FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The End of Privacy is on Sale, and We’re Buying

Like it or not, these days the reason for the season seems to mostly be: Shopping. Even if you weren’t among the millions lining up outside brick and mortar establishments on “Black Friday,” you’ve probably got your eyes peeled for holiday deals on the web.

The hottest bargains this year come with microphones and the promise that those microphones will put the world at your beck and call.

Amazon’s Alexa-powered line of devices and Google’s new Home appliance augur an increasingly voice-powered world. Adjust your thermostat, turn on the lights, pull up the movie you want to watch or the music you want to listen to, order a pizza — all by just saying it. Our phones have been conditioning us to that paradigm for several years. This is what’s next.

No, I don’t want to crush the buzz or put you off the idea. I’m in. I run an Android phone digital assistant app that listens for my voice command, and just grabbed up a Cyber Monday deal at Amazon myself ($29.99 for the Alexa-enabled Fire TV stick with voice remote — one reason I went that way is that it supposedly requires a button push to activate the mic instead of being “always on”).

But if you’re going the voice-controlled home appliance route, ask yourself one important question: Who’s listening, and how much are you comfortable with them knowing?

Ten years ago, you’d likely have considered that question an example of paranoid conspiracy theory. But unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard of Edward Snowden by now and have come to understand that yes, governments really HAVE been hoovering up our phone and Internet data for years. Does anyone really expect that home microphones won’t become part of the continuously expanding surveillance state?

Governments aren’t the only bad actors — over the last couple of years we’ve seen hackers compromise everything from baby monitor webcams to automotive computer systems — but governments are undoubtedly more dangerous than assorted pranksters, stalkers and thieves in cyberspace just as they are in the real world. In the not too distant future, police may be automatically dispatched to your home based when one of your devices hears something a computer program interprets as a domestic dispute — or a seditious conspiracy.

By all means, get your voice groove on at a discount. But when it comes to electronic ears, be sure you keep your eyes open.

More articles by:

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

August 21, 2018
Doug Noble
Thomas Mountain
Djibouti Faces Dark Days to Come; Eritrean Ports, Pipeline Threaten Ethiopian Trade Lifeline
Binoy Kampmark
Finding Fault and Faulty Infrastructure: Genoa’s Morandi Bridge Disaster
Kary Love
“Suffer Not the Little Children….”
Thomas Knapp
Omarosa Manigault Newman, Public Servant
August 20, 2018
Carl Boggs
The Road to Disaster?
James Munson
“Not With a Bomb, But a Whimper” … Then More Bombs.
Jonathan Cook
Corbyn’s Labour Party is Being Made to Fail –By Design
Robert Fisk
A US Trade War With Turkey Over a Pastor? Don’t Believe It
Howard Lisnoff
The Mass Media’s Outrage at Trump: Why the Surprise?
Faisal Khan
A British Muslim’s Perspective on the Burkha Debate
Andrew Kahn
Inhumanity Above the Clouds
Dan Glazebrook
Trump’s New Financial War on the Global South
George Wuerthner
Why the Gallatin Range Deserves Protection
Ted Rall
Is Trump a Brand-New Weird Existential Threat? No.
Sheldon Richman
For the Love of Reason
Susie Day
Why Pundits Scare Me
Dean Baker
Does France’s Economy Need to Be Renewed?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Mighty Voice for Peace Has Gone Silent: Uri Avnery, 1923-2018
Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail