"What does data retention mean?"
In 2006, the EU issued the controversial Data Retention Directive, more formally known as Directive 2006/24/EC. This legislation allowed European phone companies to store user data for six months to two years -- including all the nitty gritty details such as phone numbers, addresses, the times emails and data were sent, as well as users' locations. Since then, several countries have either rejected or declared unconstitutional this legislation. In 2010, Germany's Federal Constitution Court suspended the directive, calling it "inadmissable."
The directive does state, however, that the content of users' text and voice conversations are not to be stored.
Under this directive, governments and police agencies could request information from mobile phone companies to access user data, but only via the court system. So prior to Germany ruling this mandate unconstitutional, Spitz decided to file a suit against his phone company Deutsche Telekom in order to receive his own stored data.
After reaching a settlement, Spitz received a CD of his records in the mail. "At first I thought, okay -- it's a huge file," he said during the TED talk. "But then I realized, this is my life. This is six months of my life […] You can see where I am, when I sleep at night, what I'm doing."
"If you have access to this information, you can see what society is doing. If you have access to this information you can control your society. This is a blueprint for countries like China and Iran," Splitz said while demonstrating for the audience a graphic of his personal connections.
The TED talk, which received a standing ovation, recently became a buzzed-about topic on Reddit as users take stances on what privacy means in today's mobile society.
"That's just incredible... Intelligence agencies could crack down on basically any uprising. I guess [protesters] and rebels need to stay off line as much as possible," wrote one commenter.
Indeed, social uprisings were discussed in the TED talk, too. Spitz, who was born in Berlin, suggests that if the German secret police in Communist East Germany had controlled access to citizens' data, the Berlin Wall may have never come down in 1990.
While this EU directive does not mandate American cellphone providers to store American's data, the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out that the U.S. Stored Communications Act has similar qualities to the EU Directive. The advocacy group's website states the following:
The United States currently has no mandatory data retention law. However, if providers of electronic communications or remote computing services store electronic communications or communications records, the government may obtain access to the stored data…
Earlier in July, Reuters reported a sharp increase in "requests from U.S. law enforcement agencies for their customers' cell phone records," with more than 1.3 million requests made last year.
"Law enforcement agencies are looking for a needle, but what are they doing with the haystack?" asked Rep. Edward Markey, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in response to the report on requests for carrier data.
Spitz ended his TED talk by emphasizing that technology consumers are the key to challenging privacy norms in today's society. "Every time you use a mobile phone," he cautioned, "let it be a reminder that you have to fight for self determination in the digital age."
What do you think about Spitz's TED discussion and the issue of mobile privacy? Why should or shouldn't government's have access to our cellphone data? Let us known your thoughts in the comments section below, or tweet us (@HuffPostTech).
Girls Around Me
Despite its name, the controversial <a href="http://girlsaround.me/" target="_hplink">Girls Around Me iPhone app</a> let the user find girls or guys near his or her location. The app used publicly available photos from Facebook and location check-ins from Foursquare, letting the app-user check out the faces of nearby strangers, who didn't now their data was being used in this way. <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/03/31/tracking-women-now-theres-not-an-app-for-that/" target="_hplink">According to the Wall Street Journal</a>, after stalking concerns were raised by sites like <a href="http://www.cultofmac.com/157641/this-creepy-app-isnt-just-stalking-women-without-their-knowledge-its-a-wake-up-call-about-facebook-privacy/" target="_hplink">Cult of Mac</a>, Foursquare cut off access to the app so locations would no longer be available to be paired with Facebook photos. The app's creators then <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-na-nn-girls-around-me-20120404,0,5284353.story" target="_hplink">pulled Girls Around Me from the App Store</a>.
Available for both the <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/catch-your-cheating-spouse!/id433654335?ls=1&mt=8" target="_hplink">iPhone</a> and <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bustedbooks.spyapp" target="_hplink">Android phones</a> for just $1.99,<a href="http://www.bustedbooks.com/cs/index.html" target="_hplink"> Bustedbooks.com's</a> <a href="http://" target="_hplink">Spy Guide app</a> gives users step-by-step directions on how to spy on text messages, email accounts, computers, cell phone records and more. It's more of an instruction manual than anything, but it's the perfect app to use if you suspect your lover is cheating. Way easier than talking it out, eh? (Yikes.)
Stealth SMS Parental Control
Sure, there are parents out there who are genuinely concerned about their child's well-being, but those who invest $4.02 in this app might possibly be crossing a line. According to the Google Play description of <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.mobilemonkeys.shadow.stealthsms&feature=more_from_developer#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwMiwibmV0Lm1vYmlsZW1vbmtleXMuc2hhZG93LnN0ZWFsdGhzbXMiXQ.." target="_hplink">Stealth SMS Parental Control</a>, developed by Mobile Monkeys, this app will send all of a child's incoming and outgoing text messages directly to his or her parent's phone. All a parent has to do is sneakily install the app on the phone of his or her child. To be fair, the developers <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.mobilemonkeys.shadow.stealthsms&feature=more_from_developer#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwMiwibmV0Lm1vYmlsZW1vbmtleXMuc2hhZG93LnN0ZWFsdGhzbXMiXQ.." target="_hplink">advise parents</a> thus: "Before you take any drastic measures and have your children grounded, spend a little time investigating in what is really going on."
At first glance, this Security Cam app, <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/security-cam/id300220373?mt=8" target="_hplink">developed by <a href="http://www.crowdedroad.com/" target="_hplink">Crowded Road</a> and <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/security-cam/id300220373?mt=8" target="_hplink">available for $9.99</a> through the App Store, seems like it could be a useful tool for security-conscious iPhone users. However, if you read what the app allows an iPhone to do, you'll realize the creepy implications. First off, the app enables your iPhone to take pictures at a specific frequency and have it start snapping when motion or a certain audio level is detected; the pictures can be exported later. Furthermore, the iPhone can be put in "Stealth Mode" so its display turns off even when the app is active. If you ever see a random iPhone lying around, be wary: It could be spying on you.
<a href="http://www.beenverified.com/iphone" target="_hplink">Available for both iPhone and Android</a> for free, Background Check was developed by public record search service <a href="http://www.beenverified.com/" target="_hplink">BeenVerified</a>. The app lets users perform one free background check every month (if you want to run more than one in a month, you'll have to pay) and allows them to access criminal records, social networking information, property records, and more of whomever they want. [via <a href="http://www.pcmag.com/slideshow/story/296196/the-creepiest-apps-and-sites/4" target="_hplink">PCMag</a>]
Yes, you read that right. The Butt Analyzer app is <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=stu.app.ba&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDEsInN0dS5hcHAuYmEiXQ.." target="_hplink">available for free</a> on Google Play, and, let's you calculate the attractiveness of whichever derriere you choose -- including your own! -- on a scale of 1 to 10. All you have to do is snap a picture of said derriere. The developer, <a href="http://www.yausoft.com/" target="_hplink">YauSoft</a>, adds in: "It supports both men's and women's butts." Good to know. [via <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/rqpsf/worstcreepiest_app_youve_ever_seen/" target="_hplink">Reddit</a>]
While this isn't a mobile phone app, the desktop app <a href="http://ilektrojohn.github.com/creepy/" target="_hplink">Creepy</a> just couldn't be skipped. Developed by <a href="https://github.com/ilektrojohn" target="_hplink">Ioannis Kakavas</a>, Creepy is a chilling take on location-based social discovery apps like Highlight. But while those who sign up for Highlight select certain information to broadcast, Creepy pulls together all public information about one person that is available online and plots it on a map when possible. <a href="http://diveintoinfosec.wordpress.com/" target="_hplink">According to Kakavas</a>, one of his goals in creating the app was to raise awareness about one's privacy. "References in mainstream media (TV, newspapers, radio) and of course blogs/twitter gave the project enough exposure to send the message across," <a href="http://diveintoinfosec.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/creepy-0-2-or-your-set-was-cool-but-now-its-creepy-too/" target="_hplink">Kakavas wrote in a March 29 blog post</a>. "I have no metrics, but I think it was a good scare for social network fanatics and a wake up call for people to take their locational privacy a little more seriously. Or at least just a good step towards it. Or at least that's what I want to believe."