Archives for : January2014

Big Brother Birds

A couple of days ago, @Engadget posted about how GCHQ and the NSA may be scouring data obtained from mobiles with Angry Birds (and likely other popular games) installed.  It doesn’t come as a shock.  The NSA was recently outed for wanting to read emails.  There have been numerous posts about Apple secretly obtaining GPS data and the permissions of apps [see my post on Facebook’s app] wanting permission to access parts of your mobile which may or may not be used to obtain copious amounts of data from your device.

I lock out a lot of permissions that apps claim to require in order to function.  Many more require my approval each time the app wants to access my location or SMS history.  I can’t see why an app such as Bad Piggies wants to know my location, phone number, phone’s and SIM card’s serial numbers, access my network etc.  There’s just no need.

I use an app called LBE Privacy Guard.  Although a variant is available from the Play Store, the Chinese version is considerably larger.  Thankfully, someone at XDA has translated the Chinese version to English.  Just sideload the translated version and retrospectively alter the permissions of your apps.  [Some functions may not be available unless your device is rooted].

Of course, this won’t stop the powers that be from acquiring information about you should you find yourself in their crosshairs but these steps may help minimise the risk of your personal data (and mine if you have it) from being uploaded from your phone and sold.

Sky high.

Back in 2011 I signed up with Sky.  I was excited to be getting broadband, and although Sky weren’t the cheapest they promised to connect me a fortnight before anyone else.  They promised me I’d get a download speed in excess of 3Mbps, they delivered 0.8Mbps.  After five weeks they’d agreed they hadn’t kept their promises and agreed to release me from my contract without penalty.  In the two months it took to sign up with Sky and leave them, the only aspect they’d excelled at was the leaving process.  Or so I’d thought.

Three months after leaving Sky they’d started billing me again.  Attempts to resolve this were unsuccessful and ultimately I ended up with a bill for £175.42.  Today was to be an unvoiced ultimatum, either progress was made or it would be escalated to OFCOM, Trading Standards, etc.  I’d had enough.

Today however, has been something of a success.  After 1¼ hours on the phone to Sky the bill is now sorted.  Granted, they didn’t call back when they said they would.  I was curious to see if they were capable of keeping a single promise but, although it was 1½ hours late, they did call back. Staff were unable to offer any explanation as to how the bill came about other than to say “it shouldn’t have happened”.  They claim the original contract was never successfully cancelled, although that doesn’t explain the letter I received three months after the cancellation (and migration to a competitor) welcoming me back to Sky and outlining that their speed test suggests I should be receiving an estimated 0Mbps download speed!  Their computer speed tested a line which didn’t exist, hence the lack of speed.

Estimated download speed of 0Mb, but only because the line doesn't exist.

Estimated download speed of 0Mb, but only because the line doesn’t exist.


So, after calls, tweets, complaints, more tweets and more calls I have once again left Sky. I owe nothing.  The slate has been wiped clean.  It’s been a mentally exhausting day.  The service you receive from Sky, like many large companies, varies greatly from staff member to staff member.  Some promise faithfully certain notes don’t exist while others find them with ease.

Strangely though, it has taken far less effort to get Sky to write off a debt which never should have existed than it has been to have them issue a letter of apology.  Ten minutes was taken up by Sky’s staff trying to find a generic apology letter.  At one point, in frustration, my sarcastic side offered up “It’s simple enough, just ask a manager to pick up a biro, some letter headed paper and find an envelope”.  I know I shouldn’t have said it but Sky deals exclusively in communication.  Surely apology letters, even if generic, are able to be found with a certain degree of ease?  The conflictive advice and confusion I’ve witnessed today make me feel like the love-child of a Mandelbrot fractal and a Rorschach test.


Unfortunately, either February or March (the letter couldn’t specify which month!) my broadband with O2 will be officially migrated to Sky and unless steps are taken I shall once again become a Sky customer, even if by default.  I have a month to find a service provider I can trust.  I believe it’s time to shop around.


I can’t speak for everyone though.  You may have better luck with Sky.  My perspective remains unchanged.  From my experiences, customers can trust Sky in the same way they can trust the sky at high altitude – only for a short time, and with unfortunate results.