In this article we briefly review the implications of the ‘smart home’ devices by Google, Facebook and Amazon.
Wearing my Alex Jones-esque tinfoil hat for a moment, the very wording of ‘ok Google’, for example, is in itself subserviant. But I’m sure that is just bad branding. Either way you slice it, we are all using products with the power to know everything you’ve ever searched (and deleted); has an ‘advertising profile’ on you and is easily able to track where you are, where you have been, and how long you were there; and that is just the tip of an the iceberg. Spying doesn’t just mean listening in on you and watching you – now your data is so valuable to to these mega companies that just knowing your daily patterns can be useful to their profiteering. When you turn on and off the lights (Climate Lockdowns anyone?), when you move from one room to the next, your TV viewing patterns and more.
But, this isn’t anything you were’nt aware of already, these tools are so useful, and mostly free, that we accept our privacy being infringed, after all most of us aren’t planning a terrorist attack, but, as the poet Tony Hoagland put it so well, when talking about big corporations: ”We just want to be manipulated with a little fucking consideration”.
Here, we review whether or not your home is spying on you, and how to prevent hackers from taking advantage of your smart home.
Data collection is big business, and ultimately the devices used to make our home ‘smarter’ main use is to use our data for profit. In other words, Google Home, Alexa, and Siri may seem like your home companions but the truth is, they have the ability to record and collect all of your conversations and user data. Or, maybe they will get a ‘bug’ and accidently recorded everything 24/7 or send an entire conversation to one of your friends…
This is pretty unethical, because our personal data is our lives. Companies like Facebook and Google faced some backlash towards this, since people were not so pleased with the whole targeted ads system, however their product is so useful we often overlook these things. Though companies claim that this data is only used for enhancing their products to our comfort, letting these corporations have intricate details of our personal lives is creepy.
Many people around the world are avoiding smart home appliances for this particular reason, I have unplugged mine – after I got bored asking Alexa ‘what is 100 in welsh?’, seriously ask that question next time you are around one. Even if you have already spent a lot of money and have purchased any of these commodities, or got one as a gift, there is still a way to protect your privacy to a certain degree. Here are some simple tips when it comes to smart tech.
#1 Alexa will use your voice for testing unless you say otherwise
Unless you specify otherwise, devices such as Alexa will send your voice clips off to be ‘graded’ in a process called ‘human review’ this is essentially the company using your voice as testing for their device (for free obviously and without asking). That kind of thing would normally be called stealing, however these ethereal data companies will disguise this in their privacy settings as ‘do you want to help us improve the quality of Alexa’ blah blah blah. It’s a sneaky tactic which underplays how they, essential, steal your voice.
The first thing you should do when you get these devices is to turn this off, like so:
- Open the Amazon Alexa app on your device.
- Go to Menu > Settings > “Alexa Privacy.”
- Find and tap on “Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa.”
- Toggle off next to “Help Improve Amazon Services and Develop New Features.”
Apple and Google Assistant
Apple has currently stopped doing human review process – probably because they got caught listening to private conversations between patients and doctors, and even drug deals and sex romps. Also Google assistant have altered their human review process to an opt in.
We won’t cover Facebook Portal, because why on earth would you want that anywhere near your home.
#2 Use a Normal Lightbulb
In 2017, a group of researchers managed to hack Philips Hue smart lightbulb, yes a lightbulb, and managed to gain access to household internet via the lightbulb.
That’s not the only seemingly asinine household smart item that is suspectable to being hacked – internet connected kettles are also hackable, with one research hacker managing to steal WiFi passwords by hacking a kettle. You don’t want to have to do a double take every time you walk past your toaster in the morning… You have to ask yourself, is it worth having a smart light bulb? I would just invest in a long stick if you can’t be bothered to get up and turn off the light.
#3 Alternate Browser Brave
This last tip is an obvious one. Your browser is constantly mining your data as we all know. However there have been some really innovative new counter browsers to provide an alternative. James, our SEO here at FunrishHim recently started using the privacy based Brave browser with build in adblockers and other privacy oriented technology. It is also the chosen browser of other off-grid type dudes like Joe Rogan. You can even earn up to 50 cents a day in crypto currently by using Brave (we are not affiliated by Brave by the way). So if you are into browsing random stuff online, then you may as well do it whilst earning money and not being spied on…
To sum it up…
Ultimately, when it comes ot smart home devices, you are the product, not the devices. The tech world is rapidly changing and is it is hard to keep up with how the technology is really being used, when you have a billion dollar company who can seemingly get away with taking data anyway they want, it’s hard to stop it, unless of course you just don’t buy these smart home products.
As with the Brave browser, we predict that privacy orientated tech will become big business as our personal lives become more and more of a commodity in an increasingly online world. These constant infringements from big tech nerds into our private lives will lead to a gap in the market for home devices that work for us, rather than ones that make us work for them.
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