Another example of modern technology being used to implement the surveillance state by consent has come to light with the recent news that Twitter has been caught out invading it’s millions of iPhone users privacy by uploading the entire contents of the phone users address books to their servers without permission.
TWITTER HAS promised to make changes to its privacy policies after admitting to uploading entire address books from users’ iPhones and storing them on its computers for up 18 months.
The social network uses the information to help users find existing contacts who already have a Twitter account.
It is the latest internet company revealed to have been copying and storing entire address books from smartphones to provide a “Find Friends” service.
Last week Arun Thampi, a programmer in Singapore, revealed that Path, a social network app created by a former Facebook engineer, was copying address-book data from users’ iPhones without notifying them.
Mr Thampi’s blog post about the practice received worldwide attention, with the result that programmers and privacy advocates began checking to see if other popular apps also uploaded user data without user permission.
Other popular apps – including Yelp, Foursquare, Foodspotting and Instagram – were found to be uploading user data without making it clear they were doing so.
The issue attracted attention from the US Congress. Two members of the subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade have written to Apple chief executive Tim Cook seeking further information on its privacy guidelines for apps. The letter makes reference to one appmaker who claims to have a database including “Mark Zuckerberg’s cell phone number, Larry Ellison’s home phone number and Bill Gates’s cell phone number”.
Apple has responded by saying that in future any app accessing contact information will need explicit approval from the user.
An Apple spokesman said that “Apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines”.
So Apple are basically admitting any application that collects or stores users contact data is in breach of their terms of service but somehow I doubt that Twitter is going to be punished in the same way anyone else would if they had been caught breaking the Terms of Service of a global technology giant like Apple.
This comes not so long after the last iPhone related story about your privacy being nothing but an antiquated concept when it was realised that iPhones were secretly tracking every users movements through their inbuilt GPS systems and logging them to a database which could then be taken from the phone by anyone with the right tools. This included Police forces who would pull over drivers and use mobile scanners to transmit the database from the drivers phone to their own computers so that they could see where the person had been travelling to.
Even though stories like this come around every few months or so causing big outcries until the technology device manufacturer promises to fix the “bug” in their software. People need to realise that it doesn’t matter if the phone or computer they are using is fitted with the top of the range anti key-logging software, go through proxies and have their GPS turned off as they travel as the only way to avoid being tracked and monitored altogether is to go and live in the woods with no modern electrical devices and divorce yourself from society altogether.