Bring your company’s ‘dark data’ to light with this free new tool from Tamr

All the analytics tools in the world won’t do a company much good if it doesn’t know what data it has to analyze. Tamr offers a free, downloadable tool designed to help tackle that “dark data” problem.

Dark data generally refers to all the information an organization collects, processes and stores but doesn’t use for analytics or other purposes. It’s often unstructured or qualitative data that’s harder to keep track of than numerical data is, and by research firm IDC’s reckoning, it can account for as much as 90 percent of an organization’s information assets.

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Twitter confirms it’s experimenting with native polls in tweets

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Twitter is looking at possibly letting users add quick polls to their tweets. A company spokesperson confirmed the move in a statement to VentureBeat saying, “We’re experimenting with a new way to poll users on Twitter.”

Right now, it looks like polls are only visible on Twitter’s mobile apps and website, but not on desktop applications like TweetDeck. There’s no indication of whether this capability will be rolled out to the rest of the 316 million monthly active users, as it’s an experiment that could wind up being shelved.

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This isn’t the first time that Twitter has rolled out polls on its communications service. Previously, companies were able to poll their followers through custom card polls. In 2014, Twitter revealed that it was testing out a feature that would enable native ads for publishers. Today’s sightings may hint that these could be rolled out to a wider audience.

From what we’ve seen, all polls have a 24-hour time limit on them.

While Twitter declined to provide more information, a quick query on the site showed that at least Twitter employees and also some verified profiles, including those in the media and in sports, have access to embed these polls.

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Following Google’s lead, telecoms and users can join in the fight against robocalls

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For the first time, Google joined the legal fight last week against robocalls.

It filed suit against a search engine optimization firm in California for robocalls that promised better results from its search engine. It also set up a new Web page for reporting robocall scams.

But even mighty Google can only do but so much to counter the epidemic of robocalls. Carriers can and should do more to combat them, according to Jan Volzke, vp of reputation services for identity management firm Whitepages.

From VentureBeat

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We’re at “at a point where we have no trust in a phone call,” he told me in a recent conversation.

In case you’re one of the six people in the U.S. who haven’t encountered such “extremely urgent” robocalls, here’s one Googlized version that also touts Bing and Yahoo. (Although it’s of the same ilk, it’s not clear if this robocall is from the company Google is suing.)

But things could change. In early summer, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) strengthened carriers’ hand in combatting robocalls.

In a big breakthrough this past June, the FCC gave the carriers the green light to block unwanted calls. The carriers had asked the federal agency to decide if they could legally offer call-blocking, given their common carrier status and other issues. Under common carrier, all traffic needs to be handled in the same manner.

Yes, the agency said. You, the carriers, can block calls.

The FCC also gave consumers additional latitude in how they grant consent and in their ability to block calls. They said consent could be withdrawn at any time, consent is automatically removed if a landline or cell number gets assigned to someone else, and text messages count as robocalls.

Previously, Volzke pointed out, it was difficult to undo consent once you gave it, and “now all robocallers must allow you to get out of it.”

If there is any doubt you have opted out, the FCC clarified that later in the summer — the burden is on the robocalling business to show the user has opted in or that there is an existing business relationship.

Carriers now “need to get serious” about the fight, Volzke said.

As one example of their weak response, he said that carriers offer “these services for a ridiculous $ 4.99 a month to block up to ten [robocalling phone numbers], and then you have to renew it every 30 days.”

He’s not alone in his frustration. The attorneys-general of dozens of states have written to the carriers to take care of this.

But robocalls have not been declining since the FCC’s decision in June. In fact, Volzke said, the amount of mobile spam and robocalls that Whitepages blocks monthly is up about 40 percent since then.

He pointed to several remaining structural issues, such as the fact that unwanted calls can involve multiple carriers and the solution would best be industry-wide. And right now carriers can only block calls as the result of each subscriber’s request — that is, it’s still onesies.

So robocalling — even, probably, robocalling that drops Google’s name — is not going away anytime soon.

As we await the ultimate battle, Volzke offers a few tips:

  • The number one thing that affects the robocalls you get is the amount of consent you’ve given. In most cases, your phone number is the key to granting consent. So, treat your phone number with a level of confidentiality just below that of your Social Security number. He noted with amazement that people list their primary phone number on Facebook and Craigslist, where it can be scooped by a spider.
  • “Get a second phone number” for public postings, he advised, and be careful when you give your number to people or sites you don’t know. “No one reads all the fine print,” Volzke pointed out.
  • If you’re already on robocallers’ list, he suggests getting an app to filter the calls by originating phone number — assuming we’re talking about your smartphone and not your landline. (Not coincidentally, Whitepages offers a robocall- and robotext-blocking app for Android and iOS devices.)
  • Next step up is call blocking for a specific phone number, although the bad guys may well change their number after a while.
  • If that still doesn’t help, and you’re still getting multiple robocalls, Volzke said that getting a new phone number is “sometimes the only option.” That is, until the carriers get their act in gear.

By the way, Whitepages is an identity data company, not the phone book. They are involved in robocall issues because a) phone numbers are a key identifier, and b) they recently bought robocall blocker NumberCop.

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Report: BMW X3 diesel emissions exceed EU regulations, company stock falls

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The reverberation of the Volkswagen tailpipe emissions scandal is still being felt across the industry, pulling other brands under the harsh light of scrutiny.

According to a report out from Germany’s Auto Bild, the Nitrous Oxide (NOx) tailpipe emissions of BMW’s X3 diesel compact crossover exceed European regulations. In fact, the car’s respiratory-harming NOx emissions exceeded future Euro 6 emissions levels — set to go into effect in 2017 — by as much as 11 times.

The report is based upon tests performed in October, 2014, by the International Council on Clean Transport (ICCT), the independent nonprofit focused on clean energy that originally discovered VW’s emissions cheating. Read more…

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Are your biggest security threats on the inside?

The now infamous Ashley Madison website has had a pretty successful run at helping its clientele be disloyal. So perhaps some would view it as poetic justice if the website became one of the most scandalous breaches in history at the hands of one of its own. 

At least that is the conclusion of IT security analyst John McAfee, who noted recently “yes, it is true. Ashley Madison was not hacked – the data was stolen by a woman operating on her own who worked for Avid Life Media.” 

If true, the fact that the Ashley Madison breach was due to an internal, and not external, threat shouldn’t come as too big a surprise. Many IT security studies this year have pointed to the growing threat of insider data theft and corporate breaches. 

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Google launches its Keep note-taking app for iOS

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Google today launched Google Keep for iOS. You can download the new app now directly from Apple’s App Store.

We’re a bit surprised it took Google this long to debut an iOS app for its note-taking service. Google Keep first launched way back in March 2013 for Android and the Web, meaning the iOS version is showing up 30 months later. Google even brought Google Keep to Android Wear, its smartwatch platform, in June 2014.

Nonetheless, Google says the features Google Keep users have come to expect on Android and the Web are now available to iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users. That means iOS users can search and filter notes by color and type (images, audio, and text), add labels, set time or location-based reminders, and share notes for basic real-time collaboration.

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Here is the full feature list, from the iTunes description:

  • Capture, edit, share, and collaborate on your notes on any device, anywhere.
  • Add notes, lists, photos, and audio to Keep.
  • Organize your notes with labels and colors.
  • Set and forget. Get reminded about a note at the right time or place.
  • Record a voice memo and have it automatically transcribed.
  • Grab the text from an image to help you quickly find that note again through search.

This release isn’t going to convert Evernote or OneNote users, as both have iOS apps with plenty of features. If, however, you’re already using Google Keep on another one of your devices, being able to access your notes on your Apple gadget is a welcome addition. If you’re a Windows Phone user, we wouldn’t hold our breath until Google shows some interest in Windows 10.

While it appears this is a full-featured release, we have asked Google if there is anything missing from the iOS app that is currently available on Android and the Web. We will update you if we learn anything new.

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Facebook is down, go do something more fun while it recovers [Update: It’s back!]

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Facebook is down for many users around the world, according to DownDetector.co.uk and reports on Twitter. It’s the second outage within a week for the social network, and many people are unable to log in and view those critical status messages, Pages and other updates. These problems don’t tend to last too long, but we’ve asked Facebook for a statement on the situation and will update here when normal service resumes. Until then, go fly a kite or something. Update: An intermittent service is coming back for some users but the site still isn’t back to normal. Some users are also still…

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