Issue 34: Data-sucking apps prey on uninformed consumers

01 Feb 2019

We cherish the reminder this week’s App Store drama affords us: the tech bosses will go to any lengths necessary to exploit all humans’ data and advance their domination; and there’s little holding them accountable other than violating the terms of service of likewise domination-minded platforms.

Here’s the high level of what happened: Apple offers “Enterprise Certificates” to employers to distribute apps without undergoing any review process. When news broke this week that Facebook and Google were using the enterprise certificate work-around to get apps on consumer phones that would grant limitless access to all the data on a phone, Apple hastened to take the apps offline.

Devices with the “research apps” gave Facebook and Google the “ability to continuously collect the following types of data: private messages in social media apps, chats from in instant messaging apps – including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and even ongoing location information by tapping into the feeds of any location tracking apps you may have installed.” 

Facebook has shut down the “research app”as has Google and Apple has since restored their certificates. Developers in the community have pointed out that smaller businesses or independent developers would’ve likely lost their developer account and banned from the app store, while Google and Facebook resumed business as usual within hours thanks to back room executive bargains and special treatment.

While this latest example of tech giants’ unchecked aggregation of all the world’s data is of no surprise to anybody, the ensuing havoc and the interconnectedness of app distribution that resulted a kind of single point of failure has been both entertaining and enlightening.

When Apple revoked Facebook’s developer certificates, it took all of their internal apps offline along with the research app — disrupting any work happening those days on in development or beta versions of apps (i.e. most software work at Facebook as well as logistics apps that disrupted shuttle bus schedules).

The entire tech industry is based on nefarious data extraction, but we only see consequences for companies when they offend the TOS of another company. When we organize, we take matters into our own hands; we can make a world we want to live in.

Upcoming Events

Learning Club: Temps Vendors Contractors - Tech’s Contingent Workforce
Saturday, 2/9 2PM at Omni Commons in Oakland
Meetup  •  Facebook

Workshop on Public Records Requests (FOIA, CPRA)
Wednesday, 2/13 6:30PM at CIIS in San Francisco
Meetup  •  Facebook

TWC Monthly General Meeting
Thursday, 2/14 6:30PM at Seattle Labor Temple Association in Seattle

The Code of Conduct is in effect at all TWC events.

In The News

Hundreds of drivers who are organizing in Los Angeles delivered a “drivers bill of rights” to the governor’s office. Meanwhile in New York, Lyft and Juno are working to block the $17.22 minimum wage the city set for drivers.

Munchery closed its doors last week without any warning for most of its 250 laid off employees, and with outstanding payments owed to workers, vendors, as well as unpaid taxes.

Teamsters join the flank of New Yorkers fighting a New York Amazon HQ2.

Prisons are employing mass biometric surveillance in the form of voice recognition that could be used to crackdown on organizing campaigns.

A San Francisco lawmaker has introduced a proposal, Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance, that would ban use of facial recognition technology by the city.

MIT Media Lab studies published last week confirm that Amazon’s facial recognition technology, Rekognition, will further evolve our society as a habitat hospitable for white men and less survivable for women and people of color. Rekognition “made no errors in recognizing the gender of lighter-skinned men. But it misclassified women as men 19 percent of the time, the researchers said, and mistook darker-skinned women for men 31 percent of the time.”

The morale of pre-IPO Palantir workers has plummeted; management slashed stock prices to see if that would help pick it back up.

50 middle schoolers at McPherson Middle School in Kansas walked out in protest of their e-curriculum platform, Summit Learning; the platform was created in part with funding from Chan Zuckerberg Foundation.

Song Of The Week

Alameda County EMS Lip Sync Challenge 2019