U.S. Government Wants to Track Coronavirus Spread With Location Data

· Andrew Orr · Link

Image of person holding phone

The U.S. government is in talks with Facebook, Google, and others to use location data to track the spread of the coronavirus.

Public-health experts are interested in the possibility that private-sector companies could compile the data in anonymous, aggregated form, which they could then use to map the spread of the infection, according to three people familiar with the effort, who requested anonymity because the project is in its early stages.

On the surface, it’s for good intentions (They always seem good on the surface). But we know that in certain situations, data can be de-anonymized. Some questions: How will they use this data? How effective would this be? Will the government keep the database afterward? My initial thought is that I have no problem with medical experts and scientists doing this. But I have no faith in this current administration, or faith in companies like Facebook and Google. What if they created an app to collect this data? That way it’s optional. And please passwordprotect the server.

Utah is Now a Surveillance State Thanks to This Company

· Andrew Orr · Link

A surveillance company called Banjo has partnered with Utah state authorities to enable a dystopian panopticon.

The lofty goal of Banjo’s system is to alert law enforcement of crimes as they happen. It claims it does this while somehow stripping all personal data from the system, allowing it to help cops without putting anyone’s privacy at risk. As with other algorithmic crime systems, there is little public oversight or information about how, exactly, the system determines what is worth alerting cops to.

How Jeff Bezos Built a Data Collecting Empire

· Andrew Orr · Link

BBC News published an inside look into “Why Amazon knows so much about you.”

“They happen to sell products, but they are a data company,” says James Thomson, one of the former executives interviewed.

“Each opportunity to interact with a customer is another opportunity to collect data.”

Founder Jeff Bezos frames it in terms of being a “customer obsession”, saying the firm’s first priority is to “figure out what they want, what’s important to them”.

Amazon’s Ring Surveillance App is Loaded With Trackers

· Andrew Orr · Link

Not only are Ring doorbell cameras used as surveillance, but the app itself too. Like many apps, it’s loaded with third-party trackers and analytics tools. The EFF examined the Android app.

As we’ve mentioned, this includes information about your device and carrier, unique identifiers that allow these companies to track you across apps, real-time interaction data with the app, and information about your home network. In the case of MixPanel, it even includes your name and email address.

Leaked Documents Reveal Antivirus Surveillance Industry

· Andrew Orr · Link

Leaked documents reveal that an Avast antivirus subsidiary called Jumpshot packages what you do on your computer and sells it to companies like Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, and more.

The data obtained by Motherboard and PCMag includes Google searches, lookups of locations and GPS coordinates on Google Maps, people visiting companies’ LinkedIn pages, particular YouTube videos, and people visiting porn websites. It is possible to determine from the collected data what date and time the anonymized user visited YouPorn and PornHub, and in some cases what search term they entered into the porn site and which specific video they watched.

I write a lot about privacy and security, and I try hard to be optimistic that eventually things will change and some day we will have a federal privacy law.

Your Online Activity is a Social Credit Score

· Andrew Orr · Link

Violet Blue has an interesting take, that of your online activity as a social credit score. The SCC is something we usually associate with China, but we’re seeing trends suggesting America is moving toward a similar system.

Combine this with companies like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and yes, Airbnb deciding what legal behaviors are acceptable for service, and now we’re looking at groups of historically marginalized people being denied involvement in mainstream economic, political, cultural and social activities — at scale.

Fresh Cambridge Analytica Leaks Reveal Scope of Manipulation

· Andrew Orr · Link

A fresh wave of Cambridge Analytica leaks is being disseminated by the press, and it reveals that its misinformation and manipulation reached at least 65 countries.

Platforms whose profiteering purpose is to track and target people at global scale — which function by leveraging an asymmetrical ‘attention economy’ — have zero incentive to change or have change imposed upon them. Not when the propaganda-as-a-service business remains in such high demand…

This campaign is still going, because Cambridge Analytica shut down and renamed itself as Emerdata.

Amazon Ring Surveillance Cameras Leak Customer Data

· Andrew Orr · Link

Data Leak

Romanian security company Bitdefender found that Amazon Ring doorbell cameras were leaking customer data like Wi-Fi credentials.

Bitdefender researchers have discovered an issue in Amazon’s Ring Video Doorbell Pro IoT device that allows an attacker physically near the device to intercept the owner’s Wi-Fi network credentials and possibly mount a larger attack against the household network.

At the moment of publishing this paper, all Ring Doorbell Pro cameras have received a security update that fixes the issue described herein.

You can view the whitepaper [PDF] here.

Facebook Launches New Surveillance Devices For Your Home

· Andrew Orr · Link

Today Facebook launched Portal video chatting devices that definitely won’t be used to spy on you and your loved ones. They will let Facebook users watch television together over a video call. Andrew Bosworth, VP of AR/VR at Facebook, said:

I think that in a couple years’ time, if you have a smart streaming device that doesn’t have a camera allowing you to video call people, you’re not going to have a competitive product. I think this is the killer feature for a device like this.

Bosworth also touted privacy protections like local processing of smart features on the devices, which means most user data will not be sent back to Facebook servers.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

iOS 13 Forced Facebook to Admit it Collects Your Location Data

· Andrew Orr · Link

Yes, I know how shocked you are folks. As it turns out, Facebook lied about yet another thing: It totally collects your location data, and admitted that fact itself in a blog post.

For years the antisocial media giant has claimed it doesn’t track your location, insisting to suspicious reporters and privacy advocates that its addicts “have full control over their data,” and that it does not gather or sell that data unless those users agree to it.

Then, late on Monday, Facebook emitted a blog post in which it kindly offered to help users “understand updates” to their “device’s location settings.”

You may have missed the critical part amid the glowing testimony so we’ll repeat it: “… use precise location even when you’re not using the app…”

Quote from a TMO reader: “Hoping that FB will somehow become secure is as much magical thinking as expecting a wild pig to perform the role Juliet for Bolshoi.”

Mind Chaser's Collection of Big Tech Spying Articles

· Andrew Orr · Link

The folks at Mind Chasers put together a constantly-updating list of Big Tech companies that spy on you, with examples.

Below is a listing of articles documenting various spying incidents, capabilities, and vulnerabilities that you may not already know. Maybe it will help drive home that our society has a big problem and make you think twice before you order your next connected device that’s built to spy on you.

This is a great resource to bookmark.

Google Stadia and Apple AR Gaming, Good Data Collection, with Andrew Orr - ACM 506

· Bryan Chaffin · Apple Context Machine Podcast

Apple Context Machine Logo

Google Stadia looks likely to shake up the gaming world, but there’s more than one way to skin a gaming cat, and Apple is focused on AR. Bryan Chaffin is joined by guest cohost Andrew Orr to discuss how those different tracts might fare. They also talk about the good sides of corporate data surveillance, and yes, they will both forgive you if you are surprised either would entertain such a notion.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Echos Tim Cook on Privacy

· John Martellaro · Link

MacBook with a Spying Eye

At the Mobile World Congress 2019, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella echoed publicly the notions of Apple’s Tim Cook on customer privacy. Computerworld’s Jonny Evans has the story.

Nadella’s Microsoft seems to be moving in a similar direction as the old guard of more responsible technologists join forces to combat the unintended consequences of tech firms who have moved fast and loose in their treatment and support for user privacy.

Evans concludes: “Ultimately, it’s all about trust.”

This Google Nest Device Has a Secret Microphone

· Andrew Orr · Link

The Nest Secure smart home hub has had a secret microphone this whole time. But poor Google just plain forgot to tell us.

On Tuesday, a Google spokesperson told Business Insider the company had made an “error.” “The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs. That was an error on our part,” the spokesperson said.

Silly Google, tricks are for kids. Also, get a HomePod.

How to Opt Out of Data Sharing From 40+ Companies

· Andrew Orr · Link

This website is a hub with links for over 40 companies to opt out of data sharing practices they have.

Simple Opt Out is drawing attention to opt-out data sharing and marketing practices that many people aren’t aware of (and most people don’t want), then making it easier to opt out.

At some point I’m definitely going down the list to see which companies I can opt out from.

Dogbot Twerking, Facebook's Portal into Your Home, Listener Mail - ACM 484

· Bryan Chaffin · Apple Context Machine Podcast

Apple Context Machine Logo

In this episode, Bryan Chaffin and Jeff Gamet make an announcement about ACM. They also talk about the cool horror of BostonDynamics’s twerking dogbot. Oh, and Facebook Portal…please. No. Just, please no. The also take a look at some listener email.