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Tag Archives: Privacy

Worried Mannequins In Store Windows Are Looking At You? They Could Be

Once the realm of the paranoid, fantasies about being spied upon by the mannequins in store windows has recently turned into a privacy-encroaching reality. The Italian mannequin maker Almax SpA makes a product called EyeSee, which is a mannequin with a camera embedded in one of its eyes. It watches the customers going through the store’s doors, feeds the data to facial-recognition software and analyses their characteristics to better target their service. For example, one store found that many shoppers that came in after 4 pm were Asian, so it assigned Chinese speaking staff at the entrance after that time.

Currently in use in three European countries as well as the US, it is deployed in stores like the Benetton Group, among others. And while the practice of using cameras to analyze customers’ appearances is not new, it was traditionally done from overhead cameras; Almax argues that the eye-level angles provide better data. Clearly the intentions are not nefarious and are aimed at providing a more tailored shopping experience, but the surreptitiousness of it has a few privacy critics alarmed. The question then becomes: should we still have a reasonable expectation of privacy while out shopping?

[ Bloomberg ] VIA [ Engadget ]

Worried About Being Snooped On? Here’s The Tinfoil Hat For Your Home

By David Ponce

You know, the thing about wireless network passwords is that they’re pretty darn secure. Provided you pick something other than “password” or anything equally inane, you’re not going to get hacked. But for some people, that’s just not enough. So some researchers at the Institut Polytechnique of Grenoble have developed a wallpaper that is able to block WiFi signals. It was developed in conjunction with the Centre Technique du Papier (The Technical Paper Center) and features a special pattern of geometric shapes traced in a conductive ink which contains silver particles. This design is effective at blocking some frequencies of electromagnetic radiation, namely that of typical WiFi signals. And if you don’t like the look of the designs, you can either paint it or cover it with your favourite flowered wallpaper or whatever it is you fancy. The rights to this products have been acquired by the Finnish company Ahlstrom and they wish to commercialize it by 2013 for roughly the same price as a regular wallpaper.

[ News Article (In French) ] VIA [ DVice ]

One Time Secret Helps With Privacy Fears

By David Ponce

If you have something so secret that your head might explode if someone gains access to it, then it’s probably a good idea to just keep it to yourself. But if you absolutely must share, a service like One Time Secret could help you sleep a little better at night.

When you send people passwords and private links via email or chat, there are copies of that information stored in many places. If you use a one-time link instead, the information persists for a single viewing which means it can’t be read by someone else later. This allows you to send sensitive information in a safe way knowing it’s seen by one person only. Think of it like a self-destructing message

Some might worry about search engines discovering the link and the data before it’s deleted.

We block benevolent crawlers with our robots.txt file and we take further measures to stop malicious ones as well. If you are really concerned, protect it with a passphrase that only you and the recipient know.

The service is available now.

[ One Time Secret ] VIA [ BookOfJoe ]

Facebook Sends Some Guy A CD With 1,222 PDFs Of His History On The Site

By David Ponce

Privacy laws in Europe are a little tougher than in North America, and if you request that Facebook send you everything it has ever logged of your activity on the site… it has no choice but to comply. That’s exactly what 24-year-old Max Schrems of Vienna, Austria did. And sure enough, he received a CD in the mail containing 1,222 PDF documents listing in excruciating detail just what he’d been doing on the site since he joined. While we’ve known for some time that this was going on, it’s interesting to see just how much data is actually collected.

Collected together were records of when Schrems logged in and out of the social network, the times and content of sent and received messages and an accounting of every person and thing he’s ever liked, posted, poked, friended or recorded. The archive captured friend requests, former or alternative names and email addresses, employment and relationship statuses and photos, in some cases with their GPS locations included, to name a few.

As we said this practice is nothing new, and maybe Zuckerberg was onto something when he declared last year that the age of privacy was over. Yet there is this feeling that there isn’t enough transparency and education with regards to just how much of our lives are leaving digital footprints, and just how exposed we truly are. Maybe privacy is dying, but it would be nice if it did with our informed consent.

VIA [ More Info ] VIA [ DVice ]

How’s This For Karma, Mark? Facebook Bug Reveals Zuckerberg’s Private Photos

By David Ponce

Mark Zuckerberg’s progressive views on privacy have gotten Facebook in trouble with more than just its angry users: it recently had to agree to 20 years of privacy audits with the FTC. But in a fine example of karma, a recent bug with Facebook that made it possible to see other users’ private photos resulted in several pics of Mark being released into the wild. So here we present them to you, for a brief and somewhat harmless moment of zen.

VIA [ TechEBlog ]

DIY Privacy Monitor

By David Ponce

An Instructables user by the name of dimovi has created a privacy monitor in a most ingenious way. He basically disassembled the monitor, removed the polarizing film and glued a cutout made from this film to an old pair of glasses. Once reassembled, only people with the special glasses can see what’s on the screen while everyone else just sees a white monitor.

Of course, people will think you a little strange for staring at a white screen for hours on end, but that sort of stuff never stopped you before, did it?

There’s a more detailed step by step at the link below.

[ DIY Privacy Monitor ] VIA [ Hackaday ]

Yamaha’s VSP-1 Noise Generator Masks Your Conversations

Yamaha VSP-1 Noise Generator (Image courtesy Yamaha)
By Andrew Liszewski

Some people complain about the crappy music they play at restaurants, but they fail to realize it’s not always there just to provide a bit of ambience. Background music can also serve to keep conversations at a crowded restaurant private, which is what Yamaha’s VSP-1 is also designed to do, though on a much smaller scale. In essence it’s not that different from those Hammacher-esque white noise generators designed to make it easier to fall asleep, except that the 8 included sounds it plays, like babbling river, forest or even ‘urban clutter’ are specifically engineered to effectively mask other sounds like a conversation between two people.

In fact in the company’s the testing the VSP-1 was able to mask up to 89% of a conversation at best, and at its worst it was still able to block out about 48% of what was being said. And since it’s just under 9 inches tall, it’s not unreasonable to have a few of them working together to increase their overall effectiveness. Available sometime in April in Japan for ~$1,200 (¥105,000).

[ PR - Yamaha VSP-1 ] VIA [ Akihabara News ]

Live3D Gives Google Earth Live Updates, Adds Potential For Creepiness

By Evan Ackerman

Google Earth lets you view the entire world. It’s sweet. But most of the time, you’re viewing the entire world as it was a year ago or more. If you’ve played with Google Earth, the first thing you probably did was go find your house. The second thing you probably did was go find your ex-girlfriend’s house and then get really disappointed when you couldn’t actually peek in the windows.

Now you can! (Maybe.)

A project called Live3D, brought to you by the Media and Machines lab of Washington University in St. Louis, takes live webcam images and overlays them on Google Earth. This is something that you could do before, but Live3D makes it fast and easy and integrates the images onto Google Earth’s 3D models. There’s a database of live webcam images, and it’s super easy to add your own via drag ‘n drop tools in Google Earth itself. So as long as there’s a webcam operating in the area, you get a constantly updating view of whatever the webcam sees (in stills, not video yet). Cars driving, people walking, everything, with a level of detail limited only by the resolution of the webcam.

Of course, this brings up all kinds of potential privacy issues, since you can set a webcam up wherever you want and have it pointed wherever you want and make the image accessible on Google Earth. People have always been able to do this, but somehow when it’s easy, it tends to become a problem.

[ Live3D ] VIA [ New Scientist ]

Freecom Hard Drive Secure Might Protect Your Data With RFID, Probably Won’t

hard_drive_secure_2

By Evan Ackerman

While sheer paranoia isn’t the best thing to have dictating your gadget purchases, there are some instances where paying a small premium for that extra level of comfort and security might make sense. Freecom’s Hard Drive Secure is a run of the mill external HD, except that you can’t access the data on it without swiping an encrypted RFID card the size of a credit card past the drive. Swipe the card again and the drive locks itself. It’s not too terribly expensive at $120 for a 500 gig drive, although $410 for a 2TB drive it just a little crazy.

What Freecom doesn’t make clear is just how the encryption on the drive works… It sort of sounds like while the encrypted keycard locks and unlocks the drive, the data on the drive itself is not actually encrypted. This sort of system might keep your porn stash safe from your kid brother, but anyone with a mediocre amount of computer experience (which your kid brother probably has) will just remove the drive from the case and access it directly. Even having the locking system on the drive itself won’t thwart someone who is casually determined. And irrespective of the encryption on the drive, having to swipe your card a second time to lock the thing is just stupid. It should be set up so that if the RFID card leaves, the drive locks itself. And of course, I won’t even get started on the security flaws in RFID.

So yeah, there are some instances where paying a small premium for an extra level of comfort and security might make sense, but this is probably not one of them.

[ Bit-Tech ] VIA [ Ubergizmo ]