from the look,-up-there-in-the-sky,-it's-a-clue dept
points us to the news that security experts and the US Dept. of Homeland Security are apparently worried about an application called Plane Finder
, which is available on the iPhone and Android phones. Among other things, it lets you point your phone at an airplane in the sky, and it will provide info on that plane, including the height and speed, as well as its destination, and a "likely course." The fear, of course, is that terrorists could potentially use this to shoot down a plane.
Of course, in blaming this app, everyone seems to be missing the real target. This app is using Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcasts (ADS-B), which is transmitted by many aircraft these days, and can apparently be read with a $200 receiver. In other words, if terrorists wanted that data, they'd go out and get that $200 receiver. The "problem" (if there really is one) isn't the Plane Finder app (which actually sounds kind of cool), but the fact that all that data is being made available publicly. Blaming the app sort of misses the point, because if the data is available so easily, you can bet those who wish to do harm with it, have already figured that out. In the meantime, the Plane Finder app itself doesn't appear to actually have that many downloads. The report claims 2,000 sales on iTunes, and in the Android store, it looks like less than 500 have been purchased. Of course, now that it's in the news...