Messenger apps show your friends’ online status. Anytime you open the app, they’ll notify the service that you’re “online” at the moment. Now everybody else can see it in their contact lists.
And with everybody I mean anybody! If you have a phone number you can check that person’s online status as often as you want from wherever you want (no need to be friends or anything).
So did a group of researchers at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. They used this “feature” to “find out how frequently and how long users spent with their popular messenger” on a random sample of 1000 people in different countries for over eight months.
Looking through the project’s website should make it clear how little the creators of those apps care …
Moreover, we were able to run our monitoring solution against the WhatsApp services from July 2013 to April 2014 without any interruption. Although we monitored personal information of thousands of users for several months — and thus strongly deviated from normal user behaviour — our monitoring efforts were not inhibited in any way.
… and that they don’t want you to be able to care.
Unfortunately, affected messenger services (like WhatsApp, Telegram, etc.) currently provide no option for disabling access to a user’s “online” status. Even WhatsApp’s newly introduced privacy controls fail to prevent online status tracking, as users still cannot opt-out of disclosing their availability to anonymous parties.
Just Delete Me – Find out how to delete your account on a service you don’t want to be on any more. … Did somebody say Facebook?
How this “cyber expert” embarrasses herself is priceless. I laughed so hard my stomach hurts. xD
Jonathan Blow shares his insights into why free-to-play games are a step back in the evolution of entertainment. He basically talks about what constraints of the medium (structurally) influence film plots and game play respectively. He draws an interesting parallel between free-to-play games and the “commercials and syndication” based monetization model of 70s and 80s TV series.
Highly recommended! 😀
An interesting article on how schizophrenics’ thoughts that they are controlled by an outside power or living in a world crafted for them has become a matter of possibility for all of us – or “how reality caught up with paranoid delusions.” Exploring advances in technology, its ubiquity and the way we consume it, we assume we perceive an
altered *cough* enriched and augmented version of the world around us. We silently ignore that this allows us to be easily toyed with and manipulated without us necessarily noticing it.
This is an interesting phenomenon that is not widely known and mostly ignored. But the matter of the fact is that if you have two computers, side-by-side, open up your browser and search for the exact same thing, you won’t get the same list of results. The same happens on social networks: try looking for a non-person and compare the results and their order.
Search gurus will tell you this is the magic of “personalized results” and finding things “most interesting to you” … but what they don’t tell you is that this comes at the price of having the possibility of doing a global and unbiased search.
Any search you do is biased, by the region you are accessing the internet from (continent, country, city), your internet history, your search history, your language preferences, time of day … basically anything quantifiably different will alter your search results. You can’t (even if you try) do a unfiltered, repeatable and global search on the internet. And anything you click in those already tailored results will only reinforce your perceived “interest.”
Eli Pariser also talks about this in his “Beware online filter bubbles” Ted Talk where he quotes Google’s Eric Schmidt:
It will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them.
— Eric Schmidt, Google
So, what would prevent any of those search providers from manipulating results deliberately? Actually, pretty much nothing. The amount of manipulation they would have to do e.g. to influence voter preferences in an already close election would probably be too little to be noticed and it wouldn’t even be illegal. So that’s why people like Bruce Schneier demand regulation for secret algorithms that have become part of our infrastructure.
One thing is clear: it can’t stay the way it is now.
OK … enough dystopic thoughts for today. 😛
Seems like reality caught up already. Case in point: South Korea.
If you have never heard of net neutrality or don’t know why it’s important, watch this video!
System administrators are like janitors for the Internet. They have keys to everything, they make sure you’re warm and safe and if they do their job well you won’t even know they’re there.
… and like all people keeping infrastructure running they are grossly under-payed. 😉