Does Your Shiny New Gadget Come With Privacy Pitfalls?

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, we all know that technology is the cause of — and solution to — all of life’s problems.

We like technology at the ACLU — but we also want everyone to have their eyes wide open when it comes to the privacy risks that can accompany the latest electronic gear, from smartwatches to internet-connected home appliances.

Smart Speakers

Google Home Mini

Realize that when you plug in an Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, or Google Home, you’re switching on a microphone that’s always on inside your home. In theory, it only transmits information when you say the wake word, like “Alexa.” But sometimes they can accidentally transmit what you’re saying.

And there’s the question of what happens to the data when they are supposed to be recording. You do have the option to delete it, but there have been cases of police asking companies to turn it over.

Video Doorbells
 

Door with Ring video doorbell

These are essentially doorbells with video cameras in them. They can show you who’s at your door and give you the ability to video chat with them. Amazon even has plans to equip them with facial recognition. There are also similar cameras for placing inside your home.

One concern with these devices is that they can be hacked — and this goes for any kind of internet-connected devices in and around the home. There’s also the possibility of bugs in the code that can send video where it isn’t supposed to go, like when a flaw caused people to get video feeds from their neighbors’ cameras.

Smartwatches and Fitness Trackers
 

Smart watch

Wearable devices like the Apple Watch and Fitbit are collecting a lot of very personal information about you — everything from your heartrate to how well you’re sleeping. Anytime you generate a collection of data that’s so intimate, it becomes a target for hackers — and it can also potentially be accessed by the government. So you need to ask yourself if this is a dataset about yourself that you want to create.

Drones
 

Red drone outdoors

Let’s turn the privacy issue around the last item on our list: With drones you should be sure to respect other people’s privacy and not run afoul of “peeping Tom” laws.

You also need to make sure that you follow the Federal Aviation Administration’s fairly strict rules for drones, which include mandatory registration, keeping it below 400 feet, and staying away from aircraft.

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All in all, tech can make life easier — just be aware of all the potential implications that come with using it that might not be so apparent at first glance. When you use gadgets that are connected online, you’re often creating revealing data about yourself that could possibly be accessed by the government or hackers. The companies that make the products also have the information too, so you should think about how much you trust them with your privacy.

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Ms. Gloria Anasyrma

I have been told that if you smoke enough cannabis none of all of the problems with privacy and servailance gadgets won't bother you. That's why they are making it legal now.

Anonymous

I bet you are in some Communist Terrorist group.

Anonymous

An important check & balance would be mandating, under risk of legal penalty, that law enforcement officials, national security officials and private businesses maintain an “electronic paper-trail of domestic spying” and that reporting is stored at an independent archive (only obtainable by court subpoena or by the target of domestic spying). For example, if you were an innocent blacklisted citizen, harmed from 17 years of warrantless spying after 9/11, you could simply file a FOIA request with the independent archive or it could be accessed with a subpoena. Today, in 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice operator is telling blacklisted citizens, never charged or accused of any crime, that no DOJ records exist. An independent archive could help provide “legal standing” for plaintiffs harmed by domestic spying and create a “deterrent effect” to deter warrantless domestic spying in the future. Blacklisting someone for more than 17 years absolutely meets the criminal definition of torture and cruel & unusual punishment under the Federal Criminal Code. If officials are doing nothing wrong, they have nothing to fear (paraphrased from George W. Bush).

Anonymous

I get to post without a brain scan- Sweet! As an artist this particularly concerns me. Imagine... if the Beatles were being recorded by companies and advertisers "co-incidentally" came out with the same at the same time right before they got to record it and now it is a jingle for iphones? Or perhaps recorded your ideas and accidentally sent them to another artist in your contact list - suddenly you see their work is oddly your exact ideas and you feel robbed but paranoid at the same time. Ideas you discuss with your partner suddenly appear as adds on tv and become a meme instead of a work of poignant beauty they have been marketized and stolen. It makes one want to throw every device in a fire pit and yet artists rely on these to get their work into the world. It's really horrible we are being pillaged and abused in such a way. Using a need to exert control is classically known as ABUSE. Imagine too you are badmouthing your boss meanwhile he is listening on your personal conversations and seems to know things but again you just have this awful feeling. In so many ways this is a violation that attacks our very individuality and spiritual freedom to exist in our lives apart from the social system and constructs that govern and seem to want control over our lives and now our thoughts.

Anonymous

I support the abuse of these devices to monitor the private conversations of racists. Free speech and right to privacy don’t protect hate speech.

Anonymous

I'm constantly amazed at how quickly and uncritically The Herd embraces this stuff. World's richest man & unabashed sociopath Jeff Bezos wants to record EVERYTHING that's said in the privacy of my home? SURE, what could POSSIBLY go WRONG??? And besides, LOOK HOW SHINY IT IS...!

The individuals who incessantly FALL FOR THIS CRAP are as much of the problem as those who implement and PROFIT from it.

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