IoT: All Your Words Are Belong To Us*

The recent revelation that the Samsung Smart TV can record and transmit your words over the internet has shocked and surprised many people. If the voice command feature is enabled you can command the TV to perform a variety of actions to make life a little easier; change channel, increase volume and more sophisticated functions. It can record these words and send to a third party for processing. Buried in the lengthy privacy policy we have the confirmation: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. The technology around us is listening. In today’s society we use voice commands with our smart phones and our cars, devices that are also connected to the internet, without thinking of the wider scenario. Every day people talk to Siri via their iPhone, OK Google on their Android device, Cortona their Windows phone or say Xbox to their, well, Xbox. Your device is sat there waiting, listening for your command. The big question now is whether these devices are listening and recording the passive conversation too? Could it record everything it hears even if you haven’t told it to actively to do so?

There’s no reason why not. The microphone is there, available for someone to infiltrate and turn it on without the owner’s knowledge. Many mobile apps ask for your consent to activate and use your microphone as part of the install process, even if they don’t need to, and most people simply accept all the consents and policies in return for the instant gratification of downloading the app. Websites have been reading what you type for years, showing you contextual advertising based upon it. Could this be the next evolution?

As we embark into the world of the Internet of Things (IoT) we realise how in the future our everyday world will consist of devices packed full of sensors that not only listen but monitor our behaviour. Every task, every word will be recorded and shared. Fitness trackers, cars, thermostats, washing machines, drones, the list goes on. It makes sense to think that all of these devices will communicate with each other offering the consumer a connected experience, for example “OK Google find out the best way to wash the oil stain from my cotton shirt then command the washing machine to wash the current load to that recommendation”

Imagine that. All of your devices gossiping with each other and before you know it you’ve received a money off coupon for detergent and your next car service.

Orwellian? Maybe so, but the IoT is coming, and fast. Be prepared with your cone of silence.

* With apologies to Taito

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