Alexa, Smart Home et al and concerns over privacy

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by krkaufman, May 26, 2018.

  1. krkaufman

    krkaufman TDL shepherd

    Nov 25, 2003


    In case there might be anyone in the neighborhood wanting to hammer out issues of privacy surrounding Smart Home devices (Alexa, Google Home, etc), or other technologies, as you see fit. Fill 'er up.

    Appetizers to get you started...

    Woman says her Amazon device recorded private conversation, sent it out to random contact (h/t @bobfrank)
    Amazon confirms that Echo device secretly shared user’s private audio [Updated] (h/t @morac)

    Alexa, go ahead and hand over recordings in murder case - CNN (h/t @Mikeguy)

    A Cell Network Flaw Lets Hackers Drain Bank Accounts. Here's How to Fix It (h/t @morac)
  2. gigaquad

    gigaquad Tivo Image Master

    Oct 25, 2004
    Alexa listens to everything. It's a concern, but you can unplug the heifer when you're not using her. Just remember that anything you say while she's in the room is available to anyone at Amazon and any authority that may be around now, or in the future.
    PSU_Sudzi, chiguy50 and krkaufman like this.
  3. Megamind

    Megamind I'm Feeling Blue

    Feb 18, 2013
    Alpha Centauri
    Oh dear lord ... I think I'm going to make some popcorn. Looks like this one could be quite entertaining. :)o_O
  4. chiguy50

    chiguy50 Well-Known Member

    Nov 9, 2009
    Atlanta, GA
    But still not quite as interesting as @gigaquad's avatar and screen name.:p

    Is that a "cat-faced chick" or am I seeing things?:confused:
  5. dlfl

    dlfl Cranky old novice

    Jul 6, 2006
    Dayton OH


    Maybe it's Henny Penny, telling us the [privacy] sky is falling. :D

    Judging by the ridiculous little things so many people choose to argue about, be insulted by, or worry about these days, we're turning into a society of effete idiots.
  6. PSU_Sudzi

    PSU_Sudzi Well-Known Member

    Jun 4, 2015
    Philly suburbs
  7. sharkster

    sharkster Well-Known Member TCF Club

    Jul 3, 2004
    To be honest, I'm not even looking forward to having to replace another tv because, from what I'm seeing, it looks like the new ones now are pretty much all smart tvs. Nothing against it. I like technology, too, but I have my Tivos and my Roku3, blu-ray, etc, and don't need or even want a 'smart' tv. There is enough stuff that can go wrong with something and I feel like the more features they jam into a single unit, the more there is to go wrong. Now, I'm likely wrong in that assessment but, seriously, I'm fine with a tv that is more stupid than I. :D
  8. tenthplanet

    tenthplanet Well-Known Member

    Mar 5, 2004
    Well need drinks too, who's in for a Bev Mo run?
  9. wizwor

    wizwor Well-Known Member

    Dec 17, 2013
    It's important that people understand how Alexa (or Siri or Google Home or Cortana or...) works before installing an Alexa enabled device. It's important that people understand how these devices can work as well. The fact is that any device with a microphone, an operating system, and an internet connection can be programmed or operated to capture audio and send it somewhere else. If this concerns you, do not use these devices. Frankly, I do not find the Alexa story about the sent conversation credible -- just too many coincidences. I would have to hear the conversation before I accept the scenario. BUT there is no doubt in my mind that such things can be done deliberately. In fact, in 2010, a school district in Pennsylvania was sued over just such a possibility. I do not recall the outcome of the suit, but...

    An assistant principal at Harriton later confirmed that the district could remotely activate the webcam in students' laptops. "Michael Robbins thereafter verified, through [Assistant Principal] Ms. Matsko, that the school district in fact has the ability to remotely activate the webcam contained in a student's personal laptop computer issued by the school district at any time it chose and to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam, all without the knowledge, permission or authorization of any persons then and there using the laptop computer," the lawsuit stated.

    Most laptops and a lot of devices come with capable hardware and the bad guys don't all wear black hats these days, so assume nothing about privacy.

    No one's talking about the other privacy issue, but how many devices have you shared your wireless password with? What else do you use that password for? What might someone on your home network find that could be of concern (starting with all those cameras and microphones.

    (Sage advice: put all those devices on a guest network with an SSID and password which are different than your home network. If you have the energy and time, restrict your wireless network to specific mac addresses.)

    Then there is the home computer -- the portal to your universe. Back around the turn of the century (doesn't that sound funny?) I ran a customer support chat channel for Prodigy (anyone remember Prodigy?) which was frequented by disruptive people with funny screen names. One of the women in the chat room 'followed' one of the bad guys back to their cave and warned that she knew who they were, what they did, and would have their channel shut down if they continued to disrupt ours. The next morning she received an anonymous email with a list of all the files on her PC. That was in the 90s.

    People have been tapping phone lines for a century and listening in on cell phone calls since the 70s.

    So there is a vulnerability. What is the risk? You buy a device. Someone is interested in listening to or watching you. You say or do things which could be used to harm you. Define 'harm' for you and determine your threshold for risk, then decide if you want devices listening to you.

    BTW, QVC has the Show plus a smart plug for $140 this weekend. I have five of these. Not too worried about people hearing or seeing what goes on in my home and really enjoy the convenience of automation.
    Last edited: May 27, 2018
  10. dlfl

    dlfl Cranky old novice

    Jul 6, 2006
    Dayton OH
    I wouldn't disagree with this in general but I think, regarding Alexa in particular, it tends too much toward fostoring paranoia. If just moderate attention is paid to Router and WiFi security and preventing physical access by untrusted strangers, the odds of someone either progamming or operating Alexa to eavesdrop are miniscule. If you disagree, please spell out the details.
  11. wizwor

    wizwor Well-Known Member

    Dec 17, 2013
    I do not disagree. Like I said, I have four shows. I love the devices. There is a vulnerability, but the risk is minor...for me.

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