A recent report from the Washington Post, which cited documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with officials, revealed that the National Security Agency sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google’s internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters, and that in the last 30 days, field collectors had processed and sent back more than 180 million new records. These revelations unsurprisingly outraged big tech, and triggered legal questions over whether or not the NSA is violating federal wiretap laws.

“Although there’s a diminished standard of legal protection for interception that occurs overseas, the fact that it was directed apparently to Google’s cloud and Yahoo’s cloud, and that there was no legal order as best we can tell to permit the interception, there is a good argument to make that the NSA has engaged in unlawful surveillance,” stated Marc Rotenberg, executive director of Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Well now, six of the biggest technology firms in the US are urging Congress to require more transparency from the NSA about surveillance and improved privacy protections. The letter, which was signed by Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and AOL, states:

“Recent disclosures regarding surveillance activity raise important concerns both in the United States and abroad.

[Transparency will] help to counter erroneous reports that we permit intelligence agencies ‘direct access’ to our companies’ servers or that we are participants in a bulk Internet records collection program. 

Transparency is a critical first step to an informed public debate, but it is clear that more needs to be done. Our companies believe that government surveillance practices should also be reformed to include substantial enhancements to privacy protections and appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms for those programs.”

Digital rights advocacy group The Center for Democracy and Technology hopes that other companies will follow Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and AOL’s lead and speak up.

“This is a defining moment and other companies must now step up to support genuine FISA reform or explain to their users why they are not,” said Leslie Harris, president and chief executive of CDT.

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Nearly everyone these days can be put at risk of having their hours or pay cut. Smaller paychecks can be enough to throw families into financial shock, but luckily there are things you can do to survive this type of economic emergency. Follow these five steps and you can survive this stressful interruption to your normal paycheck!

  • Give up on your own spending patterns. Sorry, but you’re going to need to scale back on some of your big luxury expenses (gym memberships, shopping sprees) until you build a big enough financial cushion to afford them again. Get rid of unnecessary expenses and make a note of how much you’re saving. Then, put that money directly into a savings account or put it aside for upcoming bills. Waiting until you’re in a hole to make changes is a huge mistake!
  • Pay important bills first. Your smaller paycheck likely means you don’t have the cash on hand to pay every single creditor you owe right away. Prioritize your bills based on due dates and which obligations are most important. You need your car to get to and from work, so don’t get so behind on your car payment that your vehicle gets taken away. You need a roof over your head, so pay your rent or mortgage. Cable TV, however, isn’t so essential… that bill can be paid last.
  • Find more work. If you simply can’t survive on any less than you used to earn, look for a part-time job. Reliance on a single paycheck in today’s economy can be risky anyway!
  • Seek help from creditors. If you know you can’t afford to pay a bill because the money simply isn’t there, explain your situation to a creditor and ask about your options. Plenty of creditors will be more than willing to work with you, especially because you were responsible enough to deal with them directly.
  • Stay away from hard money loans. As tempting as it may be, don’t turn to hard-money lenders or ask for a payday loan or a vehicle title loan. Tapping a line of credit or even taking a cash advance from a credit card is better than taking out payday loans, as they often come with annual interest rates of around 400 percent!

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Entrepreneurs, it’s time to face what might be a harsh reality – the success of your startup business depends very highly on your ability to successfully pitch your idea or product to potential clients and investors. Your pitch makes or breaks the interest in your company; in just a few sentences, you need to create a lasting impression and inspire faith in your goals. If you find yourself at a loss for words when trying to explain the merits of your startup, be sure to follow these simple tips and make your pitch one to remember.

  • Make sure you’re taking a stand. Adjust your pitch to make sure it’s clear not just what your product is, but also what exactly your business stands for and how it can help change the lives of those who utilize your product. Commit to a specific niche or purpose, in order to bring clarity to who you are and what your business will do.
  • Speak the truth. If you seem authentic, people will both hear and feel your passion and faith and buy-in to your mission. Don’t claim your business will solve everyone’s problems – clearly explain who your target consumers are, what those consumers are in need of, and how exactly you can help that specific group of people satisfy their needs.
  • Push, don’t pull.  Present your business’ accomplishments in a modest way, and allow audiences to figure out themselves how your proposition could help them. Let it be their idea to jump onboard and invest in your business.
  • Keep it simple. Use proof points, metrics, and anecdotes that your audience can grasp, instead of potentially confusing industry jargon – they shouldn’t need a dictionary to understand what you’re saying. Speak in layman’s terms whenever possible so they can listen to your ideas and not focus too much on your words.
  • Constantly update your pitch. Don’t just recite the same exact pitch for months or years on end, or it will be built on old information and experiences. As you and your business go through changes, change your pitch. Evolve the story about your career path to include recently acquired leadership and management roles, so people are listening to the impressive you that you are today and not the novice you may have been when you first started making pitches.

 

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Despite the fact that Samsung launched their Galaxy S4, the follow-up to the Galaxy S III, in April of this year, rumors are now beginning to circulate that the company is already making plans to release the Samsung Galaxy S5 in January 2014!

The Galaxy S5 coming a mere 9-months after the S4′s release seems strange, but since Samsung’s recently unveiled Galaxy Note 3 has been overshadowing the Galaxy S4, the South Korean electronic giant apparently wants to refresh their flagship smartphone.

Korean website Naver, which is run by former Samsung employees, cites internal sources who claim the Galaxy S5 will be announced at the January Consumer Electronics Show, with an anticipated market release in February. The report claims that the phone would be powered by a 64-bit Exynos 5430 chip and will sport a 16-megapixel camera with enhanced low-light performance and Optical Image Stabilisation. More rumors point to dust and waterproof capabilities, an all-metal case instead of the usual plastic one, and a fingerprint scanner, to directly compete with Apple’s Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 5s.

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Look out, Pandora and Spotify, personalized radio service Rdio is finally ready to compete for your users. Starting today, a free version of Rdio will be available on iOS and Android… and its free of advertising!

Rdio’s radio feature, Stations, is now free to non-subscribers on its mobile apps in the United States, Canada, and Australia. New users signing up on mobile will have access to the company’s on-demand music selection during a 14-day trial, before having to switch over to free stations after the trial ends. The company believes that by offering unlimited music during the trial, listeners will become hooked on Rdio and decide to buy the full experience. 

“We don’t need you to subscribe right away,” stated Rdio’s vice president for product Chris Becherer, in an interview with The Verge. ”You can live inside Stations for a long time. We think that over time, you’ll start building up your collection, building up your favorites. And whenever you do subscribe, all that stuff is ready to go.”

To get the complete Rdio service, which includes on-demand listening of tracks and offline song storage, users have to pay $9.99 a month or $4.99 for the firm’s Web-only plan. Rdio executives acknowledge that Stations won’t attract an enormous user base by itself, but since free radio is anticipated to becomes a standard feature in every music app, this change is one that the company absolutely had to make in order to compete with Pandora and Spotify.

Rdio should have even more free options coming later this year; a recent deal with radio operator Cumulus Media will see the two collaborate on an ad-supported version of its service.

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