Heeeere Comes Another One

It seems that every day I have to rant about technology and its nefarious outcomes for us ordinary folks.  Here’s the latest:

If you own a Ring doorbell camera system, we’ve got some bad news. The smart home company owned by Amazon, which the internet retail giant shelled out more than $1 billion to acquire, has apparently been violating its customers’ privacy in a pretty shocking way.
A new report from The Intercept quotes unnamed sources who confirm that engineers and executives at Ring have “highly privileged access” to live customer camera feeds, utilizing both Ring’s doorbells as well as its in-home cameras. All that’s apparently required to tap into the live feeds is a customer’s email address. Meaning the company has been so egregiously lax when it comes to security and privacy that even people outside the company could have potentially done this, using merely an email address to begin spying on customers, according to the report.
Within the company, a team that was supposed to have been focused on helping Ring get better at object recognition in videos caught customers in videos doing everything from kissing to firing guns and stealing.
This news, we should add, also comes less than a month after Ring was in the news for a different potential privacy flap. As BGR reported, a new patent application has begun to spur fears that Amazon would use Ring as a tool for creepy surveillance.

I have a suggestion: don’t buy any electronic device made by Amazon.  This would include the Alexa spy system, the Ring spy system and any other so-called “efficent” things that purport to make your life easier, but in fact only make it easier for others to spy on you.

If I had one of these horrible things, the last  video it would ever record is me firing a gun… at the camera.

And I find offerings by the other tech companies (e.g. Google Home, Apple Siri) equally disgusting.  As Pop Mech says:

Companies like Google, and Amazon, and Facebook let us down, but they were always going to. Absent significant changes to the nature of the tech industry or wide-ranging regulation, they always will. The problems arise when we act as though they won’t.

The only way to win is not to play.  And I won’t, unless I can dictate the rules.

11 comments

  1. A couple of months ago, I won an Echo as a “bonus” at work. I use it in my office to play music. I must say, the sound quality is much better than my old computer speakers.

    If they want to spy on the sound of me typing on my computer (over the music constantly playing), they’re welcome to it. Of course, I’ll never take it home. Home includes some measure of privacy.

  2. It does piss off more than one of my friends, but I’ve taken to asking if they have any Amazon or Google Home devices in the house; if the answer is in the affirmative I reply that we can talk out here in the yard, but I’m not entering the house. I haven’t yet gotten to demanding iPhone users leave their phone in the car when they visit me, but that’s next.

    Full disclosure: I have an iPhone but I also carry a 1 gallon mylar bag and more than once have told someone to stop talking while I bag my phone and show them there’s plenty of room in the bag for their phone, too.

    This constant monitoring shit – “eavesdropping” is way too polite a term for it – is fucking dangerous and has to stop.

      1. Got mine from Amazon, but there are other sources lower on the “anonymity scale”. Just search for “EMP bags” or “Faraday cage bags.” A 10-pack with various sizes is $25-40, depending on vendor, and usually comes with a few phone-sized, a few medium, a few large for radios, etc. FYI, “protection from EMP” does not always mean “proof against RF frequencies used by cell phones.”

        Which means whatever brand you buy, test it when you get it and periodically thereafter – if your phone rings it ain’t working – and folding it degrades the protection along the creases surprisingly quickly. If I could find a solid metal version – think old style clamshell cigarette case a la Peter Lorre or Humphrey Bogart – I’d go with that because it would last longer (maybe), but it’ll be much spendy because getting the seams and closure joints right is not cheap, especially if it’s well designed enough to work well and hold up to use. What looks “solid” to the eye is amazingly porous to RF (as example, close your phone in your gun safe and call it; mine will even ring inside a 50 cal can . When people lose calls as the elevator doors close it’s a signal strength issue, not an “impervious to RF” issue.).

        The “field operative” version is a potato chip bag or shiny balloon, but use one large enough to allow rolling the top after folding, a bag inside a bag is not overkill, and figure they’re single use.

        1. Forgot to add this: after testing the RF imperviousness by calling your phone, if it doesn’t ring, then text it. Texting is “store and forward” that requires less RF strength and depending on whose network you’re on, multiple attempts to deliver the text may be made.

          You’ll have to listen for the “text received” tone because, again depending on the network, it may not receive the text in the bag but will receive it as soon as the bag is opened.

  3. Instructions on the manufacture and testing of Faraday boxes are available on youtube. The one I saw claimed most commercial bags are not very effective.

  4. If you plan to bag it for more than a short time, best to turn it off, as it will ramp up it’s attempt to find a signal to the mothership, and kill the battery. Same thing if going to a location you know has no reception.

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