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Spying Is A “Feature” .. Get It

UNBELIEVABLE! SHOCKING! Even in this day and age of GPS location-awareness and Social Media snooping … that was my reaction when I read this story.

Ironically I was just writing the other day about how relatively secure I was feeling with my Android Smartphone, but I’m definitely reconsidering that notion now. If you aren’t outraged by this story then there’s something wrong with you.

Your phone is listening. The issue was brought to the world’s attention recently on a podcast called This Week in Tech. Host Leo Laporte and his panel shocked listeners by unmasking three popular apps that activate your phone’s microphone to collect sound patterns from inside your home, meeting, office or wherever you are.

The apps are Color, Shopkick and IntoNow, all of which activate the microphones in users’ iPhone or Android devices in order to gather contextual information that provides some benefit to the user. Source

Yes, you heard right. Surveillanceware right in your telephone.

Who else is listening? Apps that listen have been around for years. One type of app uses your phone’s microphone to identify music. Apps like Shazam and SoundHound can “name that tune” in a few seconds by simply “listening” to whatever song is playing in the room.

A class of alarm clock apps uses your phone’s microphone to listen to you sleep. One example is the HappyWakeUp app. If you’re sleeping like a log, the app avoids waking you. When HappyWakeUp hears you tossing and turning near the scheduled time, it wakes you up with an alarm.

Of course these apps are designed for that purpose. No surprise there. BUT the newer apps are sneakier like Color app for example, and users have no idea their microphones are being activated to gather sound for surreptitious reasons.

Welcome to the future. Coming soon: A lot more apps that listen. What you need to know about marketing and advertising is that data is king. Marketers can never get enough, because the more they know about you and your lifestyle, the more effective their marketing and the more valuable and expensive their advertising.

Marketers love cellphones that are viewed as detectors for conducting real-time marketing “research”. Marketers like to use terms like data mining, demographics etc., which are fancy terms for information gathering. Which also sounds like a description of spying (or an excuse for spying) to me.

Of course, lots of apps transmit all kinds of private data back to the app maker. Some send back each phone’s Unique Device Identification (UDI), the number assigned to each mobile phone, which can be used to positively identify it. Other apps tell the servers the phone’s location. Many apps actually snoop around on your phone, gathering up personal information, such as gender, age and ZIP code, and zapping it back to the company over your phone’s data connection. Most app makers disclose much of what they gather, including audio data, but they often do so either on their websites or buried somewhere in the legal mumbo jumbo. It turns out that, thanks to sophisticated pattern-recognition software, harvested sounds from your home, office or environment can be transformed into marketing demographic gold.

By listening in on your phone capturing so-called sound “patterns” and sending that data back to servers, marketers can determine the following:

  • Your gender, and the gender of people you talk to.
  • Your approximate age, and the ages of the people you talk to.
  • What time you go to bed, and what time you wake up.
  • What you watch on TV and listen to on the radio.
  • How much of your time you spend alone, and how much with others.
  • Whether you live in a big city or a small town.
  • What form of transportation you use to get to work.

But it seems to me they will be capturing a lot more than just sound “patterns”. Scary Huh?

Your new online Miranda Rights are: Any information that can be gathered, will be gathered and used against you.”

Since the new microphone-hijacking apps are still around, apparently listening in on our phones is considered OK.

Who needs a court order or wiretaps?

So what can we expect with current technology? All this data and more, plus the UDI on your phone, will enable them to send you targeted advertising for products and services that they think you will want.

But don’t fool yourself and think that businesses are the only ones doing the eavesdropping. In this day and age of blaming terrorism to justify waiving our rights, you can bet government is also interested .. and not just passively either.

This sort of technology was once the stuff of James Bond but it’s now everywhere, and it’s being made with off-the shelf parts. In his wildest nightmare George Orwell could never have envisioned a society like we have today.

Business and Government are taking advantage of gullible Social Media participants looking for entertainment or a means to cope with feelings of disconnect in a dysfunctional world.

Or like Steven Streight recently tweeted:

Apps that enable identity thieves & government surveillance will promise “benefits” to help you manage your life. Apps say, “Give me tons of private personal data & I’ll help you discover new stuff based on your preferences.” It’s a scam. Surveillance. Source:

There is something enabling about social media that endears users to ignore its dangers thereof.

Interesting word enabling. Others might call it engaging. Whereas Spock would have called it fascinating.

Fascinating indeed. Takes transparency to a whole new level.

Where the sheep go, the wolves will follow.

So where is that OFF button?

Written April 17th, 2011 by | 9 Comments | Filed under: Blog Tips, Featured Tips, Mobile Tips, Privacy Tips, Security Tips, Social Media Tips

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There are 9 Comments so far to “Spying Is A “Feature” .. Get It”

  1. “Where’s the off button” - not to use it. I still don’t have a cell phone here! Ha! I really don’t even like FB for the above reasons but what can you do, it’s our only method of “news” around here (small town - Costa Rica).
    Yes, you better believe Big Brother (et al) is watching and listening.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 2:16 pm said...

    Welcome back Teri and good point. But telling a teenager they don’t need a cell phone is considered child abuse in this day and age.

    Thanks for commenting and we’ve been missing you.

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  2. Ppl like you get all the brains. I just get to say thanks.

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  3. […] from: Spying Is A “Feature” .. Get It – BLOGBloke: Better Blog TIPS by … Categories: Blog Tips Tags: gps - reaction - social - social-media 18 April 2011 at 04:09 - […]

  4. New Post: Spying Is A “Feature” … Get It http://www.blogbloke.com/spying-marketing-advertising-feature/

  5. Spying Is A “Feature” .. Get It http://bit.ly/gJRcAk

  6. How and when did lack of privacy become a cool "feature". http://bit.ly/gJRcAk #justasking

  7. Spying Is A “Feature” .. Get It http://t.co/6Y0vQKRq via @BLOGBloke

  8. Spying Is A “Feature” .. Get It http://t.co/6Y0vQKRq via @BLOGBloke

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