Investor Issues
How everybody is tracking your mobile internet usage
Twitter is using a newly discovered hidden code that the telecom carriers are adding to every page you visit – and it’s very hard to opt out
 
Twitter's mobile advertising arm enables its clients to use a hidden, undeletable tracking number created by Verizon to track user behavior on smartphones and tablets.
 
Wired and Forbes reported earlier last week that the two largest cellphone carriers in the United States, Verizon and AT&T, are adding the tracking number to their subscribers' Internet activity, even when users opt out.
 
The data can be used by any site – even those with no relationship to the telecoms -- to build a dossier about a person's behavior on mobile devices – including which apps they use, what sites they visit and for how long.
 
MoPub, acquired by Twitter in 2013, bills itself as the "world's largest mobile ad exchange." It uses Verizon's tag to track and target cellphone users for ads, according to instructions for software developers posted on its website.
 
Twitter declined to comment.
 
AT&T said that its actions are part of a test. Verizon says it doesn't sell information about the demographics of people who have opted out.
 
This controversial type of tracking, known in industry jargon as header enrichment, is the latest step in the mobile industry's quest to track users on their devices. Google has proposed a new standard for Internet services that, among other things, would prevent header enrichment.
 
People using apps on tablets and smartphones present a challenge for companies that want to track behavior so they can target ads. Unlike on desktop computers, where users tend to connect to sites using a single Web browser that can be easily tracked by "cookies," users on smartphones and tablets use many different apps that do not share information with each other. 
 
For a while, ad trackers solved this problem by using a number that was build into each smartphone by Apple and Google. But under pressure from privacy critics, both companies took steps to secure these Device IDs, and began allowing their users to delete them, in the same way they could delete cookies in their desktop Web browser.
 
So the search for a better way to track mobile users continued. In 2010, two European telecom engineers proposed an Internet standard for telecom companies to track their users with a new kind of unique identifier. The proposal was eventually adopted as a standard by an industry group called the Open Mobile Alliance.
 
Telecoms began racing to find ways to use the new identifier. Telecom equipment makers such as Cisco and Juniper began offering systems that allow the identifiers to be injected into mobile traffic.
 
In the spring of 2012, AT&T applied for a patent for a method of inserting a "shortlived subscriber identifier" into Web traffic of its mobile subscribers and Verizon applied for a patent for inserting a "unique identification header" into its subscriber's traffic. The Verizon patent claims this header is specifically meant to "provide content that is targeted to a subscriber."
 
Inserting the identifiers requires the telecom carrier to modify the information that flows out of a user's phone. AT&T's patent acknowledges that it would be impossible to insert the identifier into web traffic if it were encrypted using HTTPS, but offers an easy solution – to instruct web servers to force phones to use an unencrypted connection.
 
In the fall of 2012, Verizon notified users that it would begin selling "aggregating customer data that has already been de-identified" -- such as Web-browsing history and location -- and offered users an opt-out. In 2013, AT&T launched its version -- a plan to offer "anonymous AT&T data" to allow advertiser to "deliver the most relevant messages to consumers." The company also updated its privacy policy to offer an opt-out.
 
AT&T's program eventually shut down. Company spokesman Mark Siegel said that AT&T is currently inserting the identifiers as part of a "test" for a possible future "relevant advertising" service. "We are considering such a program, and any program we would offer would maintain our fundamental commitment to customer privacy," he said. He added that the identifier changes every 24 hours.
 
It's not clear how much of a hurdle changing the identifier would present to a targeting company that was assembling a dossier of a user's behavior.
 
Meanwhile, Verizon's service – Precision Market Insights – has become popular among ad tracking companies that specialize in building profiles' of user behavior and creating customized ads for those users. Companies that buy the Verizon service can ask Verizon for additional information about the people whose unique identifiers they observe.
 
"What we're excited about is the carrier level ID, a higher-level recognition point that lets us track with certainty when a user, who is connected to a given carrier, moves from an app to a mobile Web landing page," an executive from an ad tracking company Run told an industry trade publication.
 
And in a promotional video for Verizon's service, ad executive Chris Smith at Turn, touted "the accuracy of the data," that the company receives from Verizon.
 
But advertisers who don't pay Verizon for additional information still receive the identifier. A Verizon spokeswoman said, "We do not provide any data related to the [unique identifier] without customer consent and we change the [unique identifier] on a regular basis to prevent third parties from building profiles against it." She declined to say how often Verizon changes the identifier. 
 
The use of carrier-level identifiers appears to be becoming standard. Vodafone, a British telecom, says it inserts a similar identifier into some mobile traffic. A Vodafone spokesman said "Header enrichment is not our default operation and we do not routinely share information with the websites our customers visit."
 
However, ProPublica found a handful of Vodafone identifiers in its logs of website visitors. That review also showed more than two thirds of AT&T and Verizon visitors to ProPublica's website contained mobile identifiers.
 
And there appears to be no way to opt out. Last week, security engineer Kenn White noticed an Ad Age news article about Verizon's mobile marketing program and set up a test server to see if he was being tracked. He had opted out years ago, but he noticed a strange identifier in the web traffic from his phone.
 
His tweets sparked a flurry of discussion of Verizon's actions on the Hacker News discussion board, and articles in the technology press.
 
Software engineer Dan Schmads, an AT&T user, also tried to opt out. He found that he needed to visit four different webpages to opt out, including one web page not even on AT&T's domain: http://205.234.28.93/mobileoptout/. But he continues to see the AT&T identifier in his mobile traffic.
 
AT&T's Siegel told ProPublica that he appreciated the feedback on the difficulty of opting out and that the company plans to streamline the process before launching its service.
 
"Before we do any new program, we'll give customers the opportunity to reset their mobile ID at any time," he said. "It would be like clearing cookies."
 
Google has proposed a new Internet protocol called SPDY that would prevent these types of header injections – much to the dismay of many telecom companies who are lobbying against it. In May, a Verizon executive made a presentation describing how Google's proposal could "limit value-add services that are based on access to header" information.
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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SEBI bars Vamshi Chemicals, directors from markets

SEBI found that Vamshi Chemicals had collected over Rs60 crore from more than 89,000 investors through redeemable cumulative preference shares-RCPS

 

Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has barred Vamshi Chemicals Ltd from raising funds from investors through issuance of securities and also restricted the company and its directors from dealing in capital markets.

 

SEBI found that Vamshi Chemicals had mobilised over Rs60 crore from more than 89,000 investors through redeemable cumulative preference shares (RCPS) and "prima facie" violated various norms.

 

The regulator observed that the company allotted equity shares to over 50 persons, which under the rules made it a public issue of securities.

 

Hence, it would require a compulsory listing on a recognised stock exchange. It was also required to file a prospectus, among others, which it failed to do.

 

According to SEBI, Vamshi Chemicals issued shares to public but did not comply with provisions of the Companies Act.

 

"I am of the view that VCL (Vamshi Chemicals Ltd) is prima facie engaged in fund mobilising activity from the public through the offer of RCPS and as such violated the provisions of the Companies Act," SEBI Whole Time Member S Raman said in an interim order.

 

SEBI in the order said "VCL shall not mobilise funds from investors through the offer of RCPS or through the issuance of equity shares or any other securities to the public/invite subscription, in any manner whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, till further directions."

 

Further, the company and its directors--Kishan Pal Singh, Chhotelal Shukla, Vishwa Bandhu Vashistha, Deenanath Maurya, Mukesh Kumar Khare--are prohibited from issuing any offer documents for soliciting money from public. They are also restrained from accessing the capital markets.

 

The regulator has also asked the entities not to dispose any of the properties or assets acquired by that company through issue of preference shares, without prior permission from the regulator as well as not to divert the funds raised from public.

 

"During the financial years 2003-04 to 2006-07, 2009-10 to 2010-11, VCL allotted RCPS of Rs1,000 each to 89,005 individuals. VCL mobilised funds amounting to Rs61.49 crore through these allotments," SEBI noted.

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Be Safe & Smart with your Investments
Sucheta Dalal and Debashis Basu spoke to an audience of young, old and experts, and shared their ideas and experience on investing in a Safe and Smart way over your financial life
 
Sucheta Dalal, managing editor of Moneylife, said that one should keep it simple and should invest in just a few products. And the path to a safe future is to choose safe products. When it comes to choosing a bank, Ms Dalal said that government banks are the safest. Small cooperative banks are the ones that go bust most often and should be avoided. 
 
Ms Dalal warned about “ponzi schemes” which aim at fooling people to buy into attractive schemes promising extraordinary returns. She explained that the main problem is that people do not distinguish between purchasing consumer and financial products. They anyway get lured by big names and a strong sales pitch. The trick is to look through the “sales pitch” and not get carried away. Ms Dalal warned that companies like Amway, Tupperware, Herbalife are also examples of pyramid schemes.  According to research, less than half the people are able to sell and make money and end up blaming themselves and not the company. These Ponzi/MLM/Pyramid Schemes which operate at every level in the country have succeeded in cheating people from top managers to the poorest people. 
 
One should be careful while investing one’s money in fixed deposits, she said. Bank deposits are usually safe but corporate deposits should be inspected carefully before investing. “Do not go for any deposit which does not have a legitimate credit rating,” said Ms Dalal. And most importantly, if the interest rate offered is 3% higher than bank fixed deposits, one should stay away. 
 
Relationship managers usually work only to earn themselves fat commissions from your investments. Thus, most “relationship managers” resort to mis-selling or hard-selling a product. In order to be safe, one should have all communication documented. Ms Dalal also touched up on an area related to credit cards, insurance and credit scores. 
 
In the second session of the seminar, Mr Basu's presentation was titled, “Salary Cannot Make You Rich, What Can?” With a short introduction to the young students, on the usual spending patterns, he went on to explain the need to have a clear understanding of your salary outgoings and possible savings. 
 
Debashis Basu spelt out the various ways in which one can be smart with money and presented to the audience the best way in which one can invest safely. The best way to start investing safely is by planning your finances, he said. Mr Basu took the audience through planning concepts by which investors can plan their investments. Examples were shown on how one could use the power of compounding to their benefit. “The best way to invest smartly is to start as early as possible and save as much as possible”, said Mr Basu. 
 
He discussed the example of HDFC Equity fund which has delivered 44 times return over 20 years. If you had invested Rs100,000 in January 1995, guess what the returns were by December 1998, after four years? Minus 7.8%. Enough to frustrate even the die-hard believers.
 
The lesson is simple: the long term drift of a good quality fund or stock is higher. But the move is never in a smooth way. By nature, stocks move in fits and starts. They also decline sharply if they are overvalued. If you really want to gain from the enormous wealth that stocks and funds can create, you have to understand this and stay patiently invested in a good fund or a bunch of good stocks. 
 
Inflation is the permanent risk and is difficult for one to avoid. The only way to overcome inflation is by smart investing. Savers should avoid trying and timing the market on their own and should stick to regular investing.
 
The risk involved in various asset classes was explained and how much returns these assets are expected to generate was informed to the participants. How a mix of these assets could be used for different investment horizons to keep you money safe was also discussed.

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COMMENTS

Ashutosh

2 years ago

If Amway is illegal pyramid scheme then how come it is operating in more than 100 countries and has a history of more than 50 years? Kindly provide facts.

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