PrivacyStar Blocks Unwanted Smartphone Calls

PrivacyStar LogoAs on-line marketers transfer their cold-calling attention away from land-lines to cell and mobile phones, their calls are becoming increasingly an annoyance when you are out-and-about. PrivacyStar offers a multilayered solution for Android and Blackberry to cut unwanted calls. Andy finds out more.

PrivacyStar is a smartphone app to block unwanted calls and SMS texts. At its simplest, user-specified phone numbers can be blocked to prevent calls or texts coming through and bothering you. The app also features SmartBlocking which blocks the top 25 numbers blocked by other users in the past week, so if there’s a major calling campaign on, those numbers pretty quickly get blocked.

Other features include CallerID lookup, where if the phone doesn’t know who is calling, the app consults with an on-line directory and displays the caller. For really persistent callers, complaints can be filed directly with the FTC.

The app is currently only available for Android and Blackberry, an iPhone version will be released before the summer. The app is free for a week and then $2.99 per month after that.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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If You Live In or Visit Hawaii Your Rights are Being Threatened

  The Bill of Rights The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”- 4th Amendment, Bill of Rights, U.S. Constitution

What would you say if your state decided that your ISP had to keep records of all the Web sites you went too? That they had to keep records of both Internet protocol address and domain names of all sites that you visited and they had to keep them for a minimum of two years. That is what is being proposed in the Hawaiian State Legislation under H.B. 2288, which states that Internet destination history information and the subscriber’s information, such as name and address must be saved for no less than two years. I know what some of you are saying I don’t care if the government knows what Web sites I visit I have nothing to hide, or if you aren’t doing anything wrong what’s the problem.

Do you currently belong to any political or social organization like the Tea Party  and do you visit supporting Web sites a lot.  How would you feel if the government started investigating the Tea Party and started looking for information on its members. Now how do you feel about the legislation. Let’s take this to the real world, what if the government required the local retail stores to keep a record of every book you bought, every magazine article you read, the talk radio you listen too, the clubs you joined, the people you associated with, now how do you feel. If you are like me you are saying to yourself that’s none of the government business, well this legislation does exactly that only in the virtual world.

Rep. John Mizuno of Oahu is a lead sponsor of the bill and a similar bill is being introduced in the Hawaii Senate. The bills are being introduced at the behest of Representative Kimberly Marcos Pine, who is in the middle of a dispute with a web designer Eric Ryan, who launched KymPineLsACrook.com and who says she owes him money. Her email was also hacked last summer, at the same time an article was written in the Hawaii Reporter about the dispute.  Because of these incidents Rep Pine has advocated tougher cyber laws. Those who support the legislation say that this type of law is necessary to “to protect people of Hawaii from these attacks and give prosecutors the tools to ensure justice is served for victims.” Unfortunately for the supporters of this bill, that is not how the law works in the United States, you can’t gather information on a large group of people in hopes that you may capture a few bad apples.

If the constitutionality of the bill is not enough there is also the question of what the Internet Provider can do with the information while they hold it. The bill says nothing about how the data should be stored or if it needs to be encrypted. There is no prohibition against the Internet Companies selling the information to anyone including advertiser or insurance agencies. So if you don’t care about the government having the information, how about your insurance company. The police aren’t even required to get a court order to view the information of anyone who uses a computer in Hawaii. This legislation would not only apply to Hawaiian residents but it would also apply to the 6 million tourist who visit the state each year. Which mean coffee shops, hotels, bookstore or anyone else with a public wi-fi would have sweeping requirements and cost put upon them.

We all want the bad guy to be caught and stopped, but not if it means giving up our rights and freedoms. Although SOPA and PIPA were stopped last week in the U.S. Congress, the fight over our rights and freedoms on the Internet is on going, it has simply moved to state legislation, we all need to remain vigilant.

Malls Will Not Track You For Now

This is an update to the article I wrote on the 26th of November Malls Maybe Tracking Your Cellphone. A brief background, two malls in the United States, the Promenade Temecula in Southern California and the Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va, where planning to test Footpath by Path Intelligence, a technology which allows malls to track the path of their costumers. One of the concerns that I and others brought up was the issue of privacy. The fact that in order to opt out of the tracking you had to turn off your cellphone, which isn’t realistic in today’s world. This issue was also brought up in a letter by Senator Charles Schumer of New York. In a press conference and also in a letter to the mall and the FTC, Senator Schumer stated “A shopper’s personal cell phone should not be used by a third party as a tracking device by retailers,” Schumer said in a press conference on Sunday. “Personal cell phones are just that—personal. If retailers want to tap into your phone to see what your shopping patterns are, they can ask you for your permission to do so.” He especially had an issue with the idea that a consumer had to opt out of the tracking by turning their cellphone off. He stated this should be something consumers opt into and not opt out. Forest City which owns both the malls has not abandoned the plan entirely, but is trying to find a way to make it opt in. Path Intelligence the maker of Footpath, insist that this method of tracking is no different than cookies on the Internet. This maybe true, but I can manage online cookies, while this is an opt in or opt out period. I don’t expect this technology to go away, but it does need to be updated to be opt in.

Malls Maybe Tracking Your Cellphone

http://www.pathintelligence.com/templates/joomla_template_inner/images/path_logo.pngRetailers are constantly trying to track shoppers activities, to try to attract more consumers to their stores and improve their sales. They use various methods to do this including shopper cards and newspaper inserts just to name a few. A couple of malls are testing a new technology called Footpath by Path Intelligence. Footpath tracks the movement of consumers by their cellphone. It has the ability to track the consumer to within a few meters of where they are. The information is then feed to a central processing center, where it is audited and studied to create a continual updated report on the flow of shoppers throughout a store or mall. It can be used to better place stores in a mall and merchandise within a store.

According to the Path website, it works by tracking random signals from mobile phones. The system does not collect or view phone numbers, SMS messages, or listen to calls. The information it collects can not identify an individual caller. The detector units can only be accessed by trained personal, mall employees do not have access to the tracking device. So the tracking devices can not be combined with other information by mall employees to get more detailed and individual information. It is aggregated information and not real-time that is provided to client. Path also has agreed not to access any third-party information that could in combination with Footpath identify individuals. Despite these promises some privacy experts are concerned about the misuse of the technology by both Path and their clients. Mark Rasch, the director of cyber security at CSC stated.

“Although this mall technology might not identify specific individuals, it raises a bunch of privacy red flags,” he wrote. “First, the instant the consumer identifies himself or herself anywhere in the mall (say, by using a credit or debit card to buy something), it is a trivial task to cross reference the cell phone data with the payment data and realize that the person hanging around outside the Victoria’s Secret dressing room was your 70-year-old neighbor.”(via We’re watching: malls track shopper’s cell phone signals to gather marketing data)

At this point only two malls in the United States are testing the technology, the Promenade Temecula in Southern California and the Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va. They will be testing it thru New Year’s Day. Both malls have signs throughout their location telling shoppers that their cellphones are being tracked and they can opt out of the system by turning their phones off. In today’s world where most people are never without their phones, this seems an unlikely choice. The system is also being tested in some malls in Europe and Australia. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this technology and it’s uses being tested in court by privacy advocates. However since malls are private properties courts tend to give them a lot of leeway.

Cloud Storage and the Law

As a business or an individual if you store your data in the cloud, you are probably concerned with security and the ability to get your data back. The one issues you may not have thought about is where it is being stored, well maybe you should be according to Technology Review. The term cloud storage is misleading, it makes it seem as if the data is out there some where. The truth is data that is stored in the cloud is being stored in a data center which maybe be located anywhere in the world. The problem is who can get access to the data is unclear. Do the laws in the country where the data is being stored determine who can have access to the data or is it where it originated or maybe even where the company who owns the data center is incorporated. This maybe become an issue between Europe and the U.S if strict European privacy laws start to block U.S. attempts to access information it deems vital to national security. Many European countries have stricter privacy laws then the U.S. In the U.S. the Patriot Act which was passed after 9-11 enhanced the ability of law enforcement to intercept and read email and other records. If a European stores their data with a cloud company whose data center is in the United States would the stricter European privacy laws still apply or would U.S laws. The United States insist that it’s laws reign supreme even if the data is stored in another country if the company that owns the data center is incorporated in the United States. This was what Google and Microsoft both told European courts when they indicated they would have to abide by U.S law no matter where the data is stored. Not only is privacy an issue but also how long data must be kept is becoming an issue. Some country’s laws are based on how long the data must be kept, others are based on when the data must be deleted. These two viewpoints can collide and often do.

Because of this type of uncertainty, both companies and public institutions are starting to rethinking where their data can be stored. Some like the Canadian providence of British Columbia insist that all public healthcare records must be stored within the providence. Swiss financial institutions also say that any of their banking data must be stored in data centers located in Switzerland. As more and more sensitive data is being stored in the cloud these issues are going to continue to come up. This is another area where technology has clearly outpaced the law.

GNC-2011-10-17 #714 All the News

You will love the rack overheat alarm going off in the middle of the show. Adds for some comedy and bewilderment by me as I have never heard that alarm coming out of the rack. Lots of great tech news and the show goes way long tonight. Will get that back in check as I do not have to report on “All the News”

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Choices and Decisions

ChoicesOne of the things that we face everyday in the real world and online are choices. However, studies show that if people are given a default choice, along with others most people will choose the default choice. This is true in the both in the real world and online. Advertisers, companies like Google, Facebook and even politicians have known this for years. This is one of the main reasons that politicians fight hard to be first on the ballot and companies always list their preferred choice as the default choice when they have to give consumers an option. If you are a Facebook user, you know that one of the biggest complaints against Facebook is that the option to share your information has always been the default one. Facebook wants the user to make this choice and they know that most users will opt for the default choice. Often if you choose something other than the default choice you have to jump through multiple hoops to set up that choice up. Facebook is not alone in this type of behavior. This is a major reason that Google pays Mozilla and estimated 100 million dollars a year to be its default search engine.

Why are decisions made this way by consumers. Part of it is laziness, it is just easier to use the default choice, consumers often feel overwhelmed when given a lot of choices. However it is more than that, subconsciously we see the default choice as the one that the authorities recommend and therefore the best choice. This is one of the major issues that the Federal Trade Commission is dealing with when it comes to the issue of privacy online. Advertisers and companies like Facebook and Google want the choices they give to consumers to be self-regulated. Privacy advocates would like there to be more government oversight and regulation. Unfortunately for privacy advocates more choices is not the answer. When users are provided with multiple privacy tool options they often find the choices confusing and too complicated. Often they make choices that do little to protect their privacy, whether they want that protection or not. So more choices is clearly not the answer. The answer may be fewer choices, with the default one being at a higher privacy setting being key.
To read more about default choices and the impact they have on our decision-making process see the New York Times article The Default Choice, So Hard to Resist.

GNC-2011-09-29 #709 Kindle Fire

I want to thank all of our Sponsors this month for helping me keep the lights on, it is greatly appreciated and of course all of you that purchased product from GoDaddy or did a GotoMeeting trial.. I have an action packed show for you with lots of tech news and information. It comes fast and furious, so strap in. If you had trouble downloading the last show please send me an email with your ISP and the area you live in.

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GNC-2011-09-26 #708 The Facebook Menace

I talk about the Gaf in show 707, and then spend some time on my soapbox talking about Facebook and the implications of recent revelations. I talk very seriously about the ramifications of allowing Facebook to track your every move and how it could impact your life, relationships with a spouse and ruin your reputation.

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OnStar Still Collecting Data After You’ve Cancel Service

onStarUnder a recent change in policy, OnStar which is owned by GM continues to connect to your vehicle and collect information about it even after you have cancelled your account. This change of policy goes into effect Dec 1. This information includes speed, location, odometer reading and seatbelt usage. Information that could be used by both law enforcement and insurance companies among others to both the aid and detriment of the consumer. OnStar stated they reserve the right to share this information with interested third parties, including law enforcement, although they do not do so at this time. OnStar stated that this allows them to communicate to the cars occupants about severe weather, emergency evacuation, and recalls. OnStar also insist that this information is clearly stated in the Terms of Service (TOS) and customers should be aware of it. It is unclear however, whether this is something that OnStar informs the customer when they cancel their service or is it something that the customer has to bring up. This is clearly an opt out service and not an opt in service. Let’s assume that consumers read the TOS when they first get the service and are aware they have to deactivate the data connection when they cancel service to stop OnStar from collecting data. Are they really going to remember this when they actually cancel service, I doubt it and I bet OnStar is betting on this. This change of policy has raise the ire of several Senators including Senator Schumer (NY), Al Franken (MN) and Christopher Coons (DE). They have all called upon Onstar to change it’s policy, Senator Schumer has also requested the FTC to launch and investigation.

First I am presently not a user of OnStar, none of the cars I own have it installed. A few rental cars I used in the past have had it installed. So I have never had to cancel the service. However when I cancel service with a business this means to me and I think most consumer, that my contract and connection to that business has been totally severed. It doesn’t mean the business can continue to collect information about me and that’s alright because it’s for my safety. Why OnStar thought that consumers would be ok with this is beyond me, or perhaps more likely they thought no one would notice. The second question is why OnStar is collecting this information in the first place, if not to sell it. With over 6 million willing customers from which they can collect information from, do they really need to collect information from ex-customers. Finally what prompted the change in policy and did anyone at OnStar say wait this might be a bad idea.