How To Use Your iPhone to Stalk Yourself

It looks like the privacy hippies were finally right about something, your mobile phone really is a pocket sized tracking device.

Turns out that as of iOS 4.0, iPhones have been tracking your physical movements and logging it along with the phone’s backups.

A small team of researchers have discovered these logs in iTune’s backup files, they’ve released a handy little app that collects all the data from your user folder and plots it on a map. iPhoneTracker.app and further information available here.

Here is the visualization of everywhere I’ve been since Sept 28, 2010:

You can see lots of activity in and around Winnipeg (including trips up to the Gimli and Victoria Beach), a flight to Toronto and subsequent travel around southern Ontario and a road trip to Minneapolis. It’s fascinating.

I’m not sure if this is a terrifying privacy hole or a neat little hidden feature. I’m leaning towards neat feature, since the data is stored locally on your computer and can be encrypted automatically by iTunes.

At this point in time a method for disabling the “feature” does not exist. I expect Apple will be responding in short order.

Canadian Tech News: October 19th – Why US Apps Hate Canada, Toddler Photos, Windows Phone 7, dot-ca

It’s been over a week since the last Canadian tech news roundup, so I’ll jump right into it:

Michael Giest: Why are U.S. net services slow to migrate north
There are countless examples of web services that take years to get here and even more that never make it. Michael Giest has an interesting column in The Star discussing why he believes US web services take so long to migrate north of the border. He says 1) “Canada’s geographical advantage is lost in the online world”, 2) “[bandwidth] caps, which are far more restrictive than comparable caps in the U.S” and 3) “a third factor appears to be licencing requirements.” His first point is something I haven’t considered in the past – he’s saying that the internet levels the playing field putting the Canadian market on an equal footing with other larger markets. While I agree in theory, this fact doesn’t explain why many of these US services (Netflix for example) expand to Canada before other larger markets. On his second point, I almost completely disagree. Bandwidth caps seem to be an Eastern Canada issue, as far as I’m aware most of the Central and Western Canadian ISPs do not have restrictive bandwidth caps. I’ll try to do a follow-up post comparing current bandwidth caps of the major Canadian ISPs. On top of that, I don’t believe bandwidth caps something the average consumer actively considers when making decisions about signing up for online services – assuming they’re even aware of the concept to begin with.

84% of Canadian Toddlers have pictures online
Another one of these FUD-inducing surveys from an anti-virus vendor; AVG released the findings a survey of mothers regarding their behaviour regarding posting photos of their children online. As a parent I can’t see this as anything more than a lame publicity attempt, there’s nothing specific to be worried about online. That said, I do find the stats themselves to be quite interesting. 84% of Canadian children have photos online, 3% higher that the average in countries surveyed and a full 8% higher than the USA. 7% of babies and toddlers have email addresses created for them, 5% have social network profiles – I’d actually kind of expected that to be the reverse. 25% of babies have sonogram photos posted online before they were born – this actually seems a little low to me. Canadian mothers were also least concerned about the data they share.

Windows Phone 7 Phones coming to Telus, Bell, Rogers
Windows Phone 7 is coming to Canada at same time as the US, as far as I can tell. At this rate Rogers will have Windows Phone 7 before Android 2.1 *sigh*.
Phone breakdown as follows:

These phones most certainly look like viable competitors to iPhone and Android. I for one welcome the competition.

New .ca registry goes live

In domain name news: the Canadian Internet Registration Authority has rolled out a “…redesigned and streamlined domain name registration system.” As far as I can tell, the main feature here is an API and the ability for registrars to auto-renew domains through this API. Congrats, I guess.

BTW, people who like Canadian Tech News: also like the Canadian Tech Roundup podcast. Look for a new episode later this week.

Canadian Tech News, September 22nd – Netflix, Pandora, Hippie Cars, Government Transparency

Netflix Finally Available!
Netflix opened the doors to it’s dot-ca today, offering unlimited streaming service at $7.99 – $1 or $2 less than early rumour suggested. I’ve personally been looking forward to this ever since our household signed up for cable TV again. After poking around a bit today, I’ve found that the selection seems quite limited and random. Hopefully this will improve once Netflix has a larger user-base to offer to rights holder. I am happy that the service does not seem to be influenced by CanCon legislation. Which is to say, there does not seem to be a higher concentration of (obviously) Canadian Content, like there was when iTunes started offering video a few years ago.

I wonder what happens when you log in to Netflix in the US with a Canadian account and vice versa.

Pandora abandons Canadian expansion plans
Tim Westergren – CEO of music streaming service Pandora – slammed Canadian performance rights agencies today, citing high royalty rates as the main reason we won’t be seeing Pandora in Canada any time soon. Starting next year Re:sound wants to increase the royalty rates it charges to websites streaming to mobile devices – up to 45% of the site’s revenue or $0.075/song. In Westergren’s words “over 20 times what radio delivered over AM/FM pays.” Unbelievable!

Calgary firm launches the hippiest car ever
As if electric cars weren’t a hard enough sell for the average consumer already, Calgary’s Motive industries have come up with a way to make them seem even more ludicrous. Hemp-based bodies. The jokes write themselves.

Canadian Governments Respect Internet Privacy
Google has released their latest government requests transparency report – a colleciton of stats about how much private data various governments asking about, or demanding removal of. I was pleasantly surprised to find Canada at the very bottom of the list, making fewer than 10 removal requests

Thoughts on Online Privacy & How to Protect Yourself [OR How Facebook Can Save Your Identity]

The following is an excerpt of an email I wrote in response to this article Facebook can ruin your life. And so can MySpace, Bebo

A lot of the current batch of social networks have very poorly designed privacy controls. On facebook for instance, it’s very hard to tell which of your contacts have access to different which areas of your profile and it’s not entirely clear how much of this information is accessible via google. In fact, there is a bug in Facebooks’ architecture that will allow any of your friends to see a newsfeed item (not the full post) for all of your activities via the official Facebook API, even if you have set up your account to block certain users from seeing this. Also, facebook is also more closed off then some of the old social networks, so it might not even be clear to most users that their profiles show up on google. Combine all of these factors; bugs, security holes, phishing attacks, user ignorance/naivety and you’ve got a shitstorm waiting to happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next couple of years a big player is completely knocked out of the game by a major attack and the bad press that follows. Not too long ago a file containing nearly 1 million myspace usernames and passwords was making it’s rounds; it went largely unreported, but if a major news outlet had picked it up it would’ve been very bad for myspace.

That said, I think a lot of the people mentioned in this article probably didn’t have great legal representation. Writing a journal entry about how much you hate your job, doesn’t neccessarily mean you’re a bad idea. Making a drunken post about how much of a drunk you are, doesn’t mean much if that’s the only time you’ve had a drink in 6 months. Accidentally adding someone to your friends list on a social network because you didn’t know how to use the interface, is not nearly the same thing as banging on someone’s front door demanding to speak with them.

Interestingly, I’ve found that using my real name on websites/networks is a good way of protecting my online reputation. Social networking and similar sites will generally have much higher weighting in google then the average site – networking type sites are built with search engine optimization in mind. So if you are a member of a number of these types of sites and you post content that you are proud of on a every once in awhile, when someone does a search for your name they will almost always find content that you can vouch for. Additionally, if there is any kind of negative content about you somewhere on the web – say someone has posted something mean about you in their blog, or even worse if articles about your latest criminal conviction in show up in a local newspaper’s website – it is very likely that when a potential employer does a search for your name, your profiles on larger websites will show up before these negative articles on smaller websites.