Currently in discussion on slashdot. Here is their summary :
"The Bangalore Police have objected to the collection of data by Google's cars, which were criss-crossing Bangalore city taking high definition images to give users 360 degree views of streets. Talking about the security concerns in an earlier interview with CNN-IBN, Google India Product Head Vinay Goel said, 'We are only driving on public roads and taking publicly available imagery so what we are not doing is going into a specific installation and taking private pictures and obviously we are working with the authorities so if there are certain locations they don't want us to be there we won't go there, we are happy working with the authorities here.'"
Slashdot discusses a story named EU Demands Explicit Geo-Location Permissions.
Their summary: "Apple, Google and employers are already contravening new European Union rules that will require companies to get explicit permission from users before any geo-location data can be used to track them, whether for the purposes of targeted advertising or monitoring employee behavior. This could be the start of the next big privacy argument. The hopes of companies planning to use geo-location data to push products and services to mobile device users have taken a beating in the European Union, following a pronouncement from the European Data Protection Supervisor, Peter Hustinx."
Here's the geospatial-related discussions that took place over Slashdot during the last 7 days. From my personal experience, there's often more value in the Slashdot user comments than in the news themselves, so don't hesitate to take a look at their user comments. Half of those stories from Slashdot are related to Google and location tracking.
Slashdot discussed a story about Marlinspike's Android Firewall that Constrain Location Tracking. The summary: "The first dynamic Android firewall, dubbed WhisperMonitor, has been released by respected security researcher Moxie Marlinspike. The firewall will allow users to stop location-tracking apps and restrict connection attempts by applications. Marlinspike, whose company created the application, designed WhisperMonitor in response to the incidence of location tracking and malware on Android platforms. It monitors all outbound connection attempts by applications and the operating system, and asks users to permit or block any URLs and port numbers that are accessed."
Slashdot discussed a story named Google's South Korean Offices Raided, and the relation with geospatial is obvious in the summary: "The Seoul police raided Google's office in Seoul, S. Korea today on suspicion that they have illegally collected users' location data, without consent, for advertising purposes. Google claims to be cooperating with the investigation."
Now, not related to Google directly but still on the location tracking theme, Slashdot discussed a story named Battle Brews Over FBI's Warrantless GPS Tracking. The summary: "The FBI's use of GPS vehicle tracking devices is becoming a contentious privacy issue in the courts, with the Obama administration seeking Supreme Court approval for its use of the devices without a warrant, and a federal civil rights lawsuit targeting the Justice Department for tracking the movements of an Arab-American student. In the midst of this legal controversy, Threat Level decided to take a look at the inside of one of the devices, with the help of the teardown artists at iFixit."
Slashdot discussed a story named Cracker-Size Satellites To Launch With Endeavour, the summary: "Obfiscator writes with news of the upcoming deployment of satellite-on-a-chip devices measuring just 3.8cm x 3.8cm x 0.2cm. The satellites are set to launch with Endeavour on its final flight. "These three miniature satellites are being launched as a proof-of-concept. As such, they're being deployed in very low orbit, and should return to earth fairly quickly in order to avoid becoming dangers for other satellites. 'They each contain seven solar cells, a microprocessor, an antenna and amplifier, power storage in capacitors, and switching circuitry to turn on the microprocessor when the stored energy is enough to create a single radio-frequency emission.' Due to their size, atmospheric drag would slow them down without burning them up, allowing them to study the uppermost atmosphere of wherever they are deployed next: Venus, Titan, Europe, and Jupiter are all possibilities."
Here's another story on Crowdsourcing Radiation Monitoring In Japan. The summary: "A new open- and crowdsourced initiative to deploy more geiger counters all over Japan looks to be a go. Safecast, formerly RDTN.org, recently met and exceeded its $33,000 fund-raising goal on Kickstarter, which should help Safecast send between 100 and 600 geiger counters to the catastrophe-struck country. The data captured from the geiger counters will be fed into Safecast.org, which aggregates radiation readings from government, nonprofit, and other sources, as well as into Pachube, a global open-source network of sensors."
Slashdot discusses a story named Verizon Plans Location Warning Sticker.
Their summary : "After all the location tracking drama, Verizon tells Congress that 'it's going to start slapping a surgeon-general-type warning on the phones it sells: Using this device could be hazardous to your location privacy, and may result in your being tracked!' The actual warning (PDF) is a little drier — illustration with story."
Our poll on tablets and geospatial generated 119 answers and a few interesting user comments. About half (47%) of responders believed tablets could be useful but they don't own one. Next, 18% feel there isn't enough geospatial-related apps yet. About 17% said they really help get work done (6%), love them but necessarilly for geospatial (8%) and some can't even live without it (3%). At the opposite, about 13% dared say that tablets are useless gadgets and another 4% that tablets are of no use to them.
We mentioned quite a few times tablets in the past year. A lot of big companies are jumping in, including geospatial-related apps from Google, Microsoft, Apple, Autodesk, Esri, and others. The Spatial Sustain blog has a recent entry on this topic named The Rise of the iPad in the Boardroom Feeds an Enterprise Approach and Directions Mag published an article yesterday named A Geospatial Tablet Revolution with the following summary: "Is the geospatial industry on the verge of a new revolution, one to rival the move from desktop to the Web? With the full-scale launch of the tablet computer in 2011, many are suggesting that may be the case. Geospatial professionals are about to have their world altered forever. Matt Sheehan, senior geospatial developer at WebMapSolutions.com, tells the story of how we got here."
We also offer a new poll on your level of worry regarding location privacy.
There has been quite a lot of noise on the geoblogs and blogs regarding last week's announcement that Apple's iPhone is recording user locations (see also this followup story). Via Peter Batty, I learned that this morning Apple is providing official answers, including confirmation that it's not user location that is stored:
"6. People have identified up to a year’s worth of location data being stored on the iPhone. Why does my iPhone need so much data in order to assist it in finding my location today?
This data is not the iPhone’s location data—it is a subset (cache) of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database which is downloaded from Apple into the iPhone to assist the iPhone in rapidly and accurately calculating location. The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below). We don’t think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data."
If that's not enough for you, you can read more of what was published recently, on Slashdot regarding the associated lawsuits, Google's Ed Parsons entry named A smartphone without location is just not smart, O'Reilly's entry named iPhone Tracking: The day after and Additional iPhone tracking research. Keep in mind that these were published before Apple's official explanations.
Hot on the heels of last week's announcement of Apple's iPhone and iPad 3G recording user locations, Slashdot discussed several mobile devices tracking and privacy stories. Here's their summaries and follow the links to read their associated discussions.
The first one was a story named iPhone and Location: Don't Panic, followed by a more detailed story named Police Using Apple iOS Tracking Data For Forensics:
"Several readers have sent in follow-up articles to Wednesday's news that iPhone location data was being tracked and stored. First, it seems Android shares a similar problem, though the file containing the location data is "only accessible on devices that have been rooted and opened up to installation of unsigned apps." Developer Magnus Eriksson has created an app to flush this data. Next: the iPhone tracking file is not new, just in a different place than it used to be. Reader overThruster then points out a CNet story indicating that law enforcement has been aware of this file for some time, and has used it in a forensics context. This story is a growing concern for Apple, particularly now that Senator Al Franken (PDF) and Rep. Ed Markey (PDF) have both written letters to Steve Jobs demanding details about the location tracking. Finally, PCMag explains how to view the location data present on your iPhone, should you so desire."
Two other stories on location privacy were discussed, the first one How People Broadcast Their Locations Without Meaning To:
""Smartphones include geotagging features that many people aren't aware of, MIT's Technology Review reports. And it's not just in the obvious places: 'For example, by looking at the location metadata stored with pictures posted through one man's anonymous Twitter account, the researchers were able to pinpoint his likely home address. From there, by cross-referencing this location with city records, they found his name. Using that information, the researchers went on to find his place of work, his wife's name, and information about his children.'""
And a last one named Turning GPS Tracking Devices Against Their Owners:
""Those low-cost embedded tracking devices in your smartphone or those personal GPS devices that track the whereabouts of your children, your car, your pet, or a shipment can easily be intercepted by hackers, who can then pinpoint their whereabouts, impersonate them, and spoof their physical location. A researcher demonstrated at SOURCE Boston how he was able to hack Zoombak's popular personal tracking devices.""
It's not the first time privacy issues arise from mobile devices. Today at the Where 2.0 conference, there was a talk on the discovery that your iPhone, and your 3G iPad, is regularly recording the position of your device into a hidden file.
From the O'Reilly Radar: "Ever since iOS 4 arrived, your device has been storing a long list of locations and time stamps. We're not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it's clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations. [...] What makes this issue worse is that the file is unencrypted and unprotected, and it's on any machine you've synched with your iOS device. It can also be easily accessed on the device itself if it falls into the wrong hands. Anybody with access to this file knows where you've been over the last year, since iOS 4 was released. [...]
We have built an application that helps you look at your own data. It's available at petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker along with the source code and deeper technical information. [...] An immediate step you can take is to encrypt your backups through iTunes (click on your device within iTunes and then check "Encrypt iPhone Backup" under the "Options" area)."
This topic was also discussed over Slashdot today.
Found on slashdot, here is their summary :
Schneier's blog tips an article about research into geolocation that can track down a computer's location from its IP address to within 690 meters on average without voluntary disclosure from the target. Quoting:
"The first stage measures the time it takes to send a data packet to the target and converts it into a distance – a common geolocation technique that narrows the target's possible location to a radius of around 200 kilometers. Wang and colleagues then send data packets to the known Google Maps landmark servers in this large area to find which routers they pass through. When a landmark machine and the target computer have shared a router, the researchers can compare how long a packet takes to reach each machine from the router; converted into an estimate of distance, this time difference narrows the search down further. 'We shrink the size of the area where the target potentially is,' explains Wang. Finally, they repeat the landmark search at this more fine-grained level: comparing delay times once more, they establish which landmark server is closest to the target."