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TED Talk : Privacy Issues - Your Phone Company is Watching



Description : 

A lot of people these days don't really understand importance of the terms "privacy", "self-determination", "individual freedom". Private information has become the newest commodity; privacy as we know it is a thing understood by past generations and obscured by new generations. Any activity that touches a form of computer technology gives this information away, either openly (Facebook, for example) or privately or covertly. Wonder where we are headed? 


What kind of data is your cell phone company collecting? German Green politician Malte Spitz wasn't too worried when he asked his cell phone operator in Germany (Deutsche Telekom) to share information gathered (and kept) about him and his activity. Multiple unanswered requests and a lawsuit later, Spitz received 35,830 lines of code -- a detailed, nearly minute-by-minute account of half a year of his life. The results astonished him. His personal story highlights an issue that affects everyone who uses electronic devices.

Over the course of six months, they had tracked his geographical location and what he was doing with his phone more than 35,000 times. Working with the German newspaper Die Zeit, an infographic was created that shows Spitz's activity across an interactive timeline, combined DT's geolocation data with information relating to his life as a politician, such as Twitter feeds, blog entries and website. By pushing the play button, viewers can set off on a detail-rich trip through six months of his life. And more, because he keeps asking the telecom company for his most recent data. 

I like how he mentions that this is a tool for oppressive goverments to control the mass movements of consciousness within its borders...but where did this tool of oppression originate? and how did these goverments get this stuff in the first place? Oh yes..from us!


I'll confess I'm really not very well informed on this topic. I think the real issue here is not the phone companies keeping this information, it's the possibility of them passing/selling it on to other parties. Lots of companies/institutions/individuals have access to our sensitive and private data (banks, hospitals, schools etc) but i guess there are strict legal structures in place to control the ways in which this data can be distributed or passed on. The problem is that most people, myself included, don't really know to what extent this is true for the telecom companies or internet providers we use every day.

As great as it is to know about this, let's admit, how many of us are truly prepared to give up their mobile phone? Should tech companies really have the right to collect, store and sell such detailed and personal information about their users and customers? And if companies do have the right to do these things, then what's left that remains private? Can we really be sure that the power that comes with having such information will never be abused, as Mr. Spitz suggests it could be in countries like China and Iran?

It is amassing how many people are ready to give up their private information thinking that it is not important and forgetting that THE CONTROL begins with the knowledge. THE BIG BROTHER needs you to think that IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH (George Orwell, 1984), but let’s not forget that: “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither and will lose both.” Benjamin Franklin.


For what purpose is this data being collected? Well, data retention has two sides, might be used to spy on people but it can also be used as evidence in serious crimes. If it were there for something like police investigation i would be ok with it (anyways its being deleted after 6 months) but it is being collected by someone like the government to be kept for an unlimited time that would be quite disturbing. I think this needs to be investigated further before real judgement should be made.

His indignation is quaint - but I am proud of him for pointing this out. If the general public really knew what the NSA - MOSSAD - KGB - and all the other superpower intelligence and national security services are ALREADY doing in terms of compiling and sifting data about the citizenry - they would be shocked and there would be a national outrage. But alas - people don't realize what is going on - and/or don't care all that much - as they don't know what is really happening behind the scenes.

I find it amusing that (a) people don't know and (b) people think their government stops monitoring them whenever the law is altered to make it illegal. Information is power, there are too many people who'd like to keep that power to themselves, and many of them are good enough at it that even the official law is meaningless to them. Fortunately in the western world, most governments don't utilize surveillance data individually, that would just give the trick away. But they are listening.


The scariest thing is that 99.9% percent of the people I know - and this includes lawyers, police officers, politicians, civil servants in the telecom area - either do not care or even know about the MASSIVE data collection & storage that has being going on. The security infrastructure that is being built and run by PRIVATE companies, under the guise of "providing public services" is far more disturbing than anything past dictators dreamed of. We're living the dreams of intelligence officers :)

I read an article about a year ago in a Wired magazine describing how a professor and his students used a similar network mapping program to narrow down the location of Bin Laden using contact and importance to a group of people. The network "hubs" are those strategic people that disseminate and receive information to and from others. You could clearly see this in the speakers presentation. The implications are staggeringly scaring. It take "Big Picture" thinkers to see all of the potential.

I think that last question may be the great mystery of our time -- do we have it? Do we want it? Do we need it? And i think we also need to wonder whether those worst-case sci-fi visions have an active role in shaping how the technology eventually evolves.


Let's not believe that anything is impossible anymore. There is a huge need for everybody to realize that the weaponry and surveillance method of the 21st century have reached levels way beyond our imagination. It's always the same pattern : First, people call you paranoid, then theres a disclosure 10-40 years later but the crimes can't be punished anymore...Or can they? 

*by andreascy*