Privacy will always be an issue when it comes to the development of technology. The more people rely on apps and gadgets, the deeper algorithms have to go to provide a seamless experience. It’s a trade-off that not many are comfortable with. Take for instance, Google search. The search engine pools all of your previous searches, your online profile and personal preferences to predict your next entry in the search field. The suggestions are an example of your private, intimate ideas sprouting up in random parts of your daily interaction with the web. Now what about voice-activated and motion-sensing devices?
Voice-activated tools like Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s Siri are powered through the cloud. These devices listen to your commands and turn it into an action, but only after it “hears” the trigger word. So yes, a lot of the voice-powered gadgets out in the market today are actively listening to your conversations, waiting for you to activate their services. “You can take that information and find out a person’s house or business. It’s just a matter of time until we are able to replace their servers with ours and have her say anything we want,” said U.S. security researcher Matt Jakubowski.
The latest company to raise red flags due to frightening security issues is Mattel. The Hello Barbie Doll was coined as the world’s first interactive doll. Its core feature allows kids to talk to it, like adults do to Google’s Now and Microsoft’s Cortana. A built-in microphone captures the individual’s voice and sends it to a third-party cloud where the audio files are processed. Unfortunately, security analysts tested the toy and were able to hack into sensitive account information and sound files, as well as take control of the microphone.
If you think this is bad, wait until you hear about motion-sensing cameras. New reports from ABI Research, a New York-based tech firm, uncovered that the widely popular Nest Cam spikes in power when the device is in “off” mode. Like voice-activation gadgets, the security camera has a discreet standby option that senses motion around the clock. But this feature is ongoing even when you manually disable it using the smartphone app, and when the cam’s LED indicator is off.
“When Nest Cam is turned off from the user interface, it does not fully power down, as we expect the camera to be turned on again at any point in time,” mentioned Zoz Cuccias, a Nest spokesperson. “With that said, when Nest Cam is turned off, it completely stops transmitting video to the cloud, meaning it no longer observes its surroundings.”
There is an intimate price to pay for new technology: privacy. An extreme solution to these concerns would be to go completely off the grid. But for those who want to remain an active member of society, the answer could be as simple as choosing your gadgets wisely. You don’t need to consume every IoT device on the shelf. Not everything has to be connected together.