In the News

Amazon's Ring for Android app is loaded with third-party trackers harvesting a "plethora" of customer data, a new investigation claims —and an Amazon engineer for the product wants it completely shut down.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has discovered that third-party tracking software within the Ring doorbell app is sending customer data to four analytics and marketing companies, including Facebook, Google, MixPanel and AppsFlyer.
This year, more than 20 billion connected devices will be installed worldwide, including sexual technology products with applications that monitor orgasms, save vibration patterns or allow you to connect with your long-distance partner's pleasure device. Since most operate through a Bluetooth connection and with an application, violations are possible and even probable.
To find out how consumers address cybersecurity and privacy risks of connected devices in their homes, ESET, in September 2019, surveyed 4,000 people – 2,000 in the United States, 2,000 in Canada.

Overall, the results show a large disconnect between what people say they do to protect themselves and what they are actually doing in practice.
NEW YORK (AP) — Did someone invite a spy into your home over the holidays? Maybe so, if a friend or family member gave you a voice-controlled speaker or some other smart device.

It’s easy to forget, but everything from internet-connected speakers with voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa to television sets with built-in Netflix can be always listening — and sometimes watching, too. As with almost all new technology, installing such devices means balancing privacy risks with the conveniences they offer.
America’s increasingly connected homes will soon be even more plugged in as electronic holiday gifts — smart speakers, TVs, thermostats, video doorbells, even smart pet feeders and litter boxes — are installed.

Because many of these Internet of Things (IOT) devices have microphones and cameras that are always online, they’re an inviting target for hackers who can use them to spy on us.
How to make money selling TVs — resell our data
That's the good news. The bad: to turn a profit, manufacturers now make up the difference by selling your viewing habits to data brokers, letting them know what shows and networks you watch, your demographic and real estate locations and more.
KEY POINTS
  • The last 10 years have seen the launch of internet-connected devices by Amazon, Google, Apple and others that can monitor, record and listen to our daily activity.
  • These devices pledge to simplify our lives and entertain us. But in the background, they amass all kinds of data, which advocates worry could threaten users’ privacy and security.
  • Consumers are increasingly waking up to these risks and are starting to demand more control over how their data is used, while regulators are racing to enact federal privacy laws to limit data collection.
In a 700-page book, the Harvard scholar skewered tech giants like Facebook and Google with a damning phrase: "surveillance capitalism." The unflattering term evokes how these companies vacuum up the details of our lives, make billions from that data and use what they've learned to glue our attention more firmly to their platforms.
How the world’s biggest companies got millions of people to let temps analyze some very sensitive recordings
This weekend, many folks will be poring over retail circulars, online ads and promotions, doing their research to get ahead on the best deals for Black Friday gifts. But before you brave the Thursday/Friday lines and/or click the buy button on a great deal, we ask you to take a minute and consider the downside of the digital age — your privacy.
“It’s scary that they’re listening to you, and you don’t know when,” said Dena Rakarich of Monaca. She was brave enough to allow us to listen as she discovered for the first time what her Amazon Alexa device has been recording in her home. “God, it records everything!” said Rakarich.
A lot of this advice goes beyond the Echo/Google concern and into the use of connected devices more broadly. But broadly understanding what any device they bring into their house can do, who has access to it, what they can do with it, and whether or not that device is worth the potential risk, is something kids (and adults!) should be able to do.
Protecting our privacy and security in this day and age entails addressing not just the physical world but also the digital one. In this world, “no trespassing” takes on a whole new meaning.
Any device that's connected to the internet can be exploited in some way, says Amie Stepanovich, IoT security expert and executive director of the Silicon Flatirons Center at the University of Colorado. Part of the risk in smart sex toys and other IoT products, she says, is that the internet is integrated into industries that don’t have much expertise in cybersecurity.
In recent years, consumers have expressed fears that their smartphones could be listening to them. According to a new report published in Journal of Cyber Policy, such fears are justified.

But it goes much further than that.
For smart home devices to respond to queries and be as useful as possible, they need to be listening and tracking information about you and your regular habits. When you added the Echo to your room as a radio and alarm clock (or any other smart device connected to the Internet), you also allowed a spy to enter your home.
A new study has once again found that most “internet of things” (IOT) devices routinely deliver an ocean of sensitive data to partners around the world, frequently without making these data transfers secure or transparent to the end user.
This article looks at nine threats to privacy that have recently emerged and explores what hope there is, if any, for personal privacy in the future.
What the researchers found was astounding – 72 of the 81 IoT devices shared data with third parties completely unrelated to the original manufacturer.
Google and Facebook are easy scapegoats, but companies have been collecting, selling, and reusing your personal data for decades, and now that the public has finally noticed, it’s too late. The personal-data privacy war is long over, and you lost.
As families around the world excitedly gobble up devices that connect to the Internet of Things (IoT), home life is starting to look more and more like an episode of The Jetsons.
...Because Alexa and Google Home and every other gewgaw that has the word “smart” in front of it, every service that has “personalized” in front of it is nothing but supply chain interfaces for the flow of raw material to be translated into data, to be fashioned into prediction products, to be sold in behavioral futures markets so that we end up funding our own domination...
Multiple contractors working for Microsoft explain how they listened to audio captured by Xbox consoles.

The former contractor said most of the voices they heard were of children.
Who's to blame for the IoT security problem: manufacturers creating devices, end user deploying them or governments not creating legislation enforcing security measures?
We’ve gotten used to trading personal information for tailored ads and letting devices into every part of our lives for convenience. But, as we develop these habits and make these trade-offs, what does it mean for our kids?
...Amazon wants to know every time the light is turned on or off, regardless of whether you asked Alexa to toggle the switch. Televisions must report the channel they’re set to. Smart locks must keep the company apprised whether or not the front door bolt is engaged.
But life inside the home, too, is increasingly transparent to watchful outsiders, the result of mushrooming internet-connected devices that consumers are setting up in their dens and bedrooms.
These days we are more connected than ever. Smartphones, smart watches, even smart light switches. But how safe are these devices when it comes to your personal privacy?
When you think of your home environment, do you view it as your sanctuary — the place where you feel the most secure and private?
If you thought stepping on a Lego was bad, consider the new ways in which toys can hurt and harm families.