Tech Friday with Dave Hatter

"Smart" devices are "leaking" your data:

  • Stories of smartphones and virtual assistants (Amazon Echo and Google Home) leaking user data have made headlines for some time
  • Several new studies demonstrate that as more devices get "smart", these Internet of Things (IoT) devices are a Surveillance Capitalist's dream
  • Back in the day, marketer's had to wait on Nielsen reports to determine who was watching what. Thanks to IoT, they now have real-time access to your viewing habits and more
  • A new IoT privacy study by Northeastern University and Imperial College London examined 81 "smart" devices commonly found in homes including "smart" TVs, "smart" speakers, thermostats, streaming devices and video doorbells
  • Researchers conducted 34,586 experiments to understand how much data these devices were collecting, storing and sharing
  • Not surprisingly, 72 of the 81 devices shared data with 3rd-parties completely unrelated to the manufacturer
  • The shared data included personally identifiable information (PII) such as IP addresses, device specifications and configurations, usage habits, and location data.
  • Experts suggest that the data captured from these devices is being used to create sophisticated profiles of users, based on their usage habits
  • Sadly, the data shared is not secured with encryption, so anyone that can access the data stream can see all the data
  • 30 of the 81 devices shared the data openly, leading to the claim that data is being leaked from these devices
  • A Washington Post reporter conducted an unofficial experiment and was able to determine that "smart pixels" on your smart TV screen capture information about what was being watched where, and sendind that information once per second to various third-party IP addresses
  • Some "smart" TVs from of LG, Samsung, Roku and Vizio were also capturing complete snapshots of the screen image and then transmitting that information to third parties as well
  • Any IoT device can and probably is collecting data that is shared insecurely with 3rd parties
  • If you're not paying with money, you're paying with data. You're the product, NOT the customer
  • I would avoid these devices as much as possible not only for the privacy reasons mentioned above, but because they are often a security risk as well
  • Read the study here:

Microsoft Office 365 updates:

Do you know your "consumer score"?

  • Data brokers are collecting our data (purchase, sites visited, messages, etc.) and selling the data to clients who want to target us for a variety of reasons
  • This data is used to create "secret scores" that rate what you’re like as a consumer
  • A high score will likely earn you preferential treatment. A low score may mean you have to wait longer or be refused when attempting to return an item you purchased
  • This is not new. The New York Times wrote in 2012 that it's "largely invisible to the public. In 2018, The Wall Street Journal said "Most people have no inkling they even exist"
  • All this data creates the potential for abuse or discrimination especially as the data grows over time
  • In April of this year, WSJ's Christopher Mims looked at a company called Sift
  • Sift's proprietary scoring system tracks 16,000 factors for companies like Airbnb and OkCupid
  • Mims wrote "Sift judges whether or not you can be trusted" and "yet there’s no file with your name that it can produce upon request"
  • Kashmir Hill recent researched this for an article in the NY Times
  • She found that some of these brokers will show you what data they have collected and she requested her data from five such companies
  • Sift delivered a 400-page report with every Yelp order she’d ever made and every Airbnb message she’d ever sent
  • The report did not explain Sift's process for calculating a score, or how the score is used to make decisions
  • There are many companies in this business and not all will provide your data, and that's IF you can find them
  • It will get harder for these companies to hold your data back thanks to new laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
  • Stay tuned as this evolves
  • Read Kashmir Hill’s expose for The New York Times here:

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