Mobile Privacy and Security

With the proliferation of smartphones and other portable technologies, mobile privacy and security are becoming increasingly important. I’ve worked on a variety of mobile related privacy and security projects including:

WSJ’s What They Know | MobileScope | Research and Talks | Congressional Testimony

The Wall Street Journal’s What They Know Series: Mobile

The age of computing has created a new economy, in which data on people’s habits, activities and interests is collected, sold and traded, often without their knowledge. In July 2010, The Wall Street Journal launched the What They Know series to document new, cutting edge uses of tracking technology and what the rise of ubiquitous surveillance means for consumers and society. I served as the technology consultant for the  series. The reporting team was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting in 2012. Read more

As part of this series, a number of articles focused on data sharing and privacy issues related to mobile devices. For example:

WSJappswatchingyou1211 Your Apps are Watching You Few devices know more personal details about people than the smartphones in their pockets: phone numbers, current location, often the owner’s real name—even a unique ID number that can never be changed or turned off. These phones don’t keep secrets. They are sharing this personal data widely and regularly, as a Wall Street Journal investigation found. An examination of 101 popular smartphone apps —games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones—showed that 56 transmitted the phone’s unique device ID to other companies without users’ awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone’s location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders. Read more or view interactive graphic.
WSJapplegooglemobilelocation Apple, Google Collect User Data Apple’s iPhones and Google’s Android smartphones regularly transmit their locations back to Apple and Google, respectively, according to data and documents analyzed by The Wall Street Journal—intensifying concerns over privacy and the widening trade in personal data. Read more

mobilescopeworkflow Apps and other programs on mobile phones transmit personal information to others without users’ knowledge or consent. In 2012, I was part of a team that developed and released MobileScope, an app that allows users to track every bit of information leaving their smartphone. The MobileScope app not only allows users to see just how much information their device sends, they can also control the flow of information and block apps that are potential leaks. Read more or watch this video.
WSJDigitsMobilescopewins In 2012, MobileScope was the winner of the Wall Street Journal’s Data Transparency Prize. Read more.

Research and Talks on Mobile Privacy
facepalm Facepalm. In 2012, I found an extremely basic vulnerability in a facial recognition app called KLIK, developed by an Israeli startup called The app essentially allowed anyone to hijack a KLIK user’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to get access to photos and social graph (which enables ‘face prints’), even if that information isn’t public. I wrote a short analysis of this vulnerability here.
Ashkan.TechTV In May 2012, I was a guest on TechCrunch TV for a discussion about mobile privacy.

Testimony on State of Mobile Privacy

I regularly appear as an expert witness on policy matters related to consumer privacy.

senate testimony On May 10, 2011, I testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Privacy Technology and the Law regarding mobile privacy. The other witnesses included representatives from Apple, Google, Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Association for Competitive Technology. Read more