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Submission + - Google now wants to spy through microphones (ambient background-sound tech)? (

An anonymous reader writes: Infowars reports that search engine giant Google has filed a patent concerning, amongst other things, the use of ambient background noise (such as the sounds in the background when you are talking on your cellphone) to target advertising at users. Gmail may already read your email texts to target ads at you, but a computer system listening to background noises in your phone conversations (or noise picked up by small microphones in devices other than phones in your homes, such as Smart TVs, tablet computers or next-next-gen game consoles) is new, and possibly heralds the arrival of a new low-point in personal privacy as well. Infowars interprets this advertising-matched-to-recognized-ambient-sounds move as a convenient cover for Google to possibly secretly engage in wide-spread, fully-automated audio surveillance of millions of people who happen to be talking to someone or about something in close proximity to an internet-connected device with a microphone. How would Google & partners sell this intrusive service/potential spying to people? Possibly by offering an ad-supported service along the lines of "you can make free-of-charge phone calls to any number located in the U.S., if you listen to a few audio ads we play every now and then during the conversation". After all, plenty of people are OK with Google algorithms reading their emails... What's the harm in a handfull of new Google algorithms listening to noises picked up by your smartphone? The major catch in all this is, how can one be sure, with any degree of certainty, that Google's algorithms are only listening to "background noises"? What if those algorithms secretly transcribe to text — via voice-recognition — what you and the person on the other end of the line were saying to each other, and then let other algorithms sift through that text transcript looking for certain 'naughty' keywords like "protest", "organize", "rise-up", "show them" et cetera? What if companies other than Google — lets say your regular phone or cell phone company — start introducing similar "ambient sound recognition" algorithms into their service, and eventually this becomes such widespread industry practise, that you cannot opt out of this kind of algorithm-based-audio-spying at all anymore? The implications for everyday privacy, which is already under attack from all sides in the digital world we live in, are potentially chilling... What happened to "Do no evil", Google?

Submission + - Can The Translucent Cloud Balance Privacy, Convenience? (

MikeatWired writes: "Jon Udell writes that when was recently discovered that some iPhone apps were uploading users’ contacts to the cloud, one proposed remedy was to modify iOS to require explicit user approval. But in one typical scenario that’s not a choice a user should have to make. A social service that uses contacts to find which of a new user’s friends are already members doesn’t need cleartext email addresses. If I upload hashes of my contacts, and you upload hashes of yours, the service can match hashes without knowing the email addresses from which they’re derived. In the post Hashing for privacy in social apps, Matt Gemmell shows how it can be done. Why wasn’t it? Not for nefarious reasons, Gemmell says, but rather because developers simply weren’t aware of the option to uses hashes as a proxy for email addresses. A translucent solution encrypts the sensitive data so that it is hidden even from the operator of the service, while yet enabling the two parties (parents, babysitters) to rendezvous. How many applications can benefit from translucency? We won’t know until we start looking. The translucent approach doesn’t lie along the path of least resistance, though. It takes creative thinking and hard work to craft applications that don’t unnecessarily require users to disclose, or services to store, personal data. But if you can solve a problem in a translucent way, you should. We can all live without more of those headlines and apologies."
Your Rights Online

Submission + - Studios want reduced fees to go after "Pirates" (

Master Moose writes: Movie studios are about to push the New Zealand Government to lower the fees they have to pay internet providers to out copyright pirates under the so-called "Skynet" law that took effect last year.

The Economic Development Ministry has kicked off a promised review of the $25 fee that rights holders must pay internet providers to send infringement notices to customers accused of piracy under the "three strikes regime"

New Zealand seems to be building a history of bending to US the mostly US based recording and Movie industry. See Kim Dotcom and Warner Brothers filming of the Hobbit as recent examples.

Would the reduction of this fee lead to abuses where infringements are spammed to "suspects" as seen around the world, or with less of their cost being covered, are the ISPs less likely to co-operate?

After getting such controversial bills passed, is this further proof that these industries will never be satisfied?

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