Friday, January 31, 2014

Not so smart Cell phone data collection shows that worst fears of Big Brother realized

By Jeff Myrick - Hutchinson News editorial board That smart phone tucked away in a pocket or purse just may be acting as Big Brother for governmental spy agencies, according to a story this week in The New York Times. What information is being gleaned from the cell phone may be as simple as where the user is or what he or she will be doing next to more extensive details used by marketing people to customize advertising to be sent to the user. It depends on what apps are installed and activities done frequently on the phone. An example of that is the extremely popular game application "Angry Birds." While the gamer may be slinging birds, in the background data such as the player's age, sex, location and other information is being gathered. The Times story revealed what the National Security Agency and its British counterpart, Britain's Government Communications Headquarters, were able to gather from cell phones. The information came to light through the leaks that former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden made when he released documents to which he had access. It's scary what these agencies have been up to. Another example of what's going on are apps such as Google Maps that give up location and planning data when used. But it also allows more detailed information such as address books, phone logs, buddy lists and geographic data to be gleaned from embedded photos that are sent to mobile versions of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other services, according to The Times. An enormous amount of data is recovered. It's so large the NSA and Britain's version don't even know what to do with it. The NSA had to use 120 computers that turned up 8.6 million "actors," which were callers of "interest." And that was for only one month of calls. A similar effort from the Brits revealed 24.8 million actors. President Obama has called for the NSA to reduce its collecting practices. That's a start. But more needs to be done about the intrusion into Americans' and others' lives. In the meantime, be careful of what apps you download and how you use them. Big Brother may be watching.
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