The surprising things algorithms can glean about you from photos

This is an article I’ll be sharing with all my friends, because it’s important for us to understand the consequences one single photo can have.

Even if you do not tag the people in an image, photo recognition systems can do so. Facebook’s DeepFace algorithm can match a face to one that has appeared in previously uploaded images, including photos taken in dramatically different lighting and from dramatically different points of view. Using identified profile photos and tagged photos and social-graph relationships, a very probable name can be attached to the face. (…)

A person pounding the pavement of a city street can be identified and tracked block-to-block by the unique characteristics of her gait. (…)

Taking a photo or video in public isn’t illegal, nor is taking one with a person’s permission. It’s also not illegal to upload the file or store it in the cloud. Applying optical character recognition, facial recognition, or a super-resolution algorithm isn’t illegal, either. There’s simply no place for us to hide anymore. [continue]

That’s from Andreas Weigend’s article, The Surprising Things Algorithms Can Glean About You From Photos, published on Slate. I think you’ll want to read the whole thing.

A note at the bottom of the Slate article says, in part, “Andreas Weigend is the author of Data for the People: How to Make Our Post-Privacy Economy Work for You.” I am grateful for this Slate article – it has super information and will be a handy thing for me to send to friends and post on a certain bulletin board. So I’ve just bought Andreas’ book, as a way to thank him.

Oh, and about laws regarding the taking of photos: we had a house guest from the Netherlands a while ago. He said it’s illegal in the Netherlands to take photos of people without their permission. Really? That’s a great idea. I wish we had a similar law here.

Are any of you saying no when others want to photograph you?

Google Chrome is listening, without your permission

I wish Google would take the lead in respecting privacy, rather than invading privacy. But no, we have news like this. From Privacy Online: Google Chrome Listening In To Your Room Shows The Importance Of Privacy Defense In Depth.

Yesterday, news broke that Google has been stealth downloading audio listeners onto every computer that runs Chrome, and transmits audio data back to Google. Effectively, this means that Google had taken itself the right to listen to every conversation in every room that runs Chrome somewhere, without any kind of consent from the people eavesdropped on. In official statements, Google shrugged off the practice with what amounts to “we can do that”. [continue]

Sigh.

Disconnect files EU anti-trust complaint against Google

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Disconnect files EU anti-trust complaint against Google.

Disconnect Inc., a company that makes privacy protecting software, is fighting back after its Android apps were pulled from Google’s Play store.

Disconnect’s mobile app is designed to prevent non-consensual third-party trackers from collecting detailed profiles of how you use your Android phone (much like EFF’s Privacy Badger does in Firefox or Chrome). Additionally, whenever an app on your phone tries to download malvertising (malware distributed using advertising networks, including Google’s Doubleclick network and others), Disconnect intercepts the request and blocks it. Disconnect is even one of the few apps to protect against both Verizon’s injected IDs and Turn’s resultant ‘zombie cookies’. However Google has removed Disconnect from the Play store, claiming it violates their terms of service—specifically a section which forbids the distribution of apps that interfere with or disrupt the services of any third party.

As we’ve explained before, Google seems to be enforcing this clause in order to put its own profits ahead of the privacy of its users. By banning Disconnect Google has effectively said that users don’t get to control what data their phones transmit to third parties, if that control depends on apps distributed through the Play store. [continue]

I use and like Disconnect. Google’s behaviour here annoys me very, very much.

Apple’s Tim Cook on privacy

Apple has risen substantially in my estimation lately. Look at these articles from the Guardian:

And now this, from the Verge: Tim Cook: Silicon Valley’s most successful companies are selling you out.

Hurrah, Tim.

(I still use Linux, though.)

NSA planned to hijack Google app store to hack smartphones

Will the NSA ever stop trying to invade our privacy? Probably not. This is from The Inercept: NSA Planned to Hijack Google App Store to Hack Smartphones.

The National Security Agency and its closest allies planned to hijack data links to Google and Samsung app stores to infect smartphones with spyware, a top-secret document reveals.

The surveillance project was launched by a joint electronic eavesdropping unit called the Network Tradecraft Advancement Team, which includes spies from each of the countries in the “Five Eyes” alliance — the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.

The top-secret document, obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was published Wednesday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept. The document outlines a series of tactics that the NSA and its counterparts in the Five Eyes were working on during workshops held in Australia and Canada between November 2011 and February 2012. [continue]

This is why I’d like an open-source alternative to the app store. An open-source app source that is vetted by security professionals, and whose code can be in spected by anyone… well, that is probably our best protection against crap like this.