Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Apple emerging as an arm of the FBI?

We all know now that the system installed in Apple iPhones called SIRI is suspect by a number of organizations, including IBM which has banned it from their networks. The reason? Siri ships everything you say to Her to a data center in Maiden, North Carolina. And the story of what really happens to all of your Siri launched searches, email messages and inappropriate jokes disappears into a virtual black box. With your reality name on it. 

Apple's iPhone Software Licence Agreement spells this out: "When you use Siri or Dictation, the things you say will be recorded and sent to Apple in order to convert what you say into text." Siri collects a bunch of other information too; names of people from your address book and other unspecified user data, all to help Siri do a better job. How long does Apple store this now plain-text information? And who gets a look at it? 

The company doesn't actually say. But again, from the user agreement: "By using Siri or Dictation, you agree and consent to Apple's and its subsidiaries' and agents' transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information, including your voice input and User Data, to provide and improve Siri, Dictation, and other Apple products and services."  Subsidiaries and Agents? Who ARE these agents? The DEA? NSA? CIA? FBI? Homeland Security? Fema? Private corporations? Your high-tech brother-in-law?

Well, if I am paranoid then so are a lot of other legitimate companies in the technology business besides IBM.  
Because some of the data that Siri collects can be very personal, the American Civil Liberties Union put out a warning about Siri just a couple of months ago. For corporate users, there are even more potential pitfalls, like having it known that you're at a certain customer's location might be in violation of a non-disclosure agreement, and of interest to spying competitors. Or your boss. Or anyone else who happens to perk and have interest in where you go and what you do there.
So if you are telling Siri where you want to go, your iPhone is not only storing that info, but the GPS info showing how you got there and how long you stayed!

Now a BC woman is suing Apple because she says the installed GPS system tracks you even when your iPhone is turned OFF! Then it updates periodically and sends that info to Apple including where you have been!  You can be back-tracked from D to C to B to A!
Your iPhone 4 contains location data, going back approximately one year, which is now easily accessible using free tools readily available on the internet. And it is revealed that a simple black box which fits into an attache case, can access all this info to track you exactly. By masquerading and behaving as a cell tower. It doesn't even have to ask you for it, your phone sends it automatically! The police are already using this technology but it is available to anyone! 

Well now the, I've got nothing to hide, wigglies come out. I've done nothing wrong, they argue, laughing at your paranoia. But perhaps they haven't been exposed to an zealous investigator who only needs to know YOU attended that same Bible Camp that John Wayne Gacy went to or coached childrens' football in Pennsylvania, or sent a humorous email message through Siri about marijuana to your friend who smokes it but you don't. And that friend happened to be in Mexico when you sent the joke! Perk!

This doesn't mean that Google, Samsung, Microsoft et al aren't building in the same technology to their systems and that your ISP isn't telling on you. But it means the technology is there to listen, record geographic co-ordinates and the time stamp to track everything you do, have done, when you done it and even anticipate what you MIGHT do. Yes, that techno is coming too.

It might mean that you shouldn't visit that favorite used book store anymore, because of the Mexican drug dealer hanging in the next doorway, and that the store is now run by an Iranian immigrant, and you'd better not be carrying your iPhone when you go there. Not to mention the fact that if you're reading a real life paper-paged book that doesn't let them know what you are reading is suspicious already!  A SWAT team could crash in as soon as you pick up that antique issue of Lady Chatterly's Lover.  

OMG, the scandal of it all. Drugs, foreign intrigue with terror implications, secretive actions and sex too!

And now you're in GITMO still dazed and shackled, dressed in orange while the interrogators try to figure out the jargon codes used in your iPhone transmission when your wife asked you to bring the 'bread' home.

There's no 'bored' in waterboard.