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Mobile Technology News, April 11, 2014

As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.

  • Samsung Galaxy S5: Expert views
    Samsung’s latest smartphone swings in
  • Macworld gems: Glowdeck smartphone dock
    Now that we’ve had time to recover from the fury of meeting so many vendors at this year’s Macworld, MacNN and Electronista have had a little time to reflect on some of the products and services we saw there. Many have yet to come to market — a running joke was the number of projects crowdfunded last summer that will be arriving in stores soon — some have won awards, and some are just little gems we were delighted, intrigued and wowed by. First up in this ongoing series is a successful Kickstarter startup, Glowdeck.



  • Wiretap Proponent Condoleezza Rice Joins Dropbox's Board
    The big story out of Silicon Valley on Wednesday was that Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, was joining the board of popular cloud storage company Dropbox.
  • Rumor: Apple considering entry into high-definition music? [u]
    [Updated with Apple hiring details] Following on the heels of a claim that Apple is planning to “dramatically” overhaul the iTunes music store in the near future, a previous rumor that the company was considering offering “high-resolution” 24-bit music tracks has gained new currency. Apple has been reported to be looking for ways to boost digital music sales, which have seen a slump as users spend more time listening to on-demand streaming services like Spotify. The higher-quality music files would likely be offered in a lossless format.



  • 'Heartbleed' Computer Bug Threat Spreads To Firewalls And Beyond
    By Jim Finkle

    BOSTON, April 10 (Reuters) – Hackers could crack email systems, security firewalls and possibly mobile phones through the “Heartbleed” computer bug, according to security experts who warned on Thursday that the risks extended beyond just Internet Web servers.

    The widespread bug surfaced late on Monday, when it was disclosed that a pernicious flaw in a widely used Web encryption program known as OpenSSL opened hundreds of thousands of websites to data theft. Developers rushed out patches to fix affected web servers when they disclosed the problem, which affected companies from Amazon.com Inc and Google Inc to Yahoo Inc.

    Yet pieces of vulnerable OpenSSL code can be found inside plenty of other places, including email servers, ordinary PCs, phones and even security products such as firewalls. Developers of those products are scrambling to figure out whether they are vulnerable and patch them to keep their users safe.

    “I am waiting for a patch,” said Jeff Moss, a security adviser to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and founder of the Def Con hacking conference. Def Con’s network uses an enterprise firewall from McAfee, which is owned by Intel Corp’s security division.

    He said he was frustrated because people had figured out that his email and Web traffic is vulnerable and posted about it on the Internet – but he can’t take steps to remedy the problem until Intel releases a patch.

    “Everybody is going through the exact same thing I’m going through, if you are going through a vendor fix,” he said.

    An Intel spokesman declined comment, referring Reuters to a company blog that said: “We understand this is a difficult time for businesses as they scramble to update multiple products from multiple vendors in the coming weeks. The McAfee products that use affected versions of OpenSSL are vulnerable and need to be updated.”

    It did not say when they would be released.

    The Heartbleed vulnerability went undetected for about two years and can be exploited without leaving a trace, so experts and consumers fear attackers may have compromised large numbers of networks without their knowledge.

    Companies and government agencies are now rushing to understand which products are vulnerable, then set priorities for fixing them. They are anxious because researchers have observed sophisticated hacking groups conducting scans of the Internet this week in search of vulnerable servers .

    “Every security person is talking about this,” said Chris Morales, practice manager with the cybersecurity services firm NSS Labs.

    Cisco Systems Inc, the world’s biggest telecommunications equipment provider, said on its website that it is reviewing dozens of products to see if they are safe. It uncovered about a dozen that are vulnerable, including a TelePresence video conferencing server, a version of the IOS software for managing routers. A company spokesman declined to comment on how those issues might affect users, saying Cisco would provide more information as it became available.

    Oracle Corp has not posted such an advisory on its support site. Company spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger declined to comment on Heartbleed.

    Microsoft Corp, which runs a cloud computing and storage service, the Xbox platform and has hundreds of millions of Windows and Officer users, said in a statement that “a few services continue to be reviewed and updated with further protections.” It did not identify them.

    Officials with technology giants IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co could not be reached. EMC Corp and Dell said they had no immediate comment.

    Security experts said the vulnerable code is also found in some widely used email server software, the online browser anonymizing tool Tor and OpenVPN, as well as some online games and software that runs Internet-connected devices such as webcams and mobile phones.

    Jeff Forristal, chief technology officer of Bluebox Security, said that version 4.1.1 of Google’s Android operating system, known as Jelly Bean, is also vulnerable. Google officials declined comment on his finding.

    Other security experts said that they would avoid using any device with the vulnerable software in it, but that it would take a lot of effort for a hacker to extract useful data from a vulnerable Android phone. (Editing by Edwin Chan and Eric Walsh)

  • VIDEO: First look at the Samsung S5
    Rory Cellan-Jones tries out Samsung’s latest S5 phone, as it makes its global launch on Friday.
  • Powering up firms with hi-tech cash
    The technologies giving small firms a cash boost
  • The Number One Myth of Hiring (and How You Can Overcome It)
    2014-04-10-buildateam.jpg

    Simply put, your staff IS your company. And your relative success or failure is frequently a result of the quality of your people. If you think you can hire mediocre people and train them to be great, well, think again. Particularly when you’re small and getting started, the impact of your staff is amplified. A very small business is really more about its people and less about its systems. You need to make sure you’re finding and hiring the very best employees.

    Here’s What I Had To Overcome

    The Myth: More employees equals more profits.
    I had this idea stuck in my head for most of my life — the more employees I have, the more money I make. Even before I was seeing any real return on the hours I was working in my business, I was anxiously trying to hire more employees. The thought was that an employee was like a little engine, churning out profits. The more little engines you have running, the more profit is pouring out onto your company floor. Well, this is a fun idea, but what if your engines produce $1 per hour in profits and what if your engines require $2 worth of gas each hour to run? Now your little money engines aren’t churning out profits, they’re burning money at a rate of $1 per hour.

    It’s important to blow up the myth in your head that staff will somehow magically make you money. Having an employee is not inherently good or bad for your company’s profits. They may make you lots of money, or they may cost you lots of money. The only real guarantee is that you have to pay them either way. So, before you run out and start expanding your staff…

    Get out your calculators

    Do the math. Hire what you can afford. Don’t be tempted by that high-priced gun. When Go Media first got started, we wanted to hire the very best employees, so we did. We paid them what they asked for. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford the quality of employees that we hired. We never did the math. We assumed that because they were good designers, somehow their value added to what our firm would produce — the extra income necessary to pay their salary. We had a problem. We weren’t charging our customers enough hourly to cover the employee’s hourly wage. After six months, we were broke and forced to lay off our newfangled employee.

    2014-04-10-fosterscreativity540x358.jpg

    So when DO you hire?

    When do you hire? A good rule of thumb for hiring is when you have enough money coming in that you can afford to pay that new employee even if that new employee does not contribute one penny to your income. If you have any doubt whatsoever about your ability to afford a new employee, you probably shouldn’t be hiring them.

    Before you start to scale up your business you need to ask:

    “Is this system humming? Am I dialed in? Are we churning out rock-solid profits every month?” Or, are you hoping to fix your system by bringing in more people? Are you bringing on people hoping they will be the ones who start bringing in the money? If this is your perspective, then you shouldn’t be hiring.

    Another question you can ask yourself when considering whether or not to hire someone is, “Is there historical precedence for their job?” In other words, are you getting regular requests for the job they’re going to do? If there isn’t a proven track record of demand, then I would look to an alternate option to hiring a new employee. Build the demand first, line up the work, and then hire a new employee.

    All in all what I’ve found is that more employees do not necessarily mean more profits. Employees are a liability. Whether you’re busy or not, you need to pay them. Wait to hire more employees until the evidence and need is overwhelming.

    How about you? What have you found to be the biggest myth in your hiring process? What hurdles have you faced? Join the conversation in the comments below.

    This post is an excerpt from Drawn to Business by William Beachy.

  • Lab-Grown Vaginal Organs Successfully Implanted Into 4 Teens
    Four teenage girls successfully received lab-grown vaginal organs that were engineered from their own muscle and epithelial cells, according to a study published in the journal The Lancet.

    The surgeries were all conducted between June 2005 and October 2008; the recipients of the vaginal organs were between 13 and 18 when the surgeries were conducted, and all of them had a condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome that left them with no, or underdeveloped, vaginas and uteruses.

    Now, up to eight years after the surgeries, all of the patients still have normal organ functioning. Their sexual functioning post-surgery is also normal, with no indications of pain or effects on sexual desire, researchers noted.

    “This pilot study is the first to demonstrate that vaginal organs can be constructed in the lab and used successfully in humans,” study researcher Dr. Anthony Atala, the director of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine, said in a statement. “This may represent a new option for patients who require vaginal reconstructive surgeries. In addition, this study is one more example of how regenerative medicine strategies can be applied to a variety of tissues and organs.”

    To construct the lab-grown vaginal organs, researchers first obtained biopsies of each patient’s external genitals. Then, they extracted cells from these tissues and put them on a material that they sewed to be the shape of a vagina. Each “scaffold” was created to fit the individual patient. A little over a month after the biopsy, surgeons implanted the “scaffolds” into the patients; over time, the body absorbs the scaffold and tissue forms.

    “Yearly tissue biopsy samples show that the reconstructed tissue is histologically and functionally similar to normal vaginal tissue,” Atala said in a statement.

    Another study published in the same issue of the journal details the first reports of nostrils being engineered by scientists for five people who had skin cancer that damaged their noses. It’s now been five years since those reconstructive surgeries, and all of the patients can breathe and are happy with how their noses look.

  • Researchers Use Math To Beat Jet Lag
    WASHINGTON (AP) — Lots of apps claim they can help you fight jet lag. Now Michigan researchers say mathematical formulas suggest it’s possible to adjust to new time zones a bit faster than previously thought, and they created their own free app to help.

    Doctors have long said exposure to light is key. But how much, and when? “If you get light in the wrong time or wrong way, it’ll send you the wrong direction,” said University of Michigan math professor Daniel Forger, who led the research published Thursday.

    A master biological clock, called a circadian rhythm, regulates when we become sleepy and when we’re more alert. Travel across time zones and the body clock has to reset itself.

    Light is that clock’s strongest regulator. In a study partly funded by the Air Force, the Michigan team used two equations proven to predict someone’s circadian rhythm, and with computer modeling calculated different schedules of light exposure for more than 1,000 possible trips.

    It’s possible to customize a block of time each day when you should be in light, the brighter the better, and another when you should avoid it, Forger’s team reported in the journal PLoS Computational Biology. (It didn’t address other potential remedies such as melatonin.)

    An example: Fly from Detroit to London, five hours ahead, arriving at 11 a.m. London time. Generally, it’s thought to take a day per time zone to fully adjust. But the study suggests a three-day adjustment schedule, if you can stick with it: On the day after arrival, get light from 7:40 a.m. to 9 p.m.; from 6:20 a.m. to 7:40 p.m. on Day 2; and from 5 a.m. until 7:20 p.m. on Day 3.

    A free iPhone app named Entrain does the calculations. Stay indoors, or stay up later, and it adjusts the advice.

    The app hasn’t been tested with travelers to see whether it really helps more than general advice, such as to seek morning light when traveling eastward. But after using it, travelers will be given a choice of submitting their data to a University of Michigan study.

    “Before we really believe it, it has to go through testing,” cautioned sleep-medicine specialist Dr. Steven Altchuler, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, who wasn’t involved in the project. But “there’s very little risk of harm if someone wants to try these things.”

    Most people adjust fine with general advice, but adjusting faster may be more important if travelers must be at their best for, say, sports competitions or a business negotiation, Altchuler added.

    “I think it makes sense,” said Dr. Charles Bae of the Cleveland Clinic’s sleep disorder center. “Anything you could do to optimize your adjustment is welcome, without medications.”

  • Your Facebook News Feed Is About To Get A Lot Less Annoying
    Your News Feed is getting a major overhaul, according to a post on the Facebook Newsroom blog Thursday. The company announced several improvements to “reduce stories that people frequently tell us are spammy and that they don’t want to see.”

    The post detailed three major ways the company plans to clean up the News Feed:

    • Reducing “like-baiting,” or posts that endorse liking or commenting as a way to game the News Feed algorithm, which rewards posts with more engagement with a more prominent spot in the Feed.
    • Reducing “frequently circulated content,” meaning that viral video that everyone shared won’t show up twice in your Feed.
    • Ditching “spammy links,” so any stories that mislead users into clicking on links that lead to only advertisements or other spam are wiped from the News Feed altogether.

    The updates will likely make for a better experience for users, who will enjoy an increase in content that they actually care about, but what about brands?

    According to Facebook, they should be OK, as long as they’re not relying on spam as a way to spread their content. But as Business Insider points out, this is just the latest move in Facebook’s ongoing war against boring content, one that many brands are finding it difficult to win. In fact, a blog post by Forrester analyst Nate Elliot encouraged brands to stop allocating portions of their marketing budget to Facebook.

  • 'Hail Hydra' Is The New Meme To Love (Or Hate)
    Hail Hydra is the newest meme to hit the web, stemming from its use in the box-office smash “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Viral doesn’t even begin to describe the velocity with which it took off; any picture of people whispering or embracing could become the latest in a long line of memes captioned with “Hail Hydra.”

    NO ONE IS SAFE ANYMORE #HailHydra pic.twitter.com/JDouDYrW3z

    — Badger (@JordanUnchained) April 7, 2014

    However, some on the web have decided that this joke has gotten out of hand and are fighting fire with fire. From Grumpy Cat to Neil deGrasse Tyson, people are using their favorite memes to mock or express their loathing of the new go-to meme. (So meta.) The move is an clever way to express contempt in an appealing way, but it may not be enough to cut through the overabundant use of “Hail Hydra.” Below are just a few examples of the many memes employed against the popular, well, meme.


    Shared from starshard6215 using Embeddlr


    Shared from metahumanchronicles using Embeddlr

    Images from Know Your Meme

  • Why Amazon Pays Some Workers Up To $5,000 To Quit
    Hate your job? Then quit. In fact, we’ll pay you to quit.

    That’s the philosophy at Amazon’s warehouses, according to a new letter by company CEO Jeff Bezos. Here’s a snippet from Bezos’ letter written to his shareholders this month (emphasis ours):

    The second program is called Pay to Quit. It was invented by the clever people at Zappos, and the Amazon fulfillment centers [warehouses] have been iterating on it. Pay to Quit is pretty simple. Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit. The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000. The headline on the offer is “Please Don’t Take This Offer.” We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay. Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.

    The idea is based on a program employed by Zappos, a shoe and clothing retailer now owned by Amazon, which offers new hires a bonus to quit. (Apparently very few of them take it.)

    But Amazon warehouses are often staffed by temporary workers, and it’s unclear whether they would qualify for the pay-to-quit program since they are not Amazon employees. The company did not directly address who qualifies for the program when reached by The Huffington Post.

    Amazon warehouses are massive distribution centers where workers often work long shifts performing grueling physical labor while fetching customer orders.

    Amazon and workers at warehouses in Nevada are currently in the midst of a lawsuit being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court . The lawsuit concerns long waits in mandatory security check points that are meant to prevent workers from stealing pricey goods. The case will determine whether Amazon and other companies have to compensate workers for the time they’re forced to wait in line.

  • Google Glass Going On Sale To Public For VERY Limited Time
    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Google Inc will take online orders for its Glass wearable gadget on April 15, in its biggest push to get the $1,500 wraparound Web-ready glasses out to the U.S. public.
    For a limited time starting Tuesday, Google will make the wearable device available to more than just the select group of users such as apps developers in its Glass Explorer program.
    In a blogpost, Google did not say how many pairs it would sell, just that the quantity would be limited.
    “Every day we get requests from those of you who haven’t found a way into the program yet, and we want your feedback too,” the company said on a Thursday blogpost.
    “That’s why next Tuesday, April 15th, we’ll be trying our latest and biggest Explorer Program expansion experiment to date. We’ll be allowing anyone in the U.S. to become an Explorer by purchasing Glass.”
    Many tech pundits expect wearable devices to go mainstream this year, extending smartphone and tablet capabilities to gadgets worn on the body, from watches to headsets. Google has run campaigns in the past to drum up public involvement, including inviting people to tweet under the hashtag #ifihadglass for a chance to buy a pair of the glasses.
    Google Glass has raised privacy concerns, prompting some legislators to propose bans on the gadget.
    (Reporting by San Francisco Newsroom; Editing by Richard Chang)
  • Facebook Told Not To Mess With WhatsApp Privacy Settings
    When Facebook agreed to acquire the popular messaging service WhatsApp, some feared Mark Zuckerberg’s company would ignore privacy promises made to early WhatsApp users in the name of sweet, sweet data collection.

    According to a a new letter, you can count the U.S. government among the concerned parties.

    In a letter sent Thursday (and viewable below in its entirety), the FTC, a government agency meant to protect U.S. consumers from unfair business practices, told Facebook that it doesn’t expect the company to change WhatsApp’s privacy policies from those first promised to pre-acquisition users.

    “WhatsApp has made a number of promises about the limited nature of the data it collects, maintains, and shares with third parties -promises that exceed the protections currently promised to Facebook users,” the letter reads. “We want to make clear that, regardless of the acquisition, WhatsApp must continue to honor these promises to consumers.”

    The letter, which was penned by Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection, was addressed to Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, and Anne Hoge, WhatsApp’s general counsel.

    WhatsApp, which was acquired for $19 billion in February, had promised its 450 million users it would not look at or share their data. That stands in contrast to Facebook, which has been accused of reading private messages without users’ knowledge and scanning private messages for links.

    The FTC wants to make sure that WhatsApp is able to keep its pledges of privacy to customers, even after it’s acquired by Facebook, Rich explained in the letter. In the event WhatsApp changes the way it collects and uses customer data, the app should make those changes clear and let people opt out, Rich continued.

    WhatsApp made a name for itself by promising a lack of invasion into its users’ privacy. “We don’t know your name, your gender,” WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum told Wired in February before the acquisition. “We designed our system to be as anonymous as possible.”

    If Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is to be believed, none of this will be a problem. Zuckerberg has maintained that he plans to “keep the service exactly the same.”

    [h/t Gigaom]

  • You've Seen This Photo A Million Times — Now Learn The Story Behind It
    This week, Microsoft wanted to subtly remind everyone how great and mighty it used to be.

    A new video released by the company offers the backstory of an iconic photo that almost certainly was your desktop image at some point. “Bliss,” a shot of a grassy hill and a blue sky, was the default background for all machines running Windows XP, the operating system that Microsoft introduced in 2001 and stopped supporting this month.

    According to the company’s new XP tribute video, what was perhaps the most ubiquitous photo in computer history was not Photoshopped. Here’s the exact shot “Bliss” photographer Charles O’Rear took in 1996:

    windows xp

    “It was taken near my home, north of San Francisco,” O’Rear says in the video. “It’s the real deal. It wasn’t Photoshopped. What you see is what you get.”

    While driving on Highway 121 in California, the former National Geographic photographer decided to slip off the highway and take the shot, according to this 2010 Napa Valley Register article. Years later, Microsoft paid him a handsome (undisclosed) sum for his sincere landscape.

    Here’s that same scene in 2013, taken from Microsoft’s new video:

    windows xp

    So far, the company hasn’t exactly had an easy time phasing out XP. The Huffington Post reported last month that when Microsoft stops supporting the OS, hundreds of millions of computers running everything from ATMs to the power grid will be left vulnerable to hackers.

    But when it comes to bolstering its public image, Microsoft may have realized that nostalgia sells. A ’90s-themed ad for Internet Explorer — featuring Lisa Frank folders, Tamagotchis and Hungry Hungry Hippos — went viral last year, proving the aging behemoth can leverage some of its past popularity to get people’s attention today.

    For the entire backstory on the iconic “Bliss” photo, watch the video below:

  • Nasdaq Just Plummeted And Everyone's Asking The Same Question
    The stock market got completely kerslammered on Thursday, and the kerslammering might not be done.

    The punishment started on the Nasdaq, which sank 3.1 percent, its worst day since November 2011. The selloff metastasized and took down the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which fell 1.6 percent, and the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, which fell 2.1 percent. Here’s a look at the day’s trading in the Nasdaq:

    nasdaq plunge

    There’s been lots of yammering in the market for a while now about how tech stocks are in a bubble that is due for bursting, and we could be witnessing the start of that. Funny enough, tech stocks actually weren’t the worst performers in the Nasdaq on Thursday. That unwelcome honor went to biotechnology stocks: The Nasdaq Biotech index was bulldozed 5.6 percent.

    Still, this bloodshed comes just a month after the Nasdaq hit a 14-year high and the other major stock measures hit new records. Venture capitalists are handing out billion-dollar valuations to any brogrammer with half a dream, and the market for new stocks is hotter than it has been since the end of dot-com boom.

    Thursday’s rout was the resumption of one that started about a month ago, but has picked up speed lately, sending investors scurrying for safe havens like Treasury bonds. The Nasdaq has lost about 7 percent in that time, led by former high-flying stocks like Facebook, Google and Tesla. The big debate now is whether this is The Big One, the long-awaited correction to a bull market that has been carrying on with only minor interruptions since March 2009. Or maybe something worse, something crash-ier.

    Or maybe it’s just temporary agita about the Federal Reserve’s long-stated desire to stop pumping quite so much cocaine into the financial system, along with the start of corporate-earnings season, which is not expected to be very good. A near-record number of companies have warned of disappointing profits in the first quarter, according to data tracker FactSet.

  • Internet Ad Revenue Soars Past Broadcast TV Ad Revenue For First Time

    NEW YORK (AP) — For the first time, U.S. Internet advertising revenue has surpassed that of broadcast television thanks to sharp growth in mobile and digital video ads.

    That’s according to a report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which said Thursday that Internet advertising revenue rose 17 percent to a record $42.8 billion in 2013. Broadcast TV ad revenue, in comparison, was $40.1 billion in 2013.

    Mobile advertising revenue more than doubled to $7.1 billion from $3.4 billion in 2012 as companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter boosted their mobile presence.

    IAB is made up of more than 600 media and technology companies that sell most of the online advertising in the U.S. The report is based on a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

  • Paying For It: Is PayPal Hurting Sex Workers?
    “In a sluggish economy, never, ever f*** with another man’s livelihood.” – Risky Business

    As a sex worker, I hear “why don’t you leave the industry?” all the time. We all do — it’s one of the big questions I see Duke student and porn performer Belle Knox fighting off too. I’ve been in the industry for about 10 years, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about the answer. For me, becoming a sex worker was part survival and part career path, as I had been working three jobs at a mall for very little and knew it wasn’t sustainable. I brainstormed how I’d transition from one aspect to another, taught myself marketing strategies, learned how to best utilize social media in order to connect to clients. I expected that I would stay in the industry for quite a while, either as a worker or an organizer. I enjoyed my work (most of the time), speaking publicly and without shame about it at universities, on television, online and over the airwaves. As an Internet-savvy professional, I blogged regularly, used online advertising and branded myself on social media. All publicity is good publicity, right? And I could always write about my experiences.

    I discovered that leaving the sex industry was far easier said than done. I spoke to faith-based organization Solace SF about options. I had encountered them multiple times and they seemed friendly and not too pushy. Many groups that focus on the intersection of sex work and religion (or sex work and radical feminism) talk constantly about how much they want women to leave the industry, how it drains us, how it mistreats us. I didn’t feel mistreated myself, but I was exhausted and ready to leave the adult industry behind. Solace promised to help me with my resume, get me interview clothes, advise me on applying for jobs when my primary work was adult in nature. Ten years is a long time to have a gap in a resume, after all!

    A representative from Solace told me that I had two choices — work as a freelancer, continue to hustle and don’t worry about my history… or say goodbye to Kitty Stryker, delete everything related to that name and try to wipe the slate clean. I sat with that for a while, turning over in my head how it would feel to delete a persona I spent 10 years creating, honing, perfecting. I would lose all my contacts, lose all the work I had done in media. I couldn’t tell prospective employers about speaking at South By Southwest if I distanced myself from this persona, because I had done a presentation on sex work under that identity. I considered it, but ultimately decided I’d rather take my chances and get whatever help I could without destroying my past like I was ashamed of it. But the help never came, and I discovered that Solace had fallen apart with rumors of fraud following in its wake. I can’t say I was altogether surprised. All I had gotten in the end were cupcakes and the very occasional gift card for Safeway, nothing to help me move forward and start a new job.

    And people wonder why sex workers don’t trust the organizations available to “help” them.

    Even if that help had panned out I was (and still am) somewhat conflicted about whether or not I want to leave the sex industry. I know I don’t have the energy for it anymore on the one hand, but I don’t know if I can get started anywhere else. I was outed under my legal name for a piece I wrote about Porn Wikileaks, so it’s not easy, but is possible to link my legal name to my adult one. If an employer Googles my name, they’ll find my “sordid past” and then will it matter how many Twitter followers I have or the success of my blog? Even if hired, I could be subsequently fired for having been in porn or written about dildos. What do you do when your brand is adult-based and all your best connections, writing and media appearances relate not to SEO, but SEX?

    I’m a fighter, though, so I decided to try working independently, first as a marketing manager (sex work teaches you a lot about social media and branding) and later as a writer. I found Patreon, a service that allowed content creators to gather patrons who could pay for your art on a subscription basis. Knowing that crowdsourcing was unfriendly to sex workers and needing a sustainable option, I started up a Patreon account, making sure the content I posted followed their guidelines. It encouraged me to work harder on my writing, and was, for the first time, a viable alternative to sex work. It was great for the first few months. I funded a business trip to the upcoming Feminist Porn Conference in part because of the financial assistance Patreon provided, where I’d be speaking on porn and privacy.

    Then I got an email from Patreon, saying that the payment processor PayPal had threatened to shut down all integration with their site because of “adult content.” The email stated, “as you can imagine, this would be detrimental to creators — hundreds of thousands of dollars were to be “frozen” unless we flagged all adult content pages, made them private and removed PayPal functionality from their individual pages… I’m so sorry that we had to do this without warning you first, but it was SUCH an emergency! We simply had to take action to avoid a situation where creators would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars of legitimate pledges.” Patreon emailed all of our patrons to warn them, and suggested we also email them to ensure payments went through as usual at the beginning of April. They worked around the clock responding to my panicked emails. While Patreon was open to artists creating work that was adult in nature, their hands were tied. And not in a kinky way.

    This was not my first clash with PayPal or similar service WePay, of course. As I’ve discovered by seeking out stories on Twitter and Facebook, if you have anything to do with sex in some capacity and have tried to use an online payment processor, you’ll have had a run-in with one of them freezing your account, returning donations in best case scenarios and just taking it in the worst cases. As the organizer of an event with burlesque, I once had my account frozen for a week, losing vital time to purchase supplies, and I had to submit via email all sorts of information to “prove” I was legit (meaning, of course, not a sex worker). Companies like PayPal or WePay will Google people they deem suspicious and then take the money out of their accounts if they decide it’s “adult” without ever clearly defining what that means. Like obscenity, the rule seems to be “we’ll know it when we see it”.

    Of course, it’s not just me. Andre Shakti found herself in similarly hot water in March for crowdfunding travel costs using Fundly to make it to the Feminist Porn Awards and Conference. While her offered perks followed Fundly’s terms, WePay, the payment processor they used, shut down her account because they were “adult,” causing the Sex Workers Outreach Project to write to Fundly encouraging them to stop using WePay and actually do what their tagline says… “raise money for anything”. Or there was Maggie Mayhem, a porn performer, tried to raise money for going to Haiti to do relief work using PayPal, and, despite the fact her fundraising had nothing to do with porn, she found her account shut down. Michelle Austin, another porn performer, had accounts at both companies shut down at different times — WePay did because her company was “linked to an adult company” (which can mean anything from linking to an adult company to having adult content show up in a Google search). She thinks PayPal shut down her donations simply because there was a porn shoot on her personal blog. Makes me wonder how many Tumblrs asking for donations for medical care get their accounts shut down for that reason?

    PayPal and WePay are not required to give answers as to why they freeze or shut down accounts, but often all that’s required is the history (or even the suspicion) of sex work. It’s not just them, either — Amazon Payments joined the list when Polly Whittaker raised money to fund publishing her memoirs of her experiences with sex culture, but when it came to cash out, Amazon decided her memoirs were too sexual in nature. Google Wallet has had similar issues for those looking to receive payment for handmade BDSM toys. And Square has banned Courtney Trouble for life, even though they were using it for non-porn purposes, because their Google search uncovered that Courtney is a porn producer.

    Why do these payment processors have such a strict policy on adult performers, so strict that having worked in the industry means you could find yourself banned for life? I looked into this somewhat and found many such companies claiming that statistically, adult companies were more likely to be high risk for chargebacks (when someone buys the content, often downloading what they want and then calling the company to report fraud). However, I couldn’t actually find these supposed statistics.

    Instead, I discovered indie porn site owners saying their chargeback percentages were low enough to not warrant calling them high risk, and arguments about what constituted pornography (considered a “risky” investment) versus adult content (not necessarily deemed “risky” but a gray enough area to make enforcement completely arbitrary). I also discovered other types of business often considered at risk for chargebacks (travel, computer services, sorcery!). I spoke to someone who works in PayPal’s fraud department, and he said that 90% of the cases he had deal with digital goods, as people could get the item or service immediately, and there’s no traceable trail. But it’s adult companies that get this treatment, time and time again. These businesses aren’t targeted the way adult performers are. While current indie developers have had their accounts frozen, I haven’t seen a situation yet where someone *used* to be an indie dev or had links in their sidebar for games they had made, and because of that they got their account shut down when they tried to crowdfund going to SXSW.

    Also interesting is that being associated in any way with adult services or performers does not seem to be enforced across the board. Multiple erotica sites dealt with PayPal, telling them that “morally objectionable” content wasn’t allowed… including books with BDSM content (they later sort of backed down from this, though it still seems to be case by case). Vicki Gallas, a former escort, was banned from using PayPal to process payments for her memoirs, because they included sex work. Seattle Erotic Art Festival had their account frozen even though they only used the service to process fine art submission fees. The SF Citadel, a BDSM community space in San Francisco, had no issues with WePay, though, though they’ve since stopped using it out of solidarity. SWAAY, a sex worker community project, accepts PayPal. It seems like what counts as “adult” shifts drastically and is impossible to anticipate.

    Particularly interesting is that PayPal really got its start, not only through online auctions like eBay, but adult websites and online gambling. Both are things they now refuse to have anything to do with, even though porn sites and online casinos helped rocket PayPal to the popularity it enjoys today. In 2003, citing high fraud rates, Paypal stopped accepting adult transactions or gambling ones, offering instead to monitor user transactions and report potentially illegal activities.

    Our economy is pretty terrible right now. When jobs are difficult to come by, people are starting small businesses out of their home, selling stuff on eBay, making mobile apps, crafting things to sell on Etsy. And, of course, more and more people are trying their hand at something in the adult entertainment arena to help them get by – perhaps camming here, maybe doing a porn there, possibly stripping or selling their dirty socks. College is expensive. Rent is rising in many major cities. Sex work can be and is a ticket out of debt for many people.

    Yet, we live in a culture that brands us permanently for dipping a toe into sex work while simultaneously insisting sex workers should leave the industry and do other work. The subsequent shaming becomes a double-edged weapon. With PayPal and WePay controlling most of the online payment market, banning sex workers past or present from using either can mean that any other sort of small business idea is made impossible for us. I may want to stop doing sex work and write instead, but if I can’t process online payments because of having an adult history, and companies won’t hire me because they can Google my sex work history, I’m stuck in the business, whether I like it or not.

    Interestingly, as faith in PayPal and WePay falls, companies like Verotel are moving forward, accepting Bitcoin as a possible alternative form of online payment for adult companies. Perhaps Bitcoin and other similar payment systems outside of the Visa/Mastercard monopoly is the way of the future for those on the margins when companies like PayPal or WePay can steal unfettered from marginalized populations.

    But, until we can use Bitcoin to pay rent and buy groceries, the only payment sex workers can count on is the anonymity of cash in hand, and as long as that’s true, that scarlet letter makes it hard to leave the industry. When payment processors can dictate morality, that’s a scary road to walk down. I’ve felt sharply the need for society to stand with me, with all sex workers, to recognize that sex work is, in fact, work… and that staying employed during hard times is a sign of our resourcefulness in the face of a hostile world. Sex workers learn how to use tech as a survival strategy — we’re the CEO, CFO, marketing director, PR department and human resources, all on our own. I don’t know a company alive that couldn’t use that skill set in an unsteady economy.

    In case you were wondering, my Patreon patrons all switched over and rent got paid. Guess PayPal just lost out on the fees for all those transactions.

    I hope it was worth it for them.

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