What Secrets Your Phone Is Sharing About You

“Businesses Use Sensors to Track Customers, Build Shopper Profiles”

From Wall Street Journal Article <http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303453004579290632128929194>

By Elizabeth Dwoskin

Jan. 13, 2014 8:47 p.m. ET

Fan Zhang, the owner of Happy Child, a trendy Asian restaurant in downtown Toronto, knows that 170 of his customers went clubbing in November. He knows that 250 went to the gym that month, and that 216 came in from Yorkville, an upscale neighborhood.

And he gleans this information without his customers’ knowledge, or ever asking them a single question.

Mr. Zhang is a client of Turnstyle Solutions Inc., a year-old local company that has placed sensors in about 200 businesses within a 0.7 mile radius in downtown Toronto to track shoppers as they move in the city.

The sensors, each about the size of a deck of cards, follow signals emitted from Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones. That allows them to create portraits of roughly 2 million people’s habits as they have gone about their daily lives, traveling from yoga studios to restaurants, to coffee shops, sports stadiums, hotels, and nightclubs.

“Instead of offering a general promotion that may or may not hit a nerve, we can promote specifically to the customer’s taste,” says Mr. Zhang. He recently emblazoned workout tank-tops with his restaurant’s logo, based on the data about his customers’ gym visits.

Turnstyle is at the forefront of a movement to track consumers who are continuously broadcasting their location from phones. Other startups, such as San Francisco-based Euclid Analytics Inc., use sensors to analyze foot-traffic patterns, largely within an individual retailer’s properties to glean insight about customer behavior.

Their success speaks to the growing value of location data. Verizon Wireless last year began crunching its own location information from customers to help retailers see which neighborhoods shoppers arrived from or limited information about their habits, such as restaurants they drive past. Apple Inc. recently released its iBeacon technology, which can be integrated into sensors to read customer’s smartphone signals in brick-and-mortar stores.

But Turnstyle is among the few that have begun using the technology more broadly to follow people where they live, work and shop. The company’s dense network of sensors can track any phone that has Wi-Fi turned on, enabling the company to build profiles of consumers lifestyles.

Turnstyle’s weekly reports to clients use aggregate numbers and don’t include people’s names. But the company does collect the names, ages, genders, and social media profiles of some people who log in with Facebook to a free Wi-Fi service that Turnstyle runs at local restaurants and coffee shops, including Happy Child. It uses that information, along with the wider foot traffic data, to come up dozens lifestyle categories, including yoga-goers, people who like theater, and hipsters.

A business that knows which sports team is most favored by its clients could offer special promotions on game days, says Turnstyle’s 27-year-old founder Chris Gilpin. Czehoski, a local restaurant, hired an ’80s-music DJ for Friday nights after learning from Turnstyle that more than 60% of the restaurant’s Wi-Fi-enabled customers were over 30.

But as the industry grows in prominence, location trackers are bound to ignite privacy concerns. A company could, for example, track people’s visits to specialist doctors or hospitals and sell that data to marketers.

“Locations have meanings,” says Eloise Gratton, a privacy lawyer. Marketers can infer that a person has a certain disease from their Internet searches. A geolocation company can actually see the person visiting the doctor, “making the inference that the individual has this disease probably even more accurate,” she says.

Mr. Glipin says his data doesn’t include doctors visits or sensitive health information, nor does he sell his profile data to marketers. He is considering offering more detailed profiles based on the logged-in information, an endeavor that would be legal in Canada as long as consumers provided consent.

“We know there is more value to be extracted from this data,” Mr. Gilpin says. “But we’re wanting to move cautiously and turn on the tap slowly—in a way that doesn’t offend customers.”

In the U.S., companies don’t have to get a consent before collecting and sharing most personal information, including their location. A bill, proposed by Minnesota Senator Al Franken, would require consent before collecting location data. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission settled its first location privacy case in December, against an app developer that misled consumers into believing their location data wouldn’t be sold to marketers.

Some customers have concerns. Aj Tin, a university student and customer at Rsquared Café, was surprised to learn that by logging into the Wi-Fi at the coffee shop, he was enabling Turnstyle to track his movements and offer other local businesses an aggregated profile of his activities. The disclosure form tells consumers they will be tracked, but not how aggregated personal information will be distributed. “Privacy is cheap,” Mr. Tin said.

Even as they covet the data, stores and businesses recognize it is a touchy subject. “It would probably be better not to use this tracking system at all if we had to let people know about it,” says Glenna Weddle, the owner of Rac Boutique, a women’s clothing store that is a Turnstyle client. “It’s not invasive. It might raise alarms for no reason.”

Viasense Inc., another Toronto startup, is building detailed dossiers of people’s lifestyles by merging location data with those from other sources, including marketing firms. The company follows between 3 million and 6 million devices each day in a 400-kilometer radius surrounding Toronto. It buys bulk phone-signal data from Canada’s national cellphone carriers. Viasense’s algorithms then break those users into lifestyle categories based on their daily travels, which it says it can track down to the square meter.

For example, by monitoring how many times a consumer visits a golf course in a month, Viasense can classify her as a casual, intermediate or heavy golfer. People whose cellphones move at a certain clip across city parks between 5:30 and 8:30 every morning are flagged by the algorithm as “early morning joggers.” The company identifies “youth” by looking at phone signals coming from schools during school hours and nightclubs, and home locations by targeting the places phones spend each night.

Viasense, which says its clients are grocery chains, a large concert venue and a billboard company, then overlays that data with census and marketing lists the company buys from data brokers to deduce demographic information, like whether the cellphone’s owner is in a high-income bracket.

Viasense doesn’t gather personal information or know any of its users’ names, but CEO Mossab Basir says it is simple to figure this out. A person who has enabled location services on an app in which they upload information publicly, such as Twitter, is broadcasting their location and their identity—or at least their handle—at the same time. “People are probably unaware of how much they are making available,” says Mr. Basir. “That’s why it’s a very delicate subject for us. It’s kind of Big Brotheresque.”

A username is considered personal information, which under Canadian law can’t be collected without the consent of the user. In most of the U.S., consent wouldn’t be required.

Right now, the only way to opt-out of geolocation is to either switch off the Wi-Fi on a cellphone, or make a request through a website of one the data companies like Turnstyle that has an opt-out option.

As these companies operate mostly behind the scenes, the nascent industry is keeping a close watch on Google and Apple. With their Android and iOS mobile operating systems, respectively, Google and Apple know the location of every customer’s Wi-Fi-enabled phone—far more location data than any startup could access. The Silicon Valley giants aren’t allowing access to such data by outsiders. Both Google and Apple declined to comment.

Places where people didn’t think they were being watched are now repositories for collecting information, says Ryan Calo assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law. “Companies are increasingly able to connect between our online and offline lives,” he says.

—David George-Cosh in Toronto contributed to this article.


Also from same author at <http://blogs.wsj.com/five-things/2014/01/14/5-things-to-check-to-see-whether-companies-are-tracking-your-phone/> “5 Things to Check to See Whether Companies Are Tracking Your Phone”

1 Your Cell Phone Carrier Knows, and Is Beginning to Share

Cell phone carriers have always known your location because the phone must send signals to cell towers. Verizon, and soon AT&T, have businesses selling this data to retailers, billboard advertisers, and stadium owners.

Users can’t turn off those signals. But they are generally anonymous. Verizon asks users to agree to let it share their identity with its brick-and-mortar customers, which can lead to pings from nearby merchants when shopping.

Firefox new TAB page, vs new window page

Unfortunately, in Firefox (by Mozilla) the default start page for a new tab differs from that for a new window.

For the more common new window, the default page in the “Mozilla Start Page”:


That has Google search build in.

Of course i like DuckDuckGo.com, so my Mozilla Start Page is set with the DuckDuckGo search engine, replacing google:


Then again, probably the most popular home page is the world is the google home page, super simpler, less-is-more:


But, for the new tab in Firefox, it’s different.

The default is the “Speed Dial” page:


If you dont like that, you can hide it off by clicking the tab button in the upper right corner.


Of course, then your new tab page is just blank.


That’s not very interesting, helpful, or convenient.

However, something obvious, say, making your new tab page the SAME as your new window page, is surprisingly non-obvious.

You have to use the advanced, somewhat dangerous about:config page.

Type about:config in the address box (NOT the google search box):


You will get the warning above. Click “I’ll be careful. I promise”.

Oh, and, please, do, be careful. Only change this ONE thing.

What thing? Well, type newtab in the search box (not the address bar):


It should find name "browser.newtab.url" on the left, with value "about:newtab" on the right.

RIGHT click on that value, and click Modify:


You’ll get a pop-up window. Type in a new value, eg about:home


This particular value will make your new tab go to the default Mozilla Start Page.


Or, modify the value to be google.com


This will make a new tab go to the google home page. You can set it to exactly what your home page is.


Windows Desktop Applications Sending Mail (MAPI) via Webmail Like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL

Say you are in a Windows desktop application.  This means you are not in your web browser.  You’re not in Internet Explorer.  You’re not in Firefox.  You’re not in Opera.  You’re in some other program, and you want to send email from that application.

You might be in Microsoft Word and you click on File -> Send to Mail recipient.

Or you might be using the free Word-replacement program, LibreOffice. Or its cousin, Apache Open Office (formerly, OpenOffice.org).  In Open Office it would look like this:OOO-mapi-gmail-0

Or, in Windows XP there was, and in Windows 7 there is, a context menu (ie, right-click) in Windows Explorer (aka “My Computer” in WXP or “Computer” in W7) with a menu option: ‘Send to -> mail recipient’.

Windows 7 Explorer even has an “E-mail” button that looks like this:020620win20exp-10472786

Or, you can do it from Windows Photo Viewer, or WinZip.

Any number of desktop programs may have an option to “send as email attachment”.

Or, consider Picasa.  Here’s Google’s instructions (Google makes Picasa) for how you email pictures from Picasa <https://support.google.com/picasa/answer/104211?hl=en>

You can email photos from Picasa in a few easy steps:

  1. Select the photos you’d like to email.
  2. Click the Email button.
  3. Select from the following email options:
    • Google Mail
      • Gmail: Gmail is ideal to use for sending pictures in Picasa. Attach up to 20 MB of photos in a single email. You can sign up for Gmail in a few easy steps. Learn more.
      • Google Account email: If you want to use a non-Gmail address to send photos, this option may be for you. You can associate any email address with a Google Account and use this address to send mail through Picasa. Learn more.
        Non-gmail Google Accounts have an attachment limit of ten items.

        [Of course, that means you have to sign up for a google account, and not everyone wants to to that! -Montgomery Minds]

    • Use your default email program: By setting your email program as the default on your computer, you can use this email provider in Picasa.

(FYI this blog post at “Gils Method” has nice, easy to read instructions for emailing pics from Picasa)

Now what did they mean by “setting your email program as the default”? If you follow their link to https://support.google.com/picasa/answer/11064 they will tell you how, on your computer, you can set an email program as default.

Trouble is, almost everyone nowadays has Webmail. But your Windows (any version) “default email program” has to be a program installed on your computer.  It can not be Webmail.  But everybody has Webmail.

So,  yes, this system is broken.  🙁 

Technical jargon: the method by which desktop (or laptop, but not web) computer programs do email with each other is called MAPI (Messaging Application Programming Interface).  Outlook, Outlook Express, Mozilla Thunderbird, Eudora and M2 are all MAPI-compliant email programs that you install and run on your PC.  They are not Webmail.  They dont use your web browser.  But they can all server as your “windows desktop default email program”.

Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo mail, and AOL Webmail, can not (well, not without some additional tricks).

Windows XP came with Outlook Express installed on your PC by default, and set as your “windows desktop default email program”, but Windows Vista? and 7 have no program installed by default.  In that case you get this error when you try to invoke any of the desktop email features described above:

There is no email program associated to perform the requested action. Please install an email program or, if one is already installed, create an association in the Default Programs control panel.

There are solutions, but note, the following solutions present security and privacy concerns.  See below.

The Gmail notifier, a separate program you download to your computer, may or may not have an option to install a small MAPI-compliant program that can serve as your “windows desktop default email program”.  It then does everything thru the Gmail Webmail interface (as if you were doing Gmail yourself normally).  There are both reports that it works and that it doesnt on the internet.  And this program has undergone many major revisions in the last few years, so YMMV.

Another option, a Gmail-only option, was proffered by a helpful chap on SuperUser

The open-source project Tvhgooglemapi might be a solution. Here is how it is described :

Tvhgooglemapi is a simple tool that pretends to be a real mail client to windows but really only uploads the mail to the drafts folder of gmail and then opens the draft in the default web-browser. For the user this is almost exactly the same as having the gmail web interface as the default mail-client for some windows applications (the only difference being that he has to login twice if he is not already logged in to gmail and doesn’t let the tool remember the password.)

Another option that supports more (but not all) webmail programs is explained by at PCWorld in an article entitled How Do I Make Web Mail My Default Email, Part 2:

[If] you’re using a Web-based mail service like Gmail or Hotmail…it seems you’re out of luck.

The solution is a little program called Affixa. It’s free, but you can get more features for an annual subscription of only ₤2 ($3.11 as I write this).

Affixa installs into Windows as your default mail program and supports Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Google Apps, Zimbra and the Outlook Web App [And according to their website as of 1/9/2014, Office 365 also -Montgomery Minds]. When you tell a program that you want to mail something, Affixa redirects your request to your Web-based mail service.

Here’s how another helpful chap at SuperUser.com put it

You can integrate Gmail or even Yahoo email directly into Windows using the previously mentioned Affixa application, which registers itself as the default email application on your computer and handles file uploading to Gmail.

This is a full list of Affixa features(broken link). just go to the Affixa home page

Another commercial alternative is MAPI4Webmail (19.80 euros personal license as of 9/14/2013).  I did not explore this alternative.

Security Concern:

All these programs require you to enter sensitive information into them.  You have to trust these programs.  I can not vouch for them, one way or the other (at least, not yet).  Note how some more SuperUser chaps discussed it:

It would b really great if someone who knows this stuff could inspect/audit the code and download .exe’s for tvhgooglemapi to verify the program is legit and not just an email/password harvester or some such. – matt wilkie Sep 17 ’13 at 19:41


You could test the exe on VirusTotal, but in general it’s rare for an open-source project to be infected. For problems, you could try to file up an issue report, or try to get in touch with the developers (or become one). – harrymc Sep 17 ’13 at 20:05

Fernando Cassia described the concern this way:


 I did test this app with a new GMail account, not using my main one. I am not the author of this linked application and I have not audited its source code. If you are concerned about this, you might want to create a secondary GMail account just for this use, or enable two-step authentication. Use the app at your own risk.


Fernando Cassia also has a very good detailed explanation of all this MAPI desktop email programs vs Webmail stuff on his blog:

[T]he popular OpenOffice open source office suite … allows sending documents from the program interface using whatever e-mail client program is configured on your system, be it Mozilla’s Thunderbird, or Microsoft’s bundled Windows Mail, or the former Outlook Express, on Lotus Notes, or Eudora, you name it.
The problem comes, as one AOO (Apache Open Office) user recently pointed [out], when you expect apps that can fire your e-mail client to “work with GMail”. The problem is that GMail is not an application. GMail is a web site. You can have an application like Open Office call your default web browser, and even tell it to load GMail with a compose window opened, but you still can’t tell the browser to attach a given file to your new composed e-mail. At least not without some “glue code”.


Rob Weir [of AOO] explained: “there is an industry standard for accessing email: MAPI (Messaging Application Programming Interface).  OpenOffice works with any application that supports MAPI.   Most email clients support MAPI.  GMail does not.  That is their choice.  We can’t force them to support MAPI.  But we [AOO developers] are not writing custom support for every email client in existence.  We support the standard [MAPI].”


How to extract a single file (or a few files) from Paragon Backup and Recovery 2012 Free archive

The picture below is the initial Paragon Backup & Recovery 2012 screen.


Click “Restore”.  The screen appears to disappear.  Dont panic.  It’s just launching the restore program.

It will take a few seconds for the Initialize screen below to appear.  Then a few more seconds until it initializes.  Only then will “Next” be clickable as in this next picture.


Click “Next”.

This will bring up a list of archives available, as seen below.  If there’s one not shown, you can click add_archive_button to browse for another to add to the list.  This is NOT where you select the file in the archive, that comes later.


Select the archive you want.  Consider dates.  Most recent is often best.

Click “Next”.


This brings up the hierarchical selection window as seen above.

Here you can select the whole “Basic MBR hard disk” to restore you entire disk.

Or you can click on the + to the left of the C drive and keep clicking + to drill down to a specific file, or files, or directory you want to restore.


To be continued…