Friday, April 22, 2011

Which do you fear more - business Big Brother, or government Big Brother?

In a fascist or a communist society, there is no need to differentiate between "business" and "government," since in both cases the government controls businesses. In mixed socialist-capitalist societies, however, the distinction can be made. There are certain things that businesses do in which government is not involved, and there are certain things that governments do in which business is not involved.

And sometimes businesses and governments do the same thing, but they may (or may not) do it in different ways.

Such as spying on you.

In a recent post Your iPhone is Tracking You, Jake Kuramoto links to a number of instances of tracking activity. Kuramoto begins by linking to an Alasdair Allan/Pete Warden story which describes how iPhones and iPads with iOS 4 are storing locations/time stamps:

We're not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it's clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations.

But this is not limited to Apple devices, as Zeit Online notes:

Malte Spitz from the German Green party decided to publish his own data collected from August 2009 to February 2010. However, to even access the information, he had to file a suit against telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom.

Now Apple and Deutsche Telekom are private businesses - admittedly regulated by the government, but other than that free to do whatever they want.

Kuramoto also linked to an account of the brouhaha between Cellebrite, the Michigan State Police, and the American Civil Liberties Union.


Cellebrite manufactures a Universal Forensics Extraction Device. Now we're not talking about debate or biometrics here, but the examination of any item for purposes of law enforcement. In this particular case, we're talking about cell phones. If Malte Spitz had been unsuccessful in getting his location information from Deutsche Telekom, perhaps he could have bought the Cellebrite UFED and obtained the location information in that manner.

Based on Cellebrite’s expertise in data extraction technology, the mobile forensics products perform both logical and physical data extraction, including recovery of deleted messages and content.

With more than a decade of experience in mobile data technologies, Cellebrite provides the widest coverage available in the market today. The UFED family of products is able to extract and analyze data from more than 3000 phones, including smartphones and GPS devices.

While the American Civil Liberties Union claims that the use of this device by a law enforcement agency violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a judge may not agree. And even if the judge does agree, that would not necessarily address the use of the Cellebrite UFED by private citizens - who presumably have the "civil liberty" to employ the device.

So, let's return to the question I posed in the title of this post. Which do you fear more - business Big Brother, or government Big Brother?
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