I feel a sense of deja vu. The mainstream media today is awash with this story (cnet, guardian, FOXnews) that the NSA and their allied counterparts overseas are utilizing the data leaked from apps like Google Maps (which sends map queries in clear text, or at least used to prior to the brouhaha) or with so called “free” apps that send all kinds of information. Obviously even the least intrusive of the “free” applications with in-app advertising send uniquely identifiable device information in each ad request. Now why do I feel a sense of deja vu? Because this is old news. We heard about this NSA program months ago (hell, I even blogged on it, as did Schneier and others) but I guess the media is either slow to catch up or didn’t realize the implications of such an intelligence program when the “Five Eyes” countries pretty much own every pipe in and out of the Western world.
The solution is pretty simple. If app developers don’t want their apps to die a slow death then they should extricate themselves from these advertising networks (who themselves should be sending any requests via SSL to protect their users from government spying – ironic seeing as they themselves are spying commercially) and cull down unnecessary permissions on their apps.
Android 4.4 made a horrible backwards step when they removed AppOps – which actually gave users some (albeit limited) control over app activity. The conspiratorial of you may suggest that AppOps was slipped in as a feature but quickly nixed by the Google talking heads once they realized that their “revenue partners” could be damaged by users potentially being able to disable app functionality.
I, personally, have had enough talking about the NSA. They have taken the Constitution, ripped it into pieces and used it to wipe their ass. They have screwed not only the American people but every freedom loving person in this world that assumed that they had some kind of right to a semblance of privacy. The NSA are the shit on the heel of Washington and it is a shame that the agency should be shut down and the shameful employees who call themselves public servants – those who mindlessly followed orders to invade the privacy of those both home and abroad that represented no risk to the country – belong not in the unemployment line but in a federal prison somewhere.