Archive for Privacy

Vizio Smart TVs Watch You While You Watch Them….. And They Then Send That Info To Third Parties

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 15, 2015 by itnerd

This is another example of why I will never have a smart TV in my condo. If you have a Vizio Smart TV in your house, it has been revealed that there’s a feature called “Smart Interactivity” that watches what you’re watching and offers that information to advertisers. Here’s what’s really bad about this feature:

The tracking — which Vizio calls “Smart Interactivity” — is turned on by default for the more than 10 million Smart TVs that the company has sold. Customers who want to escape it have to opt-out.

Having to opt out of something is the wrong way for features like this to work as the company behind the feature is hoping that you won’t do that either because you won’t notice or you forget to do so. They should always be opt in as that gives you control and a whole lot more trust between the user and the company.

Vizio had this to say:

In a statement, Vizio said customers’ “non-personal identifiable information may be shared with select partners … to permit these companies to make, for example, better-informed decisions regarding content production, programming and advertising.”

It’s still a bit of a privacy violation, no matter how you spin it. Now this isn’t the first time that companies that make smart TVs have been caught doing something like this. Samsung and LG have been caught doing this sort of thing as well. Thus until these companies and other companies who make smart TVs get a clue about the fact that privacy is paramount, you’ll never see me own one.

Facebook Wants To Troll Your Camera To Find Your Friends….. Holy Lack Of Privacy!

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 10, 2015 by itnerd

I’m not on Facebook. Why? Because when you’re on Facebook, you’re the product as it mines virtually everything that you do so that it can sell that data to whomever wants it. I don’t like to be the product. This is being reinforced by the fact that Facebook is testing a feature in its Android app that will scan a user’s recent images for photos that look like their friends. If it spots a match, it’ll ask if the photos should be shared with other people in them. This little tidbit popped up in, to nobody’s surprise, a Facebook post from David Marcus who is the VP of Messaging Products for Facebook that linked to a Tech Crunch article. For whatever reason, Australian users get this feature first, then iOS users will join their Android brothers in having this feature by the end of the week. At that point, assuming that some really wicked backlash over this really intrusive feature doesn’t take place, the US and then the rest of the planet will get this feature. Sure they will have the obligatory opt-out feature. But I’ve always argued that features should be opt-in as that gives you choice and control.

I’m glad I’m not on Facebook.

Apps On Apple App Store Found To Be Harvesting User Data

Posted in Commentary with tags , on October 20, 2015 by itnerd

One of the advantages of using the Apple App Store over any other app store is that Apple is supposed to tightly control everything so that users don’t have the sort of security issues that are often found on Android competing platforms. That theory was shot out of the sky when it was found that 250 or so apps had APIs that harvested user data:

We found four main groups of private APIs these apps are calling:

  1. Enumerate the list of installed apps or get the frontmost app name
  2. Get the platform serial number
  3. Enumerate devices and get serial numbers of peripherals
  4. Get the user’s AppleID (email)

Since we also identify SDKs by their binary signatures, we noticed that these functions were all part of a common codebase, the Youmi advertising SDK from China.

Lovely. Apple was quick to respond to this:

“We’ve identified a group of apps that are using a third-party advertising SDK, developed by Youmi, a mobile advertising provider, that uses private APIs to gather private information, such as user email addresses and device identifiers, and route data to its company server. This is a violation of our security and privacy guidelines. The apps using Youmi’s SDK will be removed from the App Store and any new apps submitted to the App Store using this SDK will be rejected. We are working closely with developers to help them get updated versions of their apps that are safe for customers and in compliance with our guidelines back in the App Store quickly.”

That’s great, but they should not have made it onto the App Store in the first place. Apple really needs to look at their processes to stop something like this from happening again.

As for Youmi who is the group behind these APIs, they had this to say:

The advertising company, closely held Guangzhou Youmi Mobile Technology Co., said in a statement posted Tuesday on its website that it offered “sincere apologies” after Apple said it had removed offerings from the App Store that were found to be collecting and extracting email addresses, device identification and other private information.

You’ll excuse me if I don’t exactly feel warm and fuzzy after that apology.

One has to wonder how many more apps on the App Store have something like this embedded in them? Or worse?

Airline Boarding Passes Contain A Ton Of Info About YOU

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 7, 2015 by itnerd

Here’s a lawsuit that’s waiting to happen.

Security expert Brian Krebs explained yesterday that by using an easily available online barcode reader to scan an airplane boarding pass, attackers can retrieve a person’s name, frequent flyer number, and record locator (which is information needed to access an individual’s account and details of past and upcoming flights), phone numbers, and billing information, along other items. I would strongly suggest that you read his article, and perhaps shred that boarding pass after you complete your flight. These days, you can’t be too careful.

Edward Snowden Joins Twitter…. This Should Be Interesting [UPDATED]

Posted in Commentary with tags , on September 29, 2015 by itnerd

Edward Snowden, who is either famous or infamous for leaking documents on various mass surveillance programs has joined Twitter. Here’s the first (and so far only Tweet) that he’s made:

This should prove to be very interesting as I am sure that he’s bound to get positive and negative reactions in spades.

UPDATE: I’ve noted that he’s only following one Twitter account. The NSA.

AVG Has A Privacy Policy That’s So Honest, You May Not Use Their Product

Posted in Commentary with tags , on September 18, 2015 by itnerd

I’m used to skimming through the privacy policies of software or online service companies and getting confused about what’s in them. The good news is that anti-virus vendor AVG has come up with a privacy policy that is in plain English. The bad news is that you won’t like what they say:

We collect non-personal data to make money from our free offerings so we can keep them free, including:

  • Advertising ID associated with your device;
  • Browsing and search history, including meta data;
  • Internet service provider or mobile network you use to connect to our products; and
  • Information regarding other applications you may have on your device and how they are used.

At least they’re honest about it. But I am not sure how users would react to this. I am guessing that some may stop using their products. Free or otherwise.

Here’s my ask: Read through their privacy policy that is to go into effect on October 15th and leave a comment in terms of what you think of it. I’d be really interested to get your thoughts.

Microsoft’s Stupidity Gets Worse As It Brings Windows 10’s Worst Features To Windows 7/8

Posted in Commentary with tags , on September 12, 2015 by itnerd

If you thought that Microsoft forcing Windows 10 onto the hard drives of Windows 7 and 8 users was bad. Here’s something that’s worse. Software specialist website gHacks has discovered that Microsoft is shoving the sort of user tracking features that are found in Windows 10 on to Windows 7 and 8 computers. They’re doing this in the form of three updates. KB3075249KB3080149 and KB3068708 (which replaces KB3022345) are all meant to add “customer experience and diagnostic telemetry” to Windows 7 and Windows 8. Translation: Microsoft is watching what you do and your computer is reporting back to Redmond Washington with that info. And here’s what’s worse:

“These four updates ignore existing user preferences stored in Windows 7 and Windows 8 (including any edits made to the Hosts file) and immediately starts exchanging user data with and”

Lovely. Now KB3068708 is classified as ‘Recommended’ which means Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs with Windows Update set to automatic will install it by default. That said for the update to appear at all, you will need to be a participant in Microsoft’s Customer Experience Improvement Program, an opt-in program which already has you agreeing to send user data to the company.

Now if this creeps you out, and it should, here’s how you can get your privacy back:

  1. Go to Control Panel
  2. Go to Programs
  3. Go to Uninstall or change a program and locate each update by name
  4. Double click on each update to uninstall it or right click on the update and choose uninstall

To hide the updates so they won’t install in future:

  1. Go to Control Panel
  2. Go to System and Security
  3. Go to Windows Update

Microsoft really needs to get their act together. Users don’t want this sort of tracking and they would be best advised to do an about face on this front as this is the sort of stupidity that annoys them and sends them running to Apple to buy Macs.

Shame, shame Microsoft.


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