A Holiday Filled With Privacy Concerns

in technology •  last year

One of the top items that was sold this holiday season was the Amazon Echo Dot which saw millions of sales over Christmas and is said to be the top-selling product for Amazon across all categories.

The smart home listening device trend continues to grow, with devices like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Amazon Echo, and Google Home Mini seeing strong sales.

According to a media research group known as Kagan, it's estimated that by 2020, roughly 25.5 percent of US homes will quality as smart homes. At the moment, there are more than 15 million smart homes in the US.

A great deal of people have embraced these new tech gadgets, that act like their own personal assistant, and many have opted to add them to their Christmas list this year, yet there are still some who have some concerns over what are viewed as always listening smart home devices.


CEO of Identity Theft Countermeasures Group, Tyler Wildman, reminds consumers that they should check the user agreement or privacy policy of these devices to make sure they know what sort of data the device can collect or who it might be able to share that data with. Sometimes that data can be shared with third-party businesses or organizations and you might not even be aware of it.

Privacy advocates warn that the government might use these devices to gather intelligence on targets or even the masses. It's no wonder that many look at this tech trend as something else, surveillance that's being marketed as revolutionary technology; though people are putting it in their homes voluntarily. Wikileaks previously released documents alleging that the government and its spy agencies had the tools to hack into smart devices and essentially turn your smart TV into a listening device.

To protect your data, some suggest that users should periodically wipe their history, although that might jeopardize what the device has learned about the user. Might storing the device (when not in use) in a sound-proof box be too much? Instead some have simply opted to unplug them when having private conversations with their loved ones.

And it's not just listening devices like the Echo either, there are also worries about a variety of at-home toys and gadgets recording data that we might not be aware of.

Some people might have no idea just how much of their privacy they are jeopardizing for convenience. And that some of the items in your home might be recording or tracking what you are saying and doing, without you being aware of it.

Aside from smart home listening devices being a top seller for Amazon this holiday season, there were also big sales seen for smart light bulbs, Smart plugs, and robot vacuums.

Thanks to a significant decrease in price, more people are turning to embrace the smart home trend and a great deal of people will be receiving smart speakers and other smart-devices this holiday season. And one thing they might want to do next is check that privacy policy and user agreement.

Pics:
via Business Financial Post financialpostcom.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/fp1220-gs-smart-speakers.png
Pixabay
TYMhomes Giphy

Sources:
http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/local/consumer/on-your-side/privacy-concerns-about-always-listening-smart-home-devices/502345627
http://abc7news.com/technology/your-privacy-may-be-at-risk-with-some-toys-gadgets/2827339/
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/26/how-many-amazon-alexa-echoes-were-sold-over-the-2017-holidays.html
https://www.insauga.com/here-are-the-most-popular-items-on-amazon-ordered-for-christmas
http://mashable.com/2017/12/27/amazon-echo-dot-alexa-smart-home-top-holiday-2017-gift/#fvbrJMgpesqu
https://www.digitaltrends.com/home/holiday-lighting/
https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/2017/12/25/10-things-you-didnt-know-your-amazon-echo-could-do/971951001/
https://marketintelligence.spglobal.com/blog/smart-homes-in-the-u-s-becoming-more-common-but-still-face-challenges
http://business.financialpost.com/technology/personal-tech/are-smart-speakers-spying-on-you-privacy-security-fears-grow-as-devices-get-more-popular
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/09/internet-of-things-smart-devices-spying-surveillance-us-government
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/09/internet-of-things-smart-home-devices-government-surveillance-james-clapper
https://www.cnet.com/news/wikileaks-cia-hacking-tools-phones-apple-samsung-microsoft-google/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/03/07/why-the-cia-is-using-your-tvs-smartphones-and-cars-for-spying/

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Wikileaks previously released documents alleging that the government and its spy agencies had the tools to hack into smart devices and essentially turn your smart TV into a listening device.

All "smart" devices are made for one purpose and that's to spy and invade your privacy. Some TVs will even have a disclaimer stating that it's recording you by. And smart phones are a whole new story with apple controling 10% and google more than 85% of the market.

When you have an androind you are giving everything about yourself in their hands as they got your email, history, contact, phones, camera, mic. Everything you can imagine is being recorded and sold for a wide range of purposes.

Great post I was actually thinking about writing about privacy for my #thingsthatmatter series.

Welcome to 2017/2018! Where we voluntarily submit to Big Brother and wiretap ourselves. :P

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A great quote from Keith Jensen on Twitter.

What Orwell failed to predict is that we'd buy the cameras ourselves, and that our biggest fear would be that nobody was watching.

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Your quote matches perfectly!

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nice one....

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Chills down my spine reading that quote..

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It's really sad. The level of carelessness on the part of technology consumers, who don't mind passing up their privacy for convenience

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Until it's too late to avoid the "unthinkable".

It blows me away the sacrifices people make for "convenience". Everyone uses Facebook, therefore its a convenient means to stay in contact, but at what cost? All my likes, all my views, all my life is being commodified and sold to the highest bidder for their financial gains.

Now this. Smart homes will collect data you dont want shared. Smart homes will be hackable just like any computer, and what might hackers hear in your home?

Dont people value privacy anymore? Or are we just such sheep that we blindly believe the powers that operate these data collection centers (Facebook, Youtube, Google, etc) are benevolent and well meaning?

And forget about their intentions for a moment, even if they are well meaning what about the risk that comes from their centrality? Equifax hack is one major example.

Relying on "trusted" third parties to store your info is inherently risky. Privacy and security will be the first casualties of this modern convenience... Does anyone even care?

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Really what do these devices even do? We are all pretending we are ironman - but really what? Change the channel? Play some Hootie and the Blowfish?

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Why should I value privacy?

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@austinhopper

I posted a long response but deleted it. Suffice it to say, you should value privacy because your privacy has a literal value.

What you search online leads to a search history. That info can be sold to ad companies. It is sold today by Google or youtube or facebook. Your data. My data. This is my digital life they are measuring and selling.

If we were more private we would have the freedom to decide what, if anything, we wanted to sell. Maybe your google history could be sold for your own financial gain, not googles. Maybe you would not sell your youtube data, cause whatever reason. You would be free to make that choice.

This is part of why privacy is integral to freedom, and why privacy matters.

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I know that it has value. But I did zero work to cultivate that value. I didn't build chrome, or gmail or facebook. Developers spend billions of dollars and hours building products that are very good and give them away for free. They need to recoup their investment. For most people, loss of privacy is an acceptable cost for the benefits of using these products. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Just because the data is about you doesn't mean you deserve to profit from it.

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I dont disagree.

If a person makes an informed decision that they are willing to share their personal information in exchange for a service like Google, Facebook, etc, that is fine in my books.

One point I would push back on is this, the argument that devs built the site and therefore the company deserves all revenue that comes out of the site is wrong in my books. If you and I were no on those sites, then the site is worse off, not because we are unique but because without individuals contributing to the site the site is less attractive. We are the content they are selling. Come see all your friends in one place. But if we stop using it, then Facebook would turn into MySpace. See what I mean?

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You're right, we are the product they are selling and the sites do need us. As long as FB offers compelling products, people will continue to use it, even if it means giving away personal data. This has been a very successful business model that has come out on top in the free market. I don't think there is anything particularly wrong with it. To me, privacy doesn't have any tangible value and is not the same as security. For example, there is nothing private on Steemit - you can even look at how much I have in my wallet. However, Steemit is very secure and you would have to come to my house to find my private key and steal my money. Security trumps privacy, and companies like FB and Google has very strong incentives to keep things secure.

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Hmmm, perhaps best answered by a study of what tends to happen without it.

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Smarthomes and devices would be awesome if the owners knew how to program them and owned the data outright. It'd also be cool if we had free energy, or at least sustainable energy, to run them. But this trajectory reads of a technocratic totalitarianism that pains me to even contemplate ...

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@infidel1258 Excellently stated!

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It's the great shame of it all isn't it @infidel1258. The lack of desire for privacy. I get looked at strangely when I mention security or privacy in social circles now.... like I have something to hide. The "I have nothing to hide" argument is moronic to the highest degree.

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I know! This is the argument the corps have formulated to justify their collection and monetization of our data. "If you dont have something to hide it should be fine if we monitor your cell phone calls, web searches and posts on ____." And we accept that erroneous logic; Such a shame.

Privacy is an integral part of true freedom.

The monitoring of my life, by government or big business, may be to some extent necessary but it is simealtaneously a sacrifice of my personal freedom. We accept this sacrifice in the name of security that comes for instance from our govt having this capability. I accept that sacrifice to an extent, because I do value security, but we need to value our privacy also or authorities (govt or business) will take advantage and monetize us in new and ever more pervasive ways.

We need to understand this give and take between privacy and freedom as it pertains to security, or we cant value our freedoms accurately.

I think people take this stuff too lightly, or even don't think about it at all! I absolutely would never even consider having an Echo, Alexa, or any similar device in my home. I wouldn't have one if it was totally free. We found out what the NSA has been up to, I wouldn't trust the manufacturers/sellers of these products any more than I would the NSA.

They may only have the intention to use whatever information is gathered for marketing purposes, but that still doesn't mean that it wouldn't be abused down the road.

Thanks for your post.

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I agree with you. I don't even see how these robots would be helpful.

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Totally agree @rip-youtube. In fact our tv is 10 years old... a big heavy plasma. It has red lines through the panel but we still use it happily. When it dies, we'd rather not replace it than go with an internet aware model. No microphone is a good thing.

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I don't blame you. I don't even own a television right now. Mine broke, and I just never even cared about buying another one. I haven't even missed it, and I used to be a TV junkie. I know I look at the world in a totally different way now too. I no longer turn on whatever corporate news channel and just assume I'm getting the truth. They very much have a vested interest in telling you what they want you to believe. I'd better stop now before people start calling me a Conspiracy Theorist. lol

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And the personal time not having a set would free up; I'm almost looking forward to it! I've long given up any TV or radio broadcast news. Found myself feeling more and more lied to that I've withdrawn from it completely.

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It's been liberating for me! :-)

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Fortunately, there are a lot of "awakened" people in this community. Smart people tend to retain some fluidity in their perceptions. You are not "reaching" too far at all.

An ongoing tendency to accept, trust, consume, rely on and sustain the "services" of corporations, industries and governing authority can impact a persons life life for many years in ways not ever realized.

A day comes when beast stretches beyond it's expected boundary.

The "truth" changes when you have a stake in something that is threatened unjustly- something with immense personal value.

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Wise words!

Tech must be used after thorough inspection.. i dont even believe in a company's "terms and conditions" anymore since they can be twisted to hide the real deal. the kind of things that i have seen that how these small gadget makers are spying on you.. this is ridiculous...
a good post indeed..

I've had the Google Home for over a year and absolutely love it. I'm really not paranoid about my privacy. Don't really see the point. Why does privacy matter so much to other people? I mean, I don't want my neighbor watching me fuck, but I'm pretty sure he's heard my gf by now. Google might as well listen too.

If people cared about privacy they wouldn't have Facebook profiles and mobile phones.

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This is one of the things I've said. Only a few short years ago people thought they could go without a smart phone, and yet here we are. It becomes an all-or-nothing decision very quickly with tech advances.

What I'm realizing is that I need to start controlling my use of my phone and social media. Having one of those protective screens to prevent phone hacking, and then having it on all of the time except some scheduled times for checking my phone.

Sounds extreme, and would be very hard.. but feels more and more necessary. Frankly, I would be a much more effective and happy person that way, anyway! Phones take over our lives in every way. Yuck.

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It's a sad fact.

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I just logged into facebook today after being off of it for many months... Everyone doing the same thing, arguing about the same topics, posting the same selfies - it really depressed me for quite a while.. but now I am back happily communicating with intelligent strangers through steem - love you guys!

Xmas time is super dope for sellers. Unfortunately my ebay store went silent at this specific period of xmas. Maybe I need change mu
My stuff ,who knows. Btw thanks for your last upvote to my blog ,this means alot for me. Cheers buddy ✔✔😉

Always provide very interesting posts about technology. Thank you for sharing @doitvoluntarily.

Outstanding music device. Now a days electronic device creates market all over the world. Great post about technology.

Happy Holiday

I can't ever get over just how fast we went from 1984 as an exaggerated, prophetic work to it becoming insanely real. But what wasn't anticipated was the willing submission to it and for such a low cost as wholly unnecessary convenience. Never in my home--although here I am on a laptop, and frustrated at my dependence on my phone and social media while knowing full well it is sabotaging me.

What do we do? What if it manages to turn into a dependency thing like phones or the internet? I don't see how just yet, but I'm sure people felt that way about smart phones only a few years ago, and now look where we are.

Very overwhelming and frightening. Backwoods off-the-grid calling anyone else?

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We need off grid, decentralized high tech societies with intelligent people leading and maintaining them.

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Do we have a guarantee those intelligent people leading and maintaining will be any more virtuous than what we have now? That's my big question. Power corrupts no matter what form it takes (in the decentralized world, it seems that tech knowledge and wealth will be the power determiner). Mobs are also notoriously corrupt, and we already see petty bits of that on platforms like Steemit.

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@kayclarity You're exactly right, and it's only going to get worse. I'm sure in the very near future they'll be offering the convenience of paying bills by simply linking your bank account, and saying, "Alexa, send $200 to the utility company." What could go wrong there? I imagine people will be breaking into homes to tell Alexa to send them some money. ;-)

"Backwoods off-the-grid calling anyone else?" :-D

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Yep.. big time. Perhaps if not having one becomes such a hindrance in the future it could be set up in a garage where exposure to it is deliberate and controlled. Still, on principle, it'd be like a hell freezes over situation for me.

I am wary with these kinds of devices. Owning a smartphone can disrupt your privacy enough 😉

It is interesting everytime issues with the NSA arise. Many of us fear government surveillance without even realizing what we are giving away!

I have heard countless examples of people discussing things with their phones nearby, only to go online and find customized ads. Down the road, we're going to have to figure out if everything we have traded our privacy for is actually worth it!

it's an interesting things and very informative thanks for sharing @doitvoluntarily

I firmly believe that if the information hits the internet the government....The US government has the data stored somewhere. I don't for one moment believe that they were ONLY collecting phone numbers and length of call information. Texts, medical information, everything you purchase with a debit or credit card, THIS post......EVERYTHING. It's why we MUST stop electing those who would trade your rights for security......More than 350 of YOUR congressmen(assuming you're an American) voted yes to give the President the authority to imprison anyone that HE DEEMS is a terrorist. No trial, no charges, no attorney no family notification. That's what MOST of you voters voted for....and it's what you have. Thanks, thanks for nothing.

Let me add..that Trump signed it into law also.

Why are people willingly putting these things in their homes, and paying for them!?

Always your post have alot of information. @doitvoluntarily THANKS
follow me and vote me THANKS

My husband and I received a Google Home for a gift. As soon as we saw it, we knew we are returning it.

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Brilliant!

the advance technology is surprising, but even where we are going to arrive or where it is convenient to have a home all digitized, with the possibility of losing privacy, just think scalding, be gathered intimately in your bedroom and not know if you are alone.
excellent post as always dear friend @doitvoluntarily, thank you very much for the information
I wish you a great day

Very nice post :)

Normal citizens are easy prey of the technocrats. They contrl our life and psychology

I was given an Echo as a gift last year. I didn't like the idea of something that listens to my every word in my home so I returned it and bought some gardening supplies! I can talk to tomatoes all day without having to worry about them sending my info to the NSA.

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Love this anecdote. I'd be happier with the tomato outcome too!

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But what about .....GMO SMART TOMATOES!?

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Monsanto and the NSA working together!!! Ahhh!!!! No fresh tomato soup for me.

This post could have come from my own keyboard @doitvoluntarily. You articulate what I've thought about these horrible invasions from the beginning. Your exemplary work and the sentiments in the comments I couldn't hope to add to so I'll just lend my support with this brief reply and resteem for us all. Keep up the great work, I love reading your contributions to the voluntarist space!

I am not keen on these, they make you lazy and I have enough problems talking to myself :)

And one thing they might want to do next is check that privacy policy and user agreement.

That's the minimum you should do as it at least allows you to know what they're taking from you, if you can penetrate the language.

But because these Terms of Service, User Agreement, Privacy Policy, etc. are non-negotiable, it's pretty much an all or nothing situation. You cannot choose how much of your privacy is eroded, just whether or not to volunteer at all.

technology is everything , without technology business is nothing

I think this the nice device!!

One of my co-workers just got one of these as a gift. He was very aware that it was a privacy concern... and probably wouldn't have purchased it for himself.

I wonder if he'll keep using it, now that he has it.

If I ever saw this thing in somebody's house, I'd leave..... those things kind of creep me out for this very reason. My roommate even recently bought a high-tech heater. There is a big bright light on it and I asked 'what is the point of that light? Is it spying on us?" lol....

It’s quite scary to think that we have to police what we say in our own homes coz Big Brother or something may be listening and gathering data.

Unless proven otherwise, assume all devices in you house phone home and gather data. The Cloud is very convenient.

Doitvoluntarily, thanks for great article. My kids gave me an Amazon echo for Xmas. Will deploy and use it. But will take pre cautions on where and how we use it. For now, just my library/trading office to listen to background music. Upvoted and resteemed

Rest assured: that if these devices were able to be hacked at all, these mega corporations would do a total recall and patch of all products, they really don't care about the profits.

A very interesting post! Upvoted, followed and resteemed.

John Mcafee has made many comments regarding the privacy of our devices, and is even making money from a 'private' smartphone device from what I remember?

It's quite scary to think that complete strangers can see and/or hear my every move.

I'd consider owning such products like Alexa or Google home quite risky. As you mentioned in your posts, are a means of a surveillance system if they fall to the wrong hands, such as hackers intruding to the home network, plus there are enough devices that track us each day, every day.

For using a smartphone I risk compromising my privacy for the sake of great advantages, but I can't see those advantages in Google Home or Alexa.

Great post there, keep up good work !

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