Psychometrics, big data, data-driven approaches, microtargetting, and you

The damning evidence is mounting on CA. Today it was announced that CEO Alexander Nix has been suspended from his position given a Channel 4, UK covert sting recording.

Citation: Katina Michael with Cassie McCullagh, March 21, 2018, "Psychometrics, big data, data-driven approaches, microtargetting, and you", ABC Sydney Radio: FOCUS:

Facial recognition, law enforcement and the risks for and against

Katrina Dunn of Ideapod interviews Katina Michael of UOW.

When Google Maps Gets it Wrong

Citation: Katina Michael, Wendy Harmer, "When Google Maps Gets it Wrong", ABC Sydney Mornings, ABC Sydney 702, 9.10am -9.23am, April 21, 2017.


Teensafe spy app forces parents to choose between trust and online safety spy app forces parents to choose between trust and online safety

The internet can be a dangerous place for kids but respect and trust are vital to healthy family relationships.

To spy or not to spy on our children, that is the question posed by new monitoring app Teensafe.

The $14.95 a month snoop service, which lets a parent monitor their children's online activity, was developed in 2011 by a group of Californian parents who were concerned that the number of children using smartphones in the US had grown from 10 to 80 per cent in just five years.

"Devices are becoming more prevalent in kids' lives – often they're with them the whole time," says Teensafe chief executive Rawdon Messenger. "A 10 year old with a phone, in some ways they're not ready for it."

With more than a million signups in three years, Teensafe has doubled its number of subscribers in the past six months. "The growth is coming from parents who are saying, 'I really need to check out what's going on'," says Messenger, who has a seven year old daughter.

"Privacy and respecting boundaries is very important," he says, "but in certain cases safety and protection trumps privacy, especially when it comes to sexting, bullying and depression."

Teensafe users can log into an account and see a child's messages, including deleted texts, and view their social media feeds, but the service doesn't allow you to listen to phone conversations.

"We also won't store or download any of the child's images from the device," Messenger says.

"That's a feature that could make our service more attractive, but we don't feel that's necessary."

Not everyone agrees with the Teensafe approach. Dr Joe Tucci, head of the Australian Childhood Foundation, believes there are inherent problems with such monitoring apps.

"I think it undermines the trust that parents and kids need to have in order to have a positive relationship," Tucci says. "As kids get older, parents need to be like a lighthouse for their children. When things are going rough, parents are the people you need to be able to go to, and talk to. That trust is critical as a foundation for that open, honest communication. These sorts of apps undermine that. They basically say we can't trust our young people ... we have
to intrude into their world."

Primary school teacher Nikki Howard says she would not use Teensafe to see what her 12 year old daughter Abby was doing on Instagram. She feels their relationship is open enough, and not worth jeopardising with a spy app.

"I can see why people would use it, but it's not for us," Howard says. "You don't want to be too involved in their lives and too controlling. You wonder if people who are doing it let their kids do more because they know exactly where they are. But what would stop a child from leaving their phone somewhere and nicking off and doing something else?"

In her first year of high school, Abby says she wouldn't be happy for her parents to be able to read all of her text messages and social media posts.

"They'd be invading my privacy. I don't go reading mum's messages so why does she have to read mine? I don't think it's necessary because I tell mum everything anyway."

One Melbourne family with a techobsessed 11 year old discovered she had downloaded free messaging app Kikwithout their permission and was corresponding with a "boy from California".

Her mother worries about perverts and paedophiles using these platforms as stalking grounds.

"It would enter my mind to use [Teensafe] but I'd have to really think about it. I do think it's important to tell your child. My daughter is already hiding things from me, and sneaking into her room with the phone. If I want the open conversation, I'm going to play the honesty card first."

The 39 year old mother of two tween girls admits this is new ground for parents of digital natives and is difficult to negotiate, given the pace of emerging technologies.

"We're new to this. We weren't part of this culture when we were kids. She's connecting with somebody she doesn't know, she's using her own name and her own picture, and these are all the 'nono's that they've learnt in cyber safety at school but they're not making the connection."

Messenger says Teensafe advises its users to divulge the use of the app, rather than using it covertly, but admits in some cases going behind your child's back may be the only way to get to the truth.

"If you're concerned about your child and you have no other way of finding out what's going on, as a parent it's a no brainer. People have found out their children are dealing drugs, or are truant from school, and if that's going on what's more important to you – growing trust with your child or checking that everything is OK?"

Tucci warns getting access to a child's digital life can open up a Pandora's box of dilemmas. "It can be insidious. It's tempting for parents to use it not only for safety but potentially for other reasons, and inadvertently you get access to information about friends that you shouldn't have. And that's going to be disastrous."

The child psychologist suggests ongoing communication with a child is the best way to navigate the turbulent teenage years. "If you're worried about your child, the best thing you can do is talk to them. But that shouldn't be the only time that you're trying to talk to them. This kind of app gives the impression that you don't need to be there."

Katina Michael, associate professor of the School of Information Systems and Technology at the University of Wollongong, worries that spy apps encourage disengagement. "My fear is that technology becomes a replacement for good parenting or a replacement for a teen thinking freely about what they should or shouldn't do."

She says research suggests this type of surveillance could be dangerous in the wrong hands. "Police have already cautioned against the use of spy apps because they are well aware of how more covert software is being used to track someone's whereabouts. In the most heinous crimes, third parties have gained access to handsets, downloaded spy apps, and then recovered coordinates and location information and committed terrible things," she says.

Messenger acknowledges the safety debate is heated, but that all Teensafe does is allow parents to do what they're already doing in a more comprehensive way.

"You can spy on your child's email, have the passwords to their social media, grab their phone and go through it – there are lots of different ways of doing this, we just facilitate it and make it easier to do remotely."

The Australian Federal Police offers online cyber safety advice.

Citation: Katie Cincotta, May 6, 2015, "Teensafe spy app forces parents to choose between trust and online safety" The Age

Tracking apps could 'undermine trust'

Friday, 11 June 2010 Anna Salleh ABC

Technology like Google Latitude enables people to track their friends, relatives and even partners in real time (Source: ABC News)

New social networking technologies that enable people to track each other's location are challenging everyday notions of trust, says one information technology researcher.

PhD researcher Roba Abbas from the University of Wollongong is presenting her research on "location based social networking" at two conferences this week.

"There are fundamental trust issues where this technology is concerned," says Abbas.

Applications such as Google Latitude and Foursquare are examples of such tracking technology, which can be used on a mobile phone.

It allows people to monitor the location of their partners, friends, relatives and others in real time on an interactive map.

In a focus group study, to be presented to the 9th International Conference on Mobile Business in Greece this week, Abbas found the majority of participants would not adopt the tracking technology.

Participants were concerned about such things as the potential for unwanted surveillance, invasion of privacy, and the ability of the technology to undermine trust in relationships.

A separate pilot study, involving 20 to 25-year-olds asked to carry commercially-available GPS data loggers, revealed some of the scenarios that might arise.

"While the data logging devices were initially perceived as a novelty by participants, significant concerns emerged after further consideration and extensive utilisation of the devices," says Abbas.

Keeping track of loved ones

In the pilot study, participants were interviewed after a period of carrying the GPS devices with them wherever they went, keeping a manual diary of their location and observing the difference.

In some cases, people thought tracking technology could be useful for providing evidence to a partner on their whereabouts.

"Today I was supposed to finish work at 9, but being Easter I didn't get out until 10. When I got to my boyfriend's house he questioned me about where I'd been," said one participant.

"I was able to say 'check the [device] if you don't believe me'. I then realised that in a situation where you had to prove you had been somewhere, the [device] could be used as evidence."

One participant also thought a small version of the device could be used to covertly collect evidence against a potentially guilty partner.

But participants became worried when they discovered the loggers were not always accurate, sometimes recording their location a street away from where they actually were.

Abbas says they were uneasy about the possibility of inaccurate location information being used against someone.

Another participant said, "The [device] has the potential to ruin people's lives because it has the potential to give an incorrect location. For example, if a husband were to track his wife's car, she may have gone shopping, but it's showing the location of the car in the street next to the shopping centre, this could cause many trust issues to arise unnecessarily."

Abbas' research has also found concerns about the ability of people to tamper with the tracking technology and "lie" about where they are.

Human trust

Accuracy aside, people were concerned about the potential for the technology to erode trust among friends and family, says Abbas, who presented the pilot study results at this week's IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society conference in Wollongong.

"You're working towards trusting a technology rather than trusting someone you're in a relationship with," she says.

Abbas says while technological solutions such as privacy settings that allow one to hide locations would go some way to alleviating some concerns, human trust issues are difficult to account for.

"These devices provide you with information on where someone is but it doesn't provide you with information on why they're there and what they're doing," she says.

"It doesn't actually tell you what a person's motives are."

She says this means "inferences and misrepresentations" can be easily made by users.

Abbas PhD research is being supervised by Dr Katina Michael and funded by the UOW and the Australian Research Council.

She says information from her research will be provided to industry to help in the development of "ethically sound location based services".

Tags: information-and-communication, computers-and-technology, social-sciences, relationships

Citation: Anna Salleh, June 11, 2010, "Tracking apps could 'undermine trust'", ABC Science Online

Review: “Control, Trust, Privacy, and Security: Evaluating Location-Based Services”

Source: Trimble.

The Navtrak Website proudly tells businesses that “with the Navtrak GPS vehicle tracker, your [fleet] insurance risks decrease dramatically... .”In October 2003, Wired reported that “The Georgia Institute of Technology is sponsoring a study using global positioning systems to track the movements of cars and monitor the motoring habits of their drivers.”

A common complaint among those who like to imagine vast government conspiracies and alien abductions is that of the feared “implant,” essentially a radio frequency ID (RFID) chip, used to track the recipient’s movements.

The following is the fourth and last review of articles about ethical and philosophical considerations for security and privacy in technology from the Spring 2007 (vol. 26, #1) issue of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine.

Control, Trust, Privacy, and Security: Evaluating Location-Based Services” by Laura Perusco and Katina Michael

The use of location based services (LBS) has long been a figure in popular science fiction. Practical tracking of individuals for the benefit of society is not a new possibility, as the Wired quote indicates. Only recently has technology, cost, and desire merged to create the necessary atmosphere. Today, such an ability is even bragged about as a way for a business to save money.

Ms. Perusco and Ms. Michael use LBS in their article as a concrete example of technology’s ethical ambiguity. Generally, an LBS is any service that uses the position of something for a specific purpose. GPS and RFID are examples of LBS.

The use of LBS creates special ethical and legal questions. Who has accountability for the accuracy and availability of location information? Under what circumstances can a user opt-in or -out of LBS? What are the rights of caregivers and guardians to the location information of their charges? How long is location information stored?

The authors use five short stories, which they call scenarios, to set up the discussion of these issues. Because the authors are from the University of Wollongong in Australia, they conduct their analyses from an Australian social and legal perspective.

There exists a serious disparity between technological progress and its implications for the future, especially in terms of security and privacy. This, the authors argue, requires increased scrutiny. Their article is one attempt.

The first scenario, “Control Unwired,” explores vulnerability. Kate, working late in the big city, comes close to mortal peril as she struggles to use her PDA to locate and call a cab.

The second scenario, “The Husband and His Wife,” highlights the threat to personal autonomy. Unhappy Colin wears an RFID chip in his shirts so his wife Helen can keep track of his movements. She worries about his health after a scare with angina.

Next, “The Friends and Colleagues” examines group control. Scott and his girlfriend Janet debate the government’s increased use of RFID chips implanted into parolees. As a parole officer, Scott argues the benefits to society. Janet, though, worries that the government could expand tracking further into the general population.

The fourth and fifth scenarios combine to show the dangers of misplaced trust in technology. At a routine visit to a parolee, Scott checks that Doug’s RFID is functioning properly. After Scott leaves, we see that Doug has spoofed the system. He can leave the chip at home while he goes out for his own particular kind of fun.

Together, these scenarios present a bleak picture of people who have lost control over their autonomy. For example, we see Kate who cannot get a cab without the aid of her PDA, putting her safety in jeopardy. Then there’s poor Colin, whose movements are monitored and restricted by his well-meaning wife.

Additionally, we have examples of false security from LBS. Colin gets the better of his wife when the battery dies while she’s on a plane. Doug can go on the prowl after he cuts out his RFID.

In the real world, the situation is no better. The authors report that following the July 2005 London subway bombings, the Australian government passed laws allowing people merely suspected of terrorist activities to be tracked with wearable devices.

The scenarios prompt many questions, none of which have obvious answers. When can mere suspicion justify the ultimate invasion of privacy–our bodies? Who decides when intensive monitoring is for “our own good?”

A long running debate centers on whether technology is neutral or has an inherent social impact. “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”

Ms. Perusco and Ms. Michael state that “[t]hese situations [the stories] imply that LBS is not neutral, and that the technology is designed to enhance control in various forms.” (p. 11) In this case, though, they fail to mention that LBS are primarily used to monitor and control inventory, which most would consider neutral.

Technological determinism is the theory that technical developments drive the way we live. The authors counter that technologies which cannot find a market never develop enough to change society. For example, electronic tracking requires LBS. The use of LBS on people requires a society strongly concerned with security. Social needs and technology mesh.

Society must also be wary of the consequences of relying heavily on any technology. “If we become as reliant on LBS as we have become on other technologies like electricity, motor vehicles, and computers, we must be prepared for the consequences when (not if) the technology fails” (p. 12), write the authors.

As in the previous three articles from IEEE Technology and Society Magazine summarized here, “[t]he principal question is: how much privacy are we willing to trade in order to increase security?” (p. 13)

The authors ask whether the widespread use of LBS will have a long-term positive or negative on society and individuals? “[N]ot all secondary effects can be foreseen. However, this does not mean that deliberating on the possible consequences is without some genuine worth.”

Read all the articles in this series:

·      “Review: Privacy and Security as Ideology“

·      “Review: Designing Ethical Phishing Experiments“

·      “Review: Good Neighbors Can Make Good Fences“

·      “Review: Privacy and Security a Synthesis“

06.18.2007. | Categories: Literature Review

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Citation: JML Research, Review: "Control, Trust, Privacy, and Security: Evaluating Location-Based Services" by Perusco & Michael (2007), November 23, 2008.