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Crossing the Creepy Line

By April 21, 2011

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Google CEO Eric Schmidt once famously remarked that his company's goal was to get as close to the creepy line as possible without actually crossing it.

Well, here are two indications that not everyone is staying behind the creepy line:

First up is the aptly named, Creepy. Creepy is a "geolocation aggregator," which is to say that it gathers location data from social networking sites and image hosting services.

Digital image files contain EXIF tags which record the image's date and time stamp information. Some cameras and smart phones can also provide GPS data along with the time stamp. So ... by using Creepy to collect information from Twitter, Flickr and other apps, you can track a subject's movements and create a composite map.

According the Creepy website, "Using Creepy for any illegal or unethical purposes is strictly forbidden and the developer assumes no liability." Even so, this application is a stalker's dream.

This week, we also found out that Apple has been stealthily raising the creepy bar for about a year now. It turns out that their wildly popular iPad has been recording detailed location data as well. To be fair, there is no evidence yet that this information has been transmitted across Apple's networks, but many users found the discovery unnerving at best. In the words of researcher Tim O'Reilly:

It is more symbolic than anything else. It is one more sign of how devices are collecting data about us and potentially sharing it with others. This is the future. We have to figure out how to deal with it.

Good luck with that.

Comments

April 22, 2011 at 1:01 pm
(1) Joshua Stewarts says:

I am not a journalist, but here is what I could gather after 3 minutes of research :

1) Creepy is not a company.
2) creepy is not a site, it is a desktop application.
3) Android phones send geolocation information back to google several times a day.
4) Maybe you want to look more into things before writing an article ?

kthankxbye

April 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm
(2) bizsecurity says:

Joshua,

You are right that Creepy is an application, which can be downloaded via the web. As you’ll notice, I’ve cleaned up the post to correct that ambiguity. Blame it on late night blogging. The point remains – this is a creepy tool.

As far as the Apple situation is concerned: all Smartphones that I am aware of transmit geolocation data. This includes the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android phones. No surprise here. I think most savvy Smartphone users are aware of this feature, and it can be very useful.

But, Smartphone geolocation can easily be turned off. I can do this on my BlackBerry in 5 clicks. What set folks off on the iPad situation is that a.) apparently, few people knew this was happening; b.) the information was being stored in an unencrypted file on the device. When discovered, this looked a lot like surreptitious tracking.

Thanks for your research.

April 14, 2012 at 10:34 pm
(3) crenegrendiva says:

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