Tag Archives: privacy

Minneapolis Police Catalog License Plates and Location Data

Discussed over Slashdot, a story named Minneapolis Police Catalog License Plates and Location Data.

Their summary: "The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Minneapolis police used automated scanning technology to log location data for over 800,000 license plates in June alone, with 4.9 million scans having taken place this year. The data includes the date, time, and location where the plate was seen. Worse, it appears this data is compiled and stored for up to a year and is disclosed to anyone who asks for it."

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Location-based App Finds Girls Around You

It's not new that we find examples of major privacy issues brought forward by location-based services and geospatial technologies (remember creepy and pleaserobme?). The last example is discussed in a Slashdot story named World's Creepiest iPhone App Pulled After Outcry.

Their summary: "Ben Grubb reports that an iPhone app that essentially allowed users to stalk women nearby using a location-based social networking service has been pulled from the iTunes app store by its developer after an outcry of criticism including a comment by Gizmodo labelling the 'Girls Around Me' app as the 'world's creepiest' app and a comment in The New York Times Bits blog, which said it 'definitely' won the prize for being 'too creepy'. The 'Girls Around Me' app utilized publicly available data to show a map with women who had checked-in to locations nearby using Foursquare and let users view Facebook information of those ladies if they had tied their Facebook account to their Foursquare account and if their Facebook account privacy settings were lax enough to allow any user to access it. The promotional website used for marketing the app states that the service 'helps you see where nearby girls are checking in, and shows you what they look like and how to get in touch, adding 'In the mood for love, or just after a one-night stand? Girls Around Me puts you in control! Reveal the hottest nightspots, who's in them, and how to reach them.' Foursquare yanked the Girls Around Me app's access to its data, which in turn led to the app's developer removing it from iTunes as it didn't work properly. In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, the company behind the app defended its creation: 'Since the app's launch till last Friday nobody ever raised a privacy concern because, again, it is clearly stated that Girls Around Me cannot show the user more data than [what Foursqure or Facebook] already does.'"

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Leaky Cellphone Nets Can Give Attackers Your Location

Slashdot ran a discussion named Leaky Cellphone Nets Can Give Attackers Your Location. What I found interesting is that the operating system of the cellphone is not at stake this time.

Their summary: "GSM cellular networks leak enough location data to give third-parties secret access to cellphone users' whereabouts, according to new University of Minnesota research. 'We have shown that there is enough information leaking from the lower layers of the GSM communication stack to enable an attacker to perform location tests on a victim's device. We have shown that those tests can be performed silently without a user being aware by aborting PSTN calls before they complete,' write the authors, from the College of Science and Engineering, in a paper titled 'Location Leaks on the GSM Air Interface' (Pdf). The researchers are working with carriers and equipment makers, including AT&T and Nokia, to address the security issues."

A bit more from the article: "The researchers demonstrated how easy it was to track down a cellular device within a 10-block area in Minneapolis using a T-Mobile G1 smartphone and open source technology. They never contacted the service provider to conduct the test. "It has a low entry barrier," researcher Denis Foo Kune said, in a statement. "Being attainable through open source projects running on commodity software.""

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Indian Government To Track Locations of All Cell Phone Users

Yesterday Slashdot discussed a story named Indian Government To Track Locations of All Cell Phone Users.

Their summary: "As per amendments made to operators' licences, beginning May 31, operators would have to provide the Department of Telecommunications real-time details of users' locations in latitudes and longitudes. Documents obtained by The Indian Express show that details shall initially be provided for mobile numbers specified by the government. Within three years, service providers will have to provide information on locations of all users. The information will have some margin of error at first. But by, at least 60 per cent of the calls in urban areas would have to be accurately tracked when made 100 metres away from the nearest cell tower. By, the government will seek to increase the proportion to 75 per cent in cities and 50 per cent in suburban and rural areas."

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Iranian Police Tracking Dissidents Using Geofencing Tech From Western Companies

Discussed a few days ago over Slashdot, Iranian Police Tracking Dissidents Using Tech From Western Companies.

Their summary: "A recent article at Bloomberg discusses Western companies supplying monitoring equipment to Iran. There are few regulations restricting the sale of intelligence monitoring systems to the Iranian government, and large corporations like Ericsson and Nokia have supplied the equipment used to identify dissidents and suppress anti-government protests. '[One such system from Creativity Software] can record a person’s location every 15 seconds — eight times more frequently than a similar system the company sold in Yemen, according to company documents. A tool called "geofences" triggers an alarm when two targets come in close proximity to each other. The system also stores the data and can generate reports of a person's movements. A former Creativity Software manager said the Iran system was far more sophisticated than any other systems the company had sold in the Middle East.'"

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Making Sensitive Data Location Aware

Slashdot is discussing a feature I haven't heard before, Making Sensitive Data Location Aware.

Their summary: ""In a breakthrough that could aid spies, keepers of medical records, and parents who want to prevent their kids from 'sexting,' a team of Virginia Tech researchers has created software to remotely put smart phones under lockdown. The phones are given permission to access sensitive data while in a particular room, but when the devices leave the room, the data is completely wiped. A general, for example, could access secret intelligence while visiting a secure government facility without fear that his or her smart phone or tablet computer might later be lost or stolen, the team's lead researcher said. 'This system provides something that has never been available before. It puts physical boundaries around information in cyberspace.'" [Slashdot editor adds:] Unless the phone or other device can also take screenshots, or doesn't have that software installed."

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Australian Malls To Track Shoppers By Their Phones

Slashdot discusses a story named Australian Malls To Track Shoppers By Their Phones. That's not the first time we hear about such efforts.

Their summary: "Australian shopping centers will monitor customers' mobile phones to track how often they visit, which stores they like and how long they stay. One unnamed Queensland shopping center is next month due to become the first in the nation to install receivers that detect unique mobile phone radio frequency codes to pinpoint location within two meters."

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Google Geonews: Google Earth 6.1 Released, Sharing Google Maps on Google+, Speeding Up Google Earth, Sweden “Secrets”, and much more

Here's the recent Google-related geonews.

From the official sources:

  • Google announced the release of Google Earth 6.1, the My Places panel is improved, and so is StreetView, and Google Earth Pro too gets several new features. The GEB offers some more details on what's changed
  • You can now directly share your activites on Google Maps on Google+, such as directions, places and even search results
  • The developer blog has an entry on the Google Street View Image API
  • Not directly geospatial, but Google Wallet was launched in collaboration with Visa, American Express and Discover, enabling mobile payments anywhere 

From other sources:

  • Here's tips on how to speed up Google Earth
  • The GEB mentions Google Earth Explorer, a smooth way to fly through in Google Earth, which is in the process of becoming open source and has been purchased by Google
  • Slashdot ran a discussion named Google To Honor "Don't-Track-Me-Bro" Requests, in which we learn "Google will allow owners of Wi-Fi access points to opt out of a Google service that uses their data to determine the location of others' smartphones."
  • Ogle Earth shares a detailed entry named Biannual Swedish media panic sets in as Google Earth continues to show Sweden’s “secrets”
  • Here's 50,000 worldwide power plants in Google Earth
  • The GEB also mentions a few nice global overlays for Google Earth
  • There's new imagery today in Google Earth
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GPS Tracking of U.S. State Worker Raises Privacy Issues

Slashdot discusses another GPS tracking privacy story, this one called GPS Tracking of State Worker Raises Privacy Issues.

With this summary: "How far can state government go in keeping tabs on its employees? That's the question a mid-level appeals court will consider in the wake of a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union against the state Labor Department, in the case of a fired state worker who was tracked with a GPS device that investigators secretly attached to his personal car. ... State officials tracked Cunningham's whereabouts by secretly attaching a GPS device to his BMW. The electronic tailing went beyond what would normally be termed Cunningham's work hours, since the device was on for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They even tracked him on a multi-day family vacation."

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Court Orders U.S. Gov’t To Disclose GPS Tracking Data

A story discussed over Slashdot: Court Orders Gov't To Disclose GPS Tracking Data.

Their summary: "United States law enforcement officials have been utilizing data provided by global positioning satellite systems to track down individual suspects, without having to demonstrate probable cause before a judge first — that much is known. Rights groups such as the ACLU have wondered, just how much of that goes on? The rights group's investigation of this practice has inadvertently triggered a renewal of the debate over privacy policy versus public disclosure, and whether it's possible for an agency or other entity to reveal data that could lead to further revelation of personally identifiable data (PID), without officially violating privacy. The final outcome could set a new precedent for privacy policy, not just by the government but for enterprises as well."

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