News Tech

FB Call Home, and other shenanigans

while all of this is happening and the world is focused on deciding whether Huawei is the next global bad guy, it seems US telcos could possibly already be causing more, confirmed, harm...

A tweet I saw from last year prompted me to immediately RT and respond to it:

Friends will know I’ve been on a journey to extricate myself (and hopefully others close to me) from the monstrosity that is Facebook. While it could be at this stage nearly impossible to do, the finding that resulted in that Privacy International tweet can be confirmed, at least in my own experience. The wifi at home is run off a TPlink Deco M9+ mesh router system, and one of the perks is that it provides detailed insights into what the devices on the network do, especially if you enable the Parental Control option. This is what I saw when checking the logs for yesterday for my eldest’s phone:

A total of 33 minutes was supposedly spent on Facebook – but here’s the clincher: his phone does not have the app installed.

he spent 5 hours on YouTube, mostly learning how to build stuff in Minecraft

Similarly, the phone my second kid uses, accessed Facebook for 30 minutes, all without the app installed. It’s not a surprise that phone apps try to phone home, we’ve come to expect that from our devices and at least try to apply a modicum of control over it. The issue is that even when we do try to be judicious about the apps we put on the devices our kids use, at some point some hidden hook attempts to phone home to Facebook anyway.

That’s probably just another page in the company’s “Let’s-see-how-else-we-can-screw-all-our-users-and-even-non-users” playbook. Interestingly while all of this is happening and the world is focused on deciding whether Huawei is the next global bad guy, it seems US telcos could possibly already be causing more, confirmed, harm:

I’ll let you read the full details at the incredibly informative Motherboard writeup here. It’s funny, because while NATO and US allies are scrambling to kick Huawei out on espionage and data-stealing shenanigans, it’s not really acting on the egregious abuses AT&T and other providers (possibly) are engaging in on home ground.

While that might have a tiny bit to do with the ongoing US Government shutdown, it stands to reason that if it was that easy to purchase data on US users’ location and other activities directly from the telcos’ partners (as demonstrated in the Motherboard article), China, Russia, or any other number of malicious parties need not even infiltrate the network equipment side of things to slurp all kinds of data.

I’ve heard the term “Surveillance Capitalism” a lot these past few months, and it’s something we’re all going to have to learn about if we want to navigate the 21st century safely, and more importantly, with eyes wide open.

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