Civil liberties activist group the Electronic Frontier Foundation has warned of a generation of devices sporting so-called ‘traitorware’ which could ‘act behind your back to betray your privacy’, they warned.
The EFF coined the traitorware phrase following the emergence of an Apple patent on devices identifying owners by recording their voice, taking automated photos and even recording the user’s heartbeat in order to detected an ‘unauthorised’ user.
EFF activist Eva Galperin warned of wider adoption of similar unauthorised communication such as digital cameras embedding data into photographs with the camera’s serial number and location or printers embedding secret codes which could be used to identify the printer and the person who printed.
Neither of these scenarios are fictional, the EFF pointed out, with examples already having been seen in consumer devices. Galperin also cited the 2005 development of Sony installing what amounted to a rootkit on CDs which installed software on PCs to restrict the user’s ability to copy CDs.
It’s thought Apple’s patent amounts to additional security measures aimed at stolen phones but Gaperin said: “Don’t let these good intentions fool you—software that hides itself from you while it gives your personal data away to a third party is dangerous and dishonest.”
The EFF said that they would fight the introduction of traitorware, saying: “We believe that your software and devices should not be a tool for gathering your personal data without your explicit consent.”