The Whole POINT of the Internet of Things Is So Big Brother Can Spy On You

No One Wants the Internet of Things …

No one wants the Internet of Things (IoT).

The Washington Post noted in 2014:

No one really wants a “smart” washing machine ….

***

If you’re wondering who would want to buy an Internet-enabled washing machine, you’re not alone. Even Whirlpool’s not so sure.

“We’re a little bit of a hammer looking for a nail right now,” Chris Quatrochi, Whirlpool’s global director of user experience and connectivity, said last week at a conference  hosted by tech blog Gigaom. The buyers of web-connected washers, more than a year after launch, are still “not at all widespread,” he said. “Trying to understand exactly the value proposition that you provide to the consumer,” he said, “has been a little bit of a challenge.”

It’s a big concession from one of the most notable champions of the buzzy “Internet of Things” ….

As Digital Trends blogger John Sciacca put it: “Have we gotten so pathetically lame that you need to be notified by an email that your laundry is done?”

Wired jokes:

Now it seems every kind of thing from dishwashers to doorknobs require an Internet connection, since after all, we all know our dishwashers have long harbored a pent up desire for scintillating conversation with our doorknobs.

… Except Big Brother

The government is already spying on us through spying on us through our computers, phones, cars, buses, streetlights, at airports and on the street, via mobile scanners and drones, through our credit cards and smart meters (see this), television, doll, and in many other ways.

The CIA wants to spy on you through your dishwasher and other “smart” appliances. Slate reported in 2012:

Watch out: the CIA may soon be spying on you—through your beloved, intelligent household appliances, according to Wired.

In early March, at a meeting for the CIA’s venture capital firm In-Q-Tel, CIA Director David Petraeus reportedly noted that “smart appliances” connected to the Internet could someday be used by the CIA to track individuals. If your grocery-list-generating refrigerator knows when you’re home, the CIA could, too, by using geo-location data from your wired appliances, according to SmartPlanet.

“The current ‘Internet of PCs’ will move, of course, toward an ‘Internet of Things’—of devices of all types—50 to 100 billion of which will be connected to the Internet by 2020,” Petraeus said in his speech. He continued:

Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters—all connected to the next-generation Internet using abundant, low cost, and high-power computing—the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.

Last year, U.S. Intelligence Boss James Clapper said that the government will spy on Americans through IoT:

In the future, intelligence services might use the [IoT] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials.

Yves Smith commented at the time:

Oh, come on. The whole point of the IoT is spying. The officialdom is just trying to persuade you that it really is a big consumer benefit to be able to tell your oven to start heating up before you get home.

Wired comments:

Why do you think there are so many buckets of cash pouring into the IoT hope-to-be-a-market? The Big Corporations don’t expect to make a big profit on the devices themselves, oh no. News flash: the Big Money in IoT is in Big Data. As in, Big Data about everything those sensors are learning about you and your nasty habits that you hide from your neighbors.

The value of Big Data, after all, aren’t the data themselves. “Fred’s car told Fred’s thermostat to turn on Fred’s hot tub” doesn’t interest anybody but Fred and perhaps his hot date (if he’s lucky). The value in Big Data, you see, are in the patterns. What shows you watch. What apps you use. Which ads influence your buying behavior. The more IoT you have, the more Big Data they collect, and the more Big Data they collect, the more they know about how you behave. And once they know how you behave, they know how to control how you behave.

The Guardian notes:

As a category, the internet of things is useful to eavesdroppers both official and unofficial for a variety of reasons, the main one being the leakiness of the data.

***

There are a wide variety of devices that can be used to listen in, and some compound devices (like cars) that have enough hardware to form a very effective surveillance suite all by themselves.

***

There’s no getting around the fundamental creepiness of the little pinhole cameras in new smart TVs (and Xbox Kinects, and laptops, and cellphones), but the less-remarked-on aspect – the audio – may actually be more pertinent to anyone with a warrant trying to listen in. Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society observed that Samsung’s voice recognition software in its smart TVs had to routinely send various commands “home” to a server where they were processed for relevant information; their microphones are also always on, in case you’re trying to talk to them. Televisions are also much easier to turn on than they used to be: a feature creeping into higher-end TVs called “wake on LAN” allows users to power on televisions over the internet (this is already standard on many desktop PCs).

***

A cyberattack on toymaker VTech exposed the personal data of 6.4m children last year; it was a sobering reminder of the vulnerability of kids on the web. But technology waits for no man. Mattel’s Hello Barbie doll works the same way the Nest and Samsung voice operators do, by passing kids’ interactions into the cloud and returning verbal responses through a speaker in the doll. HereO manufactures a watch for kids with a GPS chip in it; Fisher-Price makes a WiFi-enabled stuffed animal. Security researchers at Rapid7 looked at both and found that they were easy to compromise on company databases, and in the case of the watch, use to locate the wearer.

In a separate article, the Guardian pointed out:

Just a few weeks ago, a security researcher found that Google’s Nest thermostats were leaking users’ zipcodes over the internet. There’s even an entire search engine for the internet of things called Shodan that allows users to easily search for unsecured webcams that are broadcasting from inside people’s houses without their knowledge.

While people voluntarily use all these devices, the chances are close to zero that they fully understand that a lot of their data is being sent back to various companies to be stored on servers that can either be accessed by governments or hackers.

***

Author and persistent Silicon Valley critic Evgeny Morozov summed up the entire problem with the internet of things and “smart” technology in a tweet last week:

In case you are wondering what “smart” – as in “smart city” or “smart home” – means:

Surveillance
Marketed
As
Revolutionary
Technology

https://twitter.com/evgenymorozov/status/693958196717711362

(And see Amazon Echo and the internet of things that spy on you.)

In the wake of the CIA leaks showing that the agency can remotely turn on our tvs and spy on us using a “fake off” mode so that it looks like the power is off, Tech Dirt wrote in an article called CIA Leaks Unsurprisingly Show The Internet Of Broken Things Is A Spy’s Best Friend:

The security and privacy standards surrounding the internet of (broken) things sit somewhere between high comedy and dogshit.

As security expert Bruce Schneier points out, the entire concept of the IoT is wildly insecure and vulnerable to hacking.  Indeed, Iot is so insecure that it allowed a massive internet outage.

The highest-level NSA whistleblower in history (William Binney) – the NSA executive who created the agency’s mass surveillance program for digital information, 36-year NSA veteran widely regarded as a “legend” within the agency, who served as the senior technical director within the agency, and managed thousands of NSA employees – reviewed an earlier version of this post, and told Washington’s Blog:

Yep, that summarizes it fairly well. It does not deal with industry or how they will use the data; but, that will probably be an extension of what they do now. This whole idea of monitoring electronic devices is objectionable.

If forced to buy that stuff, I will do my best to disconnect these monitoring devices also look for equipment on the market that is not connected in any way.

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  • Charlie Primero

    > “The Whole POINT of the Internet of Things Is So Big Brother Can Spy On You”

    Your headline is click-baity, and false. You should do better W.B.

    I exposed this type of government spying 10 years ago. Most people don’t care.

    Deconstruct the 70 years of Globalist brain-washing that convinced people the 4th Amendment doesn’t matter.

    • People are convinced that the 4th Amendment doesn’t matter because the government ignores it at the same time that they ignore the Constitution itself, which is tolerated because one has to be a part of the system to demand that it be enforced, and doing that would undermine the tyranny.

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  • Somebodybrave

    This is actually a paramount article. Most people do not realize any of this. Most people are goldfish in a goldfish bowl. The article recognizes Binney. This very short article is simple, and is what is needed.

  • Paul X

    You can log into your router (one hopes it is a professional one such as pfsense) and explicitly tell it what devices to allow to communicate on the internet – and no other. That way you don’t have to modify individual devices.

    • Unfortunately, making that so complicated and undocumented that anyone but a millennial can’t understand it makes it unlikely that it will happen in most households.

      • awb22

        IoT also has their potential to make people’s lives better. Technology as in most things can be used for good or evil. The real issue is who is in control, citizens or their government.

        • If you had received the original understanding of American history, you would know that the original intent of the founders of our republic is that the people would control the government by being the government. We the People sabotaged that concept by abdicating within a generation, as Thomas Jefferson knew we would when he wrote that “(t)he spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may become persecutor, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated that the time for fixing every essential right, on a legal basis, is while our rulers are honest, ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will be heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.”

          • awb22

            It’s no accident a portrait of Andrew Jackson is hanging in the Oval Office. He kicked the bankers out, which Lincoln would have done his second term, and why he was assassinated. Kennedy was assassinated because he intended to introduce a US Note. Ghaddafi was deposed because he was going to introduce a Gold Dinar for african trade.

            Connect the dots.

          • Kennedy had already introduced and initiated printing of silver certificates under his executive order 11110 when he was assassinated. By issuing silver backed currency without the Federal Reserve’s approval and support, he’d already driven a silver spike into the central bank, unfortunately he missed it’s heart.
            Not only Ghaddafi (sic), but Saddam’s sin was working to introduce a comparable currency, as well as Iran. It was easy to convince the average ignorant American that those in the middle east were involved in 9/11, making it easy to take out Iraq. It won’t be so easy to cover up our complicity with the Mossad in the cyberattack on Iran’s uranium processing plant with the Stuxnet that our spooks made with theirs. Since the Stuxnet is now loose in the Internet, causing damage to any installation that uses the targeted controller, it is easy for the world’s programmers to figure out who produced that virulent hack.

          • awb22

            I’ve read an analysis of the stuxnet virus, but I don’t see the relevance to this discussion.

            Do you have any solutions, or do you intend to merely pontificate?

          • The Stuxnet was an act of war. We shouldn’t attack them if we can’t defend ourselves, and we obviously can’t, for the most part. They could take down our entire banking system and we don’t have any way to stop them. Makes me glad that none of my money is in a bank.

          • awb22

            You make a lot of claims, do you have any solutions other than not trusting banks?

          • Given the Dodd-Frank Act, what possible reason would any thinking human being have to trust a banker? The Constitution is pretty clear in Article 1, Section 10, Paragraph 1 why we shouldn’t trust those who ignore and disregard the document.
            My personal solutions are to keep my currency, gold, and silver in physically secure places out of the sight of all criminals, governmental or private. The reason why will become clear when the day comes that plastic cards don’t work and banks are closed until further notice.

          • That portrait has been hanging in the Oval Office for a lot longer than most of us have been voting.

          • awb22

            Err, no. Obama had a portrait of the first POTUS, Washington, and one of the traitor, Lincoln.

        • NotPCatAll

          Right now its the corrupt and evil govt so I will pass on the IoT. I have gotten along fine all these years without it!

          • awb22

            People used to get along fine without the internet. We have yet to see what the ability to share information across the globe at the speed of light will bring about. The printing press brought about the Protestant Revolution, by putting the Word of God in every man’s hands.

            It is possible to counter the misinformation spread by TPTB, and side step their control of the media.

      • awb22

        The next big collapse? If you mean the depression of the 1930’s, depression 2.0 will seem like child’s play.

        The elite will do everything within their power to stay in power, including killing every man, woman, and child on the planet. We know which god is working where, and we know too which god has our back. I cast all of my care upon him.

        We can restore constitutional democracy to our nation. Even were there to be a total collapse of civil order, two things that cannot be taken away, the truth of the one true god’s word, and the constitution of the united states of america including the bill of rights. One is eternal, the other the culmination of human civilization through thousands of years of conquest and man’s rising against oppression.

        Don’t underestimate the power of the Lord, nor the treachery of the devil.

        • It is extremely to disregard the power of a deity that won’t even enforce it’s own Commandments.

          • awb22

            You made conflicting statements. Either you believe the truth of god’s word, or you don’t. The lies being spread aren’t about our form of government, that’s just ignorance. No, the lies are much more sinister, and they involve attempting to pervert the word of truth.

          • To relate Christianity with any form of American government is a conflict in and of itself, since a substantial minority, if not a majority of the men who drafted the organic documents were deists rather than Christians. If you doubt this, you’ll have to explain why the name of Jesus Christ never appeared in any of those documents, nor in any of the multitude of letters that they sent between themselves while contemplating the creation of a constitutional republic. They uniformly disdained democracy. If God exists, he should have provided Moses with a copy of the bible written in every language that it has ever been translated into, and bound as it was 1400 years later, instead of dictating stone tablets. Such a document would have had more credibility than the current book of parables does.

          • awb22

            I get it that you don’t believe the truth of god’s word. Thankfully, religion wasn’t a cornerstone of the US Constitution, therefore, it is a document for everyone and upon which everyone can agree. It is the culmination of thousands of years of human civilization. You don’t have to believe the truth of God’s word to apply limits on government power as set forth in the bill of rights, but it helps to know the difference between right and wrong, and not the moral relativism of humanists.

          • As least I don’t have the moral relativism of pseudo-patriots and jingoes.

          • awb22

            That’s not much of a distinction, but your point is taken.

          • I’m not, and have never been, the least bit Strangelovian.
            We’d all be better off if the American military would stop acting like the British Navy of the British Empire era. Brinkmanship can lead to doomsday with very little prevention.

    • NotPCatAll

      I did not know that and find it very useful! Thanks for sharing it!!!

  • U3O8

    ‘World Side Web’ it’s ALWAYS a double entendre meaning. “Symbols rule the World not rules or Laws”.