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Privacy Cellphones Programming

Privacy, Mobile Phones, and Ubiquitous Data Collection 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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Privacy, Mobile Phones, and Ubiquitous Data Collection

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  • dark knights (Score:3, Interesting)

    by martas ( 1439879 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @06:04PM (#29305309)
    batman, anyone?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DJRumpy ( 1345787 )
      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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @06:07PM (#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?
  • by AvenNYC ( 1042622 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @06:09PM (#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. []
    • by astar ( 203020 )

      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.

      • 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.

        • 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 (Score:3, Funny)

    by zero0ne ( 1309517 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @06:10PM (#29305357) Journal

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

  • 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.

    • by PRMan ( 959735 )

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 a

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bl8n8r ( 649187 )

      > 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 Real Solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @06:34PM (#29305585) Journal

    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.

    • by aaandre ( 526056 )

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

      • by jo42 ( 227475 )

        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.

    • 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 simp

  • by ickleberry ( 864871 ) <> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @06:36PM (#29305599) Homepage
    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
  • HAM Radio (Score:3, Informative)

    by moon3 ( 1530265 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @07:00PM (#29305799)
    Is still around, even encrypted -- if you feel the need.
  • Sort of like the last Batman movie?

  • Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03, 2009 @07:29PM (#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.

  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @07:46PM (#29306151) Journal

    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: []

    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.

    • by euxneks ( 516538 )

      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.

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

      From "The Departed"

      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.

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


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


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


      Everybody out. Move.

  • 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 [] becomes more prevalent mobile technology can be misused in diabolical ways as was recently demonstrated in th
  • Too late (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ^_^x ( 178540 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:08AM (#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.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears