Wednesday, February 15, 2012

 

Your iPhone doesn’t have an operating system, it has a spy network


Twitter Inc. has acknowledged that after mobile users tap the "Find friends" feature on its smartphone app, the company downloads users' entire address book, including names, email addresses and phone numbers, and keeps the data on its servers for 18 months. The company also said it plans to update its apps to clarify that user contacts are being transmitted and stored.


by Larry Geller

Yes, your entire address book. Out of your hands, out of your control. Well, you bought an iPhone, this is what you get.

For those of you who are old enough to remember DOS, now that was an operating system. When a program needed to write to the screen, DOS did it. DOS managed the disk directory, etc.  DOS was crude and not very capable but enough for a desktop computer running only a program at a time. Unfortunately, the system architecture and operating system design have maintained that simplistic model even though we are now networked and like to multitask.

Who really knows what’s running on their computer today, right now? And what can you do about it if you find out?

On larger machines, particularly those that ran time-sharing services, the operating system enforced security through bulletproof system architecture. Multiple users were present in the machine at the same time, much like the multiple applications that run on modern desktops. The users could not communicate with each other. No way could Ford see Chrysler’s data, or the time-sharing vendor would be out of business.

No application could read or write anywhere in memory or on disk. No application could write to a system area like WINDOWS/SYSTEM32. Of course not, that doesn’t make sense.

We’ve lost that technology. So an app on your iPhone can literally do whatever it wants. No one is looking out for your interests, no operating system is enforcing security. Your contact list is an open book to the world. Some kid in Russia could be reading it now.

The Los Angeles Times article quoted above continues:

The company's current privacy policy does not explicitly disclose that Twitter downloads and stores user address books.

It does say that Twitter users "may customize your account with information such as a cellphone number for the delivery of SMS messages or your address book so that we can help you find Twitter users you know."

[Los Angeles Times, Twitter stores full iPhone contact list for 18 months, after scan, 2/14/2012]

So are they going to quit spying on you? No, they’re going to fix the wording of their privacy policy.

We have the technology to prevent this kind of spying, and at the same time to eliminate viruses and trojans and misguided programs of all sorts. It’s not rocket science. A virus is a program that accesses areas of the computer which it shouldn’t have access to. That is easily prevented, but not by the Microsoft/Intel architecture and not by the app masquerading as an operating system that runs your smartphone.

Perhaps users are so used to having their privacy violated that the massive complaint needed to reverse this trend will never happen.

Spying on you is a trend. Today it’s Twitter grabbing your contact list, tomorrow it will be something else. Or a new virus could invade your computer, because your computer permits it.

Unless users realize that this spying can be stopped and take action, it will only get worse.



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