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Privacy, Mobile Phones, and Ubiquitous Data Collection

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the first-plan-your-safeguards dept.

Privacy 61

ChelleChelle writes "Participatory sensing technologies are greatly expanding the possible uses of mobile phones in ways that could improve our lives and our communities (for example, by helping us to understand our exposure to air pollution or our daily carbon footprint). However, with these potential gains comes great risk, particularly to our privacy. With their built-in microphones, cameras and location awareness, mobile phones could, at the extreme, become the most widespread embedded surveillance tools in history. Whether phones engaged in sensing data are tools for self and community research, coercion or surveillance depends on who collects the data, how it is handled, and what privacy protections users are given. This article gives a number of opinions about what programmers might do to make this sort of data collection work without slipping into surveillance and control."

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First shit (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29305299)

...*uuuuUUUUUUnnnnNNNGHHHHH!*
 
*plop!*

dark knights (2, Interesting)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305309)

batman, anyone?

Re:dark knights (2, Insightful)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#29306353)

I had exactly the same thought. While it may have been a movie bit, it's already been proven to be possible to tap into someone's cell microphone. I can only imagine it's a matter of time to tap into the GPS and cameras on these phones.

Conclusion FTFA (2, Insightful)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305327)

While lawyers and social scientists work on structural changes to help ensure privacy in participatory sensing, many of the initial and critically important steps toward privacy protection will be up to application developers. By innovating to put participants first, we can create systems that respect individuals' needs to control sensitive data. We can also augment people's ability to make sense of such granular data, and engage participants in making decisions about that data over the long term. Through attention to such principles, developers will help to ensure that 4 billion little brothers are not watching us. Instead, participatory sensing can have a future of secure, willing, and engaged participation.

Since when is it up to the application developer to determine what they're going to develop?

Re:Conclusion FTFA (1)

Phantom of the Opera (1867) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305591)

Since when is a developer spoon fed every detail of the process? When in doubt, do whatcha think it right. Don't act like an automaton awaiting instructions.

Do what is right today ... (2, Insightful)

krischik (781389) | more than 4 years ago | (#29308491)

... sleep under a bridge tomorrow.

Re:Do what is right today ... (2, Insightful)

Phantom of the Opera (1867) | more than 4 years ago | (#29311229)

Hmm, really? Its not the doing right that gets you there, its pissing off more one more powerful than you. A little social skill and this whole thing isn't always an issue.

pissing of superiors (1)

krischik (781389) | more than 4 years ago | (#29311599)

Of course you are absolutely right. But do consider the whole thread here. A boss who orders you to add spyware to the application you work on is most likely not the kind of boss who will take no for an answer.

Re:pissing of superiors (1)

Phantom of the Opera (1867) | more than 4 years ago | (#29313267)

Yes, that is correct. I've had a friend quit after being asked to do that. He didn't wind up under a bridge, but got an other job.

Application developers are not programmers (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#29313871)

E.g.

A housing developer builds houses, but rarely actually does the bricklaying himself, he gets a bricklayer to do that.

it's exactly the same for applications; programmers are the equivalent of bricklayers.

If the Government Can, anyone can... (5, Interesting)

AvenNYC (1042622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305353)

This popped up a couple years ago when they started turning anyone's cell phones into a wireless microphone (even when off). Ever since then I have had zero expectations of privacy with a cell phone around. I don't assume they are doing it (or anyone is) but the possibility is there. http://news.cnet.com/2100-1029_3-6140191.html [cnet.com]

Re:If the Government Can, anyone can... (1)

astar (203020) | more than 4 years ago | (#29306765)

As covered in the Morning News Tribune, based in Tacoma WA, a Fircrest family was bedeviled by some one who had the tech, probably a kid by speculation, to listen in, turn on the phone, take pictures, etc. This was a few years back. I believe the tech worked even when the phone was off.

More recently, the government got a conviction of some NY mobsters by listening in on their cell phones during their meetings.

thats why the russian mafia is winning.... (1)

cheekyboy (598084) | more than 4 years ago | (#29309065)

they have all their meetings naked in a hot 100f sauna where mobiles die.

oh and its hard to stick one up ur ass.

anyway you can make your own opensource phone, just get a 30 dollar mobile module board,
build your own mini linux/arm controller board, and use an existing older crappy phone for a case/lcd module.

Re:thats why the russian mafia is winning.... (1)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29309769)

anyway you can make your own opensource phone, just get a 30 dollar mobile module board,
build your own mini linux/arm controller board, and use an existing older crappy phone for a case/lcd module.

I'm interesting in how to do this. Can you provide any links to where to buy the mentioned module board, and perhaps point to existing homebrew devices that use these modules?

Lead (3, Funny)

zero0ne (1309517) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305357)

Time to create a company that sells lead enclosures for cell phones!

Re:Lead (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305485)

Too late. Last time I was at the mall, some guy tried to sell me a lead sticker that "blocked radiation" from a phone.

Re:Lead (1)

merlin65537 (721810) | more than 4 years ago | (#29308187)

Does it boost your signal quality at the same time?

Re:Lead (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 4 years ago | (#29307755)

These would be especially useful for cellphones made out of kryptonite.

Tin foil hats anyone? (1)

Lord Jester (88423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305487)

Yes, but I have control over the source.

I can turn my phone (or the aspects of it in question) off.

At some point the tin foil hats have to come off.

Me, I could care less if someone is tracking where I am or what I am doing. What difference does it make?

If you use a phone or a computer you are susceptible to the same"invasion". I am not going to stop using my computers or my phones.

Re:Tin foil hats anyone? (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305703)

Is your phone off, or in standby? Does the 911 GPS still work in that state?

If you remove the battery, I would say you have a reasonable chance. But that's too inconvenient for most people.

Re:Tin foil hats anyone? (1)

Lord Jester (88423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305781)

I was talking about turning it off.

But I can turn the GPS and cellular radio totally off independently as well, just a couple clicks.

Re:Tin foil hats anyone? (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 4 years ago | (#29311133)

So you think. Are they really truly off, or just the UI telling the dumb user things are 'off'.

Re:Tin foil hats anyone? (1)

Lord Jester (88423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29311447)

It is off. I know that for a fact.

Re:Tin foil hats anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29322619)

Excuse my skepticism, but how do you know this "fact"?

Re:Tin foil hats anyone? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29305801)

If you use a phone or a computer you are susceptible to the same"invasion". I am not going to stop using my computers or my phones.

If you ever walk outside your house/apartment, you're susceptible to the same "invasion", too. I mean, you can't shut off your presence. Not unless you plan on being a hermit in your own house for the rest of your life.

I'm with you. Caring about privacy within reason is one thing. Not trusting anyone, anywhere, for any reason, and actively seeking reasons not to trust is another. I mean, are you sure your compiler isn't putting tracking stuff in your code while you're not looking? Are you sure? How about the compiler that built the compiler you're using from source? What about the hardware? Is there something in the circuitry you don't know about? It can be madness talking to the tinfoils.

Boston T. Party (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29307673)

Me, I could care less if someone is tracking where I am or what I am doing. What difference does it make?

Well I guess you haven't read One Nation Under Surveilance [javelinpress.com] yet.

Re:Tin foil hats anyone? (2, Insightful)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29310853)

> Me, I could care less if someone is tracking where I am or what I am
> doing. What difference does it make?

You've obviously never had to lay-low for a while. Ever been stalked by a psychotic ex? Or the ex-bf/gf of a recent break-up?

Some of us haven't made exactly stellar choices in life. And sometimes when people are in an extreme emotional state, it's nice to give them time to cool off while not giving them more information than what's prudent.

The potential for someone to google my cell GPS makes the hair on my neck stand up. Even though I make better choices these days, not everyone forgives-and-forgets.

linux users take a fist up the ass (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29305511)

and then they ask for seconds.

go suck some cocks you worthless faggots.

Re:linux users take a fist up the ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29308145)

Huh? What's that supposed to mean? And why the hell is this modded "Insightful"?

The Real Solution (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305585)

I think the real solution to this is royalties. Every single time anyone in government or as a private interest accesses your information, you get paid a dollar (and that doubles every decade). If they profit in any way from accessing your information, you must be given half the profits. This would mean, of course, a record of every time your personal data is accessed, and that wouldn't be a bad thing either.

Re:The Real Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29305929)

I love it!!!! I think we ought to pass a law making it illegal for anyone to "passively" (meaning without knowingly participating) collect data from you. If money is made off of the data collected BY ANYONE, that you are entitled to a dollar per "sale of said data". They make money off of "you", so why shouldn't you get a cut? Besides making the process onerously expensive will surely dissuade a good number of lamerz out there.

-Oz

Re:The Real Solution (1)

aaandre (526056) | more than 4 years ago | (#29306255)

What if they don't profit but put you in jail instead?

Re:The Real Solution (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 4 years ago | (#29311167)

It actually costs $$$$$ to put people in jail. And in jail, you don't have to worry about a place to sleep, go to the toilet or where your next meal will come from. They only thing you have to worry about is pissing off your fellow residents and anal sex.

Re:The Real Solution (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29306883)

Hahahaa! Yeah, right! As if those companies would care for your request for royalities! It's simple: The biggest cell phone network providers will let a company "consult" them on the terms for their contracts, and those terms will include that they only offer you the contract, if you will resign the right to any royalties, but pay *them* royalties for selling your private data to Russia, Korea and Nigeria. (So you have to pay thrice, of course!)

So what? What will you do? You will do nothing. That's how simple it is.
After all, there are no others, but you don't have to make a contract with them.

A bit of lobbying will close your door to the government too.

I give you a more likely solution: Learn how to motivate people so much, that they will create a raging lobby, so big that it crushes all other interests. *That* gives you a chance.

I wonder why Fox is so good at creating such groups, but we are so bad. After all, we are the intelligent side, aren't we?
Maybe the difference is that we have a conscience, and they have not.

And maybe Lord Helmet was right, that evil always with triumph, because good is too stupid (aka "good") for it. :/

Open source mobile phone? (4, Insightful)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305599)

We need an Open Source mobile phone - not just a Nokia running Maemo or a Neo1973 but one that was built and designed from the ground up to be open source. Have the firmware for the baseband & the OS all readily available and modifiable and use only off the shelf commodity components, no questionable 'black box' transceiver IC's. I am no overzealous RMS fanboi but I know this is the only way to be sure

I am sick of seeing stories on here about how De Police may or may not be able to activate the Mic on your phone and spy on you but nobody really has any idea how - trojans were mentioned, as well as people claiming this is some obscure part of the GSM standard.

Of course as soon as you transmit something using radio waves the source can be tracked, you can mess around with timing advances to let on you are further away but if you got a van with an antenna after you it won't help you much

Re:Open source mobile phone? (3, Informative)

chgros (690878) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305951)

We need an Open Source mobile phone
Err... There's already one (I have one).
It doesn't work all that well unfortunately.
http://openmoko.com/ [openmoko.com]

Re:Open source mobile phone? (1)

Monkier (607445) | more than 4 years ago | (#29306439)

Have the firmware for the baseband & the OS all readily available and modifiable and use only off the shelf commodity components, no questionable 'black box' transceiver IC's

So how open is the Openmoko hardware? The best reference I could find was wikipedia's entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Openmoko#Openmoko_hardware [wikipedia.org]

Openmoko hardware aspires to the term open source hardware although in various areas the availability of cell phone components and law requirements prevent full conformance to this term.

Re:Open source mobile phone? (1)

chgros (690878) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361187)

So how open is the Openmoko hardware? The best reference I could find was wikipedia's entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Openmoko#Openmoko_hardware [wikipedia.org]
Well, as I've already indicated, the GSM chip / firmware are not open, for legal reasons (at least). Also, the specs for the graphics chip ("Glamo") are protected by an NDA, although the NDA doesn't prevent writing open source drivers.
http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Smedia_Glamo_3362 [openmoko.org]

Re:Open source mobile phone? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 4 years ago | (#29309349)

Maybe someone could write a firewall for an existing phone. It would probably have to be one which has been cracked to run unsigned code (e.g. iPhone or Symbian based).

Re:Open source mobile phone? (1)

chgros (690878) | more than 4 years ago | (#29361217)

or a Neo1973
Heh. I missed that part. Note that the Neo1973 (and its successor the Freerunner) *were* built from the ground up to be open source, to the extent possible. Unfortunately that extent can be fairly limited.

HAM Radio (2, Informative)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305799)

Is still around, even encrypted -- if you feel the need.

Re:HAM Radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29306137)

You'd better not be encrypting it... that would make it pirate radio, not HAM radio. The rules say no encryption.

Re:HAM Radio (1)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 4 years ago | (#29306185)

That heavily depends on where you are, India, Middle East, Eastern Europe .. plenty of places where regulation is pretty weak.

Re:HAM Radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29349341)

Exactly! A HAM radio transmission is now allowed to be encrypted.

Re:HAM Radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29307847)

Nope, it's not encrypted. Encryption is forbidden on Ham Radio.

Batman? (1)

ghostis (165022) | more than 4 years ago | (#29305835)

Sort of like the last Batman movie?

Re:Batman? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29306189)

No sort-of like how you mom can tell you the size and taste of every dick within a 3 mile radius at any given time.

Simple solution (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29306033)

Simple solution: don't use a mobile phone. I haven't owned one for years and to be honest I wouldn't use/carry one if you paid me - not being forever tethered to a communications network and always available to whoever might want to call (or feeling guilty for not taking calls if the phone is turned off) is a truly amazing and freeing experience.

Interesting timing... (4, Informative)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#29306151)

I read an article about Google starting to use the location data from Google Maps to analyze traffic patterns to determine where traffic was backed up, etc.

Randomly-found article using, what else?, google: http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/google-uses-your-mobile-to-end-traffic-jams-629554 [techradar.com]

Anyway, just another example where we know the data is being collected, but somehow it feels less comfortable when the data gets used.

Won't stop me from using it if I get to a city where there might be enough cars to actually use the data.

Re:Interesting timing... (1)

euxneks (516538) | more than 4 years ago | (#29307017)

Actually, they will only gather that data if you allow them to.

According to TFA:

The search giant is testing a scheme where mobile phone users simply sign up to My Location on Google Maps, start the program before getting in the car, and then simply set off.

So, you need to sign in, and start the application before they can actually gather any information about traffic jams. I can also see people screwing with their data by getting into a car, being dropped off at a certain point, and then walking the rest of the way.

ooh, this sounds like that crap ending of batman (1)

Latinhypercube (935707) | more than 4 years ago | (#29306449)

where batman jacks into all the cell phones in the city and can 'see' everything that is happening. Ooohhhh, how awesomely stupid is that. It sounds like an idea a 5 year old would invent, a bit like batman.

Back in the day of analoge cell phones (2, Informative)

sixbathrooms (1598583) | more than 4 years ago | (#29306775)

Anyone with a radioshack scanner could listen in on anyones cell phone calls. I remember doing this, and actually found it quite boring. Listening in on peoples phone conversations is like reading random peoples twitters. Who cares when some random guy gets home and wonders whats for dinner, or when you are supposed to pick up your kids from some function? Certainly doesn't worry me any.

Re:Back in the day of analoge cell phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29308179)

Well, if you were a stalker, you'd probably be very interested where the beautiful girl from next door is going to spend the evening ... or if she will be waiting for her parents to pick her up somewhere ...

Since you found it boring, good for you, obviously you're not a stalker.

Re:Back in the day of analoge cell phones (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29309145)

Who cares when some random guy gets home and wonders whats for dinner

From "The Departed"

COLIN
Don't you have to call your mother and tell her you're not gonna be home for supper?

ON FITZY. He looks up at the CCTV camera.

COLIN (CONT'D)
The cameras are off.
(gently puts phone on the table)
Call your mother.

Fitzy hesitates.

COLIN (CONT'D)
Lookit. They're in there suiting up for a raid. I don't know where they are going, but they do. And so do you.
Call your mum.

COLIN puts a cellphone on the table. FITZY takes up the phone and punches in a number. It is answered.

FITZY
Mum, I'm not gonna make it for supper. I got held up. Yeah, talk to you later.

INT. A HOUSE WHERE DRUGS ARE BEING HANDLED. CONTINUOUS

BILLY looks up at MISTER FRENCH, who is on the phone. Other men are frozen, holding bags of Ex.

INT. INTERROGATION ROOM. CONTINUOUS.

FITZY closes the cellphone. He puts it into COLIN'S hand.

INT. A HOUSE WHERE DRUGS ARE BEING HANDLED. CONTINUOUS

MISTER FRENCH
Everybody out. Move.

much ado about nothing IMHO .. (1)

t5itt3r (1630897) | more than 4 years ago | (#29307529)

for all the concerns about privacy, our lives are getting more public every day. man is a social animal after all. It is surprising how people don't mind exposing their private preferences, photos, friends etc. on Facebook or MySpace and yet are concerned when this very data is used with profit motives. In the end of the day, perfect privacy and security means getting off the grid. As mobile malware [wordpress.com] becomes more prevalent mobile technology can be misused in diabolical ways as was recently demonstrated in the Blackhat conference

Too late (5, Insightful)

^_^x (178540) | more than 4 years ago | (#29308159)

When everyone has a camera, you tend to end up in photos you didn't intend to be in - sometimes without even noticing.
More phones have GPSes now, and may be able to automatically geotag their photos.
There are providers that offer online photo storage plans right off the phone.

So with those in mind, all it would take is one warrant to search a mobile photo host and run face recognition software, and you have an easily compiled database of who was where and when, and with enough data, the ability to plot your daily habits and location trends, who you know, who they know, areas you and your friends tend to frequent, and by extension what your interests and motives may be, etc.

It's not really a panic about what could happen if we let this get out of hand, as much as it is an observation of what could be done cheaply with practically off the shelf software on a common PC today.

What is there to say on this subject (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29308539)

That Scott McNealy (RIP, Sun Microsystems) hasn't already said?:

http://www.wired.com/politics/law/news/1999/01/17538

It's The Users Who Erode Their Own Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29309227)

Actually ease of use trumps all other explanations of the great corporate snatch of privacy. From routers with default passwords or no encryption (in order to make it 'easy to set up') to crazy file sharing schemes, it's the users who accept the default, open-plan sharing solutions.

This guy got more than he bargined for with Ovi: http://captainstupid.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com]

Although he freely admits he's an idiot.

Osama, Phone Home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29311529)

Reminds me of a short story I read a while back. Something like "Osama, Phone Home". Batman did a very poor ripoff of it.

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