Why Apple wants to spread lies about you and pollute the Internet

“It’s common to worry about Big Brother. But what about … Big Brother’s brothers?” Megan Garber reports for The Atlantic. “As one company put it:”

The electronic age has given rise to what is now known as thousands of ‘Little Brothers,’ who perform Internet surveillance by collecting information to form electronic profiles about a user not through human eyes or through the lens of a camera but through data collection. This form of Internet surveillance via data collection is often referred to as ‘dataveillance.’ In a sense, thousands of ‘Little Brothers’ or automated programs can monitor virtually every action of users over the Internet.

“That colorful analysis comes not from an EFF essay or a New York Times op-ed, but from a patent — one just assigned to Apple,” Garber reports. “One of the properties Apple won in a February acquisition of patents from Novell, the technology allows the company to fight would-be Little Brothers by cloning users’ digital identities.”

Garber reports, “First, it creates a fake identity (and, actually, many fake identities) for the user. Second, it takes elements of users’ real identities — interests and the like, based on browser history and cookies — and merges those with elements that don’t reflect the identity of the user, creating a close-but-not-quote shadow identity. Third, it creates actual network activity based on those false interest areas, spreading them across the network. So: digital pollution, with a purpose.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Attribution: Yahoo News via Mashable.]

22 Comments

    1. MDNs title is misleading and inappropriate.

      Apple Wants to Protect Your Identity … by Cloning You

      The company just acquired a patent aimed at fighting the Internet’s “Little Brothers.”

  1. Spy vs. Spy smoke and mirrors. I guess they haven’t thought of the little-known ‘security’ aspects of the Internet Protocol addressing scheme that was developed to track IP addresses by ‘Intelligence’ Agencies?

    Hint: http://tcpipguide.com/free/t_IPSecurityIPSecProtocols.htm

    As Paul Harvey once said, “You can run, but you can’t hide”.

    If you are connected to the Internet, you are already ‘owned”. Cloning is just a bad idea. It ranks up there with fake IDs, false registrations with bogus addresses, disconnected phone numbers, etc. “Anonymous” isn’t.

    Safety and security comes from not ever posting info you wouldn’t want your mother to know about.

    1. @cognativedisonance

      Thanks for the link. However, as I read it, those security protocols are intended to verify the identity and /or authenticity of the packets and who is sending them. Important stuff, yes. But it has nothing to do with the kind of tracking obfuscation discussed in the article. Your information is being offered for sale by the very websites you visit. IPSec won’t prevent that.

      “Safety and security comes from not ever posting info you wouldn’t want your mother to know about.”

      True, but there are things my mother knows that I would rather that commercial interests on the Internet didn’t know.

  2. My ISP offers a “catch-all” account that will deliver any message to any unknown user to the owner account’s email inbox. That lets me register as [anything]@mydomainname.com when I register at sites like this one. Thus I can register as “CBS Junk@mydomainname.com” if I register for an account at CBS.com. I then use Procmail on my ISPs remote mail server to filter mail based (among other things) on the “To:” contents in the email header. If I decide I never want to hear from CBS.com then email to “CBS Junk” gets routed to dev/null.

      1. @twilightmoon:

        This may be a bit beyond mere mortals. First, you need to have your own registered domain name. Then you needed it hosted. Usually that would be by a webhosting company (and not an ISP as mentioned by Zeke). You could host your own domain on a Mac, but that is DEFINITELY outside the scope of this post. Also, your ISP might not allow it based on their terms of service.

        My hosting company is a bit different from Zeke’s. Here is what I do:

        Say my primary e-mail address is qka@domain.qka. With my hosting service, I can set up a forwarding address so that e-mail sent to another address on my domain like xyz@domain.qka is forwarded to qka@domain.qka. Like Zeke, anytime I register with a new site, I create a new forwarding address. If the new site does’t spam me, great. I see their messages in my main mailbox. They get obnoxious, I delete the forwarding address and I never hear from them again. Also, by giving everyone their own address, I can find out who is spreading my e-mail address on to other parties. E-mail address lists, like snail mail address lists, are a big business of buying and selling your address info. I also use the filtering capability of the Mac Mail app to sort incoming mail into different folders based on the address it is sent to.

        So it all depends on having your own domain and having it hosted. Mine costs about $7/month; shop around for a deal that best suits you.

        Hope this answers your question.

          1. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
            — Benjamin Frankin, writing as Poor Richard.

            instead of a pound of cure, call it time saved cutting off spam at the knees.

        1. I use a modified (more complex setup initially, but no additional steps for each site) method: A pattern-match forwarding rule sends Anything.com (or .net or .gov or other common top-level domains) gets forwarded to my gmail account. So, when I sign up with a new company/website, I can just do ThatCompany.com@mydomain.com and it gets forwarded to me. I only need to take action for a specific site if I start get spam sent TO ThatCompany.com@mydomain.com. If that happens, I set up a forwarding rule to /dev/null (essentially, nowhere).
          I don’t know of any service that does this for you, but it isn’t too terrible to set up yourself, if you have your own domain name and a webhosting company. I use VerveHosting.com (I get no money from mentioning them, I’m just a happy customer).

        2. My ISP is a very rare situation. They offer not only domain hosting, but also Linux/Unix shell accounts, and bundled DSL. I am able to run persistent applications, like multi-player games on their Linux servers, run PHP forums, SQL DBs, etc. For the past year or so the founder was out of the picture so they had some trials and tribulations, but the founder of the company is back now and things are smoothing out. I’ve been with them for many years, so I rode out the bumps.

    1. In case this is not obvious to some readers here:

      A poor man’s ‘catch-all’ box is easily made using Apple’s Mail app. Set up a Rule via the Mail Preferences, add in your most despised senders of email via ‘To’, ‘From’, ‘Subject’, ‘Message Content’, etc., and have that mail moved or forwarded into whatever oblivion you choose. I simply have them directed into my mail’s Trash.

      1. Somewhat related:

        Kill off ‘Web Bugs’, aka surveillance images, in Apple Mail by going into the Viewing Preferences and UN-CHECKING “Display remote images in HTML messages”.

        When a disreputable sort of person wants to verify that their MASS email attack has hit a target, they include an image link, often merely a single pixel. When you open that spam or disreputable email and load the Web Bug from their site, they record to which IP address the image was sent. This verifies that you are a real human being to whom they can BOMB further SPAM.

        I never load Internet images into my email unless I trust the source. This is one reason I receive less than 1 spam message per day, on average. (I also report all my spam to SpamCop as well, making me a very UN-desirable person to spam).

  3. “First, it creates a fake identity (and, actually, many fake identities) for the user. … So: digital pollution, with a purpose.”

    Actually… it sounds more like a digital disguise for internet users.

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