Category Archives: Privacy

Chinese app publisher limits children’s use of games at night via facial recognition

Bad feeling about this – we seem to be gradually adopting all of these methods in the West, over time.

Tencent, the world’s largest Chinese video game publisher, has taken an extreme step to comply with its nation’s rules about limiting minors’ access to video games. As of this week, the publisher has added a facial recognition system, dubbed “Midnight Patrol,” to over 60 of its China-specific smartphone games, and it will disable gameplay in popular titles like Honor of Kings if users either decline the facial check or fail it.

In all affected games, once a gameplay session during the nation’s official gaming curfew hours (10 pm to 8 am) exceeds an unspecified amount of time, the game in question will be interrupted by a prompt to scan the player’s face.

Source: Dozens of Chinese phone games now require facial scans to play at night | Ars Technica

Google accused of forcing installation of Covid-19 tracking apps

Google is force-installing a Massachusetts COVID-19 tracking app on residents’ Android devices without an easy way to uninstall it.

For the past few days, users have reported that Google silently installed the Massachusetts ‘MassNotify’ app on their devices without the ability to open it or find it in the Google Play Store.

Source: Google force installs Massachusetts MassNotify Android COVID app

Apparently IRS tax returns are not secret anymore?

Perhaps we should all just publish our returns on the Internet and be done with the pretense of privacy?

ProPublica said it is not disclosing how it obtained the data, which was given to it in raw form. It is illegal for the IRS to give out the personal returns of any individual. ProPublica says it has the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years.

Source: Billionaires including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk avoided paying federal income taxes in some years, report says – MarketWatch

Do they have their medical records too?

Considering the Experian leak or numerous retail credit card leaks, it seems that privacy no longer exists. What does this mean, long term, if everything we have ever done, bought, used, paid as taxes, used as health care, or discussed on line, in text messages, is no longer private?

In the case of Experian, the leak itself was the story. Now, the media itself gleefully participates in the leak and ignores their ethical lapse in participation as a party to this leak.

UPDATE: This story isn’t going over well for Propublica. First, some question the media’s use of stolen, private tax records – that is a real story. Second, Propublica uses a tax calculation they invented – as if unrecognized gains should be taxed and compared to income taxes. Third, it is an agenda-driven propaganda piece pushing a “wealth tax”. This is not journalism – this is advocacy.

Propublica cherry picks data, confuses wealth versus income, invents their own tax calculations, and says 25 tax returns are representative of everyone[1] thereby creating an effective propaganda hit piece.

[1] “Is anecdotal evidence reliable? One reporter says ‘Yes'”

Privacy: Why you should stop using Google Chrome browser

I use Firefox (mostly) or Brave. I use Google Chrome only to check GMail (no longer my primary email) occasionally to avoid logging in to Google services while online with the other browsers. I have done everything I can to minimize use of Google services.

As well as collecting your data, Chrome also gives Google a huge amount of control over how the web works

Source: It’s time to ditch Chrome | WIRED UK

Every time Google was caught making a privacy mistake, their errors were on the side of scooping up way too much. Google’s street view cars, driving all roads in the world, were scooping up all Wi-Fi traffic including unencrypted transmissions. When caught, Google said it was due to a software error. Which is unbelievable as it meant they were collecting terabytes of excess data and pretended no one had noticed this.

Google, contrary to their original stated purposes, is evil.

Google forces you to reveal age

I logged into Google today and they forced me to provide a date of birth. They then prompted to confirm my age.

They claim they need this to comply with the law.

They also say it is used for their dossier for “ad purposes”. Supposedly the use of this for ad purposes can be turned off.

Presumably one can also lie and give a fake date – although I assume that at some future date they will prompt you to enter your age again to confirm account access. Thus, you’d need to keep a log of what date you provide to Google.

Unfortunately, we cannot trust Google with any personal information.

Security: “Scheme Flooding Allows User Tracking Across Browsers”

A flaw that allows browsers to enumerate applications on a machine threatens cross-browser anonymity in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari and even Tor.

A security researcher has discovered a vulnerability that allows websites to track users across a number of different desktop browsers — including Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox and Tor — posing a threat to cross-browser anonymity.Called “scheme flooding,” the flaw “allows websites to identify users reliably across different desktop browsers and link their identities together,” Konstantin Darutkin, a researcher and developer at FingerprintJS, said in a blog post published Thursday. FingerprintJS is the publisher of a well-known browser-fingerprinting API.

Source: Scheme Flooding Allows User Tracking Across Browsers | Threatpost

Wi-Fi Access Points and privacy

Most Wi-Fi networks transmit a periodic station ID – such as “Home WiFi” or whatever you call your AP.

Many devices, including smart phones, can collect AP names and locations as they are moved about. Services like Google use this to provide enhanced location-based services.

Go to Wigle.net to see a map of Wi-Fi AP locations, globally (This is not based on Google’s system).

If you use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot, that too can be intercepted by other nearby devices that forward the ID and location into global databases.

There are two ways to reduce this collection of your Wi-Fi data and location.

  1. Don’t use WiFi! Use wired Ethernet connections instead. You can also connect your phone via a USB-C to a computer that supports USB network connections. Or you can use a USB-C to Ethernet dongle – and avoid activating Wi-Fi.
  2. According to this news report at CNet, you can append _nomap to the end of your SSID and this should flag systems to not collect data on your AP. Google proposed use of the “_nomap” option as a way to comply with European privacy regulators.

Google has outright lied in the past about its use of Street View cars collection of personal data from open Wi-Fi systems as the cars drove around.

One year later: Smart phone, Bluetooth-based contact tracing apps remain AWOL

One year ago, the tech sector jumped in with a plan to develop smart phone based contact detection apps. These would use Bluetooth to estimate potential contacts with someone later testing positive for Covid-19.

I predicted at the time (see past posts) that this technology was not likely to be successful for many reasons.

Here we are, one year later, and we are only now developing testing criteria for these apps.

The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) awarded $959,305 to the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory this week to create testing criteria for a COVID-19 digital contact tracing app. The award was granted … Read More »

Source: DHS taps University of Washington to create criteria for COVID-19 digital contact tracing app testing – Homeland Preparedness News

The media gave much attention to alleged privacy issues but that was never the problem – the problem was the nature of the technology and the high false negative and false positive rates and that huge numbers of people would need to use it for it to deliver mediocre results.

One year later, these apps are mostly non-existent and public health and has found very few potential cases through the technology. In spite of being a brain injured idiot, my analysis was correct.

Update: As of March 2021, essentially no one is using contact tracing apps in Canada either. In Alberta, the app has found 0.02% (that is 1% divided by 50!) of the positive Covid-19 cases. And some of those cases might have been determined by other means eventually anyway. The score card: 0.02% by contact tracing app and 99.98% by other methods.

“Hit and Run” will be a thing of the past

Microsoft joins GM in self driving vehicle initiative.

To unlock the potential of cloud computing for self-driving vehicles, Cruise will leverage Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, to commercialize its unique autonomous vehicle solutions at scale. Microsoft, as Cruise’s preferred cloud provider, will also tap into Cruise’s deep industry expertise to enhance its customer-driven product innovation and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.Microsoft will join General Motors, Honda and institutional investors in a combined new equity investment of more than $2 billion in Cruise, bringing the post-money valuation of Cruise to $30 billion.

Source: Cruise and GM team up with Microsoft to commercialize self-driving vehicles – Stories

This past year, the FAA wanted to track toy remote controlled model airplanes in real time, once per second. If the government thought they needed real time tracking of toys, you can be sure they will demand real time tracking of all automobiles.

Every vehicle incident will be tracked – in real time. The era of people driving away in hit-and-run accidents will come to an end. So will privacy but what ever, right? It’s probably for the children anyway.