January 16, 2019

Link: This Seems Very Legal and Very Cool ☍

Jonathan O’Connell and David A. Fahrenthold for The Washington Post:

Last April, telecom giant T-Mobile announced a megadeal: a $26 billion merger with rival Sprint, which would more than double T-Mobile’s value and give it a huge new chunk of the cellphone market.

But for T-Mobile, one hurdle remained: Its deal needed approval from the Trump administration.

The next day, in Washington, staffers at the Trump International Hotel were handed a list of incoming “VIP Arrivals.” That day’s list included nine of T-Mobile’s top executives — including its chief operating officer, chief technology officer, chief strategy officer, chief financial officer and its outspoken celebrity chief executive, John Legere.

They were scheduled to stay between one and three days. But it was not their last visit.

Instead, T-Mobile executives have returned to President Trump’s hotel repeatedly since then, according to eyewitnesses and hotel documents obtained by The Washington Post.

I have mixed feelings about this news—it’s disgusting and a conflict of interest, but T-Mobile is playing by these “rules” because they really want the merger with Sprint to go through. Wouldn’t it be a disservice to shareholders not to try? Would other companies do the same if they were in this position? Still, this type of bribery shouldn’t be an option on the table, regardless of if T-Mobile opts for it.

By mid-June, seven weeks after the announcement of the merger, hotel records indicated that one T-Mobile executive was making his 10th visit to the hotel. Legere appears to have made at least four visits to the Trump hotel, walking the lobby in his T-Mobile gear. […]

“Everybody knew. You couldn’t miss it,” said Jake Loft, who was in the lobby for a regularly scheduled networking event. He spotted Legere by his outfit, which was — as usual — a walking billboard for T-Mobile. Legere wore a black-and-magenta hoodie with a T-Mobile logo over a bright-magenta T-shirt with another T-Mobile logo. “He wasn’t dressed appropriately,” Loft said.

“Always be closing.”

January 9, 2019

Link: What Facebook Knows About You ☍

Ina Fried for Axios:

On Facebook’s map of humanity, the node for “you” often includes vast awareness of your movements online and a surprising amount of info about what you do offline, too.

The big picture: Even when you’re cautious about sharing, Facebook’s dossier on you will be hefty. Facebook tackles its mission of “bringing the world closer together” by creating a map of humanity, and each of us represents a tiny node on this “social graph.”

Nothing is shocking on this, but it’s a really nicely organized list of everything that is known.

January 8, 2019

Link: T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T Are Selling Customers’ Real-Time Location Data ☍

Joseph Cox for Motherboard:

Nervously, I gave a bounty hunter a phone number. He had offered to geolocate a phone for me, using a shady, overlooked service intended not for the cops, but for private individuals and businesses. Armed with just the number and a few hundred dollars, he said he could find the current location of most phones in the United States.

The bounty hunter sent the number to his own contact, who would track the phone. The contact responded with a screenshot of Google Maps, containing a blue circle indicating the phone’s current location, approximate to a few hundred metres.

Queens, New York. More specifically, the screenshot showed a location in a particular neighborhood—just a couple of blocks from where the target was. The hunter had found the phone (the target gave their consent to Motherboard to be tracked via their T-Mobile phone.)

The bounty hunter did this all without deploying a hacking tool or having any previous knowledge of the phone’s whereabouts. Instead, the tracking tool relies on real-time location data sold to bounty hunters that ultimately originated from the telcos themselves, including T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint, a Motherboard investigation has found. These surveillance capabilities are sometimes sold through word-of-mouth networks.

Even though we generally think of companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Uber and others doing scummy things with our data for the sake of selling highly-targeted advertising, this is significantly worse. Unfortunately, we live in a world where nobody seems to even care, so I suspect the outrage will probably just stay around the tech circles—the only carrier not included is in this investigation is Verizon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t completely innocent. I hope I’m proven wrong.

January 7, 2019

Link: Should I Use My Personal Laptop for Work? ☍

David Murphy for Lifehacker (via Ben Brooks):

You mention at the end of your email that you have the option to get a work-issued laptop. That might sound like an inconvenience at first, but it’s the perfect way to maintain church-and-state-like separation between your two lives. You’ll have to resist the urge to do little things for convenience, like setting up your personal Gmail account or your favorite messaging service on your work laptop. That will be annoying in some instances, but the privacy you’ll maintain is worth it. And if your personal laptop breaks for any reason, at least you’ll have a backup you can use for the basics: web searches, driving directions, a safe-for-work YouTube video to cheer you up, et cetera.

Going forward, a great way to get around this entire work/life balance issue is to tell your employer (or a future employer) that you have no technological resources whatsoever. Your smartphone? Doesn’t exist. You have a dumb T9 device. You laptop broke and you haven’t purchased a replacement. You’ve never owned a desktop PC.

Like many, I had fallen into the work-email-on-an-iPhone trap and other work-related things have creeped into personal devices for the sake of convenience. While the article also discusses the IT policy side of things, I’m one of the ones who would be enforcing that at my job, so the separation aspect applies more. As such, I’ve pulled back quite a bit and am looking at other ways to reduce the role my devices play in my day job. If you’ve let this happen, I highly recommend you reevaluate this, as well.

January 4, 2019

Link: Los Angeles Accuses Weather Channel App of Covertly Mining User Data ☍

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Natasha Singer for The New York Times:

The Weather Channel app deceptively collected, shared and profited from the location information of millions of American consumers, the city attorney of Los Angeles said in a lawsuit filed on Thursday.

One of the most popular online weather services in the United States, the Weather Channel app has been downloaded more than 100 million times and has 45 million active users monthly.

The government said the Weather Company, the business behind the app, unfairly manipulated users into turning on location tracking by implying that the information would be used only to localize weather reports. Yet the company, which is owned by IBM, also used the data for unrelated commercial purposes, like targeted marketing and analysis for hedge funds, according to the lawsuit.

It looks like it’s for the standalone app, not the built-in iOS Weather app (which uses data from The Weather Channel) or any other app that uses The Weather Channel/Weather Underground as a source. Honestly, I hope that the company feels a bit of pain for this, but I doubt it will be the last of cases like this.

These days, I use a mix of the built-in Weather app as well as Hello Weather, which has a human-readable privacy policy.