Monthly Archives: January 2010

Is your iPhone being silently stalked?

A conversation turned spooky when I was asked what sort of tools could run on an iPhone to show location awareness without the person seeing a running application.  I blew this thought off as applications on the iPhone do not run in the background.

Well an invite I received today for Stalqer changed that whole theory.  The URL invite came from a Facebook friend with http://Stalq.me/useridentity and clicking it asked me immediately to launch iTunes and install the application.  So the hunt was on.  many of you know I also run the site SocialStalking, so I took particular interest in this.

The application relies on you being connected to the person via Facebook and will even attempt to gather their location without them loading the app or having an iPhone.  It pulls recent postings, notes, pictures and whatever else it can on the person to help guess or establish their location.  If they have the application on their iPhone, it runs utilizing email services.

What transpires, is that the iPhone will automatically check for email about every fifteen (15) minutes or so.  When this happens, the Stalqer application takes the email connection it makes and attempts to locate where you are when connecting based on GPS, cell tower or wifi connectivity.

From there you are able to see where others are on a map and even some augmented reality.  While they have privacy controls that allow you to protect who sees your location and to what level, the unsuspecting person would not have any idea it was there.  Quite the spy tool for someone stalking someone that had access to their iPhone/iTunes to load the application.

Compliments of TechCrunch

Compliments of TechCrunch

This is different from all other location based services and games, such as Brightkite/FourSquare/Loopt and others in that those requir you to launch into the application and check yourself in.  Stalqer is a means to have a built in task (email) show where you are every 15 minutes down to a very pinpointed level.

The social graph of your friends is the deciding factor of who sees the data itself.  If the person is not on your Facebook friend list, they cannot see the application data.

However the remainder stands true also.  If they are on your friend list, have had access to your iPhone and are now in some flux level of friendship, or a bit nuts, I would make sure you are aware what mail services are running and what applications have been installed.

While location services are fast becoming the hot topic of 2010, from a strong appearance in 2009, it can be turned quickly against someone as well in forms of advertising and real life stalkers.

Photograph technology and privacy

I ran across an amazing site that allows photographers to take 360 degree panoramic pictures.  Amazing quality, production and time invested from every one of them.  Some of the results are outstanding and give you a true sense of what an area, city or natural wonder would be like if you were standing there.  However, the world’s largest sized panoramic was released and I took great interest in how detailed it was.

As you can see in the embedded video, I was able to zoom all the way down to actually see the bag someone was carrying and then move to look into apartments.  While some say this is everyday life, no one can naturally scroll and scan across an entire city while zooming in and out of windows.  Your naked eye can only do so much, it is the enhancements in technology taking this to the next level.

What does this say about privacy? It is slowly moving towards transparency, even in a higher floor of an apartment building.   I still believe in having my window shades open almost all the time, as a home is just a shelter.  Yet, we all have reasonable expectations and morals say we would not sit and stare into others windows (some of us at least).  Does the advent of technology force us into protecting our privacy more?  Or does it question why we hold so many things so private?

Twitter is not a RSS reader no matter what @Scobleizer says

I was listening to a recent TWiT episode with the regular roundtable discussions and Robert Scoble mentioned how Twitter has become his RSS reader.  No matter how you slice it, Twitter is a news source and real-time feed, but couldn’t be considered a RSS reader.

With any current reader, you are able to control subscriptions, read and unread marks, better sharing integration across networks and exploring and finding of other feeds through services like Toluu.  Twitter is a force feed of data from anyone that passes a link along to you.

While you build your own community of people you wish to follow, actually parsing the content is another thing, mainly when you follow ~16k people like he does.  This would be incomprehensible even in a feed reader to keep up with the sheer volume.

Twitter is about getting in and out of the stream.  Taking a dip in the information flow.  You only drown if you choose.  RSS readers store the data for retrieval when you are ready and are sorted nicely into tags and groups.  Twitter is not close to this with lists yet and has quite a way to go, as I have noted.

With such add-on tools as the Feedly extenson for Firefox, your RSS feeds turn into a newspaper, list or magazine covers with incredible amounts of sharing integration.

Twitter works in the reverse since people need to be present and watching the stream to catch what you send out.  Not many are able to watch ~16k feeds and have the time to see each and every one.  Now imagine them in real-time scrolling by.  You would not be able to click to read links by the time a slew of others roled across.

I think he is right in that is is a great news source, that I use as well, and has immediate impact on trends and breaking stories.  But for real commentary, RSS is here to stay.

P.S. yes I follow Robert and I think he follows me as well (if I go use the tools on EverythingTwitter to verify).  But I still don’t expect him to see my content scroll by.  So I tossed an @ symbol in the title instead.  Get it?  My content will scroll by quick, but a conversation marker can be seen across his Twitter client.