Who Watches the Watchmaker?

In other words, as human behavior is tracked and merchandized on a massive scale, the Internet of Things creates the perfect conditions to bolster and expand the surveillance state. In the world of the Internet of Things, your car, your heating system, your refrigerator, your fitness apps, your credit card, your television set, your window shades, your scale, your medications, your camera, your heart rate monitor, your electric toothbrush, and your washing machine — to say nothing of your phone — generate a continuous stream of data that resides largely out of reach of the individual but not of those willing to pay for it or in other ways commandeer it.

The Creepy New Wave of the Internet

One of the premises of the speculative future in William Gibson’s The Peripheral is that only wealth and power afford privacy. It’s a future I’d rather not see realized.


As James Risen and Nick Wingfield reported yesterday in the New York Times, the interests of tech companies and the NSA have been converging over the past decade in two ways. The first way is fairly prosaic: Lots of Silicon Valley companies are in the business of selling stuff to the NSA: storage hardware, sophisticated communications equipment, data analytics software, and more. But while this may have increased recently, it’s not fundamentally new. It’s just the latest high-tech twist on the good old military-industrial complex.

— Kevin Drum: The Surveillance-Marketing Complex, Coming Soon to a Computer Near You

Before you visit that or any other site, you might want to install Ghostery to block all the tracking beacons.

Ransack Your Way to Success!

It all started innocently enough. I was thinking of implementing a Path Mac OS X app as part of our regularly scheduled hackathon. Using the awesome mitmproxy tool which was featured on the front page of Hacker News yesterday, I started to observe the various API calls made to Path’s servers from the iPhone app. It all seemed harmless enough until I observed a POST request to https://api.path.com/3/contacts/add.

Arun Thampi: Path uploads your entire iPhone address book to its servers

Like location, I assume iOS will eventually require user permission for apps to access contact info. That Path was approved with such unethical functionality (that also appears to be a flagrant violation of the review guidelines) should be a reminder that the scrutiny given to apps is inconsistent and you cannot assume that because the App Store℠®™© (or any app store) is a walled garden, apps within are respectful of you.