The Grumpy Old Astronomer

The "Internet of Things"
- - - The Erosion of Personal Privacy - - -


The Internet of Things

Manufacturer's "Corporate Privacy Policies" are the first place to look to determine what an Internet connected device is actually doing in your home, whether it's a toaster, fridge, thermostat, audio or video baby monitor, smart phone, MAC, PC, laptop, "digital assistant", television or whatever.

However:
  • Manufacturers know that no one ever reads these 50 page Privacy Policy legalized ramblings (except ultra-geeks), and
  • "People by their nature are too lazy or they don't have the time to figure out how many clicks or how many screens they have to go through to switch these settings off." - Kirsten Thompson, privacy and technology lawyer, and
  • the "Corporate" can change their "Corporate Privacy Policies" at will and at any time, removing various policies that you thought protected your privacy, and
  • the "Corporate" can be sold to another "Corporate" with totally different privacy policies, and
  • now that many employers demand access to your Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media sites, it is but a small step for them to demand access to your Internet of Things so they can monitor what you say about your employer in the "privacy" of your home, and
  • if you don't spend at least two hours a day on the Internet looking up which "Corporates" changed their "Privacy Policies" in the last hour or so, you might as well live in a glass house
Therefore,

To protect your personal privacy, I recommend the following steps - either do them yourself, or call your computer-literate or electrically-minded relative to do them for you.

Note:

It is highly advisable to disconnect the device from the Internet and turn the power off on the device while you do some of these things or it may "tell on you":


  1. Smart Televisions (those that have a wired or wireless Internet connection):

    1. Camera(s)
      • Small cameras are now being built in to smart televisions to "enhance the user experience" - a marketing term meaning "We spy on you to gather information we sell to make money".
      • They monitor the room and determine via motion detection and facial recognition technologies who is watching, and when.
      • Knowing what show is on they can correlate family members with what they watch individually or together.
      • They can use this to "recommend" specific upcoming shows for the viewer(s).
      • Selling this information to signal providers, they can "target" specific advertisements to the audience at the time.
      • In the future, you may find that you unknowingly "starred" in your own Internet "channel" performing such things for the camera as - reacting to news items, reacting to happy or sad documentaries, cheering for one team or another, scratching, and making out.
      • Disabling the camera(s). Since it has been widely reported that the "TV Setup Menu" features that "disable" smart television features on some models have been proven to do nothing (e.g. LG televisions see: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/smart-tvs-that-send-data-without-consent-will-be-fixed-lg-1.2434710 ) take the following steps:
        1. put a piece of black electrical tape over the camera lens on the front of the TV
        2. or, open the back of the TV and cut the wires going to any cameras installed.


    2. Microphone(s)
      • Microphones are now being installed into smart televisions to allow "Voice Activation" of features, channel selections, playback controls etc. to "enhance the user experience" (see above as to what that means) because "using the remote control" is "so last year".
      • What you may not realize is that (like smart phone "helpers") they listen all the time 24 hours a day and since these "Smart TV's" are not smart enough to convert human voices in all possible languages into computer commands themselves, the audio from the room/house is sent across the Internet to the manufacturer, or in most cases a 3rd Party Processing Centre where the actual voice-to-computer commands are recognized and the appropriate computer command is sent back to the television.
      • So, everything the microphone(s) in the television can possibly pick up is recorded, sent across the Internet to a nameless company and "processed". There is, at this time, no guarantee that the information is NOT being retained or used for other purposes (and we all know that the NSA is recording everything sent across the Internet).
      • There is also no guarantee that the 3rd Party Processing Centre won't be sold along with all your conversations to a 4th Party Conglomerate who will promptly disavow all previous Privacy Policies so that they can make even more money selling all this to a 5th Party to "enhance the user experience of their stockholders".
      • Disabling the microphone(s) - Since it has been widely reported that the "Default" in smart TVs is to keep the microphone(s) on and doing their job for the corporations (e.g. Samsung stating that it is the User's fault they didn't discover the one line in the long instruction manual that ambiguously stated this - and used the Setup Menu to turn it off (see: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/samsung-warns-users-to-watch-what-they-say-in-front-of-smart-tvs-1.2227457 ), take the following steps:
        1. Try to find the setup item in the appropriate submenu of the appropriate menu on the Nth page of the Setup Features for your TV and turn the microphone(s) off which is probably something like "Enhanced User Audio Experience - ON, or "YOU SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH THIS OPTION".
        2. Check this periodically (i.e. daily) to see if the latest "Automatic Upgrade" of the TV's software "accidently" reset it to the "Corporate's Default" which is: "Why on Earth would someone NOT want us listening to absolutely everything said in their house?"
        3. or, open the back of the TV and cut the wires going to every microphone installed - including those that came embedded with the tiny camera(s).


    3. Vibration sensor(s)
      • Although it is not known if any TV's currently have a built-in vibration sensors or a "sense of touch", it is only a matter of time before inertial movement sensors are installed to "enhance the user experience".
      • This would allow the manufacturer to determine whether the TV was "mishandled" just before a warranty service claim.
      • It would also allow them to determine whether or not people threw something at their TV when, for example, the President gives his "State of the Union Address" or when Football Team A tried a pass attempt from the one yard line instead of "running the ball" like they should have.
      • Physical reactions like these would be very valuable to 3rd Party Companies such as pollsters, especially if they also included screaming or cheering picked up by the microphone(s).
      • And, together with a visual determination that no one is actually watching, along with tiny changes or a continuous rhythmic change in the inertial frame of reference they could also determine when a particular movie initiated a secondary form of personal entertainment whereby they could automatically post the recorded video and audio directly to an Internet "adult entertainment" channel for additional revenue.
      • Disabling the Vibration Sensors - see the instructions under Microphones


    4. Olfactory sensor(s)
      • Although it is not known if any TV's currently have a built-in "sense of smell", it is only a matter of time before olfactory sensors are installed to "enhance the user experience".
      • Knowing what you prepared for dinner, or, much more valuable - what fast food you went to get to eat in front of the TV for a particular show can be fed back to advertisers who will send you the ever-popular "user-targeted" adds for such things as Tofu, Florida Oranges, California Pistachios, New England Lobster or selected Burgers and Pizza.
      • One can only assume that, in time, they would be able to determine individual family member preferences for White Wines, Red Wines, Scotch, brand of Whisky and of course, beers (micro, private or Corporate breweries).
      • And, although the legalization of marijuana is spreading in the USA, they would, of course display numerous revenue-generating advertisements from your local "Health Store" expounding on the virtues of ONE GUY'S POT versus ANOTHER GUY'S POT.
      • Disabling the Olfactory Sensors - see the instructions under Microphones

  2. The Amazon Alexa, Echo, Echo Dot, or Tap is another device that is always on and which responds to your voice commands as a "hands-free digital assistant". OK, so does anyone actually believe that in a small package like this is a computer that understands every language and every language dialect on Earth? Apparently they do - but in reality, the device listens all the time and sends the information across the internet for a system to determine a "start command" and which tries to process the request. If it can't decipher what is being asked does it route it to a "human desk" to recognize the command? These recordings are apparently stored somewhere for "future development purposes"). In fact, the way Alexa potentially records everything it can hear is now a matter in the investigation of a murder, and the authorities want access to Alexa recordings from the accused's home. http://www.sciencealert.com/amazon-s-alexa-might-have-been-a-witness-to-a-murder-and-prosecutors-are-seeking-its-data and http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/28/tech/amazon-echo-alexa-bentonville-arkansas-murder-case-trnd/ So, do you need a "Cone of Silence" over these things so you have at least a tiny bit of privacy in your own home? Also - Amazon regularly updates the Echo over the cloud, adding new features and skills to "enhance the user experience". I have not yet found where you can go and see all your conversations that Amazon records, but look at the next item.

  3. The "Google Home" assistant and voice activated Google Search on your smartphones etc. are a competitor to Amazon. And it works the same way. Here is where Google stores your voice recordings and how to delete the files (and turn off the function if you want to). (Want to hear the conversations it recorded in your home?) http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/google-voice-search-records-stores-conversation-people-have-around-their-phones-but-files-can-be-a7059376.html

  4. And Siri - Apple's response system also works this way. In fact, it's almost certain that humans are listening at the other end to what you say. This is evident by the humourous responses Siri gives to questions like "Siri - Will you marry me? Answer: You should know you're not the only one who's asked.", and "Siri - where's a good place to hide a body? Answer: "What Again??". http://thoughtcatalog.com/nico-lang/2013/10/i-asked-siri-19-ridiculous-questions-and-got-these-amazing-responses/ So now they want to listen to you in your car as well as in your home.

  5. Not to be outdone by Amazon and Google, here are "30 Ways Your Windows 10 Computer Phones Home to Microsoft" http://www.howtogeek.com/224616/30-ways-windows-10-phones-home/

  6. Laptop cameras and microphones. These are so easily hacked into that people like Mark Zuckerberg (the founder of Facebook) put tape over their laptop cameras and microphones as a last resort against "someone" turning them on. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/23/technology/personaltech/mark-zuckerberg-covers-his-laptop-camera-you-should-consider-it-too.html?_r=0 And The FBI agrees with this method of protection http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/09/15/put-tape-over-your-webcam-fbi-director-warns/

    Final Note:

    You can bet that all of the "private" information collected from the things in YOUR HOUSE (or YOUR CAR) will never be made available TO YOU - only bonafide Scientific Behavioural Studies, along with some 3rd Party Advertisers, some Other Advertisers, any advertisers with the bucks to pay the manufacturer's "going rates". Oh, and of course, the police, the government, and also those secret Internet Adult Entertainment Channels.

    I guess I was wrong on this prediction when I made it over a year ago. See two points above - Google has revealed where they store everything they overhear. I hope Amazon and all the other evesdropping devices follow suit.


    Stay Tuned for other articles on The Internet of Things:

  7. Fitness trackers such as the FitBit health monitoring bracelets that, by default (but now "fixed"), published your sexual activity openly on the internet - http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/smart-devices-think-you-re-too-lazy-to-opt-out-of-privacy-defaults-1.2957114

  8. Thermostats - reporting when you are home or not, to whoever pays the most for the information

  9. Power Usage Monitors - reporting when you have gone on vacation

  10. Home Security systems and of course, the codes sent across the Internet to activate or deactivate them

  11. Fridges and Freezers that report when you go shopping and what you buy, plus the calculated obesity level for the family along with the "Health Level Index" of your food for the mutual benefit of your Health Care Provider and your Life Insurance company

  12. Washers and Dryers that detect how smelly you are and the condition of your average piece of underwear

  13. And now children's toys will be listening and recording and sending whatever they hear in your home to the manufacturer for "further processing". The "Hello Barbie" doll will do exactly that unless consumer advocate groups succeed in preventing corporate eavesdropping on children all day, every day. see: http://www.geek.com/news/hello-barbie-listens-to-kids-creeps-out-parents-and-privacy-advocates-1617991/ and http://www.snopes.com/politics/business/hellobarbie.asp and http://www.ctvnews.ca/lifestyle/eavesdropping-new-barbie-has-parents-group-worried-1.2278311 and http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/action/shut-down-hello-barbie and about several hundred other blogs that think this is a totally creepy invasion of privacy.




  14. Cars (and their manufacturers and partners) are watching and listening to you too: "Connected cars perfect for harvesting personal data, report warns. Cars generate data extremely valuable to insurers, governments, law enforcement agencies..." see: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/connected-cars-perfect-for-harvesting-personal-data-report-warns-1.3008956 - Vehicle performance monitors that transmit information about vehicle health and driver behaviour wirelessly to computers used by car dealers and mechanics. - Navigation systems that record the vehicle's location and the routes it has taken. -Telematics systems that collect information on driving behaviour and send it to insurance companies to deliver new "usage-based insurance." - Infotainment systems that can collect information about personal communication, web browsing data, personal contacts and schedules, and preferences with respect to music and video content.

    And Also:

  15. How to hack into your neighbor's TV so you can use its Smart Features for your own entertainment.

  16. Detecting Road Travel Conditions - by counting the intensity and number of "Road Rage Words" uttered by all motorists with internet connected vehicles on any specific highway.




OK, so The Grumpy Old Astronomer said above you should "stay tuned" for more articles on these things that invade your privacy. Well - - forget it. There are so many articles coming out every day about corporations recording voice or data on everything in your life it's not possible for me to keep up.


Sorry for the long post. Here's a potato.