Tag Archives: privacy

Apple vs FBI. Why the outcome matters.

pandoras-iphone-201922

Unless you live under a rock or are completely off the grid, you’ve seen the multiple stories about the ongoing battle between Apple and the FBI.

This battle is being waged by both parties on two fronts: in court and in the court of public opinion.

For most people, it’s an interesting story and nothing else.

For some, its a matter of national security, and Apple needs to help the FBI get into the phone so that we can stop terrorists.

Others think that opening a ‘back door’ to the Apple’s iPhone security protocol would set a dangerous precedent, forever compromising our civil liberties.

Regardless of what side you come down on – disinterest, the government or Apple – it’s important that you pay attention because the ramifications will be far-reaching.

As a general rule, people are apathetic.

If it doesn’t affect them you who gives a fuck. Right?

They’re not trying to get into my phone, so what’s the big deal?

If you’re an Android user, you care even less.

This is about Apple. Who cares what Tim Cook and those Apple fan boys think?

If the order says you’re supposed to help the FBI disable the auto erase function of the pass code lock (currently preventing them from utilizing a brute force approach to figuring out the phone’s pass code) then write the frigging code and be done with it.

If you’re a flag-flying patriot, your interests turn on Apple’s duty to ‘Murica.

Apple needs to do it’s American duty and protect it’s citizens.

Open the damn phone and let’s excoriate the terrorist cancer from society.

But if you’re an Apple user, concerned citizen or privacy advocate, you understand the true implications of Apple complying with this order.

No one would disagree that stopping terrorism is a valid reason for assisting the government with any inquiry involving a suspected terrorist’s mobile device.

But at what point does assisting the government end and infringing upon civil liberties begin?

In this instance, the government wants Apple to do something unprecedented: write code to obfuscate the utility of the current security protocols Apple has in place to protect individual users of it’s products.

While the order is written to narrowly apply to one device, we all know that once the FBI has access to a tool that creates a back door to users’ devices –  the FBI has access to a tool that creates a back door to users’ devices.

Through high profile exposes from investigative journalists, Wikileaks and various former government whistle blowers, we know that the government frequently oversteps legal boundaries in pursuit of it’s objectives.

NSA’s data collection activities, widespread eavesdropping on citizens, clandestine drone strikes on Americans – I could go on and on -prove unequivocally that we can’t necessarily trust what we’re told about the government’s stated intentions.

More importantly, (true to form) the government has allegedly already been working on methods to break the encryption technology that companies like Apple and Google have developed in light of the Wikileaks scandal.

Whether or not it would be easier if Apple ‘helped’ the government, is immaterial.

What matters more is that a company shouldn’t be forced to compromise the security measures it’s developed, when other less drastic alternatives exist.

We already live in a time where virtually everything we do is monitored, whether we know (or consent to) it or not.

The few illusions we have of privacy are important, especially as data collection assails us from all directions, from our computers, to our mobile devices, to our new found obsession with wearables.

The advent of IoT means that even more data will be collected of our every digital interaction.

If the courts do not reverse their order and if Apple is unsuccessful in their appeal, the precedent could extend to the maker of any data collection device being forced to add ‘back doors’ to circumvent security protocols.

And that is what is truly at stake.

It’s one thing to be asked to turn over data pursuant to a properly obtained subpoena.

Its quite another to be asked to expend development resources of a private company to assist the government to breach the security protocols of an individual’s device.

If the back door was already there, no problem.

But to be forced to create the back door, that’s an entirely different creature altogether.

How this ultimately plays out remains to be seen.

Will Apple capitulate to the government’s request (kicking and screaming as many pundits anticipate) or not? Who knows?

I, for one, hope not.

Because once Pandora’s box has been opened, you can’t undo that.

I’m sure many will disagree with me and that’s fine.

Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

One final thought, if you’re interested in following the debate on social media, you can using the hashtag #applevsfbi

 

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Filed under advocacy, iPhone, mobile

Messenger says your shit is not secure. Now what?

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Today the interwebs were all a twitter over the fact that Facebook was requiring users, who wanted to message each other via the Facebook app, to download Messenger.

The issue with Messenger, is the fact that by installing the app onto your mobile device, you’re giving Facebook the right to do things that many consider a violation of basic privacy rights.

By way of example, installing the Messenger app allows Facebook to collect data on who you call and the length of the call, the other apps you use and how frequently you use them, the content of text messages and various other on-device activities that have nothing to do with Facebook Messenger interactions.

Among the more draconian things that Messenger will purportedly be able to do, is access your camera and microphone, essentially turning your device into a surreptitious spying device. To spy on you!

I find it humorous that folks are all up in arms over Facebook’s attempts to track it’s users, as if it’s a case of first impression.

The truth of the matter is we’ve long since given up any reasonable expectation of privacy.

The day you visited your first website, you allowed cookies into your life.

Cookies promised faster load times, the instant recall of previously identified preferences, and a host of behind the scenes functions to take place, all to make your browsing experience better – and to know where you browsed (and what you did when you got there).

When you got your first cell phone, you agreed to be tracked.

All those cell towers helped to ensure call quality wherever you went – and kept track of wherever you went.

Today, when you install apps, you agree to let them access you contacts or calendar or Facebook profile, or whatever innocuous piece of information they request.

We think nothing of letting some application vendor post on our behalf, or access the data on our devices.

Instinctively, we click “Accept” and happily tap away on our devices like assimilated members of the Borg.

The outrage we feel about today’s Facebook Messenger revelation is feigned.

Can’t believe Facebook is mining your personal data?

So what do you do?

Update your Facebook status and let all your friends know.

You’re an ass.

If you’re really not trying to have Big Brother in your business, stay off of everything.

No internet.

No cell phone.

No wifi.

No Facebook.

Nothing digital at all.

If you’re not prepared to do that, then STFU about Facebook’s (or any other technology provider’s) invasion of your privacy.

Because privacy in the digital age is a fallacy.

You’re either on the grid, and none of your shit is private.

Or you’re off, and all the privacy in the world is yours.

And “off-the-grid” is relative.

Once you leave your house, you’re subject to the constant glare of the innumerable cameras dotting our city streets, stores, office buildings, gas stations, buses, trains and cabs.

As well as your YouTube crazed citizen i-reporters with camera phones on the ready looking for their 15 minutes of viral fame at the expense of some unsuspecting fool’s gaffe.

Unless you’re prepared to live like someone the run, with burners and throw-away phones, or a hacker, with fake online aliases, and constant IP-masking, accept that cats are collecting data on you constantly – and be good with it.

Today’s takeaway?

If you were among those alarmed by the recent Facebook Messenger revelation, the choice of what to do is really quite simple: red pill or blue?

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Filed under apps, iPhone, mobile, technology

iCloud? iDontthinkso!

I just got this email from MobileMe, informing me that my MobileMe subscription was about to end, and inviting me to move my account to iCloud.

iDon't want to move to iCloud! And iWon't!

I’ve been avoiding iCloud like the plague, because I, for one, am not really interested in having Big Brother be the keeper of all my information.

iCloud is Apple’s suite of wireless sync and backup services, whose function is to keep all your iOS devices synchronized, regardless of which one you happen to be using at any particular moment.

While most see iCloud as some savior and a panacea for all that ails us, when it comes to synchronizing and backing up your data, I am not among them.

Even while Apple claims that the cloud (and supposedly all of your private data) is ‘secure’, recent events have proven otherwise.

More importantly, I don’t really dig the fact that I don’t have a choice in the matter.

What if I don’t want to move my MobileMe account to the cloud?

What happens with my data?

Is my account locked?

Is my content irretrievably lost?

And what does moving to iCloud really mean?

Apple claims that I’ve got 5Gb of ‘free’ storage.

But my iTunes library alone is over 20Gb.

What happens with the rest of my music library?

And what about my pictures and video?

How will iCloud handle all that?

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

The reality is that there are (some) answers to all many of these questions.

MacWorld published a very comprehensive article on iCloud last summer, which addressed many of the questions I raised above, and then some.

But, if you’re like me, you’re really not trying to read an entire tome just to figure out the costs and benefits associated with trying something new.

Especially if you really don’t have a choice in the matter.

Come June 2012, MobileMe will be gone.

Period.

If you haven’t moved to iCloud before then, you’re screwed.

Period.

Sure, you’ll still have access to some of the functionality currently available on MobileMe.

But the majority of what (I’m sure) most of us use MobileMe for, will be gone – forever.

And what Apple doesn’t say, is that to access some of the advanced features that you’re probably going to want to use, you’re going to have to pay – dearly.

Being a technologist, I’ve already got data synch and back-up happening without iCloud.

Apple has had these features available within it’s ecosystem for years.

But now they’ve got everyone clamoring to get on the ‘cloud’ even though doing so may ultimately be to their detriment.

I’ve had a slew of calls from clients seeking help for the (to borrow a term from a fellow blogger) clusterfuck they’ve gotten themselves into, blindly accepting iCloud’s Ts&Cs only to find themselves incapable of finding their data later.

Luckily for them, they know that my crew and I are Apple guerrilla warriors and un-clusterfucking the clusterfucked is our speciality.

But if you’re a regular Joe, and don’t have a crew of Apple ninja assassins at your beck and call, proceed into the cloud with caution.

As many who have moved to iCloud have found out, all that glitters is not gold.

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Filed under digital advocacy, opinion, rant, Smack talking, technology

Trouble in Paradise. Apple’s Privacy Loophole.

Apple, I hope you're paying attention! Cause we're watching you!

With all the different websites, email platforms, social media sites, and mobile apps out there, we’re constantly agreeing to the terms and conditions of use as a condition for being able to use these platforms.

Few of us, rarely (if ever) actually read the fine print, and typically scroll through to the end of this usually voluminous text or simply check the “I Agree” box so that we can get passed the legalese and into the <insert name of digital thing you want to play with here>.

Most of us take it for granted, that if we’re signing up for something – anything – online, that there are sufficient safeguards in place that protect our personal information.

We usually aren’t worried that our private information isn’t going to be shared, sniffed, phished, sold, traded or otherwise accessed in any nefarious way.

And if it IS going to be so utilized, we’ll be given clear and unambiguous notice of such (nefarious) intent, and the option and opportunity to opt out of such use/mis-use of our information.

Right?

WRONG!

Last week, Gizmodo reported that Path, the smart journal app that lets you share your life’s experiences with your friends and personal network, was uploading its’ users’ contact information to their servers, without either the knowledge or consent of the apps’ users.

After the issue was raised, and many bloggers expressed outrage and dismay at Path’s actions, the company quickly removed all the uploaded data and apologized.

However, another Gizmodo’s piece (published today) exposed a troubling issue that continues to exist with Apple’s apps: the fact that any app can access and utilize the contacts from any user’s address book unchecked by Apple.

Now you must know, Apple’s entire paradigm is built on protecting a user’s privacy.

Anyone who uses Apple devices, can attest to the fact that everything is permission based.

You can’t pass gas using an Apple device,without a pop-up asking if you’re sure you want to do that.

Which makes the Path loophole, even more disconcerting.

If you’re like me, you’ve got a number of different apps on your iOS devices.

You take it for granted that any app that you’ve got on your device, passed Apple’s rigorous muster, and isn’t going to do anything or can’t do anything to compromise the integrity of other data you’ve got residing on your device.

You certainly don’t expect that an app is going to be able to not only access your private data, but also share that data without your knoweldge or consent.

Mind you, Path had taken advantage of Apple’s failure to protect the data in your contacts.

While Apple scrutinizes every app that ultimately makes it into the App store, this loophole exists on an operating system level, outside of that scrutiny.

As Gizmodo aptly summarizes:

The problem is that the address book service doesn’t use the same mechanism. It’s free for the taking. This is where the privacy clusterfuck ensues. Some app developers—like Path did—are taking advantage of this weakness. The fact is that, at this point, any app can access your address book and steal all your contacts. Just like that. We don’t know which apps may be doing this right now. That is a scary thought and Apple should have thought about it.

Who knows which of these apps are utilizing this back-door approach to access (and potentially suck up) my contacts (and who knows what else).

Apple MUST do something about this – and soon!

As Jesus Diaz (the author of the Gizmodo piece) puts it, “Apple should have made the access to your contacts information as restricted as to the user’s geolocation data.”

I’m going to keep an eye out for the resolution of this issue, and keep you posted.

But whatever the case may be, be careful what you put on your iOS device, it may be gaffling your info!

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Filed under apps, digital advocacy, iPad, iPhone, mobile, privacy, technology, Uncategorized

My nieces are so over Facebook.

Facebook, some people are so not into you.

As a technology and social media evangelist, I regularly recommend that my clients explore using technology and social media platforms to reach niche audiences, by employing the medium used by these audiences. Invariably, services like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and their progeny feature prominently in my discussions.

With the ever-increasing number of users, and the development of widgets and other technologies, like Tweetdeck, which enable users to access platforms on-the-go, social media services are becoming inextricably intertwined in the way many of us live our lives.

Conventional wisdom dictates that the younger you are, the more familiar you are with advancements in technology, and the more readily you adopt them. Conversely, the older you are, the more out of touch you are when it comes to technology and social media platforms.

Take me, for example. I’m fairly adept at texting, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. But when compared to my 21 year old brother, I’m a sloth, groping blindly to grasp the nuances and intricacies these platforms have to offer. I figured that my little microcosm reflected the real world. However, as of recent, my assumption has been turned on it’s head.

You see, this weekend, I spent some time with my nieces, students at Spellman, and I was amazed to learn their perspective when it came to their use of, and familiarity with technology and social media platforms.

My older niece is a texting monster. Every few seconds, her Blackberry Curve is buzzing. She regularly engages in multiple conversations simultaneously. With many of her friends far away at their respective homes, texting became their main form of communication.

She loathes Facebook and Twitter, as unnecessary invasions of privacy. She sees no purpose in posting every intimate detail of one’s life online and believes that it gives strangers (i.e. friends of friends) access to information that they would otherwise not be privy to if they didn’t know you personally. Her younger sister, also an avid texter, is similarly Facebook and Twitter averse.

Both of them regaled me with stories of the various ‘beefs’ raging on Facebook, caused by one person posting a status update or picture that offended another. They narrated one instance in which the reputation of one Spellman student was put on full blast, because people she had friended, engaged in a smear campaign using the viral nature of the platform to spread misinformation about her.

This lack of privacy and ease for abuse has made many, like them, very Facebook averse. So while Facebook and Twitter are all the rage for some, for others, not so much.

As this little insight into social media from my nieces demonstrates, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And while brands may have different concerns from college students, many of the issues they face will be similar.

Knowing which nodes to tweak to reach which person becomes invaluable as user preferences differ widely. The digital and social media marketing mix employed by brands should be designed to tap into the digital spaces in which folks naturally congregate.

At the end of the day, I encourage my clients to jump, feet first, into the technological/social media fray, because you can’t have a dialogue with folks, if you don’t speak the language.

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