iPhone 5S Tracks Even More (and Anglo-Saxons, pasta radio & RTLSDR, new PRISM slides, Snowdenleaks)

The new iPhone isn’t just grabbing fingerprints. The accelerometer (instead of running only when asked) runs all the time… and is constantly logged.

Software on the phone can now access a last-seven-days log of when you were walking, climbing stairs, running, driving, or sitting on your derriere.

(The Android-based Moto X does something similar… is it just me or do all the Android phone names sound the same? Nexus, Moto, Galaxy, whatever.)

Remeber the hue-and-cry when it was discovered both Apple and Android phones were keeping logs of your physical location (from GPS and cell tracking)… in Apple’s case LOGS GOING BACK THREE YEARS?

Well, some SnowdenLeaks pointed out the NSA had been well aware of this… and a very big fan.

Perhaps something similar is at work here!

One commenter on Schneier’s blog suggests the tracking may see use by the health industry.[1]

Does Obamacare have PRISM access? Forget “death panels,” imagine the savings of automatically targeting drone strikes on people whose movement profiles indicate excessive healthcare cost risks…

Another commenter points out that this means the new iPhone is a “personal black box.” It’s tracking what you’re doing all the time, so the first time you’re involved in a legal question where your physical movement is relevant (a car accident or a fight) it can get subpoenaed.[2]

I suppose you could see the iPhone 5 (or was that the old one and the new ones are the 5S and 5C? I get them mixed up) as the newest badge of voluntary aquiescence to the Big Data State… a corporate-government partnership dedicated to ruling your world not through laws but through algorithms and ever increasing amounts of data about you.

(Oddly enough the hacker scene has a sort of alternative-universe version of this, in the form of two books named “Daemon” and “Freedom,” to whose techno-utopian vision I’d point out that trusting stuff you don’t understand and giving away responsibility remain key elements.

But then again, we’re talking about a vision that does for programmers and hackers what the British legal system’s inception did for politicians and lawyers, so I can understand the idea having a certain draw.)

I remain adamant that the only proper way to use a new “iPhone 5 Personal Black Box” is after subjecting it to the survival tests applied to a real “black box” — notably the “barbecuing” and “hardened steel pin backed by 500 pound weight”[3] tests.

[1] https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/10/iphone_sensor_s.html#c1926715

[2] https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/10/iphone_sensor_s.html#c1930103

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idgsrYsg8Og

“When an Anglo-Saxon Wants a Thing, He Just Takes It” — not really security, but hilarious reading anyway: http://cryptome.org/2013/10/mark-twain-takes-it.pdf

Pasta radio: this has been mentioned before in some news outlets, but I finally got around to looking at the paper. It’s something else… a bunch of radio physics geeks had full run of Venice’s biggest tourist attractions and used it to demonstrate a new way of transmitting signals. By varying the angular momentum (vorticity) of a radio beam, a theoretically infinite number of signals on the same frequency can occupy the same physical space.

In other words, a slightly different twist means they don’t interact.

Given their prolific Marconi references, I wonder if these researchers are also only “sort of” getting it. http://iopscience.iop.org/1367-2630/14/3/033001/article

Slides and video for snooping GSM with RTLSDR:

The NSA is targeting the French, too. Sadly, none of these operations are codenamed FREEDOMFRIES. http://www.lemonde.fr/technologies/article/2013/10/21/france-in-the-nsa-s-crosshair-phone-networks-under-surveillance_3499741_651865.html

New NSA PRISM slides:

The Grauniad has a great video covering the issues around SnowdenLeaks: http://cdn.theguardian.tv/mainwebsite/2013/10/21/131017NSAanimation-16×9.mp4

Contradictions in Snowden’s story:


“While much has been said of the A7 chip in the new iPhone 5S — arguably the “world’s first consumer ARM-based [system-on-a-chip]” — its associated new M7 coprocessor was surprisingly under-hyped, by both industry media and Apple.

For the first time, motion sensing occurs in a separate processor, which makes constant activity tracking using the gyroscrope, compass, and accelerometer sensors more power-efficient without turning on the rest of the A7 chip. This means we’ll start to see more Quantified Self (QS) tracking apps detecting steps and stair-climbing, bringing Fitbit and Jawbone capabilities to our phones. And the M7 does all this without a noticeable drain on the battery.

But that’s the sticking point: noticeable. The introduction of the M7 means Apple could collect this activity and movement data in the background without affecting our iPhone experience. Apple says that the M7 coprocessor only stores accelerometer data for up to seven days, but the capability remains.

Activity tracking used to be a very conscious, active decision. There was a process of deciding what to track, and perhaps buying a device or turning on an app to track it. We also had to remember to put on our wrist bands or clip our Fitbits to our clothes.

Now, with the M7, activity tracking comes as an automatic feature on the device that most of us carry with us all day, every day (Google and Motorola’s Android-based Moto X features a similar coprocessor). The capability to track activity using the existing sensors in our smartphones was there in previous models. And apps like Moves, Human, and Saga had started to take advantage of accelerometer, gyroscope, and GPS information to turn the phones we already carry into activity trackers. But these early applications were still pretty battery intensive.

With the M7, the phones in our pockets can keep on tracking — and possibly do more: “Because where we go, so go our phones.”

We have reason to be wary. We were surprised to find out that Google tracked our walking and bicycling activities when they first surfaced the data in Google Now cards. When we discovered a couple years ago that the iPhone was storing a location cache file based on cell tower and Wi-Fi network triangulation, Apple didn’t even show us that data — it had to be hacked.

It’s not so far-fetched to imagine that companies like Apple and Google would have an interest in gathering such large-scale activity data now that they have sensors in place to capture this information efficiently. Maybe they just want to know how we use our phones to deliver a better experience. Maybe they want to make better products. For Apple, large-scale activity data from all its iPhone 5S users could provide development fodder for its much-rumored wearable smartwatch. Apple already uses that data to optimize battery life: to stop network pinging when our phones haven’t moved for a while (sensing that we are likely sleeping), or to not try to pick up Wi-Fi signals as we fly past in a car (sensing that we don’t need it then).”

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