Online customer service agents are watching what you type

When something goes wrong with a product you own or a service you pay for, it's reasonable to expect quick, effective customer service from the company responsible for whatever it is that's giving you trouble. Read the rest

Comcast forced to provide refunds to 20,000 customers in Massachusetts

If you were living in Massachusetts a few years back, you might remember that Comcast was offering what seemed to be a screaming deal: a $99 lock-in rate plan. I say "seemed to be," because Comcast's advertised $99 price didn't include the cost of renting equipment and the fact that, as we're talking about Comcast here, there were a number of additional fees that could (and often did) appear on a subscriber's bill at the end of the month, for reasons only Comcast understood.

Did I mention that escaping the rate plan set folks back $240 for killing their contract with the company early? No? Well, it totally did. The state's Attorney General, Maura Healey, felt that this was bullshit of the first order. Her office did something about it.

From Gizmodo:

Comcast will cancel the debts of more than 20,000 customers and pay back $700,000 in Massachusetts as part of a settlement with the state’s Attorney General over deceptive advertising. Back in 2015 and early 2016, the cable giant advertised a $99 lock-in rate for plans that didn’t include equipment costs and had additional fees that could be jacked up at any time.

As part of Comcast's settlement with the state, they'll be forced to fork over refunds to anyone who paid the $240 early termination fee. They'll also be forced to forgive all outstanding unpaid early termination fees and related late fees that Massachusetts consumers incurred between January 2015 and March 2016. Comcast fully cooperated with the AG’s investigation. Read the rest

WSJ: Yahoo plans to scan users' messages for data to sell to advertisers

Everything has a cost, especially in the realm of online services. It used to be a pretty common practice for providers of 'free' email services to scan their user's messages for data that'd be valuable to advertisers. The data got sold to keep the email provider's lights on, with in-browser advertising filling in the financial gaps. Most email providers abandoned the practice, years ago: they were amazed to find that it pissed off their users. Yahoo's parent company, Oath, however, is getting back on this particular brand of bullshit.

From The Verge:

Yahoo’s owner, Oath, is in talks with advertisers to provide a service that would analyze over 200 million Yahoo Mail inboxes for consumer data, sources told WSJ. Oath did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Oath confirmed to the WSJ that it performs email scannings and said that it only scans promotional emails, usually from retailers. Users have the ability to opt out, it said. Oath’s argument is that email is an expensive system, and people can’t expect a free service without some value exchanged.

That's greasy.

Greasier still is the fact that even if you pony up the dough, on a monthly basis, for Yahoo's premium email services, your data will get scanned unless you opt to opt out. Finding the page that lets you do this, surprise, surprise is not easy to do. We've got your back, though. Follow this link to take control of your Oath-related privacy settings.

Oath swears that the data scraping method they use ignores personal information and personal identifiers. Read the rest