Hidden Cameras Reveal How People Are Treated Differently Based on Gender in Pawn Shops

26 Apr

If reality television has taught us anything, it’s that pawn shops are environments where you really need to walk in knowing exactly what you’re doing. If you present someone with a priceless old family antique and get an offer of $25, you need to be able to think quickly in order to stop yourself from getting ripped off. However, according to a new hidden camera study, even arming yourself with all the knowledge in the world may not make any difference. It was revealed that many pawn shops treat men and women very differently, to the point where many female customers found themselves getting shortchanged by up to 60 percent or more!

Hidden Cameras: Pawn Shops in Action

In 2016, a social experiment was conducted at various pawn shop locations in the famous Diamond District in New York City. Jacob Worth, a jewelry professional with years of experience under his belt, sponsored the experiment with the help of his company, “I Want What It’s Worth.”
The setup was simple: While wearing hidden cameras, Mr. Worth and a woman would take the same diamond ring into the same pawn shops at different times to see what they would be offered based on their gender. For the record, Mr. Worth’s company valued the ring at a cool $18,000.

At the first location, the woman was offered $6,000 for the ring — not necessarily terrible when you consider that pawn shops naturally lowball most offers in an effort to increase markup as much as possible during the resale process. Later on at the same location, however, Mr. Worth was offered $10,000 for the exact same piece of jewelry.

As with any good experiment, a single test is never enough to truly prove or disprove a hypothesis. Still wearing hidden cameras, Mr. Worth and his female counterpart targeted a second location with the same piece of jewelry. Mr. Worth was offered $11,500. The woman, on the other hand, was again offered $6,000 — and dinner later that evening. The pawn shop owner estimated that a fancy dinner in New York City would cost anywhere between $500 to $1,000, taking the true value of her offer up to around $7,000.
Mr. Worth was not offered the possibility of a dinner date.

Things were less interesting at the final location in that there were no bonuses offered to sweeten the deal, but the price discrepancy became even more apparent. Mr. Worth was offered $13,500 for the ring, which is actually incredibly reasonable when you consider what he already knew to be the fair market value. The woman, on the other hand, was offered just $5,000.

Once the experiment had been completed, it was effectively proved that women were given offers that were on average 59 percent less than what men were offered. Keep in mind that Mr. Worth did not walk into any pawn shop and immediately present himself as a jewelry expert; all he had to do was be a man.

To be fair, the woman was able to negotiate a few of her offers to higher values — but not by much. In the end, the woman’s final offers averaged about 62 percent of what Mr. Worth was offered in the same locations. The team hypothesized that pawn shop owners would assume that the woman was not the one who had originally purchased the ring, which could be a contributing factor in some of the lower offers. However, gender on its own absolutely played a role, too.

In the end, studies like these serve to underline the importance that hidden cameras play in our society. Yes, hidden cameras are great for things such as keeping an eye out on nannies while they care for your children or making sure that nobody steals anything from your home when you’re not around. But they also have another major benefit: one of honesty. You can learn a lot about people by the way that they treat people when they think nobody else is watching, which this particular experiment went a long way toward proving.

GPS and Geofencing: The Keys to Tracking Employee Hours

24 Apr

No matter what industry you happen to be talking about, the ability to accurately track and analyze employee hours is a major pain point in the lives of essentially any business professional you ask. A solution that requires an employee to physically “punch in” before they start work or when they take their breaks is one thing – when you have people who are working offsite and in the field, as is increasingly common in the modern era, you suddenly have a major issue with no clear solution.

Thankfully, that solution seems to have recently presented itself thanks to the wonders of modern technology. A new company called Timesheet Mobile has developed a unique time clock system that uses both GPS and geofencing to allow employers to keep a watchful eye over their remote employees through smartphone applications.

Timesheet Mobile: What You Need to Know

Once the Timesheet Mobile application is installed on a user’s smartphone, it uses both the GPS and location-based geofencing technology already included in the device to create a “virtual perimeter” around a physical location while employees are working remotely. If an employee makes a house call, for example, the application can “see” where that environment begins and ends.

When an employee gets back in their car to leave for the day, the application will prompt them to “clock out,” thus helping the company they work for achieve a greater degree of visibility over the amount of time they actually spend working.

The president of Timesheet Mobile, Bob Drainville, said that his system was designed to be helpful for small and medium-sized businesses in particular. He said his average customers usually fall within a few particular fields, commonly in trades professions like plumbers or electricians, and have between 15 and 25 employees. Timesheet Mobile would make it incredibly easy for an offsite employee to manage their hours while making house calls, for example.

The size and initial investment of the system make it a perfect option for these smaller organizations who may not be able to afford a larger, more advanced enterprise-grade solution.

Insight, Visibility and More

In addition, a solution like Timesheet Mobile is also a great way for business leaders to compare the actual number of hours worked versus initial estimates – actionable information that can be used to get deeper insight into individual employee productivity and the accuracy of those estimates in the first place. GPS and geofencing also make it easy for environments where employees may spend a small number of hours at multiple locations throughout the day, as they would if they worked for a security company, a cleaning company, or even in a healthcare environment.

Depending on how far an employer wants to take things, they can also use Timesheet Mobile to generate automatic alerts if an offsite appointment doesn’t happen exactly as it should. An employer can program every aspect of an appointment into the system and that data will then be “pushed out” to the employee’s mobile device. This can include where the appointment is taking place, when the employee is supposed to arrive, etc. If the employee doesn’t show up exactly when they’re supposed to, an alert can be automatically generated and sent to the business owner so that corrective action can be taken.

GPS and geofencing solutions like Timesheet Mobile can be a terrific way for small businesses owners to save money – not just by preventing things like time theft, but by creating a more accuracy in terms of productivity reporting in the first place. All of these features allow a business to get a better idea of how much time, effort and money goes into a single job, which can allow them to better price their services accordingly.

According to one study, roughly 7% of annual gross payrolls is lost to time theft. From that perspective, even if an employer had to buy a smartphone for an employee to use the application in the first place, this investment would more than pay for itself on an ongoing basis.


GPS Tracking Darts and the Colorado Police: What You Need to Know

19 Apr

GPS technology has come an incredibly long way in just a few short years. In “the old days,” you had to buy a large and expensive standalone unit that would give you turn-by-turn directions between any two points. If you didn’t want to do that, you were stuck with an old-fashioned atlas – or printed directions from a site like Mapquest. Flash forward to today and nearly every consumer smartphone available on the market comes with a more advanced version of the same tech baked in from the moment you purchase it.

With GPS becoming such a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, it makes sense that people would start looking for newer and more innovative applications of it. Case in point: Police in Colorado recently started using GPS in a way that will potentially change the face of law enforcement as we know it.

Colorado’s GPS Darts

The Arvada Police Department in Colorado recently made history when it became the first – and to date, the only – department in the state to use a specially designed type of GPS tracking dart to monitor people who speed away from officers during routine traffic stops. The system, dubbed StarChase, uses a real-time GPS imaging technique that gives officers a strategic advantage in a wide range of different situations.

Without this type of technology, a suspect speeding away from the scene of a traffic stop would almost certainly lead to a high-speed chase – something that is particularly common in heavily populated areas like Los Angeles in particular. Now, officers can prevent these chases from happening altogether and still apprehend their suspect at the same time.

In a statement made to local news affiliates, StarChase president Trevor Fischbach said that the technology was intended to help provide a “de-escalation” path for law enforcement. Spokeswoman for the Arvada police department Jill McGranahan echoed those sentiments, saying that the main object of using a system like StarChase in the first place was to keep both officers and community members safer when these types of incidents occur.

The StarChase darts themselves are designed to be deployed from a squad car in seconds. They use a special type of adhesive solution that allows them to stick to nearly any surface and also withstand many environmental conditions like wind and rain. Each squad car that is outfitted with the technology represents a roughly $5,000 initial investment – though StarChase says that in subsequent years that costs can drop as low as $1,000 per car.

The Arvada police department has been using the technology for the past nine months, but even in such a short period of time they still say that the results have been overwhelmingly positive. A representative for the department said that the program currently has an 85% success rate, though that number is expected to increase as officers get more comfortable with the darts and become more familiar with how to use them.

Things have been going along so well that a number of other law enforcement agencies in and around Denver have already said that they are very interested in trying StarChase out for themselves. It’s easy to see a time in the not-too-distant future where this or similar types of solutions begin to roll out in departments across the country.

As is always the case when GPS tracking is involved with law enforcement, one question that is immediately raised is one of privacy. Representatives from both the department and the ACLU say that when the darts are used as intended, they are totally legal under constitutional protections thanks to provisions regarding warrantless searching and tracking. A local Denver criminal defense attorney also said that they would be permissible in situations where an officer had probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed – something they absolutely have if you get pulled over and then speed away from an officer.


7 Beautifully Simple Ways to Stop Your Gadgets From Spying on You

17 Apr

In terms of the modern-day gadgets that fill our lives, convenience is something of a two-way street. For every great new device we purchase, we seem to have to give up a little bit of our privacy in return. In reality, this isn’t necessarily the case. There are a number of beautifully simple steps that you can take right now to stop your gadgets from spying on you for the foreseeable future. All you have to do is know the full extent of the problem you’re trying to solve and where, specifically, you need to look for the solution.

  1. Clear Those Cookies

Cookies aren’t just a way to make websites load faster the second time you visit them. They also store a huge amount of information about what you’re doing on those sites that could be sold to the highest bidder. Set your Internet browser to automatically clear cookies after every session for the best results – you can find this option in the “Privacy” screen.


  1. Disable Location Services

Most smartphones are tracking a huge amount of information about your location and other activities from the moment you turn them on for the first time. Always go into the “Settings” application and find the “Location Services” option. Take a look at every app or function that has permission to view your location and disable whatever you don’t feel comfortable with. You can also often force apps to ask permission before they view your location data – this is the case with all iPhone models, for example.


  1. Put a Piece of Tape Over Your Camera

If you think the little indicator light on your laptop computer’s camera will save you from being spied on without your knowledge, think again. Hackers who know what they’re doing can remotely activate the camera without your knowledge, recording everything that happens in front of the lens. The solution? Simple – just put a piece of electrician’s tape over the camera until you’re ready to use it. Problem solved!


  1. Purchase the Right Equipment

If you’re truly concerned that your devices may be spying on you, it might be time to invest in the right equipment. The VoiceKeeper FSM-U1 Cellphone Scrambler, for example, is a professional grade cell phone scrambler that offers the highest grade cell phone encryption available on the market today. Just purchase one for your phone and one for whoever you’re talking to during conversations you want to protect, and nobody will be able to hear a thing.


  1. Two-Factor Authentication

The importance of activating two-factor authentication on any device or account that you own simply cannot be overstated enough. Even if someone learns an account password, they still won’t be able to gain access without physical access to a secondary device like your smartphone.


  1. Update Everything Whenever You Can

You should always make it a priority to update EVERY device you own – from computers to tablets to smartphones to the software that runs on them – whenever the option becomes available. Many people don’t realize that updates aren’t just for fixing bugs and adding new features – they often include security patches that close loopholes that others may be using to spy on you.


  1. Pay Attention to the News and Know Which Gadgets NOT to Buy

Finally, we have a tip that won’t necessarily help if you already own an affected device, but nevertheless is important to know for the future. Always pay attention to tech blogs and other news sources for information on devices with massive privacy concerns. Case in point: Recently, Vizio came under fire when it was revealed that certain models of its smart TVs collected and viewed more data than they were originally letting on. A few years ago, Samsung came under fire for the fact that certain models were randomly activating their built-in cameras to spy on their owners. Make privacy a part of your research before you buy any type of electronic device.


Ivory Smuggling Route Revealed Thanks to Fake Elephants and Real GPS Trackers

12 Apr

GPS tracking has a wide range of additional uses that go far deeper than just providing you with turn-by-turn directions to that next business meeting or appointment. Entire industries have been founded on the same basic technology – it’s how with the right system installed, you (or local law enforcement) can effortlessly locate your car in the event that it’s stolen. Indeed, GPS technology has a number of noble uses all around the world, as is the case with an effort to curb elephant poaching in Africa. Recently, GPS trackers embedded inside a fake elephant were used to blow the lid off an ivory smuggling ring that otherwise would have gone undetected.

Ivory Poaching: Facts and Figures

According to the experts at National Geographic, Central Africa has lost an incredible 64 percent of its total elephant population in just the last ten years alone. Over 100,000 elephants were killed illegally by poachers in only the last three years, shedding an important light on a problem that is much worse than many believed it to be. Approximately, 24,000 of those elephants came from eastern Africa, while an incredible 42,000 were from the central African region.

Much of the ivory obtained during poaching goes to China, which is currently the biggest consumer of illegal ivory in the world. Just a few short years ago, businesses in China purchased 60 tons of ivory directly from poachers in Africa – a trend that showed no signs of reversing anytime soon.

In 1979, there were approximately 1.3 million elephants in Africa. Flash forward to 2007 and that number had dwindled to just 472,000 to 690,000. It was clear that something had to be done, but policy changes alone quickly proved to be inadequate. Creating a new law is one thing – actually enforcing that law and curbing a problem inherent to an industry built upon lies and deception is something else entirely.

A new approach was needed and thanks to the break-neck rate at which technology continues to advance, that approach involved the use of global positioning systems.

Fake Tusks Save the Day

Investigative journalist Bryan Christy wanted to get to the bottom of the ivory poaching situation across Africa and he took a decidedly unique approach in order to do it. He commissioned an experienced taxidermist to create two face ivory tusks – virtually indistinguishable to the naked eye from the genuine article. These fake tusks, however, had a secret – they were embedded with specially designed GPS trackers connected to the Internet.

Once these fake tusks were hidden among real ones, Christy and his team got to work. They tracked the smuggling of ivory from their original location north into the Congo and all the way to the Sudan. What he and his team were able to do was unprecedented – they had for the first time total visibility into where ivory was going, how it was being transported and the methods that were used to both obtain it and trade it. In addition to winding up in China, it turns out that much of the illegal ivory obtained each year is actually traded for other types of illegal goods like guns or medicine – particularly in the Sudan’s Darfur region.

It also turns out that elephants are being killed by nearly every method you can think of. Sometimes poachers will poison an elephant’s watering hole and wait for the animals to die. Other times they use poison spears, poison arrows, and even AK-47s and other heavy weapons.

With his actionable data intelligence complete, local authorities now have more information than ever that they can use to curb this problem as much as possible. The important thing to understand from this is that absolutely none of it would have been possible without the type of sophisticated GPS tracking technology that exists today. Christy’s activities were so successful that they’ve even been the subject of their own documentary on the National Geographic channel called “Warlords of Ivory.”

China Takes the Bold Step of Ordering GPS Tracking on EVERY Car in a Problematic Area

10 Apr

GPS technology has become such a ubiquitous part of our daily lives that most people don’t even think about how its used. The fact that you can use your smartphone to get turn-by-turn directions between any two points, or the ability to be able to remotely track your vehicle in the event that it’s stolen, are features that are so convenient and valuable that many don’t think twice about the potential privacy implications that come along with it.

Residents of Xinjiang in China are certainly considering those implications very carefully, however, especially after February. The crime and general violence problem in Xinjiang has gotten so bad that security officials in the area have taken the unprecedented step of ordering all residents to install GPS tracking devices into their cars so that local law enforcement can keep essentially constant tabs on their activities. If an owner chooses not to comply with the order, they will be denied gasoline for that same vehicle – essentially rendering it useless.

China and GPS: The Situation

Xinjiang, a region located on the border between China and the central part of Asia, has had a violence problem for quite some time. Consistent instances of deadly violence have become a way of life, much to the chagrin of the people who actually live there. Experts say that this is due largely to Islamist extremists, as well as ethnic friction between Han Chinese migrants and members of the Muslim Uighur minority who inhabit Xinjiang.

Everyone knew that something had to be done, but few could have anticipated a move as far-reaching as this one. Loulan News, in a post to the Bayingolin government’s propaganda office website, said that the GPS trackers were intended to “help guarantee social security and safety in the area, as well as promote social stability and harmony.” The move was motivated in part by the fact that cars have been a frequent tool used in terrorism incidents around the world. Not only are they one of the primary ways that guns and other weapons are transported across the country, but many have often been used as weapons themselves. Officials say that the move to install GPS trackers is meant to curb all of these activities, hopefully returning Xinjiang to the peaceful state it once knew.

China’s Action and the Court of Public Opinion

Terrorism experts have a lot to say about this move and what it means in terms of privacy. James Leibold, an expert from La Trobe university in Australia, says that he believes the action was motivated in part by the fact that GPS tracking is a much more reliable, much cheaper option than installing tens of thousands of security cameras across Xinjiang. He indicated that it was just one of the many investments in surveillance that the government has made over the last several years.

In terms of what it means for citizens, he indicated that it will likely push resentment further underground – stopping some violent events, while strengthening the will and motivation to commit others.

The Shape of Things to Come

The GPS order, which began on February 20 and continues to June 30, affects all private, secondhand and government vehicles. Additionally, large vehicles like construction equipment and lorries will also have to comply or they’ll face the same gas-related restrictions. Interestingly, people can’t just use any brand of consumer-grade GPS to remain in compliance. They MUST use a specially designed Beidou satellite navigation system that was made in China.

The project is currently in the pilot stages and for the time being only affects the Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang. If it is successful – which everyone involves predicts that it will be – it is expected to roll out across all of Xinjiang in the not-too-distant future. If it is just as successful once it expands to that scope, there is no telling how much larger the program will get in the next few years.


Not-So-Perfect Encryption: What You Must Know About the WhatsApp Vulnerability

5 Apr

WhatsApp is more than just a freeware messaging platform and SMS text messaging alternative. Since its original development by Facebook over eight years ago, it has become one of the most popular apps of its type in existence. According to a post on the company’s own blog, more than 100 million voice calls alone are made every day as of June 2016. By early January of 2015, the service had over 700 million monthly active users all over the world and sent over 30 billion text-based messages each day. By any metric you can think of, that’s a massive success.

A lot of WhatsApp’s popularity stems from the fact that it offers a very key feature that other services don’t — end-to-end encryption. Since 2014, WhatsApp has offered total encryption to all users free of charge. This means that only the person sending the message and the person receiving it can actually read it. Even if someone does happen to be using sophisticated technology to intercept that data while it’s in transmission, it would be completely unreadable. To its credit, Facebook has always claimed that NOBODY can intercept WhatsApp messages — even Facebook employees.

A recently uncovered vulnerability, however, calls all of this into question.

The WhatsApp Situation

For end-to-end encryption to work properly, only two people can have decryption keys — the sender and the recipient. So long as nobody has physical access to either of the two devices, a conversation is completely impenetrable. A security vulnerability — one that was intentionally built into the app’s code by its developers — changes things significantly, however. Experts have stated that WhatsApp actually has the ability to “force” the creation of a secondary set of encryption keys for offline users, all without actually telling the users what is going on.

This means that if someone is targeted by the United States government, for example, WhatsApp can actually generate a secondary set of encryption keys that would let officials spy on messages being sent and received. All the while, the original users would think that nothing was wrong.

The vulnerability was originally discovered by a cryptography and security researcher named Tobias Boelter at the University of California. He reported what he initially assumed to be a problem to Facebook in April of 2016, only to be told that this was “expected behavior.” Reading between the lines, it’s easy to see that this is less a flaw and more a “feature” — one that has harrowing implications on freedom of speech and cyber privacy in general. Since Boelter’s findings, other organizations like The Guardian have been able to confirm that the vulnerability still exists as of January 2017.

Naturally, this was big news when the story originally broke. Members of the WhatsApp team said that this is seen as “acceptable” because, in theory, it will never affect the majority of the service’s users. For this “security loophole” to be employed at all, a particular user or set of users must be targeted. It’s not like someone could read any of the billions of messages being sent each day if they wanted to, someone needs a reason to look at the messages of a select person. The fact that the vulnerability exists at all, however, calls the company’s entire mantra of “privacy for all” into question.

Thankfully, there is a mechanism built into the WhatsApp application that allows users to see if this vulnerability is actively being used. By opening the app and selecting the “Security” option, followed by the “Account” option and then navigating to the “Security” screen, they can enable a feature called “Show Security Notifications.” This will alert a user when a contact’s security code has been changed. While this does happen if someone buys a new phone or uninstalls and reinstalls the app, it will ALSO happen if decryption codes are changed due to someone making use of this security issue.