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Your privacy out the window

by Bruno Deshayes on 01 Dec 2016 permalink
Do you realise there isn't a safe place in a shopping mall or public lobby where you can pick your nose with impunity? Surveillance cameras everywhere!

No wonder sunglasses sales are up even in winter. Some obscene folks have been dismissed on the spot for installing unauthorised cameras in the ladies toilets. But think of those who didn't get caught and replay to themselves their choice video-clips. What can a security guard do to escape the boredom of the job? Unless she is female...

You can now buy a video camera in the shape of a fountain pen. It is being promoted for evidence gathering to realtors, police officers, counsellors, negotiators, etc... Just like your phone calls are being recorded by every call centre "for training purposes..." it seems everybody with a litigation mindset is investing in Get Smart technology to spy on you.

Then again why would you need to panic? Just like photographs can be retouched, video clips can be edited to modify the soundtrack and make you say words you never uttered. It won't be long before those technological breakthroughs will make such evidence in court inconsequential at best.

People don't trust each other (I wonder why...) and Big Brother is watching everywhere. People are ignoring their neighbours and call for a housesitter to mind their home while they're away. You can setup a webcam in your home and monitor it on your mobile phone to check if pussy finished her sardines and onions. I am sure some hard pressed parents have used the technology to save on childcare. But what is OK for a cat is abuse for an infant. Then again better some child monitoring that nothing at all...

Do you know there is a new discipline in computing called forensic analysis which can spot what you looked for on search engines even without having access to your computer? Marketers have been clamouring for this since everything has to be converted to metrics in order to improve the bottom line and gain market share.

We live in a connected world and we leave our fingerprints wherever we go. Not everything is negative There are applications to check your reach in social media. We know head hunters, HR folks at your work and other anonymous entities are checking your posts if you happen to be the interest of the day.

There used to be a sign in my supermarket: "Smile, you're on camera". They didn't say by how much this tactic reduced shoplifting but my buddy at spynet installations is hiring new apprentices... If spying creates employment then surely it must be good for the economy.


QR codes

by Bruno Deshayes on 16 Jun 2016 permalink
Have you noticed those ubiquitous black and white squares of dots popping up on travel brochures, billboards, posters, restaurant menus and other consumer venues?

Well, QR stands for quick response and the idea is that you point the camera of your smartphone on it and the advertiser's website somehow just appears on your browser!

Originally invented by Toyota in the mid 90s as a more efficient form of two dimensional barcode it has migrated to other uses.

It is an advertiser's Godsend because Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) are notoriously difficult for people to remember. In the past businesses would pay a premium to obtain an easy-to-remember phone number. It was prominently displayed on service vehicles and ads in local papers.

Now the vintage phonebook is having a rebirth. It is not so much a collection of phone numbers anymore but a collection of websites... Same with the regional newspaper. Scan this code and visit our website.

QR codes are found on Chinese train tickets and Japanese visas for passports. In June 2011, the Royal Dutch Mint issued the world's first official coin with a QR code to celebrate the centennial of its current building and premises

Strangely enough a QR codes scanner is not part of the standard smatphone operating system. Instead you have to download an app for android or iPhone like this one Besides URLs QR codes are promoted to save typing an event, a location on a map, somebody's contact details (vCard), forwarding an enail or SMS or just any plain text.

The use of QR codes is free of any license. The QR code is clearly defined and published as an ISO standard. Denso Wave owns the patent rights on QR codes, but has chosen not to exercise them. The word QR code itself is a registered trademark of Denso Wave Incorporated.

Just like downloading willy nilly mobile phone apps can get you in trouble, scanning a rogue QR Code can also put you at risk. In shopping malls people could distribute handbills to entice customers to scan a code for a free cappuccino only to land onto a dodgy website which would set a virus on your phone. In Russia, a malicious QR code caused phones that scanned it to send premium texts at a fee of US$6 each.

There you have it. The local business guy spent his good money to get a decent website to detail his product or services. Now comes along the organised crime operator who slaps his own QR code on top of the one on the billboard. Scan it and load a Trojan horse to play havoc on your device instead of being enlightened about an honest business trying to serve your needs...

One saving grace is that you get a chance to vet the URL contained in the code before actually going there with the browser.


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