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Creepy woman-stalking app exploited geolocation

At Cult of Mac, John Brownlee writes about Girls Around Me, a creepy app that exploited geolocation APIs to make it easy to stalk women.

These are all girls with publicly visible Facebook profiles who have checked into these locations recently using Foursquare. Girls Around Me then shows you a map where all the girls in your area trackable by Foursquare area. If there’s more than one girl at a location, you see the number of girls there in a red bubble. Click on that, and you can see pictures of all the girls who are at that location at any given time. The pictures you are seeing are their social network profile pictures.

See also Charlie Sorrel's guide to kill the Facebook and FourSquare features that enable apps like this.

Marvel to comics retailers: we'll give you limited edition singles if you destroy our competitors' products

Marvel Comics has offered comics retailers access to a limited-edition variant cover run of "Fear Itself #6," but only if the comic-shops destroy their No. 1 issue of DC Comics' Flashpoint and send 50 covers to Marvel:
Make no mistake, this is perfectly legal. The comic-shop proprietors would be destroying their own property, and it is their right so to do. However, this seems little different than someone buying books to burn them.

They would destroy a work of literature with the express intention of preventing another person from reading it. Anyone who does this is engaging in censorship, and Marvel Comics is agent provocateur.

This is not the first time Marvel Comics has tried this, and, according to them, previous efforts have netted tens of thousands of covers.

Marvel Bribes Retailers to Destroy DC Comics

Many US ISPs in epidemic of covert search-hijacking of their customers

The Electronic Frontier Foundation worked with UC Berkeley's International Computer Science Institute to uncover a widespread program of search-hijacking by American ISPs. Many US ISPs run covert proxies that redirect certain lucrative search queries (made by customers who believe that they are searching Google or another search engine) to their preferred suppliers, pocketing an affiliate fee for delivering their customers. Participating ISPs, which include Cavalier, Cogent, Frontier, Fuse, DirecPC, RCN, and Wide Open West (Charter used to do this, but appear to have stopped), did not disclose the practice to their customers, who were meant to believe that they were getting the search results that their preferred search-engines had presented.

EFF and ICSI uncovered the vendor that supplied the hijacking software, a company called Paxfire.

Using EFF's HTTPS Everywhere Firefox extension and a search-engine that permits HTTPS logins (such as Google or DuckDuckGo) will prevent this sort of hijacking.

The published research papers did not identify the controller of the proxy servers that were receiving the traffic, but parallel investigations by the ICSI Networking Group and EFF have since revealed a company called Paxfire as the main actor behind this interception. Paxfire's privacy policy says that it may retain copies of users' "queries", a vague term that could be construed to mean either the domain names that they look up or the searches they conduct, or both. The redirections mostly occur transparently to the user and few if any of the affected ISP customers are likely to have ever heard of Paxfire, let alone consented to this collection of their communications with search engines.

The proxies in question are operated either directly by Paxfire, or by the ISPs using web proxies provided by Paxfire. Major users of the Paxfire system include Cavalier, Cogent, Frontier, Fuse, DirecPC, RCN, and Wide Open West. Charter also used Paxfire in the past, but appears to have discontinued this practice.

Why do they do this?
In short, the purpose appears to be monetization of users' searches. ICSI Networking's investigation has revealed that Paxfire's HTTP proxies selectively siphon search requests out of the proxied traffic flows and redirect them through one or more affiliate marketing programs, presumably resulting in commission payments to Paxfire and the ISPs involved. The affiliate programs involved include Commission Junction, the Google Affiliate Network, LinkShare, and Ask.com. When looking up brand names such as "apple", "dell", "groupon", and "wsj", the affiliate programs direct the queries to the corresponding brands' websites or to search assistance pages instead of providing the intended search engine results page.

Widespread Hijacking of Search Traffic in the United States

(Image: 2005_South Africa_Centurion_DSCF0242, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from hmvh's photostream)