I’ve had a few things to say about the so-called “Internet of Things“, and how it threatens our personal privacy and security. Any moderately competent hacker can use such devices as a way to spy on us. However, it now appears that the authorities are doing the same thing, by forcing the providers of such devices to hand over what they record. Worse still, the companies in the field are not very helpful in letting their customers know about such issues.
A decade ago, it was almost inconceivable that nearly every household item could be hooked up to the internet. These days, it’s near impossible to avoid a non-smart home gadget, and they’re vacuuming up a ton of new data that we’d never normally think about.
Thermostats know the temperature of your house, and smart cameras and sensors know when someone’s walking around your home. Smart assistants know what you’re asking for, and smart doorbells know who’s coming and going. And thanks to the cloud, that data is available to you from anywhere — you can check in on your pets from your phone or make sure your robot vacuum cleaned the house.
Because the data is stored or accessible by the smart home tech makers, law enforcement and government agencies have increasingly sought data from the companies to solve crimes.
And device makers won’t say if your smart home gadgets have been used to spy on you.
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As helpful and useful as smart home gadgets can be, few fully understand the breadth of data that the devices collect — even when we’re not using them. Your smart TV may not have a camera to spy on you, but it knows what you’ve watched and when — which police used to secure a conviction of a sex offender. Even data from when a murder suspect pushed the button on his home alarm key fob was enough to help convict someone of murder.
Two years ago, former U.S. director of national intelligence James Clapper said the government was looking at smart home devices as a new foothold for intelligence agencies to conduct surveillance. And it’s only going to become more common as the number of internet-connected devices spread. Gartner said more than 20 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020.
As much as the chances are that the government is spying on you through your internet-connected camera in your living room or your thermostat are slim — it’s naive to think that it can’t.
There’s more at the link.
I won’t have a “smart” appliance in my home at all. If I have to buy one because nothing else is available, I’ll make darn sure it can function without an Internet connection, then I’ll disable – or, if necessary, physically block or destroy – its ability to make such a connection, or record any information about me on an internal memory device. I value my privacy, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow an electronic black box to compromise it, for law enforcement or anyone else.