Facebook Manipulates YOU! | Tech Talk Today 17

Facebook Manipulates YOU! | Tech Talk Today 17

Facebook admits to manipulating users emotions for research, the first review of the privacy protecting Blackphone hits the web and how you can create your own secure phone today.

Plus a quick review of The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz and more!

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Show Notes:

— Headlines —

Facebook Manipulated 689,003 Users’ Emotions For Science – Forbes

A recent study shows Facebook playing a whole new level of mind gamery with its guinea pigs users. As first noted by The New Scientist and Animal New York, Facebook’s data scientists manipulated the News Feeds of 689,003 users, removing either all of the positive posts or all of the negative posts to see how it affected their moods. If there was a week in January 2012 where you were only seeing photos of dead dogs or incredibly cute babies, you may have been part of the study.

The researchers, led by data scientist Adam Kramer, found that emotions were contagious. “When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred,”

“These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.”

The experiment ran for a week — January 11–18, 2012 — during which the hundreds of thousands of Facebook users unknowingly participating may have felt either happier or more depressed than usual, as they saw either more of their friends posting ’15 Photos That Restore
Our Faith In Humanity’ articles or despondent status updates about losing jobs, getting screwed over by X airline, and already failing to live up to New Year’s resolutions. “Probably nobody was driven to suicide,” tweeted one professor linking to the study, adding a “#jokingnotjoking” hashtag.

In it’s initial response to the controversy around the study — a statement sent to me late Saturday night — Facebook doesn’t seem to really get what people are upset about, focusing on privacy and data use rather than the ethics of emotional manipulation and whether Facebook’s TOS lives up to the definition of “informed consent” usually required for academic studies like this.

“This research was conducted for a single week in 2012 and none of the data used was associated with a specific person’s Facebook account,” says a Facebook spokesperson. “We do research to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible.

Serious Android crypto key theft vulnerability affects 10% of devices

The vulnerability resides in the Android KeyStore, a highly sensitive region of the Google-made operating system dedicated to storing cryptographic keys and similar credentials, according to an advisory published this week by IBM security researchers.

By exploiting the bug, attackers can execute malicious code that leaks keys used by banking and other sensitive apps, virtual private network services, and the PIN or finger patterns used to unlock handsets.

There are several technical hurdles an attacker must overcome to successfully exploit the vulnerability. Android is fortified with modern software protections, including data execution prevention and address space layout randomization, both of which are intended to make it much harder for hackers to execute code when they identify security bugs.

Exclusive: A review of the Blackphone, the Android for the paranoid

The Blackphone is the first consumer-grade smartphone to be built explicitly for privacy. It pulls together a collection of services and software that are intended to make covering your digital assets simple—or at least more straightforward. The product of SGP Technologies, a joint venture between the cryptographic service Silent Circle and the specialty mobile hardware manufacturer Geeksphone, the Blackphone starts shipping to customers who preordered it sometime this week. It will become available for immediate purchase online shortly afterward.

  • A two-year subscription to Silent Circle’s secure voice and video calling and text messaging services, plus three one-year “Friend and Family” Silent Circle subscriptions that allow others to install the service on their existing smartphones;
  • Two years of 1GB-per-month Disconnect virtual private network service, plus Disconnect’s anonymizing search as part of the phone’s web browser;
  • Two years of SpiderOak cloud file storage and sharing, with a limit of five gigabytes a month.

PrivatOS’ main innovation is its Security Center, an interface that allows the user to explicitly control just what bits of hardware functionality and data each application on the phone has access to. It even provides control over the system-level applications—you can, if you wish for some reason, turn off the Camera app’s access to the camera hardware and turn off the Browser app’s access to networks.

The good
  • Excellent Security Center feature of PrivatOS does what stock Android should do, giving you fine control over app permissions.
  • Bundled Silent Voice and Silent Text services anonymize and encrypt communications so no one can eavesdrop on voice, video, and text calls at all.
  • Bundled Kismet Smart Wi-Fi Manager keeps phone from connecting to unfriendly networks.
  • Disconnect VPN and Search keep web trackers away from your phone, anonymize your searches and Internet traffic.
The bad
  • The phone’s performance, while acceptable, is mediocre (even though it isn’t the phone’s selling point).
  • Silent Phone calling ran into trouble when network switched between calls, and the user interface may baffle some users.
The ugly
  • A custom OS means no Google Play library or any of the other benefits of the Google ecosystem, spotty support for sideloaded apps, and reliance on Amazon or other third-party app stores. Such is the price of privacy.

The first units of the $629 handset to ship are for European LTE users, and U.S. units will follow. In both cases, preorder production runs come first, then units for those who have not already ordered the device.


XPrivacy – The ultimate, yet easy to use, privacy manager


Xposed Installer | Xposed Module Repository

Xposed is a framework for modules that can change the behavior of the system and apps without touching any APKs. That’s great because it means that modules can work for different versions and even ROMs without any changes (as long as the original code was not changed too much). It’s also easy to undo. As all changes are done in the memory, you just need to deactivate the module and reboot to get your original system back. There are many other advantages, but here is just one more: Multiple modules can do changes to the same part of the system or app. With modified APKs, you to decide for one. No way to combine them, unless the author builds multiple APKs with different combinations.

Smarter Wi-Fi Manager – Android Apps on Google Play

Smarter Wi-Fi Manager improves the security and privacy of your device by only enabling Wi-Fi in locations where you actually use it. Instead of letting your device advertise the name of your home network or try to connect to anyone who has left an access point set to the default name just because you once used a friends network who didn’t configure it, Smarter Wi-Fi Manager will turn it off when you’re not near somewhere you’ve used Wi-Fi before.

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

The Internet’s Own Boy depicts the life of American computer programmer, writer, political organizer and Internet activist Aaron Swartz. It features interviews with his family and friends as well as the internet luminaries who worked with him. The film tells his story up to his eventual suicide after a legal battle, and explores the questions of access to information and civil liberties that drove his work.

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