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Cell Phones: Tracking Devices That Happen To Make Calls

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the or-in-some-cases-just-tracking-devices dept.

Cellphones 196

An anonymous reader writes "An article in the NY Times argues that the devices we call 'cell phones' should instead be called 'trackers.' It would help remind the average user that whole industries have sprung up around the mining and selling of their personal data — not to mention the huge amount of data requested by governments. Law professor Eben Moglen goes a step further, saying our cell phones are effectively robots that use us for mobility. 'They see everything, they're aware of our position, our relationship to other human beings and other robots, they mediate an information stream around us.' It's interesting to see such a mainstream publication focus on privacy like this; the authors say that since an objects name influences how people think about the object, renaming 'cell phones' could be an simple way to raise privacy awareness."

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Only smart phones? (1, Interesting)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651773)

I assume this only applies to smart phones where people have paid extra for enhanced tracking "features".

Nope. All mobile phones. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40651789)

They can triangulate you without gps.

Re:Nope. All mobile phones. (1)

CheshireDragon (1183095) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652875)

Not very well though.

Re:Nope. All mobile phones. (2)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653169)

Yeah, I regularly see a five-mile variance on location with mine when I do anything without GPS turned on (which is any time I am not actively using a navigation app).

And since I live three miles from the Ohio River and my work on the other side of the state line, it often doesn't even know if I'm at work or at home. Which is extra funny, since I don't get a signal inside the plant.

Re:Nope. All mobile phones. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40653307)

If you're driving down a major road, they can watch you jump between cells and get a pretty good guess where you are, no triangulation required.

Re:Nope. All mobile phones. (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653121)

The posts on /. are starting to look like the headlines on rense.com

Nope (3, Insightful)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651805)

Honestly you really think they aren't putting tracking devices in disposable phones? Wake up and smell the espionage

Re:Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40651935)

Your face is an abstract data type!

haha lmao
got u now

Re:Nope (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651957)

Obviously a cellphone has to track you in order to route the calls to your location, but I can't imagine my free phone from VirginMobile "sees everything... my relationship to other human beings and other robots." My phone just makes calls. The end.
 

Re:Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652231)

Uhmmm...do you only call yourself? Even a simple phone knows who you called, when you called and where you were at the time.

Re:Nope (4, Insightful)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652259)

Nope. The very fact that you've made the call will give a rough geolocation, typically within 20m or so in a city. Other calls can be similarly located, also texts and any other time the phone pings the base stations. Your daily route can be tracked and analysed from day to day. That's just with a basic phone. Connect to the internet and install a Facebook app, well, say goodbye to your privacy in theory.

Re:Nope (5, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652781)

You don't have to make a call to be triangulated. That bars signal level indicator, what is it doing? It's pinging every tower in range.

Re:Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652783)

20m is overly optimistic.

Re:Nope (2)

CheshireDragon (1183095) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652891)

20m IS optimistic. Maybe the neighborhood you are in, but not down to 20m.

symbolset: it's RSSI(Received Signal Strength Indicator) :)

Re:Nope (2)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653033)

It depends on the density of cell towers and your relationship to them, but 20m in urban areas is not unreasonable. If a phone has gps on, you're screwed: you can be placed in a chair.

Or at least your phone, anyway. Reasonable inferences can be made with a lot of accuracy.

If you don't want to be tracked with your phone, turn it off and remove its battery. If you want to be tracked really well, any recent Samsung phone with GPS turned on can be very highly geolocated. This isn't to do a put-down on Samsung phones, but they're quite consistent in their firmware implementations.

Re:Nope (5, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651989)

Honestly you really think they aren't putting tracking devices in disposable phones?

No, I don't think they're putting tracking device in disposable phones, but using DTOA from a single sectored antenna is enough to place your location in a pretty narrow arc, and with two antennae you can be located within 30 feet or closer even in very crappy conditions. The phone plus the network is a tracking system whether there's any tracking-specific hardware in the phone.

However, super-crap phones like the LG I got from tracfone don't have a camera, magnetic sensor, or a lot of other things, so the only things they can do are track my location and maybe listen in on me whether I'm using the phone or not. That's offensive enough, but it doesn't leak as much information as a cleverer phone could.

Re:Nope (2)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652081)

And then the purchases you make with your credit card can be matched to your cellphone location, and the stores you purchase things in, along with what you purchase can be used to build up a profile of the things you like and do etc etc. Individually each thing means nothing but collectively they add up, geolocation is an important factor in that data. Once a company has your data they can sell it - oh they might say they are going to preserve your privacy but nothing prevents them from doing so other than laws which may or may not be enforced.
Trackers is a good name. Making phone calls is about 10% of what my smartphone is capable of doing at most I am sure.

Re:Only smart phones? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40651831)

It has been mandated by the FCC since 2001 [pcworld.com] that every cell phone has to be tracked.

Re:Only smart phones? (3, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652039)

Supposedly for 911 locating, but I suspect a secondary reason is for 9/11-related locating.

Re:Only smart phones? (-1, Flamebait)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653253)

Unless the FCC knew 9/11 was going to happen in advance your theory is wrong since that article was from August of 2001 and the FCC was deliberating for many months prior. But you would have known that if you'd read the link.

Re:Only smart phones? (1, Informative)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652471)

of course, that does not work when the battery is out.

Re:Only smart phones? (2)

PAjamian (679137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653165)

More and more cellphones today have batteries that cannot be removed by the consumer, though.

Re:Only smart phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652861)

What happens if I buy a cell phone but get no plan? I.e, I don't associate it in any way whatsoever with a phone company, just buy a phone and use it through my home 802.11, and as an offline device when out and about?

Granted I'm losing out on the "phone" part of it much of the time, but I really want it more as a portable computer than a phone. Seems like they wouldn't be able to track it if they don't know about it, but I'm not 100% sure that it's not still talking to the cell towers...

Re:Only smart phones? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653111)

It still tracks you! While it won't let you place general phone calls without a valid account, it WILL make a 911 call for you. That necessarily means it routinely handshakes with the tower just in case you call 911.

Nope! (5, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651837)

The cellular network has to know where you are to route calls to you. Back when they first came out, someone published an article about using cellular information to locate a person with his cell phone to within 36 feet. There is a wealth of information that can be found out about you using your cell phone even if it's a 10 year old completely dumb phone (My parents are still using one of my hand-me-downs from the '90s!)

Morale of this story is when you go off to murder that guy, leave your cell phone at home (Or stick it in the wife's glove box!) Bin Laden's courier would take the battery out of his until he was in the next town over.

Re:Nope! (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651981)

>>>My parents are still using one of my hand-me-downs from the '90s!

Thought they switched-off analog cell service? I still have the phone ATT sold me in 1999, but it no longer has any analog signals to intercept.

Re:Nope! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652713)

You know, there were GSM phones in the '90s, including a few in the US (Sprint's home network, later bought by T-mobile USA), and plenty of cdmaOne phones in the US.

Just because you were using a backward carrier like AT&T, don't assume everyone was.

Re:Nope! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652769)

GSM has been around since the 1990s, even in major US markets. Until they finish converting existing bands to WCDMA and beyond, I think original GSM phones will still work.

Re:Nope! (4, Interesting)

Sipper (462582) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652027)

The cellular network has to know where you are to route calls to you. Back when they first came out, someone published an article about using cellular information to locate a person with his cell phone to within 36 feet.

Yes... additionally, last I recall this information is saved for a period of 7 years, which means not only does the phone system know where you are now, but it also knows where you've been. This means that you can be profiled based on the places you go, and thus there's a chance someone can predict where you're going to be at any given time.

Re:Nope! (5, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652217)

It knows when you are sleeping,
It knows when you're awake,
It knows if you've been bad or good,
so be good for goodness sake!

I always thought that jingle was pretty creepy.

Re:Nope! (2, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652087)

The cellular network has to know where you are to route calls to you.

Not anymore than it's necessary to know where your TV station's broadcast tower is to receive programming content. It has to know which cell tower(s) your phone can communicate with. Pinpointing someone's location to within a few feet or meters is not necessary to perform the primary function of the phone; Locating a handset to within a narrow geographic footprint is an ancilliary function, and there is no reason for a carrier to maintain logs on a handset's location, travel speed, elevation, etc., except when playing a call to emergency services, in which case that information would only need to be available during the call, and perhaps for a limited time after to assist law enforcement in responding to the call out.

If laws were passed banning the use of such information for any purposes other than network diagnostics (knowing that a lot of calls get dropped along a certain street, etc.), or for law enforcement, there would be no discernable degregation in service for the average cell phone user.

Re:Nope! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652135)

"The cellular network has to know where you are to route calls to you."

Science fail....

Re:Nope! (1, Flamebait)

Provocateur (133110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652273)

And it's been modded to the MAX!

Be afraid...

Re:Nope! (1)

k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652365)

Morale of this story is when you go off to murder that guy, leave your cell phone at home (Or stick it in the wife's glove box!) Bin Laden's courier would take the battery out of his until he was in the next town over.

You mean moral?[end grammar-nazi-mode]

Leaving your cellphone at home would only make you even more suspicious. What, Mr. A. Howard, you didn't have your cellphone with you during the time of the crime?

Better would be to buy a boxed pre-paid cellphone and use that for planning the evil deed. Then you'd have to maintain radio silence for your regular phone, something which that would stick out in cellphone provider's logs if you're the type that receives calls or text messages every other minute. To remedy this, you could program a small robot that could automatically answer messages with simple responses like "Copy that". You'd leave the robot near a busy restaurant, which would give you the handy alibi of having dinner while being some place else.

Re:Nope! (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653093)

"Bin Laden's courier would take the battery out of his until he was in the next town over."

Indeed, look how well that worked.

Re:Nope! (2)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653197)

It worked great. They found him with a conventional wiretap [hamptonroads.com] .

Re:Only smart phones? (4, Informative)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651851)

The most basic tracking function is achieved by monitoring the RSSI and cell ID of surrounding signal masts. Possible on any phone.
Uploading this data can be done over GSM or even SMS, which any old phone can do too. They too have some personal information about you to link with this, but of course not as much as smartphones.

People often forget that the phone is an autonomous device that can do things on it's own and without showing any of that activity on it's UI side. They only see it do things when they push buttons, so they assume that pushing buttons is a required part for the phone to be able to do things.

Re:Only smart phones? (0)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652615)

I assume this only applies to smart phones where people have paid extra for enhanced tracking "features".

No, see, that's the point: they don't need you to enable some extra enhanced paid-for tracking feature for them to use your cell phone to track you.

If you pay for some extra enhanced tracking feature, then you're basically saying, "Go ahead, assholes. Track me as I go from my favorite taco stand and to my grocery store and then home. But if you're going to do that, know that I no longer respect you or any institution that allows you to do that. And given half the chance, I will work to subvert your little peeping tom perversion. So make goddamn sure you stay in power because if this thing every goes topsy turvy, you're going to be in the first group going to the guillotine.

Either that, or go get a warrant and play by the rules. Not the super-secret double probation rules that you have written on a piece of paper in your locked cabinet, but by the rules of the social contract."

E911 (3, Informative)

khipu (2511498) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653391)

No, "enhanced 911" (i.e., the ability of authorities to determine your location) needs to meet these requirements:

95% of a network operator's in-service phones must be E911 compliant ("location capable") by December 31, 2005. (Several carriers missed this deadline, and were fined by the FCC.)

Wireless network operators must provide the latitude and longitude of callers within 300 meters, within six minutes of a request by a PSAP. Accuracy rates must meet FCC standards on average within any given participating PSAP service area by September 11, 2012 (deferred from September 11, 2008).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enhanced_9-1-1 [wikipedia.org]

Dude! (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651787)

They're out there, maaaaan!

Glacially slow news day? (5, Funny)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651819)

I thought that stopped to be news after the first 20 or so TV mysteries where the police requested the phone details of the murder suspect, so it MUST have been around the first half of the 80s.

Re:Glacially slow news day? (1)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651843)

Yeah it's just another day when the NY Times publishes an article that implicates their best advertisers in a nefarious government plot.

Re:Glacially slow news day? (1)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651893)

I thought that stopped to be news after the first 20 or so TV mysteries where the police requested the phone details of the murder suspect, so it MUST have been around the first half of the 80s.

What is really difficult is going thru life 'with at least half a brain'... and then realizing
you're a half up on everyone else around you.

-AI

Re:Glacially slow news day? (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651955)

I go through life with at most half a brain, and I am in the same shoes, bro. No words to describe the hardness.

Re:Glacially slow news day? (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652059)

People carried mobile phones in the early 80s?

Re:Glacially slow news day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652131)

Yes. The first cellular networks in the US were available in the late '70's

Re:Glacially slow news day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652233)

You never seen Pulp Fiction?

Buck Rodgers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40651835)

am I the only one reminded of Dr Theopolis & Twiki from the campy 70s series?

Re:Buck Rodgers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40651867)

Probably, but you got me thinking of Wilma!

Problem and solution (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651839)

Problem: Private corporations selling our private data in order to sell us more useless shit, tracking our every move, and engaging in behavior that, if it were done in real life, would have them serving 380 million consecutive sentences for stalking.

Solution: Make it illegal, or begin carpet bombing the offending corporations... and out of the ashes will rise a new government-controlled cellular network. It'll probably cost more, do less, and it'll still track everything you do... but at least they won't try to sell you 2 for 1 deals on toilet paper.

... Or, you know, we could just tell the FCC to fuck itself and build our own networks ala pirate radio... The airwaves are, afterall, a shared public resource. If it's being mismanaged, take it back. -- Abraham Lincoln.

Re:Problem and solution (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652189)

Letting the FCC boff itself just means that companies will use spectrum for their things, so a cheap baby monitor would stomp on a large amount of bandwidth, or someone's rear view camera on their RV will cause any BlueTooth or Wi-Fi system to be unusable.

Sheep (1)

SecondCobra (1628707) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651885)

All that will happen if you call them trackers is that the 'public' will quickly come to accept the idea that they are tracking devices!

Re:Sheep (1)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651913)

"All?"

How can that be "all"?

You say that like it's a bad thing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40651929)

Thanks to "Find My Friends" I was able to track my parents when they recently visited. I could see where they were driving, and if it looked like they were headed in the wrong direction, I could give them directions to get back on the right roads.

Good metaphor (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40651947)

Phones are like a symbiotic robotic lifeform.
They need us to move around, to live, to feed off information in to the hivemind brain.
We need them for their extra-sensory perception, for our turbo-charged "memory" and compact library (the internet) and communicating over distances impossible by almost every animal alive now, I think. (Whales can communicate stupid distances, and other large sealife, I am sure)

I don't get the paranoia, here.
Would you like to live in a world where everybody knew everything about you, including your habit of picking your nose by curving your hand up in to a claw, or your current vitals as you fainted at the cafe and the ambulance already being on the way to help you and arriving literally a few seconds after it?
Or do you want to live in a world where nobody communicated face to face, where everything was anonymous. Basically 4chan as a reality.
Phones are an acceptable privacy breach.
Unless you are some sort of triple terrorist pedo human trafficker drug dealer murderer person, you are fine.
Your worth to an advertiser is only for money.
If you don't want to be stalked by society, go live in the woods already. Go take over a bit of Africa with all your wealth of knowledge and resources and build a super society and make it better than everywhere else. No? Then quit your bitching.

Re:Good metaphor (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652817)

I'll take the 4chan one please.

I suggest a new term for them. (1)

toygeek (473120) | more than 2 years ago | (#40651977)

MoBot. ie Mobile Robot.

Re:I suggest a new term for them. (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652079)

>>>MoBot

Mighty OrBots. Theyâ(TM)re joining together to fight for whatâ(TM)s right everywhere. Mighty Orbots. Protecting the world from the shadow of evil and doom, Orbots. Champions of justice and truth. (Ohno) (Tor) (Bort) (Bo) (Boo) (Crunch). Go, Mighty Orbots

RMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652009)

Looks like RMS was right all along.

Just say No (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652077)

There is a simple solution. Don't have a cell phone.

Re:Just say No (3, Insightful)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652095)

There is a simple solution. Don't have a cell phone.

That's not as easy as it used to be. When's the last time you saw a phone booth or a pay phone? There are a couple left in the city where I live, but not many. So, what happens when you have an emergency or your car breaks down and you need to call AAA? With the demise of pay phones, cell phones are no longer a luxury, they are a necessity.

Re:Just say No (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652751)

When's the last time you saw a phone booth or a pay phone?

Dr. Who fans see one quite frequently.

Just say Gotcha bastards (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653137)

But you can carry an old model, the kind you can turn fully off and even remove the battery, and keep it turned off except if you have to make a call to AAA, the police, or the paramedics. Call friends when you are at home or someplace you don't care if anybody knows you're there.

turn off the phone when not in use (4, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652211)

i know someone who used to do that when he had his first cell phone years ago. no law says it has to stay on all the time

Re:turn off the phone when not in use (1)

Eightbitgnosis (1571875) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652301)

And how are people supposed to call me then?

Re:turn off the phone when not in use (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652605)

And how are people supposed to call me then?

Can they call you... Eightbitgnosis?

Re:turn off the phone when not in use (3, Insightful)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652685)

They can call you just fine.

They'll get forwarded to voice mail.

I consider this a feature, not a problem.

Re:turn off the phone when not in use (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653145)

Ding ding ding ding ding. Right answer.

Re:turn off the phone when not in use (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653109)

"And how are people supposed to call me then?"

At least turn it off when you visit your dealer.

Re:turn off the phone when not in use (3, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652329)

Turning off may not be enough. Pulling the battery, would be. Or a 'Faraday' bag in your car to drop it in

Re:turn off the phone when not in use (3, Informative)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652463)

I suspect off is enough, even airplane mode should be enough. If any common cell phones kept broadcasting anything when turned off I suspect the FAA and FDA (some medical equipment is radio-sensitive) would be aware, and probably not amused.

Re:turn off the phone when not in use (2)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652647)

On my apple ( which no longer has a sim card ) turning on flight mode only disabled the cell radio, and wifi still runs.

Re:turn off the phone when not in use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652777)

The last time I used an iphone, turning on flight mode with disable both the cellular radio as well as the wifi. It would, however, allow you to subsequently re-enable the wifi while keeping the cell radio in flight mode.

That's an important distinction.

Personal tracking device. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652225)

That's what I call my phone.

And have done so for the last 10 years or so.

GTD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652237)

GTD - noun

â"abbreviation for

1. Government Tracking Device

Example Usage:
Oh, excuse me, I've got a call on my GTD.
I hope you didn't bring your GTD, that'll ruin all of the fun.
The government caught Abimail Guzman by tracking him on his GTD.

Caught on finally (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652295)

The bit where the outage in the UK cell network caused electronic ankle monitors to fail really gives you some thought...

The "making calls" stuff is really only an extra feature, and the only reason it's included is in order to listen in.

Re:Caught on finally (1)

raodin (708903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653055)

Not sure why this should be a shocker. Ankle monitors need to report somehow or they aren't much use. Makes sense to use existing infrastructure rather than build a new network.

it was a good read (0)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652311)

the chilliest passage:

If we are naïve to think of them as phones, what should we call them? Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia University, argues that they are robots for which we — the proud owners — are merely the hands and feet. “They see everything, they’re aware of our position, our relationship to other human beings and other robots, they mediate an information stream around us,” he has said. Over time, we’ve used these devices less for their original purpose.

creepy!

but it is true. as time evolves, and these ever present ever necessary devices invade more of our social and cognitive existence, we're basically talking about the fact that we are going to be following instructions from these things

and we can't separate ourselves: all of the positive feedbacks of gaming: endorphins, our entire social existence mediated through them... we are becoming cyborg worker ants controlled by cellphones... for what purpose? is anyone in control?

okay i'm creeping myself out now: (1, Flamebait)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652349)

if we have a device that knows all of our routines, all of our friends, all of our habits, etc., and this predictability can be fed into algorithms to engage us to foster "positive" behavior according to some external agenda, then if we were to engage in new activity, or new social contacts, or go to new places.. then the device we are basically addicted to could discourage us: load our favorite games slower, prevent us from contacting people we really want to talk to, change even our cognition with the types of news stories and ads we see...

i'm not a paranoid schizophrenic, but we are talking about an amazing fantastic control device for locking our behavior into that of perfect little worker bees. maybe not even in overt ways, ie, somebody with an agenda: i'm talking in subtle, unpurposeful ways only visible by analyzing the overall effects of overlapping algorithms

super creepy dystopian thoughts here

Re:okay i'm creeping myself out now: (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652655)

i'm not a paranoid schizophrenic, but we are talking about an amazing fantastic control device for locking our behavior into that of perfect little worker bees. maybe not even in overt ways, ie, somebody with an agenda: i'm talking in subtle, unpurposeful ways only visible by analyzing the overall effects of overlapping algorithms

super creepy dystopian thoughts here

You mean we could evolve into something like this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yBnl_krN_U [youtube.com]

Strat

The point of this article (0, Flamebait)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652375)

Is to remind people that we're ALL Boiled Frogs [allaboutfrogs.org] .

There's MAny (many many) quotes about the slow erosion of freedoms but the following [wikipedia.org] is one of my favorites.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Re:The point of this article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40653105)

FYI, the boiled frog story, while usually presented as fact is not true.

A frog will jump out of the pot once the heat becomes uncomfortable.
http://www.snopes.com/critters/wild/frogboil.asp

That said, will we jump out when the heat becomes uncomfortable? I doubt it.

On a positive note, quoting George Dyson:

Unpredictability means that there can never be a complete digital dictatorship with one government or corporation controlling our entire digital lives.

Not because of politics but because of mathematics - there will always be codes that do unpredictable things.

Re:The point of this article (2)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653163)

Yeah, I bet until they came for you, things didn't seem so bad. Crime was down, the trains ran on time, the economy was under control, banks paid interest, and you had a job.

Re:The point of this article (1)

khipu (2511498) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653409)

There's MAny (many many) quotes about the slow erosion of freedoms but the following [wikipedia.org] is one of my favorites.

And your freedom is being eroded by having the choice of carrying a cell phone... how? This must be the same sense in which you get poorer when Zuckerberg makes an extra million.

Seems to me you're driven more by FUD than actual civil liberties concerns.

only cell phones? (1)

mechanicaladvantage (997424) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652489)

I'm pretty sure they knew where you were when you were making call with your land line, too. Heck, even when you weren't making a call, they knew where your phone was. Apparently the conspiracy goes waaaaaay back.

off the mark (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652575)

An article in the NY Times argues that the devices we call 'cell phones' should instead be called 'trackers.'

I think it would be more appropriate that police and corporate trackers should instead be called "domestic spies".

Phones don't track you, people who want to know what you're doing track you. They're the ones that should be called "privacy violating domestic terrorists and trackers".

I'm sorry, but if someone is tracking you without your expressed, overt permission, they are terrorists.

What about GPS on/off? (1)

epp_b (944299) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652597)

What about smartphones on which you can switch the GPS receiver off? I don't know if this is possible on iOS (wouldn't surprise me if it's not), but my Android phone can switch it off at my discretion.

Or is this a placebo button?

Re:What about GPS on/off? (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652775)

What about smartphones on which you can switch the GPS receiver off? I don't know if this is possible on iOS (wouldn't surprise me if it's not), but my Android phone can switch it off at my discretion.

Or is this a placebo button?

Despite what you see on TV cop shows, GPS is itself a passive technology.

And yes, you can turn it off in iOS. That was a rather silly statement on your part.

Re:What about GPS on/off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652837)

It will revert to using AGPS or even just signal strenght off of multiple towers.

turn off GPS (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652697)

Granted, they can still triangulate your position with the towers, but only within the sphere of the towers. GPS on the other hand can pretty much narrow that down to within 1 acre or less.

Re:turn off GPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652957)

Wow, I don't think there's a single correct statement in any of that.
You can't really "turn off" GPS. The phone turns it on when it needs to know your location, whether you've 'disabled' it or not. Try calling 911 and see how fast it gets a fix, on or off. 1 acre?? Network-assisted GPS can quickly figure out which side of the crosswalk you're standing on.

Re:turn off GPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40653125)

My blackberry GPS is consistently 2KM off of where I am. What a pile of crap. Track me you jews !

dont pickup lost cell phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652805)

it can be a trap. they can purposely install spyware on the phone, watch who you call, text, where you are, and download ur nude pics

PROTIP: If it doesn’t have a firewall... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40652825)

...that you can fully configure... ...don't ever buy it!

If you can't replace the bootloader, kernel, OS... ...don't ever buy it.

If there are no Linux drivers... ...don't ever buy it.

That's why I'll be waiting for what that team of ex-Nokia people will come up with.

How to commit the perfect crime (2)

Snotnose (212196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40652927)

1. Leave cellphone on coffee table
2. ???
3. ???
4. Profit!

RMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40653017)

RMS wrote an article calling them Stalin Trackers. Pretty sure most of us laughed at him. Not that the NY Times necessarily gives an idea credibility any more.

Re:RMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40653287)

Yeah and we laughed at him for good reason. Anyone but an idiot knows that cell towers have to know your position so you can receive calls. Taking people on cell networks isn't new in any way.

Nobody Seems To Notice and Nobody Seems To Care (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40653237)

Nobody Seems To Notice and Nobody Seems To Care - Government & Stealth Malware

In Response To Slashdot Article: Former Pentagon Analyst: China Has Backdoors To 80% of Telecoms 87

How many rootkits does the US[2] use officially or unofficially?

How much of the free but proprietary software in the US spies on you?

Which software would that be?

Visit any of the top freeware sites in the US, count the number of thousands or millions of downloads of free but proprietary software, much of it works, again on a proprietary Operating System, with files stored or in transit.

How many free but proprietary programs have you downloaded and scanned entire hard drives, flash drives, and other media? Do you realize you are giving these types of proprietary programs complete access to all of your computer's files on the basis of faith alone?

If you are an atheist, the comparison is that you believe in code you cannot see to detect and contain malware on the basis of faith! So you do believe in something invisible to you, don't you?

I'm now going to touch on a subject most anti-malware, commercial or free, developers will DELETE on most of their forums or mailing lists:

APT malware infecting and remaining in BIOS, on PCI and AGP devices, in firmware, your router (many routers are forced to place backdoors in their firmware for their government) your NIC, and many other devices.

Where are the commercial or free anti-malware organizations and individual's products which hash and compare in the cloud and scan for malware for these vectors? If you post on mailing lists or forums of most anti-malware organizations about this threat, one of the following actions will apply: your post will be deleted and/or moved to a hard to find or 'deleted/junk posts' forum section, someone or a team of individuals will mock you in various forms 'tin foil hat', 'conspiracy nut', and my favorite, 'where is the proof of these infections?' One only needs to search Google for these threats and they will open your malware world view to a much larger arena of malware on devices not scanned/supported by the scanners from these freeware sites. This point assumed you're using the proprietary Microsoft Windows OS. Now, let's move on to Linux.

The rootkit scanners for Linux are few and poor. If you're lucky, you'll know how to use chkrootkit (but you can use strings and other tools for analysis) and show the strings of binaries on your installation, but the results are dependent on your capability of deciphering the output and performing further analysis with various tools or in an environment such as Remnux Linux. None of these free scanners scan the earlier mentioned areas of your PC, either! Nor do they detect many of the hundreds of trojans and rootkits easily available on popular websites and the dark/deep web.

Compromised defenders of Linux will look down their nose at you (unless they are into reverse engineering malware/bad binaries, Google for this and Linux and begin a valuable education!) and respond with a similar tone, if they don't call you a noob or point to verifying/downloading packages in a signed repo/original/secure source or checking hashes, they will jump to conspiracy type labels, ignore you, lock and/or shuffle the thread, or otherwise lead you astray from learning how to examine bad binaries. The world of Linux is funny in this way, and I've been a part of it for many years. The majority of Linux users, like the Windows users, will go out of their way to lead you and say anything other than pointing you to information readily available on detailed binary file analysis.

Don't let them get you down, the information is plenty and out there, some from some well known publishers of Linux/Unix books. Search, learn, and share the information on detecting and picking through bad binaries. But this still will not touch the void of the APT malware described above which will survive any wipe of r/w media. I'm convinced, on both *nix and Windows, these pieces of APT malware are government in origin. Maybe not from the US, but most of the 'curious' malware I've come across in poisoned binaries, were written by someone with a good knowledge in English, some, I found, functioned similar to the now well known Flame malware. From my experience, either many forum/mailing list mods and malware developers/defenders are 'on the take', compromised themselves, and/or working for a government entity.

Search enough, and you'll arrive at some lone individuals who cry out their system is compromised and nothing in their attempts can shake it of some 'strange infection'. These posts receive the same behavior as I said above, but often they are lone posts which receive no answer at all, AT ALL! While other posts are quickly and kindly replied to and the 'strange infection' posts are left to age and end up in a lost pile of old threads.

If you're persistent, the usual challenge is to, "prove it or STFU" and if the thread is not attacked or locked/shuffled and you're lucky to reference some actual data, they will usually attack or ridicule you and further drive the discussion away from actual proof of APT infections.

The market is ripe for an ambitious company or individual to begin demanding companies and organizations who release firmware and design hardware to release signed and hashed packages and pour this information into the cloud, so everyone's BIOS is checked, all firmware on routers, NICs, and other devices are checked, and malware identified and knowledge reported and shared openly.

But even this will do nothing to stop backdoored firmware (often on commercial routers and other networked devices of real importance for government use - which again opens the possibility of hackers discovering these backdoors) people continue to use instead of refusing to buy hardware with proprietary firmware/software.

Many people will say, "the only safe computer is the one disconnected from any network, wireless, wired, LAN, internet, intranet" but I have seen and you can search yourself for and read about satellite, RF, temperature, TEMPEST (is it illegal in your part of the world to SHIELD your system against some of these APT attacks, especially TEMPEST? And no, it's not simply a CRT issue), power line and many other attacks which can and do strike computers which have no active network connection, some which have never had any network connection. Some individuals have complained they receive APT attacks throughout their disconnected systems and they are ridiculed and labeled as a nutter. The information exists, some people have gone so far as to scream from the rooftops online about it, but they are nutters who must have some serious problems and this technology with our systems could not be possible.

I believe most modern computer hardware is more powerful than many of us imagine, and a lot of these systems swept from above via satellite and other attacks. Some exploits take advantage of packet radio and some of your proprietary hardware. Some exploits piggyback and unless you really know what you're doing, and even then... you won't notice it.

Back to the Windows users, a lot of them will dismiss any strange activity to, "that's just Windows!" and ignore it or format again and again only to see the same APT infected activity continue. Using older versions of sysinternals, I've observed very bizarre behavior on a few non networked systems, a mysterious chat program running which doesn't exist on the system, all communication methods monitored (bluetooth, your hard/software modems, and more), disk mirroring software running[1], scans running on different but specific file types, command line versions of popular Windows freeware installed on the system rather than the use of the graphical component, and more.

[1] In one anonymous post on pastebin, claiming to be from an intel org, it blasted the group Anonymous, with a bunch of threats and information, including that their systems are all mirrored in some remote location anyway.

[2] Or other government, US used in this case due to the article source and speculation vs. China. This is not to defend China, which is one messed up hell hole on several levels and we all need to push for human rights and freedom for China's people. For other, freer countries, however, the concentration camps exist but you wouldn't notice them, they originate from media, mostly your TV, and you don't even know it. As George Carlin railed about "Our Owners", "nobody seems to notice and nobody seems to care".

[3] http://www.stallman.org/ [stallman.org]

Try this yourself on a wide variety of internet forums and mailing lists, push for malware scanners to scan more than files, but firmware/BIOS. See what happens, I can guarantee it won't be pleasant, especially with APT cases.

So scan away, or blissfully ignore it, but we need more people like RMS[3] in the world. Such individuals tend to be eccentric but their words ring true and clear about electronics and freedom.

I believe we're mostly pwned, whether we would like to admit it or not, blind and pwned, yet fiercely holding to misinformation, often due to lack of self discovery and education, and "nobody seems to notice and nobody seems to care".

Burner phones? (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 2 years ago | (#40653305)

I understand what they are and that they exist but I thought that "burner" was just TV-cop jargon. Still, as long as the article mentions them, which are best? What's the best way to get one? Assume a maximally-paranoid consumer.

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