IoT: Who & What

Written by Evan Leonard, President, CHIPS Technology Group

We continually want to use technology to make our lives easier. Talk into your smartphone or Amazon’s Echo to ask it for a phone number, directions, weather, or some other type of task. Talk to your TV to change a channel, volume, search for programming, ask for a recommendation or use made for TV apps. We can ask Google and Google products (Nest and Dropcam) to help us with our daily lives too.

Most people do not take the time to understand what they are giving up for convenience. You are trading this new way of using technology for privacy and security. Companies such as Google, Samsung, and Amazon are trying to capture every sound, movement and lifestyle activity. They are using this information so their users will consume more products and they can sell more advertising. These devices are capturing the times you are home, reactions to television commercials, listening to everything you are saying and tracking your GPS coordinates. This is just the beginning. 

I know this is going to sound strange for someone who has owned a technology company for 23 years but this makes me feel uneasy. Most people do not have proper protection at home from would-be hackers. They don’t use the same type of security at home as they do in the office. Security of this information on the internet is a concern.

Let’s talk about a few companies and how they are capturing data.

Nest is a thermostat that learns your patterns - when you are and aren’t home. You can regulate your temperature from the internet, convenient right? If your home or business network was hacked, someone could know your habits.

Samsung TVs – If you connect your TV to the internet and it has a camera or works on voice command, they are capturing movements and/or listening in any room where the TVs exist. This information is being transmitted to a third party and these devises are always listening unless you turn off these capabilities. Think about your home and each room, do you want your TV capturing movements and conversations?

Dropcam – Is an easy to use wireless camera for your house. You plug it into a power outlet and within minutes they are on your home internet. Hackers have been known to access these wireless cameras. Some of these hackers are voyeurs which is bad enough but some are scoping out rooms in your house.

Smartphones (iPhone, Android, Windows) – With the emergence of Siri and Cortana, your phones are listening too. Your apps are trying to track your location and habits at all times. Once again this information is gathered so advertisers can market their products and services. As we have seen in the paper recently, none of this information is safe. In the past few months, the government, Sony, CVS, Target have all been hacked. 

One might argue that these companies are tracking, listening and watching to provide a better user experience or to provide better marketing but I find it intrusive and untrusting. All of these devices and others are now called “The Internet of Things”.

Before you Accept an agreement or Accept location services, make sure you understand what these applications are asking and what you are potentially giving up.