Bookmarked How SDKs, hidden trackers in your phone, work by Sara Morrison (Wired)

It feels impossible to get anything done right now. Here’s how to keep your head above water—without falling into the busy trap.

Sarah Morrison digs into the way in which APIs and SDK kits provide the framework for tracking.

SDKs themselves are not trackers, but they are the means through which most tracking through mobile apps occurs. Simply put, an SDK is a package of tools that helps an app function in some way. Apple and Android offer operating system SDKs so developers can build their apps for their respective devices, and third parties offer SDKs that allow developers to add certain features to those apps quickly and with minimal effort.

If you do not want to engage with the inherent tracking, Morrison provides some possible strategies:

If you don’t want to simply trust that a location data firm, data broker, or ad company has your best privacy interests at heart, there are things you can do to prevent your information from getting out there. Apple and Android now give device owners the option to limit ad tracking, so you can do that if you haven’t already. You can also limit ad tracking on services like Facebook, Google, and Twitter. If an app asks for permission to use a device feature such as your location, only agree to it if it’s something you really need, and only turn location services on when you’re using them. And read the privacy policies on the apps you download to get the best possible sense of whether they’re sharing your data and whom they’re sharing it with, and opt out of sharing with data location companies where possible — X-Mode and Cuebiq both offer ways to do this directly. Most privacy experts believe it’s impossible to truly stop tracking on these devices and through their apps, but this should at least reduce it.

The future of tracking is still somewhat unknown. Although users may not want such infiltration, it is still a significant part in regards to the funding of platform capitalism.

In a related piece, Owen Williams suggests that we need to rebrand cookies as the data trackers that they are.

Bookmarked Major Security Flaws Found in South Korea Quarantine App (nytimes.com)

The defects, which have been fixed, exposed private details of people in quarantine. The country has been hailed as a pioneer in digital public health.

Aaron Krolik, Choe Sang-Hunnatasha Singer and Raymond Zhong report on Flaws found in the South Korean quarantine app:

In May, Mr. Rechtenstein returned to his home in Seoul from a trip abroad. While self-isolating at home, he became curious about the government’s seemingly simple app and what extra features it might have. That prompted Mr. Rechtenstein to peek under the hood of the code, which is how he discovered several major security flaws.

He found that the software’s developers were assigning users ID numbers that were easily guessable. After guessing a person’s credentials, a hacker could have retrieved the information provided upon registration, including name, date of birth, sex, nationality, address, phone number, real-time location and medical symptoms.

It would seem that each country has had its sway.

The Times found this spring that a virus-tracing app in India could leak users’ precise locations, prompting the Indian government to fix the problem. Amnesty International discovered flaws in an exposure-alert app in Qatar, which the authorities there quickly updated. Other nations, including Norway and Britain, have had to change course on their virus apps after public outcry about privacy.

Although Australia’s issue seems to have been that it does not work.

Bookmarked

Troy Hunt reflects on the discussion of the Australian Government’s development of an app that would allow users to identify and be identified if in contact with the coronavirus. He suggests that privacy is not an absolute.

Liked China’s government has given location-tracking watches to 17,000 children (MIT Technology Review)

The smart watches use chips developed and designed by BeiDou, a Chinese satellite navigation system, to pinpoint a child’s position within 10 meters.The news: Seventeen thousand students at 60 elementary schools in Guangzhou received fancy new gadgets for their wrists last week, according to the Guangzhou Daily (link in Chinese).

Replied to https://boffosocko.com/2019/05/17/google-uses-gmail-to-track-a-history-of-things-you-buy-and-its-hard-to-delete-cnbc/ by Chris AldrichChris Aldrich (boffosocko.com)

Apparently https://myaccount.google.com/purchases is a reasonable place one could start for creating acquisition posts on their website. The downside is the realization that Google is tracking all of this without making it more obvious.

Chris, this is why I think that Google’s talk about wiping things such as our search records is something of a ruse. What does it matter if they have the raw data anymore (emails, searches etc) if they have already stripped out the core information and stored it somewhere else?
Bookmarked Google tracks your movements, like it or not by Ryan Nakashima (Associated Press)

An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.

In this expose, Associated Press uncover some of the different ways Google surreptitiously tracks users and how difficult it is to get out of. I remember reading Dylan Curran’s breakdown of the data Google have on us thinking that there is surely more. Clearly there is. This reminds me of Facebook’s shadow profiles. What intrigues me with all this is how the data is then analysed and used. That is the ledger right?

via Ian O’Byrne

Bookmarked The Information on School Websites Is Not as Safe as You Think by E.K. Moore (nytimes.com)

Some tracking scripts may be harmless. But others are designed to recognize I.P. addresses and embed cookies that collect information prized by advertisers.

E.K. Moore discusses the presence of trackers on school websites. One of the interesting points was the impact of YouTube on all this:

Google’s DoubleClick ad trackers, for instance, are commonly found on school pages that host YouTube videos, like the Community Website Introduction video on a school site in Massapequa, on New York’s Long Island. The trackers tee up videos containing advertising on the school page, once its own video finishes playing.

I have reflected upon this topic elsewhere.

Liked Google and Facebook are watching our every move online. It’s time to make them stop by Gabriel Weinberg, CEO and founder of DuckDuckGo (CNBC)

Google, Facebook hidden trackers follow users around the web at alarming rates, says DuckDuckGo’s CEO Gabriel Weinberg. To make any real progress in advancing data privacy this year, we have to start doing something about them. Not doing so would be like trying to lose weight without changing your diet. Simply ineffective.

Bookmarked Fitness tracking app Strava gives away location of secret US army bases by Alex Hern (the Guardian)

Data about exercise routes shared online by soldiers can be used to pinpoint overseas facilities

Alex Hern reports that Strava data inadvertently reveals a number of supposed military secrets. In response, Bill Fitzgerald also provides some interesting commentary on Twitter:

Arvind Narayanan also wrote a series of tweets:

Bookmarked All The Ways Your Smartphone And Its Apps Can Track You (Gizmodo Australia)

In the end your smartphone use is helping to build up a picture of who you are and the kind of advertising you’re interested in for companies like Google, Facebook, and others — even if an app isn’t part of a massive advertising network, it may well sell its data to one. Apple stands apart in this regard, keeping the data it tracks for its own use and largely on a single device, though of course the apps that run on iOS have more freedom to do what they want.

Even if you’re reasonably content to put up with some monitoring on Android and iOS, it’s important to know what kind of data you’re giving up every time you switch your smartphone on. Whether it means you uninstall a few social media tools, or disable location tracking for a few apps, it gives you some semblance of control over your privacy.

Mark Nield explains some ways that phones track users, including capturing location settings via photographs. He also provides some tips for how to regain some of the control through the privacy settings. Along with Adam Greenfield’s breakdown of the smartphone, these posts help to highlight what data is being gathered about us and how.