FTC fines app TikTok/Musical.ly $5.7 million for child data privacy violations

Today's FTC ruling impacts how the TikTok app works for users under the age of 13.

Mobile apps built with Facebook's SDK secretly shovel mountains of personal information into the Zuckermouth

If you need to build an app quickly and easily, you might decide to use Facebook's SDK, which has lots of bells and whistles, including easy integration of Facebook ads in your app's UI. Read the rest

Bossfight: Allstate Insurance enters the Right to Repair fight, loans its lobbyists to fight Apple

The Right to Repair movement got state legislatures to consider more than a dozen Right to Repair bills last year, and have made great strides in the EU and elsewhere, but for every two steps forward they manage, they're forced a step or two back by giant corporate lobbyists, led by Apple, who want to ensure that third parties can't repair products, and that a manufacturer's decision it's time to retire a product from the market won't be challenged by independent repair depots. Read the rest

Ios and Android app stores both host Saudi government app that lets men track their spouses' movements

Senator Ron Wyden has publicly denounced both Apple and Google for hosting mobile apps that connect to Absher, a Saudi government service designed to allow Saudi men to track their spouses and employees' whereabouts at all times. Read the rest

Study shows that countries that permit Facebook's beloved "zero rating" programs end up with more expensive wireless data

Facebook loves "zero rating," when an internet provider takes bribes from online services to exempt them from data charges on their networks: Facebook says that having a roster of (Facebook-approved) services that are free-to-use benefits the poorest people in a country (and the fact that this also makes "Facebook" synonymous with "internet" for whole nations is merely incidental). Read the rest

Leak reveals that hundreds of bounty hunters have had access to super-fine-grained mobile location data for years

After a blockbuster report in Motherboard revealed that bounty hunters were able to buy realtime location data that originated with three of the four major cellular carriers (the exception is Verizon), the carriers scrambled to spin the news, insisting that the bounty hunter access represented a recent, small-scale aberration, but a new set of leaks reported on in Motherboard reveals that the practice has gone on for years, at industrial scale, and that the resellers who supplied bail bondsmen and other unsavory types in secret have changed names, but are still in business. Read the rest

Facebook cancels its all-spying, secret "research" program, Apple cancels Facebook's developer account

Yesterday, Techcruch published a deeply reported account of Facebook's "Project Atlas,", a "research" app whose users were paid up to $20/month (plus affiliate fees) to install on Ios devices, which exploited third parties with access to Apple's developer program to install a man-in-the-middle certificate that allowed Facebook to harvest every conceivable kind of data from its users' Iphones and other Ios devices. Read the rest

Project Atlas: Facebook has been secretly paying Iphone users to install an all-surveilling "VPN" app

The "Facebook Research" VPN is an app that circumvents Apple's ban on certain kinds of surveillance by cloaking itself as a beta app and distributing through the Applause, Betabound and Utest services, rather than Apple's App Store: users get up to $20/month, plus referral fees, to run the app, which comes with a man-in-the-middle certificate that lets Facebook intercept "private messages in social media apps, chats from in instant messaging apps – including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and even ongoing location information by tapping into the feeds of any location tracking apps you may have installed." Read the rest

Major vulnerability in 5G means that anyone with $500 worth of gear can spy on a wide area's mobile activity

Stingrays (AKA IMSI catchers) are a widespread class of surveillance devices that target cellular phones by impersonating cellular towers to them (they're also called "cell-site simulators"). Read the rest

Australia may have just backdoored your mobile phone

A really bad new law in Australia gives police the right to force companies like Apple to 'backdoor', or create encryption circumvention alternatives, in all their products. The issue has been controversial in the U.S. for a long time, and spiked in 2016 after the mass shooting in San Bernardino. Read the rest

Android malware uses accelerometer readings to figure out if it was running on a real phone or in emulation

Malware authors have a problem: they want their software to run aggressively when no one is looking at it, but to shut down entirely if the device it's running on is actually in some malware researcher's lab. Read the rest

Vermont official fact-checks mobile carriers' coverage maps, proves they're lying like crazy

America's major cellular carriers publish maps showing that virtually the entire state is well-covered, with solid signals and 5MB/s internet speeds, but Vermonters know that this is totally untrue. Read the rest

Google Fi to carriers: don't sell our customers' location data to third parties

In the wake of this week's Motherboard scoop that the major US carriers sell customers' location data to marketing companies that sell it on to bounty hunters and other unsavory characters, Google has disclosed that they have told the carriers that supply service for its Google Fi mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that they expect that Fi customers' data will not be sold this way. Read the rest

Samsung phone owners are upset because they can't delete the Facebook app

Samsung's sleazy deals with Facebook mean that owners of Samsung phones are not able to uninstall the Facebook apps that come pre-installed with their devices. Read the rest

Netflix walks away from App Store payments, costing Apple up to $256m/year

When Ios launched, Apple's App Store took a 30% royalty on all apps sold. App vendors responded in large part by switching to free apps that charged in-app for annual subscriptions and other fees, prompting Apple (by then the dominant smartphone seller and critical to many companies' businesses) to ban in-app purchases except through Apple, which would charge a 30% commission on the lifetime revenues from each user. Read the rest

Phones without headphone jacks suck

Techcrunch's Greg Kumparak started agitating for phones to have standard 3.5mm jacks in the 2000s, rejoicing when the original Iphone shipped with one; now, two years after Apple took away the phone jack (and after most of the major phone manufacturers followed suit), he's still lamenting the loss: my original Pixel finally died (I can no longer find charging cases to make up for its limping battery) and I've ordered a Pixel Three and the stupid dongle that lets you charge your phone while plugging in standard headphones -- it hasn't arrived yet and I already hate it. As a heavy traveler who is very reliant on a phone for translation, itinerary management, mobile hotspot, etc, the last thing I needed was another dongle to manage, another device-class to charge, another charger to carry, and another hard-to-source component to lose or break while I'm between cities. (Image: Bribass) Read the rest

Surveillance libraries in common smartphone apps have amassed dossiers on the minute-to-minute movements of 200 million+ Americans

An investigation by the New York Times into the shadowy world of location-data brokerages found a whole menagerie of companies from IBM, Foursquare and the Weather Channel to obscure players like Groundtruth, Fysical and Safegraph, who pay app vendors to include their tracking code in common apps. Read the rest

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