Week In Tech: There’s a snitch inside your phone
Tin foil hat sales dipped slightly this week after it became widely known that Big Brother isn’t really reading your thoughts and instead has simply hired a company called Carrier IQ that installs rootkits (i.e. software spies) on millions of phones.
By Divyanshu Dutta Roy/IBNS
While the Mountain View, California-based company vehemently denies that its software violates social ethics or U.S. wiretap laws, Carrier IQ’s website continues to flaunt the number of devices it infects and says it's using its software for good, not evil.
“There’s no reason to doubt their motives, really. I like my key presses, browsing history, SMS logs, and location data to be recorded and sold to corporations, In fact that’s what I bought my phone for in the first place,” a cell phone user familiar with the matter said.
The matter first exploded in the incessantly vigilant and socially responsible mainstream media in mid-November when security researcher Trevor Eckhart published a report accusing CIQ of installing malware on more than 140 million devices worldwide.
"We measure and summarise performance of the [your] device to assist Operators in delivering better service," Carrier IQ yapped in a statement on Thursday, asserting that it really does not record, store, or transmit the contents of SMS messages, e-mail, photos, audio, or video recordings.
Despite Carrier IQ’s angelic intentions, however, U.S. carriers and cell phone makers continued to distance themselves from the company, with AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile saying they use the software “only to improve their wireless networks” and Verizon denying any chumminess at all.
Nokia, Apple, BlackBerry-maker RIM have categorically denied to currently using CIQ on any of their devices, ‘currently’ being the key word, while HTC, whose phone was shown to be using the software in YouTube video by Eckhart, blamed it on the carriers.
And while bloggers, commentators, TV pundits, people thinking why-you-pay-them-for-my-data-pay-me-instead, and at least one U.S. Senator came out to express their dissent at the creepy service, it was Julian Assange who really articulated the matter well.
Speaking at a press conference this week where WikiLeaks presented a global network of surveillance companies for hire, the whistle-blowing website founder candidly told smartphone and GMail users, “You're all screwed”.
Free SMS, YouTube facelift and booming Google Chrome
Hotmail-founder Sabeer Bhatia launched last week an application for a bunch of phones to send free text messages called JaxtrSMS that, with its orange icon and Windows 95-blue focused design, somehow manages to look even tackier than it sounds.
While it was definitely useful, and I am sure there are people who will have no idea what I am talking about, I honestly thought the Rs 0.05 ($0.00097) I am paying my carrier per text messages is a pretty good deal in return of not having to get an eye surgery. So ugly.
However, all was not lost as this week, video-sharing service YouTube launched a redesign of their website, joining the lot of all Google services that have had facelifts lately and turning into what I thought was quite pretty.
With an emphasis on social network integration and more algorithms to figure out which videos you'll like, the redesign makes the website a lot more Facebook-(sorry, Google Plus)-like, with subscribed channels on the left, activity feed in the centre and recommendations on the right.
And while the Google Internet Bus started its tour around my home state, showing village people what the Internet is all about, karma came calling on the Internet giant with its browser Google Chrome surpassing Mozilla Firefox in market share for the first time, data showed.
While the magnificently undeserving Internet Explorer continued to loom large with a 40.63 percent share of the browser market, according web analytics company StatCounter, Chrome with its 25.69 percent for the first time in November barely bested Firefox that scored 25.23 percent.