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Dealing with potential for electronic snooping
Old 05-27-2014, 09:01 PM   #1
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Dealing with potential for electronic snooping

How do you deal with the potential invasiveness of modern "apps" on mobile devices like tablets and smart phones? Are there best practice ideas for one to reduce risks here?

I'm sure some will say that's why they don't use these electronic products. That seems a bit unrealistic to me.

Example: My Nexus 7 (Google) tablet notified me that a new version of Yahoo mail is now available. This app needs some new permissions. In addition to the previous ones like reading about my social contacts and tracing data about them (won't bore you with the details) there are now requests to accept:
1. Microphone - allows the app to record audio with the microphone at any time without your confirmation.
2. Your location - allows the app to get the GPS coordinates

You either accept this stuff or you don't get the app. There are no in-betweens. It feels to me like there is way too much complexity. I suppose one could go into airplane mode and pop up out of it from time to time. Other thoughts?
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Old 05-27-2014, 09:21 PM   #2
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Just say no. Isn't there another app to serve the same function without being so invasive?
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Old 05-27-2014, 09:45 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Lsbcal View Post
I'm sure some will say that's why they don't use these electronic products. That seems a bit unrealistic to me.
I don't see what is so unrealistic. It's not that this app is as important as indoor plumbing, or rural electrification.

Most of this stuff is basically idiotic.

Ha
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Old 05-27-2014, 10:23 PM   #4
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I like the cut of your jib, Ha.
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Old 05-27-2014, 11:23 PM   #5
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What Ha Ha and Maj Tom Said. I was refraining from commenting because I didn't want to be seen as "dissing" or demeaning somebody's preferences but, it ain't unrealistic. More and more these days whenever I am advertised to I can't help but feel I am being had. Or that's what would happen if I bought it.

I have never even owned a laptop let alone one of these electronic All-Beings Masters of Time Space and Dimension. My cell phone cost $29.00 and I buy tracfone minutes.

Who the hell wants to hear actors talk? -- Harry Warner, Warner Bros. Pictures, c. 1927
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Old 05-28-2014, 12:03 AM   #6
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Just say no. Isn't there another app to serve the same function without being so invasive?
I don't know what Apple shows but on android devices you see these permissions before installing or updating an app. I think most people just select "accept". Most of these apps seem to have very broadly stated permissions.

I've used Yahoo Mail on the PC for many years. So it was natural to use it on the tablet too. I've noticed some of the attempts by Yahoo and others to map communications but it seems to be more blatant on my tablet. Or is it just more clear? It could be that on the PC this is really treated identically.

From what I've seen of Google and it's Gmail app, I'm not sure it's any better. It seems they are all competing to find the lucrative linkups in people's connections.
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Old 05-28-2014, 12:08 AM   #7
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I don't see what is so unrealistic. It's not that this app is as important as indoor plumbing, or rural electrification.

Most of this stuff is basically idiotic.

Ha
The Yahoo Mail app is just a basic email application that looks like my PC Yahoo Mail and access the identical emails.

Do you not use email Ha? If you are using email on a PC, are you sure that the permissions are any different then I'm seeing on an android tablet?
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Old 05-28-2014, 06:29 AM   #8
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You don't need the specific email app for Yahoo. You can use the Email app that comes with the OS. Of course you'll see a bunch of things you need to accept for that also.

I don't classify the terms of use as "electronic snooping." That suggests I didn't agree to it. In the case of the app in discussion, if you didn't agree to the terms, then the app can't use the microphone when you want it to, unless you specifically agree at that time. It would be very inconvenient, with users needing to click "accept" many, many times as they use the phone or tablet.

Last night I uninstalled a few apps I don't use. I do that from time to time. Everyone can do it.
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Old 05-28-2014, 06:38 AM   #9
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A couple of thoughts. If you are very concerned about location services you can probably find a settings switch to turn it off and turn it back on if your temporarily need it- you can do that in IOS and undoubtedly in Android. But routine location services can can be valuable. For example, if you use map applications on your phone you want location services. If you are a chronic Facebook poster who likes to check in at various locations, you need location services. That said, if you want to keep it on for some apps but minimize your exposure for others follow Ha's suggestion and just say no to apps you don't want tracking you. And, if you like the app but don't want it tracking you see if there are workarounds. I have several apps I like that unnecessarily use use location services (as far as I am concerned) so I turn the services off for those specific apps in IOS settings. There may be a setting to do that in Android. For Yahoo Mail (assuming you can't turn the feature off individually) I believe Android has a universal mail app (like IOS has) that can fetch Yahoo mail thru IMAP or POP. Use that instead of the Yahoo app itself and you will not be exposing your location to Yahoo.
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Old 05-28-2014, 07:41 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by NW-Bound View Post
Just say no. Isn't there another app to serve the same function without being so invasive?
Increasingly, the answer will be either 'no', or 'not for free' (with regard to free apps).
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Old 05-28-2014, 07:57 AM   #11
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I would never allow any app to control the microphone or camera without asking permission.
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Old 05-28-2014, 08:09 AM   #12
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I've noticed the same for free Android apps (not as much with iOS - yet) you either consent to enabling location or you don't get the app. It's a little off putting given all the concerns about privacy these days, though there are benefits to the users to allow good/honest providers to have location.

Odds are your information is already out there online anyway, much more info held by more people than you can imagine.

Strikes me as funny though that all of our phone numbers and (unless we specified otherwise) home or business addresses were published annually and provided free of charge via phone books beginning some 60 years ago...
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Old 05-28-2014, 08:26 AM   #13
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Is the app required to access Yahoo mail from a tablet or can you also log in from a normal browser window?
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Old 05-28-2014, 08:51 AM   #14
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If you want to get really paranoid, read "Dragnet Nation". The author is an investigative journalist and a big chunk of the book is footnotes with all her sources, so this is no tinfoil hat nut job. Most apps are pinging, searching, recording 24/7. Even with the GPS turned off, it's hunting for other WiFi networks so it pretty much knows where you are.

I just got an iPhone after leaving my company and was carefully watching the data usage because I chose the cheapest plan.

First, I found that it was getting data through the phone network when I was at home, where we have Wi-Fi, because the default setting was "Cellular On". Even creepier, there was data usage during the night- small amounts, but WTH was it doing while I was asleep? So now, Cellular is Off. I turn it on only when I'm out of the house and want to check my e-mail. (Yes, I know this means I can't get calls, but 99% of the time that's fine with me.) Location Services are always turned off unless I need to use the GPS feature and find the nearest Starbucks.

I also have a Faraday Bag, which insulates the phone so it can't send and receive signals. It doubles as a wallet, which means all the RFID chip cards can go in there, too.
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Old 05-28-2014, 09:45 AM   #15
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...For Yahoo Mail (assuming you can't turn the feature off individually) I believe Android has a universal mail app (like IOS has) that can fetch Yahoo mail thru IMAP or POP. Use that instead of the Yahoo app itself and you will not be exposing your location to Yahoo.
I'll try to look for something like the OS email app. I recall seeing that Yahoo had changed it's email to do weather and stuff. I currently use the Yahoo Weather app but that requires you to select a city. Maybe Yahoo is folding the weather app into it's email app in some way.

I think all this new tech is pretty neat. I'm just suspicious that it can be misused by corporations, burglers, etc. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.
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Old 05-28-2014, 09:47 AM   #16
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I would never allow any app to control the microphone or camera without asking permission.
Come to think of it, this must tied to how developers want to employ audio search. They don't want you to have to touch the microphone to make it active and instead want "OK Google" to turn on the microphone.
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Old 05-28-2014, 09:50 AM   #17
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Is the app required to access Yahoo mail from a tablet or can you also log in from a normal browser window?
One could access Yahoo Mail from the Chrome browser on a Nexus. Probably the experience is not as optimized or convenient.
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Old 05-28-2014, 09:58 AM   #18
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...(snip)...
First, I found that it was getting data through the phone network when I was at home, where we have Wi-Fi, because the default setting was "Cellular On". Even creepier, there was data usage during the night- small amounts, but WTH was it doing while I was asleep? So now, Cellular is Off. I turn it on only when I'm out of the house and want to check my e-mail. (Yes, I know this means I can't get calls, but 99% of the time that's fine with me.) Location Services are always turned off unless I need to use the GPS feature and find the nearest Starbucks.
...
In this link it appears Google gets location info but collects it anonymously:Turn Off Location Services On Android Phones - SocialTimes

I checked and do have location reporting turned off for my Nexus tablet.
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Old 05-28-2014, 09:59 AM   #19
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Ok Google. Yup, it does seem a bit invasive to me.
Years ago I stopped cutting coupons for groceries because most of the coupon discounts were on various forms of junk food and other stuff that I simply do not eat much of.

Modern apps are like that. Most are simply not worth the time one puts into them. But, a few are certainly time savers and improve my quality of life. Like tools and books, one must be selective or they take over the house, garage, etc.
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Old 05-28-2014, 01:03 PM   #20
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I use a couple of email programs on my PC, one of which is MS Outlook. None ever asked for access to my microphone or camera. I would be pissed; what do they want to use that for?

On the iPhone, I just use what is provided as default for email access. It did not ask for microphone or camera either. As a late user of a smartphone, I do not know if it would grab access without asking, but again what the hell do these apps need access to the mike and camera for? To hear and see me in private moments?

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I also have a Faraday Bag, which insulates the phone so it can't send and receive signals...
Darn! I am going to wrap my fricking phone in tinfoil. Or just throw it into the pool. What a piece of cr*p!
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