“Thermostats, Locks and Lights: Tools of Domestic Abuse”
Nellie Bowles, The New York Times, June 23, 2018
There are also great possibilities here for landlords and managers of residential-care facilities to drive out tenants/residents who complain too much or fall behind in the rent.
Abusers — using apps on their smartphones, which are connected to the internet-enabled devices — would remotely control everyday objects in the home, sometimes to watch and listen, other times to scare or show power. Even after a partner had left the home, the devices often stayed and continued to be used to intimidate and confuse.
For victims and emergency responders, the experiences were often aggravated by a lack of knowledge about how smart technology works, how much power the other person has over the devices, how to legally deal with the behavior and how to make it stop. …
Those at help lines said more people were calling in the last 12 months about losing control of Wi-Fi-enabled doors, speakers, thermostats, lights and cameras. Lawyers also said they were wrangling with how to add language to restraining orders to cover smart home technology. …
Legal recourse may be limited. Abusers have learned to use smart home technology to further their power and control in ways that often fall outside existing criminal laws.
An Amazon Echo “accidentally” recorded a couple's private conversation in their home and e-mailed the recording to one of the husband's employees. Amazon investigated and found an explanation that supposedly satisfied the company engineers, but did not divulge that explanation either to the couple or to the general public, instead asserting that they had “determined this to be an extremely rare occurrence” and that “Amazon takes privacy very seriously.”
“Woman Says Her Amazon Device Recorded Private Conversation, Sent It Out to Random Contact”
Gary Horcher, KIRO-TV, May 24, 2018
Dental-insurance companies are big fans of network-connected toothbrushes and will send them out as freebies — repeatedly and insistently.
“Our Dental Insurance Sent Us ‘Free’ Internet-Connected Toothbrushes. And This Is What Happened Next”
Wolf Richter, Wolf Street, April 14, 2018
The authors' family eventually figured out that you can use the toothbrush and even switch on the electricity so that the brush head vibrates automatically without activating the network connection, if you're careful to switch off Bluetooth in your phone before brushing your teeth. Now, however, they worry about the next step in the process:
We're expecting a series of emails that start out gently, and every two weeks or so get increasingly emphatic, telling us that we better start setting up the Internet connection to our toothbrushes and start sending our data to the cloud.
What's next? The day when we cannot get dental insurance without internet-connected toothbrushes. …
For now, our household is still able to at least partially block this intrusion. But there will be a day when we will be forced to surrender our data to get health insurance, drive a car, or have a refrigerator and a thermostat in the house. This is where this is going. Why? Because data is where the money is. And because many consumers are embracing it.
“Your Own Devices Will Give the Next Cambridge Analytica Far More Power to Influence Your Vote”
Justin Hendrix and David Carroll, MIT Technology Review, April 2, 2018
Though it's not clear if Cambridge Analytica's behavioral profiling and microtargeting had any measurable effect on the 2016 US election, these technologies are advancing quickly — faster than academics can study their effects and certainly faster than policymakers can respond. The next generation of such firms will almost certainly deliver on the promise. …
In the next few years, … we'll see the convergence of multiple disciplines, including data mining, artificial intelligence, psychology, marketing, economics, and experiential design theory. These methods will combine with an exponential increase in the number of surveillance sensors we introduce into our homes and communities, from voice assistants to internet-of-things devices that track people as they move through the day. Our devices will get better at detecting facial expressions, interpreting speech, and analyzing psychological signals.
In other words, the machines will know us better tomorrow than they do today. They will certainly have the data. While a General Data Protection Regulation is about to take effect in the European Union, the US is headed in the opposite direction. Facebook may have clamped down on access to its data, but there is more information about citizens on the market than ever before … not to mention all the data sloshing around thanks to hacks and misuse.
The “exponential increase in the number of surveillance sensors we introduce into our homes and communities” is already well along. We're past the knee of the curve and climbing the shaft of the hockey stick. Soon the only constraints will be bandwidth and network congestion, as a trillion cameras, microphones, and sensors all try to deliver their data in real time to the marketers, propagandists, spies, and law-enforcement teams poised in eager expectation.
“The House That Spied on Me”
Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu, Gizmodo, February 9, 2018
Getting a smart home means that everyone who lives or comes inside it is part of your personal panopticon, something which may not be obvious to them because they don't expect everyday objects to have spying abilities. One of the gadgets — the Eight Sleep Tracker — seemed aware of this, and as a privacy-protective gesture, required the email address of the person I sleep with to request his permission to show me sleep reports from his side of the bed. But it's weird to tell a gadget who you are having sex with as a way to protect privacy, especially when that gadget is monitoring the noise levels in your bedroom. …
I was looking forward to the end of the experiment and getting rid of all the Internet-connected devices I'd accumulated, as well as freeing up the many electrical outlets they'd been hogging. …
But the truth is that my house will remain smart, just like yours may be. Almost every TV on the market now is connected — because otherwise how do you Netflix and chill? — and over 25 million smart speakers were sold last year alone, with Apple soon to release its version, the HomePod, meaning a good percentage of American homes have or will have an internet-connected assistant waiting patiently for someone in the house to say their wake word. …
We may already be past the point of no return: internet functionality is a necessary component for the operation of many devices in our home, and it increasingly gets added on as a feature even when it's not strictly necessary. … Once the data is going over the wires, companies can't seem to resist peeking at it, no matter how sensitive it is.