Opting Out

According to this report, our household appliances are about to become snitches on just about every aspect of our lives:

One day, finding an oven that just cooks food may be as tough as buying a TV that merely lets you click between channels.
Internet-connected “smarts” are creeping into cars, refrigerators, thermostats, toys and just about everything else in your home. CES 2019, the gadget show opening Tuesday in Las Vegas, will showcase many of these products, including an oven that coordinates your recipes and a toilet that flushes with a voice command.
With every additional smart device in your home, companies are able to gather more details about your daily life. Some of that can be used to help advertisers target you — more precisely than they could with just the smartphone you carry.

And the news just gets better and better:

Despite the fact that there’s plenty of information available showing how these devices collect data about every aspect of your life and the manufacturers both use and sell that data on the open market, the majority of people seem to either not care or are willing to accept this “new reality” as part of living in the modern world.

Once again [sigh], it appears that I’m in a minority.

No doubt, there will appear at your local drugstores condoms which measure the number of thrusts, such data sent back to the manufacturers of K-Y “Duration” gel, said antidote for premature ejaculation to arrive at your bedside by special delivery within two strokes of initial insertion.  And that’s a benevolent  outcome for such intrusiveness.

Never mind that.  Here’s a situation already in being:

T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are selling access to their customers’ location data, and that data is ending up in the hands of bounty hunters and others not authorized to possess it, letting them track most phones in the country.

I don’t often agree with church leaders about, well, anything much.  But I’m in absolute agreement with this man.

Allow me to offer a suggestion for a brand-new industry.  When a new generation of “smart” phones arrived on the market and appeared to be “locked” to a specific carrier, within days we saw phones being unlocked by street vendors, sometimes right outside  the stores selling the damn things.

I’m calling on all privacy-minded geeks of the world to unite, and to design apps or hacks or whatever to bypass the Big Brother mechanisms of these new infernal fink machines so that people (like me) who aren’t interested in letting Global MegaCorp Inc. snoop into the most intimate areas of our lives may avail themselves of their inventions.

I will be at the head of the fucking line to buy them.  I promise.

17 comments

  1. Opting out is a libertarian fantasy. The tech oligarchs are too rich, too powerful, and too embedded for that to work. The situation requires state intervention in terms of anti-trust. My favorite policy is to require a payment for each use of data about an individual. This will destroy their business model and make room for a new less intrusive model.

  2. I wonder if these smart appliances need to be connected to your home internet service, or if they send data via cell service? If the former, the simple solution is don’t connect the (expletive deleted) thing to the outside world.

    I’ve been doing some research into smart home devices lately, lights, thermostats, security cameras, etc. One thing I’m looking for is a home network that’s NOT connected to the Internet, so I can do things from my phone via connecting to the router, but no one not within range of the router can do anything. Oh, those remote activated door locks? Not only no, but Hell no.

    1. Most of this stuff uses your home internet. If you’re savvy you can block it at the router. But a bunch of the newest stuff just won’t work without being able to phone home.

  3. Opting out is mostly a luddite fantasy at this point. Learn to control it. Corporations finding new ways of generating a profit is nothing new. What blows my mind is how many people willingly give very personal data to them every day.

    It’s more than a little silly to bemoan a IoT fridge if that same person is splashing their upcoming vacation travel plans all over Facebook and Twitter, with their real names attached to it.

    Want freedom from big brother? It’s not impossible, or even particularly difficult. Don’t use Facebook. Ever. If you use social media of another stripe, do so under an alias and never post personally identifying information of any type. Disable location metadata on your mobile devices. Attach your cell phone(s) to a business account, wherein said business is registered in a state with good privacy laws (Nevada, Delaware, etc). Do the same for your home internet, car registration, insurance, etc.

    A few very simple tweaks like that can vastly reduce one’s data signature with the usual suspects, and you still get to reap the benefits of the connected world.

  4. Not planning on buying any of these appliances, but if I were to, how about if I just don’t let it attach to my network?

    1. You’ll find that not connecting them will make them inoperable. Try disabling the EDR “black box” in your car, for instance.

  5. Kim,
    Ted over at “Borepatch” is an internet and network security guru. In the past he’s had LOTS to say about “connected” devices, and if memory serves, none of what Ted has opined shines positive light upon them. In a stunningly disturbing example, and I don’t recall all the details, there was one case of a connected children’s toy that had no security. Said toy was hacked by a pedophile who then used the toy to send nasty verbal messages to young kids. I believe the toy has since been removed from the market. In short, security and end-user controls are frequently only an afterthought in the design of these devices, and as you allude, are often intentionally ignored to allow MegaCorp the access you describe.

  6. If they’re going to be making money off of MY DATA, the least they could do is to GIVE me the damn item to use.
    (Of course, then I could take it to a hacker and de-link, but that would be wrong, or something)

  7. ‘Opting out’ was the euphemism that RAF pilot officer recruits used before the war for getting fired.

  8. Household appliances and our cars are our servants, they heat our homes, they wash our clothes & very them, the heat our stoves and water, they keep us cool in the summer much better than a boy with a fan and they keep our food available for instant use. We no longer have to keep a stable and feed horses even when we don’t want to travel, without raising chickens or hogs we can have bacon and eggs every morning so we have enough without having our servants spying on us.

  9. “No doubt, there will appear at your local drugstores condoms which measure the number of thrusts, such data sent back to the manufacturers of K-Y “Duration” gel”

    There’s already a vibrator that reported information like that back to the maker.

  10. As more than one person has pointed out, it’s bad enough when the corps spy on you; but such devices can be points of vulnerability in your network.

    Jeez, I didn’t think I’d be living through a cyberpunk dystopian future…

  11. Buy only commercial appliances, such as a Speed Queen washer n’ dryer, sans coin-boxes. A commercial refrigerator can actually be slightly cheaper than an all-the-bells-n-whistles consumer grade “smart” ‘fridge.

    The only “smart” device I’ve installed at House New Dawn, is an RCA doorbell camera. Not a “RING” unit, because fuck Google.

    I’ve made it abundantly clear that there will be no Alexa, no cameras, no NOTHING intrusive brought into and used in the house, or I will destroy it at once.

    Living under the panopticon is not something I’m willing to have within my domicile. Bad enough we’re getting all Brit, what with cameras at every turn.

    But at least the vast majority of those cameras are only hooked up to those structures private security system.

    Guess what though? Only last night, the local TV news was touting the option to “register” your home cameras with your local P.D., which would then add your cameras to the P.D.s surveillance net.

    Um, no. With all of the expletives, NO.

    Gone are the days of wanting my own personal flying car. I’d gladly just settle for a highly effective personal jammer to carry ’round with me.

    Jim
    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  12. The only way to opt out of your phone spying on your geolocation is to stick with a land line.

    And never have a “smart appliance” in your home if you care even a smidgen about your privacy.

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