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Entries in location tracking (6)


'Stingray' Tech Lets Cops Track Cellphones -- No Warrant Required

The Gilbert, Ariz., police department has a lot of explaining to do.

Apparently, the department used Homeland Security Department funds to purchase cell phone tracking equipment back in 2008. And now, it's being investigated by the ACLU.

Several surveillance experts have agreed that it seems the department purchased a gadget that's sometimes called a stingray, which lets users set up what amounts to a fake cellphone tower. Then, nearby cellphones are tricked into connecting with it. Even if the owner of the phone isn't making a call, the stingray can still track their physical location. 

Although it can't record anything said on phone calls, the stingray can track the phone numbers dialed by nearby phones. Which, understandably, makes it a huge privacy concern.

Stingrays raise some very controversial issues, Catherine Crump, the lawyer who headed the ACLU project, told MSNBC.

"I think when law enforcement starts purchasing technology that allows them to track cellphones in that manner, it raises a whole host of questions about how that technology is being used that are even more serious when they track people through carriers," Crump said. "At least when a carrier is involved, there's a third party that may raise concerns if the request is of questionable legality. But when a law enforcement agency can do on its own surveillance, that raises even more serious questions about whether there is appropriate oversight."

The Supreme Court just decided that police can strip search pretty much anybody. So, maybe the use of stingrays is simply the next step.


The View from Above: InHardFocus Round-up (September 2, 2011)

Menswear tries Augmented Reality on for size: Luxury Daily and others are covering the latest industry to get on-board Augmented Reality-based marketing, menswear. British designer Dunhill is rolling out an AR campaign using the Aurasma Lite app, which consumers could use to transtate print advertisements into interactive videos of distinguished, obviously well-dressed men. See video above for a demo.

Cell phone tracking for the right reasons: We’ve covered recent developments with ‘locationgate,’ where companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Google have been caught collecting Wi-Fi and smartphone users’ locations for less than transparent purposes. While certainly the legality of these actions are in question, there are situations where mining location data can actually save lives. As Fast Company describes in a recent article, researcher Linus Bengtsson and his colleagues at Sweden’s Karlinska Intitutet and Columbia University have found a way to capture and translate cell phone activity in order to predict movement of people after disasters. Imagine how useful this could be in applying aid, resources and people after earthquakes, wars or disease outbreaks.

Your favorite photo sharing app hits 200 million photos: Instagram, the company that’s putting warm and fuzzy filters on your memories, has seen explosive growth since it launched 10 months ago. We’re excited to see where this company goes, which as TechCrunch points out, should be on the Android platform for starters. In other news, Gizmodo features Instamap, an app for the iPad that allows people to browse Instagram photos with nifty (and stalkerish) location tagging and search features.


The View From Above: In Hard Focus Round-up (September 1, 2011)

AR brings boardgames to life: A recent Kickstarter project, called the OggBoard, aims to give board game fans a 3D experience with the use of Augmented Reality. If the project is funded, the physical ‘board’ upon which games are played will be simple in design, yet provide physical cues for smartphones to populate AR game content – be it a chess piece, user-created characters for specialty games, or perhaps a battleship. See the video above, via CNET.

Microsoft’s own ‘Locationgate’: We recently covered the discovery that Microsoft, alongside Apple, has been collecting locations of smartphones and other Wi-Fi enable devices, so it comes to no surprise that a recent class action law suit has been filed around Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 tracking of data. TechCrunch reports that a Seattle district court is handling the case, which centers on the idea that WP7 users, regardless of whether or not they opt out of location tracking, have their location and data harvested. While this location tracking is purportedly only for marketing and advertising purposes, the fact that they keeping tabs on people unawares is quite sketchy.

Holograms could make microscopes more accessible in the medical field: UCLA researchers are developing a microscope that trades traditional (and heavy) lens with lightweight hologram technology.  The technology works by shining light on a sensor chip with the object, which then collects in a cloud-based software program that recreates the image. What’s amazing is that this breakthrough could mean the ability to a) carry in microscopes to remote areas (Engadget reports that the new model could be the size of a banana) and b) access and analyze the image remotely via computers, tablets and smartphones.   


The View From Above: In Hard Focus Round-up (August 17th, 2011)

Cadbury Augmented Reality Campaign: Blippar, a company that offers a image-recognition and Augmented Reality platform, is launching a new campaign with Cadbury to celebrate its launch, according to The Next Web. Smartphone users need only to download the app and wave it in front of a Cadbury chocolate bar to activate a game called Qwak Smack. Beyond this campaign, Blippar can also be used to access content from other 'blipps' or objects, as the company is building out addition content and brand engagement campaigns. See the video above to see the Cadbury campaign in action.

Apple in trouble with the (South Korean) law: Apple's already been called out in the US legal system for tracking individual smartphone data, but it's in South Korea where results are being seen. Forbes reports that Apple has been order to pay a fine for illegal tracking movements, with more class actions suits that may mean millions of dollars for Apple. Not a big deal for a billion dollar company, unless you think about how many other countries might follow suit.

Google launches Photosharing App, Photovine: Google is pulling out all stops on its pursuit to become a social company, launching today a photosharing app that is, according to Engadget, "remarkably similar" to Piictu. With the tagline "plant a photo, watch it grow," Photovine is deeply integrated with Google services, Facebook, Twitter and more and allows users to create, view and share "vines,"or folders, of photos among friends and strangers alike. Interested to get my hands on a beta and see if it's worth the hype.



The View from Above: InHardFocus Round-up (August 2, 2011)

AR bridges real world and digital content: Layar, a company working in the Augmented Reality space, has just released Layar Vision, an app that reveals layers of content and interactivity on real world objects, reports Ubergizmo. As the video above demonstrates, this app will enable its user to interact with everyday objects, specifically printed materials, in order to access valuable digital content such as coupons, a Twitter feed or location-based data. In a lot of ways, one can compare Layar Vision’s technology to QR codes, as both increasingly work to break down the walls between the offline and online worlds.

Bringing the game to your living room: Football fans of England’s Premier League may have something new to cheer about – according to The Guardian, the league is in talks with Sony and EA to create an “immersion technology” that will allow viewers at home the ability to get their heads in the game, virtually. While still at the earliest stages of development, this feature could allow someone to plug in from across the globe, choose viewing locations around the stadium and experience 3D representations of the in-game action, all from the comfort of one’s lounger. 

Facing criticism, Microsoft restricts its location data: On Friday, we discussed Microsoft’s open database and the concerns it poised for location privacy. Following similar public criticism (and corresponding action) of Google and Apple,  Microsoft has now restricted access to its database after CNET pointed out that one could determine location of devices on account of their ability to tether Wi-Fi.