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THIS WEEK IN PRIVACY: Crime-Reporting App, Smart Home Spying and Googling In The Dark
March 18, 2012
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Ever wonder whether your refrigerator's spying on you? According to CIA head David Petraeus, it might be one day. Advances in technology are changing the parameters of both personal and corporate privacy. As it get easier and easier to see and share what people are doing, the possibility that someone is watching you via your device - or theirs - grows more likely. Here are a few developments in the world of privacy and technology from the past week.

CIA Chief Wants To Use Online Devices For Spying

At a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture capital firm, CIA Director David Petraeus talked about how the new world of wired devices and the connected home could create a whole new source of information for spy agencies. He discussed the "next-generation internet" of interconnected devices in the home, saying that the agency could use the information sent out by those devices - from internet-connected refrigerators to apps that allow you to adjust ambient light from your phone - to spy on "persons of interest": "Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled". As Petraeus puts it, these household devices should cause people to rethink "our notions of identity and secrecy". Especially given that at the moment, the ability to use geolocation data from devices like cell phones is a legal grey area in the U.S.

Google's Servers Are Built In The Dark

In the world of corporate technology, privacy means keeping your intellectual property safe from competitors. And Google seems to be taking that literally at one of their Silicon Valley data centres, where some server cages are kept in complete darkness. Technical staff have to wear miner's helmets with lights on them so they can see what they're doing. Chris Sharp, who runs that data centre, says lots of companies "try to keep things covered up", but he was "amazed by Google and the helmets". It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "data mining".

An App For Anonymously Reporting On Local Crimes

A new app for iOS and Android recently released in West Virginia makes reporting legal violations a snap. It's called the Suspicious Activity Reporting Application, and it allows users to snap a pic of a violation, tag the location, and anonymously report it to the state. Created by the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center, the idea is to improve community policing. But privacy advocates may be uncomfortable with the use of technology to facilitate anonymous tips and informing on one's neighbours.

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Just In Time for Timeline: Some Tips on Privacy


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