You’ve known for a while now that Barbie is trawling for your child’s personal information and if the teddy bear has ears it’s probably listening to everything you say. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear the director of US Intelligence admit that he is pretty excited about all the “smart” things — like your smart TV or one of those newfangled robots — that you now own.
For a few years now the NSA has been complaining that consumer electronics have become too well encrypted, but it turns out that was just a classic spook misdirection. A study out of Harvard last week revealed that everything from your toaster to your light bulbs will open up surveillance opportunities for the authorities — not that they’re waiting. Police have asked Dropcam (now Google’s Nest camera) for footage of people inside their own homes, and Fitbit data has been used in court against defendants. Samsung, at least, had the Orwellian decorum to include some fine print in its Smart TV user guides that warns against saying anything too personal in front of it, because that “may be transmitted to a third party.”
The benefits of a house where your thermostat talks to the dishwasher, which shoots you a text message when your spouse gets home from work has some pretty intriguing benefits for parents and families. But, suddenly, ordering your groceries through Amazon’s Echo doesn’t necessarily seem so cool.