Just yesterday, I told a friend that I am ready to return to using an old-fashioned cell phone because I am uncomfortable with the “behavior” of my new Android smartphone. This story I am sharing on this blog makes me realize I am not so paranoid after all. I took my phone to the store because applications keep adding themselves. I can delete some, but they only return a few days later. There are some applications that I can’t delete -ones that I don’t want on my phone and that put me at risk of my personal information, including my email, being accessed by someone other than me.
The store put an “application killer” on my phone because they agreed there are some weird applications running in the background and they can’t explain why after I delete the ones I can see, they keep returning or why new ones keep adding themselves. They agreed many were unnecessary applications. I have already added countermeasure software to my computers, but now I apparently need to add surveillance software to my phone to try and stay one step ahead of these companies who are gathering my personal information. They are watching me, so I guess I need to watch them watching me!
I didn’t even know how to find many applications that were running in the background. It seems that unless you are a technology expert, you are at the mercy of your phone doing as it pleases. The technician at the phone store told me my phone keeps “freezing up” because there are so many applications running in the background. I have added only four applications to my phone.
By the way, it seems Google has the most control over my Android phone. Ironically, Google and my phone provider are “partners.”
I am constantly receiving “updates,” but when you read the fine print, these updates allow for too many permissions. For example, they want my phone to automatically connect to available Wi-Fi networks. If I want my phone to access wireless networks, I will enable it to do so on my own. I should not be held hostage to not being able to update my phone unless I agree to this provision.
An Android developer recently discovered a clandestine application called Carrier IQ built into most smartphones that doesn’t just track your location; it secretly records your keystrokes, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Is it time to put on a tinfoil hat? That depends on how you feel about privacy.
The reason for this invasive Android app seems reasonable enough at face value. Even though it’s on most Android, BlackBerry and Nokia devices, most users would never know that Carrier IQ is running in the background, and that’s sort of the point. Described on the company’s website as software to gain “unprecedented insight into their customers’ mobile experience,” Carrier IQ is ostensibly supposed to help mobile carriers and device manufacturers gather data in order to improve their products. I’m not buying this eloquently phrased “explanation.”
Tons of applications do this, and you’re probably used to those boxes that pop up on your screen and ask if you want to help the company by sending your data back to them. If you’re concerned about your privacy, you just tap no and go about your merry computing way. As security-conscious Android developer Trevor Eckhart realized, however, Carrier IQ does not give you this option, and unless you were code-savvy and looking for it, you’d never know it was there. And based on how aggressive the company has been in trying to keep Eckhart quiet about his discovery, it seems like Carrier IQ doesn’t want you to know it’s there either.
Eckhart first raised a red flag about Carrier IQ about two weeks ago when he started investigating reports that a software update on the HTC EVO 3D included “user behavior logging” code. The code had worried some geek bloggers when it showed up a couple months ago, but HTC and Sprint insisted that it wasn’t much different than normal error-logging software and certainly didn’t gather granular data like “contents of messages, photos, videos, etc.” Eckhart wrote an exhaustive blog post about his startling findings — CarrierIQ collected lots of data, including keystrokes, and a way for the user to opt out “without advanced knowledge” — and CarrierIQ flipped out. The company sent Eckhart a cease-and-desist letter demanding that he keep his mouth shut and threatening legal action.
This week, Eckhart fired back with a 17-minute long video showing in painstaking detail how much data CarrierIQ collects, effectively undercutting the company’s denial. It was even logging contents of text messages! Wired posted the video on Tuesday night and cemented its status “as one of nine reasons to wear a tinfoil hat.” The magazine explains how CarrierIQ even undercuts other companies’ security measures:
Tracking is creepy. In an Orwellian kind of way, it makes people nervous — especially Americans — that the government or the corporations or the system is closing in on them and stealing their freedom. Of course, not everybody feels so strongly about privacy, but as long as you can opt out, it’s fine. Last week, Sen. Charles Schumer spoke out about a program at some malls in Virginia and Southern California that were anonymously tracking shoppers’ movements by tracking their cell phone signals, and the only way to opt was by not going to the mall. Schumer did not approve. “Personal cell phones are just that — personal,” the New York senator said in a statement. “If retailers want to tap into your phone to see what your shopping patterns are, they can ask you for your permission to do so.”
The CarrierIQ software is not dissimilar to the shopper tracking program. In fact, it’s arguably worse since it follows you everywhere. In the age of social media, everybody is becoming increasingly aware of and often angry about the amount of private data companies are scooping up with or without their consent. This week, the Federal Trade Commission and Facebook came to an agreement that the social network must make all of their new programs opt-in so as not to break the law by violating users’ privacy. Yes, I want the option to “opt-in.” I don’t want to have to become a technology expert to figure out how to “opt-out.” Phones and social network sites don’t make it easy to figure out how to protect your privacy.
Even Mark Zuckerberg admitted in a sincere-sounding blog post that his company had “made a bunch of mistakes” on the privacy front in the past. He went on to detail how “offering people control over the information they share online” was a top priority. This is Mark “Privacy is Over” Zuckerberg we’re talking about here. With Facebook reportedly building its own mobile phone platform, wouldn’t it be super ironic if people started defecting from the Android army and switching to the Facebook phone in the name of privacy?
I have long been frustrated with Facebook and have never trusted them to protect my privacy. A whole other story could be written on how these social media sites are also tracking you and not protecting your privacy.
I hope this nonsense gets resolved in Congress soon because I am ready to go back to a non-smartphone and close my social media sites.
If you have become leery of your phone or computer, as I have, MSI Detective Services can perform debugging sweeps to detect any spyware programs, etc.
Read entire story@ yahoo
A reply to the story is posted by the company: