Archive for the ‘privacy’ Category


Just talking is enough to activate the recordings – but thankfully there’s an easy way of hearing and deleting them.

by Andrew Griffin

Google could have a record of everything you have said around it for years, and you can listen to it yourself.

The company quietly records many of the conversations that people have around its products.

The feature works as a way of letting people search with their voice, and storing those recordings presumably lets Google improve its language recognition tools as well as the results that it gives to people.

But it also comes with an easy way of listening to and deleting all of the information that it collects. That’s done through a special page that brings together the information that Google has on you.

It’s found by heading to Google’s history page (https://history.google.com/history/audio) and looking at the long list of recordings. The company has a specific audio page and another for activity on the web, which will show you everywhere Google has a record of you being on the internet.

The new portal was introduced in June 2015 and so has been active for the last year – meaning that it is now probably full of various things you have said, which you thought might have been in private.

The recordings can function as a kind of diary, reminding you of the various places and situations that you and your phone have been in. But it’s also a reminder of just how much information is collected about you, and how intimate that information can be.

You’ll see more if you’ve an Android phone, which can be activated at any time just by saying “OK, Google”. But you may well also have recordings on there whatever devices you’ve interacted with Google using.

On the page, you can listen through all of the recordings. You can also see information about how the sound was recorded – whether it was through the Google app or elsewhere – as well as any transcription of what was said if Google has turned it into text successfully.

But perhaps the most useful – and least cringe-inducing – reason to visit the page is to delete everything from there, should you so wish. That can be done either by selecting specific recordings or deleting everything in one go.

To delete particular files, you can click the check box on the left and then move back to the top of the page and select “delete”. To get rid of everything, you can press the “More” button, select “Delete options” and then “Advanced” and click through.

The easiest way to stop Google recording everything is to turn off the virtual assistant and never to use voice search. But that solution also gets at the central problem of much privacy and data use today – doing so cuts off one of the most useful things about having an Android phone or using Google search.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/google-voice-search-records-and-stores-conversation-people-have-around-their-phones-but-files-can-be-a7059376.html

drone

Germany’s national railway company, Deutsche Bahn, plans to test small drones to try to reduce the amount of graffiti being sprayed on its property. The idea is to use airborne infra-red cameras to collect evidence, which could then be used to prosecute vandals who deface property at night.

A company spokesman said drones would be tested at rail depots soon. But it is not yet clear how Germany’s strict anti-surveillance laws might affect their use.

Graffiti is reported to cost Deutsche Bahn about 7.6m euros (£6.5m; $10m) a year. German media report that each drone will cost about 60,000 euros and fly almost silently, up to 150m (495ft) above ground. The BBC’s Stephen Evans in Berlin says using cameras to film people surreptitiously is a sensitive issue in Germany, where privacy is very highly valued.

When Google sent its cameras through the country three years ago to build up its “Street View” of 20 cities, many people objected to their houses appearing online. Even Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: “I will do all I can to prevent it”.

Such was the opposition that Google was compelled to give people an opt-out. If householders indicated that they did not want their homes shown online, then the fronts of the buildings would be blurred. More than 200,000 householders said that they did want their homes blanked out on Street View.

A Deutsche Bahn spokesman told the BBC that its drones would be used in big depots where vandals enter at night and spray-paint carriages. The drones would have infra-red sensors sophisticated enough for people to be identified, providing key evidence for prosecutions.

But it seems the cameras would be tightly focused within Deutsche Bahn’s own property – people or property outside the depots would not be filmed, so easing any privacy concerns.

The drone issue is also sensitive in Germany because earlier this month the defence ministry halted an expensive project to develop Germany’s own surveillance drone, called Euro Hawk. The huge unmanned aircraft would be used abroad but would need to be able to fly in German airspace, if only to take off and land on their way to and from the land to be watched, our correspondent reports.

But it became clear that the air traffic authorities were not going to grant that permission. The reasoning was that Germany’s military drones would be unable to avoid collisions with other, civilian aircraft.

Small drones on private land do not need permission from air traffic controllers – big drones do.

So Germany seems to be entering a legal grey area – it is not clear when the flight of a drone may become so extensive that the wider authorities need to intervene, Stephen Evans reports.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22678580

drone-proof-burqa
As debate over the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the U.S. rages on, a fashion designer introduces clothing that blocks drone-mounted infrared cameras.

As the U.S. government draws up plans to use surveillance drones in domestic airspace, opposition to what many consider an unwarranted and significant invasion of privacy is mounting across the country, from rural Virginia to techopolis Seattle. Although officials debate anti-drone legislation at federal, state and local levels, one man is fighting back with high-tech apparel.

A New York City privacy advocate-turned-urban-guerilla fashion designer is selling garments designed to make their wearers invisible to infrared surveillance cameras, particularly those on drones. And although Adam Harvey admits that his three-item Stealth Wear line of scarves and capes is more of a political statement than a money-making venture, the science behind the fashion is quite sound.

“Fighting drones is not my full-time job, but it could be,” says Harvey, an instructor of physical computing at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts and the creator of the CV Dazzle project, which seeks to develop makeup and hairstyles that camouflage people from face-recognition cameras and software.

Harvey’s newest medium, metalized fabric, has been around for more than 20 years. It holds in body heat that would burn bright for infrared cameras—a characteristic that could prove attractive to those who do not want unmanned aerial vehicles spying on them.

Metalized fabric
Metal is very good at absorbing and scattering infrared light, says Cheng Sun, a Northwestern University assistant professor of mechanical engineering. In that sense there is nothing exotic in how metalized fabric works—it “would strongly attenuate the [infrared] light,” he says. The metal would dissipate heat to surroundings as well, making the wearer harder to pinpoint.

To date, the fabric has primarily been used in tape and gaskets to protect electronics and communications equipment from static electricity and electromagnetic interference, according to Larry Creasy, director of technology for metalized fabric-maker Laird Technologies, based in Saint Louis.

Here’s how metalizing works, at least at Laird: Woven fabric, commonly nylon or polyester, is coated with a special catalyst—a precious metal Creasy declined to specify—that helps copper bind to the fiber. Once dry, the fabric is submerged in a copper sulfate–plating bath and dried. A nickel sulfamate bath follows to help the finished fabric withstand the elements and abrasions. The result is a flexible, breathable fabric that can be cut with ordinary tools but that protects against electromagnetic interference and masks infrared radiation, Creasy says. The process adds weight to the original fabric. An untreated square yard of nylon weighs about 42.5 grams. Treated, the same patch weighs more than 70 grams.

The fashion
Harvey’s fabric is coated with copper, nickel and silver, a combination that gives his scarves, head-and-shoulders cloak and thigh-length “burqa” a silvery and “luxurious” feel. The material blocks cell signals, as well, adding an element of risk to tweeting, texting and other mobile activities, as the wearer must break cover to communicate.

Stealth Wear is sold only via a U.K. Web site. The burqa goes for about $2,300, the “hoodie” is $481 and the scarf is $565—luxury items, but so, too, is privacy today, Harvey says.

The impetus
The high cost and limited availability are significant drawbacks—Harvey says he’s only sold one Stealth Wear item online, a scarf. But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts 10,000 commercial drones will ply domestic airspace by 2017—almost twice the that of the U.S. Air Force’s current fleet of unmanned aircraft. The number of drones flying in the U.S. today is hard to pin down because not every company and agency that gets FAA approval to fly a drone actually puts one in the air. In fact, 1,428 private-sector and government requests have been approved since 2007, according to the FAA. A Los Angeles Times report states that 327 of those permits are still active. Meanwhile, President Obama signed a law in February 2012 that gives the FAA until September 2015 to draw up rules that dictate how law enforcement, the military and other entities may use drones in U.S. airspace.

As of October 2012, 81 law agencies, universities, an Indian tribal agency and other entities had applied to the FAA to fly drones, according to documents released by the FAA to the Electronic Freedom Frontier following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Government entities as diverse as the U.S. Department of State and Otter Tail County, Minn., are among them.

Discomfort rising
Although Harvey’s anti-drone fashions are not currently flying off the shelves, he could soon find himself leading a seller’s market if recent events are any metric:

•The Charlottesville, Va., city council has passed a watered-down ordinance that asks the federal and commonwealth governments not to use drone-derived information in court. Proponents had sought to make the city drone-free (pdf).

•Virginia, Minnesota, Oregon, Montana, Arizona (pdf) and Idaho legislators are trying to at least regulate or even prohibit, drones in their skies.

•Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn returned the city’s two surveillance drones after a hostile public reception.

•A bipartisan pair of U.S. Representatives has introduced legislation to limit information-gathering by government-operated drones as well as prohibit weapons on law-enforcement and privately owned unmanned aerial vehicles.

Drone advocates defend the use of the technology as a surveillance tool. “We clearly need to do a better job of educating people about the domestic use of drones,” says Ben Gielow, government relations manager for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Gielow says U.S. voters must decide the acceptability of data collection from all sources, adding, “Ultimately, an unmanned aircraft is no different than gathering data from the GPS on your phone or from satellites.”

GPS does not use infrared cameras, however, and satellites are not at the center the current privacy debate brewing in Washington—factors that could make Harvey’s designs all the more fashionable.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=drone-proof-anti-infrared-apparel&page=2