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Consumers lose: medical hacking, 911 failure, Google rules

Ho hum – another day, another few million records are hacked. Rant on. It’s a small hack really, only 4.5 million impacted by the UCLA Medical System cyber attack. But what a relief, the impacted individuals will receive identity theft recovery and restoration services and credit monitoring at no cost. That category of service firm is buying plenty of ads all around and may be one of the boom businesses of 2015.  Because of course the 4.5 million must be added to the 22 million Federal government individuals and the 80 million Anthem Blue Cross individuals -- for starters.  And the solution?  A new services industry emerges with vendors popping up in every flavor. As for fines for those that let the data get out of the bag? As for the notorious insurance industry leader, Anthem (first quarter net income $865.2 million) has received a fine of $1.7 million – but fines for data breaches remain rare.

TAKEAWAY: Type of connectivity no longer matters. The safety of personal data is now quite independent of whether we are online, offline, high-speed, dial-up, users of smartphones, tablets or clamshell phones. It doesn't matter. The data is stolen from servers that we don't and cannot control – and all of the theft recovery, insurance, and credit checking services that we buy will not keep hackers from stealing more of it.

Ho hum – another day, 911 service doesn’t work.  So you probably thought this was just a tragic problem with E-911, unfortunate location failure with cell phones. True, location from cell phones is described as 'accurate to 100 meters' - aka 328 feet -- too bad for you. And 44% of US households now own ONLY cell phones.  But it turns out there is a much bigger problem: telecom companies don’t share information about their own outages with each other. That means that 911 doesn't necessarily result in any response if a carrier (like the T-Mobile example) has an outage. So now the FCC is 'cracking down' on 911 failures – and slapped T-Mobile with a $17.5 million fine for 911 malfunctions from last August (!) – outages that seriously impacted people in multiple states, whether they use cellphones or landlines. T-Mobile 'blamed its 911 service loss on a glitch during a regular software update' -- of course -- but they don’t really know how many were impacted. A 911 call from whatever device can involve several companies in a handoff– and a single failure can leave people across multiple states with no service -- and no communication between carriers.

TAKEAWAY: Mobile PERS may matter more than 911 – and button presses will really matter. For the worried elderly or their families, having a smartphone is clearly not enough – this should be THE marketing message of PERS vendors. For those living in senior housing communities, just say no to the PERS button push signalling the receptionist or nurse -- these are not appropriate responders if a resident is out in the parking lot and slips on black ice between cars. PERS depends on and requires a call center of trained and guaranteed responders. Second, if 911 can't even guarantee finding you from a landline, then for PERS, a spoken "Here is where I am" can make all the difference.

Ho hum – for Google, it’s just another $65 billion added in market value -- in one day.  Turns out that 90% of Google’s  $66 billion of 2014 revenue is from search advertising (surprise!). To keep this geyser pumping, they launched a campaign to push corporate and small businesses into altering websites for semi-intelligible mobile 'friendliness' and lowering their search rankings if they didn’t comply. And what a relief to Google, it worked – their market cap as of Friday was $468 billion, second only to Apple and jumping because shareholders know that searchers moving to smartphones will not crush Google's search advertising money machine.

TAKEAWAY: Google makes new rules, then measures compliance with its rules. This is sad for small businesses -- whose web sites require 20-30% additional cost to comply. Consider that the result is manipulation of Google search rankings based on Google's own rules. No surprise, Google still controls nearly 75-80% of search and despite efforts by Yahoo and Bing; no other tech firms currently seem capable of dislodging them. Notice that despite the European Commission's 5-year anti-trust effort against Google, nothing remotely similar to that effort has reached that stage in the US. When Google's sizable DC investment and all other such things are considered, that's no big surprise. Rant off.