Palantir: Did ICE Paid $60 Million for an App

August 2, 2019

DarkCyber spotted a short article in Counterpunch. The title?

Records Show Palantir Made $60 Million Contracting with ICE for Mobile App

The write up said:

A critical July 2019 exposé from WNYC based on documents obtained via FOIA request shows how Palantir’s proprietary software, in this case the FALCON mobile app, is essential to the removal operations of ICE and related agencies. As WNYC explained, “FALCON mobile allows agents in the field to search through a fusion of law enforcement databases that include information on people’s immigration histories, family relationships, and past border crossings.”

Counterpunch then shared its own research findings:

Counterpunch has learned that since 2016, Palantir has made more than $60 million in contract awards from ICE for access to FALCON and for Operations & Maintenance (O&M) for the mobile application. This, of course, is solely for FALCON and related services, and likely just scratches the surface of the true scope of Palantir’s profits from collaboration with ICE, to say nothing of Palantir’s lucrative relations with other government agencies such as CIA, DoD, etc.

The write up covers some other information about Palantir. DarkCyber finds the $60 million for an app interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, August 2, 2019

Mobile Phone: Tips for Addicts

May 28, 2019

Metro, a UK tabloid, reported about a study conducted at the University of Washington. The idea the researchers probed related to “triggers” which keep a person glued to his or her mobile device. “How to Resist the Four Triggers Which Keep You Addicted to Your Smartphone” reveals the tricks. The sample was 39 people aged from 14 to 64. Now I don’t want to get mathy, but the sample would get some frowns from an online Statistics 101 adjunct professor from a no name school in North Carolina. At a juicier institution, like the University of Washington, the sample is right sized.

With this cutting edge research, the secrets have been revealed; to wit:

  1. An unoccupied moment, the smartphone is there for you and me.
  2. As a break when one is working on a difficult task such as calculating or looking up in a table the sample size for a research project into “hooks” used to addict a person to a mobile phone.
  3. As a deflection action when an actual human who has taken several classes in statistics wants to engage a person like a researcher in a conversation about sample sizes.
  4. When one anticipates an email or other communication from an academic institution eager to hire a cracker jack researcher and data wrangler.

From my reading, I have gleaned some other information about the ways to make a person 14 to 64 become an addict. I offer these to suggest that the Metro’s summary of the research does not capture the scope of the subject. Here are some other addictive tricks:

  1. Approval from perceived “friends” or “persons whom one wishes to be a pal”
  2. Sex hook ups, images, etc.
  3. Rewards delivered via gameification
  4. Sex hook ups, images, etc.
  5. Desire to expand one’s contacts when looking for a job in statistics.
  6. Sex hook ups, images, etc.

Perhaps the team form the University of Washington will expand their research. On the other hand, why bother? A sample of 39 is just so right.

Oh, and the secret to breaking the addiction? Turn off the gizmo.

Stephen E Arnold, May 28, 2019

How Does One Access an iPhone?

May 9, 2019

If you are interested in accessing a locked iPhone, you may want to add this write up to your reference file. DarkCyber is not sure the three ways to work around the iCloud lock cover the waterfront, but the information is suggestive. See “How Hackers and Scammers Break into iCloud-Locked iPhones.” DarkCyber is not thrilled that this type of information is floating around untethered. Just our viewpoint, of course. Vice’s editorial judgment is interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, May 9, 2019

GPS: Ubiquitous and Helpful in Surprising Ways

March 6, 2019

Here’s a little write-up that highlights the power of GPS and WiFi tracking. Digital Trends reports, “It Turns Out That Find My iPhone Is Really Good at Finding a Stolen Car, Too.” Writer Andy Boxall relates:

“After stopping at an intersection, Chase Richardson was carjacked by an armed man who shouted for him to get out of the vehicle. Sensibly complying, Richardson got out, but at the same time left his work-issued Apple iPhone in the car. The criminal also demanded Richardson’s wallet and his own personal phone, then got in the car and drove away. The police arrived after Richardson called 911 at a Walgreens store, which is when the Find My iPhone feature was called into action. The service uses GPS to generally locate a registered device, which in this case was the work phone. The police apparently used Find My iPhone in real time to track down the stolen car. A police helicopter was called in to assist after the car was located, as the thief tried to evade arrest.”

We are pleased to learn Mr. Richardson was not hurt during the carjacking. Boxall mentions other cases where Find My iPhone has led to arrests, and notes similar tools like Google’s Find My Device, Samsung’s device location service, and third-party companies like Cerberus Anti-Theft. Such tools can be a huge help if someone makes off with your phone—or your car. Just remember that tracking software can have unintended consequences; the article closes with this kind wish:

“Whichever you choose, we hope it will only ever be used to find your phone down the back of a couch, and nothing more serious.”

We agree.

Cynthia Murrell, March 6, 2019

Google News: Not So Much News As Control and Passive Aggressive Offense

February 12, 2019

I read “One Analyst’s Attempts to Demystify the Types of Traffic Google Sends Publishers.” The write up explains some of the clever ways Google manages its traffic and any related data linked to the traffic and content objects.

To put it another way, Google is continuing its effort to control content for its own purposes, not the publishers’, not the users’ or the advertisers’ goals.

The article makes it clear that Google is adapting in a passive aggressive manner to the shift from desktop boat anchor search to the more popular mobile device approach to search.

Users want information and no longer are troubled with thinking up a query, deciding what service to use, or questioning the provenance of the information.

The write up takes a bit of time to figure out. There are acronyms, Googley lingo, and data which may be unfamiliar to most readers. Spend a few minutes and AMP up your understanding of what Google is doing to help out — wait for it — itself.

Surprise, right?

The downstream implications of this approach are interesting. Perhaps an analyst will tackle the issues related to:

  • Time disconnects between event and inclusion of “news”
  • Ability to “route” and “filter” from within the Google walled garden
  • Implications of inserting “relevant” ads into what may be shaped streams so that ad inventory can be whittled down.

Interesting and just the tip of the Google content management iceberg.

Stephen E Arnold, February 12, 2019

Once a Phone Company, Always a Phone Company

February 12, 2019

American life is not complete without the media generating some form of fear. The newest craze scaring people from the airwaves is their location data. PPC Land reports the story in, “Carriers Are Only One Source Used By Data Aggregators, And This Source Is Now A Threat In The US.” One way that mobile phone providers make a profit is selling their customers’ information to advertisers and other third party agencies. Among the user information sold is a customer’s location.

It sounds banal at first—your location is sold, then ads for specific products and services near you pop up on your mobile device. Then the Big Brother syndrome and privacy fears kick in. The big stink is that bounty hunters can use customers’ data to track targets down to their specific location. Yes, that is scary, but how many people have bounty hunters stalking them?

Mobile phone carriers assure customers that their safety and privacy are top priority. Roadside assistance is referenced as one way specific location information is used. The FCC and Congress are abuzz about this threat, but how are phone providers really selling the information?

“Mobile Carriers use data aggregators to monetize location data. Verizon has contracts with LocationSmart and Zumigo. Verizon says the location data used by the location aggregator programs are limited to coarse (rather than precise) location information. Coarse location information is derived from the Verizon network and is significantly less accurate than a precise location. Precise information are usually from GPS, and is obtained with apps installed on mobile phones (like maps, or car services).”

But mobile phone providers are not the only ways to track an individual’s location: cell IDs, Wifi, beacons, landlines, carriers, beacons, SDKs on apps that use locations, GSIDS, and IP addresses are all used to track location. Phones are a handy device.

Whitney Grace, February 12, 2019

Mobile Search: Pervasiveness Arrives

December 13, 2018

If you want to order a pizza, there is an app for that. If you want to shop for clothing, there is an app for that. If you want to design an app, there is an app for that and if you want to search on your mobile device you have to use an app…until now. VentureBeat shares that there is a new way to search on mobile devices without having to open an app: “SwiftKey Now Lets You Search The Web From The Android Keyboard App.”

SwiftKey, a Microsoft owned company, invented a new way to search on mobile devices, specifically Android phones. The SwiftKey is a keyboard app that allows users to type quicker on touch screens and now they can search the Internet directly from the keyboard. SwiftKey also users predictive analytics to make suggestions and they can swipe over letters instead of having to individually touch them. It is powered by Bing search, not a surprise.

“The update seems to be mostly about enabling users to share content they find on the web without having to switch between multiple apps on their phone. For example, you can search for local restaurants inside SwiftKey and give friends recommendations by screenshotting, cropping, and sharing the results. Or let’s say a friend sends a message asking you to look into some flight options for an upcoming trip. Rather than switching from WhatsApp to Google or SkyScanner, you can simply bring up the little toolbar at the top of the keyboard, enter your flight criteria, and share what you find through WhatsApp without leaving the service.”

Another handy feature is if a user types in a URL into the search box and takes them directly to the Web site over a search results list.

The SwiftKey is competition for Google’s GBoard. It streamlines mobile search by taking out some of the clunky steps, but it is going to have issues before it is perfected.

Whitney Grace, December 13, 2018

A Secret Revealed: Mobiles Can Double Surveillance Devices

October 7, 2018

The real journalists have revealed a secret known to hundreds of thousands of people, maybe more. Navigate to “Are the Presidential Alerts Capable of Accessing Your Phone’s Mic and Camera.” The answer comes from a true wizard, a model entrepreneur. The expert is John McAfee, an interesting person with a remarkable biography.

He revealed:

“The ‘Presidential alerts,’” McAfee tweeted Wednesday, “they are capable of accessing the E911 chip in your phones – giving them full access to your location, microphone, camera and every function of your phone. This not a rant, this is from me, still one of the leading cybersecurity experts. Wake up people!”

Here in Harrod’s Creek, no information about the impact of this super big secret has reached us.

We assume the reporter to whom Mr. McAfee revealed this cogent, lucid statement did not die of heart failure.

That good. We think.

Stephen E Arnold, October 7, 2018

Surf with Freedom: China, Iran, Russia, and Other Countries May Not Notice

October 5, 2018

How does this sound to you?

Intra included the following feature list:

• Free access to websites and apps blocked by DNS manipulation
• No limits on data usage and it won’t slow down your internet connection
• Open source
• Keep your information private – Intra doesn’t track the apps you use or websites you visit
• Customize your DNS server provider — use your own or pick from popular providers

You can get the scoop by reading “On Protected: Your Connection Is Protected from DNS Attacks.”

The service is provided by Jigsaw, an outfit under the wing of Google.

The article explains:

With Intra, they’ve created an app that protects against DNS manipulation. This is an app for the world to access the entire internet without, for example, government censorship.

For now this is an Android app, which may be a mobile phone operating system less of a hurdle for some surveillance activities. Of course, authorities in China, Iran, and Russia will remain unaware of this Google-centric app. I wonder if anyone in the US will notice?

Nah, probably not. I like the warnings issued to me by my browsers about unsafe sites, and I think the outcomes of DNS manipulations are interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, October 5, 2018

Google: A Small Fine, Fuschia, and Maybe Some KaiOS

July 23, 2018

A modest fine from the EU and the buzz about a replacement for Android have not slowed Google’s innovative pace. With Android on most mobile phones, Google is seeking a way to refuel its mobile ad goals. The future may be Fuschia, but Google seems to want a Plan B.

The need to ensure internet access in emerging markets is one key factor in a recent financial decision by Google, we learn from the International Business Times’ article, “Why Is Google Funding Feature Phone Operating System KaiOS?” Writer Mike Luces reports that Google has made a Series A investment of $22 million in Kai Technologies, maker of an operating system that already powers some 40 million feature phones around the world. The article observes:

“,,, KaiOS stated that Google made the investment to ensure that new feature phones will have access to the internet, especially those sold in emerging markets. ‘This funding will help us fast-track development and global deployment of KaiOS-enabled smart feature phones, allowing us to connect the vast population that still cannot access the internet, especially in emerging markets,’ KaIOS CEO Sebastian Codeville said. KaiOS is currently powering the feature phones manufactured by TCL, HMD Global and Micromax. Google has already developed apps for KaiOS, so this new investment is seen as the tech giant’s way of ensuring its presence in the feature phone market without really developing and releasing hardware. Google is instead bringing its famous Android apps to KaiOS, including Google Maps, YouTube, Google Search and even its smart assistant, Google Assistant.”

Luces also observes that the moves takes place as the smartphone market in general appears to be slowing down. Another important item of information—KaiOS phones already outnumber iPhones in India, a huge market. We are interested to see what affects this investment will have. Founded in 2016, Kai Technologies is based in San Diego and maintains facilities in several cities. They are also hiring right now, in case anyone is interested.

The Beyond Search team assumes that Margrethe Vestager may be interested in KaiOS.

Cynthia Murrell, July 23, 2018

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