In 2015, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department which asked the organizations to investigate the practices of “always on” tech devices. Almost two years later, these devices can pretty much be found everywhere, and they aren’t the only creepy ones out there. Here are some devices whose capabilities will creep you out.
#4 Smart TVs
Smart TVs looked like an amazing invention at first, but they got creepy. They started listening in on everything, and some of them even include a disclosure that warns users they need to be careful as what they say may be transmitted to third-party companies. One of them, according to TechCrunch, read:
Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition
Samsung, for example, tells us these companies may have access to our information, and that they aren’t responsible for their privacy or security practices. It’s important to be aware of what companies do with data they collect, as it can be extremely precious to some people.
#3 Smart speakers
Smart speakers can also be creepy, here’s an example: Amazon Echo is a voice-activated device that’s essentially always listening to your conversations trying to catch you saying the word “Alexa”. According to Amazon, the device doesn’t record everything we say, and it is possible to shut off the “always listening” function. The company records queries and then stores them in the cloud so they can be processed, with the goal of enhancing user experience. Moreover, Echo uses location to give more accurate search results, which makes it a little bit creepier.
The company legitimately seems to want to protect user privacy, but it is creepy know all you need to do is say “Amazon” or “Alexa” in a private conversation for it to be recorded. Not to mention, of course, possible data breaches. Other devices, like Google Home, respond to different commands, but may end up doing the same thing. Furthermore, the Echo was considered a witness in a murder case when a crime happened in its presence and Amazon was asked to share any collected data.
#2 Microsoft’s Kinect
It’s not just your smart TV or your smart speaker. Your Xbox may be listening as well. What makes this entry creepier than the last two, is that the Kinect will also monitor your gestures in order to follow commands. Microsoft has in the past been involved in some user privacy drama after the the Electronic Frontier Foundation accused the company of disregarding user choice.
So far, we’ve been talking about devices that store data and listen to millions of people at the same time. Hardware keyloggers, on the other hand, will record every single keystroke on targeted keyboards, so individuals can then use the information they collect. They’re relatively cheap, and when unplugged these devices suffer no data loss.
Some of these keyloggers can be inserted inside your keyboard, which makes them extra creepy, as you won’t know they’re there. In fact, next time you ask someone to clean the dust of your laptop, a keylogger may be in it when you get it back.
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