Choosing Comfort Over Privacy

It looks like Apple “needs” to upload even your unsaved documents to its servers to make the newly introduced Continuity “feature” work.

Also it seems Apple silently uploads names and email addresses of all the people you correspond with–no, not only the ones in your address book–just to have a “consistent” experience when displaying recent addresses.

It scares me how little their customer’s privacy must be worth when they choose (these are not accidental data “leaks”) to silently violate them in order to provide comfort features.

Update 2014-10-30:
It seems there is at least a hidden configuration option to turn this behavior off:


Apple’s Spotlight Search Phones Home

OS X Yosemite seems to have gained the feature to “phone home” when you do spotlight searches. It’ll send search terms and your location data to Apple’s servers. Of course it’s perfectly in line with Apple’s recent “trust us, we won’t collect unnecessary data” rhetoric.

[…] Ashkan Soltani, an independent researcher and consultant, confirmed the behavior, labeling it “probably the worst example of ‘privacy by design’ I’ve seen yet.” Users don’t even have to search to give up their privacy. Apple immediately sends the user’s location to the company, according to Soltani.

You can turn it off, but it’s on by default.

Government agents ‘directly involved’ in most high-profile US terror plots

Human Rights Watch has examined about 500 U.S. trials related to terrorism and came to a “shocking” conclusion.

  • 18% of those cases are “tenuous” “material support” charges  (e.g. “providing military gear to al-Qaida” actually mans having “waterproof socks” in your luggage)
  • another 30% are “sting” operations, where government agents play a significant role in inciting, planning, supplying, preparing for execution and finally arresting

So this means that at least 50% of cases where they were “confident” enough to even go to trial fall flat on their faces when taking a closer look. :/

Whispers of Betrayal

The Guardian exposed in a series of articles how the creators of the Whisper app track individual and group behavior.

Whisper violated their own claims made in their terms of service and privacy policy which was updated just days before the Guardian article was published, but after being asked for comment for the publication. :/

    • They had tools to track and build profiles of users although claiming they would be “anonymous”
    • They tracked the location of people who explicitly opted-out of geolocation
    • They cooperated with the DoD, sharing infos about messages from military personnel
    • They shared information with law enforcement bodies like the FBI and MI5 with a lower legal threshold than is common practice

They process data with a staff of over 100 in the Philippines although claiming to process and store all data in the US.

Update: The Guardian has since published a clarification, removing some of the previous claims. It seems like Whisper really planned to change their ToS for quite some time and doesn’t store data on non-US servers. The claims about geolocation tracking for those who’ve opted out is based on Whisper’s ability to geolocate IP addresses (which may be a quite rough estimation).

Programming is Meaningless

Researchers seemingly have found a way to tell-apart students which will do well in computer science classes and those who won’t. More eloquently put they’ve devised a way  “[to] separate programming sheep from non-programming goats.” 😀

And they come to an interesting conclusion:

Formal logical proofs, and therefore programs – formal logical proofs that particular computations are possible, expressed in a formal system called a programming language – are utterly meaningless. To write a computer program you have to come to terms with this, to accept that whatever you might want the program to mean, the machine will blindly follow its meaningless rules and come to some meaningless conclusion. In the test the consistent group showed a pre-acceptance of this fact: they are capable of seeing mathematical calculation problems in terms of rules, and can follow those rules wheresoever they may lead. The inconsistent group, on the other hand, looks for meaning where it is not. The blank group knows that it is looking at meaninglessness, and refuses to deal with it.
Saeed Dehnadi and Richard Bornat, 2006, “The camel has two humps (working title)”

I have accepted it. -.-

Impostors, Sadists and Immoral Lunatics

It’s sad that it takes 120+ scholars to refute a bunch of lunatics.  As we all know ISIL stands for „Impostors, Sadists and Immoral Lunatics.“