Spillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else’s software and other fears of people


The beginning of the year is very unusual, America is plunged into a full-scale political crisis, and there is nothing good about it and cannot be. Decisions are momentary and are reviewed almost daily, for example, the NYSE announced the delisting of the three largest Chinese telecom operators. American officials wanted to deprive the Chinese of access to money on the stock exchange, but this created problems for their own investors and gave an advantage to other countries. The decision was quickly reversed in what was considered a victory for China. Then again a full spread and an announcement that the delisting will take place after all. A roller coaster before our eyes, which shows the chaos in decision-making and the fact that they are dictated by politics, and not a real benefit for the country. And there are a lot of similar events, we will talk about some of them in this issue of Spillikins, but let me remind you that this is not about politics, but about technologies and their impact on our lives. The whole year of 2020 has been marked by how politicians influence technology, and this year will continue this trend. Go!


  1. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else’s software and other fears of people
  2. Social media and censorship – blocking the President of the United States
  3. Personal data protection in Europe and messengers
  4. Distance learning – signs of our time
  5. Books. Console wars. Sega, Nintendo and the Battle That Defined an Entire Generation

Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else’s software and other fears of people

I am never tired of being surprised that many people sincerely believe that their devices do not collect any data, do not monitor them, and in order for companies to monitor their life, they need to install spyware. Moreover, to establish it secretly, so that they do not know about it. I am sincerely surprised how the belief that the company that created the platform does not follow you initially, with the fact that it wants to do it and secretly installs something on the same smartphone, can be combined. Let’s read a typical letter on this topic from our reader Sergei:

Hello Eldar!

As a long-term reader of mobile-review.com, I am writing to you for the first time. The reason for writing this letter was the application “Notification of the risk of infection with COVID-19”, which Google forcibly installed on the phones of its users. I found out about this by chance, after watching a video on You Tube, at first I did not believe it, but then I found this application on my phone. The video contained instructions on how to remove it, which I successfully did. (Blocked the automatic update of applications in the Play Market, and then removed the updates of the Google Play services application)

Spillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of people

After about a week, I found that the You Tube app refused to work without updating Google Play services. I had to watch the video, I agreed to the update, realizing that the application “Notification of the risk of infection with COVID-19” will be installed again, but hoping to delete it again. Imagine my surprise when I could not do this. All actions with Google Play services were blocked. I can neither stop nor disable it, nor uninstall updates!

Spillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of people

It turned me on and I reset my phone (LG G6) to factory settings. Then he blocked the automatic update of applications in the Play Market and consistently updated the system with updates from the phone manufacturer. When all the updates were installed, I was disappointed to find that the “COVID-19 Risk Notice” was installed on my phone again.

Then I once again reset the phone settings to factory settings and did not install system updates anymore and blocked the automatic updating of applications in the Play Market. But since all my contacts are linked to my Google account, I had to synchronize it with my phone. And at that moment, the “COVID-19 Risk Notice” was installed on my phone again.

I earnestly ask you to highlight this situation.

I am categorically not happy when on my property – my smartphone – someone forcibly installs unwanted applications for me, which I cannot then delete.

In addition, as they say, even if you are paranoid, this does not mean that you are not being followed.

I am planning to buy a new phone in the near future. Now I thought about Huawei, since it does not have Google services, but still there are doubts, since for the first time after resetting the phone to factory settings, the “COVID-19 Risk Notification” was installed on the phone along with the next Android update.

Could you please clarify if I will be spared this application on a Huawei phone without Google services?

Let’s see what exactly Google puts and how bad it is for you and your smartphone. The application itself from Google is a set of commands in order to determine the potential danger from being near infected people. In practice, it does not work in most cases, since with a massive infection that we are seeing today, the number of false positives will be huge. In times of a pandemic, the very idea of ​​such means for determining the path of the sick person and possible contacts is utopian.

Google offers to install its own application for each country, which will track contacts in the real world, and it is assumed that it will do this anonymously. In practice, anonymity is guaranteed by Google / Apple (both companies have developed this standard), but not by third-party applications. For COVID-19 notifications to work, you need to install a third-party application, by default nothing works, the function itself is disabled.

Spillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of peopleSpillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of peopleSpillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of people

I doubt that a noticeable number of people will put an additional application, unless the states insist on it and create some kind of coercive mechanism. In Singapore, the TraceTogether application was created, it differs little from those applications that are offered in other countries. Local authorities have stated that police can obtain data from this application as part of criminal investigations. And this is an example that casts doubt on the very idea of ​​such services. Nobody wants to be followed.

But again, for the very act of surveillance to happen, you need to install a third-party application. Google created the ability for such applications (as well as Apple), but did not activate these features by default. So it’s weird to worry that Google is following you. Moreover, Google already has all the information about what you are doing on your device, where you are, and so on. They do not need to secretly install something, they have full control over your device, they can add applications and functions, block certain features remotely, erase applications that violate the rules of the platform. And you need to be aware of this.

The first mistake in thinking about your device is that it belongs to you and only you determine what you can put and delete from its memory. This is not true! The platform provider chooses which applications to install, as well as the manufacturer, they can make such applications indelible, and you have no choice but to accept the fact that they are in memory. Your device belongs to you in part, and a huge amount of external forces will be buried on it. For example, in Russia, the state has been installing a whole set of applications on all smartphones since April 1, and we cannot influence this in any way. We have only one option left – to refuse the installation (if they are not physically worth it) or to remove them later. And after that, you will say that the smartphone is 100% yours? Absolutely not.

But this is a sign of our time, when you are not free to dispose of your property in full, and you need to be aware of these limitations. You can deny this order of things, but ultimately our whole world is arranged this way, and not otherwise. Some applications may disappear on the TV, new ones may appear (remember how Skype was removed? Many did not like it very much). A civilized way to try to change the situation is to respond with messages to the manufacturers, in the same social networks or messages to the support service. Legally, you and I have no rights, the manufacturers have foreseen all this. Therefore, one can oppose this practice and try to reverse it.

Let’s go back to the COVID-19 tracker, it is part of the operating system, it cannot be removed. Today, only Huawei does not have this initiative (Huawei / Honor smartphones on HMS), but I do not see any advantage or disadvantage in this. This is just a part of the system that you learned about, and there are hundreds and thousands of such applications and functions, about most ordinary people do not know absolutely anything.

Sergei’s story is a good illustration of another factor to be reckoned with. A huge number of people in the media “sell” fears because this emotion is strong. The expectation is that people do not understand the little things or more, so they can be scared into a stupor. And such fears arise, significant efforts are being made to combat the “harmful” application, which was installed without your knowledge.

The sooner you get rid of illusions and understand how the world of modern electronics and services works, the better it will be for you. My friend, for example, is still furious that he has to buy the same cartoons for children several times on AppleTV, because the service “loses” them. Support has not been able to resolve this issue for a couple of years. Does this content belong to him? Definitely not, despite the fact that it was sold to him. The control levers are not in his hands, this is not a book that he physically placed on a bookshelf in his home or placed by his bed. This means that this content can disappear at any time.

Social media and censorship – blocking the President of the United States

You may like or dislike a particular person. What you forgive to one person will never get away with it. And the fact that our perception of the world is replete with perceptual distortions is not news. But at the level of states and corporations, we have always tried to create a unified approach to everyone, to avoid any rules and guidelines that pessimize certain groups of people. It is difficult to imagine that the store will not serve blondes with a height of 185 centimeters and with blue eyes, such an approach will cause an explosion of indignation. Equal rights for all and transparent rules of the game are what we all need. Alas, even getting close to this gold standard is extremely difficult, it is expensive. Moderators on most social networks are programs, and only after them do people quickly scan the content to make sure that the decision was correct. It is expensive to maintain a large staff of people, but often companies do it under the influence of the state. For example, Facebook recruited tens of thousands of moderators after being accused of using the social network to influence US elections when Donald Trump became president.

Social networks have gotten a lot of opportunities in recent years, in a way they revel in their power. The management of social networks sincerely believes that it should not obey the laws of individual countries, which we see in the example of Russia. Collecting billions in advertising budgets, such social networks and the same YouTube do not obey most of the local laws. For example, censorship is prohibited in Russia, however, certain restrictions are imposed on the accounts of pro-government organizations and media without any explanation. Which is unacceptable in principle. In Russia, laws are being passed to put things in order in this area, this is required by the present times.

Support for Russia’s offensive on social networks came from overseas, it is directly related to the US elections. As you know, the transfer of power from Trump to Biden has not yet proceeded painlessly; supporters of the current president went on demonstrations and seized the US Senate. The riots were immediately dubbed a rebellion, the participants were called terrorists (but what about the right to self-determination, which is supported by American officials around the planet? But this is different!). It is more important here how social networks reacted, they unilaterally blocked the account of the current US president! For example, Twitter announced a 12-hour block, indicating that the president must delete three tweets or the post would remain blocked.

Spillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of peopleSpillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of people

A little later, the blocking was called eternal, it was also stated that anyone who provides Trump with his account to express his thoughts and send messages will be blocked on Twitter.

As for me, this is censorship without any reservations, moreover, censorship of the current head of state. Do you have any doubts that if something like this happens in America, then decisions regarding the heads of foreign states are made even more trenchant?

Pay attention to the reaction of the Americans, most of the votes regarding censorship and its inadmissibility. This is contrary to the propaganda and the values ​​that are declared in America for the people, but are not a real part of politics. Cognitive dissonance occurs.

Spillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of people

Mark Zuckerberg also decided that it was necessary to delete the messages of the President of the United States. Without a court order or anything similar, the Facebook owner claims that the US president’s calls for peace are disturbing the peace in the country. Here you can find Zuckerberg’s explanations on this topic.

Spillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of people

It is not clear to me why the owner of Facebook took on such a burden, perhaps this is a petty revenge for the persecution by the state, which was initiated by Trump. Investigations against Facebook will not end, and the company’s future is in doubt, most likely, WhatsApp, Instagram will be taken away from it, and these businesses will be forced to sell. Zuckerberg’s irritation is understandable, but it complicates things inside Facebook, as there are different opinions among employees about what is happening. And all these opinions are censored, I think that soon we will hear stories about layoffs due to political views. In America, society is equally divided into two large camps, which creates such an explosive situation. The political crisis will not end after the transfer of power from Trump to Biden, and the problems highlighted by this situation will only increase.

If someone had illusions about America, the structure of democracy and censorship in this country, then after these events they should disappear, all the facts speak for themselves. This unprecedented level of censorship is not found anywhere other than China, but that’s another story.

Another fun fact that sheds light on what hackers can do. During the seizure of the US Congress, the protesters gained access not only to the building, but also to computers. On them you could see the warning of the security service, as well as all the correspondence and other files! The computers were not locked, anything could be read, and the photographs from there prove it.

Spillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of people

With this approach to information security, it is clear why America is becoming an easy target for crackers from time to time. These are the involuntary consequences of current political events that highlight the weaknesses in social networks and technology.

As an afterword to this topic, I want to say that Donald Trump, his team and supporters were blocked on almost all social networks, on forums and prominent American platforms. Just like that and without explaining the reasons, because, according to the owners of these sites, the President of the United States can use them to harm. Presumption of innocence? This is not even more so. Only pure, open-ended censorship, when people stick out their passions and do not give the opposite side a single chance. An amazing story that will hit America repeatedly in the future, since double standards have not yet led to success.

Having already written the text, I realized that the picture would be incomplete, since censorship and double standards affected all technological platforms, which should be neutral from the beginning and the same approaches should be applied to them by IT giants. In America, the Parler social network is gaining popularity, or rather, it was gaining, as Trump’s supporters moved from Twitter to it. The fastest growing app in the US market, number one on iOS and so on. Google was the first to shoot Parler, giving 24 hours to remove from the social network all statements that contradict Google’s ideas of beauty. Then exactly the same was said by Apple, the company even cited certain messages that it considers inappropriate. But the cherry on the cake is Amazon’s actions, in whose cloud Parler is located. On Saturday, Amazon gave 24 hours to delete all messages that contradict the company’s ideas about the correct one, or all Parler data will be deleted, and the social network will not be able to work in the company’s cloud.

Yes, of course, Parler has radical points of view, there are many messages that incite hatred, just like there are such messages on Twitter. But Twitter isn’t trying to shut down because of this, is it? Before our eyes, we see political persecution in its ugliest manifestation, you can treat Donald Trump as you like, but the campaign that is underway is political persecution on all fronts. Affected social media and other tools are just pawns in a big political game.

To understand the pressure that is being exerted on Parler, it is enough to understand that the actions of Google, Apple, Amazon are actually a coordinated attack on an independent social network, de facto destruction, complete and unconditional.

It is interesting that on the Internet I come across the opinion that the owners of social networks and other tools have every right to do this. The unequivocal answer sounds simple, they have endowed themselves with such a right, from a legal point of view, they have no reason to do so. Social networks in America are protected from user actions, claims can be made against specific people, but there are too many of them, there are millions of them. Therefore, we are witnessing unprecedented steps of this magnitude. By removing the opinions of dissenting people from the public space with the help of censorship, it is impossible to make people think otherwise. As a result, the problem is simply swept under the rug, and not completely removed, and then it will appear more and more often. There is clearly something wrong with this IT industry, the largest companies have consolidated too quickly for political reasons, although all previous years have declared that they are out of politics. The fact is, they’ve been lying all this time. And this creates a breakdown not only in society, but also within the corporations themselves, their employees ask questions why all their moral and ethical standards, which were so promoted at the level of corporate culture, were suddenly launched into a push. They cannot get an answer to this, as it was necessary here and now.

It is noteworthy that a law was passed in China on January 6, which partially answers how independent states should be in such situations. In particular, China from now on exempts any foreign companies from the need to comply with sanctions against Chinese companies on its territory. Any company that refuses to work with Chinese partners due to sanctions will become a target, the range of punishments will be very wide, from small fines to a complete ban on working within China or with Chinese companies. There is no doubt that this is a forced measure, and how effective it will be, we will see in practice, since the tension between China and the United States is only growing. But independent countries will pass similar laws, which will further fragment our world. The actions of American politicians are the biggest factor of instability in the world today, and they are on the rise in very different directions.

Personal data protection in Europe and messengers

Before the New Year, an inscription appeared on Facebook Messenger that some of the functions for European users are not supported, the company is working to bring them back.

Spillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of people

Stickers have disappeared in Instagram, polls cannot be found in other programs, and templates for personal responses have disappeared. The reason is in the directive on the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (2002/58 / EC), but the developers promise to bypass certain restrictions in the near future. It is already clear how this will happen, look at how WhatsApp changed its agreement with users, from now on the messenger requires the collection of your personal data and its transfer to the parent company in an explicit form. What was previously carried out outside of any agreements is now done transparently. And if you don’t like the fact that you are a product for Facebook, then you have one way – to stop using the company’s services.

Spillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of peopleSpillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of peopleSpillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of people

Pavel Durov went through WhatsApp and the messenger’s new policy from the bottom of his heart, saying that the flow of users to Telegram only increased against the background of these events. Despite the fact that Durov is an interested person, it is impossible to doubt his words. I have 99% of communication in Telegram, and rare messages on WhatsApp are more likely something from a past life, from old friends and acquaintances, as well as old chats (and most of these chats are people scattered around the planet). In terms of functionality, WhatsApp lags far behind Telegram and is unlikely to bridge the gap. My perception of WhatsApp today is about the same as ICQ at the end of their popularity. What Facebook is doing is only accelerating the destruction of this platform. Which messenger are you committed to and why?

Distance learning – signs of our time

It seems that everything that is possible has been said about distance learning, different aspects of this story have been said a million times. But you come across something by personal example and again admire how the world has changed. During these long holidays, my youngest found a marathon in which you can learn to draw certain subjects or practice in them. In my childhood, it was impossible to imagine that people would gather on Instagram and draw together, it was impossible, such technical means did not exist. Today there would be a desire, but everyone has the opportunity to reach artists from all over the world. Moreover, it is possible to ask a question about a particular technique, everything depends only on how much you need it. And if for those who paint, the world was previously limited to an art school, teachers, today it is the entire planet in the truest sense of the word. People greatly underestimate the possibilities of social networks, when you can ask a question to a particular artist and, with a high degree of probability, get an answer. You may not get it, then how lucky, but the fact is that before you could not ask the question itself.

Spillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of people

The first oil painting, the daughter is not too happy and knows that many elements need to be painted differently, she talks about it professionally. But I am amazed that the first time she tried to paint in oils, she achieved no result and the picture looks, in my inexperienced opinion, decent. There is something to work on, but it is amazing that, without leaving your home, you can paint and train with other people from all over the world. In addition to paints, brushes and other necessary tools, exactly one thing is needed here – desire. Exactly the same story in all other respects, no physical limitations exist anymore, you can learn from the best, improve your skills. Having such a tool, most people do not use it in any way – their hands do not reach, there is no strong desire, laziness overcomes. And to be honest, there are so many distractions that you don’t know what to look for – TV series producers, toy makers and everyone else are fighting for our time. Time is of course, and in the modern world, the highest valor is how you know how to distribute it between different tasks, balance between entertainment and a useful pastime. It’s amazing how the example of your own child encourages you not to watch the next series of endless chewing gum, but to do something useful. Here is another drawing from this marathon, I have always envied people who can draw, this is not given to me.

Spillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of people

Books. Console wars. Sega, Nintendo and the Battle That Defined an Entire Generation

I’m not sure if I practice tsundoku, but in practice it turns out that way. I buy so many books over the course of a year that it should take two years to read them, even with my absorption rate. Five years ago I bought a book by Blake J. Harris “Console Wars”, it was an eyesore, but did not dare to pick it up. On trips, the large volume was not handy – it is too heavy, takes up a lot of space. At home, other texts came across all the time, and this one was postponed for later. He poked my eyes for five years, until this weekend he decided to read a book, one of the motivations was that the series High Score was filmed to some extent based on the book. I’ve already talked about the series, I liked it, but the book turned out to be much stronger, and we can say that it is a gem.

Spillikins # 624. Surveillance on a smartphone, someone else's software and other fears of people

The plot revolves around how Nintendo’s unsuccessful competitor Sega of America begins its journey to the top. A branch of a Japanese company is struggling in the American market with a branch of another Japanese manufacturer and goes through many obstacles. The book is fiction, many dialogues are invented, although there are more than 200 author’s interviews behind them. It is impossible to say that this is a documentary work. But any books of this kind are an invitation to reflection, and not at all the ultimate truth.

It’s important to understand that Harris gets most of the information from former Sega employees, a story told from their perspective, with more loyalty to them. And the book is structured exactly in this way – how Sega was able to defeat Nintendo and what efforts it put into it. Sega’s piratical actions and aggressive attacks on Nintendo do not receive any condemnation or any assessment, rather, the book says that it was necessary at that time.

It would be a mistake to think that the book is only about the war of consoles. She well reveals the history of the formation of the game consoles market, and many events of that time are unknown to the general public. For example, how Sony came to the games market and the PlayStation brand came into being. For me, an amazing discovery was how Nintendo wiped their feet about Sony when they announced their partnership with Philips at the presentation, although until the last moment Sony was sure that they would now call their name. Undercover intrigues, power struggles and many marketing techniques that have not lost their relevance even today. The book remains relevant for everyone who is engaged in business and makes difficult decisions, for those who are trying to dump their Goliath, here is someone else’s, practical and somewhat invaluable experience.

Rarely are books on the topic of technology and the struggle of companies so enjoyable, this book is just like that, it is easy to read and gives emotion. Strong work. Alas, it is impossible to find a printed version in Russia, the scanty circulation in 2020 ended in the first year. For me, this is another explanation for tsundoku in my case: I didn’t buy it right away – then you may not find the printed version, no matter how hard you make it. I understand that the book business is difficult, but when in the whole country with a population of 150 million people print runs of 2-3 thousand copies, and for bestsellers, circulations reach 20-30 thousand books, the question arises, how many people, in principle, read. And do not cite e-books as an example, this is about the same amount in unit sales for bestsellers, for all other publications it is noticeably less than printed versions. To all appearances, we have all become less reading. On the other hand, the people who read have always belonged to the minority, but today this minority has shrunk to a completely indecent size.

extracurricular reading:

A great historical insight into how Microsoft built the XBox and the challenges the company faced.

PS The week promises to be very eventful: the premature announcement of the flagship line from Samsung compared to previous years. There will be both positive and very negative moments in it, for which I will fire up the company for what the light is. The long holidays are over, so we are starting to work as usual, everything is returning to normal. Tell us how you spent these holidays, what you managed to read, see, and do useful. I hope that this year in terms of work will be very interesting and useful for all of us, we will get new skills, knowledge and will be able to realize ourselves to the maximum. Good luck not only for the week, but also for the coming year! Let’s do a great job in 2021 so that we remember it for its achievements and achievements.

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