You haven’t seen the REAL Wisconsin unless…


…You’ve eaten a Cream Puff at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Consider the Wisconsin State fair to be an annual 10-day living exhibit of the modern cultural identity of Wisconsin. The culinary scene is legendary, notable foods on-a-stick include cheese balls, exotic meat sausage combos, and deep fried cream cheese. Nothing, however, can compare to the mighty Original Cream Puff. Over 400,000 of these heavenly pastries were whipped up and devoured in the 2015 Fair alone. That’s an average of 40,000 Cream Puffs made per day. Light, flaky, creamy, sprinkled with love. Devouring a cream puff is the most important thing to do upon arrival at the fair. Splurge on a 6-pack, I won’t tell anyone.

…You’ve attended Summerfest.

Do you love music? Have you heard of the largest music festival in the western hemisphere? Humble Milwaukee, Wisconsin is host to one of the largest music festivals in the world. Over 1,000 performances grace the grounds and its 11 stages during the festival’s whopping 11 days. Imagine experiencing every single music genre that exists, in a single day. Now imagine paying only $15 to get in, because that’s how much a full price day pass sold for this year costs — believe it. Real natives know that the journey into Summerfest is half the experience of the festival. For $5, park-and-ride shuttle busses drop you off at the front door of the grounds from all around the county. Locals know the 20-30 minute ride provides the ideal pre-game window to begin working on your buzz with your buds. By the time you’re on the grounds you’re ready for a banging good time.

…You’ve visited the Waterpark Capital of the World.

The word Wisconsin, may not bring to mind world-class aquatic recreation, but a small southern town called Wisconsin Dells is on a mission to change that. “The Dells”, as true ‘Sconies refer to it, contains the largest concentration of indoor and outdoor waterparks on the planet. Nearly 90% of people who grew up in Wisconsin have been to the Dells and stepped into Noah’s Ark. It is one of the original waterparks in the area, with an ever increasing number of water slides that has grown to over 50. Before diving into a wet and wild day at the waterparks, the seasoned Dell-goers know the best way to start the day – the Banana French Toast with a cup of jo at Denny’s Diner, a traditional 50’s diner with the jukebox and original toy paraphernalia to boot.

…You’ve explored the parks.

Adding to the list of things people don’t associate with Wisconsin, we have islands and an amazing State Park system. Nationally recognized, yet widely unknown, Wisconsin landscapes are as diverse as they are stunning. The Apostle Islands are a saintly collection of 22 islands in Lake Superior at the northern tip of the state. The islands are a well known romantic go-to for local newlyweds and long-term lovers alike. If you’re craving a more devious adventure, take a dip in Devil’s Lake. This fresh body of water surrounded by the Baraboo Hills is the largest park in Wisconsin and is comprised of the remnants of a giant glacier that melted and leveled the terrain thousands of years ago. Insider fun fact: geologists have established that the Baraboo Hills were a part of the ancient Baraboo Range, a glacier destroyed mountain range that rose higher than the Rockies.


The difference between “exposure notification” and “contact tracing” apps

Apps have taken two approaches with their technology. Some use Bluetooth, most often with the Apple and Google technology as a backbone, to provide “exposure notifications.” Others employ GPS location to provide “contact tracing.”

Both technologies aim to do the same thing: If two (or more) people with the app installed on their phones spend a specific amount of time (states have settled on different durations, but the CDC recommends 15 minutes) within a minimum distance of each other (most commonly 6 feet, but it depends on the state), their phones create and store an anonymous record of that contact. If a person later reports getting infected, the app sends a warning to anyone they were in extended contact with. The notification does not include personal details such as your name. How these apps collect and distribute this information differs:

  • The Google Apple Exposure Notification API uses Bluetooth to track who you come into contact with and keeps that information on your phone, unless you test positive. When the technology is enabled, your phone sends out a “chirp” with a rotating, random ID number and captures the chirps of anyone else with the app who you’re near for 10 to 15 minutes, and then logs their chirp as a contact. If you or someone you spent time with reports testing positive, all the contacts within a set amount of time are then notified. This approach does a better job of protecting privacy than location-based software, but Bluetooth has some technical limitations we’ll get to below.
  • Contact tracing apps log your location data and notify you if you were close to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, as well as where that contact likely occurred. For example, if you were exposed to someone at a restaurant, you would know that’s where it happened, though the person who tested positive would remain anonymous. Aside from potential privacy issues with location logs, this approach also tends to drain phone batteries significantly more than Bluetooth does, and GPS isn’t as accurate as you might think, often ranging between 5 and 20 meters.

“Bluetooth is a more appropriate technology for this than using location,” the EFF’s Gebhart says. But she notes that no app is useful absent widespread testing and interview-based contact tracing: “We cannot ‘tech’ ourselves out of this pandemic.”

With states using different technology and different apps, things have gotten complicated quickly, and it’s unclear whether states will (or can) share databases. Right now, if you travel from one state to another, you’ll likely need to install a new app.


Have additional questions?

Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin all offer interactive document checklists to help ensure residents bring proper documents when applying.

For Illinois residents, the Secretary of State’s Office has set up a hotline to address concerns and help residents with the process. You can call the hotline at 833-503-4074.

In Indiana, if you’re having trouble producing the necessary documentation for a Real ID, you’re encouraged to reach out to the BMV customer service center at 888-692-6841.

Visit the DMV website for information regarding the application process in Wisconsin.


Ridesharing from 30,000 Feet

Carl Marbach is a veteran pilot who is changing the way we look at private air travel. His new company, SharedCharter, helps connect brokers, operators, and travelers to ensure a more cost-effective flight and creates more opportunities for those seeking private jets to take to the skies. While he didn’t anticipate a world-altering health crisis to occur in 2020, Marbach expects that interest in private travel options will continue to trend, and that SharedCharter will help make it possible for more people.

“You can look at other peer-to-peer sites like Airbnb and Uber, and see their success, and I knew it was the right time for this,” Marbach says. “I’ve been in aviation a long time and have traveled on plenty of jets. I’ve noticed all the empty seats and know there is plenty of capacity not being used on these flights. If we could reduce the price of the charter, we could both increase the market share dramatically and make it worth doing for the cost. When you think about it, you get exactly the same convenience with three couples that you would with one.”

While the whole point of private travel, especially amid a pandemic, may be to avoid boarding an aircraft with strangers, Marbach says there’s more to SharedCharter that makes it better than the other options on the market, which only offer crowdsourcing, meaning travelers wouldn’t know who they are traveling with until their departure.

“The virus has made people think they may not want to sit on a plane with 200 people, much less sit in an airport with thousands, and we get that there may be people who don't even want to share a charter,” he says. “We’ve thought through that and know you can't just stick people together willy-nilly. You need to have some communication to chat and make sure they are compatible. You also need to see if they've been careful and what their personal health choices have been during this virus.”

When two parties get paired who want to take the same flight, SharedCharter facilitates the communication between them without giving away personal information so those details stay private unless they decide to travel together. And while reducing a flight from $18,000 per couple to $3,000 may still feel like a high price, Marbach says it’s important to consider all the amenities offered with private air travel that you wouldn’t even find in first-class, which may not cost that much less, depending on your circumstances.

“The benefits of charters start with the departure,” Marbach says. “Most people don’t know this, but while there are about 400 airports in the U.S. that commercial airlines go through, there are actually more than 12,000 airports in total. You are way closer to an airport than you think you are, and it’s a totally different experience, especially if you’re traveling to and from a more rural location.”

Marbach says you can forget frustrating parking facilities and the headache of going through TSA lines with charters, as you simply drive up, walk through a lounge to meet your crew, who take your luggage for you, and board the plane, all in about 15 minutes. Besides saving time, the comfort and luxuries of flying private are the most common draws. You can order any food or beverages ahead of time, you’ll likely always have reliable Wi-Fi, and your quarters will be just as comfortable or more so than flying first-class. Plus, you can have a car waiting for you on the tarmac to immediately take you to your final destination instead of toe-tapping through baggage claim and braving the arrivals pick-up area. What’s not to love?

Our staff reported earlier this year that many travel companies are noticing a major uptick in the demand for private aviation options, and companies like SharedCharter may help make this seemingly aspirational form of transportation into an exciting reality for jet-setters in 2021. Plus, it offers ways to visit locales in 2021 that may not be as frequently offered by commercial airlines in the first half of the year.


Yes, You Can Still Use WhatsApp—But Change These 3 Critical Settings First

If you’re a WhatsApp user, you will have seen the alarming stories warning about the messaging platform’s surprise privacy changes, many suggesting you switch to alternatives. The good news is you don’t need to do that—WhatsApp is still okay to use. The bad news, though, is that you do need to change these critical setting to stay safe.

WhatsApp is changing. The messaging platform has now confirmed changes first announced in October, that open up further data sharing with Facebook . This last week has been the toughest for WhatsApp since the damaging spyware revelations in 2019. The idea that the world’s largest private messenger will share data with the world’s most ruthless data machine has prompted a backlash. Installs of rival messengers are soaring, up hundreds of per cent in the last few days.

Time for some perspective. Your most private and sensitive data on WhatsApp, your messages, will remain private to you and the people you communicate with, messages are end-to-end encrypted as they’re sent—only you and the other side of each message can decrypt its content. Even WhatsApp has no means of accessing content in transit, while the messages on your phone are protected by the security of your device.

The issue is metadata—the who, when and where around your messages, as well as your contacts and information about your device. WhatsApp does collect too much data, much more than the likes of Signal, Telegram and iMessage. But when compared to apps like Facebook, Messenger, Google, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, it collects very little. So, unless you avoid those others, WhatsApp isn’t your biggest problem.

Why You Shouldn’t Use The Gmail App On Your iPhone After New Privacy Disclosure

Why You Should Quit WhatsApp As Critical New Update Confirmed

IOS 14.4.1: Apple Issues Important Security Fix To iPhone Users

But, while these new headline changes are not the threat to your privacy and security that they may seem, there are real threats, real risks with WhatsApp. Yes, you can keep using the app, but you need to change your settings in order to do so safely.

First, you need to stop malicious content sent to you on WhatsApp from infecting your phone with malware by avoiding links and unknown attachments. You also need to disable the option to autosave images to your phone’s photo album or gallery. Image files can be crafted with embedded threats, and in a world of virally shared content, you don’t want to give all these unknown files access to your phone.

Do not autosave images to your phone

Much more importantly, there are two further settings that really do put your privacy at risk and which you should change. Unlike the new terms of service change, these also put your actual message content at risk.

Your biggest risk on WhatsApp is getting your account hijacked—this is an ongoing scourge that impacts a frightening number of people every week. And although an attacker taking over your account will not have access to your past message history, they will receive all messages sent to you while they control your account, and they will see your contacts in each of your groups and in any new messages received.

The hack works by tricking you into sharing the SMS message WhatsApp sends you when you activate your account on a new phone. They install WhatsApp and enter your phone number on their device. You then get a text with a six-digit code and they use the already hijacked account of one of your friends to message you and ask for the code, which they say was meant for them. As soon as you do, you lose your account.

You will get your account back—but it will take time. And if the attacker adds extra security to your account, security you should have added yourself, then you can be without WhatsApp for a week or longer. This risk is easy to prevent. All you need to do is add a PIN number in your app. Without this, an attacker can’t hijack your account, even if they get hold of that SMS code. It’s setting this PIN themselves, if you haven’t done so, that allows an attacker to make it more difficult for you to restore WhatsApp.

And finally, we come to the biggest hole in WhatsApp’s privacy—backups. While your messages on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted as they’re sent, and protected by phone security when they’re received or saved, if you use WhatsApp’s option to back up your chat history to either Apple’s or Google’s cloud, then those backups are not protected by that end-to-end encryption. There are no serious claims that your content is analyzed or datamined in the cloud, but it can be accessed by Apple or Google, invalidating the purpose of WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption.

I have hesitated to recommend disabling these back-ups, given the risk that a lost phone means a lost chat history. But given the clamor for Signal, which does not offer cloud backups given the risks, the time is probably right to disable these now. The hope is that when WhatsApp launches its long-delayed multi-device option, you will have a backup for a lost device by turning to your other devices. This is how iMessage works, where a central, encrypted message store can be accessed by trusted devices.

And so, keep using WhatsApp—at least for the time being. As the platform explains in a new FAQ, published in response to the backlash it prompted with the forced change in terms, this is all about business services, helping companies use WhatsApp to message you and sell to you, and link back to Facebook as they do so. This is the real change that WhatsApp is making—commercializing the platform.

There’s a much bigger problem, though, lurking in the near future, much worse than anything that has just happened. Facebook is midway through a program to integrate WhatsApp’s underlying platform with those of Messenger and Instagram. The idea is to create a vast, interoperable messaging giant that brings all its audiences together.

At a technical level, the challenge is to bring Messenger and Instagram, which have already part integrated, together with WhatsApp, which is the only one of the three with default end-to-end encryption. Facebook has talked in the past about extending privacy and security to this larger user base. But taken with WhatsApp’s commercial evolution, it looks much more like this integration will take a different direction.

WhatsApp Vs Messenger Vs Instagram

Apple App Store 'Privacy Labels'

You just need to take a look at WhatsApp’s data privacy label compared to the other two to see the scale of the problem. The stark reality is this integration could mean a much more serious to your privacy than we’ve just seen. So, yes, you can still use WhatsApp—but in the future that advice might change.


Haven’t received your 2nd stimulus check? Here are 7 possible reasons why

If you have not yet seen a second federal stimulus payment – a $600 direct payment that was passed by Congress in late December – you may be wondering where it is.

For those who filed a 2019 tax return, it is either in your bank account or soon on the way.

However, if you have seen no indication that you are either getting a direct payment or that a payment is on the way, you may need to do some investigating.

If you have not gotten a payment or notice of one yet, time is running short. The IRS has a Jan. 15 deadline to get those payments sent out.

Below are a few reasons you may not have seen a check yet and may have to take one more step to get one.

1. You did not file a 2019 tax return

The IRS is basing your eligibility for a stimulus check on your 2019 tax form. If you did not file a form for your 2019 taxes, the IRS has nothing to look at to determine what you earned and if you are eligible for the check.

If you generally do not file a tax form, then there could be a delay in getting your stimulus check unless you signed up last year using the IRS “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here” tool. That tool allows those who do not have to file a return to get their direct deposit or street address information to the IRS to get the first stimulus check sent out last spring.

The IRS says it will not make the Non-Filers tool available this time.

That does not mean you will not get the money.

If you are owed a check and did not get one, you will have to file a 2020 tax return – you can do so for free through the IRS – and request a “recovery rebate credit.”

What a recovery rebate credit means is that regardless of whether you owe taxes or not, when you file a 2020 return you will get the exact amount of money you were owed from the stimulus check.

Note: You will need “Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment” notice from the IRS when you file.

You will be getting that notice in the mail in late January or February.

2. You filed your 2019 return and it has not been processed

Because of the pandemic, the IRS is still processing some 2019 returns. If your return has not been processed, you will have to claim the amount you would have received as a “recovery rebate” credit on your 2020 tax return. (See the instructions above.)

You can check on the status of your return by going to the “Where’s my refund” tool. Click here to go to that page.

3. The check is in the mail – literally

The IRS has until next week, Jan. 15, to distribute the stimulus checks. If you are getting a check via the mail because the IRS does not have any direct deposit information for you, then you may be waiting just a bit for your check.

The paper checks and debit cards with the stimulus money loaded on them are being sent out as quickly as possible. Debit cards may take a bit longer.

4. You have a new bank account

If you have a new bank or credit union account and the IRS does not have that information, your payment will be delayed. A check will be sent to the account on record with the IRS, if there is one. If that account has been closed, the financial institution must return it to the IRS.

You could still get the check by mail, or the IRS may send no check.

There is no way to inform the IRS of a closed account, so you will have to claim your stimulus payment through the recovery rebate method (see above).

5. If you used a tax preparation company – Turbo Tax or H&R Block – to file your 2019 return

Some people who used Turbo Tax or H&R Block are finding that their payment was sent to an unfamiliar bank account number. Those account numbers were used by the companies to process tax returns.

Both companies have told customers they are moving stimulus payments from those accounts to the customers’ accounts as quickly as possible, but the process may delay the delivery of the checks.

You can check the IRS’s “Get My Payment” tool to see if your payment has been processed and sent to a bank account. If you used the services and see the account number and it is unfamiliar, it is being worked on, though you still may want to contact the company and let them know.

6. You are not eligible for one

If you didn’t get a direct payment, you may make too much money to qualify for one. If your adjusted gross income (AGI) is too high, you can be phased out of the payments.

Single – an AGI of less than $87,000

Head of Household – an AGI of less than $124,000

Couples filing jointly – an AGI of less than $150,000

7. Other reasons you may not get a payment:


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