We’re getting more and more intelligent gadgets these days, that can make our lives easier and out activities more efficient. But are these voice recognition-based devices Big Brother’s tools? Could these gadgets be used to constantly monitor our lives?
This was the impression that quite a lot of people got from using the Amazon Echo, which is a cylindrical device that can be set up in a corner of the room and that listens to your demands for small favors, such as wanting to know how the weather will be like or what the score from last night’s game was or just playing a song.
And the small gadget was intended to be a small invisible sidekick that could entertain people and perform these small tasks for them, just so that they can relax and get the attention that each of us wants to get every once in a while. But this cozy experience turned sour for some people who tried out the Amazon Echo because they started feeling tracked by the small device the entire time.
The felt like there was always something listening to their conversations, which could be creepy enough on its own given the right mindset, but the fact that they were also recording the conversation proved to be even more uncomfortable. And so, they started thinking about who actually listens to the conversations that these small devices record.
However, the Amazon Echo and other devices of its kind are just one possible way of conducting a mass surveillance of the population. All internet-connected devices could be used to do this, ranging from smartphones and tablets to high-tech toys or cooking devices. And it all comes down to the privacy settings that most people never actually read before they agree to them.
These include quite a lot of information regarding the use of the collected data, but it is usually coded in extremely ambiguous wording and it extends over overwhelmingly long policies, so that people feed discouraged to actually read it. And since agreeing with the privacy settings of any given app or device is mandatory in order to run it and use it, in the vast majority of cases people will agree to pretty much anything.
A watchdog association called The Electronic Privacy Information Center aims to persuade the Federal Trade Commission to issue stricter guidelines regarding what these internet connected devices are allowed to record and what they are not, because there is a dire need for stricter boundaries for the authority of these devices.
“We think it’s misleading to only present the potential conveniences of this technology without also presenting the huge number of possible drawbacks” pointed out Julia Horwitz, Electronic Privacy Information Center executive.
It remains to be seen what this watchdog group will be able to achieve in regards to the limitation of the authority that internet connected devices have, but until then, people are advised to evaluate the implications that new generation technology could have on their lives.
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