Google Street View for building energy efficiency

Essess is doing drive-by thermal imaging in high density urban areas across the US, hoping to target possible building energy efficiency opportunities.  Another company is using urban satellite imagery to choose the best rooftops for solar energy siting.  Big Brother may be watching you… but at least occasionally he’s got the right idea.

Collusion tracks the trackers

There’s a cool experimental Mozilla plugin called Collusion which lets you see what other sites are being told about your web browsing habits as you surf around.  Even with ad-blocking and do-not-track and a host of other privacy enhancing features turned on, the list of notified trackers grows pretty darned quickly!

The Corporate Surveillance State

A completely creeptastic article from the NY Times on how Target can figure out that your 16 year old daughter is pregnant before she’s willing to talk to you about it, based on what she’s buying and when.  Big Brother isn’t a mustachioed Stalinist, he’s a mild-mannered statistician attending corporate board meetings and sending out personalized coupon books that purposefully camouflage just how much his computers know about you and your so-called “private life”.

Corporate Spy Agencies and NGO Spies

A vast signals intelligence industry exists, and will sell its wares (including satellite data interception and undersea fiber-optic cable tapping) to any and all comers.  Ironically, they were infiltrated by agents from Privacy International, a London-based NGO.  Apparently the industry isn’t yet using its own technology to defend against critics.  One has to wonder how long that situation will last.

Open source phone/laptop anti-theft software

The Prey Project is an open source package that lets you turn your laptop or phone into a location aware spying machine, tracking its own motions, and reporting on the usage of the person in possession — screenshots, webcam photos, network captures, etc. — in the event that it is stolen or lost.  Sounds great!  Of course, it also lets you turn somebody else’s computer into a spying machine, so you can watch them, if you can manage to get it installed without their knowing.  Kind of creepy… given that they’ve got a “pro” version that lets you track hundreds of machines simultaneously.

Big Brother Loves Your Phone

A great visualization of one person’s location, as tracked for 6 months by their cell phone carrier.  The person is Malte Spitz, a Green Party politician in Germany.  He fought a legal battle with Deutsche Telekom to obtain their records of his movements.  This kind of data is collected on essentially everyone with a cell phone, and last year in the US carrier Sprint provided it more than 8,000,000 times to US law enforcement via a convenient online API.  Many of them also sell the data in aggregate for marketing purposes.

Links for the week of December 3rd, 2010

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