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Not that this helps anyone sleep easier, but imagine in today's age... a whistleblower -- perhaps one of the thousands of software devs working on one of these -- leaked proof that these devices are recording everything to re-market and profit, without permission...

The resulting backlash and legal ramifications would be so huge it just wouldn't be worth it. It wouldn't just take an insane and stupid CEO to do that, but also thousands of other tech/adops employees who'd have to be like, "yea this is a great idea."




Surely somebody in the '90s said something similar with regard to location data, and yet your location is tracked 24/7 by adtech megacorps, and the thousands of tech/adops employees don't say a peep. The playbook has 3 easy steps:

1. Get people addicted to technology X.

2. Keep bugging people using technology X to surrender their privacy using classical dark patterns.

3. Profit!

There is no need for whistleblowers. It's all done in the open. You have already willingly surrendered your communications, your 24/7 location, your knowledge searches, your financial transactions, your media interests and your genetic material. Why not surrender the privacy of your home as well? Yes/AskMeLater.


That’s my big concern with this tech, training people to have always-on surveillance in their homes without a second thought. I realize that the typical and trite response by some involves throwing away my phone, but there are holes in that. First, it is trivially easy to control where your phone is, you can get burners, root your phone, and all of the other good things we know and love.

An Echo, or similar dross is a closed box controlled OTA, and networked. Even if someone had immense faith in company X, it would be unwise to ignore intelligence and law enforcement both foreign and domestic wanting access. You can’t root Alexa, it won’t even work without the cloud. It really does feel like training wheels for something entirely unpleasant, and all because people are so helpless in the face of dubious convenience and fashion.


> training people to have always-on surveillance in their homes without a second thought

Even worse: when always-on surveillance devices become popular enough that a judge could rule that the technology (in the abstract, not a specific product) is "in general public use"[2] - crossing the bright-line rule created in Kyllo v United States[1] - the police no longe4r need a warrant to use the technology see the "details of a private home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion"[3].

I'm not talking about the police being involved with Amazon or using the Echo. When a technology is "in general public use", the police can use their own always-on microphone to transmit previously-private speech to a 3rd party on the internet. Normalizing surveillance devices not harms the person using the device, it also reduces *everyone's 4th Amendment protection.

[1] https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/533/27.html

[2] Used throughout the ruling[1], but especially section II of Justice Stevens' dissent.

[3] The ruling[1], 2nd paragraph


> Surely somebody in the '90s said something similar with regard to location data, and yet your location is tracked 24/7

I remember a Romanian politician and member of Parliament complaining about the local telecom providers displaying the GSM location data on the phones’ screens sometime back in 2002 and 2003, I remember of laughing at his ludicrous (that’s how I viewed it at the time) complaint, I mean, he was a stupid politician while I was a CS student, couldn’t he see how cool it was to see your neighborhood name on your Nokia 3110’s screen? Of course that the stupid politician was right and I and the fellow technophiles like myself were wrong.


I'm reminded of the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, where VW were doing something illegal and were whistle-blown by a developer, costing them billions of USD in fines and massive damage to their brand.

Just because something is ultra high risk, stupid, illegal and abuses consumers isn't apparently enough of a reason for large corporates not to do it.


I just kinda doubt this. How much backlash was there when it came out that the NSA was recording the full content of every cell phone call in the Bahamas?

Edit: codename SOMALGET, subproject of MYSTIC. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MYSTIC_(surveillance_program)#...

http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1164088-somalget.html


Why would there be? The Bahamas is not inside the United States and thus is part of the NSA's mission of monitoring foreign communications.

Spy agencies spy. It's their job description.


> was recording the full content of every cell phone call in the Bahamas?

The what now?


I didn't realise this either but it looks pretty widely known: https://theintercept.com/2014/05/19/data-pirates-caribbean-n...


Priced into product development at this point...

1) whistleblowing unlikely because any employee that steps out of line can and will be destroyed 2) any media fuss will blow over in a few days 3) promotions and bonuses require outsize risks

I think everyone has a point in their career when they realise large tech companies are unaccountable before the law. Mine was watching the MERS database running roughshod over American property ownership laws.


> The resulting backlash and legal ramifications would be so huge it just wouldn't be worth it.

Everything can be explained away with "we discovered a bug that might cause your unit to record you constantly, but it's fixed now. Won't happen again, sorry!"


> The resulting backlash and legal ramifications would be so huge it just wouldn't be worth it.

Are you sure? I don't seem to remember too much backlash from this, which was pretty similar:

https://www.esquire.com/lifestyle/cars/a33654/apple-is-shari...

Or this more recent story:

https://www.digitaltrends.com/home/amazon-alexa-sends-record...


The first article isn't anything nefarious.

> However, Apple's practice of sharing Siri data with third parties [to provide and improve Siri, Dictation, and dictation functionality] is perfectly legal and outlined in Apple's iOS Software License Agreement, which Siri users are required to accept.

I mentioned using the voice data to market "without permission." That's my rationale. All of these scary location tracking this, retargeting that methods are always buried in a privacy policy somewhere. But when you start doing it on the DL, that's when you get in trouble. So the cons greatly outweigh the pros for any sane company.

And of course the second article is an isolated case of human error. Nothing to do with violating privacy for profit.




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