Story 2014-07-27

Meet the Stingray

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in hardware on (#3RY)
story imageAre you the proud owner of a snazzy, new smartphone? Thrilled with the convenience and utility of having this clever device in your pocket, connecting you to friends, colleagues, and information? Guess who else is excited about your purchase? Law enforcement. Meet the Stingray, essentially a honey pot, fake cell tower. Your phone connects to it, and you're done.
A stingray is a false cell phone tower that can force phones in a geographical area to connect to it. Once these devices connect, the stingray can be used to either hone in on the target’s location or, with some models, actually eavesdrop on conversations, text messages, and web browser activity. It’s not clear how much the police cooperate with the cell phone carriers on this — in at least some cases, the police have gone to carriers with requests for information, while in others they seem to have taken a brute-force approach, dumping the data of every single user on a given tower and then sorting it to find the parties they’re interested in tracking. Stingrays can be used to force the phone to give up its user details, making it fairly easy for the police to match devices and account holders.
[Ed. note: Time to give up your cellphone and go back to using public phone booths? Oh, wait …]

Facebook pivots on privacy again: for the better

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in internet on (#3RX)
story imageFacebook is revamping its stance on privacy again. Slate writes:
Remember when Mark Zuckerberg didn’t believe in privacy? When he argued that it was “no longer a social norm”? When Facebook employees wouldn’t even use the word “privacy” at a forum about the future of privacy? That was then. Now, it seems, privacy is back—not just as a social norm, but as a business model.
A good read, by Will Orison. He reviews a number of serious changes over the past six months and identifies a trend. This is good for the consumer, so let's hope the shift is industry-wide.

[Ed. note: I conclude that Zuckerberg's occasional "declaration" sounds like uncontrovertable fact but is usually a desperate attempt to make what's good for his greedy little company sound like what the consumer wants or deserves. This step back shows he is sometimes obliged to eat some crow pie. Bon appetite, Zuck.]

Your eyeball is your password

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in hardware on (#3RW)
Interesting things brewing over at Google, where two recent patents show a push to operationalize new technology that lets you unlock a device using a retinal scan.
The process has three steps:
Receiving light on an iris of an eye
Detecting, at one or more light sensors disposed on or within a transparent lens covering at least a portion of the eye, light reflected from the light incident on the iris of the eye, wherein the light reflected comprises image data indicative of a pattern associated with the iris.
Outputting an iris fingerprint based in part on the image data
A related patent looks at an encoded contact lens and its application. Perhaps the days of Google Glass will be numbered, as the fashion-conscious will quickly move right to the next, obvious step.