Your Hi-Tech Gadget is Watching You …

A friend pointed us to a recent article published by the Brennan Center for Justice that discusses the transformation of household gadgets into spying devices. The author bought a new TV, and after reading the 46 pages of “privacy policy” in the manual, is apparently apprehensive about turning it on. Actually, “privacy policy” seems a misnomer. It would be more accurate to rename it “spying policy”.

An excerpt from the article:


I just bought a new TV. The old one had a good run, but after the volume got stuck on 63, I decided it was time to replace it. I am now the owner of a new “smart” TV, which promises to deliver streaming multimedia content, games, apps, social media, and Internet browsing. Oh, and TV too. The only problem is that I’m now afraid to use it. You would be too — if you read through the 46-page privacy policy.

The amount of data this thing collects is staggering. It logs where, when, how, and for how long you use the TV. It sets tracking cookies and beacons designed to detect “when you have viewed particular content or a particular email message.” It records “the apps you use, the websites you visit, and how you interact with content.” It ignores “do-not-track” requests as a considered matter of policy.

It also has a built-in camera — with facial recognition. The purpose is to provide “gesture control” for the TV and enable you to log in to a personalized account using your face. On the upside, the images are saved on the TV instead of uploaded to a corporate server. On the downside, the Internet connection makes the whole TV vulnerable to hackers who have demonstrated the ability to take complete control of the machine.

More troubling is the microphone. The TV boasts a “voice recognition” feature that allows viewers to control the screen with voice commands. But the service comes with a rather ominous warning: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.” Got that? Don’t say personal or sensitive stuff in front of the TV. You may not be watching, but the telescreen is listening.


(emphasis added)

The author notes further that hackers are well-known for occasionally taking such devices over after sussing out their security vulnerabilities. Obviously, this group includes hackers in the employ of the State.


11-tv eyeYou only think you are watching TV. In reality, it is watching you. And listening to you as well. And sending everything to some server over the intertubes.


Given that an increasing number of household devices is expected to be connected to the internet in the future so as to enable what are undoubtedly useful features (such as the remote examination of one’s fridge’s contents while shopping for groceries, to name an example), this apparently also means that one might as well take those curtains off your windows and throw them away, unless one values them purely for their decorative characteristics.

As we mentioned recently in the context of the FBI’s vociferous complaints about the lack of hackable back-doors into new phone models announced by Apple and Google, the police presumably don’t want us to have curtains anyway. All this privacy protection stuff is so 18th century.




Soon even your dishwasher could potentially turn traitor and rat you out. Of course, as our well-intentioned rulers never tire to point out, that is only the case if you have something to hide.


old-fashioned surveilance deviceOld-fashioned surveillance device prior to the arrival of modern communication devices




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