Poll: Electronic Personal Assistants and Smart TVs

It has been noted that telephone surveys are probably a poor way of determining firearms ownership rates as gun owners are hesitant to tell random strangers what valuables they have in their homes, and — in the face of ongoing threats of more restrictive gun ownership laws — even less likely likely to tell the government.

Yet companies are marketing devices like smart televisions and electronic personal assistants that act as 24/7 audiovisual monitoring devices, and people appear to be snapping them up. Facebook is releasing “Portal,” a personal assistant optimized for social media and instantly communicating with family members like big brother.

All the data collected — potentially including imagery of personal possessions in your home, or discussions of such — by these devices is subject to scrutiny by the provider and “authorized” third parties, and to court subpoenas and warrants. As Internet-connected computers, they are also potentially vulnerable to third party hacking.

As a gun owner, would you buy and use one these devices?


12 thoughts on “Poll: Electronic Personal Assistants and Smart TVs”

  1. Hell no. I carry a very dumb TracFone, so I can call out in an emergency. Nobody has the number and I don’t answer it (telemarketers). Other than the internet, accessed only for short periods, I don’t use “social media” at all. No FB or other nonsense. But yes, I know that what I write on line is available to enemies. I don’t write anything I wouldn’t say to their faces… not that they’d like that in the least.

    We don’t have any real privacy these days, but we can still minimize the exposure. Why buy more gadgets to help them spy on you? I just don’t get it.

  2. I have multiple Alexa devices and so forth.

    I don’t trust them.

    But then, I don’t trust my computer or my phone, either.

    If the state is really after me, nothing short of hand-writing all my correspondence on one-time pads inside an underground Faraday cage (if eventhat) is likely to impede their focused surveillance capabilities, and if they are really after me and see me going into an underground Faraday cage it’s probably going to be firefight time shortly in any case.

    I do take such security measures as I consider wise. Denying myself the 21st century is not among them.

    1. I have limited trust in my laptop, too. But I take precautions. The mike jack is dummy plugged. The camera is covered. I run a firewall, and it sits behind a router firewall. I don’t give third parties remote access to my computers to control them.

      BY DESIGN, Alexa ONLY takes actual commands from somewhere out on the Internet “cloud.” Imagine phoning an Indian call center to speak to a stranger. You say, “I want a web search for ‘muskrat jelly,’ please.” The guy on the other end demands RAT control access to your computer, and instructs your browser to do said search. You see your computer searching Google, which you hate.

      You object and ask the call center guy to use DuckDuckGo.

      He says, “Sorry, we only have a contract with Google. We can’t use any other search engine.” (One of my nieces received an Alexa for Christmas; it won’t give her weather reports for her town because the site Amazon uses doesn’t include it.)

      That’s how Alexa works, except the “call center guy” is a cloud computing complex that records everything you do.

      Some aspects of the 21st century I can do without. If Alexa did its own onboard speach/command processing, and was properly firewalled, I might want one. But it — and Facebook’s Portal — are instead designed to monitor you and send the data somewhere else. Later interations of Roomba are designed to scan your home and furnishings and send that data elsewhere.

      As for mobile devices: remember the furor over Burger King commercials including Alexa commands to go to their web site? Or audio bugs to track your smart phone? Bad things can happen that way.

      As for smart TVs; asking a third party out on the Internet to change channels for me is less convenient than using my remote. If someone wants to gather my TV viewing history, Nielson can bloody well pay me to use a recording device.

      21st century tech that makes my life easier is fine. Tech that makes life for the surveillance state easier sucks.

      We’ve already seen cases where thieves used Facebook to find out what people have because they posted pictures of their cool stuff, and then used the location tracking function to figure out when the residents would be gone. Now imagine the Roomba database hacked so they know exactly where you gun safe is. Portal tells them — via your timeline — if you have a dog, and where it is. Imagine your Amazon smart lock conveniently unlocking for the thieves. (Yes, they’ve been hacked already.)

      Now imagine the intruders aren’t freelance, but cops enforcing NY SAFE weapons confiscations because you couldn’t renew your license on time.

      Living in the 21st century… In what way is your life improved by your coffee pot telling the world what, when, and how much caffeine you consume? Do you need your refrigerator blowing your budget because it noticed you were low on that caviar someone gave you as a joke?

      1. My coffee pot isn’t connected to Alexa, or to the Internet.

        One of my light bulbs is. That improves my life by allowing me to turn on the light when arriving home before I enter the house, or turning it on or off while I’m away to simulate someone being there. It improves my wife’s life because it’s the light that she usually forgets to turn off before bed, so she can just yell “Alexa, turn off the living room light” instead of getting out of bed to go do it.

        Different people have different security/privacy desires, different levels of willingness to put up with having or not having those desires in hand versus other things they want, and different levels of delusion as to the efficacy of their security measures.

        1. So in just 15 short years the nation has gone from “Total Information Awareness is a creepy, unconstitutional infringement of Americans’ privacy, and Poindexter is a a perverted peeping tom” to “I don’t have to get outta bed to turn off the lights and it only costs a hunnerd, hunnerd-fifty bucks and my soul? Cool”

          Senator Ron Wyden: “The original Poindexter program would have been the biggest surveillance program in the history of the United States.”

          Amazon: “Yeah? Hold my beer.”

          Our lives are very different. I’ll just flip my $3 light switch.

  3. I received an Echo Dot for Christmas, from a well-meaning family member that (bless their heart!) just doesn’t know me that well.

    I turned around and sold it unopened to someone else more interested than I in having one. And Good Riddance.

    For the poll, I’m torn between the “1984 was a cautionary tale” and “If the government wants to monitor me, they can go to the trouble and expense themselves” answers. I’m certainly not going to make it any easier than I have to.

  4. I’ve been laughed at for covering my webcam with a post-it notes- until I posted pictures of certain DOJ mucky-mucks and IT tycoons with things over THEIR webcams. Monitoring in my house and on my property is done with cameras I control.

    1. I’m behind a router firewall and a software firewall on my computer. And I cover the webcam and have a dummy plug in my mike jack. Am I up to anything illegal? Nope; I just don’t want to discover embarrassing YouTube video of an all-too-familiar fat guy singing along with MP3s. Or have a keylogger sending passwords to Russia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *