Tag Archives: social networking

Can Facebook Messenger kill off apps?

Messenger’s head David Marcus tells Madhumita Murgia why conversations could replace apps, and be the future of Facebook’s business

Amid the chaos of Europe’s largest technology conference, the Dublin Web Summit, David Marcus looks perfectly unruffled.

In an immaculate white shirt and blazer, and coiffed salt-and-pepper hair, the soft-spoken French-born head of Facebook Messenger has the air of a man in control. And so he should: since the former president of PayPal joined Facebook in 2014, the app has more than doubled its number of users from 300m to 700m monthly active users. It is now the second most-used messaging app in the world, trailing only its sister-app, Whatsapp, which had 900m users at last count.

Facebook’s boss Mark Zuckerberg has publicly acknowledged the importance of Messenger to the future of Facebook. “One of the fastest-growing and most important members of our family is Messenger. We think this service has the potential to…connect hundreds of millions of new people, and to become a really important communication tool for the world,” he told the audience at the company’s F8 conference in March.

David Marcus’ job is to turn Messenger into a gateway to the mobile web. His plan: to replace apps with chats.

“The only thing people do more than social networking is messaging,” Marcus told me, as we chatted in a Facebook-branded booth, eating from chef-prepared lunch boxes with dozens of Facebook, Instagram and Oculus Rift employees milling around us. “I always like to rewind to what people did before technology. Before the web era, we just had conversations.”

There’s little doubt about it: messengers are some of the most successful apps today. Together, the five biggest ones – Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, WeChat and Line – account for more than 3 billion accounts.

The start of the messaging wars has been openly declared: upstarts who are vying for our thumbs globally range from the South Korean KakaoTalk to Japan’s Line and Canadian Kik.

Mobile phone messaging apps will be used by more than 1.4 billion consumers in 2015, up nearly 32pc on the previous year, according to eMarketer’s first ever worldwide forecast for these services.

That’s roughly 75pc of all smartphone users in the world. By 2018, that number will reach 2 billion and represent 80pc of smartphone users. Within five years, it could reach total saturation.

In order to grow its user base at an exponential rate, Messenger has expanded its reach beyond that of the 1.5bn-strong Facebook network. “We’ve enabled people who don’t have a Facebook account to get Messenger, using their phone number,” Marcus says, echoing the strategy that Facebook-owned Whatsapp uses.

But Facebook isn’t just trying to expand your friends-and-family network. Next, Marcus wants you to conduct all your business transactions – with retail assistants, airline ticketing agents, telecoms call centres, robotic PAs – using Messenger.

“On Facebook, we already have 45m active businesses on Pages, and 700m active people on Messenger so the two sides of the network already existed, but there was no bridge between those two worlds to communicate,” he explains.

In August last year, around the time that Mr Marcus joined the company, Facebook spun out Messenger into a standalone app that could be your portal of communication with everyone. As part of this strategy, it announced an entirely new layer called ‘Businesses on Messenger’, which allows users to communicate with businesses and brands within the app.

If you use Marcus’ trick of recalling a pre-digital era, that would be like going over to your local seamstress and chatting with her about buying another dress like the one you bought last week.

If the idea seems far-fetched in our web-first world, there are eerily-similar precedents to look to. In 2011, Chinese tech giant Tencent launched a simple messaging app called Weixin. Now rebranded as WeChat for an international audience, it boasts 600m monthly active users who use the app as a filter for the mobile web: you can hail taxis, book doctor’s appointments, do your grocery shopping or pay your utility bill, all through WeChat.

WeChat allows any developer to build third-party apps into the chat ecosystem, leading to the growth of entirely new companies that exist solely inside WeChat. In September, a WeChat-based butler app called Laiye raised $4m in seed funding just two months after launch; similarly food delivery app Call a Chicken has raised $1.6m.

Neither company has its own app.

But Marcus says Asian app models won’t necessarily work for Messenger, which has a mostly Western market.

North America and Europe already have successful services for apps that exist within WeChat. “When it launched in China, you didn’t have a way to hail a cab other than the integration inside WeChat. Here we have Hailo and Uber and all kinds of apps,” Marcus explained.

Messenger’s proposition is that you won’t have to build or use new apps within their app – you can get rid of apps completely.

Instead, you can talk to businesses via a chat thread, so it feels more like a conversation than a transaction. “A thread of conversation is a much better form of app,” Marcus says. A Messenger chat retains your identity, the context of your previous conversations and always follows on logically from your last message.

Trying to kill apps is a bold ambition, at a time when the mobile app economy is ostensibly booming. With 2.6 million apps available on iOS and Google Play, and 140 billion app downloads in 2014, predictions for the size of the mobile app marketplace by 2017 range from $77bn to $150bn.

But in March this year, technology research firm Gartner published a report saying that app usage is going to plateau, as many smartphone users said they were fatigued – they don’t want to increase their current app usage levels.

“After eight years of searching for, downloading, and using smartphone apps, users are maturing in their usage behaviours,” said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner.“It’s not that smartphone users have lost interest in apps. However, users need to be convinced about the value of the app.”

This is exactly Marcus’ point: apps work great if you are a frequent user, but why would you clutter up your phone with the app of a business you buy from once or twice a year at most? Instead, you can just talk to them via Messenger.

Messenger has already trialled its chat service with six US retailers like online clothing company, Everlane. The plan now is to roll out this out to a range of retailers and airlines, with a Q1 2016 launch date for UK businesses.

“If I had previously bought a t-shirt, I can just say ‘can I have another one in black?’ I don’t even have to say t-shirt,” Marcus says. “The person on the other side knows what I mean, where to ship it, and what my size is.”

They are also testing the system with Dutch carrier KLM. Once you have booked your flight, your confirmation details will be sent to you in a conversation bubble on Messenger. You can just text back to change or cancel and get live notifications when you need to check in, or board your flight. “You can do things in a tenth of the time that you can over email or other platforms,” Marcus says.

In August, Messenger announced the next step in its plan to kill off mobile apps, and maybe even search engines – ‘M’, its artificially intelligent virtual assistant.

Built into Messenger like a friend, it can help you out with administrative tasks like speaking to Amazon customer service or making a restaurant reservation. “Unlike other digital assistants on the market, it enables you to complete tasks versus just giving you information,” Marcus says.

Using a combination of human helpers and machine learning, it is constantly improving its responses. “We have a lot of data sources on Facebook pages, so we could leverage what your friends recommend or like to automate M over time.”

So will the artificially-intelligent Messenger of the future still be text-based, or will it evolve into a world of virtual reality avatars, powered by Facebook-owned headset Oculus Rift?

“When you look at the evolution of Facebook, the new generation of business is definitely messaging, followed by virtual reality, so it will be interesting to see how messaging in the world of VR plays out,” Marcus smiles.

“The beauty of VR is that you can share experiences. If we can get people to connect better in the virtual world, then why not? That’s our mission.”

Advertisements
Tagged , ,

Facebook ‘snooping’ requests increase 60 per cent in UK

Requests for personal data increase to 3,384 in the first six months of 2015, the social network reveals

Requests for Facebook users’ personal data have increased by 60 per cent in the UK in a year, with the social network fielding 3,384 demands in six months from the Government and law enforcement authorities.

Facebook’s latest Government Requests Report, released on Wednesday evening, revealed a significant rise in requests for information across the world.

Such requests can be made for different reasons, but Facebook says the vast majority relate to criminal investigations, including robberies, kidnappings and in some cases terrorism.

The data requested is often basic information, such as when a user has recently logged in, but authorities have also requested photos and private messages.

After the US and India, Facebook received more government requests in the UK than any other country. The revelations come amid growing scrutiny of official snooping on citizens, following last week’s publication of theInvestigatory Powers Bill, which overhauled the UK’s surveillance powers including requirements for internet providers to store browsing data.

During the first half of 2015, Facebook received 3,384 requests for data concerning 4,489 accounts. This was up from 2,110 requests in the same period a a year ago and 1,975 in the first half of 2013.

Facebook, which has more than 30 million users in the UK complied with 78 per cent of requests, up from 72 per cent a year ago.

In the wake of revelations from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, who alleged that the US government had widespread access to personal data held by technology companies, internet giants have taken to publishing regular transparency reports about official information requests.

Twitter said earlier in the year that UK requests had more than doubled in six months. Apple, Google and Microsoft have also seen increases in personal data requests in recent years.

“As we have emphasised before, Facebook does not provide any government with ‘back doors’ or direct access to people’s data,” it said.

“We scrutinize each request we receive for legal sufficiency, whether from an authority in the US, Europe, or elsewhere. If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back hard and will fight in court, if necessary.

“Over the last two years, we’ve regularly published information about the nature and extent of the requests we receive. To protect people’s information, we will continue to apply a rigorous approach to every government request we receive.

“We’ll also keep working with partners in industry and civil society to push governments around the world to reform surveillance in a way that protects their citizens’ safety and security while respecting their rights and freedoms.”

The UK was by far the biggest requester of Facebook data in the European Union, although France, Italy and Germany also requested thousands of account details.

The US requested 17,557 pieces of information, however, almost half the total. Facebook said total requests had increased by 18 per cent to 41,214.

Last week, Home Secretary Theresa May unveiled proposals for a so-called“Snoopers’ Charter”, the biggest overhaul of surveillance laws in 15 years.

The Investigatory Powers Bill would require tech firms to help decrypt personal communications if required to by warrant. Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook criticised the proposals this week, saying that “opening a backdoor could have dire consequences” for personal security.

Tagged , , , , ,

Why you need to purge your Twitter feed of angry people

Researchers find that the sentiment of tweets in a users’ feed tends to affect how they themselves tweet

It’s said that your personality is the average of your five closest friends, but when it comes to Twitter, the people you follow determine how you act.

According to researchers at the University of Southern Carolina, Twitter users tend to tweet in line with the emotions expressed by the people they follow. So any angry, hateful or negative Twitter users you follow make you more likely to tweet similar sentiments.

Users who are exposed to a disproportionate number of negative tweets are more likely to post negative messages on the social network, and the effect is even greater with positive tweets, the researchers found, terming the effect “emotional contagion”.

“What you tweet and share on social media outlets matters. Often, you’re not just expressing yourself – you’re influencing others,” said Dr Emilio Ferrara, who led the study.

Researchers monitored 3,800 Twitter users, monitoring feeds for sentiment using an analysis tool called SentiStrength. Among the negative tweets, the most common expressions were anger and fear.

While researchers found that an average feed is made up of 34.4 per cent positive, 48.3 per cent neutral and 17.3 per cent negative tweets, users who posted negative or positive tweets had different mixes of feeds.

Before a negative tweet is posted, a feed tends to be on average 33.3 per cent positive and 21.6 per cent negative – a more negative mix than the average. Before a positive tweet, the opposite is true, with feeds averaging 38.9 per cent positive emotions and 16 per cent negative.

Very few people are not influenced by their Twitter feed at all, with only a fraction seeing less than a fifth of tweets correlated with the sentiment of their feed. Some 20 per cent of users are “highly suscepticle”, meaning more than half of their tweets relate to the sentiment of their feed.

These highly susceptible users are far more likely to be influenced by positive feeds than negative ones, the researchers claimed.

Although the researchers considered other possibilities for correlations between tweets and a user’s feed, such as the tendency to follow other users with similar emotions, they suggested that contagion could be a contributor.

Facebook found itself in hot water last year after it emerged that it manipulated the news feeds of hundreds of thousands of users to see how it affected their mood.

Tagged , ,

Tinder owner valued at more than £2bn

Match Group to raise up to $536m in New York IPO after online dating company sets share price range

The online dating company behind Tinder expects to be valued at more than $3bn (£2bn) when it lists in New York.

Match Group, which owns the wildly-popular dating app as well as dozens of other services including OkCupid, Match.com and PlentyOfFish, could raise up to $536m for media giant IAC/InterActive, which is floating a stake in the company to pay off debt.

Online dating, particularly on smartphone apps, has exploded in recent years. Match has grown from 11m monthly users four years ago to 59m today, with paying users doubling to 4.7m. It claims to have three of the world’s five most lucrative dating apps.

On Monday, Match said it expects to sell 33.3m shares at between $12 and $14, as well as an option to sell another 5m to underwriters. This would value it at between $2.9bn and $3.4bn.

IAC, run by American mogul Barry Diller, owns dozens of internet and media brands, including About.com, Vimeo and Dictionary.com, although Match is its most valuable property. It will continue to own more than 84pc immediately after the listing, and a dual-share structure will give it 98pc control of shareholder votes.

Match Group IPOMatch Group has grown significantly in the last four years  Photo: Match Group

Tinder, a mobile-only service that connects with users’ Facebook accounts and is especially popular among “millennial” 18-34 year-olds, is used by almost 10m people every day, who spend an average of 35 minutes on the app per day.

The app, which lets users “swipe right” on a person’s profile to indicate interest, matching them if the interest is mutual, introduced a paid-for version earlier this year.

While the majority of users do not pay for the app, Tinder has started to introduce advertising, with the 145 profiles that users swipe through a day presenting opportunities to grab marketing spending.

Tagged , , , ,

Tinder wants to help you find true love

Tinder chief executive Sean Rad claims that the company’s goal is to increase the number of “meaningful” connections people make through the app

Dating app Tinder’s chief executive Sean Rad has announced a major change to the app’s matching algorithm, resulting in a 30pc increase in matches on the dating platform.

Mr Rad told a packed auditorium at the Dublin Web Summit that Tinder’s big goal, unlike how the press portrays it, is to increase the number of ‘meaningful’ connections people make through the app. Currently, he said 1.5m dates are arranged every week, with 1m of those being first dates. Roughly 9bn matches have been made in total, with 30m matches made daily. About 1.8bn swipes are recorded through the app every day.

Tinder surveyed 300,000 single users of the app – apparently the largest-ever survey of singledom – and found something surprising: 80pc of people were looking for long-term relationships on Tinder, while only 20pc said they wanted ‘friendships’ or short-term relationships.

Tinder, which was launched in 2012, still doesn’t disclose the number of people who actually use the app, but its chief executive said that it is now the “dominant dating app” in all the 194 countries it is used in.

It is so heartening that true love exists

Its newest feature, known as Superlike, launched in October and allows you to ‘superlike’ just one person a day. This means the person can see that you like them before they decide to swipe you out of their lives; the goal: to help people find soulmates.

“We’re moving faster than ever. Superlike was a significant change to the ecosystem,” Mr Rad said. Before, you could virtually wink at someone across the room by swiping right, but with Superlike, “You can walk over and say hello. It’s like buying someone a drink, it’s a deeper level of intent.”

The startup, whose owner Match Group recently filed for IPO, would not break out any revenues, but Mr Rad emphasised that Tinder had a “very healthy business” with most of its revenue coming from its subscription service Tinder Plus. The other revenue stream is advertising, which Mr Rad said started as an experiment, but will be heavily pushed as a business model in the next year.

Ultimately, Tinder wants to become the platform that we use to create all new relationships. “You wont remember the photo you saw on Snapchat two hours ago, but you will remember the person you met on Tinder weeks ago,” he said. “What makes us human is the people we meet – it’s about uncovering those connections.”

Tagged , , ,

Say hi to Reddit, the budding Netflix wannabe

Reddit just joined the original-video scene. With its first series of documentary shorts debuting Wednesday, Reddit wants to raise the profile of its brightest communities and appeal to more outsiders.

A cuddlier, friendlier Reddit is taking a page out of the Netflix script.

Reddit, the social news site that bills itself as “the front page of the Internet,” on Wednesday debuted its first free-standing video series, a collection of documentary shorts about the intersection of humanity and machine called “Cyborg Nation.” The idea was championed by Reddit co-founder and Chairman Alexis Ohanian, who turned to a science and tech community on Reddit as a think tank to sculpt it.

“The hundreds of thousands of communities of Reddit generate more original ideas in one day than the world’s best newsroom could produce in a lifetime,” Ohanian said to mark the series premiere.

Over the past six months, a small video team at Reddit has been turning the site into the next tech property to hang its hopes on original video. Reddit wants the sleek clips to highlight the expertise in its forums and win it more mainstream appeal. If you’ve never visited Reddit before, or if you ran the other way in confusion, its videos may make its forums approachable for the first time.

More 200 million people already make up Reddit’s communities, known as subreddits, which obsess over far-flung topics such as solving crime, comparing fountain pens and debating politics. That’s about eight times the number of people who tune into Hulu, based on a study of the streaming site’s total audience by traffic tracker ComScore.

The video effort is also an olive branch to Reddit’s populace, still smarting from a summer of conflict. Many groups revolted this summer when executives cracked down on controversial behavior like harassment and fired a well-liked employee who bridged the gap between Reddit’s leaders and its volunteer moderators.

A collaborative relationship with Reddit users is half the goal of the video programming, said Michael Pope, Reddit’s creative projects manager. With the videos, “we’re seeing the value in our community and propping it up more,” he said.

The other goal is to make Reddit’s communities known to a wider audience, he said. To do that for “Cyborg Nation,” Reddit joined forces with Conde Nast Entertainment, the digital video arm of the magazine publishing giant that owns Wired and Vogue. Conde Nast helped mold the storytelling and wrote the check. The series will play on Wired’s site, channels and apps, in addition to Reddit’s page and YouTube channel. “Cyborg Nation” will also run on Conde Nast’s syndication network, which includes Yahoo, AOL and MSN, and on its The Scene app for devices like Apple TV and Roku.

That could raise Reddit’s exposure to the masses.

However, original video doesn’t always work. Amazon, for example, initially intended to build the “movie studio of the future” by letting anybody upload scripts so talent could rise to the top, according to a 2011 promo video by head Roy Price. Amazon Studios later realized it needed industry pros to make series with less trial-and-error.

Even well-known content fails. Last month, Yahoo reduced its estimate of how much its original content is worth by $42 million. Programs like its revival of the former NBC show “Community” just weren’t going to make as much money as hoped, the company said.

Reddit is avoiding some of the pitfalls that trapped Amazon and Yahoo. It’s working with professionals at the outset and keeping a focus on subjects that are much cheaper to shoot. But Reddit is also playing it cool as it reaches for its video goals.

“Cyborg Nation” was shaped by guidance from members of a subreddit called r/futurology and shot by outside production company Acres with input from Ohanian and Pope. But Reddit and r/futurology’s involvement is apparent only if viewers click on a credits link. For both, that’s a hat tip rather than outright promotion.

Still, the company has other opportunities. “Cyborg Nation” builds on a recent string of recorded “Ask Me Anything” video interviews with celebrities. The company is making another series, called “Formative,” in collaboration with Google and the r/entrepreneur subreddit. Pope said its presence in the “Formative” videos may differ because Reddit is spearheading the series from start to finish.

Tagged , , , ,

Facebook now averages over 1 billion active users every day

That milestone number was first reached this summer, but is now standard

Facebook reported its third quarter earnings today, and the figure that stood out was 1.01 billion average daily users. That is up 17 percent from the same three-month period last year and highlights what a massive global phenomenon the social network has become.

The company’s share price also surged in after-hours trading after it beat analysts’ expectations. It reported $4.5 billion in revenue and a profit of $1.46 billion. Those numbers are both up more than 40 percent over the same period last year.

As with previous quarters, mobile continues to be an increasingly large percentage of Facebook’s revenue, now accounting for 78 percent of all advertising dollars on the platform, up from 66 percent for the third quarter last year.

Investors had been hoping that Facebook would break out some details of the money Instagram is earning. The photo-sharing app has now rolled out a robust advertising business, but so far, Facebook is keeping those numbers opaque, reporting inside of its larger advertising business.

So far founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg had only platitudes to offer. “We had a good quarter and got a lot done. We’re focused on innovating and investing for the long term to serve our community and connect the entire world.” We’re hoping for something more on the earnings call later this afternoon and will update this post accordingly.

Tagged , , , ,

Facebook videos reach 8 billion views per day

Twice the amount users watched back in April

Video on Facebook is swallowing the entire social network. According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg today, Facebook videos notch more than 8 billion views daily. That’s double what the average view count was back in April and eight times the amount of daily video views the platform had in September 2014. That’s an astonishing rate of growth. But it’s not inconceivable when you consider Facebook now has 1.55 billion monthly users and more than 1 billion people who use the service every day, according to the company’s third-quarter earnings today.

It’s worth noting that Facebook counts video views differently than competitors like YouTube. On the Google-owned video service, a view is counted only if a viewer lets the video play for at least 30 seconds. On Facebook, that number is three seconds, and video owners also have the benefit of Facebook’s autoplay feature, which triggers a play whenever a user scrolls past a video in their News Feed. Facebook can also prioritize video by tinkering with the algorithms that determine what users see. Still, however Facebook is counting the video views, the growth rate can’t be denied.

FACEBOOK WANTS THE NEWS FEED TO BE MOSTLY VIDEO

Facebook’s vision for its social network is a site that is increasingly consumed by video. The strategy aims to turn Facebook into a one-stop-shop for online communication, news, entertainment, and all variety of other web content that gets shared on the internet. Facebook ad product lead Ted Zagat said as much on a panel in September, noting that the shift to a video-first platform will take one or two years. The company has even begun testing a video-only feed within its mobile app, as well as a way to shrink a video down to continue watching it while scrolling through the News Feed similar to YouTube’s mobile app.

Tagged , ,

Tor launches anti-censorship Messenger service

A new chat tool has been launched in an effort to improve the security of online messaging.

Tor Messenger allows users to chat over the Tor (The Onion Router) network in a way which hides the location of participants.

It means that the contents of messages will only be visible to the participants.

The service will also work with platforms like Facebook even in countries where they are banned.

The tool is currently in beta and will undergo security tests.

Users wishing to remain anonymous or access chat clients blocked in their own country could use Tor Messenger to chat via services like Facebook Chat, Google Talk, Twitter, Yahoo and Internet Relay Chat.

The program does not communicate via what’s often called the “dark web”, a collection of hidden websites and services, but rather by sending messages across a series of internet relays (or routers) so that their origin cannot be tracked.

These relays are called “bridges”.

Bypassing blocks

“They’re computers run by volunteers and in a censored area your computer will connect to these,” explained Steven Murdoch, a security researcher at University College London who has worked on Tor projects.

“Those services are not publicly listed anywhere – they should not be blocked even if access to the Tor network is blocked.”

In addition, messages may be encrypted to provide additional security. This feature is enabled by default, though both parties in a one-to-one chat would have to have off-the-record encryption (OTR) set up.

This requires the two parties to exchange a secret key which is needed to decode the messages they send to each other.

Interest in privacy

“At the end of the day some people really do need privacy and security so this would be important to them,” commented Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.

He also told the BBC that he imagined the tool, once audited, could be used by whistleblowers, individuals wanting to complain about corruption or sources desiring to speak to journalists anonymously about a story.

“I think it shows the worries people have that chats and other clients are being snooped on,” he added.

Dr Murdoch also made the point that while the service was still being tested, it shouldn’t be used by those who have serious security concerns.

“It’s good for people to experiment with but not if you’ve got serious security requirements yet,” he told the BBC.

Tagged , , , , ,

WhatsApp and Facebook signals can be hacked to track your location

Hackers can monitor 4G mobile networks to detect users’ location using supposedly anonymised identifiers

Security researchers have revealed how simply contacting somebody via WhatsApp or Facebook messenger can reveal a smartphone owner’s location by exploiting a security flaw in 4G mobile networks.

A hacker could use the apps to discover the supposedly anonymised identifiers that are assigned to devices when they connect to a network, and use them to locate their owner, according to researchers in Finland and Germany.

When a smartphone connects to a mobile network, it is assigned a temporary number called a TMSI (Temporary Mobile Subscriber Identity). The network then uses this eight-digit number to identify a device, rather than a phone number, to make communication more private.

However, a hacker monitoring radio communications could tie this TMSI to an individual by sending them a Facebook message or WhatsApp chat, both of which trigger a special “paging request” from a network that contains specific location information about a particular TMSI number.

Anybody with a Facebook account can send another user a Facebook message. Unless the two users are friends, this message will end up inFacebook’s “Other” folder, a feature most users do not know about that is only accessible on the social network’s desktop version, but sending a user a message will still trigger a paging request.

Likewise, WhatsApp’s “typing notification” – a feature on the chat app that displays when a contact is composing a message – also triggers the connection. If a hacker has a victim’s phone number, they could send them a message on WhatsApp, and if the victim begins to type a response, the network issues a paging request.

Within these paging requests are location data, that on newer 4G networks can be used to track users’ locations to an area of 2km2.

Older 2G and 3G networks would place a particular smartphone within a given “tracking area” of around 100km2, representing less of a security issue, but modern 4G networks place them in smaller “cells” of around 2km2, making it much easier to pinpoint a smartphone.

This allows network issues to be better understood, but in this case, gives away more data about smartphone users.

Smartphone trackingCells are much more accurate than tracking areas  Photo: Aalto University

It is relatively easy to monitor these signals using easily-available network hardware, according to the researchers from Aalto University, the University of Helsinki, Technische Universitat Berlin and Telekom Innovation Laboratories.

Although TMSIs are supposed to refresh relatively often, in order to protect privacy, they can persist for up to three days, the researchers said.

More aggressive attackers can set up a fake network base station to accurately triangulate users. These stations can request reports from TMSI numbers, typically used in cases of network failure, which can accurately reveal a smartphone’s location. At least one device gave away its GPS co-ordinates after a failure request, the researchers said.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,