offers will open for multiple categories. Snapdeal is likely to open all offers on the first day, and Amazon will do the same. All the deals will start going live at midnight. These sales will involve both time bound as well as daily deals. The best deals during these festive season sales will be available on a limited stock only. Make sure you don’t waste time thinking.

Make sure you follow @DealsForGeeks on Twitter to ensure you don’t miss any great deal.

Happy shopping!

One Month With Reliance Jio Network

Jio SIM card in Chandigarh

The hype is real. If you’ve been following the news on the social web or the mainstream media, you must have come across the buzz words, “Reliance Jio is launching soon”. We’ve all been hearing these for the last couple of months. The company went from an employee-only testing phase to a gradual user beta test in the last couple of weeks.

I tried the Reliance Jio 4G network in Chandigarh and Mohali on a smartphone as well as their JioFi 2 device. So far the data speeds have been quite consistent. Jio also seems to have resolved the interconnection issue with other operators to make sure almost all calls go through. But speeds don’t matter for a network that hasn’t launched yet, and calls will naturally get better over time.

As of now I’m more excited about Jio’s network coverage. Indoors I’ve been getting a consistent signal, with data speeds up to 5-10Mbps at the weakest point inside the house. Note that this is the area in my house where none of the networks are able to penetrate. LTE is pretty hard to get indoors. But Jio somehow made it.

Up on the first floor, the speeds range anywhere between 25-30Mbps on the JioFi device. Again, these speeds are irrelevant as Jio doesn’t have enough users. But it gives you a sense of what you can expect to get once the data plans are announced.

The only question to ask here is how Jio will price their 4G network services one it launches commercially. That’s what everyone really wants to know. Several reports claim that Reliance Jio has already chalked out tariff plans for calls and data, and is currently in the process of ramping up its activation stores across the country.

There will be around 500 activation centres across the country where consumers will be able to sign up for Jio 4G network. In Chandigarh and Mohali alone I’ve seen a lot of smaller mobile phone outlets using Jio branded signboards. That means you won’t have to queue up outside Reliance Digital and DigitalExpress stores to get a new Reliance Jio SIM card in Chandigarh and Mohali.

The Anatomy of an Online Sale

Who doesn’t love a good online sale? We’re all guilty of making useless irrational purchases every single time a major online retailer announces a promotional sale. I am probably one of the worst when it comes to online sales. The thing’s hit me so bad lately, I’ve decided to pen down my experience as well as my observations around each major sale. It’ll be alright if we’re not friends after you read this.

Each major online sale include four major components.
Continue reading “The Anatomy of an Online Sale”

5 Best Ways to Improve your Website

As a small business owner you need to understand the value of maintaining a strong website. A website isn’t something that you can create once and forget about it. You have to continuously make efforts to keep improving it. As your business grows, your website needs to reflect it. On the internet your website is the face of your small business. Websites help you execute your online selling strategies more effectively.

There are several reason why you need to spend time and other resources in improving your small business website. Your website needs to stand out from the competition and it can only be done if you continue iterating your design process. Websites that lay stress on the user experience become hot favorites amongst consumers. There are a lot of benefits of marketing your business online.

Here are five ways you can easily and quickly improve your website:

1. Create an interactive navigation

A navigation is the heart and soul of a website. You don’t want your customers to get lost in the middle of something. You also want your customers to be able to access any information that they may be useful to them. A clear navigation bar serves this purpose. Make sure your website has a good navigation that offers links to all segments of your website. Typically, you want to create a navigation system with 5-6 top-level categories especially pages about your small business, contact information, blog, etc.

2. Optimize the content on your website

Your website’s foundation blocks are the pieces of content that you place in it. To improve your website, you should focus on optimizing all the content on your website. A good point to start off with the process is to go through the existing content on your website. This is called on-page optimization. A few simple measures like correct headlines, descriptive content and proper links to other pages on your website can go a long way in optimizing your website for search engines. Your content should reflect your small businesses’ online selling strategies.

3. Place clear call to action buttons

Your website’s sole purpose is to generate leads and offer relevant information. Once your prospective customers start showing an interest in buying your products or services, there needs to be a simple and effective way to turn them into paid customers. Generating leads using these call to action buttons are one of the benefits of marketing your business online. Placing clear, well designed and relevant call to action buttons on specific locations of your website will help you achieve this goal. For example: you could place a button to enable users to ask for a quote on a page where you explain a product that you sell.

4. Dig deeper into analytics

To track how users, react to your website you need to focus on analytics. Web analytics services allow you to gain user data whenever someone visits your websites. This data holds valuable information that can tell you how users end up on your website, how they navigate across the website, which pages are more visited and so on. All this data can tell you what is working well for your website and what isn’t. You need to have a clear goal about what you want your website to function as. Go through these analytics and keep experimenting with your web design and content to see how these user metrics shift.

5. Add customer testimonials

There’s nothing more convincing for prospective customers than your existing customers’ review of your small business. Regularly keep these customer testimonials updated on your website. Place them on key website locations such as product and service pages where your prospective customers are looking at your credibility. These testimonials go a long way in building consumer trust. While adding customer testimonials make sure you add relevant information about your customers along with a photo. These convince users as the testimonials appear genuine.

 

28 Ways to Market Your Small Business Online for Free

A lot of smart business owners are intrigued about how the internet can help them market their products and services better. Thanks to technology, there are now unlimited opportunities for small business owners to efficiently promote their business online. While there are both paid and free ways to do it, we suggest you get started with the free resources first. These will help you get an initial audience and will also help you understand how various online platforms work.

Here are 28 ways you can promote your small business online. All of these free and well proven methods to getting noticed online.

Continue reading “28 Ways to Market Your Small Business Online for Free”

After Hitting Europe, Jolla Smartphone Is Now Coming To India

 

After Europe, the Finnish smartphone maker Jolla is now looking towards India. The company has reportedly signed up an exclusive deal with a local online store to sell its Jolla smartphones in a country where pricing makes all the difference.

According to the company, the Jolla smartphone will be available exclusively on SnapDeal in around a month’s time. India isn’t alone on Jolla’s list of next potential markets. The company is looking to partner with distributors in countries like Russia, Hong Kong, and others to help sell its Jolla smartphones.

Announced in May 2013, the Jolla smartphone went on sale in November last year. The smartphone features a 4.5-inch IPS qHD display, and is powered by a 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC comprising of a dual-core processor, supported by 1GB of RAM. There’s 16GB of on-board storage but there are options to extend it further using a microSD memory card.

Jolla is powered by a 2100mAh battery. There’s an 8MP camera at the back that comes with an LED flash, and there’s a 2MP front-facing camera for video calls. The phone’s shell can be switched to multiple options, dubbed as “The Other Half” by the company.

The company was launched by a bunch of ex-Nokia employees. They had worked on MeeGo previously, which forms the base for the Sailfish OS which powers the Jolla smartphone. However the company claims that its OS is also capable of running premier Android applications quite easily. In European countries, the Jolla smartphone sells for around ?29,000 (350 Euros). There’s no official word on the pricing in India as of now.

The Jolla smartphone won’t be the first online-exclusive smartphone in India. Previously, the Motorola Moto X was launched exclusively on major e-commerce platform Flipkart, followed by the Moto G and Moto E. Xiaomi also decided to partner with Flipkart for their Mi 3 smartphone. It seems like partnering up with local online sellers makes sense for newer companies so that they don’t have to spend a lot on storage, and distribution.

Image source: www.jolla.com

5 Reasons Why Apple’s Next iPhone Is Going To Be Huge For Developers

 

The next iPhone is just around the corner. Market speculations point towards a September 9th announcement. Apple’s new iPhone, likely to be titled iPhone 6, will be this year’s biggest smartphone launch for a number of reasons. For developers, it brings a whole new package of opportunities.

Apple pretty much defines the smartphone market with its iPhone launches. Till the last couple of years, most manufacturers were just happy to copy some of the features Apple introduced on its iPhones. For example: iPhone 5s included a fingerprint sensor for the first time on a phone, Samsung and other manufactures were happy to add it to their phones.

Let’s take a look at five of the biggest reasons why this year’s iPhone launch is probably Apple’s biggest ever so far:

1. iOS 8 – A Far More Stable, And Better Mobile Operating System

Apple claims its mobile operating system is the most advanced mobile OS out there. In several ways, it’s true. When it comes to stability, performance, and the overall user experience, there’s nothing like iOS. Last year’s iOS upgrade was a radical transformation from the company’s previous user interface which had stuck for a long time.

iOS 8 makes last year’s transformation rock solid. It fixes previous issues, while adding a ton of new features. iOS 8 is, according to Apple, huge for developers and massive for everyone else. iOS 8 SDK comes with over 200 new APIs. Developers now have access to more tools and deeper access to the underlying operating system.

Developers now have the ability to create custom keyboards, use Touch ID, and iCloud, and even more. Apple has a great track record for getting maximum number of users to upgrade to the latest version of the mobile OS. That is certainly encouraging for developers, who’ve had access to the beta editions of the upcoming iOS since a few weeks after WWDC.

2. Integration With OS X Yosemite

For years, Apple has been trying to bring its mobile and desktop operating systems together. This year we will see iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite bring that vision to reality with a number of features. Continuity and Handoff are two such features that Apple announced at WWDC this year.

Handoff allows users to pick up a specific app where they’ve left working on a mobile device like a tablet or a smartphone, on their desktop. The magic happens in the background using iCloud. Apps like Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Mac, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts already have the feature on OS X Yosemite. Developers will also be able to bake these into their mobile apps.

Users will also be able to receive their calls and text messages directly on their Mac running OS X Yosemite from an iPhone running iOS 8 nearby. The feature comes quite handy for users who do not always keep their phone with them when inside a house or an office.

3. A New Era Of Mobile Apps

iOS 8, along with the new iPhone, will help developers create a new genre of mobile apps. With almost 4,000 new APIs in iOS 8, and a number of expected new hardware enhancements on the iPhone 6, developers will have a whole new market to exploit.

Apple announced a new programming language called Swift at the company’s annual developer event this year. We’ll see more developers pushing Swift-powered mobile apps, that are much better when it comes to performance, and have an immersive user experience. The possibilities are just endless. Swift can also be used to write apps for the Mac, and is seen as an obvious replacement for Objective C.

4. Apple’s AppStore Is Breaking Records Already

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, just announced on Twitter that the App Store tracked a record number of sales in the month of July. There’s hardly anything surprising about it, the App Store has been hitting record numbers ever since it came out. Statistically, Apple developers earn more money than any other mobile platform out there.

With a new device scheduled for fall this year, and a number of previous devices getting a free upgrade on both mobile and desktop, the Apple AppStore remains a reliable choice for developers across the globe.

5. Two Instead Of One New iPhone This Year

Last year, Apple introduced two new iPhones — the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s. The former was mainly the iPhone 5 in a plastic casing, with a few minor changes. This year’s rumors have it that Apple might launch the new iPhone in two difference screen sizes. If it’s true, this would be the first time something like this happens with an iPhone.

That means developers will be able to build apps for a slightly bigger iPhone. Several hints so far point towards a bigger iPhone being made available this year. Xcode 6 beta, the IDE for writing iOS and Mac apps, allows developers to create apps for a new form factor. The simulator in the new Xcode allows developers to preview their apps in virtually any form factor. A bigger iPhone display could open up opportunities for a number of mobile app developers in the entertainment, and general apps category.

Image source: www.apple.com/ios/ios8/preview

Microsoft’s Next Desktop Operating System Release Will Undo Windows 8 Mistakes

 

Microsoft is reportedly planning on going back to the basics with its next major desktop operating system release. Windows 8 should have been the biggest learning lesson for the software giant. The next release of Windows is currently scheduled to arrive for general consumers by spring 2015.

Codenamed Windows “Threshold”, the OS might just be labelled Windows 9 when it launches. The Microsoft Operating Systems Group is currently hard at work, trying to make a big attempt to bring back loyal Windows users to the desktop.

Several rumors have started floated around that point towards a more desktop based approach for the next OS release. A lot of new features are being carved out that will help desktop users gain more control, and improve the overall user experience for Windows users.

That’s interesting, since Microsoft gave birth to a whole new user interface with Windows 8 that focussed more on a touch and keyboard based control. Will Windows 9 roll back to a more traditional desktop user interface? It sure looks that way. It’ll be interesting to see how the company justifies it. We might just see two different versions of the OS — touch based and non-touch based — just to please most users.

Windows 9 is expected to look and feel different, according to recent reports. Hybrid devices are likely to support both desktop and Metro designed interfaces, while simple desktops will fall back to a more desktop-friendlier user interface. However the mobile edition of Windows 9 is unlikely to come with a desktop environment for obvious reasons.

This means Microsoft is undoing a lot of UI and UX mistakes it committed with the Windows 8, when it first launched. A lot of product basics will also be done right, for desktop. This primarily translates into better support for devices that carry the conventional keyboard and mouse combination for input. Non-touch friendly devices are likely to experience a much better interface with Windows 9.

Now that Windows “Threshold” is slated for a spring 2015 release, there’s not much room for multiple Windows 8 or Windows 7 service pack and other updates. There’s one crucial update for Windows 8.1 that’s still pending, we should expect it later this summer.

Image source: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-IN/windows-8/meet