Wednesday, April 20, 2011

that cell phone you love so much is ratting you out

people these days are very attached to their cellphones. you might say they're as integral a part of everyday life now as the communicator was to captain kirk and the gangs on the original star trek -- beam me up, scotty!

but the cellphone technology that seems so fun and enabling, that helps us organize our lives and stay in touch with our BFFs, is fast becoming a digital ball-and-chain -- albeit a very light one -- that keeps tabs on our whereabouts and rats us out to people we'd just as soon not knowing all our business.

it turns out, for example, that there's software in your iPhone that keeps tabs on your physical location -- all the time. it's collected and stored -- to what end, no one is quite sure. according to wired:
Your iPhone or 3G-equipped iPad has been secretly recording your location for the past 10 months. can confirm that fact: The screengrab above shows a map containing drop pins of everywhere yours truly has been in the past year.
Software hackers Peter Warden and Alasdair Allen discovered an unencrypted file inside Apple’s iOS 4 software, storing a long list of locations accompanied with time stamps. The file is labeled “consolidated.db.”
“Ever since iOS 4 arrived, your device has been storing a long list of locations and time stamps,” Warden and Allen wrote. “We’re not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it’s clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations.”
if you're surprised, you haven't been paying attention. there's nothing in the constitution that prohibits these companies from collecting personal data about you, from you -- as the telcos were retroactively granted immunity from prosecution for cooperating with government interception of electronic communications of phone company customers.

once the door is opened at little bit, it just gets easier and easier for the corporate state to make inroads into every nook and cranny of your personal life -- both for your "safety" and their profit, which are entwined in a seamless garment like a straitjacket.

it's left to the imagination as far as what commercial interests can do with this type of data. the entire commercial model of the internet seems to be constructed around knowing who you are, and everything about your personal habits online -- with an eye to predicting what products you can be enticed to buy through targeted advertisements.

the manifestations of this overbearing interest in including everyone into a hive of connected entities include an exciting new web startup known as "color" -- exciting mainly because of the enormous amount of startup capital it was able to garner, as it rolled out a technology that connects disparate individuals in physical proximity with one another through the realtime sharing of cellphone photos. this is the tweet morphed into a full-blown shriek! and implies an fixation on virtual togetherness that seems to transcend (in a bad way) our very humanity. it boggles my mind, but then i only have a phone that makes a very few phone calls.

while the commercial exploitation of this technology seems both innocent and nefarious at the same time, there's a parallel track of technology that is all nefarious. it's not simply a big mumma keeping constant tabs on where you are and who you're hanging with; this slice of neurotic nightmare from our technologically advanced dystopia takes a chilling leap to another level:
The Michigan State Police have started using handheld machines called 'extraction devices' to download personal information from motorists they pull over, even if they're not suspected of any crime. Naturally, the ACLU has a problem with this.
The devices, sold by a company called Cellebrite, can download text messages, photos, video, and even GPS data from most brands of cell phones. The handheld machines have various interfaces to work with different models and can even bypass security passwords and access some information.
your digital pal, the one you carry with you and serves as your virtual bridge to friends and family is also your realtime judas, ready to betray you at a moment's notice -- when the police want to delve into your personal life and you'd rather they not.

i find it interesting that its the michigan police that are leading the way into this brave and terrifying new world. michigan, which is ground zero of the betrayal of the american worker by the corporate state, seems to be a likely breeding ground for radical resentment against the system -- as well as the nurturing mother of police state repression techniques for a new age insurrection and repression.

cnet's story goes on to tell how the ACLU made an FOI request for the police's records and procedures for using this device on citizens, and was answered with a request for $500,000 in fees to procure the information -- which demonstrates rather conclusively that this information will not be made available for public scrutiny, nor will it be subject to review by the legislature. this is an example of the destruction of civil liberties by executive fiat -- and is not subject to a vote by mere citizens.

i've always been interested in gadgets, as they present novel and useful ways to do mundane tasks, but technology has sped along beyond our ability to comprehend the implications it has on our lives and our privacy. we've gladly embraced each new, cool iteration of iphones and androids without really appreciating that potential dark side embedded in those technologies.

sort of like the internet itself, these technologies have immense potential to revolutionize human communications and spread ideas as prolifically as life itself spreads in an hospitable environment -- but at the same time, this technology can be virulent as well, a pox, a disease on society, with no known antibiotic to counter its pathological effects.

that's why i am hesitant to own any device that keeps tabs on me without full disclosure in advance. knowing that that's never going to happen, you can count me out. it's just not worth it!

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