Tag Archives | Smartphones

Nordstrom Tracks Shoppers In Stores Via Their Smartphones

NordstromOh, and it’s not just Nordstrom. Go shopping with a wifi-enabled phone at your peril, reports the New York Times:

Like dozens of other brick-and-mortar retailers, Nordstrom wanted to learn more about its customers — how many came through the doors, how many were repeat visitors — the kind of information that e-commerce sites like Amazon have in spades. So last fall the company started testing new technology that allowed it to track customers’ movements by following the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones.

But when Nordstrom posted a sign telling customers it was tracking them, shoppers were unnerved.

“We did hear some complaints,” said Tara Darrow, a spokeswoman for the store. Nordstrom ended the experiment in May, she said, in part because of the comments.

Nordstrom’s experiment is part of a movement by retailers to gather data about in-store shoppers’ behavior and moods, using video surveillance and signals from their cellphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in the candy aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it.

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Three-Quarters Of All Smartphones Contain NSA Code In Operating System

androidGoogle confirms that Android phones come with “Security Enhancements” added by the NSA, Bloomberg reports:

Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano confirms that the company has already inserted some of the NSA’s programming in Android OS. “All Android code and contributors are publicly available for review at source.android.com,” Scigliano says, declining to comment further.

Through its open-source Android project, Google has agreed to incorporate code, first developed by the agency in 2011, into future versions of its mobile operating system, which runs on three-quarters of smartphones [globally].

NSA officials say their code, known as Security Enhancements for Android, isolates apps to prevent hackers and marketers from gaining access to personal or corporate data stored on a device. Eventually all new phones, tablets, televisions, cars, and other devices that rely on Android will include NSA code, agency spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines said in an e-mailed statement.

In a 2011 presentation obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek, the NSA listed among the benefits of the program that it’s “normally invisible to users.” Vines wouldn’t say whether the agency’s work on Android and other software is part of or helps with Prism.

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Motorola Aiming To Replace Smartphone Passwords With Electronic Tattoos

biostampsIf you’re concerned about the mark of the beast, this has to be worrying. Via the Telegraph:

Initially designed for medical purposes, Motorola hopes the ‘Biostamps’ could now be used for consumer authentication purposes.

The technology, which aims to remove the need to enter passwords and replace them simply with a phone being close to a user’s body, was one of the suggestions by Dennis Woodside, Motorola’s chief executive, at California’s D11 conference yesterday.

Nokia has previously experimented with integrating tattoos into mobile phones, and Motorola’s senior vice president of advance research, Regina Dugan, a former head of the US Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, demonstrated the silicon-based technology that uses bendable electronic circuits.

The tattoos have been developed by Massachusetts-based engineering firm MC10, and contain flexible electronic circuits that are attached to the wearer’s skin using a rubber stamp.

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App Scans Grocery Store Items To Identify Monsanto Products

Identify MonsantoSpecifically intended to point out items linked to the vast and nebulous tentacles of Monsanto and Koch Industries, the smartphone app uncloaks the corporate family tree behind a given barcode. Via Forbes:

The app itself is the work of one Los Angeles-based 26-year-old freelance programmer, Ivan Pardo, who has devoted the last 16 months to Buycott.

Pardo’s handiwork is available for download on iPhone or Android, making its debut in early May. You can scan the barcode on any product and the free app will trace its ownership all the way to its top corporate parent company, including conglomerates like Koch Industries.

Once you’ve scanned an item, Buycott will show you its corporate family tree on your phone screen. Scan a box of Splenda sweetener, for instance, and you’ll see its parent, McNeil Nutritionals, is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

 

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San Francisco Loses Legal Battle Over Warning Public About Cell Phone Radiation

cell phone radiation

Major phone companies appear to be winning the battle to suppress information about possible cancer risks from mobile phone usage, Reuters reports:

San Francisco city leaders, after losing a key round in court against the cell phone industry, have agreed to revoke an ordinance that would have been the first in the United States to require retailers to warn consumers about potentially dangerous radiation levels.

“This is just a terrible blow to public health,” Ellen Marks, an advocate for the measure, said outside the supervisors’ chambers. She said her husband suffers from a brain tumor on the same side of his head to which he most often held his mobile phone.

The 2011 ordinance mandated warnings that cellular phones emit potentially cancer-causing radiation. The statute, which a judge blocked before it took effect, also would have required retailers to post notices stating that World Health Organization cancer experts have deemed mobile phones “possibly carcinogenic.”

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How Smartphone Carriers Are Making Money By Tracking Your Behavior

smartphone carriers

A log of vast numbers of individuals’ movements and actions is a burgeoning goldmine for major wireless carriers, the MIT Technology Review writes:

Wireless operators have access to an unprecedented volume of information about users’ real-world activities, but for years these massive data troves were put to little use other than for internal planning and marketing.

This data is under lock and key no more. Under pressure to seek new revenue streams, a growing number of mobile carriers are now carefully mining, packaging, and repurposing their subscriber data to create powerful statistics about how people are moving about in the real world.

In late 2011, Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. carrier, changed its privacy policy so that it could share anonymous and aggregated subscriber data with outside parties. Verizon is working to sell demographics about the people who, for example, attend an event, how they got there or the kinds of apps they use once they arrive.

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Hacker Demonstrates Android Smartphone App To Hijack A Plane Midair

hijack a planeOn your next flight, you may want to look over your shoulder at what the person next to you is doing. Help Net Security reports:

An extremely well attended talk by Hugo Teso, a security consultant at n.runs AG in Germany, galvanized the crowd attending the Hack In The Box Conference in Amsterdam. Teso showcased an Andorid app, PlaneSploit, that remotely controls airplanes on the move.

Teso has been working in IT for the last eleven years and has been a trained commercial pilot for a year longer than that. By creating an exploit framework (SIMON) and an Android app (PlaneSploit) that delivers attack messages to the airplanes’ Flight Management Systems (computer unit + control display unit), he demonstrated the terrifying ability to take complete control of aircraft.

His testing laboratory consists of a series of software and hardware products. But the connection and communication methods, as well as ways of exploitation, are absolutely the same as they would be in an actual real-world scenario.

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Valibation: A Dark Fantasy Of Gadget Connection

Todd Strauss-Schulson’s expertly constructed short film Valibation depicts circumstances going horribly awry after a man becomes too fixated on the twin streams of validation he derives from checking his smartphone and engaging in casual sexual hookups. Could this be the nightmarish next stage in human evolution?

Be advised not to watch this at work, if sexually explicit, stomach-churning Videodrome-style body horror doesn’t fit at your office:

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Using Smart Gadgets As Tools Of Social Control

How devices will soon begin pressuring us to “fix” our behavior. Via the Wall Street Journal, Evgeny Morozov writes:

Many smart technologies are heading in a disturbing direction. A number of thinkers in Silicon Valley see these technologies as a way not just to give consumers new products that they want but to push them to behave better. The central idea is clear: social engineering disguised as product engineering.

Last week in Singapore, Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette restated Google’s notion that the world is a “broken” place whose problems, from traffic jams to inconvenient shopping experiences to excessive energy use, can be solved by technology. The futurist and game designer Jane McGonigal, a favorite of the TED crowd, also likes to talk about how “reality is broken” but can be fixed by making the real world more like a videogame, with points for doing good.

Insurance companies already offer significant discounts to drivers who agree to install smart sensors in order to monitor their driving habits.

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Neil Gaiman Wants You As His Co-Author

If the BlackBerry smartphone dies at the hands of iPhone and Android, it won’t be because the marketing team failed to rope in pop culture luminaries. Following the rather embarrassing announcement of iPhone user Alicia Keys as BlackBerry ambassador, Neil Gaiman is being promoted as a BlackBerry toting superhero of artistic collaboration:

Neil Gaiman is one of today’s best-loved authors. He famously collaborates with artists across the globe to create graphic novels, books, films, music and poetry.

Now he wants to collaborate with you.

Neil wants you to inspire him with themes for A Calendar of Tales. He’ll develop a collection of twelve tales from your ideas and then invite you to submit illustrations, choosing his favourite for each tale. This collection will transform into an amazing calendar showcasing your illustrations beside Neil’s stories.

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