This week, Keep Internet Devices Safe Act was gutted by the Illinois senate: it would have allowed people sue manufacturers if they determined that a device had engaged in remote recording without notifying its owner. Read the rest
Bloomberg reporters learned that -- despite public pronouncements to the contrary -- Amazon has an "annotation team" of thousands of people all over the world, charged with reviewing recordings made by Alexa devices in the field, with both staffers and contractors listening to conversations that Alexa owners have had with and near their devices. Read the rest
Topping the Electronic Frontier Foundation's don't-buy for Christmas list: Facebook's Portal in-home spycams, followed closely by Alexa/Google Home and other "home hubs"; Verizon's "AppFlash" spyware-equipped phones; and even the Elf on the Shelf gets a look in (normalizes surveillance!). Read the rest
Amazon has now publicly responded to today's bombshell news that an Alexa/Echo personal digital assistive device recorded and then leaked a Portland family's private conversation to a third party acquaintance in Seattle. An "unlikely" string of events led to the freak occurrence, says Amazon. OK. Sure. Read the rest
A couple in Portland is accusing Alexa of doing exactly what many people have feared she might do. They say she listened in on a conversation and sent it to a random contact of theirs – one of her husband's employees.
The woman, whose name is Danielle but whose last name hasn't been disclosed, says that two weeks ago she got a call from her husband's employee, who said, "Unplug your Alexa devices right now. You're being hacked."
According to KIRO-7 in Seattle:
"We unplugged all of them and he proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house," she said. "At first, my husband was, like, 'no you didn't!' And the (recipient of the message) said 'You sat there talking about hardwood floors.' And we said, 'oh gosh, you really did hear us.'"
Danielle listened to the conversation when it was sent back to her, and she couldn't believe someone 176 miles away heard it too.
"I felt invaded," she said. "A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, 'I'm never plugging that device in again, because I can't trust it.'"
Danielle says an Amazon engineer investigated.
"They said 'our engineers went through your logs, and they saw exactly what you told us, they saw exactly what you said happened, and we're sorry.' He apologized like 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes and he said we really appreciate you bringing this to our attention, this is something we need to fix!"
When KIRO-7 questioned Amazon, they responded with this: “Amazon takes privacy very seriously. Read the rest
Checkmarx researchers including Erez Yalon have created a "rogue Alexa skill" that bypasses Amazon's security checks: it lurks silently and unkillably in the background of your Alexa, listening to all speech in range of it and transcribing it, then exfiltrating the text and audio of your speech to the attacker. Read the rest
Inspired by the $6,000 Alexa-controlled toilet at CES, Jonathan Gleich hacked together his own one-tenth the cost. The base of this smart throne is the Brondell Swash 1400 Luxury Bidet Toilet Seat, available for $650 from Amazon. The other components are a $46 auto flusher, $23 infrared link, and $17 Adafruit Feather HUZZAH microcontroller.
Gleich posted directions to make your own over at Instructables: "Alexa Controlled Toilet"
Every three years, the US Copyright Office asks for proposals for exemptions to Section 1201 of the DMCA, which bans breaking DRM; in 2015, the Electronic Frontier Foundation won a broad "jailbreaking" exemption to modify the firmware of phones and tablets; this year, we're asking for that permission to be extended to smart speakers like Alexa/Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePods, and the smaller players in the market. Read the rest
Adversarial examples have torn into the robustness of machine-vision systems: it turns out that changing even a single well-placed pixel can confound otherwise reliable classifiers, and with the right tricks they can be made to reliably misclassify one thing as another or fail to notice an object altogether. But even as vision systems were falling to adversarial examples, audio systems remained stubbornly hard to fool, until now. Read the rest
This appears to be surveilling AI chatboxes set up to debate the fine points of constitutional law. It's presumably based on a transcript of an interaction between a sovereign citizen and a cop, but I'm not sure which one as all such interactions are nearly identical (sovcit patter is extremely rigid, and the cops adopt the firm-but-polite bemusement reserved for angry white people).
In other surveilling AI chatbox news, Google admitted yesterday that their newest surveilling AI chatboxes, including those sent to journalists to review, have a "bug" whereby they record audio 24/7. Read the rest
This owl shaped Echo Dot holder lives in my bathroom.
I'm addicted to Echo Dot. I keep one in my office, one in the kitchen, and now one in my bathroom. I treat the Dots like radios and listen to the news briefing and podcasts.