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MIT Students Trade Privacy for Phones

How much do you value your privacy? Judging by the number of Sunday morning Facebook albums depicting Saturday night escapades, not much; so, I expect that if Penn State were to conduct a study like the one currently going on at MIT, many students would participate.

The New York Times reported this weekend that a group of students at M.I.T. were given smartphones–we can’t tell which phones from the picture, but definitely not iPhones– in exchange for giving the researchers access to EVERYTHING.

Now, when he dials another student, researchers know. When he sends an e-mail or text message, they also know. When he listens to music, they know the song. Every moment he has his Windows Mobile smartphone with him, they know where he is, and who’s nearby.

What does this remind you of? We can think of one thing. Our reaction and more analysis after the jump.

The main point of the article was that we as 21st century boys accumulate a profuse amount of digital records. Google is perhaps the best example of an information absorber– they have access to nearly every element of Onward State, from our communications to our searches to our analytics. Our relationship with them is based on trust– similarly, Penn State has access to a lot of our personal communications, and indeed nearly all of our Onward State data through their network. They know what sites we visit, who we email, and perhaps less importantly what classes we are taking and our grades in them.

Penn State and members of its community have examined our information security policies in the past, most notably in the Information, Privacy, And Security team formed in 2006. One of Onward State’s friends, Daehee Park, posted about IPAS on IST Building this fall. Park wrote,

The consequences of implementing IPAS include a silent scanner being installed on every PSU-owned computer; hard drives requiring full-disk encryption; and faculty losing admin privileges to their own machines. The scanner scours the drives for possible matches of social security numbers and credit card data, and when a positive match turns up a report is silently sent off to the local Office of IT.

Not only does this have implications for loss of privacy, but also the new IPAS scanners and full-disk encryption will significantly decrease system performance. ITS Director Kevin Maroney said in a recent senate meet

We know that at this point, our most obvious audience is those who follow us on Twitter. And we know that most of those people are involved in either the IST or ITS institutions. Hopefully they’ll contribute their thoughts to this issue.

[NYT article via Wesleying]

— Update

Daehee Park just linked to a story about a forensic tool that detects pornography in the workplace

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About the Author


Creator of @OnwardState. Big fan of sweaters.

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