Your IoT devices may be turned against you
Internet of Things (IoT) devices are trending right now, and chance is good that more and more devices will come to market that may make things easier on the one hand, but may cause privacy issues on the other.
You don't have to look further than at smart home devices that listen to your commands to provide you with information or assistance in controlling various other gadgets or parameters such as the heating.
Like your browsing or call history, these conversations that you have with digital assistants or smart devices, spark the interest of law enforcement and companies.
Engadget reports about a case in Arkansas where police wanted Amazon to hand over any audio recordings that the company stored on its servers of a suspect's Echo device. Amazon appears to have declined the request, but police said it managed to pull data off the speaker. No information was provided on the data though.
While listening devices are designed to only respond to user commands, the past has shown that these things are not overly accurate when it comes to that. It can very well happen that an Internet of Things device listens to conversations by accident.
What is particularly interesting about this case is that the police managed to retrieve evidence from other smart home devices the suspect had installed in the home. The police was particularly interested in a smart water meter that showed that a large quantity of water was used in the night of the murder.
The deceased was found dead in the suspect's bathtub,and investigators allege that the water was used to wash away evidence on the patio.
People need to be aware that their devices can, and probably will, be used against them. This is not limited to smart home devices, not in the least. Windows 10 comes with Cortana, a digital assistant, and both Google Android and iOS ship with personal assistants as well that you can talk to.
Then there is Amazon Echo and other smart home devices, TVs that may be listening in, services that may listen in for marketing purposes and track you across devices, and even apps may do it.
It is clear that we will see an increase in requests by law enforcement and others in the future to access data that smart devices have collected.
As Billy Steele over on Engadget points out, it will be interesting to see how law enforcement and the companies that create these devices will find the right balance of respecting user privacy.
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