Tuesday, March 20, 2007

No, you are NOT paranoid enough.

My last two missives relate to sneaky things you can do with computers that amount to tech toys for boys.  Here's what the Big Kids have been doing.

Quite a few people have by now read about AOL’s new Skyhook “Near Me” buddy plugin. That’s the plug-in for the service which lets you know if any of your buddies are geographically near to you, and puts them in a “Near Me” buddies group.

But what far fewer people realize is exactly how it works. How does it know when you are geographically near one of your buddies?

The answer may surprise - and concern - you.

The underlying technology is provided by Skyhook Wireless. According to news sources, Skyhook has spent the past several years “driving a fleet of 200 trucks up and down the streets of 2,500 cities and towns across the United States and Canada,” mapping every single wireless router. Not just commercial hotspot routers. They openly admit that their trucks “scan for the pulse given off at least once a second by every home wireless router or commercial hotspot, recording the unique identifying code for that piece of Wi-Fi equipment.”

Then, that code - of your home wireless router “is correlated with the exact physical location where it was captured using GPS in the trucks, which cruise the streets at 15 to 50 miles (24 to 80 kilometers) per hour as they collect this information.”

Yes my friends, these guys have done something that even the East German Stazi couldn't dream up.  They made a map of every wi-fi router in North America.  Yes, including yours.  But not including mine.  Being the nasty suspicious type that I am, I don't use one.  I don't like the idea of a router that broadcasts to the great outdoors.  Looks like I was right to be a little concerned.

This isn't even the government, its just a small private company.  I can't imagine what the real Big Brother guys are doing.

The Phantom

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