Misuse of computers act, here we come
Earlier this week the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) warned that an Indian firm called SilverPush has technology that allows adverts to ping inaudible commands to smartphones and tablets. Now someone has reverse-engineered the code and published it for everyone to check. SilverPush's software kit can be baked into …
By the time that case crawls bloodied and bruised down the courthouse steps for the last time, there will be worse digital thuggery in the neighbourhood. The processes of justice have long been considered slow--and they're much too slow now that we've moved, practically everywhere, out of the realm of hours, minutes, and seconds into the realm of milliseconds, nanoseconds, and picoseconds. Reaction times aren't matching up to the pace of change. Catching justice up to a seemingly ever-quickening moving ethical and moral horizon seems a very unlikely possibility. A different kind of change is required.
It will *NEVER* happen!!
The 'Misuse of Computers Act' only deals with Joe Sixpack's misuse of computers.
$BIG_CORP'S misuse of Joe Sixpack's computer is perfectly legal. It's a 'free speech' sort of thing, and $BIG_CORP is free to spread his speech any way $BIG_CORP wants. BTW, one of the ways $BIG_CORP """expresses""" his 'right to free speech' is in the form of 'campaign contributions'.
> This stuff goes back at least 20 years
And the rest!
Halloween III (1982) had the plot of a toy maker distributing novelty Halloween masks with a computer chip containing a fragment of Stonehenge. When the Silver Shamrock TV special airs on Halloween night, the chip will activate, killing the one wearing it and unleashing a lethal swarm of insects and snakes to kill those nearby.
Why, of course advertising is driving what was once the sole province of spy agencies! If you want to block it, just wrap your mobile in a cloth to muffle the sound a bit. Or stop watching television.
Of course, the adware SDK could also listen for distinctive tunes instead of dog whistle sounds. That might take a little more processing power, though.
sounds outside of human hearing in the first place?
It is generally accepted that HiFi reproduction should go up to 20kHz with a maximum roll-off of 3dB. Sure, a lot of people won't be able to hear frequencies that high, but quite a few do, even when over 25. I had a housemate bang my door when I was testing my speakers' frequency response, and had left the generator at about 23kHz afterwards. My own hearing went to 19.45kHz back then. And it's not just straight high frequency sound reproduction that matters, there's also all kinds of step response matters that come into play.
Anyway, even if an average TV sound system would start to roll-off at, say, 15kHz, it would still be possible to send info to a phone at 17..18kHz, only at higher levels so that it can still be picked up. Only with digital filtering can you effectively create a sharp-ish cutoff at a particular frequency, but that has to be built into the TV's sound processing system. And why should the manufacturer do that?
Only with digital filtering can you effectively create a sharp-ish cutoff at a particular frequency, but that has to be built into the TV's sound processing system. And why should the manufacturer do that?
The audio in digital broadcasts may have been sampled at 32kHz. That was the standard rate in NICAM, and one of the allowed rates in DVB. In fact the lossy compression in DTV might nuke or distort higher frequencies anyway, even if a 44.1Khz or 48Khz sample rate is used: The compressor might decide the near-ultrasound signal is not perceptually significant, and can be thrown away. This could perhaps be defeated by making it loud enough, but then the viewer might notice it.
"Can anyone adequately explain why TV speakers are able to generate sounds outside of human hearing in the first place? What's the point in that?"
Physics - and younger ears can easily hear out to 20kHz
A more interesting question is how these tones survive in the highly compressed, lossy environment that's a modern TV broadcast chain.
Yeah, I think it annoy my littleuns. That and since this is a marketing plot, for want of a better term the people who came up with the idea can go fuck themselves. I like being able to avoid ads and having them force their way into my phone as well... No I won't have it (and not because I'm a prig or some such) especially if the aforementioned littleuns are watching kids shows I don't want my phone to start trying to sell me stuff I don't want to buy I just want to relax.
That's what I wondered about too, but apps frequently ask for everything, and I guess most users click through without thinking much about it.
Not sure how this could be fixed. Maybe allow microphone access only to apps that have the text "sound recorder" or "spy" somewhere in their name?
In android 6, you just go settings / apps / [choose app] / permissions and switch off microphone.
You can turn off all the other bits of everything too. From experience, very few apps have any problem. The worst thing so far is one app thought its licence was invalid until I enabled the particular permission again.
Android 6 (Marshmallow) apps would also require asking users if it's OK to use the Microphone.
Applications written for Android 6 allow you to choose to grant permissions as you install. Those written for previous versions of Android still take the all-or-nothing approach when being installed on an Android 6 device. Once a legacy Android app is installed, users can manually adjust app permissions (they can do this for all apps, in fact). This holds trues for apps that were installed on an older version of Android which was then upgraded.
I bought a Nexus phone knowing that it would be upgraded to Android 6 soon after. I had previously avoided any app that required permissions that I thought were beyond what they needed. With the new phone, I downloaded everything that caught my eye (almost entirely time wasting games), secure in the knowledge that I would be able to whack any unauthorized access. I got the update and went through every app on my phone to set permissions.
First, it was a tedious process as the interface is not meant to be used for more than individual changes (Take note, Google!). Second, I denied all rights for pretty much every app I had installed unless the requested rights had a direct and obvious requirement (e.g. access to location is important for getting directions from your current location). I managed to break two games made by the same company; they seem to think that access to my contacts list is needed to play cards. I also found that many, many apps request "Modify, delete and read storage" rights, but don't actually need them to function. This gives an app permission to access to public folders (e.g. photo gallery). I would guess the apps have control over their own files, but they certainly do not need access to my pics and music.
The ability to control app permissions in Android 6 is a step in the right direction, but it still could do with a bit of polish.
Alas, Android apps often need access to "external storage" to do the most trivial of things. We developers/publishers of apps would love a finer grained access, and less frightening/misleading descriptions of the permissions displayed to users, but we can't yet always get that.
In Oz a well known Beer brand not dissimilar to that Fosters rubbish we ship overseas would offer a little figurine of Boonie or such past greats when you purchased a carton of said brew.
These would sit on top of the TV during a cricket match and make funny comment when ever a trigger signal was sent across the TV audio during the match.
I'll guess they used a similar tech to the SilverPush one.
Link for more source
Fosters would be unknown in the UK if it wasn't for Barry Humphrey's cartoon strip in Private Eye, and later a film, about Barry McKenzie. Bazza was was a parody of the boorish Australian overseas, particularly those residing in Britain – ignorant, loud, crude, drunk and punchy.
Not only did Humpries give us Fosters, he gave us 'technicolor yawn' and 'point Percy at the porcelain'.
You joke, but...
The latest sets of Smart TVs have banners/smart hubs that advertise the manufactures/partners services.
So your looking to put on some cartoons for your kids. Then the adverts for Netflix and half a dozen other streaming/download services come up. Let's hope they remembered not to advertise non-kid friendly shows and movies... oh, lots of zombies being decapitated and that big blockbuster of a lady being tied up and kissed.
Thanks to Smart TVs, I'm sticking to a dumb panel and my own PC/laptop/Media centre to run it.
(PS, don't have kids but seen the above happen when TVs in use)
NICAM was digital audio that accompanied analogue video broadcasts.
NICAM had an upper frequency limit of "15KHz due to anti-aliasing filters at the encoder" ( http://web.archive.org/web/20111017094248/http://stoneship.org.uk/~steve/nicam.html ), which might be where Richard got his figure from.
The 15kHz came from FM broadcast radio… in particular, stereo FM which used ~DC-15kHz for the base-band mono, plonked a pilot tone at 19kHz then used DSB-SC at 38kHz (2×19kHz) for the differential channel.
Mono reception was achieved by using a low-pass filter with cut-off at 15kHz.
Stereo reception was achieved by taking the signal, passing one copy of it through a 15kHz LPF just like a mono set would. A band-pass filter grabbed 30kHz of spectrum around 38kHz and passed that as the input to a mixer. A band-pass filter snatched the 19kHz pilot, fed it to a frequency doubler which then was fed into the LO input on that mixer, giving us the differential signal.
It was then simple analogue arithmetic (L=Left, R=Right, n=noise):
(L+R+n) - (L-R+n) = 2L + 2n
(L+R+n) + (L-R+n) = 2R + 2n
n is usually fairly small. It'll be higher in the L-R component though because FM has a triangular noise profile.
I'm not 100% certain but most TV's dont have speakers that get near 15khz in reality. Mine claimed to but is 15db down at 10Khz (from the front with a brick wall behind it) and off the scale noticably above that. It lives up to is lower end if you dont mind 30% of it being in harmonics.
"most TV's dont have speakers that get near 15khz in reality"
Any small speaker will have enough response to output something at these frequencies.
> It lives up to is lower end if you dont mind 30% of it being in harmonics.
the THD of speakers is stupidly large anyway. These apps don't care about fidelity. They just need enough of any given tone to work with.
I think my hearing must have gone to pot as I've got older. When I was little, I could tell the TV was on by the high pitched whine - could hear it all through the house. Now, I have to look at the little light to see if it's on without a picture.
Is there a slight sarcasm / joke icon available, btw? Before I get deluged with helpful suggestions.
You would've been listening to what is commonly called a "flyback transformer" (don't know why, but it is a transformer used to get the rather high voltages used in CRT's). Modern TV's don't have them so that could be why you can't hear it. IIRC it ran at about 16kHz
Of course, most people take some hearing loss especially of higher frequencies.. I can't even hear 16k now..
I was doing a gig for a major US discount retailer in the US about 10 years ago. They were prototyping this exact technology along with a group of other retailers including a very large electronics outfit. Their take was you would install the app & it would pick up a tone when you entered the store. The app would recognize you & offer you discounts as well as help in finding products. Naturally it also tracked where you went in the store, how long you stayed in any one place and was tied into what you bought. I could see them having offered it as a real nice thing (TM) to help you & get you discounts but the real reason was to gather data on you.
The testing was not part of what I was doing there so that was about all I learned but given that they have not offered this 'service' I assume they have issues with implementation, but you know if and when they do offer it people will be clamoring to sign up.
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So.. Ad company charges client $X per screening. Each time this system picks up an ad being played it will generate a bill..
So do some research, find out how to make the phone report you're watching the ad, and then sit your phone in a room with a random but very frequent repeat of this. Enough people doing that would mean the advertiser will either move elsewhere, or sue the bad guys for false billing. And/or go out of business.
Some other ideas.. If you happen to often be somewhere near where a lot of live TV news broadcasts get done from (like near some government or court buildings), wander over and stand nearby (out of shot) with a small audio transmitter built to create these tones.. A few presses of the button and suddenly Apple are being charged for advertising they didn't use. And they don't hesitate to sue people for things that they didn't do (like for "copying" things that were common decades before apple "invented" it)
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