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US Wants Apple, Google, and Microsoft To Get a Grip On Mobile Privacy 103

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-they've-done-a-bang-up-job-so-far dept.
coondoggie writes "When it comes to relatively new technologies, few have been developing at the relentless pace of mobile. But with that development has come a serious threat to the security of personal information and privacy. The Federal Trade Commission has issued a report (PDF) on mobility issues and said less than one-third of Americans feel they are in control of their personal information on their mobile devices. 'The report makes recommendations for critical players in the mobile marketplace: mobile platforms (operating system providers, such as Amazon, Apple, BlackBerry, Google, and Microsoft), application (app) developers, advertising networks and analytics companies, and app developer trade associations. ... The report recommends that mobile platforms should: Provide just-in-time disclosures to consumers and obtain their affirmative express consent before allowing apps to access sensitive content like geolocation; Consider developing a one-stop “dashboard” approach to allow consumers to review the types of content accessed by the apps they have downloaded; Consider offering a Do Not Track (DNT) mechanism for smartphone users.'"
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US Wants Apple, Google, and Microsoft To Get a Grip On Mobile Privacy

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  • by EETech1 (1179269) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @08:15PM (#42774769)

    That's one thing I really miss about my old WinMo phones. They were not a data harvesting device, just a phone, with computer functionality. Every device I've had since then just seems like it's spying on me and siphoning off my personal life for someone else's gain.

    It's creepy.

  • Re:NSA backdoor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Required Snark (1702878) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @08:55PM (#42774953)
    Too late.

    They don't need a backdoor for the phone itself. They already have access to all the phone data because it is stored on the server, and they have unlimited access to the service providers.

  • by icebike (68054) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @09:00PM (#42774981)

    This is already done by Android and works perfectly.

    Nah, it really doesn't do it in any meaningful way, and doesn't provide the level of fine grained control that is needed.

    Sure, you get notification when you install an app that i uses this data, and can access that data, for this or that reason.

    But you are never provided any indication when the app decides to use the data for some other reason. There is nothing in
    Android that prevents this.

    Example: You install an email app. Obviously it needs to access your contacts to send email to them.
    It says it has to access the web, maybe to serve ads (because its a free app). You might never be told that the app might
    decide to upload all your contacts to some web site. You have no way of knowing when it does this, and no way to
    prevent it.

    Andorid needs a finer grained control, one that says, you can't access my address book. Or you can't connect to
    any website, except this list (in the example above it would be some ad server). The user should be able to turn off
    some of the permissions at will. EVEN if doing so makes the app FAIL.

    Right now, we get a Take-it-or-Leave-it list of permissions, most of which are poorly understood. Most people click right
    through these, failing to notice that the Game they just installed wanted to access their address book. Once they
    click thru that, they are never asked again. There is no way to know it happened.

    Permissions should be select-able per app, even after its been installed.
    There should be a easy way to review which apps can access which bits of sensitive data, and turn it on or off.

    Id rather the twitter app fail than have it tweeting my 13 year old daughter's location without her or my knowledge.

  • by icebike (68054) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @09:22PM (#42775061)

    The seduction that these devices offer to too strong for people to give them up and not use them.

    Given that, I see nothing wrong with the FTC recommending that consumers at least know when they are surrendering their location data, and have the option of turning that off in some game or social networking app, while still being able to use the Map application.

    I only wish this suggestion came from the FCC as well, since the FTC, is more or less toothless.

    If the FBI needs a warrant to put a GPS tracker on my car, I don't see any reason why AT&T or Google should be able to give my location away to some tin-star sheriff without a warrant, or worse yet, to JCPenny or Starbucks just because I walked by the store.

  • by icebike (68054) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @09:38PM (#42775135)

    I shouldn't have to forego Maps just to prevent some other app from transmitting my position to advertisers.
    I shouldn't have to disable functionality I paid for, just to prevent some unwanted use of my location!

    I should have a dashboard (just like the FTC suggested) that allows me to use my GPS the way I want, and not the way the app writer decided.

  • by icebike (68054) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @09:42PM (#42775161)

    Or I could encourage the government I elected to force them to play by my rules.

    Its not THEIR device, its MINE.

  • by jhoegl (638955) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @10:09PM (#42775285)
    I agree...
    Its like, if you dont agree with all the car manufacturers, dont use them. Sure, you may not own a car and be able to get around efficiently, preventing you from getting a decent job, but... at least you made your statement.
    Capitalism... it only works when you do not have limited choices.
  • by slick7 (1703596) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @10:23PM (#42775343)

    How about regulating them?

    How about a separation of Corporate and State much like the separation of Church and State. Add severe penalties for both sides for infractions. There are way too many politicians in corporate pockets and even more corporate insiders in politics. Federal regulations written by the industries being regulated is insane.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:01PM (#42775487) Homepage

    The biggest problem isn't that the applications don't disclose what they're accessing. There's also the problem that they don't disclose in detail. "May access the network", yeah, but for what? Knowing that it needs network access doesn't do me any good if I don't know what it needs it for or what it intends to do with it. Ditto "may access the SD card". Is it going to access it to store it's own data, or is it going to access it to scan other data?

    And finally, even if all that's resolved, disclosure does no good when applications give you a take-it-or-leave-it approach: either give them 100% of everything they want or don't install them, even when a lot of what they want isn't required for them to run. The free version of a to-do list, for instance, would need network access to receive and display ads, but why would the paid-for ad-free version need it? Only to sync to a service like Google or Apple, and then only when the user chose to sync to a service. An IM program needs network access to run, without that it's kind of pointless. But access to my contacts? That may make it convenient, but my IM program does not need to see my phone's contact list to do it's job. At most it needs access to it's own contact list, which it would be getting from the IM servers when it logs on (otherwise things wouldn't stay in sync between clients). But still you're faced with either giving the IM program unrestricted access to something it doesn't need or not being able to use it at all. What's needed is disclosure of exactly why the program needs access and of why, if that access is required to install/run, the program cannot function without that access. Note that for that IM program, "It can't function without access to the contact list because I'm too lazy to write the code to maintain an app-specific contacts list." would be a perfectly acceptable disclosure. The reason doesn't have to be good, merely honest. Penalties for failure to follow the requirements? Well, you're making a fraudulent statement about your product. We already have penalties on the books for that.

  • Re:Also... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:07PM (#42775499)

    And what would the government use their tax money for? No, I'd rather they didn't pay their taxes. Did you see today we invaded Africa (for like the 20th time this year) Paying your taxes, gives money to people that drop bombs on 3rd world families. Keep that in mind when you bitch at corporations that avoid them.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:27PM (#42775551)
    I really want a ban on places like Malls being able to install stuff that watches for my phone's unique identifiers to watch me move through the mall and returning to the mall. And I want a total ban on my phone company sharing anything about my movements or calls with anyone including police without a warrant and "trusted third parties" I don't trust any third parties so their aren't any "trusted third parties"

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