How iPhone Apps Steal Your Contact Data and Why You Can't Stop ItThe internet is starting to realize something unsettling: our iPhones send information about the people we know to private servers, often without our permission. Some offending apps are fixing themselves. Some aren’t. But the underlying problem is much bigger.

Apple allows any app to access your address book at any time—it’s built into the iPhone’s core software. The idea is to make using these apps more seamless and magical, in that you won’t have dialog boxes popping up in your face all the time, the way Apple zealously guards your location permissions at an OS level—because fewer clicks mean a more graceful experience, right? Maybe, but the consequence is privacy shivved and consent nullified. Your phone makes decisions about what’s okay to share with a company, whose motivation is, ultimately, making money, without consulting you first.

Once you peel back that pretty skin of your phone and observe the software at work—we used a proxy application called Charles—watching the data that jumps between your phone and a remote server is plain. A little too plain. What can we see?

As Paul Haddad, the developer behind the popular Twitter client TapBot pointed out to me, some of App Store’s shiniest celebrities are among those that beam away your contact list in order to make hooking up with other friends who use the app smoother. From Haddad’s own findings:

Foursquare (Email, Phone Numbers no warning)
Path (Pretty much everything after warning)
Instagram (Email, Phone Numbers, First, Last warning)
Facebook (Email, Phone Numbers, First, Last warning)
Twitter for iOS (Email, Phone Numbers, warning)
Voxer (Email, First, Last, Phone numbers, warning)

Foursquare and Instagram have both recently updated to provide a much clearer warning of what you’re about to share. Which every single app should follow, providing clear warnings before they touch your contacts. But plenty of apps aren’t so generous. “A lot of other popular social networking apps send some data,” says Haddad, “mostly names, emails, phone numbers.” Instapaper, for example, transmits your address book’s email listings when you ask it to “search contacts” to connect with other friends using the app. The app never makes it clear that my data (shown up top) is leaving the phone—and once it’s out of your hands and in Instagram’s, all you can do is trust that it’ll be handled responsibly. You know, like not be stored permanently without your knowledge.

Trust is all we’ve got, and that’s not good. “Once the data is out of your device there’s no way to tell what happens to it,” explains Haddad. Companies might do the decent thing and delete your data immediately. Like Foursquare, which says it doesn’t store your data at all after matching your friends, and never has. Twitter keeps your address book data for 18 months “to make it easy for you and your contacts to discover each other on Twitter after you’ve signed up,” but can delete the data at any time with a link at the bottom of this page. Or a company might do the Path thing, storing that information indefinitely until they’re publicly shamed into doing otherwise. Or worse.

We need a solution, and goodwill on the part of app devs is going to cut it. All the ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DO THIS? dialog boxes in the world won’t absolve Apple’s decision to hand out our address books on a pearly platter. iOS is the biggest threat to iOS—and nothing short of a major revision to the way Apple allows apps to run through your contacts should be acceptable. But is that even enough? Maybe not.

Jay Freeman, developer behind the massively popular jailbroken-iPhone program Cydia, doesn’t think Apple’s hand is enough to definitively state who gets your address book, and when:

“Neither Apple nor the application developer is in a good position to decide that ahead of time, and due to this neither Apple’s model of ‘any app can access the address book, no app can access your recent calls’, nor Google’s method of ‘developer claims they need X, take it or leave it’ is sufficient.”

Freeman’s solution? Cydia’s “one-off modifications to the underlying operating system” that we deal in, nicely transfers this control back to the user.” In other words, we can’t trust Apple or the people that make apps—so let’s just trust ourselves to control how iOS works.

Freeman left us with one, final, disquieting note. Shrewd devs and others with the knowhow have been able to dig through app traffic to find out of they’re shoveling around your address book. But there’s no easy way to do this—and if a dev really wants to sneak your data through the door, there’s technically nothing we can do to stop him: “There are tons of complex tricks that can be used to smuggle both information in network traffic and computation itself.” It’s a problem fundamental to computer science—once the data’s in a dev’s hands, he can conjure it away, too small to be noticed by App Store oversight in churning sea of other apps.

Unless Apple keeps him from getting that information in the first place by letting us all make informed decisions with our phone and the private life poured into it. Your move, iOS.

Photo: Motorolka/Shutterstock

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Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 Uncategorized No Comments

Americans Haven’t Been This Angry About The Economy Since March 2009


According to the Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index (h/t WSJ’s Sudeep Reddy), only 23% of Americans trust the financial system.  And 62% are either “angry” or very “angry” about the state of the economy.

Trust in the financial system hasn’t been this low and anger in the economic situation hasn’t been this high since March 2009.  And March 2009 was when the S&P 500 hit that horrific low of 666.

“In an election year, this certainly indicates the importance of the economy to the political agenda,” wrote Paolo Sapienza.  Sapienza co-authored the index with Professor Luigi Zingales.



Then again, March 2009 turned out to be an amazing time to buy stocks.

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Friday, January 27th, 2012 news No Comments

The Capital Network That Runs The World


There really is a secret capital network that runs the world, according to an analysis published in the esteemed New Scientist (via

The work revealed a core of 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships. Each of the 1318 had ties to two or more other companies, and on average they were connected to 20. What’s more, although they represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, the 1318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world’s large blue chip and manufacturing firms – the “real” economy – representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues.

When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a “super-entity” of 147 even more tightly knit companies – all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity – that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. “In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network,” says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.

While the existence of a core capitalist network isn’t surprising, this is the first time it has been mapped and quantified.

Here are the 1318 companies that control (60 percent of) world assets, with the really powerful companies in red.


And here’s the top fifty:

1. Barclays plc
2. Capital Group Companies Inc
3. FMR Corporation
4. AXA
5. State Street Corporation
6. JP Morgan Chase & Co
7. Legal & General Group plc
8. Vanguard Group Inc
10. Merrill Lynch & Co Inc
11. Wellington Management Co LLP
12. Deutsche Bank AG
13. Franklin Resources Inc
14. Credit Suisse Group
15. Walton Enterprises LLC
16. Bank of New York Mellon Corp
17. Natixis
18. Goldman Sachs Group Inc
19. T Rowe Price Group Inc
20. Legg Mason Inc
21. Morgan Stanley
22. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc
23. Northern Trust Corporation
24. Société Générale
25. Bank of America Corporation
26. Lloyds TSB Group plc
27. Invesco plc
28. Allianz SE 29. TIAA
30. Old Mutual Public Limited Company
31. Aviva plc
32. Schroders plc
33. Dodge & Cox
34. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc*
35. Sun Life Financial Inc
36. Standard Life plc
37. CNCE
38. Nomura Holdings Inc
39. The Depository Trust Company
40. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance
41. ING Groep NV
42. Brandes Investment Partners LP
43. Unicredito Italiano SPA
44. Deposit Insurance Corporation of Japan
45. Vereniging Aegon
46. BNP Paribas
47. Affiliated Managers Group Inc
48. Resona Holdings Inc
49. Capital Group International Inc
50. China Petrochemical Group Company

* Lehman still existed in the 2007 dataset used

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Friday, October 21st, 2011 news No Comments

A sure sign Facebook’s already in trouble – meteoric rise and meteoric fall coming

Facebook Suicide is on the rise (people leaving Facebook and not coming back)


According to SAI sources, the following exchange is between a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg and a friend shortly after Mark launched The Facebook in his dorm room:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don’t know why.

Zuck: They “trust me”

Zuck: Dumb fucks.


Google Suggest — top searches starting with “how do i… “

Ecosystem of Apps for Facebook is already overtaken by iPad Apps as evidenced by search volume around the 3 terms.

NYTimes: chart of Facebook Privacy Options – too complex for most people to figure out and use appropriately.


Charlie O’Donnell: “By the time of this post is done, Diaspora, the web decentralization play from four NYU/Courant students in New York, will undoubtedly have $100,000 raised on Kickstarter.  Over and above that, it seems like they’re on a clear path towards a million dollars.  Think I’m poking the bear?  I’m dead serious.  You watch.  A week from now, they get to seven digits.  Why?  Because the ire over Facebook’s privacy issues, platform aggression, etc. is real.  If you’re concerned about Facebook, these guys are your heroes.”

AdAge Poll from May 19, 2010.

My Previous article:  Facebook is going down in unique users, visits, and time spent

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Monday, May 17th, 2010 digital 1 Comment

How low can you go? Poll of what percentage of people trust advertising


34%  of respondents 18 and up said soft drink advertising was the most trustworthy,

22%  said fast food advertisements rated most trustworthy

18% pharmaceutical companies

14% auto companies

13% financial services companies

If 1 in 3 or as low as 1 in 10 trust ads, even if they saw the ads, they are likely to ignore them or NOT base their purchase decisions on them. Imagine if you had spent a ton of money making the ad, and another ton of money to air or place the ad, how low the ROI would be, if any.

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Monday, March 29th, 2010 digital 1 Comment

Advertising Can Prevent Purchases


More than one-third of Americans will not purchase a brand because of distasteful advertising,according to a new Adweek Media/Harris Poll.

Advertising Can Prevent Purchases

Thirty-five percent of respondents said they have chosen not to purchase a certain brand because they found the advertisements distasteful. Another 22% said they have not done so but have thought about doing it, and 43% said they have never done so.

Gender, Age Make Varying Differences

The gender and age of a consumer can have a varying impact on whether they will choose not to buy a brand due to distaste for some part of its promotional strategy. Slightly more women (36%) have chosen not to purchase a brand due to its advertising than men (35%). However, more men have chosen not to purchase due to its spokesperson (32%) than women (25%). More men have also chosen not to purchase a product due to a program or event sponsored by it (29%) than women (22%).

College Grads, Wealthy More Easily Offended

College graduates and respondents earning more than $75,000 a year had the highest levels of choosing not to purchase a brand due to some part of its promotional strategy. Forty-three percent of college graduates have chosen not to purchase a brand due to distasteful advertising, compared to 37% of respondents with some college and 29% with a high school degree or less.

In addition, 33% of college graduates have chosen not to purchase a brand because of the spokesperson, compared to 31% of respondents with some college and 23% of respondents with a high school degree or less. And 33% of college graduates have chosen not to purchase a brand because of a sponsorship issue, compared to 27% of respondents with some college and 24% of respondents with a high school degree or less.

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Sunday, March 28th, 2010 digital 1 Comment

Facebook is going down – pageviews, average stay, pages per visit – why?

From the Compete charts below, it is clear that Facebook is seeing a decline in pageviews, average stay, and pages per visit.  But why?

I know that I have reduced the time I spend on Facebook and I have also reduced the number of messages and other social actions as well.  And I have deleted virtually all of my personal and family photos and will not upload any more. These may be the first signs of a waning of Facebook due to a number of factors.

I can’t get my stuff back out

For example, Facebook has stated that it will not participate in OpenSocial because they do not want people to be able to export their content, conversations, photos, etc, out of Facebook and use on another social network. I am concerned that I will not be able to retrieve or back up content which I believe is mine. I like to have control over my family photos, conversations with friends, etc. I am willing to accept as a “cost” of using the Facebook system the fact that they know who my friends are.  But I am less willing or unwilling to continue putting my content where I cannot get it back, in its entirety.  (Google Docs, for example, just launched a feature where you can back up everything back out of Google Docs into Microsoft Office formats).

Ads in the stream, erosion of trust

A second issue mentioned in a previous post is the increase in advertising on Facebook and also the more unscrupulous practice of injecting ads “into the stream” — ads masquerading as status updates. These are harmful to the overall trust built up in the community and I have un-friended quite a few people whose accounts were clearly used to promote events, products, etc.

Ad-effectiveness sucks

From a prior post – – Facebook advertising metric are absolutely abysmal. They keep trying to sell advertisers on the hundreds of billions of pageviews they throw off. But advertisers are getting smarter and more and more of them will buy ads on a cost-per-click basis (instead of CPM, cost per thousand impressions basis).  This means that the ad revenues that Facebook enjoyed from gross INefficiencies will be decimated.




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Friday, October 30th, 2009 digital No Comments

Map of IP addresses around the world used to commit Click-Fraud


A recently disbanded click fraud ring in China racked up $3 million worth of clicks in two weeks. $3 million that we’re aware of. Just how detectable is this whole business of racking up fraudulent ad revenue clicks?

That intricate mess of lines above represents a portion of DormRing1, the click fraud bunch that was caught in China. The lines show the relationship of some of the IP addresses involved in the fraud and how they are connected to some fraudulent ad clicks. The whole network actually “involved 200,000 different IP addresses and racked up more than $3 million worth of fraudulent clicks across 2,000 advertisers in a two-week period.” Impressive and scary at the same time.

The trouble is that no one really knows how much ad revenue DormRing1 collected before they were caught. Click-fraud monitoring services such as Anchor Intelligence, the ones behind this catch, are evolving to keep up with the scale on which these rings are operating. It’s still difficult to judge just how well they’re doing as they’re having to infiltrate forums and gain the trust of the perpetrators in a manner reminiscent of drug busts. But as the criminals are getting more elaborate, the investigations are too.

That good news aside, do me a favor: after you read this post, comment, and all that jazz, refresh the page a few times and—Ah…I mean, heh…just kidding. [Tech Crunch]

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Friday, October 9th, 2009 digital No Comments

The generalization that TV ads are more “helpful” than internet ads is simply false and irresponsible

In the following study published by Harris Interactive and Adweek Media, they show a chart which seemingly shows that TV ads are “most helpful” in making a purchase decision. If you were give the following list of choices —  TV ads, newspaper ads, search engine ads, radio ads, banner ads, and none — and asked to select which was most helpful to your purchase decision; which would you choose? And would you choose that because it was more familiar to you (e.g. TV), seen more frequently, etc. Or is it that banner ads are generally known to be ignored (eye tracking studies show that most users know not to look at the top and right sides of a web page, knowing that banner ads typcially go there).

for new products
where the missing link is simply awareness
TV is very effective
in driving an initial burst of sales
starting pt is zero sales
so if you make people aware
some will buy
11:04 PM in the case of new products
online ads are not great
but you have to break online ads into 2 types
banner ads (push) versus search ads (pull)
search ads are not useful here
because it is a new product and people
wont know to search for it
11:05 PM banner ads may work
because they are for awareness
and they are displayed on pages where people are looking at content
but compared to TV advertising
people have accepted ads as part of the “price” of TV
on the contrary
people have always expected itnernet content to be free
and they have devloped habits to
11:06 PM avoid lokoing at top of page and right side
so banner ads are pretty damn bad at
generating awareness
because people simply dont look
so of the 3
tv ads, banner ads and search ads
tv ads are better in the case of new products where the missing link is awareness
11:07 PM when you get to more established products
the balance changes
the missing link is not awareness
the missing links are further down the funnel
e.g. consideration
modern consumers need more info
they dont just trust an advertiser
and TV ads give them too little info to be useful
11:08 PM banner ads are still ignored just as much as before
but search ads become more important
by looking at what people are searching for
yu know what part of the purch funnel they are at
and what missing link they are trying to solve
so in summary
11:09 PM making the generalization that TV ads are more effective than internet ads is simply false and irresponsible; we must take into account dozens more parameters that impact purchase


More than one-third of Americans (37%) say that TV ads are most helpful to them in making a purchase decision, while nearly half say they ignore internet banner ads, according to (pdf) a poll from AdWeekMedia and Harris Interactive.

In terms of the helpfulness of ads in other media, newspapers rank second behind TV, with 17% reporting that newspaper ads are most helpful, while 14% say the same about internet search-engine ads:


At the other end of the spectrum, Radio ads (3%) and internet banner ads (1%) are not considered helpful by many people. The poll found also that more than one fourth (28%) of Americans say that none of these types of advertisements are helpful to them in the purchase-decision-making process.

Not surprisingly, the types of ads Americans find helpful vary by age and, slightly, by region:

  • 50% of people ages 18-34 find TV ads most helpful.
  • 31% of those ages 55+ say newspaper ads are most helpful.
  • 40% of Southerners find TV ads most helpful, while only one-third (33%) of Midwesterners feel the same.

Banner Ads Most Ignored
Almost half of Americans (46%) say they ignore internet banner ads, according to the study. Much further down the list of ignored items are internet search engine ads (17% of people ignore), television ads (13%), radio ads (9%), and newspaper ads (6%):


One in ten Americans (9%) say they do not ignore any of these types of ads.

Age and regional differences:

  • 50% of those ages 35-44 and 51% of Midwesterners say they ignore Internet banner ads compared with 43% of 18-34 year olds as well as Easterners and Southerners.
  • 20% of Americans 18-34 years old (20%) say they ignore Internet search engine ads while 20% of those ages 55+ ignore TV ads.

Harris Interactive suggestes that these findings are important because, despite online video and the ability to use a DVR to shift live programming, TV ads remain most helpful to consumers. Conversely, while an internet strategy is essential for a comprehensive ad campaign, banner ads are only considered helpful by a few and are ignored the most, the polling fiirm said.

About the survey: The AdweekMedia/The Harris Poll was conducted online in the US from June 4-8, 2009 among 2,521 adults (ages 18+). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

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Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 digital No Comments

What is Web 3.0? Characteristics of Web 3.0

2009 06 16 What Is Web 3.0

2009 06 16 What Is Web 3.0 – Presentation Transcript

  1. What is Web 3.0? Dr. Augustine Fou June 16, 2009. June 16, 2009.
  2. Evolution of the Internet microprocessor 40 yrs 10 yrs 20 yrs 5 yrs present web internet 2.5 yrs social networks e-commerce 1.5 yrs Web 1.0 Web 2.0 Web 3.0? June 16, 2009.
  3. Evolution of the “Web” content commerce search social networks social content social search social commerce As each stage reaches critical mass, the next stage is tipped into present June 16, 2009.
  4. Key Characteristics present web 1.0 web 2.0 web 3.0
    • Speedy
    • more timely information and more efficient tools to find information
    • Collaborative
    • actions of users amass, police, and prioritize content
    • Trust-worthy
    • users establish trust networks and hone trust radars
    • Content
    • content destination sites and personal portals
    • Search
    • critical mass of content drives need for search engines
    • Commerce
    • commerce goes mainstream; digital goods rise
    • Ubiquitous
    • available at any time, anywhere, through any channel or device
    • Individualized
    • filtered and shared by friends or trust networks
    • Efficient
    • relevant and contextual information findable instantly

June 16, 2009.

  1. Illustrative Examples – retail/shopping present web 1.0 web 2.0 web 3.0
    • what friends bought or want to buy
    • drag-to-share items which friends know friends are looking for
    • item collections
    • value in the aggregation FB app: MyFaveThings

    • contextual reviews
    • reviews of reviews
    • what others bought
    • individualized recommendations

June 16, 2009.

  1. Illustrative Examples – social networks present web 1.0 web 2.0 web 3.0
    • aggregates all your online identities
    • syndicates all your updates to all social networks
    • social actions visible to friends
    • trust networks across geography, time, and interests
    • collection of personal homepages June 16, 2009.

  1. Illustrative Examples – restaurant reviews present web 1.0 web 2.0 web 3.0
    • Yelp content vetted through a user’s trust network and individual recommendations made based on situation and need, in real-time
    • user submitted reviews
    • related items based on similarity of user preferences
    • infrequent publication
    • centralized editorial control

zagat‘s yelp need reco for great Italian + GPS + Yelp 5-star Babbo, been there, love it June 16, 2009.

  1. Illustrative Examples – photos present web 1.0 web 2.0 web 3.0
    • real-time, contextual “do you like this knit shirt?”
    • friends give immediate feedback
    • share photos with friends and strangers
    • enable visitors to tag and comment
    • individual albums ? June 16, 2009.

  1. Illustrative Examples – real estate present web 1.0 web 2.0 web 3.0
    • information vetted by fellow users, recommended directly an in context
    • listings plus relevant information like school zones, comparable sales, alerts
    • listings based on parameters trulia iphone app June 16, 2009.

  1. Illustrative Examples – encyclopedia present web 1.0 web 2.0 web 3.0
    • content is ubiquitous and available through any channel or device
    • trust network proactively forwards relevant info to user who needs it
    • created, updated, and edited (policed) by user actions
    • digitized version of printed encyclopedia June 16, 2009.

  1. Illustrative Examples – online coupons present web 1.0 web 2.0 web 3.0
    • coupons delivered contextually and proactively when user needs it (without the user even asking for it)
    • instant feedback
    • community action makes it more accurate and useful for others
    • collection of online coupons – value in the aggregation June 16, 2009.

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Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.

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