We need freedom from the Internet snooping on us constantly

internet surveillance photo
Photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

The Internet of Things is a NSA paradise / Orwellian nightmare, coming real soon to your house, and Silicon Valley wants it to happen as much as NSA does.

Huge invasions of privacy and loss of freedom are happening now. Our government pretends to make us safer. Silicon Valley pretends to be helpful. Their real object is to collect as much data about us as they can, and to do that they need to watch and record everything about our online lives. They are two facets of the same data-slurping entity that cares little about personal privacy and freedoms. It’s all about grabbing the data, then exploiting and selling it. You are the product.

Samsung TVs record what we say, then sends it to an anonymous company which converts it to text, so it can process voice commands. They promise to erase the data when done with it. Right. I certainly believe them – just as much as I believe Google reading my email and Siri listening to me will never be abused, intercepted, and exploited by marketeers, criminals, or the government.

It’s only a matter of time until Samsung gets a court order to turn over voice data files. I bet iPhone’s Siri already has.

All of this is poisonous for democracy, freedom, and privacy. We have a right to not be snooped on constantly. However, we will need to fight for it. First though, we need to know just how much surveillance is happening now, who is doing it, and where the data goes. I suspect the answer will appall most of us (while government and tech apologists scurry to explain why it actually is good for us.)

Earlier this week, we learned that Samsung televisions are eavesdropping on their owners. If you have one of their Internet-connected smart TVs, you can turn on a voice command feature that saves you the trouble of finding the remote, pushing buttons and scrolling through menus. But making that feature work requires the television to listen to everything you say. And what you say isn’t just processed by the television; it may be forwarded over the Internet for remote processing. It’s literally Orwellian.

This discovery surprised people, but it shouldn’t have. The things around us are increasingly computerized, and increasingly connected to the Internet. And most of them are listening.

This has to change. We need to regulate the listening: both what is being collected and how it’s being used. But that won’t happen until we know the full extent of surveillance: who’s listening and what they’re doing with it. Samsung buried its listening details in its privacy policy — they have since amended it to be clearer — and we’re only having this discussion because a Daily Beast reporter stumbled upon it. We need more explicit conversation about the value of being able to speak freely in our living rooms without our televisions listening, or having e-mail conversations without Google or the government listening. Privacy is a prerequisite for free expression, and losing that would be an enormous blow to our society.

This is not a partisan issue. Everyone is monitored including Congress and CEOs. Lets make them aware of this, it could help bring about change.

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