Think Siri is a little spooky? Then you won’t like contextual intelligence, a capability researchers are working on to make phones too smart for their own good.

Oliver Brdiczka, a manager at PARC, is working on contextual intelligence. The research, he hopes, will allow enterprises and the government to use data that is accumulated as we use our mobile phones. The data mined from our email messages, Facebook conversations, and sensors in the phone can be used for a variety of purposes, including intelligence, marketing and app design, even employee relations. In other words, owning a smart phone with this capability will be like having a spy ratting out your thoughts to the government.

For instance, PARC is working on a project that predicts a person’s personality through their online behavior. The idea, Brdiczka said, is to market this data to enterprises, who want to know people’s intent for targeted advertising or developing content customization.

Psychological models also can be extracted from the sentiment of emails and conversations on Facebook, noted Brdiczka. The government could use this information to determine if people are depressed or suicidal or have malicious intent.



  1. dusanmal says:

    First, it is our own fault. Accepting TOS and agreements that our grandparents would call a police on as an obvious scam and thievery and all just for a shiny new thing,… Market feedback must be established by refusal to enter such contracts. Legislative effort must be made to curtail this trend, and is completely possible. Even trivial. Item you buy and service you pay for can only be used for your purpose. Service provider and device maker must, must be required to ask permission for anything beyond that and must not limit the service based on the owner and payer refusal to participate. Scamy corporations will have out in a free stuff. Give device for free or offer free service – fine, have suckers be the goods. However, concept of the ownership must be re-established and any “accidental” abuse severely punished (any, even “accidental” case of collecting data without explicit asking and getting permission from the owner should incur draconian penalties, say million dollars per incident to the hurt party and maybe same to Government for the trouble of prosecuting). Only changes in our behavior and pushing those changes through legislation may stem this tide.
    In the while, one must remember that convenience is enemy of safety and fight back by obfuscation and redirection as much as possible. Part of my example: I use Android tablet. I even didn’t need to root it. I do not have Google account, I did not register it with Google, I disabled Google services (and some of them I need to deactivate on every reboot), no app or any purchases in PlayStore,… My location, camera, sound,… are disabled if not explicitly used. My phone is rooted and it does not know of the tablet… You get the picture. I intentionally keep dozens of e-mail accounts, some with same providers but preventing “chaining” of my information. There is no path from my Facebook page to my real e-mail or Twitter or anything else. Similarly for other services. Not ideal. Crackable. However, simple path for the “spyers” is blocked and they are into simplicity on the mass scale. This is enough of deterrent for now. Payment – inconvenience and significant need for brain usage, which I welcome.
    But, than Facebook ads I get are almost all about NSA, FBI, Marine Corps,… (interesting choice list based on my obfuscation).

    • Guyver says:

      First, it is our own fault.

      Yup. Collectively speaking I agree.

      That said, I have a friend at the FBI who would argue that in addition to that, we collectively really don’t want privacy.

      Accepting TOS and agreements that our grandparents would call a police on as an obvious scam and thievery and all just for a shiny new thing

      What are the options when every provider is colluding with the government?

      Market feedback must be established by refusal to enter such contracts.

      Is it possible to get ANY cellphone service and not agree to terms on the typical contract? I don’t think so. Seems like you won’t have any cell phone service if you’re a stickler on this since each and every provider will tell you to take a hike.

      However, concept of the ownership must be re-established and any “accidental” abuse severely punished

      Hard to do when government helps fosters abuse on the telecons part.

      Only changes in our behavior and pushing those changes through legislation may stem this tide.

      Collectively speaking, I don’t see this happening. I have dabbled with an alternative search engine (DuckDuckGo) since they claim to allegedly provide users with anonymous searches. That said, I find myself drifting back to Google because of (dare I say it) convenience and features?

      I use Android tablet. I even didn’t need to root it. I do not have Google account, I did not register it with Google, I disabled Google services (and some of them I need to deactivate on every reboot), no app or any purchases in PlayStore,… My location, camera, sound,… are disabled if not explicitly used. My phone is rooted and it does not know of the tablet… You get the picture.

      I’d rather root my tablet and put some distro of linux on it than to go through all that trouble.

      I intentionally keep dozens of e-mail accounts, some with same providers but preventing “chaining” of my information. There is no path from my Facebook page to my real e-mail or Twitter or anything else. Similarly for other services. Not ideal. Crackable. However, simple path for the “spyers” is blocked and they are into simplicity on the mass scale. This is enough of deterrent for now. Payment – inconvenience and significant need for brain usage, which I welcome.
      But, than Facebook ads I get are almost all about NSA, FBI, Marine Corps,… (interesting choice list based on my obfuscation).

      Until you can completely anonymize your phone / accounts from IP addresses you frequent, I would say there’s still a lot of bread crumbs left behind for the FBI or other agencies to collect data and grab anything you deem private from virtually any company without a warrant in this day and age. Sad but true.

  2. bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

    Its already taking place with google placing ads on websites based on what I just looked for on Amazon.

    Point being…. it will “predict” but as Heisenberg knew: only to a likelihood of certainty which is also a measure of uncertainty which will vary depending on the person and the subject.

    If you would rather have random or less targeted ads sent your way, do as dusanmal counsels: opt out. The rest of us are comfortable in our drab little lives and invite the public in. It might even be more healthy===depending on the person and the subject.

    Yea, verily!

  3. Harry says:

    We don’t know who struck first, but it was us that scorched the sky.

  4. jealousmonk says:

    Crap. We’re in a tight spot.

  5. spsffan says:

    All the more reason not to have a “smart” phone. I have a prepaid cell phone that lets me make and receive calls. It can take pictures, not that you would want to considering the quality, and it can receive texts and, I guess send them, though I wouldn’t stoop so low.

    No contract. No account. I pay with cards purchased at the grocery store every 90 days. If I want out, I just stop paying.

    Want to make a grown may cry? Try taking the phone away from your average 24 year old. It would be like sawing off their arm!

  6. Dallas says:

    Alphie is gonna get a lot of ads from Chik-Fil-A and Pfizer.

  7. Uncle Patso says:

    On the Internet, they can tell you’re a dog!

  8. noname says:

    NSA is working on bio-implantable cell phones.

    Their current working device is sized smaller then a pacemaker and implanted in the underarm. A button and touch sensor all functioned appropriately. The phone can be controlled by touching your skin. The first devices are able to communicate extraneously using a Bluetooth connection and charge the electronics wirelessly.

    It’s being implanted in covert overseas agency human assets to enable discreet communications and tracking.

    The Agency end goal is to design an implantable phone for the masses. The government is looking to create a legal framework in making it a national security requirement for all citizens, from birth to death.

  9. sargasso_c says:

    The idea of automated diagnosis is far worse than any intrinsic surveillance by proxy.