If you use Alexa or Google Assistant, read this

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KW.

Regular Contributor
I believe we should be very happy for the people that was worried about their houses get burned down when the first electricity came to town. That have led to much safer implementation of electricity today.

If new technology was just accepted as it is, then we would probably not be were we are in the technological evolution.

I cant see how it could be seen as anti-progress to react on corporate policies and even boycott corporations or products that don't live up to the standard you want to have. This thread was never about the technology itself but the policies/implementations that came with the products.

But again your anecdote of a 90 year old former CIA-agent to declare privacy dead and now your attempt to ridicule another valued forum member make me sure that we are pretty far from understanding etch other. In my mind you completely off topic and I don't want to help it get more off topic, so I leave the discussion here.
 

distilled

Senior Member
But again your anecdote of a 90 year old former CIA-agent to declare privacy dead and now your attempt to ridicule another valued forum member make me sure that we are pretty far from understanding etch other. In my mind you completely off topic and I don't want to help it get more off topic, so I leave the discussion here.

I didn't understand the value of the CIA comment, given that the CIA are, by executive order (E.O. 12333 ), prevented from eavesdropping on US citizens. Using a laser to read a window as a microphone membrane is really, really old technology, even older than things like reading EM emanations, ala TEMPEST. ECHELON / Five Eyes / Carnivore and all sorts of NSA (not CIA) programs exist to eavesdrop on us.

But saying privacy is an illusion is just plain silly. If you want a degree of privacy, just be aware of your actions. Buy a phone with PureOS, or just use a rooted Android with LineageOS, and run xPrivacylua and AFWall (and F-Droid or Aurora, MicroG and all the other Google replacements). Use Signal for all your texts and voice calls, and refuse to talk to anyone who doesn't use Signal. Now you have sidestepped the overwhelming majority of the privacy issues associated with having a cell. Sure, you can still be followed as you bounce off towers, and that can be addressed too, you can destroy the modem in the phone with a fastboot flash, which you would have to do because cellphones in the US can still hit towers even without a SIM card (for FCC mandated E911 capabilities), then use Signal on public WiFi through Orbot (Tor) in proxy mode, and a MAC changer.

My somewhat rambling point here is that privacy is à la carte, it comes down to how much effort you put into it. And that comes down to your personal wants/needs, identifying threat actors and generally just side-stepping most of the invasions people step into willingly. I am not a privacy *nut*, and pretty much any law enforcement agency could easily find out whatever they wanted to about me. But not advertisers, not marketers, not Cambridge Analytica type social media scrapers. Avoiding social media alone can give you a dramatically lower profile. Like, why do people use the same Reddit account for more than a few weeks? Just toss it and make another, geez.

Anyway, privacy is a very real thing, it is only *absolute* privacy that may be an illusion. And it should be noted that there are oceans of difference between privacy and security, even though they can be closely related.
 

Pork

New Around Here
I do not agree with this. In my view comparing corporate surveillance with state/law enforcement surveillance is like comparing apples and pears.

Does someone need to point out that both Apples and Pears are fruit. Fleshy edible fruit. Wait...fleshy edible sweet fruit with light colored flesh and vitamin-rich skins. There are so many multitudes of way to compare these two very similar things that I think you might want to look for a better euphemism if you are trying to say that there is a difference between government and big business.

I have written a line-by-line response to your message but it is entirely too long to post here. Of course I didn't realize that until the first draft was done. When I get it finished, I will post a link to the reply.

But it boils down to"absolute privacy" is absolutely an illusion. Relative privacy (which by its very obtuse nature includes things like using the toilet) is facilitated only by how much effort you put into it. If you are invested in fear that you have something so private that you don't want anyone else to know, there are lots of ways to invest your time and money in an attempt to secure that relative level of privacy. Just like you can put tinfoil up on your windows to keep the lasers from reading your mind. The truth is that your cell phone conversation, your email, your purchase history, search history, etc. by default is widely available and in direct contrast to your notion that privacy exists explicitly.

So my suggestion was simply that you should enjoy the benefits a little device like this provides. Just do so with the knowledge that it's no coincidence that if you are talking about a trip to Hawaii, you'll find ads for Hawaii in your search results. If you are gonna kill someone, your appliance (like another person other than your wife) may be called to testify. But don't be fooled into thinking that by just drawing the line at a smart device you have somehow managed to maintain absolute or even significantly greater privacy.

But for most, that's not really a big issue. In fact, it makes things a little nicer some times. It just seems a little naive to pull out the ole soapbox and declare that this device, rather than your factory-issued cell phone with its carrier modified firmware is a danger to your personal freedom. It's like ordering a couple Big Mac Value Meals and asking for a Diet Coke because you are concerned about your weight...really? Much more important people with much more important secrets use these devices and if it was such a terrible affront to personal freedom, much more important people would have been victimized long before you are. And besides, there's always an off switch, or a plug or a padded metal box that you can lock it in when you aren't using it.

For old folks like my father in-law, it could save your life. When he thought he was having a heart attack, he asked Google for help and several family members were alerted and 911 was called without any effort. Better than life-lock and worth letting someone know about his private fetish for furry slippers and a bubble bath now and then.
 

distilled

Senior Member
I agree with most of what you are saying here. Privacy is absolutely relative. I love privacy in concept, yet I allow Alexa devices (5 now) in my home. They use a fake Amazon account and they live on a segmented VLAN, but they could potentially listen in on intimate details of my life. And I have all but forgotten about them, it is business as usual. On the other hand, I don't have any social media, my cellphone ducks *most* of the typical B.S. and other ingress into my life are heavily filtered. It is all about trades, and how much effort we are willing to go to to purchase a *degree* of privacy. I have friends who drop jaws when they find out that I use a voice assistant, knowing I tend toward privacy. But again, it is a trade. I minimize the privacy loss as much as reasonably possible, while enjoying the benefit of technology. Ideally, Rappspy or Ada will evolve to the level Alexa is at, but until then, I will give up a little. If a trillion dollar company like Amazon is willing to risk the stock hit associated with admitting that they illegally eavesdrop on users, then I might end up being charged with a misdemeanor for the only crime I commit - and that miniscule risk is worthwhile to me.

Privacy is not an illusion, it is very real. But it isn't absolute, you have to pick your battles.

BTW if you set up an AWS Dev account, you can configure essentially the same thing as Google Assistant in the Amazon echsystem. It isnt perfect, but it is much better than the inherent Polly for generic questions. You just end up saying "Alexa, ask Google ..." It works reasonably well, well enough that I am not willing to allow a second invasive voice assistant. But every time Google Home go on sale, I am tempted...
 
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L&LD

Part of the Furniture
@Pork, thanks for giving me historical status. :)

But seriously, making 'fun' of tech gone wrong isn't the way to get it accepted into the mainstream. Tech is allowed in my home. But just like 'friends' not all tech is welcome. We each decide what line we will toe and what lines we will cross. Allowing open microphones to the 'net, willingly, into my home isn't one that will ever happen, ever.

You can be blasé about invasive technology when we're talking about someone who's in their 90's. But when we're not on our own and have others, including children, depending on us, more prudence is necessitated.
 
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KW.

Regular Contributor
Does someone need to point out that both Apples and Pears are fruit. Fleshy edible fruit. Wait...fleshy edible sweet fruit with light colored flesh and vitamin-rich skins. There are so many multitudes of way to compare these two very similar things that I think you might want to look for a better euphemism if you are trying to say that there is a difference between government and big business.

Well there is differences between apples and a pears. From this picture I am sure we both can find arguments for the case we want to make. That is the beauty of human creativity. I want to thank you for fleshing out my picture. I think it made the point i wanted to make even more clear and poetic.

What you say is not objectively wrong . I think we agree on the state of the world when it comes to privacy vs surveillance. I also do believe that we both live in a community that we can have this discussions freely. Privacy is relative so are freedom.

So my suggestion was simply that you should enjoy the benefits a little device like this provides. Just do so with the knowledge that it's no coincidence that if you are talking about a trip to Hawaii, you'll find ads for Hawaii in your search results.
'

I agree completely to have knowledge to make your own choice is number one.

And no doubt its is allot of digital information about most of us. What I did disagree with you is the defeatism I read in your statement ”privacy is an illusion”. Your last post made it more clear for me what you say, and that I may have jumped to some conclusions about your first post that maybe was on me.

"Absolute privacy" in most countries does not exist at least not without allot of efforts on your own part to get it, as you say.

But privacy and surveillance on government level is a part of the democratic system. The citizen have given up some rights to privacy for the benefit of a society to fight crime, collect taxes and much more. Traditionally it is very regulated what and when its acceptable for the state or even your friend for that matter to trespass your privacy.

The corporate surveillance in my opinion is not a part of this mutual agreement. It was implemented so fast and so widely that we (the public debate) first about now start understand how it all works with gathering of information about us and our behaviors.

About this I read your statement as ”swallow it and be happy” and here I disagree. I am optimistic that we do not have to swallow it. I hope and believe the corporate surveillance industry will be more regulated and I believe we will have other options then have to sell our integrity for the same services.

The open source communities are thriving. Just look what is happening in this forum with every other router flashed out with a new firmware built on transparency and creativity. After the NSA revelations most of the internet got encrypted and big tech companies is suddenly handing out apps with encrypted services for messages as a selling point. Every webbrowser try to compete with who is blocking the most cookies. The want of privacy is mainstream. I believe it is a fundamental need for the humankind to grow.

It is right as you say also, why don't you just plug out the smart hub when you don't use it. My problem is that I think it should not be necessary to plug out my devices for not being monitored. Or even worse to protect a child, someone who do not even understand that his/her emotions and ideas are being harvested and cynically analyzed for the reason of getting taken advantage of in later in life.

I don't believe privacy is an illusion but that privacy is a fight to take in this digital era and as you also said is about more then just these smart home devices.

EDIT: I am very happy for the aid your father in-law got!
 
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distilled

Senior Member
I am optimistic that we do not have to swallow it. I hope and believe the corporate surveillance industry will be more regulated and I believe we will have other options then have to sell our integrity for the same services.

These two sentences are perfect.

Home Assistant and Tasmota are two awesome steps toward enjoying the benefits of some contemporary technology without selling our privacy to corporations. There are *plenty* of ways to avoid the loss of privacy that so often comes along with connectivity. Consider Unbound and Diversion, and even some of Skynet's features. Options for privacy are everywhere, but most people don't avail themselves of them, for better or worse. In a way, it is good for us - consider that old saying about how you don't have to outrun a bear, you just have to outrun the slowest person. In a bigger picture way, it is scary that so much modern convenience is subsidized by our privacy.
 

Pork

New Around Here
This will be my last post on this topic, sorry for the length, since I can't seem to convey my intent and don't want to be left defending a viewpoint that brings everyone down.

What's wild about this thread is that I honestly thought I was bringing some brevity to an otherwise negative topic. I most certainly was not making any more fun of any other valued contributor than I was of myself--it was if anything a statement of commiseration, not degradation.

I, too, have the desire for corporations to respect our privacy more than they do, but I just don't see that happening. It would be extremely counter-productive for a business that mines personal data to customize and thereby leverage your preferences to just suddenly stop doing so. Perhaps if every company simultaneously disavowed all of the benefits of violating your privacy it might have a chance of working--at least until one company violated that trust and suddenly became the single most relevant provider of services on the planet. To expect government, who has a huge stake in working with these big companies to aggregate citizen data, to want to stop the surveillance or to be able to actively police the possibility of surveillance would be equally if not more counter-productive.

My biggest point about the concept of privacy being an illusion is that while you tell Google not to follow you and report the location of every search you have every performed and while you use a segmented VPN that accesses another VPN that ultimately gets your Duck Duck Go privacy-enabled browser running in "extreme private mode", the fact remains that the information that you are trying to desperately to hide is still available if someone wants to go to enough trouble. If you believe that your privacy is absolutely safe, you are suffering from a delusion. And more corporate statements telling you that they won't violate your privacy, more government oversight that seeks to protect your privacy, and more hardware and software that supports hiding your tracks is just a ping pong game of escalating priorities. For every move you make, there is a much bigger and much more concerted effort that undermines it. Knowing this and choosing how much effort you are willing to put into your belief that your privacy is protected is your decision, and I do not wish to take away anyone's right to choose how much they invest in keeping their belief in their privacy protected.

What I find more disheartening than the invasion of my privacy with some limited controls that I can implement is the defacto belief that everyone is out to get me and that if my private information is available to some big company that they will somehow use it to my disadvantage. I mean, that's the big fear, isn't it? That if the government, working with big business, can hear your dissent about the president: present of future, they could have you arrested or you could use your job, much like wearing blackface or refusing to write an adequately extensive statement declaring your unmitigated support for Black Lives Matter.

I appreciate the chance to discuss this topic (which I have to believe is the ops intent when bringing up the article he posted) and I don't mean to pass judgment on anyone who chooses to believe they are protecting their privacy by implementing whatever level of security they feel is adequate. Everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want to do and I don't have a problem with it. My entire goal was to show that the advantages of some of these items (which will get better and will become more privacy-focused) far outweigh the historical precedent of harmful actions by big business or by government with respect to privacy. That is to say that the enjoyment (especially for tech nerds) of using these items can be profound. And so far, we haven't really seen any practical risk associated with using them. Even when recordings have be subpoena'd for testimony, it has only been during the commission of a serious crime--never just for fun and certainly not widespread across the population. So very little evidence of risk and huge opportunity to miss out on the development cycle of the latest technology seems contrary to the tech nerd inside of me.

Also, I feel obliged to point out that absolutely none of the kerosene-heat families that chose not to implement electricity had any effect whatsoever on the electrical safety requirements. In fact, surely you can see that a couple of people who were early adopters were the only ones that informed the industry of the problems with electrical safety. That is to say that non-participants have no benefit to the development process that makes things safer. It is only those who adopt the new technology and find it's flaws (like security flaws) that make it safer. They are also the ones who are more likely to benefit from both the short and long term advantages the technology provides.

People avoiding these smart appliances are not having much of an effect on the market because those who are, love it for the most part. Early adopters who enjoy asking Google questions and then cracking up about the answers are the ones who will determine the future requirements and guidelines for business--not the avoiders and nay-sayers. I find the way that @distilled handles the situation to be brilliant and effective. He gets the advantage of the services without a lot of the risk. He will be in a better position to ensure that the next version is better and safer and more respectful of privacy than someone who doesn't use one at all.

[email protected]&LD, your children are going to be exposed to these appliances at every one of their friends' homes and likely soon to be in every classroom and business. Your belief that you are protecting the privacy of your family (which is admirable without a doubt) is a lot like believing that because all cell phone conversations can be easily recorded,nobody in your family should own a cell phone. Surely you can see that this is not the case and though cellphones provide the single biggest opportunity for invasion of your most intimate privacy, they are all but a necessity today. I still support your choice to do what you want to do and I understand your hesitation to "have an open mic on the internet" so don't get me wrong. I'm just saying that perhaps like @distilled, there's a way you can have both and the benefit you could offer to the development cvcle is much greater as a participant than as an avoider. In short, we need more skeptical people to ensure our protection.
 

coxhaus

Part of the Furniture
We are still using our 3 Echo's. They let me know when a package is arriving from Amazon. We play music and use them for intercoms in a large house.

I think the gov already knows me from my cell phone and Apple watch.
 

distilled

Senior Member
We are up to 5 now, and I am kinda leaning toward getting a Studio.

The Amazon delivery notifications are really handy, the alarm and reminder features are great, and being able to essentially verbally google things is surprisingly addictive. When at locations that don't have Alexa, I find myself mildly annoyed that I have to pull out my phone and manually type "what is the porosity of white pine". But the big win comes from Home Assistant announcements, "Utility room freezer has been open more than one minute" "Motion detected at front door" "UPS number four is reporting a battery fault" etc. I keep meaning to voicify Caller ID from the Obihai integration so Alexa can announce callers, and also implement DeepStack on an old PC so the security cameras can do local face recognition, but real life keeps getting in the way of those more interesting projects.

Hah, we have been in the mountains for the long holiday, so we missed the last important reminder - that The Boys season 2 was released. Only weak cell service up here, not enough to stream. I am actually anxious for vacation to be over, just to watch that.
 

willyburz

Regular Contributor
I'm late to this party?! lol.

What is the main point here? Invasion of privacy, listening, knowing your location? I would like to give a response, but some of the comments are speaking to a bigger window or a different thought process about corps listening.
 
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