The internet of things is an ever growing connection of networked smart devices that monitor and record the people who use them. This expanding network of devices is on its way to becoming the most powerful and pervasive surveillance tool in the history of the world.
If there were any truth in advertising, the “internet of things” ( IoT ) would more accurately be called the “internet of spies” ( IoS ), since our brave new digital world of networked smart devices and gadgets is constantly watching us and reporting back to big business and big government.
Numerous things that now pass for personalized consumer electronics are nothing more than not-so-secret agents in a mass surveillance state. It’s a brilliant marketing maneuver that convinces people to pay for and actively participate in the monitoring of their daily lives, locations and activities.
Just this week, Intel announced that they will be moving their focus away from personal computers and towards networked smart devices. Clearly, Intel sees the potential in these new smart spy devices.
Network-enabled devices can now be found in cars, homes and worn on people’s bodies. Some of these devices can even be found inside people’s bodies for health and medical purposes. These devices also allow us to control things remotely through the internet.
However, all of these devices have a number of things in common – they can monitor your activities; track your locations; record your personal information and report this information back to third party organizations such as companies and government agencies.
Like any other networked computer, these devices can be taken over and turned against you by hackers for fun and profit. In addition, smart devices can also be used to spy on you.
Voyeurs and peeping Toms have already used laptop cameras and microphones to spy on and record users. It has also been widely reported that the microphone on smartphones can be used to listen in on people even when the phone has been turned off. The same is true for smart televisions and appliances that have built-in microphones. Amazon’s smart personal assistant, Echo, is designed to constantly listen for and respond to commands and requests from people in the room.
Electronic home monitors can now distinguish between different voices and know how many people are in each room of your home, what times people were in each room and for how long. Smart refrigerators monitor and record access times. GPS-enabled devices can track people’s locations, movements and travel routes by date and time. Even turning off your GPS does not guarantee that your locations are not being tracked by hardware manufacturers, internet service providers, government agencies or black hat hackers.
Most people don’t realize that current wiretap laws only protect your privacy when you take part in specific types of communications like talking on a phone call. These laws do not protect you when you buy a smart device and give it permission to monitor and record your words, locations and activities. The surveillance uses for smart devices are powerful and almost endless.
Predictably, law enforcement agencies will want to access these new devices for more surveillance powers over people and privacy advocates will push back. However, people should remember that vampires cannot enter your house unless you invite them in. The same is true for networked smart devices that spy on you.