Category Archives: General

The Top Data Stories This Week

 

If you’re busy like us you may not have had time to catch up on reading until the weekend. Here is a roundup of the three biggest data stories we noticed this week:

1. Companies Data Security In Question After Sony Hack

sony
A bad week for Sony Pictures, Uber and maybe net neutrality.

As we blogged about yesterday, the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures leaves open many questions about how companies guard their customers and employees’ private data. With the culprits still out there, large companies are playing catch-up to ensure their systems won’t be breached next.

2. Uber Admits Employees Abused “God View” Location Tracking

Uber has been in the news for all sorts of reasons in the past few weeks, but their latest misstep involved the use of a data tool that allowed its employees to all rides an individual user has taken. After being taken to task by a US Senator, Uber responded in writing about its collection of user ride data and admitted that some abuses occurred. We have definitely not heard the end of this one.

3. Dirty Data: Why the 4 Million Comments On Net Neutrality May Not Be What They Seem

The ongoing battle between advocates for and against net neutrality rages on, with a new report surfacing that just one group could have manufactured the overwhelming number of responses to the FCC’s request for comment. Both sides have tried to poke holes in the other’s interpretation of the data, and as President Obama weighs in, it’s clear this controversy will rumble on through the tech community and beyond.

What was the most interesting story you read this week? Let us know in the comments.

3 Last Minute Holiday Gifts for Data Lovers

 

At BeenVerified we’re obsessed with data, and creating compelling consumer products from it. (By the way, if you share our passion for data, perhaps you should join our team). As the holidays approach, below are some unique gift ideas for the data obsessives among your friends and family.

An intriguing new book on data from an OKCupid founder.
An intriguing new book on data from an OKCupid founder.

Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One Is Looking) by Christian Rudder

As a co-founder of OKCupid, the dating site that made headlines earlier this year for running experiments on its users, comes a book about human behavior from the data created when we interact with each other online.

As Rudder says in an interview promoting the book, “Your preferences on OKCupid tell us what you find sexy, and your reaction to the strangers the site offers up tells us how you judge people. The articles you “like” tell us not just about your politics, but even predict your intelligence.”

The result is “a new picture of mankind based on our data.” Creepy? Maybe. Fascinating? Definitely.

Automatic

You’ve heard about the connected home, but what about the connected car? Automatic plugs into your car and then transmits data back to an app on your smartphone.

No more relying on mysterious engine lights, you can now get detailed information on the health of your car and how best to manage it through Automatic. It can also help you save money on gas, remember where you park and help you get assistance quickly in an accident.

iLumi LED Smartbulb

You may recognize the founders in the promo video from Shark Tank, and it’s true that Mark Cuban is a major investor in this product.

What at first may seem like a mildly improved (and really expensive) light bulb that can change colors becomes a much more interesting proposition when you realize it has the capability to interact with the data on your phone.

The “smartbulbs” can be programmed not only to wake you up gently with warm light in the morning or alternate on and off when you’re not at home to dissuade burglars, but also can sync with your stock portfolio or scores of your favorite sports teams, and change color based on the data it receives.

Let us know about your favorite data-related gifts in the comments.

Watch out! BeenVerified is Growing!

 

 

As you can see from the picture below, we are knocking down walls to expand our New York office to make room for our growing company. Having started in 2008 offering our customers the ability to run a background check quickly and easily, BeenVerified has grown to the premier public data provider for a number of different uses and customers.

The BeenVerified office is under construction.
The BeenVerified office is under construction.

As we grow we need new team members to help us tell our story and develop products for all of the different types of customers that rely on us. If you are interested in joining a growing, data-driven company that encourages experimentation and having fun while doing it, we want to hear from you.

BeenVerified is currently hiring for a large number of technical and marketing positions. We have an especially strong need for engineers, people who love working with data and savvy marketers.

You can see all of our open positions here.

You can also read our blog post on the top ten reasons we think you’ll enjoy working with us here.

And finally, read an interview with an actual employee for even more detail on life at BeenVerified.

You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook to get a better idea of our company culture, passions and interests.

What BeenVerified Customers Say on Facebook

 

Our background check service has been used millions of times and we always love hearing from customers, which is why we maintain such an expansive social media presence across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, LinkedIn and Instagram,  as well as our blog.

We love hearing from you on social media. Photo credit: Sean MacEntee
We love hearing from you on social media. Photo credit: Sean MacEntee.

In case you haven’t seen them, here are a few real, recent comments from our customers left publicly on our Facebook page and some of our accompanying thoughts.

“im glad (i’m) with beenverified” -John E. 

We are happy to have customers with us for all their public data needs. BeenVerified can be used more for more than one-time background checks of criminal records. We make it easy for our customers to stay with us for the long-term, with affordable subscription packages so searching for multiple phone numbers, properties and anyone in the U.S.

“Thanks to you all a few years ago I found my birth mother. Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Hoping to meet her soon.” -Sarah R.

We love hearing stories about how our data has helped reunite families.

“I have had two episodes of identity theft. Beenverified has the most reliable and accurate information. I recommend this service above any other similar company. Good job.” -Dora J.

 As we wrote recently, identity theft is an increasingly worrying problem for our customers. Our ability to let you search yourself quickly and easily for all the public data about yourself out there will hopefully gives you a leg up on keeping your identity safe.

Are you following us on Facebook and all our other social media platforms? We’d love to hear how BeenVerified has helped you and any questions you have about using public data.

Background Checks: Before You Freak Out, Read This

 

So, you ran a background check on someone and found something that has you alarmed.  Your suspicions have been confirmed, your intuition has proven correct….or has it?

Take a breath before jumping to conclusions.
Take a breath before jumping to conclusions. Photo credit: Casey Fleser

Before you panic, confront or cut ties without someone, take a deep breath and be sure to consider the whole picture.  While it is important to protect yourself, it is also important to realize that a background check provides the skeleton of someone’s life, a skeleton you still need to flesh out.

One obvious area where people get really concerned is in the possible associates section of a background check.  While current or ex-spouses will show up in the possible associates area, they are hardly the only people who may show up there.  Former roommates, parents, siblings, even cousins or close friends may show up as known associates in someone’s background check.

The possible associates and possible family members section will depend heavily on how someone is linked to other people in the public record.  To assume that there must have been a legally recognized relationship, like a marriage, between someone and a possible associate on a background check is not only incorrect, but can also make you believe that someone has lied about his or her past, even if they have been completely honest.

Another area that tends to cause concern about a background check is if it reveals significant financial difficulties in the past, such as a bankruptcy or a foreclosure.  It is important to keep in mind that financial difficulties can emerge from many sources, including unforeseen medical expenses, a failed business or simply tough economic times that many otherwise responsible people could not cope with.  As a result, a relatively recent bankruptcy or foreclosure may not suggest that someone is irresponsible with money, but may be more of an indicator of underlying negative economic conditions or other factors beyond the person’s control.  If a financial red flag has you concerned about a person in your life, consider how the person behaves with money in your presence before making a knee-jerk reaction.

Finally, it can be easy to freak out if someone has a criminal record, but a criminal history is not going to provide more context about an underlying incident.  Depending on what type of history has been revealed, you may want to gather more information before making a decision.  It is important to keep in mind that the black and white of a police record or sentencing report can often be at odds of the real life color of an incident.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that, while a background check can be an extremely useful tool to discover more information about an individual, it is only one of the tools you should use before making a major decision.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems for Apple

 

As we mentioned in our previous post, Apple this week announced record sales of the iPhone 6 and 6 plus, selling more than 10 million units. And the phone is not even on sale yet in China, its biggest potential market.

While the financial news was good, some troubling stories bubbled up today about the new phones bending when being placed in pants pockets, while the iOS8 update has caused some users to lose their cell phone reception entirely.

Apple has had a good and a bad week. Photo credit: Mike Deerkoski
Apple has had a good and a bad week. Photo credit: Mike Deerkoski

You might remember Apple has had high profile issues around launches before, notably with the iPhone 4 cell signal issue, and the bending issue is not a new one for iPhones, as a number of sites have pointed out.

Thankfully, it seems these issue are affecting a small sample of iPhone users at present and Apple has a pretty good record of correcting issues like this, particularly when it comes to its software updates.

Here are some comments from the media about these issues:

“From an engineering standpoint, the iPhone is an amazingly small and delicately constructed device…When you make something longer, it gets proportionally more bendable, when you make it thinner, it gets a lot more bendable.”

-Jeremy Irons, a creative engineer speaking to Gizmodo.

And on the iOS 8 issue:

“Apple has pulled the latest update of its Apple’s iOS 8 mobile operating system amid reports of problems, including disabled cell service. It’s unclear how widespread it is, or which devices might be affected. On Twitter, users are complaining (under #iOS8bugs) about losing cell service and access to Touch ID, Apple’s fingerprint sensor.”

-Dawn Chmielewski writing on Re/code

And here are some tips from BeenVerified on dealing with these issues:

  1. Always buy a case for your smartphone to protect it.
  2. Avoid sitting down with your phone in your pocket, especially if you prefer wearing tight-fitting skinny jeans.
  3. Don’t be the first person to update your phone. There are always unpredictable bugs with major operating system upgrades, wait a few days for them to work out the kinks first.
  4. Keep an eye on Twitter for reports of new issues, as they often break there first.

Have you experienced any of these issues this week? Let us know in the comments section.

3 Big Stories You Should Be Following

 

Here are a few big news stories we noticed from the past few days that are likely to stay in the headlines throughout the week:

  1. Celebrity photo scandal continues 

    Kim Kardashian. Phot credit: Eva Rinaldi
    Kim Kardashian. Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi 

The celebrity photo scandal involving the renegade site 4chan

continued to take twists and turns this weekend as more nude photos from Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Hudgens and Hope Solo emerged across the internet. Like the previous series of leaked photos it’s alleged the hackers breached the celebrities iCloud accounts through guessing passwords and back-up security questions.

Our advice: Now is a great time to revisit your security settings on any cloud storage devices such as iCloud, Dopbox or Amazon Cloud. While making sure you set strong passwords, we question whether it ever makes sense to hold extremely sensitive photos of yourself in the cloud or on your devices.

Further reading: Don’t Let Your Naked Selfies Reach These 3 People

  1. Apple introduces default encryption  

Coincidentally or not, after the celebrity iCloud scandal,                   Apple has been rolling out a number of new security features over the past couple of weeks. Apple has now introduced default encryption for iOS8, which means even the company itself will not be able to access data on your devices. Interestingly, Apple went a step further in its announcement, noting that “unlike competitors,” it will not try to monetize its users data. Many in the media interpret this as a swipe at Google, which also announced it will encrypt data by default.

The lines outside Apple stores were long everywhere this weekend.
The lines outside Apple stores were long everywhere this weekend. Photo credit: Joe Nicholl

Further reading: Is Google Hiding Something From You?

  1.  iPhone 6 sales break records

Apple continues to dominate headlines with the announcement that it sold over 10 million of its new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus since Friday. What’s even more impressive, as this Forbes article points out, is that the new phone models are not yet on sale in the world’s largest smartphone market, China, until early 2015.

Further reading: 6 Things to Like About the iPhone 6 Announcement

What news stories did you find interesting this week? Let us know in the comments.

The Million Dollar Parking Spot

 

The New York Times recently reported that 10 New York City private parking spots will be come with a price tag of $1 million each.

This is shocking to us, even as New Yorkers who are used to paying an arm, a leg, and then another arm for pretty much everything. While the Huffington Post, among others, picked up on the fact that this sort of extravagance which caters to the ultra-wealthy highlights the huge gap between the rich and poor both here in New York and beyond, another issue came to mind for us: peace of mind.

Some parking spaces in NYC are selling for $1 million.
Some parking spaces in NYC are selling for $1 million. Photo credit: Jeffrey Zeldman

Let us explain. For those not familiar with parking in NYC, it’s a pretty terrible experience. Searching for street parking has been known to lead to insanity among drivers and even for the lucky ones able to snag a spot, you’re leaving your car open to all the travails of a rough, unpredictable, urban environment. Scratches, broken side-view mirrors, thefts and of course, parking tickets, are all too common.

Parking garages offer some shelter but still leave you at the mercy of hurried attendants who will pack your car vertically three or four rows high. And did we mention the fees?

The rare parking spots that come with apartments here are routinely rented out by their owners to help subsidize substantial portions of the actual rent. The whole situation is enough to make you crazy. Perhaps this is why even ex-Mayor Bloomberg would ride the Subway for his commute some days.

So someone selling a million dollar parking spot is selling a lot more than the extra space and convenience. They are selling peace of mind. Peace of mind that the car will be protected, always accessible and always vacant for its owner.

At BeenVerified, we think everyone should have access to peace of mind and not just the extremely rich. That’s been a large part of our mission since day one. We build and organize data assets that used to be part of a closed system, available only to a privileged few, and make that information accessible to everyone. Our pricing structure makes multiple searches affordable so you never have to question if it’s worth the money to run a background check, for whichever purpose you need it for.

Whether you’re seeking information on a pesky phone number, an owner of an address or a new person in your life, you can use our background check for your own peace of mind.

And we definitely suggest you take the train when you come to New York.

What’s the most you’ve ever paid for peace of mind? Let us know in the comments.

6 Things to Like About the iPhone 6 Announcement

 

As developers of an iPhone app we watched Apple’s launch event yesterday with anticipation. We found at least six things to like or at least find interesting, and none of them have to do with Bono.

New iPhone models.
New iPhone models.Photo credit: Miguel Angel Aranda
  1. Many of the cool new features have to do with the announcement of Apple Pay. Using a technology called Near Field Communication (NFC) your iPhone can double as a digital wallet featuring one touch checkout. Unlike other versions, this one has the backing of all major card providers so it has a chance of seeing mainstream adoption.
  1. Apple Pay also encrypts your card data so merchants won’t have access to your card information anymore. Apple says even if a store you shop at gets hacked you won’t need to cancel the card used from its wallet.
  1. The iPhone 6 plus display is their best yet, at 1080p HD.
  1. Ditto the camera, with new features including an advanced pixel sensor and lens, and a new feature called “burst selfie” mode.
  1. Improved battery life. Especially important for all that late night Tinder activity.
  1. Not too expensive. The cost is in line with traditional iPhone pricing.

Will you be upgrading to an iPhone 6? Let us know which of the features most excite you in the comments.

Who is Your Teen Discovering on Tinder?

 

Last week we shared our thoughts about the potential pitfalls of Tinder, the app that has taken taking the online dating world by storm over the past couple of years. One aspect we didn’t discuss was Tinder’s fast growing population of underage users.

Who is your teen swiping right with?
Who is your teen swiping right with?  Photo credit: Shinichi Higashi

Tinder’s founder, Justin Mateen, disclosed this stat himself earlier this year: over 7% of Tinder’s users are aged 13-17.

As we mentioned in our previous post, one of the game-changing features of Tinder and similar online dating apps is the mandatory use of GPS location services that come built-in with smartphones to connect users in a similar geographic area. With Tinder, that service can put matches within a mile of one another.

While many parenting blogs have since blown the whistle on the inappropriateness of underage kids using Tinder, some calling it “the worst app ever for teens,” Tinder’s founder has since provided some clarity on his original statement suggesting the safeguards that both Tinder and Facebook, which the app uses to authenticate its users, prevents adults and underage users from interacting, as well as unwanted contact between users.

As many sources have noted however, it is extremely easy to create either a fake or secondary Facebook account. In fact, many Tinder users create secondary Facebook accounts entirely for the purpose of trawling Tinder, or to maintain their own privacy and safety.

While the prospect of your 13 year-old using Tinder may terrify you, keep in mind many, if not most Tinder users treat the app as a game rather than a serious dating or hook up site. Tinder itself calls the app a “social discovery” tool. While many of the parenting blogs that raised the red flag on underage Tinder use suggested blocking the app from their teen’s phone, which in many cases may be justified, it won’t prevent them from using the next app that could compromise their safety.

Instead, consider employing these tactics to keep your kids aware of risks:

1. Teach your kids about the importance of their privacy and the internet. They should know which of their phone’s apps use location services like GPS and how to effectively manage privacy settings on social media platforms. If you don’t know these things, then it’s time for you to get educated, too.

2. Learn about the new people in your kids’ lives. It’s not an immediate red flag for your teenager to have a friend over the age of 18, but if you get a funny feeling, consider running a background check and talking it over with your teen.

3. Keep the lines of communication open. The worst thing that can happen is alienating your child and losing the ability to easily keep tabs on their activities, online and off.