The Issue Formally Known As Privacy
November 6, 2014 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Should you be terrified of your new TV? With the release of Amazon Echo (or Jibo for the kids), passive monitoring devices are about to go mainstream. Meanwhile, Is Privacy Becoming a Luxury Good?
posted by gwint (85 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
is something I'd have to own a TV to ...

(oh never mind)
posted by philip-random at 10:46 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


One radical option is to not buy the stuff.
posted by sylvanshine at 10:49 AM on November 6, 2014 [12 favorites]


Nov. 2013: LG Admits Its Smart TVs Spy on Users, Promises Fix. There have been firmware updates since then, but if you still don't trust your TV and/or the fixes, Toms Hardware details which domains to block if you want to minimize the reporting your LG TV does.

May 2014: LG Will Take The 'Smart' Out Of Your Smart TV If You Don't Agree To Share Your Viewing And Search Data With Third Parties. One option: downgrade your TV's firmware.

I could have sworn Samsung or another company faced similar allegations (not just because of the graphic in the first link in the OP), but my searches aren't turning up anything beyond LG at the moment.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:51 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Formally or formerly? It's a common swap people make but in this case I believe either use works.

The TV boasts a “voice recognition” feature that allows viewers to control the screen with voice commands. But the service comes with a rather ominous warning: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.” Got that? Don’t say personal or sensitive stuff in front of the TV.

Yeah, but at least we'd all be sure to get in our two minutes of hate.

To consume or not to consume is not the question. The question is who or what is being consumed? We are both paying for it and being consumed by it.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 10:53 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just waiting for the PR-friendly headlines "Amazon's New Device Turns Your House Into Iron Man's".
posted by JauntyFedora at 10:54 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, so does anyone want to start an artisanal Trinitron refurbishing service?

Don't knock it.

I was talking about stuff like this with a friend recently. His big issue was how smart his dad's new car was. So much stuff that just wasn't necessary, that maybe made things more convenient, but what happens when stuff breaks and all that? His point, and I agreed big time, is that there has to be a market for people who just don't want all the hi-tech bells and bullshit. Just give me a car with an engine and four wheels. I can lock the doors myself, thanks, and look over my shoulder when I'm backing up and actually turn the radio tuner ... and so on.
posted by philip-random at 10:55 AM on November 6, 2014 [16 favorites]


Yeah, so does anyone want to start an artisanal Trinitron refurbishing service?

There are some old TV repair shops around Albuquerque, and some old hotels here in Santa Fe that boast "Color HBO TV" or something like that, so there are definitely options around. And if you want to build your own HTPC (Home Theater PC), there's MythTV and other free TV software packages, you can dumb down your Smart TV and get more flexibility over-all.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:57 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Believe it or not, high quality CRT TVs are in demand right now because of retro gaming enthusiasts. Pre-HD consoles just look a lot better on the screens they were designed for. A shame they take up so much space!
posted by selfnoise at 10:58 AM on November 6, 2014


Didn't k ow that about LG smart TVs. And I own one. But then, I don't k ow what kind of data mine could possibly collect other than "hooked up an HDMI device." Everything I have runs through XBMC/Ouya.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:59 AM on November 6, 2014


I knew that latest Amazon POS, and the accompanying godawful advertising, reminded me of something.
posted by colie at 10:59 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


One radical option is to not buy the stuff.

And that's fine as far as it goes, but it lets the stuff off the hook a bit to present "privacy vs. stuff" as though it were a simple dichotomy and there were no way for cool, convenient, useful stuff to be built with better privacy in mind. It'd be nicer if the stuff-makers would make it a priority to build privacy-protecting stuff, and stuff with privacy-protecting options, while still providing as much as possible of the stuff's desired convenience and utility.

(Incidentally Angwin's sideswipe at left politics right before acknowledging Ida Tarbell as her idol at ~8:15 is really an amazing specimen of the fucked-up ideological blindness of our time. Like, maybe consider for five seconds that there's a reason that an anticapitalist collective is your ally here? Nah. Hippie-punching is way more fun!)
posted by RogerB at 10:59 AM on November 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


"No, officer, this isn't mine, my neighbor ran into the room and shouted ALEXA DOWNLOAD ALL THE CHILD PORNOGRAPHY YOU CAN FIND."
posted by delfin at 11:04 AM on November 6, 2014 [12 favorites]


There are lots of people who seek out and repair old TV sets. AntiqueRadios.com is a great place to go if you need help bringing your 1948 DuMont up to snuff.
posted by Longtime Listener at 11:05 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


It'd be nicer if the stuff-makers would make it a priority to build privacy-protecting stuff, and stuff with privacy-protecting options, while still providing as much as possible of the stuff's desired convenience and utility.

It would, yes - but it would require turning the coin of the online realm from data into, well, money.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:06 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Amazon's Alexa - always listening to everything, always connected to the internet. Nothing could possibly go wrong here, not with Amazon's benevolent leadership and 100% hacker-proof security practices.

I know bringing up 1984 is a cliche, but I never thought I'd be asked to pay money (only $99 as a Prime customer!) to have Big Amazon listen in on me.

(I heard "Advanced LEXical Analysis" became Alexa. Better not have a child with the same name...)
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:06 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm really not looking forward to going from being the pedantic, angry "that guy" that doesn't own a TV to being the pedantic, angry guy that refuses to have a massive, obvious vector for surveillance and malware in his living room.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:08 AM on November 6, 2014 [14 favorites]


I saw the "Microphone off button" feature and I immediately thought of Orwell:
'Yes,' said O'Brien, 'we can turn it off. We have that privilege.'
(Of course, as we learn, that doesn't always happen.)
posted by graymouser at 11:08 AM on November 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


I don't even have a television, so I have to settle for being spied on by Amazon. The Kindle knows how many Christies I've read this month and is probably reading my Golden Age pastiche as I write it.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:13 AM on November 6, 2014


Strata Hadoop

Tech conference, or minor character from Children of Dune?
posted by theodolite at 11:13 AM on November 6, 2014 [23 favorites]


All you people saying "HURF DURF DON'T BUY ONE, THEN," can bite me. I shouldn't have to live like an Amish farmer, or even a 1980s yuppie, to have privacy.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:18 AM on November 6, 2014 [39 favorites]


Definitely a face dancer.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:19 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


long live the new flesh!
posted by ennui.bz at 11:28 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I meant to say that I have resigned myself to being watched by Amazon and will probably buy one of their No-Privacy Pillars as soon as they release one that edits manuscripts and makes tea.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:28 AM on November 6, 2014


The scariest thing to me is that, increasingly, naive users are the ones driving the market for technology. It used to be that people who understood and were interested in technology itself were the ones who made up the largest part of the market, so if something went too far, the market would respond.

At least from what I've seen recently, though, the people who spend the most and drive early adoption are technically naive users. They don't read tech news or user agreements (I mean, nobody does really, I know, but they're completely oblivious), and they tune out boring explanations of how things work and what they're doing. They make their choices based on perceived convenience and on what they think everyone else is doing.

And even if you guard your personal information carefully at all times, all it takes is for someone you know to turn your information over to data aggregators.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:33 AM on November 6, 2014 [21 favorites]


Huh. I was thinking recently about setting up a cheap tablet in my flat so I could just yell questions at Google as they occurred to me. I'm a pretty heavy google user, and find Now quite useful, so I really like the idea. Seems obvious in retrospect that someone would already be selling that, although I'm slightly surprised to see that it's Amazon.

Of course, then it occurred to me that I'd be paying to set up a permanent, google-connected microphone in my flat. I mean, I'm pretty sure that nothing gets transmitted to the servers until after the phone recognises "OK Google", and even then I seriously doubt they're doing more than tracking my search history. But it's still creepy.

(All my TV watching is online, so Netflix, Amazon and the BBC know it all between them, and presumably my ISP could know if they cared enough to check. Google, too, depending how much of my Chrome history they capture.)
posted by metaBugs at 11:48 AM on November 6, 2014


At least from what I've seen recently, though, the people who spend the most and drive early adoption are technically naive users.

This strikes me as a pretty astute and interesting hypothesis about the way tech marketing may have reshaped consumers' cultural presumptions in the last decade or so. "Early adopter" drifting, or being steered, into a culturally-technophilic consumerist market segment — a group of people who like buying toys that make them feel technical, rather than an actually technically knowledgeable group of people.

come to my talk about this at next year's Glossu Rabban
posted by RogerB at 11:52 AM on November 6, 2014 [14 favorites]


there has to be a market for people who just don't want all the hi-tech bells and bullshit. Just give me a car with an engine and four wheels. I can lock the doors myself, thanks, and look over my shoulder when I'm backing up and actually turn the radio tuner ... and so on.

I'm a fan of this idea and drive a bare-bones manual Jeep Cherokee myself, but even I have to admit that there are certain things — not luxuries — that high tech enables. I mean, you've got ABS and electronic fuel injection, intelligent battery control, impact sensors, stuff like that that's actually good for the car, good for mileage, good for safety. I think I'd feel a bit of a poseur if I got a car that had a modern SoC in the engine to make the thing run well but roll-up windows inside. There's a limit how much tech we can take away before it starts being counterproductive even for people like you and me.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:53 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's my understanding Soviet Russia had this technology decades ago
posted by TedW at 11:55 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


All you people saying "HURF DURF DON'T BUY ONE, THEN," can bite me. I shouldn't have to live like an Amish farmer, or even a 1980s yuppie, to have privacy.

Why? According to what principal? Also, "hurf durf"?
posted by deathmaven at 11:55 AM on November 6, 2014


I called it
posted by davebush at 11:56 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think I'd feel a bit of a poseur if I got a car that had a modern SoC in the engine to make the thing run well but roll-up windows inside.

What are the first things to break in most modern automobiles that don't have faults leading to recall?

Power door locks and windows.

I'd be perfectly happy to have all the power everything possible that makes the engine as awesome and efficient as possible, but I want manual locks, manual windows, and a trunk release that operates with a cable not a button.
posted by hippybear at 11:57 AM on November 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


deathmaven: "Why? According to what principal? Also, "hurf durf"?"

"Hurf Durf" is a long time Metafilter idiom.

Also: it is principle. Remember - the princiPAL is your PAL.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:00 PM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


The scariest thing to me is that, increasingly, naive users are the ones driving the market for technology. It used to be that people who understood and were interested in technology itself were the ones who made up the largest part of the market, so if something went too far, the market would respond.

Oh dear Jesus Christ, I think I popped an optical nerve from rolling my eyes so hard. The "market for technology" has always been the technically naive, whether on the consumer side or the business side; that's the point of packaging tech as a consumer product (or business solution). What kept things from "going too far" were technological limitations. Mass wireless surveillance has been impossible until now.
posted by deathmaven at 12:05 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also: it is principle. Remember - the princiPAL is your PAL.

I know...we go to the same school district.
posted by deathmaven at 12:07 PM on November 6, 2014


The "market for technology" has always been the technically naive

My early years working with Apple ][ products, C=64, Amiga, and DOS systems make me point at this and laugh.
posted by hippybear at 12:08 PM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


One radical option is to not buy the stuff.

That's an option. For now. Before long A Videodrome Spy TV might be the only thing on the market.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:10 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


And it's a baldfaced lie to say consumers are the ones responsible for that choice, as the producers can apparently do whatever the hell they want in modern America.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:11 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


EFF: Secure Messaging Scorecard

Which apps and tools actually keep your data safe?
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:13 PM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think the point of 'don't buy one' is that most manufacturers make a non-smart version of their TV. If consumers choose those in droves over the invasive smart ones, it's a wallet driven referendum on the privacy issue. get the word out that the 'smart' in smart TV needs to be functionality not data collection and the market may shift.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:17 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


When "consumer choice" is suggested as the defensive barrier to a dystopian technological development, MAN ARE WE SCREWED.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 12:17 PM on November 6, 2014 [17 favorites]


Just parenthetically, this thread caused me to rediscover the continued existence of pre-Web stalwart Privacy Journal. Delightful to find it still going, and well worth checking out if you can find a library that subscribes.
posted by RogerB at 12:20 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I disagree. Vote with your wallet is completely viable in a consumer driven society, it's just that advocates for the right kinds of things have to be as aggressive as if it were a political campaign. why wait for the FCC or whatever...get the word out that this christmas the biggest evil is the latest gen of invasive 'smart tv's', poison the market just before the holiday rush and see how quickly they disappear.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:22 PM on November 6, 2014


I kinda like how Echo looks like HAL meets Rosemary's Baby.
posted by GuyZero at 12:28 PM on November 6, 2014


I've had people ask me why the hell I would bother clinging to physical media like paper books and vinyl records in 2014. Yeah, they're inconvenient, they take up a lot of space and they're expensive, but at least I don't have to worry about the damn things listening to me and compiling a list of everything I've bought.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:31 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that nothing gets transmitted to the servers until after the phone recognises "OK Google", and even then I seriously doubt they're doing more than tracking my search history. But it's still creepy.

Chrome was recently shown to have a vulnerability that potentially allows unauthorized audio surveillance of users.

EU-funded researchers warned this week of the overly-broad permissions Google and Mozilla currently force users to grant to 3rd parties to access to their webcams and microphones.

Google has been experimenting with using ambient sound to passively deliver search results to users for at least seven or eight years now. They're still acquiring related patents, and have already deployed some features that make use of these capabilities.

There's enough here to make me uncertain that you can *ever* really know who might be listening.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:37 PM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


there has to be a market for people who just don't want all the hi-tech bells and bullshit. Just give me a car with an engine and four wheels.
In the words of Leonard Cohen, I don't want more choices, I just want nicer things that don't surveil me and send monetizable data to shitbag corporations.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:44 PM on November 6, 2014


...smart his dad's new car was. So much stuff that just wasn't necessary...

Semi car derail: When not wanting to fix something the other day I wondered why there was not an ultra simple (cheap) car on the market, like the original volkswagon, perhaps better designed for fixability. Obviously impossible with current regulatory insanity. So why not a "kit" car, with the minimal assembly to avoid the stupid regulations? Stuff that would be nice to have easy to disassemble anyway like doors and trunk. Nothing automatic, except that seatbelt on one car that was attach so that you could not close the door without being in the belt. So safe, simple, cheap(ish), source parts that would be common.

</derail>
posted by sammyo at 12:49 PM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I shouldn't have to live like an Amish farmer, or even a 1980s yuppie, to have privacy.

Then just torrent everything. No commercials, great quality, play it on whatever you want, and you can automate the downloading of whatever garbage you must pour into your brain to avoid being an Amish farmer.

I hate to be another I-don't-even-own-a-TV comment but I don't understand* why anyone would pay for cable, much less center their "living" room around a giant, passive electronic device when you can get that shit for free without the ads and not be surveilled.

Voting with your wallet is bullshit and is not the only option.

* I know, I know: sports fans you are exempt from this rant
posted by bradbane at 12:52 PM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't have cable. But HAVING READ THE ARTICLE, it sounds like having cable is not a requisite for this thing spying on you.

Here's your 10 No-TV Points, go redeem for whatever it is they're good for, and the rest of us can get back to talking about the post.

(Also, how is "don't buy cable" not voting with your wallet? Are you calling your own argument bullshit?)
posted by entropicamericana at 12:57 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Vote with your wallet is completely viable in a consumer driven society

It's not only a viable option — it's not only the best option — it's the only option you have left in the regulatory vacuum that permits, for instance, companies like Google to track your location even when you aren't using their services, while the government looks the other way.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:58 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


sammyo: " When not wanting to fix something the other day I wondered why there was not an ultra simple (cheap) car on the market, like the original volkswagon, perhaps better designed for fixability. Obviously impossible with current regulatory insanity."

Yeah, bring back the Corvair.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:07 PM on November 6, 2014


Chrome was recently shown to have a vulnerability that potentially allows unauthorized audio surveillance of users.

Previously
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:08 PM on November 6, 2014


It's not really a viable option, though. Economically speaking, consumer choice can only do its thing if the consumer is informed (which we aren't, due to a lack of enforced transparency), and if there is true variety among choices (which there aren't, because of regulatory capture and monopolism).

It takes some pretty heavy-handed government intervention for the free market to actually work.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:09 PM on November 6, 2014 [11 favorites]


So why not a "kit" car, with the minimal assembly to avoid the stupid regulations? Stuff that would be nice to have easy to disassemble anyway like doors and trunk. Nothing automatic,

that was exactly where the conversation went, or as my friend eventually put it, we need a sort of Linux for the automobile ... with the root notion that things would inevitably break, thus things would need to be repaired and/or replaced, and this would have to be easy/cheap to do.

As for TVs etc, all I really ask for is ...

A. default settings that have all surveillance, tracking, cookies etc OFF
B. to enable such stuff, I'd have to go through a complex series of steps and reboots,
and perhaps ten weeks of courses at the local community college.
posted by philip-random at 1:09 PM on November 6, 2014


Easy-to-fix cars probably wouldn't include ABS, air bags, or emission controls. How about we meet halfway and ban all cars? No more expensive car repairs!
posted by entropicamericana at 1:19 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


You don't have to live like an Amish farmer, you just need to be able to do things yourself.

Get the lowest, most feature-free HDTV you can find and simply use it as a monitor for an HTPC.

You can either torrent stuff and watch it with VLC or Media Player Classic or if you want to be legit you can watch things on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime by going to the website and switching to full-screen when the video starts playing.

It's not as sexy or fancy as some appliance that listens to you and can change the channel with a voice command or hand gesture and you'll also need a keyboard/mouse on your coffee table, but it works.

The only real drawback to it is that eventually your tolerance for advertising drops to zero and watching TV over at a friend's house can be agonizing.
posted by Gev at 2:08 PM on November 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


Believe it or not, high quality CRT TVs are in demand right now because of retro gaming enthusiasts. Pre-HD consoles just look a lot better on the screens they were designed for. A shame they take up so much space!

I'm going to assume this is not-so-subtle mockery of vinyl record enthusiasts. I personally LOVE playing NES games (emulated on a Raspberry PI) on my 150" projection screen. The only thing CRTs were better at is light gun games and there weren't very many of those.
posted by HappyEngineer at 2:12 PM on November 6, 2014


I probably should be more alarmed at invasions of my privacy like this, but I just can't bring myself to believe that on intrusions of this scale, anyone actually gives a shit about my data. I just don't see my info as that interesting or useful.

I am not belittling the concern others have, I'm just saying I personally feel like a very low value target. It's like hearing that dozens of cars have been stolen from a parking lot I frequent and knowing that in all likelihood, my shitty used Dodge Caliber isn't going to light up anyone's eyes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:21 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hey, if Amazon want hours upon hours of footage of me drinking huge mugs of green tea, picking my nose, and twisting my pubic hair into funny little devil horns while binge-watching My Cat From Hell, they are welcome to it. Jackson Galaxy is awesome btw.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:26 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know how to say this without sounding like a fanboy, but I've been getting more and more suspicious of Google and Amazon, and the one bright spot left is Apple. (I know, I know. Let me finish.)

With Apple, at least, I understand the business model. I give them a ton of money, and they sell me good hardware, and they throw in all sorts of "free" stuff to sweeten the deal. Here, have an OS upgrade for free, have iWork, try Apple Pay. It's no coincidence that they are pushing the privacy angle and retailers are squawking about it.

With Google, I also understand the business model, and I hate it. I don't mind the search ads - they're frequently relevant and useful. But the rest of it is just getting creepier by the day, to the point that I was relieved that contractor incompetence had prevented the installation of a Nest thermostat when Google announced their purchase. I'm not sure if I'd really pay for hosted calendars or hosted email (see, that's the problem right there. Freeee!) but I was pissed when Google Reader went away and there were no good options left. I purge cookies, practice strict three-browser hygiene (one for money, one for browsing, one for cat videos), and I'm under no illusions that Google is tracking me anyway.

With Amazon, I just don't get it. Low margin warehouse shopping, but over the internet - Ok. I don't like it but I spend a lot of money on that. And the stock market loves it, and is willing to finance their zero-profit, high-growth behavior with barely a squeak of protest. But the rest of the stuff? We have great data centers - let's do cloud computing and host content with S3. Oh look, Netflix is hosting their videos on our infrastructure - let's out-Netflix Netflix. (Except the curation sucks.) Here, Prime Music to compete with Spotify et al. Here, Fire Phone for our whales. Here, Fire TV to compete with Roku and Chrome. Each individual item makes some marginal sense, and each one is half-baked, poorly followed through, and not as good as the category leader. What is the goal here, besides being second best at everything? And why is my privacy hostage to all of these random forays?
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:46 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


How about we meet halfway and ban all cars? No more expensive car repairs!

Great, here's your 10 No-Car points, go spend them, yada, yada, yada

The best way to avoid this crap is, indeed, to not buy "smart" TVs (hereafter known as "crap TVs"), but it's not like you have to go scouring the junkyard for some old, clunky, low resolution, inefficient CRT if you still want to watch video. Aside from the non-crap TVs sold in the consumer lineups of many of the same manufacturers, you can also look for a commerical monitor or a projector.

We will only see more of this as consumer electronics manfuacturers continue to push the "Internet of Things". I guarantee that it will be a tidal wave of garbage.
posted by indubitable at 2:48 PM on November 6, 2014


Oh dear Jesus Christ, I think I popped an optical nerve from rolling my eyes so hard. The "market for technology" has always been the technically naive, whether on the consumer side or the business side; that's the point of packaging tech as a consumer product (or business solution). What kept things from "going too far" were technological limitations. Mass wireless surveillance has been impossible until now.

I'm not really sure what you think I'm saying, but I am not denying that the tech industry targets naive users. Yes, of course they do. Naive users spend a LOT of money, but naive users didn't drive the technology market until computers and networking stopped being just professional and hobbyist interests and started becoming things that everyone uses.

And it is inevitable that naive users are going to be a primary target market, because not knowing how things work is expensive. They end up spending a LOT more money and doing a lot more ill-considered things with technology, and because of that, they end up driving the consumer market and setting social norms for what is and is not an acceptable risk.

And without any type of legal protections for personal information in the US, that makes it all but impossible to actually maintain any real personal privacy at all. No matter how careful you are, all that has to happen is for one person to plug your name and email into some service or let some app scrape their contacts, and any information they have about you is sold to data brokers, who then sell it to anyone who wants it, which is how you get doxxed. Which, as people are realizing now, is pretty heinous and something that happens to people for no good reason.

People are not knowingly adopting these intrusive technologies, for the most part. For the most part, they just don't know better.

(And as a side note, everyone needs to stop using Luddite to mean silly and technophobic. The Luddites were not generically or superstitiously afraid of technology. They were a workers group that objected to the humanitarian costs of specific technologies. Sometimes it is an apt comparison, but usually not in the way it's intended.)
posted by ernielundquist at 3:05 PM on November 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


Also producer's are the only ones with real direct influence over where and how raw materials used in manufacturing are sourced--these things are traded on commodities markets where the goal is literally to make it impossible to discriminate one commodity from another, so good luck boycotting any manufacturers who aren't using ethically sourced raw materials. Even they don't know where the parts/ingredients came from in many cases.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:35 PM on November 6, 2014


> ...naive users didn't drive the technology market until computers and networking stopped being just professional and hobbyist interests and started becoming things that everyone uses.

In the 1950s, when solid state electronics became commercially viable, televisions and radios were marketed on the number of transistors they had, because obviously more was better.

The naive user has always been a market force in technology, to the extent that their naive understanding of the options can be massaged for the benefit of the seller.
posted by ardgedee at 3:42 PM on November 6, 2014


in the regulatory vacuum that permits, for instance, companies like Google to track your location even when you aren't using their services, while the government looks the other way over their shoulder.
posted by fings at 3:44 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why would anybody want a motherfucking talking space heater in their house?
posted by spilon at 3:51 PM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


You know, you can just not plug in the ethernet cable and not give it your wifi password. If the TV then won't display pictures, return it as defective.
posted by eriko at 5:25 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


You know, you can just not plug in the ethernet cable and not give it your wifi password. If the TV then won't display pictures, return it as defective.

Soon enough, you'll have to click through a 20 page EULA in 10 point type just to turn it on that voids your right to do that. LG, for example, can already legally brick their TVs if owners refuse to allow surveillance of their viewing activities. And the terms can change any time the software updates.

The time where we meaningfully own any web-enabled device, and aren't merely paying for the privilege of being endlessly exploited and harassed by their manufacturers - and all the crapware vendors they partner with - is rapidly ending.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:15 PM on November 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


> the one bright spot left is Apple.

Unless you're Chinese or worse Tibetan, of course.

BTW, you seem to be overlooking an entire ecosystem of software dedicated to your computing freedom as an end user. Don't worry though, we're used to it.
posted by Poldo at 6:44 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


These ultra-sensitive mics on the Echo is really going to be a boon once the algorithms get a little further along:

"Oops, we hear diarrhea! Time to show an Immodium ad!"
"Profanity detected at unusual frequency and volume. Need some antidepressants?"
"Sounds like vomiting. Subject searched for 'happy hour' last night. AA meetings in your area..."
"Unrecognized voice, humping detected. Divorce lawyers in your area..."
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:13 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


You know, you can just not plug in the ethernet cable and not give it your wifi password.

Unless it tries to connect to any public wifi in range. Which it would totally do if it's trying to exfiltrate information.
posted by indubitable at 7:17 PM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


There are two conversations here: one is "things are getting too complicated" and the other is "the complication is being used to spy on you".

My friends' dishwasher (Bosch) periodically displays an E24 error. The meaning of this error is, according to Bosch, "contact your authorized Bosch service center".

And that's unacceptable. E24 actually means "discharge connection blocked" and everyone should be able to know that.

Here is the principle upon which things one buys ought to be evaluated. And it is not happening, and it is getting worse and worse.

For example: my car is nine years old, and its 5000+ page service manual - which is really excellent - costs $570. I got it for free because some brave soul put up "vacation pictures" which included the whole lot.

FFS. This information should be -basic- to taking care of your stuff. If you are not a manual-reader you are not getting what you need from your stuff, and if your manual includes a 46 page EULA you might as well send it back, because that shit is **bad** and **wrong**.
posted by jet_silver at 8:27 PM on November 6, 2014 [11 favorites]


Back when I turned 10 years old, my grandpappy pulled me aside during my birthday party. He said to me, "Boy, you're a man now, and it's time I told you the most important piece of advice there is. Never buy a TV that needs firmware updates." I've heeded those words over the years, and they've never let me down.
posted by aaronetc at 10:02 PM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh hell, and my TV screen stopped working. I do not want to deal with this shit.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:26 PM on November 6, 2014


I'm not really sure what you think I'm saying, but I am not denying that the tech industry targets naive users. Yes, of course they do. Naive users spend a LOT of money, but naive users didn't drive the technology market until computers and networking stopped being just professional and hobbyist interests and started becoming things that everyone uses.


I think you're being naive about why tech (which apparently exclusively means computing hardware?) was available for "hobbyists" in the first place. The intention was always for personal computers to be an easily accessible consumer product (outside the business market, which is a market as well), but the technology wasn't there to give it that mass accessibility and utility until recently. Hobbyists didn't create or drive anything, there were just fewer people who found a use for relatively unfinished consumer-facing incarnations of business machines.
posted by deathmaven at 3:01 AM on November 7, 2014


Hobbyists didn't create or drive anything, there were just fewer people who found a use for relatively unfinished consumer-facing incarnations of business machines.

I recommend checking out John Markoff's What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry or Michael Hiltzik's Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age. Hobbyists and tinkerers, with institutional support (or access to fellow geeks with institutional support) *created* the personal computer industry.
posted by ryanshepard at 4:56 AM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


How are "hobbyists and tinkerers with institutional support" distinct from a small amount of producers creating the seeds of a mass industry or indicative of a robust market in itself?
posted by deathmaven at 6:01 AM on November 7, 2014


Anybody know if Roku does this? Everything I watch comes thru the Roku. I have the PLEX media server on my computer and watch that via the Roku as well (I am NOT a PLEX Pass subscriber however.) The cat5 goes from my router to the Roku, not the TV.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 7:54 AM on November 7, 2014


BTW, you seem to be overlooking an entire ecosystem of software dedicated to your computing freedom as an end user. Don't worry though, we're used to it.

Oh, not at all. My workhorses are all still running Linux, and I installed Debian on a laptop in - oh - 1999? But I finally gave up on it when it couldn't keep the wireless connection going, and sound never worked, even with ALSA.

Truly "personal" computing is not really a good fit for Linux, and I'm very sad about it. (My colleague runs Linux on his MacBook Pro. The best of both worlds, or the worst?)
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:59 AM on November 7, 2014




Chrome was recently shown to have a vulnerability that potentially allows unauthorized audio surveillance of users.

I acknowledge that this is terrible and yet at the same time it is hilariously stupid. Who wants secret audio tapes of me singing to the dog or farting majestically after a giant burrito or shouting obscenities in three languages at video game protags? I assume no one but who even knows. They could harvest far more damaging information by reading the tags on my benzo-fuelled nightblogging.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:14 AM on November 7, 2014


Then just torrent everything.

Suggesting this as a privacy solution puts you firmly in the naive user category.
posted by srboisvert at 9:14 AM on November 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Alexa: The Beta Version
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:19 AM on November 7, 2014


The New York Review of Books: The Creepy New Wave of the Internet
posted by Chrysostom at 10:38 AM on November 7, 2014


Alexa: The Beta Version yt
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:19 AM on November 7 [+] [!]


I saw this a couple days ago and I've watched it at least a dozen times. So funny.
posted by peep at 1:25 PM on November 10, 2014


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