Is Technology Spying on Us?

An Amazon Echo sits on a shelf.

Photo used with permission from Creative Commons

An Amazon Echo sits on a shelf.

Written by Emma Tetreault

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We all have a wide range of technology in our homes, from the speaker that sits on the nightstand, to the television that’s mounted on the wall. As suspected for many years, these devices may have unknown abilities that aren’t listed in the user’s manual. It’s been a well-known speculation that the government tunes into our home devices and spies on us, but how can we know this for sure?

Many believe that someone else is constantly on the other side of their camera, whether it be the FBI or a scam artist. The fact that your phone and computer display ads about topics you had a conversation about just minutes prior, is what the public finds so alarming. That scenario happens to be one of many though, as there has been several cases where the government was supposedly intruding on someone’s private life. Even when an app asks for access to your camera, microphone, or even location, it doesn’t mean it won’t access them while you aren’t on the app. This seems to be common knowledge amongst the public, which is why many have started to cover their computer’s webcam or turn off the microphone on their phones. However, are these small precautions enough?

One of the most dangerous technology is owned by over 39 million Americans, and it’s probably in your home as well. A common Christmas gift to give to all the grandchildren, that seems harmless but has all the wrong intentions. The Amazon Alexa is marketed as a virtual assistant that can answer just about any question and respond immediately to the sound of your voice. These smart-speakers, also including the Google Home, are seemingly innocent and only there for pure convenience. Although this may be true, whether you want your conversation to be heard or not, they’re always listening.

John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy and technology project director, said, “Google and Amazon executives want you to think that Google Home and Amazon Echo are there to help you out at the sound of your voice. You might find them useful sometimes but think about what you’re revealing about yourself and your family, and how that information might be used in the future.”

Now, almost any ordinary home device is being used to gather information about us, as if the government hasn’t taken over enough of our personal life. Adam Levin wrote an article called, 9 Household Products That May Be Spying on You, which states, “Your dishwasher, clothes dryer, toaster, clock radio and remote control. This may sound fantastical, but no less an expert on spying than former CIA Director David Petraeus believes that even mundane appliances like your dishwasher could soon be used to gather intelligence about you.” At this point, there’s no escaping the intrusion on privacy because before we know it, the government will be listening to us through each other. Levin continues to say, “Our privacy is threatened. Every day our most precious asset (our identity) is put at risk by us and those who wish to track our every movement, word, thought and search.”

With the way ours lives are set up, there really is no escaping technology, which is why this issue hasn’t affected many people’s lives. That doesn’t mean that we can take precautions to help protect our own privacy every day. If we can’t even have a conversation at home with our family without being spied on, this world is going to be a whole different place as technology continues to advance.

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