A member of my family had a minor freakout when their iPhone casually popped a notification about how long it'll take them to get to a restaurant.

They were spooked because the iPhone knew that they've left their home and their exact destination without being prompted for that information.

It turns out it's because the restaurant has been a weekly destination for awhile now and iOS has that tracking function.

I turned it off for them, but it shows: people only care about when it's visible.

@polychrome I've never understood why big surveillance capitalism companies do that

why do they do creepy stuff when they could just do nothing and keep collecting data and profits without anyone noticing

@ben because a galaxy brain UX designer thought that what everyone wants is a personal Star Trek computer that knows everything about you and does these life enhancing things without asking you.

Which could actually be neat (a personal digital assistant that has your back!), except we were conditioned to think about these things as remote corporate services rather than local applications.

And even people who don't care get creeped out when those remote services make themselves too visible.

@ben I should note that this isn't true for everyone - I know one guy IRL who was *elated* when this popup happened to him and kept talking excitedly about it.

I should also be fair and state that Apple is a bit of an exception because this function happens exclusively on your iPhone and not on a remote server, and they claim that the data is encrypted when uploaded so they can't read it - or at least, choose not to.

@polychrome If the data is encrypted when uploaded, that raises a question: if you lose your iPhone, can you access that data with a new one?

Because if you can, that means Apple always has access to that data and the encryption is just security theater.

@ben it's encrypted with your iCloud password so if you have the password, you can decrypt it.

Apple theoretically doesn't have your iCloud password (assuming its only kept as a hash). But even if they have access, their claims that they don't read your data is in the EULA which means its technically legally binding.

Just how much trouble can the richest corporation on Earth get into for violating their own EULA is an open question, of course. :blobcheeky:

@cuniculus @ben no idea, I don't have an iPhone :blobowo:

Either it's lost forever or they change the password using the keys they promised they won't use for evil.

@cuniculus @polychrome @ben
Forget your password and don't set up any recovery methods before hand then your data is gone forever.
The sad part is for every 1 person who is freaked out about that pop-up there are probably 10,000 who think its great.
I am not an apple fanboy but at least apple gives you the option to turn off location services and seems to enforce it.
It is just too bad they are the way they are with the hardware. I will probably never get rid of my 5S. I need my 3.5mm jack.

@polychrome the problem is when it's sudden and unprompted

I feel like it'd be a lot less creepy if it actually told you why it's telling you something or said something like "you've been going to the same place every week. do you want me to look up traffic for you when you go?"

@ben that might soften the blow, yeah. :blobthinking:

But still, Silicon Valley culture assumes that you *want* this and will embrace this the moment it's offered. They "know what's best", and will aggressively push it.

I can't wait for this industry to implode.

@polychrome the difference between the current imploding industry and a successful but no less evil industry is asking for permission

that's all they need to do

@polychrome if people hate the UX changes you're making but you want to push new spyware onto their computer, why don't you just split those?

@ben current models are:
"move fast and break things" (Facebook)

"it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission" (Uber)

and a general sense of being the bestest, smartest people who know what's best so why even ask (Google).

What I'm saying is that the industry is has a toxic culture now days and that's what's driving its decision making across nearly all levels.

And as a person who hates the word "toxic", I don't use it lightly.

@polychrome [looks at living world season 1 antagonist faction names]

@ben They genuinely think they're providing a service.

@polychrome You didn't turn the iPhone permanently tho.

That's the only way to be sure.

Hey I just read a short story by Ken Liu that was exactly about that. I don't know the original English title, the French is "Faits pour être ensemble" ("meant to be together" or something like that)

@polychrome Seems like a reason to start using the datasets from all these compromises for creepy but otherwise harmless stuff.

@polychrome I don't think it was right to turn that off.

Apple cares a lot about privacy, and their methods are very different to competing Amazong and Boorgle products.

These kinds of features are processed in the iPhone, LOCALLY, and not only are they encrypted inside the device itself, but they are also never transmitted to Apple. The only information that's transmitted to Apple is stuff like traffic congestion when driving (by taking samples of your iPhone location when on the road) or perhaps your favourite places on your iCloud account (which is also encrypted on the cloud).

As for Android however, as long as you have Google Maps and Google Play Services installed, you cannot turn off traffic congestion sampling.

iOS does a lot of stuff on-device, like this, as well as face recognition. It is unfair to treat this as a corporate surveillance issue when the data is not uploaded anywhere.

You should know better than this.

@0x00 indeed, I know better than this - I mentioned these exact facts down the thread while discussing this with another person.

Turning these features off were still a good idea - they were deeply disturbed by their phone knowing this information and "following them around" and they did not want this to be part of the service, local or not.

So turning it off was the right thing to do - and asking the user if they are interested in being followed, even only locally, would have been the better approach.

@polychrome I am pretty sure iOS asks you if you want to turn on location suggestions and so on, the first time you set up your iPhone.

Now if people just merely tap "next step" as fast as possible, they could have skipped these checkboxes.

Regardless, I'm not entirely sure the people you talk about are technical enough to understand when their private data is in danger, and when it's not. For example, this, being on device, poses literally no privacy compromise, and actually becomes very useful when following a routine. However, maybe they upload their vacation pictures onto an unencrypted Google Drive folder, but they might think they're safe because Google wasn't with them physically, or because Google Photos won't remind them of these pictures a year down the line.

@0x00 the person in question does not know what Google Drive is, gets confused whenever anything related to iCloud pops on the phone, and gets frustrated and confused when presented with most system messages.

@polychrome Personal privacy threat modelling should be an elementary school subject. I find it unacceptable that people most of the time are unaware of their own privacy rights, or how to express their discomfort, and/or turn potentially privacy-invasive features.

We live in the information age yet schools and universities don't teach students good PII management practices.


@0x00 I strongly disagree. The online world is alien to people who did not grow up with it. You and I are digital natives - people who live and breath the concept. We cannot assume that everyone must be like us, especially if they are older than both of us or live in a different world / culture than we do.

@polychrome That's not what I mean. Of course older generation people are going to be much less tech-savy, now I don't know about you, but most of my classmates are completely clueless in regards to personal privacy online as well. And I'm talking about 21 year olds, not 60. I don't feel this is right.

@0x00 if you're talking about the younger generation being clueless about the technology, that's because they didn't grow up with it. They grew up with devices pretending to be something other than computers, surrounded by applications and services that do their best to pretend they're a lot simpler than they actually are. With privacy features tucked away behind obtuse settings and EULAs.

The results you're seeing among the non-nerd population is designed, not incidental.

@polychrome Ah yes, when "programs" turned into "applications", when web browsers and hyperlinks turned into "webapps". Of course it has been designed.

That's why I think the only plan of action now is to implement mandatory privacy education in schools. Well, among other things like critical thinking, a bit of mathematical concepts such as sets and stuff, but that can all be covered especially in countries like mine if we completely remove religion from school curriculum. But ... I digress.

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