Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Some Motorola Phones are Snooping on You

Perhaps overlooked given the larger snooperific NSA context of late, but engineer Ben Lincoln has penned a blog post claiming that he's found that his Motorola Droid X2 is hoovering up a significant amount of user data and sending it off to Motorola. According to Lincoln, the X2 (and perhaps other models) collects GPS data from photos, users names and passwords, e-mail addresses and other private data, then sends that data off to Motorola using an unencrypted channel. Lincoln says he's only tested this on the X2, but has provided tools on his website for users to test other phones in Motorola's lineup. The revelations appear to have been overshadowed by the latest marketing for Motorola's new upcoming Moto X smartphone.

Read the rest of the discussion here...

Motorola Snooping

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cell Phone Stupidity

See what happens when two nitwits get so distracted on the cell phones that they don't know what's in front of them. This is a funny look at cell phones and how people sometimes talk about nothing, sometimes are loud, and sometimes get into accidents.

Cell Phone - watch more funny videos

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

AT&T...Oh Yeah, By The Way We're Selling Your Location Data

Both Verizon and AT&T haven't much wanted to really talk about the billions they're now making by selling your location data, given said data likely isn't as secure or anonymous as companies promise, and neither want new privacy protections put in place. Years after establishing a framework for collecting and selling user location data, AT&T has now kindly seen fit to update their privacy policy, in a blog post (via Fierce Wireless) promising users that there's no way this data collection could possibly go wrong, because said data is anonymous:

This is data that can’t be tracked back to you individually. Here’s an easy example...After an election in your community, officials will release the final vote tally. They might say that 60 percent of the voters picked Candidate A and 40 percent picked Candidate B. That information is a type of aggregate and anonymous data. It’s “aggregate” because it combines information for the whole community telling you who the community as a whole voted for, and it is anonymous because the data doesn’t tell you who voted for which candidate.

Said data is being sold to everyone from civil engineers to marketing firms, except as studies have recently shown, that data isn't really anonymous, and it only takes a few additional contextual clues to identify users. Not to worry, though, because AT&T promises that you're in control of this whole thing, and they won't sell a shred of data unless you approve of it:

We know our customers care about privacy just as we do. So, we also worked to provide greater transparency and customer controls over how your data is used. We don’t sell your personal information, and we won’t use it (other than to provide and improve your services as discussed above) unless you tell us you want us to do that.

Granted your approval for the lion's share of location data sales comes in the form of approving AT&T's massive end user agreement, which you have to approve if you want service. That's not really much of a choice, particularly if AT&T is your only real option for a particular service. There are a number of opt out options here, but prepare to spend a little time doing so. AT&T doesn't specify how your private location data is secured.

In a letter to subscribers (pdf), AT&T promises that they're "committed to protecting your privacy," and "committed to listening" to your feedback, two things they've repeatedly shown historically to be almost comically awful at. In short your location data creates huge new targets for hackers and there's no consumer protections at play, but you can trust a company with a vast history of bad corporate behavior to do the right thing. Feel better?

Read the rest of the discussion here....

AT&T Selling Location Data

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

John Caparulo Talks Cell Phones

Comedian John Caparulo talks about cell phones and mentions most of the reasons we all hate them.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Verizon Lied Repeatedly About That Bogus $2 "Data Fee"

Back in 2010 you might recall that Verizon was busted for over-billing the company's wireless users via a $2 "data fee." The over-billing, first exposed by Teresa Dixon Murray at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, occurred whether or not users had consumed data -- and even impacted some people whose phones had been off entirely.

The bogus fee slowly began to gain attention from larger media outlets, the NY Times ultimately quoting a Verizon insider who claimed the company knew full well they were screwing customers over -- but simply chose to do nothing about it. In fact, Verizon for several years denied the over-billing was even happening, before finally admitting error and settling with the FCC to the tune of $52 million in late 2010.

As I noted at the time, Verizon got off rather easy with that settlement, considering that some fifteen million customers had been charged at least $2 or more every month for several years -- math that leads to a grand total far higher than the $52 million settlement.

The law firm of Smithwick & Belendiuk thought the same thing, and after filing a FOIA request now claims they have Verizon internal documents showing that Verizon not only dramatically under-settled and lied repeatedly about the bogus charges, but that the FCC knew full well Verizon's estimates were bogus.

In a petition for investigation (pdf) filed with the FCC, the firm explains the documents show Verizon knew full well they had been massively over-charging customers but lied repeatedly about it to the press and FCC in order to keep raking in the dough. The documents also show that Verizon gleaned nearly $300 million from 2007-2010 thanks to the erroneous fee, and that Verizon executives even shot down attempts to lessen the bogus fee's impact:

Internal emails obtained as part of the FOIA settlement reveal that after press reports brought the phony charges to the attention of the public in mid-2009 Verizon Wireless began looking for a fix at the highest corporate levels. Verizon Wireless’s internal analysis recommended a 300kb monthly data allowance to customers as a means of mitigating the erroneous charges, but Verizon Wireless would be "forfeiting" about $10 million a month in revenues, so the 300kb monthly allowance was never instituted. Instead, in September 2009 the company implemented.

The firm also says they've found that the FCC's enforcement bureau couldn't be bothered to audit any of the numbers Verizon presented, and willfully accepted intentionally inaccurate estimates as fact, despite having data in their possession proving otherwise. Smithwick & Belendiuk are urging the FCC to investigate the matter and their own culpability. While you shouldn't hold your breath for that, it might be wise to keep in mind how many times Verizon denied this overbilling was even happening the next time the company opens its mouth.

Read the rest of the discussion here...

Verizon Bogus Data Fee

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Saturday, October 12, 2013


Really funny cell phone video!

This will make you laugh.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

AARP Joins Those Fighting Verizon's Killing of Copper....Argues the Elderly Will be Harmed by Death of DSL, POTS

The American Association of Retired Persons has joined a growing chorus of people concerned about the way Verizon is hanging up on their DSL and copper phone lines. As we've explored in great detail, Verizon has slowly but surely been turning their backs on DSL and POTS customers they don't want to upgrade. In many instances Verizon has used Sandy as justification and cover, telling many victims some seven months on that they'll never be repaired, and offering them less useful and ultimately more expensive Voice Link wireless service as replacement.

As the NY PSC weighs Verizon's request to shut down copper in NY State, the AARP has expressed concerns that Verizon's plans will be very bad news for the elderly (and everyone else).

According to the AARP, the Voice Link service Verizon is "replacing" damaged lines with across New England isn't up to snuff. It doesn't include data service, is incompatible with Life Alert systems and security systems, and doesn't offer as reliable a lifeline during prolonged power outages. It's simply not an adequate replacement for existing services.

Again though, it's important to understand this isn't just about Sandy, the elderly and VoiceLink, as Verizon is interested in hanging up on all remaining DSL and POTS users eventually. Sandy has simply been convenient cover for an assault on the regulation requiring they keep these lines operational.

The company has been using rate hikes to quietly drive many existing DSL users to cable, where they'll then be pitched Verizon Wireless services. Unlike most of the public and press, the AARP seems to be marginally aware of how killing DSL lines off gives cable a fixed-line monopoly in huge swaths of markets, resulting in higher prices and poorer service for everybody, not just the elderly. The ACLU expressed concern that Verizon's move is going to eliminate fixed-line broadband options at a time we profess to be expanding them.

"Under the cover of Sandy, this push by Verizon could well work towards advancing the company's corporate strategy of steering customers towards more expensive services, but that doesn't match up to protecting the needs and interests of consumers," said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York. "AARP opposes this move and we're calling on the PSC to do the same and protect New York consumers. In many cases this move could leave New York consumers in a worse situation come the next major storm."

Read the rest of the discussion here....

Verizon Killing Copper

From July News

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Saturday, October 05, 2013

FCC Still Refusing To Collect Broadband Pricing Data...Because Somebody Might Notice the Broadband Industry is Uncompetitive

Over the last few years the FCC has breathlessly proclaimed to be dedicated to both data integrity and transparency, but has fairly consistently failed at both. The FCC and NTIA's joint broadband data mapping efforts, for example, resulted in a $300 million, wholly unreliable broadband availability map that hallucinates both competition and available speeds. For fear of making any big companies mad, the FCC also proudly decided to omit pricing data from the map, lest someone notice how uncompetitive the United States broadband market is.

In July the FCC proudly proclaimed that they'd be taking over full management of the broadband map from the NTIA, in the process shifting more of the responsibility for broadband deployment data collection on to the FCC's shoulders. The agency won't, however, begin collecting data on broadband pricing, and refused to offer a decent reason.

"While this Report and Order does not collect pricing or more granular subscription data as some parties have requested, it leaves the door open to do so," interim FCC boss Mignon Clyburn said in a statement addressing the changes.

Granted that if said pricing data shows up (probably unlikely with a former lobbyist about to take over the FCC), there's a great likelihood that it would be about as unreliable as the agency's data on broadband speeds and availability. Consumer advocates were quick to point out that the reason the FCC doesn't publish pricing data is because the industry doesn't want them to.

"We’re deeply disappointed that politics once again trumped the public interest at the FCC. The Justice Department, the National Broadband Plan, numerous prior FCC proposals, the current acting FCC chairwoman, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and the incoming FCC chairman have all identified the need to collect broadband pricing data," consumer group Free Press said in a statement. "But because powerful broadband companies oppose the collection of any information that would show just how uncompetitive this market is, the FCC is once again refusing to collect the basic data it needs to do its job."

Simply having a broadband availability map is a step up from previous FCC practices (like oh, saying a zip code was wired for broadband if just one person in that zip had high speed Internet), but not by a whole lot. This is, after all, an FCC that hand in hand with industry likes to pretend that our broadband competitive issues don't exist, so having an inaccurate map that supports this narrative is at least consistent.

Read the rest of the discussion here...

Another FCC Failure

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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Mobile Devices to Outnumber Humans by 2017

According to data from a firm named CCS Insight, the number of mobile devices worldwide will surpass the total number of people on the planet sometime around 2017. Over 6.6 billion mobile devices will be in use by the end of 2017, claims the firm, noting that two-thirds of those wireless devices will be smartphones (smartphones accounted for around 25% of all wireless devices last year). Smartphone shipments exceeded that of non smartphones for the first time ever during the first quarter of 2013.

Read the rest of the discussion here....

Mobile Devices To Out Number Humans

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