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Coddled, Surveilled, and Monetized: How Modern Houses Can Watch You 150

Posted by timothy
from the eye-oh-tee dept.
Presto Vivace (882157) links to a critical look in Time Magazine at the creepy side of connected household technology. An excerpt: A modern surveillance state isn't so much being forced on us, as it is sold to us device by device, with the idea that it is for our benefit. ... ... Nest sucks up data on how warm your home is. As Mocana CEO James Isaacs explained to me in early May, a detailed footprint of your comings and goings can be inferred from this information. Nest just bought Dropcam, a company that markets itself as a security tool allowing you to put cameras in your home and view them remotely, but brings with it a raft of disquieting implications about surveillance. Automatic wants you to monitor how far you drive and do things for you like talk to your your house when you're on your way home from work and turn on lights when you pull into your garage. Tied into the new SmartThings platform, a Jawbone UP band becomes a tool for remotely monitoring someone else's activity. The SmartThings hubs and sensors themselves put any switch or door in play. Companies like AT&T want to build a digital home that monitors your security and energy use. ... ... Withings Smart Body Analyzer monitors your weight and pulse. Teddy the Guardian is a soft toy for children that spies on their vital signs. Parrot Flower Power looks at the moisture in your home under the guise of helping you grow plants. The Beam Brush checks up on your teeth-brushing technique. Presto Vivaci adds, "Enough to make the Stasi blush. What I cannot understand is how politicians fail to understand what a future Kenneth Starr is going to do with data like this."
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Coddled, Surveilled, and Monetized: How Modern Houses Can Watch You

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @11:04AM (#47407273)

    IMHO, anyone who implements this and gets burgled should have known better.
    The spooks will also love this.
    The Advertisers will be frothing at the mouth at the thought of getting access to this.
    'Dave, as you seem to have spent the last hour sitting on the John, perhaps you might be interested in a padded seat for your 'throne'?'

    etc etc etc

    This is just getting silly. Our private lives are NOT FOR SALE (or Spying)

    • by hubie (108345)
      But it all looks cool and futuristic-y when it is on Star Trek.
      • "The kind of wholesome, antiseptic universe these androids would create would be purgatory for a man like me!" - Harry Mudd, "I, Mudd" (TOS)

        • "The kind of wholesome, antiseptic universe these androids would create would be purgatory for a man like me!" - Harry Mudd, "I, Mudd" (TOS)

          I think this was in the scene, right before he fucked Teddy Ruxpin...

    • I always feared Big Brother's spy camera would come to my house.

      What I never even *dreamed* is that not only would we accept it when it came, but that we would voluntarily pay $500 for it and even hook it up to our cable box and home network so it could monitor that too.

  • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @11:07AM (#47407301)
    I always cringe a bit when I see the "put web cams in your house! For security!" commercials. It's just a mater of time until Xfinity or what not get's compromised and all those web cams you use to check your kids get used by other people... to "check your kids".
    • Here, let me turn down the thermostat for you.
    • by Virtucon (127420)

      You can put web cams on your house to see meth addicts in hoodies trying to break into your car. The cameras do help but I wouldn't go with them as a service, rather just get your own system. I have one and it's been especially good to get the lawn care folks to do their job. ;-)

    • by Noah Haders (3621429) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @12:08PM (#47407849)
      this is why I'm really excited about Apple's HomeKit structure. It's essentially a "walled garden" to allow your devices to connect but keep them in line in terms of sharing information or providing external access. We really need a gatekeeper here to keep out the corporate predators. Apple is the only company with a legitimate financial interest in protecting your privacy, because it is a big differentiator between them and Google, Facebook and their ilk.
    • I'm not against the idea of cameras in my house. What I am against the idea of is cameras in my house that are not under my control. Cameras that I have full control of, that I can control access to (and limit to myself), preferably connected to my Linux server (which again only I have access to) - perfectly fine. Cameras that some random third party can access? nope.jpg
  • by Russ1642 (1087959) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @11:09AM (#47407307)

    I went to the hospital a while back and they started collecting all sorts of private data. They even insisted on getting a blood sample, probably for some kind of DNA database. Then, when the doctor left me alone for a minute I looked on the counter at his clipboard and there it was. The smoking gun. He had PAGES of information on me. So be warned, the government is already doing everything it can to monitor the population.

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      I went to the hospital a while back and they started collecting all sorts of private data. They even insisted on getting a blood sample, probably for some kind of DNA database. Then, when the doctor left me alone for a minute I looked on the counter at his clipboard and there it was. The smoking gun. He had PAGES of information on me. So be warned, the government is already doing everything it can to monitor the population.

      No, it's just the Doctor and the Hospital trying to upcode [hb-whistleblower.com] your bill with a lot of unnecessary services. Lawyers are now hovering in on upcoding fraud. People think auto dealerships are bad, hospitals and doctors make them rank amateurs by comparison.

      • by Russ1642 (1087959)

        We don't have for-profit hospitals in Canada.

        • You have for-profit doctors. They sure ain't workin' for free.

          • Yeah, but you don't know how much money middlemen are sucking up in the US.

            Luckily, at least there's a maximum of 20% going to your insurer's profit these days, but hospitals ownership/management, outsourced payment systems, ambulance service contractors: they're still all making money at unspecified rates(and I guess doctors make a little more than their Canadian counterparts).

          • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @11:55AM (#47407755)

            You have for-profit doctors. They sure ain't workin' for free.

            In Canada, most doctors are paid by FFS (fee for service), which gives them some incentive to run up costs. But many other countries, and even some medical companies in America (such as Kaiser), put doctors on a fixed salary. This removes incentives to upcode, and encourages preventative care. For instance, dentists on fixed salaries are FOUR TIMES as likely to use dental sealants, because they no longer have a financial stake in future cavities.

        • by Virtucon (127420)

          all the more reason, get more of those dollars from the government. It's all about the extras.

        • functioning health care system. HR 676, Medicare for All [healthcare-now.org]
          • by Shados (741919)

            Yeah, it must be nice. Having lived in both Canada and the USA, I've unfortunately never experienced a functioning health care system :(

      • by Sarten-X (1102295)

        No, it's just the doctor and the hospital trying to practice modern medicine. If they don't have every minute detail recorded, or if they don't order every test that might help, the predatory jackasses in this country will not hesitate to sue them for malpractice [blogspot.com], claiming that they should instinctively know what tests will be meaningful for every single patient that enters their offices.

    • by gtall (79522)

      Just out of curiosity, how do you get from the data on the doctor's clipboard to the government is watching you? Was there some identifying information that only the government could collect that was populating the clipboard?

      • No, they've just discovered EMRs for the first time. Medicine is a science, and, to quote mythbusters, the difference between science and goofing off is writing things down.

    • Oh no, medical charts are useful and informative these days. You might not die! Scary!

      (I get your concern, but come on, do you really want your doctor to not have access to your medical history?)

    • by westlake (615356)

      I went to the hospital a while back and they started collecting all sorts of private data. They even insisted on getting a blood sample...

      Oh, poor baby.

  • Sure, he did all kinds of dirt-gathering in order to try and impeach Clinton, but no one took him seriously. He lost a Supreme Court appointment, his case against Clinton was essentially turned into a laughingstock and ultimately thrown out. The only people who actually cared about the Monica Lewinsky affair were the people trying to use the case to score political points against Clinton and Starr himself - sort of like Benghazi today, except replace Ken Starr with John Boehner. I'm 90% sure the only reason

    • The Beam Brush checks up on your teeth-brushing technique. "... What I cannot understand is how politicians fail to understand what a future Kenneth Starr is going to do with data like this."

      Bad example? You say that now, but just wait until we get a President caught brushing his teeth side-to-side and not up-and-down, then you'll be wishing for a Ken Starr to try and take him down.

    • If the commentator needs to personalize it, I would think that Janet Reno, would have been a far better example.
    • by mbone (558574)

      Sure, he did all kinds of dirt-gathering in order to try and impeach Clinton, but no one took him seriously.

      Susan McDougal called. She wants to have a word with you. [wikipedia.org]

      I predict that if some fine day a Federal prosecutor (independent or otherwise) decides for some bogus reason that they want to hassle you, you will take it very seriously indeed.

      I agree Whitewater was, like Benghazi, a fake scandal, but fake scandals can hurt real people.

      • I had actually been referring to the Lewinsky case - Whitewater is a different beast altogether. Whitewater wasn't so much people believing Ken Starr as it was people believing the testimony of two witnesses who had clear ulterior motives (in David Hale's case trying to cooperate to reduce additional charges against him, and in Jim McDougal's case trying to save his own skin from the bad loans he'd provably made) for coming forward and a judge who was too blind to see that something was off about the whole

    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      Sure, he did all kinds of dirt-gathering in order to try and impeach Clinton

      Clinton *WAS* impeached. He wasn't *convicted*.

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @11:22AM (#47407423)
    This is so scary! If somebody learns every detail of the motions I make when I brush my teeth, they will basically have all the info they need to turn me into a zombie servant of the NSA-corprotocracy! And now they also want to know the humidity in my house!? Goddamn it, didn't our founding fathers say that the moisture content of our residence shall not collected? I'm so outraged! Now excuse me while I upload all my photos, featuring everyone I've ever associated with, to Facebook.
    • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @11:32AM (#47407509)

      ... If somebody learns every detail of the motions I make when I brush my teeth...

      While your comment sounds like over-the-top sarcasm, keep in mind the time when you go to the dentist and your dental insurance company refuses to pay their portion of the bill because you have not been brushing your teeth properly....

      • by swillden (191260)

        ... If somebody learns every detail of the motions I make when I brush my teeth...

        While your comment sounds like over-the-top sarcasm, keep in mind the time when you go to the dentist and your dental insurance company refuses to pay their portion of the bill because you have not been brushing your teeth properly....

        There are two sides to that. How would you like an option to buy dental insurance that is dramatically cheaper, but which you can only get if you allow your brushing habits to be monitored and corrected? I think there's value in allowing people who choose to manage their risks well to be able to benefit from the reduced costs. For such a policy it would be important that you find out that your brushing is substandard before you go to the dentist, though, not after. It shouldn't be a surprise.

        We do need to

        • ...There are two sides to that. How would you like an option to buy dental insurance that is dramatically cheaper, but which you can only get if you allow your brushing habits to be monitored and corrected? ...

          Already being done for car insurance if you allow a monitoring device to plug into your car's computer port.

          We do need to draw a line that prevents preferential treatment based on characteristics which are not within the control of the individual, including past behaviors, but I see no problem and lots of advantages in enabling the use of pricing to encourage behavior that reduces costs.

          In general (but not complete) agreement. I still have a significant privacy concern regarding how else any data are used by ~third parties affiliated with the data collector~ (as many privacy policies word it).

          • Already being done for car insurance if you allow a monitoring device to plug into your car's computer port.

            When I got my project car insured a couple of months ago they asked if I wanted to do this even though I am getting limited use collector insurance on it. I wanted to see how far along I could go before they figured out that such a device won't work on a 68 MG Midget. Sadly the agent didn't catch on and at the very end I told her that it wouldn't work because the only electronics in the car are the lights and wipers and it doesn't have a computer let alone a diagnostic port.

        • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

          There are two sides to that. How would you like an option to buy dental insurance that is dramatically cheaper, but which you can only get if you allow your brushing habits to be monitored and corrected? I think there's value in allowing people who choose to manage their risks well to be able to benefit from the reduced costs. For such a policy it would be important that you find out that your brushing is substandard before you go to the dentist, though, not after. It shouldn't be a surprise.

          I get it! Like auto insurance that gives you a discount because you never drive your car, or never having sex to get an no prenatal services policy.

          Just sounds like the creep toward only insuring people for things they'll never need insurance for. Should be really profitable.

          We do need to draw a line that prevents preferential treatment based on characteristics which are not within the control of the individual, including past behaviors, but I see no problem and lots of advantages in enabling the use of pricing to encourage behavior that reduces costs.

          Here's the litmus test. Would you support wearing a shock collar where you are monitored for everything, and if say, you go over 1500 calories a day,, travel in a "dangerous area", drive over the speed limit, anything the insurance co

        • by sjames (1099)

          So you don't mind becoming a child again? Not the good parts like boundless energy and essentially no responsibilities, the part where you have to do what Mama Blue Shield and Daddy Progressive tell you to do. I mean really, don't you think we're all a bit old to have someone feeling our toothbrushes and checking if the tub was used?

          The problem with insurance characterizing risk is that eventually they get so good at it that you're better off just socking the payments away in a savings account.

      • by Bob9113 (14996)

        While your comment sounds like over-the-top sarcasm, keep in mind the time when you go to the dentist and your dental insurance company refuses to pay their portion of the bill because you have not been brushing your teeth properly....

        It's good, and coming soon.

        Not too much further down the road: When your average time spent brushing suddenly falls and the 7:00 PM brushings stop altogether, the analytic engine interprets this as having broken up; so it starts sending you ads for Haagen Dazs and cookies, bec

        • by Bob9113 (14996)

          It's good, and coming soon.

          By that, I meant your example is good, not the emerging reality it presents.

    • by Zaelath (2588189)

      I hate this Facebook straw man.

      Just because a bunch of teenagers and housewives don't care about their privacy doesn't give the government/corporations carte blanche to monitor everything I do at all times.

  • Or, you know (Score:5, Insightful)

    by boristdog (133725) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @11:22AM (#47407425)

    You could just live in a regular house without all that crap.

    • Good advice, sir. Already implementing that.
    • by sudon't (580652)

      Soon, you won't be able to. Already, you can't buy a new car without all of that crap, and you can't get Photoshop without connecting yourself to Adobe's servers. TVs are next, and soon enough, everybody selling any kind of appliance will be implementing some kind of so-called "smart" technology, so that shit won't work without an internet connection. Better stock up on appliances now.

  • Erm, in what spittle-flecked, buzzword-fueled delusion does *any* soi-disant 'businessperson' imagine that anyone would subject themselves to this? Even the clueless will be ripping this stuff out of their walls pronto once the (obviously irresistible) media sideshows get started.

    • I imagine it's same spittle-flecked, buzzword-fueled delusion of the paranoid maniac who insists we must forgo any technology that might have a downside.

    • Even the clueless will be ripping this stuff out of their walls pronto once the (obviously irresistible) media sideshows get started.

      No. No they won't. The clueless will think they are in control of the information flow when in fact, they are not. All of that information will leave their house and reside on someone else's (else's is not a word Firefox? Really? Let's check: http://english.stackexchange.c... [stackexchange.com] stupid Firefox telling me I am wrong.) servers. Once it is on someone else's (fuck you Firefox) server, the clueless no longer control their data regardless of what laws are in place. That data will be used.

      But being clueless, they won

  • Buy? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mbone (558574) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @11:29AM (#47407471)

    I haven't bought any of this, don't know anyone (personally) who has bought any of this, and don't know why anyone would buy any of this.

    I guess, however, some people may have more money than brains. I wish they would put it into Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Rockethub, instead of this crap.

  • Taxes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nospam007 (722110) * on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @11:31AM (#47407497)

    "What I cannot understand is how politicians fail to understand what a future Kenneth Starr is going to do with data like this."

    A heating tax
    A sleeping tax ...
    and if you don't pay the sleeping tax more than 178 days in a year, you are living elsewhere and you need to pay a secondary habitation tax.

  • ....we've used one now for a while, and it is a great device (hardware), but the learning algos (software) need improvement, I think. Sometimes it learns too well and gets overly aggressive with predicted settings, making it difficult to re-train. Remote access is great.
  • Eventually, this type of information will be used to crack down on people who are exceeding their "energy quota" as energy becomes increasingly scarce and the carbon credit culture becomes increasingly fascist. People will be carted off for keeping their homes too cool in summer, too hot in winter, or having drafty windows, inadequate insulation, etc. And God forbid we build a nuclear reactor or fix our decrepit energy grid. Let's build more "green" wind farms, instead. Not that I'm bitter!
  • In the words of stallman and an innumerable mass of others, hackers must unite to make these new tools truly subservient to their owners. FitBit manufactures a vital signs system that has a GIT project designed to make the data yours, not the clouds. WiThings by default wishes to beam your data to a shared hosting server somewhere in europe, but dedicated hackers have worked to show users how that data can be intercepted and secured within the confines of the users home, for the users benefit, and no one
    • but increasingly I think he is correct, living in freedom means using free and open software.
    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Not everyone in the world is like you. I would bet that at least 90% of the world population does not have the tools, skills, time and/or inclination to do as you suggest. Only a very tiny portion of the population are into DIY electronics like you are.

      • by Thud457 (234763)

        Only a very tiny portion of the population are into DIY electronics like you are.

        Luckily, we have the internet and the sharing economy so smart peoples like Nimbus can show the rest of us step-by-step how to pick the locks on our shiny electronic shackles.

        • by jklovanc (1603149)

          You missed the point completely. I am not talking about lack of resources. If people do not have the tools, time and/or inclination to hack electronics it does not matter if people like Nimbus are around. Why would the average person spend $100 on tools, 40 hours learning the skills and 40 hours getting a piece of electronics to work when they can go buy it for $50. Keep in mind that they do not enjoy those 80 hours of work and it would have to be spread out over a few months due to time constraints. They w

      • by sjames (1099)

        They have the option of hiring someone to do it for them.

        • by jklovanc (1603149)

          1) find someone who will do it. Most businesses have no incentive to do a small job. I would also not trust an unknown person to place electronics in my home.
          2) afford the cost of hiring someone for a custom job.

          • by sjames (1099)

            For 1, then why would you trust a whole corporation full of unknown people?

            For 2, people hire contractors to install A/C, new mahor appliances, siding, etc all the time. Why would this be different? I presume they won't need to do a full custom job, they'll have a set of software they usually use cookie cutter style.

            If neither of those is acceptable, you'll either do without, or learn to DIY. If I have a phobia about strangers in my house, I'll either install the new range myself or struggle along with the

            • by jklovanc (1603149)

              For 1, then why would you trust a whole corporation full of unknown people?

              Because you can sue them if they do not follow their contract and spy on you. It is difficult to sue someone you can not find. Individuals can easily hide. It is much more difficult for a large company.

              people hire contractors to install A/C, new mahor appliances, siding, etc all the time.

              The original poster has an issue with corporations making devices that could spy on homes. A "cookie cutter" install would be an installation of those devices. I was talking about hiring someone to install hacker made devices.

              • by sjames (1099)

                Because you can sue them if they do not follow their contract and spy on you. It is difficult to sue someone you can not find. Individuals can easily hide. It is much more difficult for a large company.

                Would that be the standard contract where they claim the right to alter the deal at any time and your only real option is to pray that they don't alter it further?

                I was talking about hiring someone to install hacker made devices.

                So am I. Just because it's a hacker made solution doesn't mean the solution won't be the same for every install. It's not like they will have to write the firmware from scratch for every home.

                • by jklovanc (1603149)

                  Would that be the standard contract where they claim the right to alter the deal at any time and your only real option is to pray that they don't alter it further?

                  Any court would throw out any contract that was modified to allow spying without the customer explicitly signing that contract. You are reaching now.

                  Just because it's a hacker made solution doesn't mean the solution won't be the same for every install.

                  If the same piece of hardware is made and installed a large number of times by the same company it is no longer a hacker solution. It is a corporate product that the OP is suspicious of with a thin veneer to hide that fact. If a company makes a business out of making and installing the system it is no longer a hacker solution.

                  • by sjames (1099)

                    Any court would throw out any contract that was modified to allow spying without the customer explicitly signing that contract. You are reaching now.

                    Good luck with that. I'm sure they'll let you know that all you have to do to opt out is disable all of the hardware (no refund). That HAS been done before, successfully with DRMed media.

                    If the same piece of hardware is made and installed a large number of times by the same company it is no longer a hacker solution.

                    That is not necessarily true. I would suggest going with a Free software solution though. That makes it easier to make sure it doesn't phone home. I would also block any attempted outbound connections at the router. The problem with the 'cloud' solutions is that they quit working if you don't let them phone home.

                    • by jklovanc (1603149)

                      That HAS been done before, successfully with DRMed media.

                      Hardware is not even close to DRM software.

                      That is not necessarily true. I would suggest going with a Free software solution though.

                      The software is the simplest part of the installation. Take the whole thing into account. The OP was talking about 1 wire sensors, a raspberry pie and a relay board for one simple function. That is hacking. A manufactured device with open source software is not hacking. By your logic every linux server is a hacker solution.

                      The problem with the 'cloud' solutions is that they quit working if you don't let them phone home.

                      Cloud solutions are where the software is in the cloud. That would be stupid for a monitoring system and I don't see where anyone mentioned that

                    • by sjames (1099)

                      Urm, the 'cloud' solutions are what the whole damned article and discussion are about! If all you had to do is lock down the firewall in your router, this discussion wouldn't be necessary. You should probably go RTFA before you look silly.

                      I suggested the Free software so that whatever solution you go with is auditable and can be made to work no matter what the seller does later.

                      The hacker solution is just as easy to replicate as any other. Whatever works in one house will likely work in the next. They won't

                    • by jklovanc (1603149)

                      Urm, the 'cloud' solutions are what the whole damned article and discussion are about!

                      Can you quotes anything in the summary or linked article that even mentions the word "cloud"?

                      If all you had to do is lock down the firewall in your router,

                      I guess yo don't understand opening ports from the device side. What if the device uses open outgoing ports in the firewall. Incoming ports are needwed to remotely access the equipment? What if the software on the phone that is being used to monitor the home forwards the data?

                      I suggested the Free software so that whatever solution you go with is auditable

                      Autidable by whom? Definitely not by the average user. What is there to stop a person from modifying open source software so that they can mo

        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          We are... the companies from which we're buying the products.

          • by sjames (1099)

            Get a more ethical vendor. One whose business model doesn't include selling their customers to the highest bidder.

            • by mattack2 (1165421)

              How do you know I am?

              Plus, if, as the buyer, I don't care about that, why not let me buy whatever I want?

              • by sjames (1099)

                If you're satisfied with the ethics of your vendor, what are you complaining about here? The whole thread is about avoiding the problems with unethical companies selling data about you.

                Just don't cry to me if you end up being a big star on a porn/reality show in Asia.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Really, the only big problem I see here, is who and what is retaining data.

    For most of us here, whipping up home brew solutions should be extremely easy infact. Raspberry PIs sell for $30 a piece. Get one for each room, along with some cheap sensors and webcams and wifi dongles, a cheap nas to store data on, and voila, at less than $100 a room you got a home brew smart home that records data locally and can be setup with some sort of master delete switch without a huge amount of effort.

  • I'm the biggest privacy nut there is... but figuring out when I'm coming and going? come on... 8am to 5pm I'm at work. Wow! You've totally just invaded my privacy!!!

    No, the real issue is what the NSA is doing. They're reading my damned mail, listening to my calls. This story and others like it are just red herrings to make us think we're addressing privacy issues when all we're doing is changing how consumer products operate. I don't care if Google knows more about be so they can better target ads at me. Th

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      No, the real issue is what the NSA is doing. They're reading my damned mail, listening to my calls

      Yes, and how are they doing that? Because you're using easily-tapped electronic forms of communication. If you were sending your messages via sealed scroll (presumably with something more modern than wax) you might have greater informational security. And indeed, when corporations or even simply savvy humans want to communicate, that's precisely what they do. The data gets bundled up and handed to a courier, and if security is sufficiently important, they will literally drive it to the airport, get on the p

      • That's silly. If you are not from the US you are even more eligible to be a target to the NSA. They don't have to face accusations of treason if they spy on someone from another country. (not that it stops them, but makes them more entitled or something, those people is just weird like that)

    • This'd be one of those false dichotomies they talk about. You can actually care about both of these. I don't want anybody reading my email or listening to my calls. I also want my property wired to the gills with sensors only I can read. If I choose to share that data with a company, I want a big red button marked "Forget everything you know about me.", and I want them audited to prove that they actually do it.

      I'm not so naive as to think I'm going to get those things any time soon, but if enough people

  • by GlennC (96879) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @12:05PM (#47407829)

    The funny thing is that people are not only complicit in having their rights taken away, they're PAYING to do so.

    If I had fewer scruples, I'm sure I could find a way to make money off this as well.

  • What do these systems cost without the inbuilt subsidies that monetize your information?

    I'm presuming they seem attractive to people generally because they seem to be inexpensive. Some of this low cost is due to the ever-decreasing costs of the hardware, both in terms of on-site devices (eg, cameras, sensors) and the back end "cloud services" that enable end-user analytics and web connectivity. But a lot of this cheapness seems to involve subsidies provided by monetizing the information they gather and se

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Nest thermostats don't seem the least bit inexpensive to me. Knowing how to actually build one, they seem to cost right about what the hardware and back end infrastructure would run, plus some boutique-level profit. You could make one for a quarter of the cost without the cloud stuff.

  • by Hussman32 (751772) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @12:42PM (#47408095)
    I'm in my early 40's, and I'm just now seeing the Powers That Be (PTB) do and monitor things that I had only envisioned in my paranoid fantasies in the 80's when I first read '1984.' Throughout the whole time I was always modestly comforted by the 'safety in numbers' idea; if I'm not out shooting people or blatantly planning the overthrow of the government, then the PTB won't have the human resources to go after me and I should be left alone.

    But now it's getting scary because the PTB don't have to watch me, the digital monitoring, and more importantly the digital analysis, has made it to where they can keep tabs on everything you do without spending human resources to do it. There is no longer safety in numbers because the algorithms can build the list and it can be executed efficiently.

    So what's next? I'm not thrilled with some of my activities prompting which browser ads that I see, but I am bothered that companies could change their pricing strategy based on whether or not I'm motivated enough to change to another vendor when I'm not satisfied. I'm even more bothered that insurance companies know my private health records and could deny me coverage because of them, even if they were obtained with the expressed statements that conversations with your doctor are private.

    Crap, I always used to roll my eyes at the Wearers of the Tin Foil Hats, but maybe technology has caught up to their paranoia. It's not going to be long before a fly lands in a printer and someone mistakes my name for someone else and my life is ruined.
  • So confused (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Moof123 (1292134) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @12:51PM (#47408173)

    Call me a curmudgeon, but I just don't see the need for most of this crap. Why even have a light switch that even has the capability to report you back to galactic central?!

    My manual light switches (horrors!) work just fine. I don't see it as even a minor burden to flip them on-and off. Heck my 22 month old has managed to figure them out, and actually finds them fun (actual horrors!). Only a couple of them have required a hardware upgrade in the last ~35 years of their operation (how many web-connected things can claim that!).

    My thermostat is mostly on a basic automatic cycle to be cool at night and comfy during the day. We don't find it to be a big deal to set it to manual or off when we are gone for a while. We chose to live in a moderate climate where further optimization would net us less than our rounding error every month (heating and cooling are 2% of our gross income).

    I just see most of this auto-magic web based crap as an attempt to fix problems that don't exist, or are so minor they aren't worth fixing. In my mental calculus is the likelihood that these things will have bugs, break, and require a lot of tinkering to keep them in a hassle-free operating condition long enough to have a positive ROI.

    But again, I am a curmudgeon.

  • IMHO all this tech is basically good, but I should point out that I also consider a large wooden horses to be basically good things, too. (They can be neat works of art, or convenient sources of fire wood.) That doesn't mean I'm saying you should wheel all the ones you find, through your city gates! There are other issues besides the utility value of wooden horses. It's the tech that should be celebrated, not necessarily all the products that use it. Tech and products are two very different things, even

  • I bought the Automatic for $99.95 [automatic.com]. I had a number of issues with it. When I found out about Metromile for free [metromile.com] I decided to give that a try as well.

    There were a number of things I liked about the Automatic app but the Metromile just seemed to work much better (didn't lose trips) and it was free. If you're gonna be tracked while driving, I'd recommend the Metromile device.
  • A one-time neighbor about ten years ago told me: "Oh, no; I don't want a new TV. They've got cameras in them that can watch what you're doing."

    At the time, I smiled politely, while thinking he was a total loon. Nope; just prescient.
  • by jgotts (2785)

    Around half of Americans are renters. You won't see any of these things in rental units for decades. Rental units use the cheapest available everything at the time of construction and they're not ever updated. They become the bad part of town over 50 or so years as they decay, and eventually either they are town down or become decrepit. At nearly every apartment I've ever lived in, virtually everything was original: 40-50 year old wiring, 1960's or 1970's mercury-style thermostat, nothing ever electronic. F

  • What I cannot understand is how politicians fail to understand what a future Kenneth Starr is going to do with data like this.

    It's one current Barry Sotero who is doing the spying, not a future or past Ken Starr.

    And he's doing it to you and me, not to public perjurers.

We can predict everything, except the future.

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