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Category Archives: privacy

Why I will never, ever again vote for Sen. Dianne Feinstein

The Burr-Feinstein anti-encryption bill is a horrible piece of proposed legislation. This is a bill that will likely criminalize all forms of strong encryption. What the actual fuck?! Either Sen. Feinstein is an idiot or just plain evil. Either way, she’s not fit to draft legislation if this is what happens when she tries.

There are lots of other reasons to really, really dislike her, though:

She behaves more like a conservative than a liberal. She needs to leave the Senate and I will never vote for her again. I’ll vote for anyone else if she runs again.


My Tracks: The real reason Google is shutting it down

The Android app My Tracks is being killed on April 30, 2016.  It’s not just be abandoned, to never receive another update.  It’s being killed.  It will no longer operate past the above date. This is a rather strong move by Google.  Why are they doing it?  This is their given reason:

After April 30, 2016, My Tracks will no longer be available. We apologize for the inconvenience this might cause My Tracks users. We’ve made the tough decision to invest our efforts into other, more wide-reaching, mapping projects. Below are some resources to help you manage or export your data and find other apps to continue tracking your activities.

This is the bullshit reason.  The real reason might make you angry, if you are a user of My Tracks.

My Tracks lets you record information about walks, runs and other physical activity.  It does so with the GPS on your phone and records it to your phone.  You have the option of uploading that data to your Google account. It’s your data and Google doesn’t have access to it.  There’s no “save to the cloud” or “share with your friends” or anything like that. In other words, there’s no way for Google to monetize (i.e., make money off) your data.

Google has pointed to several applications that are good replacements for My Tracks. Google Fit being one.  The difference between all of them and My Tracks is clear: they all are social applications which store your data in the cloud, so they can do what they want with it.  The Google app, Fit, is clearly designed like this.  The non-Google apps are, too, and many of them, while free, have in-app purchases for sharing features, etc.

My Tracks was killed because it directly competed with Google Fit.  My Tracks was killed because Google cannot make money off you when you use it1, unlike Google Fit.

So why does this matter?  Why am I so sensitive about my data being in the cloud and used by others for monetary gain?  1) They aren’t being honest about what they are doing. Period. 2) We’ve already given up so much privacy by carry smart phones, and I don’t want to give up anymore of it. My walks are my private business. Something stored in the cloud can be accessed or stolen by others. I don’t want my regular activities to be known by people other than my family.

You might say, it’s open source software, so someone else can maintain it, if Google doesn’t want to, right?  Wrong.  Google removed the source code from public view more than a year ago:

We no longer update the open source version of My Tracks, and we will remove these sources after 1/1/15.

They planned well ahead, making people think they were merely abandoning the software, so that when they did kill it, it was less likely someone would have the source code.  Also, the source code, at the time they killed it, would be quite out of date (having been updating it for more than a year from the time the source code went private).

I’ve been a long-time user of My Tracks.  I started using it with my OG Droid, an early Android phone by Motorola.  Through all the upgrades, I’ve used My Tracks to record walks.  It’s a great tool and I really enjoyed using it.  I spent a few hours looking for an alternative app that won’t have access to my data and I failed to find one.  Should a reader of this post know of one, please let me know.

I know what I’ll do on April 30, 2016.  I’ll uninstall My Tracks and not install any of the suggested alternatives.  My phone will be a little less fun to me, and that is the fault of Google.

1Whether Google does now, or will at some point in the future, monetize your Google Fit data is irrelevant. We, as users of Android phones, cannot know what Google monetizes. We know they monetize a lot of our data, and it makes them a lot of money. There’s a saying: If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold. That certainly applies here. I would be happy to pay for a My Tracks app, so I am the customer.

Why privacy matters even if you have nothing to hide

There’s a lot of discussion going on in this country right now about how much our government is watching and listening to us.  This is a good debate to have.  It’s long overdue.  We should have had it before the PATRIOT ACT of 2001 was voted on, but everyone in Congress, except a single courageous person, Russ Feingold, voted for that legislation.  In my opinion Russ Feingold is the best kind of American and the people of Wisconsin were lucky to have him.  And, he predicted what is happening today.

So, I’m glad we’re having it now.  One thing I hear in these debates are people asking: if you don’t have anything to hide, why is what our government is doing a bad thing?  It would only catch criminals or terrorists, right?  The answer is not as simple as yes.

Before I link to a bunch of good discussion, I want to point something out: there are a lot of laws in this country.  A staggering number of them.  There are things which are crimes that would completely flabbergast you or me.   In fact, it has been posited that every American commits three felonies a day.  I’m not going to go into detail about this, but for the sake of the following, let’s assume that people unsuspectingly break laws fairly frequently.  Say that you are now brought in for questioning by the police, and you feel you haven’t done anything wrong.  Who among us wouldn’t ask for a lawyer and would answer all their questions?  I hope the answer is none of you.  History is rife with examples where the police homed in on an innocent person, built and prosecuted, tried and convicted that person.  How?  Often they talked to the police.

Talking with the police and the government knowing almost everything you do is not much different.  In fact, I would argue the latter is much, much worse.

Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’ by Daniel K. Solove.  Lots of good content here.

The effect of curfews.

It’s really about nothing to fear.

[UPDATE 6/9/2013] Questions you can ask someone that has nothing to hide.

[UPDATE 6/11/13] This is interesting enough to reproduce here:

We know what happened in the case of QWest before 9/11.  They contacted the CEO/Chairman asking to wiretap all the customers.  After he consulted with Legal, he refused.  As a result, NSA canceled a bunch of unrelated billion dollar contracts that QWest was the top bidder for.  And then the DoJ targeted him and prosecuted him and put him in prison for insider trading — on the theory that he knew of anticipated income from secret programs that QWest was planning for the government, while the public didn’t because it was classified and he couldn’t legally tell them, and then he bought or sold QWest stock knowing those things.

This CEO’s name is Joseph P. Nacchio and TODAY he’s still serving a trumped-up 6-year federal prison sentence today for quietly refusing an NSA demand to massively wiretap his customers.

That’s a good start.  Post others in the comments.

Don’t forget to donate to the EFF.  This is the only way I know of to fight back.

Six GOP Co-Sponsors of PIPA Ask Reid to Cancel Vote

EFF: Who Is Flying Unmanned Aircraft in the U.S.?

Who Is Flying Unmanned Aircraft in the U.S.? | Electronic Frontier Foundation.

This is quite troubling.  Just add this to the growing list of privacy invasions: cameras everywhere, GPS tracking of your car, cell phone tracking and backdoors, email and all internet traffic monitoring at the ISP level.

Add the above to indefinite detention of US citizens (NDAA, recently signed into law by Obama) and sanctioned killing of US citizens, and you have a not very pretty picture of big brother.

If you told someone in 1950 that this is what we would do to ourselves in 60 years, what would they think?  Would they believe we had turned our  back on our on Constitution?