The credit reporting companies, information aggregators, and advertising-driven companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook are all commercial enterprises who can sell their information to the government, allowing the government to bypass any regulatory restrictions on the collection, storage, retrieval, and use of an individual’s personal information. And, best of all, YOU have given them permission to capture and use your information by just using their products or services under the ubiquitous one-sided “terms of use” agreement.

Is it a “smart home” or an electronic version of the all-seeing “panopticon,” originally a physical architectural form for a prison designed so that all parts of the interior are visible from a single point to allow continuous surveillance of those being watched?.

One need only consider the electronics built into so-called “smart televisions” that can monitor the individuals in the room, their activities to a limited extent, what they are watching and report the results to an unknown central server. Likewise, the iRobot floor-cleaning Roomba is capable of spatially-mapping the floor plan of your home and transmitting that information to an unknown central server. And, then there are the various voice-activated devices that can listen to your conversation, take selected actions, and then transmit that information to an unknown central server. It is not hard to imagine that the microphone contained in a smart thermostat could be turned into a surveillance device accessible by those with the keys to the kingdom or the government with an “administrative letter.”

And now comes another wrinkle from Google: Behavioral Monitoring and Reporting…

U.S. PATENT 1O,114,351
Smart-home automation system that suggests or automatically implements selected household policies based on sensed observations

[0072] By way of example, the high-power processor 20 and the low-power processor 22 may detect when a location (e.g., a house or room) is occupied (i.e., includes a presence of a human), up to and including whether it is occupied by a specific person or is occupied by a specific number of people (e.g., relative to one or more thresholds). In one embodiment, this detection can occur, e.g., by analyzing microphone signals, detecting user movements (e.g., in front of a device), detecting openings and closings of doors or garage doors, detecting wireless signals, detecting an internet protocol (IP) address of a received signal, detecting operation of one or more devices within a time window, or the like. Moreover, the high-power processor 20 and the low-power processor 22 may include image recognition technology to identify particular occupants or objects. 

[0220] In some embodiments, the received findings may control access to content 442 (e.g., Internet-based content, television content, allowed DVDs, etc.). For example, if the findings indicate that chores have not been completed and/or an excessive amount of content has been consumed, the household policy manager may restrict access to further content 442(assuming a household policy is implemented for such functionality). In some embodiments, access to content playback devices (e.g., a television 444 and/or computing device 446) may be restricted and/or allowed based upon findings. For example, when the findings indicate that chores have been completed, access to the devices 444 and/or 446 and/or content 442 may be granted.

[0222] The reporting/notification mechanisms and controlled devices mentioned above are provided merely as examples of how notifications may be provided and how devices may be controlled. The provided examples are not intended to limit the scope of notification mechanisms or controlled devices within the household. <Source>

It is not a stretch to consider intrusively monitoring your spouse, children, friends, business colleagues,  or even interrogating your garaged “smart” vehicle to provide a record of your comings and goings. All condensed into a report that makes the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment right against being compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against yourself. It should be worth noting that this provision does not mention “civil” cases nor are there any protections from nuisance lawsuits and demands for discovery materials.

Perhaps the situation can be best summarized by a GIF from an unknown source that is circulating on the internet…


The coming battle over European-style privacy rights…

One might think that America, with its unique constitution and history of individualism, would be the first to attempt to codify the protection of an individual’s ownership of their information and restriction on unilateral terms of usage agreements that allow private companies to collect and use your information for their purposes.  

Facebook refuses to promise GDPR-style privacy protection for US users

Facebook is rolling out stronger privacy protections to users ahead of the introduction of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but Mark Zuckerberg will not promise all future changes will apply to the company’s American users.

Although the initial tranche of changes, announced last week, will be available worldwide, Zuckerberg refused to commit to GDPR becoming the standard for the social network across the world.

His comments suggest that in some ways, American users will continue to find themselves with weaker privacy protections than their European counterparts.  <Source>

Bottom line…

There is little or no doubt in my mind that we will continue to be screwed by those who control our technology and possess the keys to the kingdom. As a side note: I am not allowing my Roomba to connect with my wi-fi network and will use the optional hand-held remote to communicate with the device using line-of-sight infrared signals. I will lose the ability to control my device remotely from my iPhone to schedule a periodic cleaning, but what the heck. Alternatively, some devices are switching to cellular-based systems which remotely transmit bursts of information periodically over the cellular network – over a system where the user has little or no control other to enter “airplane mode” or disable the device’s transmitter.

We are so screwed.

-- steve

“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

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