Home > data science, modeling, news > Fight back against surveillance using TrackMeNot, TrackMeNot mobile?

Fight back against surveillance using TrackMeNot, TrackMeNot mobile?

May 23, 2013

After two days of travelling to the west coast and back, I’m glad to be back to my blog (and, of course, my coffee machine, which is the real source of my ability to blog every morning without distraction: it makes coffee at the push of a button, and that coffee has a delicious amount of caffeine).

Yesterday at the hotel I grabbed a free print edition of the Wall Street Journal to read on the plane, and I was super interested in this article called Phone Firm Sells Data on Customers. They talk about how phone companies (Verizon, specifically) are selling location data and browsing data about customers, how some people might be creeped out by this, and then they say:

The new offerings are also evidence of a shift in the relationship between carriers and their subscribers. Instead of merely offering customers a trusted conduit for communication, carriers are coming to see subscribers as sources of data that can be mined for profit, a practice more common among providers of free online services like Google Inc. and Facebook Inc.

Here’s the thing. It’s one thing to make a deal with the devil when I use Facebook: you give me something free, in return I let you glean information about me. But in terms of Verizon, I pay them like $200 per month for my family’s phone usage. That’s not free! Fuck you guys for turning around and selling my data!

And how are marketers going to use such location data? They will know how desperate you are for their goods and charge you accordingly. Like this for example, but on a much wider scale.

There are a two things I can do to object to this practice. First, I write this post and others, railing against such needless privacy invasion practices. Second, I can go to Verizon, my phone company, and get myself off the list. The instructions for doing so seem to be here, but I haven’t actually followed them yet.

Here’s what I wish a third option were: a mobile version of Trackmenot, which I learned about last week from Annelies Kamran.

Trackmenot, created by Daniel C. Howe and Helen Nissenbaum at what looks like the CS department of NYU, confuses the data gatherers by giving them an overload of bullshit information.

Specifically, it’s a Firefox add-on which sends you to all sorts of websites while you’re not actually using your browser. The data gatherers get endlessly confused about what kind of person you actually are this way, thereby fucking up the whole personal data information industry.

I have had this idea in the past, and I’m super happy it already exists. Now can someone do it for mobile please? Or even better, tell me it already exists?

Categories: data science, modeling, news
  1. SisofmySis
    May 23, 2013 at 8:54 am

    If Trackmenot is the virtual version of the Occupy the Mail campaign (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nL9hOeO_JHA) then I love it. Occupy Phone Data?


  2. badmax
    May 23, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Trackmenot is a browser extension so it should be portable.



    • josh
      May 23, 2013 at 12:33 pm

      Trackmenot may be portable but Verizon is capturing the cell-phone connection. Much more intrusive. I don’t think Trackmenot would confuse that.

      Your cell-phone carrier has to know where you are for the phone to work. I would think it would be much harder to fool.

      You can leave your phone off, use a pre-pay phone under an assumed name.

      Or, follow Thad’s suggestion. Though, I understand as a parent the fact that your kids can reach you in an emergency is comforting. But our parents lived without it.


  3. Thads
    May 23, 2013 at 11:35 am

    A better idea: just don’t have any mobile at all. Simplify.


  4. May 27, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Bruce Schneier seemed skeptical: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/08/trackmenot_1.html
    I wonder if they have adapted it to respond to his critiques in the interim.


  1. No trackbacks yet.
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: