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Is Somebody Always Watching You?

Is somebody always watching you?
The future is upon us as law enforcement attempts to use a smart listening device to solve a murder. Will it work?

The little figure sat there, always watching, always paying attention to what you were doing, and always reporting back to headquarters. If you were naughty, if you were nice, whatever you said, whatever you secretly desired- everything was fair game. No, you might be thinking, this wasn’t seen as obtrusive, strange or even an extension of big brother. In fact, people looked forward to this special time of the year and gladly welcomed the little person into their home and in many homes, gave him a seat of honor. In fact, parents told their children wonderful stories of this little elf that sits on a shelf, with all seeing eyes and all hearing ears. Now, if you feel something is off in the story, you wouldn’t be wrong. Although many people are tempted to act their best around the holidays, many others feel that the shaming or scaring of their children into good behavior is wrong, because good behavior comes from a desire within and should be practiced all year around, not just as a quick pay-off in presents on  a certain day.

As we ring in the New Year, many are calling it the year of AI, or Artificial Intelligence. And no, that doesn’t mean that everyone will suddenly have a Rosy from the Jetsons puttering about the house, but it does mean that we are getting closer!

The Daily Mail recently ran an article that noted — “The LG smart fridge has a 29 inch HD touch screen display, which can show recipes, videos, and even allow you to shop. In fact, it even has cameras inside so it can show you exactly what’s inside at any time – and you won’t have to open the door and waste energy.” Neat, right?

The article continued — “The smart fridge also has LG's WebOS software built in that enables users to use the touchscreen to leave virtual notes, lists and memos for other family members.” In fact, it gets even better! It continued — “The VP of marketing at LG also revealed that all of the firm’s home appliances will feature ‘advanced WiFi connectivity’ starting this year. This means there will soon be ‘tens of millions of smart connected devices.”

In fact, DM went on to say that — “The firm showed off a number of products to improve consumers’ daily lives… many of which are equipped with LG DeepThinQ. The system allows the appliances to learn as they go, using real time sensors to pick up lifestyle patterns. A smart vacuum, for example, can learn the objects around it as it encounters them to avoid collisions in the future. They even revealed smart washers that can sense water hardness, dust levels, and other environmental factors to adjust the rinse cycle and temperature accordingly. Along with this, they showed off a smart air conditioner system that will ‘learn where your family spends the most time and focus its energy there to make the family comfortable.” Smart everything! Everywhere! Utopia is almost upon us, dear comrades!

In fact, it isn’t only large retail companies that are paying attention to these new trends and interconnectivity. Earlier this year, James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, in testimony submitted to the Senate said — “In the future, intelligence services might use the internet of things for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials”.  But, dear listener, we don’t have to wait for the future. The future is here and now!

One of the more popular gifts this past Christmas season was the Echo Dot, sold by Amazon. Essentially, it is a wireless speaker system that is connected to the internet. As Forbes reported — “The system responds to voice commands, which allow users to create lists, search the web, check weather conditions, or play podcasts, among other things.” In fact, Alexa, which is Amazon’s response to Apple’s Siri, seems to be able to do many other things, and it is always listening. Get that? Always listening.

As proof of this, CIO just reported that — “Police in Bentonville, Arkansas would love to know whether an Amazon Echo picked up the sounds of a crime….The Amazon Echo in question was present in a home where a murder took place. Victor Collins was found dead in a hot tub after a social event that went late into the previous night. Police found the Echo among many other smart devices in the home, but the Echo is the only one that records what you say. Specifically, it's always listening for your wake-up command of "Amazon" or "Alexa," which cues it to start recording. The recording includes a snippet of what you said before, as well as the command that follows.” This of course means that by default, the factory settings have the 7 microphones always set to on.

The article continued — “The device sends your command to cloud servers, where your speech is interpreted and a response is sent back through the device.” It noted — “According to Amazon's Alexa FAQ, your commands are stored in the cloud and organized for easy review.” And have they found anything? Well, as the Washington Post reported — “Amazon was refusing to comply with a warrant issued by law enforcement, and a spokesperson for Amazon declined to comment.”

As we settle in for what will surely be an exciting year, just remember that things are a’changin at a pace faster than ever- be it for the better, or for the worse. So, with that said- Welcome to the new times, dear citizen, and remember, just like Rockwell sang so long ago — “I always feel like somebody's watching me.”

So, what do you think dear listeners — “Is somebody always watching you?”

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