This article is part of a series on corporate surveillance highlighting civil liberty, privacy, cybersecurity, safety, and tech-product user exploitation threats associated with connected products that are supported by the Android (Google) OS, Apple iOS, and Microsoft Windows OS.
Data-driven technology providers such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Baidu know that a smartphone is the gateway to a person’s personal and professional life.
These companies also know that a valuable commodity in the form of personal and professional digital DNA is produced when the smartphone owner uses the device for personal and professional purposes.
The collective telecom-related digital DNA produced by telecom subscribers (“paying customers,” both individual and business) and authorized device users (spouses, children, employees) around the world is worth billions, if not trillions, of dollars.
It is bad enough to lose privacy, but to be exploited for financial gain at the expense of civil liberties, privacy, cybersecurity, and safety should be unacceptable to anyone using social media services coupled with a smartphone, tablet, PC, or connected product supported by the Android, Apple, and Microsoft Windows operating systems.
Additionally, a former senior executive and co-founder of Facebook, Sean Parker, and a former product designer for Google, Tristan Harris, have both publicly admitted that Facebook and Google intentionally develop addictive technology in order to exploit the product user for financial gain, even at the expense of the user’s privacy and safety.
As I’ll explain below, it is clear that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), state attorneys general, lawmakers, and telecom providers such as AT&T are not protecting individuals, children, or business professionals from companies that employ surveillance and data-mining business practices that could bring harm to the social media user, smartphone user (telecom subscriber), and connected-product user.
It is important that product owners and users understand privacy, telecommunication, and consumer laws to know how to protect their rights.
You Have Rights!
Most people view their smartphone within the bubble of consumerism and entertainment, forgetting that they also use the device for highly confidential telecommunications and computing associated with their personal and professional lives.
I believe that it is important for smartphone owners to understand that a smartphone is a cellular phone with an integrated computer that forms a “protected telecom product.”
Lest we forget, smartphones are supported by a protected telecommunication infrastructure governed by the FCC within the United States.
Understanding that a smartphone is a protected telecom-related device is relevant to understanding your rights associated with protected telecom infrastructure.
Protected telecom infrastructure means that telecom subscribers (“paying customers”) and authorized device users (spouses, children, employees, etc.) are protected against unauthorized surveillance and data mining conducted by state actors (foreign or domestic), individuals, and private entities.
This means that if companies such as Google and Apple were state actors, then all companies concerned would need a warrant from a domestic judge or a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in order to lawfully surveil and data mine a telecom subscriber or authorized device user.
Being that Baidu is a Chinese company and enabled by Google to surveil U.S. citizens via smartphones, there may be violations regarding a U.S. telecom subscriber and authorized device user’s civil liberties that need to be addressed by the FCC, FTC, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice, and other relevant agencies due to Baidu’s relationship with the Chinese government.
It should be illegal for any state actor (foreign or domestic) to be able to surveil and data mine telecom subscribers and authorized device users by way of partnerships with companies such as Google, Apple, or Microsoft, who control access to smartphones and other connected products.
The FTC, FCC, DHS, state attorneys general, and lawmakers need to investigate partnerships between operating system developers such as Google and companies (e.g., Baidu) from countries such as China due to civil liberty, privacy, cybersecurity, and safety threats posed to U.S. citizens, children, and business professionals.
Allowing any company from an adversarial country such as China to monitor, track, and data mine U.S. citizens via protected telecom-related products is an existential threat to the United States, including the economy.
People need to realize that they are using their smartphones for confidential and protected telecommunications and computing associated with their personal and professional lives.
Confidential and protected telecommunications and computing are governed by confidentiality agreements, non-disclosure agreements, industry and federal cybersecurity standards, federal information processing standards, and confidentiality laws that govern medical information, client–attorney privilege, and classified information.
People who work within a confidential and protected environment need to be aware of the fact that a smartphone is not a private, secure, or safe form of telecommunications and computing, according to admissions made by T-Mobile and Verizon.
Who Is Protecting Us?
While working for a U.S. defense contractor, I analyzed the intrusive pre-installed content that supported a Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone that I had purchased from T-Mobile because of civil liberty, privacy, cybersecurity, safety threats to the tech-product user.
As a result of my findings, I had also analyzed several other Samsung smartphones and Apple iPhones that I had purchased at AT&T and T-Mobile for my wife, children, and myself to use personally and professionally.
In light of the threats and potential violations of consumer laws associated with all products concerned, I filed formal complaints with my service providers, which included AT&T, T-Mobile, Samsung, Google, and Apple.
The complaints that I filed with all service providers concerned were centered on transparency in regards to surveillance and data-mining business practices employed.
To date, all service providers concerned have not addressed my complaints, questions, or concerns, even though all service providers have a legal responsibility to address my complaints since I’m a telecom subscriber (paying customer).
Due to a lack of regard for the privacy and safety concerning my wife, children, and myself, I had no other alternative but to file formal complaints against all service providers concerned with the FTC, FCC, and state attorneys general (Texas, California, and Washington).
All state attorneys general and agencies concerned have also failed to adequately respond to the collective complaints that I have filed, even though I have submitted physical evidence associated with several reports that have exposed potential violations of consumer laws committed by all parties concerned.
It has been shocking to realize that the FTC, FCC, and state attorneys general will not confirm whether they are investigating the potential violations of consumer laws that I’ve brought to their attention, especially since I backed my claims and complaints with hard data, information, and photographic evidence in the form of reports and analysis.
Consumers Need Help!
My findings, coupled with the collective admissions made by all parties concerned, have established that smartphones and connected products are not private, secure, or safe forms of telecommunications and computing.
Predatory surveillance and data-mining business practices have put individuals, children, and business professionals in harm’s way due to addictive, intrusive, exploitative, and harmful content that supports smartphones and connected products in general.
Citizens, children, and business professionals need the FTC, FCC, telecom providers, state attorneys general, and lawmakers to implement regulations and pass laws that will protect telecom subscribers, authorized device users, and connected-product users from predatory surveillance and data-mining business practices.
Until regulations and laws are passed, companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Baidu will continue to exploit tech-product users for financial gain at the expense of the user’s civil liberties, privacy, cyber security, and safety.
Unfortunately, incidents regarding abuse, negligence, and harmful use of personal and professional digital DNA are being exposed by news reports on a weekly basis.
If you do not believe you are in harm’s way, please read my next article “Harmful Use of Sensitive Smartphone User Data—Digital DNA,” coming soon.
Rex M. Lee is a privacy and data security consultant and Blackops Partners analyst and researcher. MySmartPrivacy.com
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.