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Interesting film of an iPhone that was made stolen

| | 2016.12.19. 15:03:55  Gulyás Gábor  

Interesting short film:

Film student Anthony van der Meer had his iPhone stolen and the thought that a stranger had access to all of his personal data really concerned him. What kind of person would steal a phone? Where do these phones end up? These were his biggest questions. To get answers, Anthony had another phone stolen from him on purpose, but this time he followed the thief using a hidden app and made a captivating documentary film about the whole process.

“Find my Phone” was possible because of a spyware app called Cerberus. Using it, van der Meer was able to remotely track and control his phone whenever it was turned on and connected to the internet. Anthony listened to the thief’s calls, read his messages, took photos, and even recorded both audio and video. The filmmaker then compressed everything into a thrilling 21 minute documentary movie which highlights how easy it is to spy on someone in the digital age. The video has already been viewed by more than 1.7 million people.

Tags: surveillance, tracking, iphone


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TracEmail: know who else might read your mails!

| | 2016.04.06. 22:20:08  Gulyás Gábor  

Emailing is now a part of our everyday life, and many people are available through email almost 0/24. However, what most of us don't consider is the privacy of emails, as we perceive emails traveling as regular closed envelopes traveling to the recipient. However, in fact, if we don't use PGP or other encryptions tools, our emails can be easily surveilled on their way.

This motivated the creation of TracEmail, a Thunderbird Addon that helps understanding the problem. TracEmail analyzes the source code of the email and makes an estimation on the path the email possibly have taken. Then it puts this path on an interactive map, where the data surveillance regulation of each country can also be inspected. The tool is now available in Thunderbird Addons (at the moment it is under review), so if you are using a Mac or Windows, you can just give it a try. If you are a Linux user, you can contribute to the source to make it available on Linux.

Download for Thunderbird


Tags: privacy, surveillance, tracemail, privacy enhancing technology, raising awareness, email privacy, data surveillance


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Re-addressing fundamental issues of practical privacy technology

| | 2016.01.17. 05:11:26  Gulyás Gábor  

Traditional privacy-enhancing technologies were born in a context where users were exposed to pervasive surveillance. The TOR browser could be thought as a nice textbook example: in a world where webizens are monitored and tracked by thousands of trackers (or a.k.a. web bugs), TOR aims to provide absolute anonymity to its users. However, these approaches beared two shortcoming right from the start. First, sometimes it would be acceptable to sacrifice a small piece of our privacy to support or use a service, second, as privacy offers freedom, it could also be abused (think of the 'dark web'). While there have been many proposals to remedy these issues, none in implementations were able to cumulate large user bases. In fact, in recent years privacy research quite rarely reached practical usability or even implementation phase. (Have you ever counted the number of services using differential privacy?)

Due to these reasons, it is nice to see that things are changing. A company called Neura made it to CES this year, who's goal is to provide a finer-grained and strict personal information sharing model, where the control stays in the hand of the users:

[...] firm has created smartphone software that sucks in data from many of the apps a person uses as well as their location data. [...] The screen he showed me displayed a week in the life of Neura employee Andrew - detailing all of his movements and activities via the myriad of devices - phones, tablets and activity trackers - that we all increasingly carry with us. [...] But the firm's ultimate goal is to offer its service to other apps, and act as a single secure channel for all of a user's personal data rather than having it handled by multiple parties, as is currently the case. [...] We are like PayPal for the internet of things. We facilitate transactions, and our currency is your digital identity.

I am a bit sceptic with this privacy selling approach: that much of data could give too much power for that company, and it is not clear what happens if the data is resold (which happens a lot today). It would be a bit more convincing if you could really own the data, and would have cryptograhpic guarantees for that. Until we have that I rather prefer technology where you could buy yout privacy back directly. Returning to the example of web tracking, there are interesting projects (like Google Contributor or Mozilla Subscribe2Web) that would allow to do micro payments to news sites instead of using being tracked and targeted with advertisements.

Another recent development, called PrivaTegrity, addresses accountability of abuses. The project is lead by David Chaum, who is the inventor of the MIX technology that is an underlying concept in digital privacy. While not all details are yet disclosed, it seems Chaum's team are working on a strong online anonymity solution that could be used for a variety of applications, would be fast and resource preserving (so it could work on mobile devices), and would have a controlled backdoor to discourage abusers. I am sure that this latter feature would initiate a large number of disputes, but Chaum claims that revoking anonymity would not remain in the hands of a single government; nine administrators from different countries would be required to reveal the real identity behind a transaction. Let's waint and see how things develop; however, this is definitely a challenging argument for those who vote on erasing privacy.

Here is their paper on the underlying technology.

This post originally appeared in the professional blog of Gábor Gulyás.

Tags: privacy, surveillance, anonymity, encryption, privacy-enhancing technology


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Senior Research Analyst position at Trilateral

| | 2012.03.05. 15:14:56  Székely Iván  

Trilateral Research & Consulting, a London-based consultancy, specialising in research and the provision of strategic, policy and regulatory advice on new technologies is seeking to engage a Senior Research Analyst. The candidate will be expected to work on Trilateral projects in both the public and private sectors.

Key topics within these projects will include issues of privacy, trust, surveillance, risk and security as they pertain to cutting-edge innovative developments in ICTs and related technologies.

More about the position can be read here, or write to

Tags: privacy, surveillance, trust


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PhD job announcement in the Fraunhofer Institute (short deadline)

| | 2011.02.24. 15:27:32  Székely Iván  

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research
(<>) is looking for a

Social science or economics graduate (male or female)

for its "New Technologies" competence centre to commence as soon as possible. He/ she will work, inter alia, in the EC-funded project “Supporting fundamental rights, prIvacy and ethics in surveillance technologies” (SAPIENT). In the context of this study, he/she will have the opportunity to write a PhD thesis on privacy and data protection-related impacts of smart surveillance technologies.

He/she will work on further projects aiming to analyse scientific-technical, economic, social and political aspects of the development and use of Information and Communication Technologies, also at the interface with nanotechnologies, life sciences, and environmental and energy technologies. These analyses aim to provide scientific strategic advice to decision-makers in politics and industry.

Applicants should have successfully completed an appropriate degree in social science, economics or other surveillance and privacy-relevant disciplines (e.g., technology and culture, sociology, media studies). Very good knowledge of English and computer skills, as well as the willingness and ability to work in interdisciplinary teams and to acquire a good command of German are pre-conditions.

You will find interesting projects in the areas of policy, industry and technology, a communicative and friendly team of colleagues, and an excellent technical and administrative support infrastructure. Employment terms, remuneration and social security benefits are in accordance with the TVöD (collective wage agreement for German public sector employees).

The employment contract is limited to one year at first but can be extended for three more years.
Closing date: Mach 4, 2011
Reference No. ISI – 2011-9

Contact for your application:
Fraunhofer Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung
Gudrun Krenický
Breslauer Straße 48
76139 Karlsruhe

Tags: PhD position, social sciences, economics, surveillance


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