Spillikins # 593. Spying on others – phone clicks


For more than a week, demonstrations and riots in the United States have continued, the result was the postponement of many events and announcements – the launch of Android 11 was canceled, then the announcement of the PlayStation 5 and a whole scattering of games was postponed. Corporate America is trying to avoid any accusation that they don’t give a damn about the current situation, it is a kind of support for the speeches that are happening all over the country. This is a delicate question, and therefore everyone is being overly cautious, no one wants to fall under accusations on social media. It seems that the protests are beginning to subside by themselves, vandalism and robberies have almost stopped in big cities, and there is a hope that in this aspect the situation will calm down. Performances in other countries did not initially have such intensity, so everything is relatively calm there. About robbery and the uselessness of stealing certain types of electronics, we had a material at the end of last week, I advise you to read it if you missed it.

Spillikins # 593. Spying on others - phone clicksSpillikins # 593. Spying on others - phone clicks

And we will start our traditional edition, let’s go!


  1. Tracking and clicks in the tube are stereotypes that cannot be eradicated.
  2. Social media censorship is America’s bone of contention
  3. News from the car – Microsoft’s algorithm replaces people
  4. The series “Space Forces” (Space Force, 2020)

Tracking and clicks in the tube are stereotypes that cannot be eradicated.

For as long as I can remember, the topic of spying on other people using their phone has existed for so long. Journalists from various publications periodically return to this rich topic, as it is ideal for discussion, and people express their opinion on this issue with sense, feeling, with constellation.

It’s amazing that the years go by, and the stereotypes that have arisen continue to exist. Their foundation was laid back in the days of ordinary telephones, when there was no talk of any cellular communication. For example, if you hear clicks, the connection deteriorates, then this definitely means that someone is listening to you, even those who have not found home phones, but use exclusively cell phones, already know about this. The roots of this prejudice go back several decades, when many did not even have their own dedicated phone, but it was paired. Don’t remember this?

They put a home phone in two apartments, each got its own number, but there was only one line to the PBX. Therefore, when your neighbors were talking on the phone, you could not call or no one could get through to you. Sometimes the conversations went on for hours, then the line was “cut off”, the broken female hairpin was put into the hole of the speaker, and then the other end was inserted into the socket! A couple of seconds, and the connection was lost, a dial tone appeared. The Soviet man was inventive, but the main thing was that there was an unwritten code: after you reset your connection in this way, you did not answer the phone for a while, letting your neighbors talk. These are the unspoken rules of a conventional communal apartment.

Perhaps it was then that I first heard that the KGB has a special department that is engaged in wiretapping. In the late 80s, that is, more than thirty years ago, there was a bike that when listening you hear extraneous noises, sometimes it’s someone’s breathing. I think that this myth was not born out of nowhere, since some people were having fun by connecting to other people’s numbers and listening to them, but the state did not do this. It was not difficult to connect to someone else’s number, all the wiring in the entrances was open, do whatever you want with it.

People in the know asserted that when the state is watching you, the quality of communication, on the contrary, becomes ideal, no extraneous noise, crystal clear sound of the interlocutor. I remember how one guest struck me, in a muffled voice he told me that the technique had gone so far that it was able to recognize certain words and turn on the recording of a conversation. For example, you say the word “bomb”, and the recording starts immediately, this saves time for employees and does not overload them with fruitless work. Was there such a system in fact, or is it just another bike on the decline of the Soviet Union, I don’t know, I did not try to study this issue. But our understanding of listening grew from that time, and this, unfortunately, is a fact.

The state has full and unrestricted access to the infrastructure of operators that provide voice communications and more. In Russia, as well as in many countries of the world, a whole set of laws is in force, which is focused on the possibility of intercepting information in communication networks, the most famous is SORM in all editions. In order not to go into details that are not so important, I will say that operators are obliged to build black boxes that transmit the entire amount of information to the special services, but at the same time do not see what exactly is being analyzed, recorded, and so on. For example, when you call someone, your conversation takes place not only in the infrastructure of the operators that it is provided, but it can also go into this black box (but they listen to it, record it or not, nobody on the operator’s side knows this). For the most part, this system is automated, and there are no millions of “ears” that day and night listening to someone’s conversations. In this mass of information there are filtering systems that allow you to find objects of interest and only then study them closely.

What you need to understand here, such systems work at the infrastructure level, they do not use your phone or the interlocutor’s device in any way. There is no deterioration or improvement of communication, since the “signal” is removed on the infrastructure equipment and it is almost impossible to realize this moment. Therefore, the myth that wiretapping can be recognized has no foundation.

Abstracting from the special services, we can say that other law enforcement organizations do not have access to such systems, they are not supposed to. As a result, their toolkit is limited to requests to the court regarding specific numbers / people, and here the procedure is as transparent as possible. Also, operational employees can install technical means of tracking, they also do not affect communication in any way, do not degrade its quality.

Any person who wants to avoid being followed by other people, competitors, must remember a simple thing – the attention of the state cannot be avoided. No matter what smartphones you use, what encryption systems – all this does not matter. You just draw attention to yourself, in fact you are doing this – you hang up a huge banner: “I have something to hide, look at me!”.

Never accept communication means as a gift from other people, it is always a risk that you have been presented with a Trojan horse that will easily report everything that you do. Likewise, you shouldn’t leave your phone to be set up by someone else, do it yourself. You don’t share your toothbrush with someone, do you?

The question is who can be protected from. For example, the Ministry of Internal Affairs does not have the means to hack smartphones, your communications, and therefore the means of protecting smartphones and other equipment that exist are quite adequately fighting this threat.

But you know what is the most curious thing about surveillance? The state is busy with this, but the people themselves do it to the greatest extent. Men watch their beloved and exactly the opposite. Today’s smartphones allow, without having any knowledge, to install many tracking programs or record conversations.

The story of the Moscow girl Katya L. is typical and does not differ in any way from hundreds of others that are happening around us. Accidental acquaintance, he is fifteen years older, no children, but there is a desire to start a family. A few months later, they begin to live together, the candy-bouquet period continues, Cyril looks like a fairytale prince. Jokingly she says that she is very jealous and will not allow anyone next to her. But it is adequate, and this is just a joke?

After two years of her life, Katya gets into Kirill’s computer to check her mail, stumbles upon the window of the player and turns on the music. But instead of music, he hears his conversation with a friend, which happened a couple of days before. Katya is in a state of shock, a folder on her computer stores all conversations over the past two years – with him, with her parents, and other people. It turns out that the way Cyril anticipated desires, smoothed out sharp corners, is connected not with his natural sensitivity, but with the knowledge of what Katya said to her close friends.

How did Kirill do it? He simply set up Katya’s phone, which he himself gave her. With each call, the device automatically dialed another number, and the conversation began to be recorded. According to the laws of any country, this is illegal surveillance, exactly the same in Russia. And even if Katya were Kirill’s wife, it would still be an invasion of the secrecy of conversations, which our laws do not allow.

There are a lot of surveillance software, there are dozens of programs. Moreover, many of them were not created for this at all, they were adapted for such purposes. Let me give you another story.

Kolya and Lana are a great couple, they have several children, they are happily married, in any case, such a feeling arises from the outside. They have no secrets from each other, they set up their smartphones for each other’s prints, the phones are quietly left unattended at home, in a word, they have nothing to hide. Kolya and I were on a business trip and went to the bars after the official part was over. I was surprised that before leaving the room, he left his phone and turned it off. To my bewildered question he answered directly: “You see, Lana can look through the phone search service where I am, then check the map. Why this hassle and unnecessary explanations? I’m in my room, sleeping, but the phone just ran out. ” Apparently, there are trust issues in heaven too.

To me, all these surveillance stories seem to be a consequence of other problems in people’s lives. This lack of trust, self-doubt and further down the list. Anyone who is looking for something will definitely find it and come up with any kind of story. It is a matter of a person’s will And I think that if such thoughts arise, then the relationship has already rolled into nowhere and it is not so easy to glue them together. But it is worth remembering that surveillance of another person is illegal, no matter who it is – your child, adulthood, spouse or business partner. It’s illegal. And most importantly, it is pointless, since it is easier to build relationships from the beginning and build them on other principles.

There are a lot of temptations not to ask directly, but to learn everything little by little. The software is one step away from you, it will not be difficult to install it. But why? This is definitely not necessary, and, again, it is illegal.

But returning to the starting point of our journey, I want to note that when you are being followed, you do not see this by the change in the quality of the connection. An indirect sign, and even then very far-fetched, can be a battery discharge when self-made programs transfer large amounts of data to the side. But it is easy to check, and you will definitely find such surveillance in your machine.

Every person at some point in his life had a desire to look into other people’s thoughts, letters, messages, conversations. It is always a temptation, and if you take this step, it will be difficult to stop. It is definitely not worth opening this door, including to parents that they care about their children and believe that such control is simply necessary. Each person should have their own personal space, which is free from prying eyes and ears. How do you think?

Social media censorship is America’s bone of contention

It is social media that is praised or accused of Donald Trump winning the presidential race. It all depends on your views on politics and politicians. Social networks have become no less influential tool than conventional media, which means that states want to regulate them. With Trump, it turns out interesting, he is very active on Twitter, this is his main communication channel, but at the same time he clearly dislikes the company’s management. When he took over the Oval Office, he immediately invited the leaders of the IT industry to the meeting, many noticed that the leadership of Twitter was not among them, the official explanation sounded ridiculous – the network was too insignificant. But Trump uses Twitter on a daily basis, and it seems that the country’s leadership takes place on this social network – there you can find threats, approval, admonitions. But many of Trump’s messages do not stand up to any reality check, they are just lies. Someone will say that the US President is mistaken, someone, on the contrary, will think that he is doing it deliberately. The question is in your views.

But after the so-called interference of Russia in the presidential elections in the United States, which they cannot find and confirm, in America they set out to prevent this from happening again, to regulate social networks. In particular, emphasize when significant accounts publish unverified information. And Trump advocated such regulation, but he was the first to fall victim to it last week.

Spillikins # 593. Spying on others - phone clicks

Twitter actually signed two tweets from Donald Trump and indicated that the reality is somewhat different. And also gave links to what the facts look like. A click on the nose, and it should obviously cause serious irritation to the President of the United States. His dislike of the leadership of Twitter, and those of Trump, reached a new level.

Trump’s answer is unclear, he says that Twitter is introducing censorship, it is unacceptable, and other media, for example, CNN do this.

Spillikins # 593. Spying on others - phone clicks

But the story itself is revealing, these are the first steps towards broad regulation of social media and what you can find in them. It is clear that while this is happening in a conditionally manual mode, obviously Trump’s account is being monitored and all decisions are made by people, not algorithms. But in the United States, they conducted an experiment regarding this and created an account that did nothing but retype Trump’s messages (there is no end-to-end verification on Twitter that some account completely repeats the messages of another account). Three days later, this experimental account was blocked, which indirectly indicates a special attitude towards the president.

Spillikins # 593. Spying on others - phone clicks

Someone in our world always has more rights, and this is already a given. Social networks, in my opinion, cannot be held responsible for what people write to them. This is not the editorial offices of the media where the texts come, this is a way of self-expression for individuals. And there is no doubt that this is a convenient tool for manipulating public opinion.

What will happen next? After all, once you start regulating statements on social networks, it is impossible to stop. For example, Facebook will now mark accounts in most countries of the world that belong to media from Russia and China, where there is government participation. Formally, there is nothing wrong with this if this approach is extended to any media with state participation, but this did not happen, and it is unlikely to happen. A symmetrical response in Russia will be the requirement for such labeling for all social networks, without exception, including the same Facebook. And then the question will arise, to what extent Facebook will be ready to do this, or simply curtail its activities in Russia and lose this advertising market. Facebook is unlikely to take commercial losses, so they will look for ways to avoid aggravating relations.

But the question itself lies in the plane of the fact that for social networks, moderation is an expensive pleasure. All attempts to introduce automatic algorithms here show that they are working very badly so far (blocking the address of the President of Russia on YouTube is proof of this). It is also impossible to maintain a huge staff of moderators, too expensive.

And here we come to the next thought that lies on the surface. Social networks will try to get rid of bots more actively. As well as all democratic countries will try to abolish even the imaginary anonymity on the network, that is, formally make social networks responsible for who writes in them and on whose behalf he does it. This is not so difficult to do, after all, in most countries of the world, registration of a SIM card requires your data and operators already know who is hiding behind this or that number. It remains to connect social networks with mobile ones, and a miracle will happen, anonymity, even in the limited form that exists today, will fall.

In America, Europe, Russia and even more so China, officials dream of the same thing, they are strangely unanimous and want to see the Internet as non-anonymous. Look at the protests in the United States, where the idea of ​​those in power is on the same path as in other countries – to try to ban photographing police and military personnel while they are on duty (that is, to remove external control and the threat of investigations for them and against them). It is a bad idea. But the same idea is advocated by the protesters, they ask to cover up the faces in the photographs so that the state cannot figure out the protesters. Both those and others actually advocate anonymity, which protects against possible troubles. But in parallel, processes are taking place when the United States, which controls most of the technology companies, is de facto pursuing a policy of censorship and begins to impose restrictive measures against social networks.

This is censorship, which is already beginning to be tested in practice. And this will be a weapon of propaganda of some countries against others. Abstracting from politics, we can consider the following example. Someone will consider 5G very harmful and will begin to mark all posts on social networks that refute this point of view and prove that it is not. That is, information will be censored by social networks, given from a different angle. From the media that provide a space for expression, social networks will become the same player, they will begin to pursue their policies, express their thoughts and ideas. The neutrality of these media will disappear; it has actually disappeared, as we see in the example of the United States.

And it’s only a matter of time when different algorithms will be screwed on existing systems in order to promote certain messages, level the opposite point of view and manipulate this at the system level. There is no talk of any absence of censorship, it will only grow, and it began in the United States, and not somewhere else. It’s a matter of several years when this trend will take over the world. Therefore, the joke about the fact that soon we will go to the Internet using passports is taking on new shapes. Censorship is simply reaching a new level, and society has nothing to oppose to it.

News from the car – Microsoft’s algorithm replaces people

In parallel with the increase in censorship on the network, the number of algorithms is growing, which are beginning to replace people. Most large companies are experimenting with this approach, but perhaps Microsoft was the first to venture into this area so decisively. The EDGE browser as well as MSN has a variety of news items that were selected and edited by a team of 27 editors (PA Media, worked for Microsoft). All these editors received a notification that soon their work will be over, as Microsoft will replace them with an algorithm that selects and sorts news.

News as an information note format lends itself very well to a formalized approach, that is, it can be fed to an algorithm. The news format itself does not imply noticeable reflections, it is just something new that is communicated to the world. And to bring into this the emotions of a newsman, a person who works with information, someone seems uninteresting. I do not believe that algorithms will be successful in the long term, I think that a hybrid model will reappear, when the output generated by the machine will be checked by a human, that is, it will become a kind of acceptance.

Another point is that the same algorithms will make the very direction of news extremely poor, you can get the same thing from hundreds of sources, at the same speed. But primary sources cannot disappear anywhere, someone will have to create news in addition to those that come from ordinary press releases. Imagine a world in which press releases write algorithms and then feed them to other algorithms. It would be logical to assume that at some point the person in the middle will simply not be needed.

But this is utopia, since the spread of such algorithms will lead to the emergence of new niches, resources that are filled with news created by people. And in the coming years, algorithms are unlikely to be able to compete with them. Approach them, learn from their examples, but not replace them. This is not my latent desire, but the belief that such algorithms, written by even the most ingenious programmers, cannot replace a person, to model him. There will be no jobs for protein computers, which do simple work and do not turn on their heads. This will no doubt happen. Any unskilled labor that lends itself to standardization will begin to disappear. Writing news is often and in many places just that kind of work.

The problem in our world is that many types of work around us do not require special qualifications and special skills. Here they are at risk and will disappear. Moreover, people who skimp on their education, do not want to constantly learn, they will soon become outsiders, the world will change very quickly.

Regarding the algorithms that write the news, you can still think about the impact on censorship. It’s one thing to try to convince nearly three dozen editors of something, to change their point of view, it’s quite another to make changes to an algorithm that won’t ask questions. It will become much easier to manipulate information in such a world, and we have no defense mechanisms against such manipulations. And this is also a huge area of ​​work – how to protect yourself from possible manipulations, what systems to come up with for this. The world around us begins to become more complicated and completely different. The speed of changes is already such that they occur every decade, this has not happened in the entire history of mankind. In any case, we do not remember anything about this in the observed history.

The series “Space Forces” (Space Force, 2020)

It is extremely rare that there is such a noticeable unanimity about the series, which can be seen with regard to Space Forces. The show’s recommendations from Netflix are pouring out of the cornucopia, and you can hear about it in places where they don’t write about movies at all or do it very rarely.

Spillikins # 593. Spying on others - phone clicks

The cast is amazing, although it is impossible to say that these are the stars of the first magnitude. Here, of course, one can argue that John Malkovich is just that, but this is an open question, I really like him in almost all works, he always plays interestingly.

The irony of the series is that behind the rude humor about the army, the order in it hides a whole layer of questions that are facing states today. I had an unwitting feeling that Netflix conspired with Donald Trump to advertise this work, how else to take such pertinent claims that America will develop the moon and other planets without looking at other countries? This series is just about this and not only, it is about modern customs.

Elizabeth Holmes with her failed Theranos project is easily guessed in the “inventor” and popular woman-businessman, right there the space forces are offered “pink” jet fuel and played on a presentation at the space base, which uses a barbecue maker.

The script is tied to the current events of our world, but the opposition of a die-hard four-star general and his chief in science gives it dynamics. Suddenly it turns out that the mind does not always win, you still need to understand people and their motivation. There are two main characters, and they complement each other, make up a single whole. And in the background, the usual work is going on – the fight against Chinese satellites, preparation for landing on the moon, where someone has already settled, trying on the uniform that the first lady of the country invented, and much more.

The comedy was a great success, but not everyone will be happy with it. My child said that the film is boring, very superficial. And at first glance, this is exactly so, these are simple jokes, emphatically stupid heroes in which it is impossible to believe. But behind these hackneyed tricks are interesting analogies, the second layer in this work overshadows the outside. Joking has always provided an opportunity to raise pressing issues and not be afraid that your head will be cut off for it. It describes in much the same way what is happening in today’s corporate America, in the army and among its suppliers. Many of the stories described have very real prototypes, and when you know about this, you watch the series with even greater pleasure. As you already understood, I liked this series, I sincerely recommend it to you.

Spillikins # 593. Spying on others - phone clicksSpillikins # 593. Spying on others - phone clicks

This season, a large number of interesting works appear, but Netflix is ​​becoming the undisputed leader, they have the largest number of curious TV series. It is a pity that there is not much time for them, especially for documentaries.

PS Have a good working week, the real summer has come in our area. Heat, sun, and they promise that there will be no more prolonged rains and thunderstorms. Man is a fickle creature, and one already wants a little coolness. But on the other hand, it’s time to work, there’s a load of events and a small cart, just have time to turn your head. Good luck in your good deeds!

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