Not All Robocall Blocking Apps on Your iPhone Can be Trusted

Spy in the data

The Particle Debris article of the week comes from Zack Whittaker at Tech Crunch.

Spy in the data

Robocall blocking apps caught sending your private data without permission.

Robocall-blocking apps promise to rid your life of spoofed and spam phone calls. But are they as trustworthy as they claim to be?

One security researcher said many of these apps can violate your privacy as soon as they are opened.

This is dismaying because 1) Indie developers inherit a bad reputation for the behavior of others and 2) the behavior never should have circumvented Apple’s scrutiny. If independent testing, in this case by “a senior security consultant at cybersecurity firm NCC Group” can identify this behavior, why can’t Apple?

… he reserved some criticism for Apple, noting that app privacy policies “don’t appear to be monitored” as he discovered with [apps] Truecaller and Hiya.

The whole idea behind the App Store is that we ought to be able to trust the app to comply with Apple’s policies on user privacy. Something has gone wrong.

More News Debris

• Previously, I pointed to suggestions that Apple’s rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro could ship in October. Now, a “New report says Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro will be released sooner than expected.” Maybe September.

• Apple has a new version of its USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter. The model number is A2119. It supports HDMI 2.0 whereas the old version (model A1621) only supported HDMI 1.4. Read all about it in Apple’s support document.

• Phishing emails keep getting sent, and people keep falling for them. Why? Google has done some research and Fast Company has the story. “We keep falling for phishing emails, and Google just revealed why.” Google should know. Google mail blocks about 100 million phishing emails every day.

• Does Apple make it too hard to find and manage subscriptions in iOS? Mashable tries to make the case. “Hey Apple, stop hiding our subscriptions on iOS.” My opinion is that once you learned how to do it, the process doesn’t seem that opaque. Mashable shows how to do it in both iOS 12 and iOS 13. Still, whether it should be made even easier is open for debate.

• AT&T’s DirecTV and CBS have reached an agreement after a nearly three week outage.  “AT&T, CBS end blackout with deal over payment rates for channels.

In a brief joint statement, the companies didn’t disclose financial terms.

Of course. But my guess is that CBS will get the fees it demanded. but over the next few years instead of soon. Your DirecTV subscription price will go up. Your frog will be boiled. slowly.

• AI is in the news. AI ethics—not so much. But here’s a look at how Microsoft views the matter. “What does an AI ethicist do?

Microsoft was one of the earliest companies to begin discussing and advocating for an ethical perspective on artificial intelligence. The issue began to take off at the company in 2016, when CEO Satya Nadella spoke at a developer conference about how the company viewed some of the ethical issues around AI, and later that year published an article about these issues. Nadella’s primary focus was on Microsoft’s orientation toward using AI to augment human capabilities and building trust into intelligent products.

I appreciate CEO Nadella’s emphasis in this matter.

• Finally, we’ve heard about an Apple patent for a foldable device, and we’ve been mildly amused at the efforts by other companies to produce a foldable smartphone. But Apple might be thinking differently. “Apple’s first foldable device could land in 2020, but might not be an iPhone.

This makes sense. That is, create a new iPad product category and see how it does. A larger (iPad) display might offer extra design freedom and avoid the pitfalls Samsung ran into. I like it.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article(s) of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

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W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

John: Zack Whittaker’s piece on robocalls is a troubling reminder of the pernicious and as yet unstoppable allure of surveillance capitalism and its seduction of even those promising to protect to instead capitalise as compensation, not in the spirit of an open free market as fee for service, but without our knowledge or consent and at our expense. And while one can concede your point that Apple’s curation and oversight should have prevented this abuse, I see companies like Apple and MS swimming upstream against the tide of an unregulated industry untethered from principle, untroubled by ethics and contemptuous of… Read more »