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Posts Tagged ‘the next web

Intelligence and Integrity

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I’ve never really been into conspiracy theories, apart for entertainment reasons, but recently and for me more or less out of the blue the other day, Rogier Brussee mumbled something about Google being the CIA (or FBI for all that matters). Expressions like that make me cynical but also make me question why I am cynical about those ideas. Could it be true? Do you think it is like that? And if Google would be the digitized version of the all mighty watchdog of the US, than who would be the (moral) owners of Facebook, delicious, Foursquare, you name any social media originating from the US? If it really is the security forces of our modern western society, than let us ask what the role of social media in our society actually is.

Russia Today interviewed Julian Assange, Wikileaks’ co-founder who needs no further introduction. In his interview, Assange focuses particularly on Facebook calling it the “most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented”. Assange: “Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented. Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US intelligence. Facebook, Google, Yahoo – all these major US organizations have built-in interfaces for US intelligence. It’s not a matter of serving a subpoena. They have an interface that they have developed for US intelligence to use.”

According to Assange, it is not the case that Facebook is actually run bi US intelligence; US intelligence is able to bring to bear legal and political pressure on them. Besides that, the system is automated. It would be too costly and would take too many people to run through individual data of all who use Facebook, let alone in conjunction with other social media. We could draw the conclusion that whenever needed intelligence services (and most certainly not just US intelligence) will have straight forward access to relevant individual data, again: their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives. You name it. Remains the question: do we want this? The Wikileaks founder warns Facebook users, stating that if a user adds their friend to Facebook, they are “doing free work for US Intelligence agencies, in building this electronic database for them”.

I have always been very easy on my personal data. I have only three email addresses a secure private one @hu.nl and a probably not so secure one @gmail.com. Then I have one @ymail due to the fact that I have recently opened a Flickr account to share some koninginnedag (queens day) pictures with friends with whom we had been selling stuff at Bloemgracht all day. What’s wrong with that? The pictures I took with my iPhone all have GPS data so you know I am not lying. But than again, how many people have put queens day photographs on Flickr this year? (I get 8,609 results at Flickr, May 3, 2011 10.50 AM.) Nobody seems to care much about privacy issues.

April 24, I published a copied story from The Next Web about not just iPhone keeping all our data in a little file in our phone but also Android (read Google) doing just the same (more or less). Obviously, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. So, who cares if Mr. Obama or premier Rutte is having a look in your whereabouts?

As I see it, it is as Alexander Bard said during The Next Web Conference; the next new thing is integrity. Integrity has to do with openness and even Satan can have integrity; as long as Satan says he is Satan, we will accept it. The moment one pretends to be someone else, evil starts, distrust, corruption, blurriness. Intelligence services? How many sides to a coin?

Written by Kees Winkel

May 3, 2011 at 09:11

Startups You Need To Know About: Winners of TNW Startup Rally [Video]

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(Tasken from The Next Web) At The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam, 16 startups competed over two days in our annual Startup Rally. Video footage has just come in of when we announced the winners and brought the champagne out! So if you couldn’t join us for our final moments in Amsterdam, watch the video here.

There was one startup I particularly liked: Onavo. Check out what these guys do here.

Onavo launched last week to help smartphone users regain control of mobile data usage and save money on data charges by reducing the amount of data that’s transferred over their network. It’s certainly an exciting proposition for data-hungry Internet addicts. See our full story of Onavo’s lauch here and our video interview with CEO, Guy Rosen here.

It’s not without reason that they were elected as best idea of this year’s get together.

Written by Kees Winkel

May 3, 2011 at 07:36

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It’s not just the iPhone, Android stores your location data too

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I have copied this story straight from The Next Web and strongly recommend you read it. I’ll leave it without comment…

You may have heard about the way that the iPhone is trackingyour every move. Well, it turns out that Android phones do this as well, and likely for the same reasons.

Developer Magnus Eriksson has created what he calls an Android location service data dumper. This is an app that searches Android phones for a location data file similar to the one iPhones use to store location data.

Following the latest days internet outrage/overreaction to the revelation that iPhone has a cache for its location service, I decided to have look what my Android devices caches for the same function.

This is a quick dumper I threw together to parse the files from the Androidlocation provider.

The file contains what he refers to as ‘coarse’ location data. That is to say data obtained by cellphone tower location and not a more accurate GPS data location.

Here is a sample set of data from the cache.cell file that records cellular locations in the Android file system. You can see that it contains a set of entries that record a latitude and longitude as well as a time stamp.

$ ./parse.py cache.cell
db version: 1
total: 41

key accuracy conf. latitude longitude time
240:5:15:983885 1186 75 57.704031 11.910801 04/11/11 20:03:14 +0200
240:5:15:983882 883 75 57.706322 11.911692 04/13/11 01:41:29 +0200
240:5:75:4915956 678 75 57.700175 11.976824 04/13/11 11:52:16 +0200
240:5:75:4915953 678 75 57.700064 11.976629 04/13/11 11:53:09 +0200
240:7:61954:58929 1406 75 57.710205 11.921849 04/15/11 19:46:31 +0200
240:7:15:58929 -1 0 0.000000 0.000000 04/15/11 19:46:32 +0200
240:5:75:4915832 831 75 57.690024 11.998419 04/15/11 16:13:53 +0200

The file is only accessible on devices that have been rooted and opened up to installation of unsigned apps. This is similar to the way that the iPhone used to storethe data before it was made available to developers using the iPhone’s background API for location sharing.

Now however, the iPhone data is exposed to casual access using an application called iPhone Location Tracker that is similar in intent to the app that Eriksson has created for Android phones.

We spoke to Eriksson about the way that the data from the Android OS and from iPhones is being used by their respective creators. He explained that when an application requests location information, it doesn’t always need a pinpoint spot so the OS just uses cell towers to get a general location.

The phone then sends the cell tower info to Google and in return gets a set of coordinates.

Then it can use this info (via triangulation and weighting based on each cells towers signal strangth etc) [to] get a rough estimate of it’s location.

He mentions that it’s likely that the data is transmitted and received in the same way by Apple.

This is corroborated by Adam Swindon, the creator of the CDMA version of the iPhoneTracker, who says that the data from a separate field within the Apple location data file, LocationHarvest, points to the possibility that the information is sent periodically to Apple.

I think the names of the tables could be another clue towards how the data is being used. I have only ever seen the harvest tables containing a few entries with very recent timestamps, therefore they might be used as a queue for data to be sent to Apple. Once sent it could be archived in the other table, and the harvest table cleared.

Due to the strong evidence that this behavior is extremely similar between the Android and iOS operating systems, it’s likely that the inclusion of months worth of this data is an oversight or error on Apple’s part and not intentional. Instead it’s likely that the Apple system was originally intended to behave the way that Google’s system does.

This is the behavior that John Gruber has speculated was the initial intent of Apple in regards to how long they keep location data in their system.

After a period of time, 12 hours for cellular data and 48 hours for WiFi data, has passed, the location data is renewed by a new request from Google. It is also limited to a maximum number of entries so that the database doesn’t grow too large.

Swindon says that the location file pulled from his phone contained roughly 13,000 entries related to cellular network tracking. By contrast the Android file is limited to only 50 entries in the cellular location database.

The size of the database on the iPhone is what Eriksson attributes the accuracy of the location maps created by the iPhone location data file to. Normally the data would be much more crude, but with a lot more data sampling to work with, the map grows more detailed and more accurate.

This means that the only reason that the Apple system yields such detailed results is that it has far more data than it’s supposed to have in it’s database.

Why that system does not behave the way that the Android location recording system does and simply dump out older entries is a mystery at this point. Gruber points to unofficial channels to suggest that it is a bug that will be corrected and looking at the evidence, we tend to agree.



Matthew Panzarino is a gadget obsessed writer and photographer living in California. Matthew brings 20 years of computing experience and mobile tech obsession to delivering the latest and greatest tech news and views. You can follow him on Twitter or his personal blog.

Written by Kees Winkel

April 24, 2011 at 09:27

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5 times social media video

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Here’s a nice article I picked up from The Next Web: http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2011/04/22/5-social-media-videos-you-have-to-watch/. It is about five video’s on social media you may want to check out. Really interesting.

Written by Kees Winkel

April 23, 2011 at 12:39

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