Beware the Internet of Things

popular apps of the future technology generationThere are so many great things about living in the future. Gelato is sold in the grocery store now. And you can have it delivered to your home via a delivery person you summon via the internet. You can carry thousands of books, movies, and games with you wherever you go–without having to worry how much they’ll weigh or how much space they’ll need. They’re all on your smart device! We have wirelessly connected robot butlers that are ready to do anything from order a pizza to turn off the bathroom light just by our speaking these requests out loud. Our refrigerators can remind us which groceries are about to expire.

And, because we have easy access to unlimited wireless internet, we don’t have to worry about our bills being sky high as a result of all of this web-based communication, entertainment and convenience. Yes. Life in the future is a pretty sweet deal.

…until you start to think about how vulnerable all of these advances in technology have made us.

That our refrigerator can monitor our food’s freshness and send messages to our smart phones reminding us to buy milk on our way home seems awesome at first. And Siri and Alexa make us feel like we’re Tony Stark…when we first hook them up. But that constant interconnectivity can present some unique challenges to our privacy.

The Internet of Things

These devices make up what is called the Internet of Things. Techopedia defines the Internet of Things in the following way:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a computing concept that describes a future where everyday physical objects will be connected to the Internet and be able to identify themselves to other devices. The term is closely identified with RFID as the method of communication, although it also may include other sensor technologies, wireless technologies or QR codes.

The IoT is significant because an object that can represent itself digitally becomes something greater than the object by itself. No longer does the object relate just to you, but is now connected to surrounding objects and database data. When many objects act in unison, they are known as having “ambient intelligence.””

How the Internet of Things Makes Us Vulnerable

With so many of our devices linked not to each other but also to the web, the ability of some hacker being able to sneak in and take a thorough look at our lives has gotten stronger than ever. And while some random hacker snooping into which movies you watch most often or figuring out your ideal home temperature seems like a long-shot, that is not the real issue at play here.

What is in play is the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Most of the time, we think of the Fourth Amendment as the law that requires law enforcement officers to have warrants before they search our homes and to have a really good reason to ask us to identify ourselves in any way.

What concerns us is how the advances in domestic surveillance technology and the relaxation of domestic surveillance laws make us vulnerable to a state apparatus that could be easily manipulated. That President Elect Trump will one day soon have the ability to listen in on and spy on anybody he chooses is frightening.

How is this legal?

Having devices in your home that record everything you say and do is creepy on its face, sure, but what makes you vulnerable is the user agreement with the terms you must accept before you can fully install those devices. Often these user agreements contain (buried deep) within them, language that says, essentially, that you are giving permission to these devices to record you and that you relinquish your rights to those recordings should they be needed by the state.

Scared yet?

Protecting Yourself

There are steps that you can take to protect yourself and your family from an over reaching state and from nefarious hacker types. Since the 2016 election, there have been dozens of articles on the steps you can take to protect your identity and your actions online. These actions include using a VPN, 2-factor authentication, encrypting your communications, etc. We’re going to also suggest that you stick to devices that don’t connect to the internet or record your every movement. Or that you simply do not connect those devices to the web.

It probably seems like we’re being paranoid and that nothing bad could ever happen by installing a surreptitious recording device in our homes. But remember the old rule: better safe than sorry!

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