Here is a great article from MSNBC. Its another window in the wall of digital privacy which has more windows / doors than wall. We don’t know how this data will be used, how its collected, who owns it and have no control over it. Make you think twice about getting an iPhone or any other “smart phone”.
We are all being tracked now. What should we do about that?
Apple took its turn in the privacy hot seat this week, but it was a short stay. Before the company could press-release its way out of trouble over its location-tracking iPhones, Sony grabbed that spotlight with a far more serious data transgression.
When Sony’s PlayStation disaster distracted us from Apple’s geolocation fiasco, we lost much more than 77 million accounts’ worth of data. We lost a tremendous learning opportunity, a chance to focus on the greatest privacy question of our time, or perhaps any time:
Should we let corporations and governments know where we are all the time?
When researchers discovered last week that there was enough information in a file on most iPhones to determine the owner’s whereabouts dating back several months, disturbing location maps began appearing all over the Internet. But really, they were just visual representations of something most of us already knew deep inside: Cell phone companies know where we are all the time. We also know grocery stores track what we eat and that governments know when we drive through toll booths.
The problem is this: We’ve never talked about whether this is a good or a bad idea. We are all being tracked now, and our whereabouts logged. But what should we do about it?
Complex discussions about privacy are one thing. Allowing the world to know where you are, and to keep that information indefinitely, is another.Most of us shove these spooky thoughts out of our mind, until there’s a news incident with just the right elements — a big company that is cavalier with our data, secretly surveils us, misleads us or falls prey to a dramatic hack – that we sit up and notice. Visualizations, like the Apple tracking maps we saw, help too.
The concern usually only lasts for a day or so, but the issue remains: What rules should govern the capture and retention of location information? The maps generated through Apple’s secret location file are no different than the map I generated recently using an app called Cree.py, which scours the Internet grabbing as much location data as it can from Targets.
If that’s not enough to unnerve you, it should at least be enough to convince you that now is the time for this discussion. Geolocation-enabled software like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare is all the rage. Computers can tell you lots of interesting things when they know where you are — like where your friends are, or where there’s a good deal on pizza. That’s great.
The real problem is the retention of location information over time. Even if you completely trust individual companies like Apple not to abuse such information, you can’t assume the culture of that firm will never change. More important, by now we should all know that no business can be trusted 100 percent to keep information out of hackers’ prying hands. Meanwhile, cell phone providers basically admitted to Congress this week that they have no control over third-party software developers and what they do with location information. Maybe it doesn’t bug you that a cell phone company and its partners knows where you’ve been for the past six months, but what about a random hacker?
There are serious political concerns with storage of this level of information. If a company has data on its computers, it can share it with another company; a law enforcement agency can get it; a lawyer with a court order can get it Meanwhile, if a hacker can get it, so can a foreign government. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which the Chinese government could learn the physical location of millions of Americans over time.
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