Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Browsing Posts tagged surveillance society

The new “Hello Barbie,” continues to make the news as privacy advocates are concerned about its features. Barbie connects to Wi-Fi and records children’s voice commands. Those commands are sent to an external server to improve voice command tech. the creepiness is in the fact that it’s getting to know children on a very personal level.

The Campaign For a Commercial-Free Childhood view the new Barbie as the start of a new trend in marketing privacy children.

Imagine your children playing with a Wi-Fi-connected doll that records their conversations–and then transmits them to a corporation which analyzes every word to learn “all of [the child’s] likes and dislikes.” That’s exactly what Mattel’s eavesdropping “Hello Barbie” will do if it is released this fall, as planned. But we can stop it!

Kids using “Hello Barbie”‘ won’t only be talking to a doll, they’ll be talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial. It’s creepy—and creates a host of dangers for children and families.

Children naturally reveal a lot about themselves when they play. In Mattel’s demo, Barbie asks many questions that encourage kids to share information about their interests, their families, and more—information advertisers can use to market unfairly to children.

Mattel said security and privacy is their top priority in creating a Barbie that learns from its owner.

Mattel and ToyTalk, the San Francisco-based start-up that created the technology used in the doll, say the privacy and security of the technology have been their top priority. “Mattel is committed to safety and security, and Hello Barbie conforms to applicable government standards,” Mattel said in a statement.

How many top executives and politicians’ children will be running around with this doll? What happens when a child tells the doll about issues going on in the house? Will that be a HIPAA violation or will the police be notified? Children don’t understand the legal implications of talking to a doll who saves everything they say.

The problem they are not addressing is that they will be recording the conversations of children. Children do not have a fully functioning filter to know what they should and should not be talking about to what is a stranger. They don’t know who will be listening to them or what is going to happen with those conversations.

Children also have a habit of telling their dolls, stuffed animals and figurines confidential stuff they do not wish to share with anyone else. We don’t need some mysterious cloud service cataloging this information on a child.

This is yet another example of surveillance microphones attempting to get their foot in the door to our homes. We already have to be leery of Xbox Kinect, Amazon Echo, Samsung Smart TV and everything else listed in the Internet of Things.

How long before Barbie becomes Talky Tina?

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As a parent Adam Sheffield says he worries about his Xbox Kinect being capable of spying on his family in their home, “It recognizes him when he enters the room and says “Hi.” The question a lot of people have, what’s that data being used for?”

Sheffield is a Cyber Security Program Manager and he says there is a good reason to be worried, “You should assume anything that can connect to internet – push info out, is a source of collection.”

And this applies to more than just gaming devices – computers, TV’s, cellphones – anything online. “When you download an app you give them permission to access phone book, camera, microphone. Could they go in and turn on your camera and microphone? They could. Are they? I am not quite sure.”

Experts say go into your privacy settings and make it as private as possible, but there’s no promise it’s fool proof. Make sure to change your password from the default and decide how many devices online you actually need.

“Develop a personal threshold with what you are comfortable sharing with. As for my son, we put a sticker over the camera unless he is using it. Not that we are paranoid or anything,” says Sheffield.

Source.

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A new Barbie doll has been designed to record and store conversations it has with children. The recordings will be analyzed by researchers who say they will use the data to make the toy’s responses more complete.

“Whatever we come away with as our first blush attempt at the conversations, we’ll see what kids want to talk about or not. We’ll take our honest best guess at that and then see what comes back, and then that will change and evolve over time as those conversations happen between individual children and Barbie dolls,” Oren Jacob, CEO of ToyTalk said in a recent statement.

However, security experts have raised concerns about how else that information could be used.

“It wouldn’t take much for a malicious individual to intercept either the wi-fi communications from the phone or tablet, or connect to the doll over Bluetooth directly. These problems aren’t difficult to solve; the manufacturer needs to check the phone application carefully to make sure it’s secure. They also need to check that any information sent by the doll to their online systems is protected,” Ken Munro, a security researcher at Pen Test Partners said.

The company responded to these concerns with a statement, saying that:

“While we’re familiar with the Cayla doll and with what happened in terms of a privacy breach, Hello Barbie is fundamentally different on many levels. As with all of ToyTalk’s products–we started with apps for kids–online privacy and security is of utmost importance. That’s why we ask for parental consent and agreement to use their kids’ speech, anonymously, to add to our database in order to increase Barbie’s conversational capabilities. To address the issue of being able to intercept the wi-fi communications or connect Barbie via Bluetooth, all communications take place over a secured TLS (HTTPS) network and it’s not possible to connect her via Bluetooth. Further Barbie connects directly to ToyTalk servers–not via an outside app with local data stored on it. And no back doors are being added to the app, to further avoid access issues.”

The problem they are not addressing is that they will be recording the conversations of children. Children do not have a fully functioning filter to know what they should and should not be talking about to what is a stranger. They don’t know who will be listening to them or what is going to happen with those conversations.

Children also have a habit of telling their dolls, stuffed animals and figurines confidential stuff they do not wish to share with anyone else.

This is yet another example of surveillance microphones attempting to get their foot in the door to our homes. We already have to be leery of Xbox Kinect, Amazon Echo, Samsung Smart TV and everything else listed in the Internet of Things.

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The NYPD has been using a secretive program for several years using unmarked vans with x-ray machines inside. They’re supposed to detect bombs. ProPublica spent three years attempting to determine what the program was about, but the NYPD refused. It took a judge to order the release of the records to learn anything.

The ruling follows a nearly three-year legal battle by ProPublica, which had requested police reports, training materials, contracts and any health and safety tests on the vans under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

ProPublica filed the request as part of its investigation into the proliferation of security equipment, including airport body scanners, that expose people to ionizing radiation, which can mutate DNA and increase the risk of cancer.

Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s law department, said Thursday that the NYPD would appeal “because disclosing this sensitive information would compromise public safety.”

The X-ray vans at issue are essentially a version of older airport body scanners mounted on a truck.

The X-ray vans—which reportedly cost between $729,000 and $825,000 each—are designed to find organic materials such as drugs and explosives. The rays penetrate the metal in a car or concrete in a building and scatter back to a detector, producing an image of what’s inside. The van can scan while driving alongside a row of shipping containers or while parked as cars pass by. Customs agencies around the world have used them to fight drug and human smuggling.

But most Federal Drug Administration regulations for medical X-rays do not apply to security equipment, leaving the decision of when and how to use the scanners up to law enforcement agencies such as the NYPD.

The NYPD’s policies are of particular interest because many agencies have adopted strict policies to address potential harm from backscatter X-ray scans. When Customs began using the vans extensively in 2010, the agency prohibited their use on occupied vehicles and required that people get out of the vehicles before they were X-rayed.

But because the NYPD has refused to release the department’s policies and procedures, it’s unclear how widely the vans are being used—if at all, whether they’re being used to scan people or even if police are deploying them for routine patrols on busy city streets.

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Never in human history have people been more connected than they are today — nor have they been more thoroughly monitored. Over the past year, the disclosures spurred by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have drawn public attention to the stunning surveillance capabilities of the American intelligence community, and the unprecedented volume of data they collect from hundreds of millions of people around the world. But the growth of government surveillance is by no means restricted to spies: Even ordinary law enforcement agencies increasingly employ sophisticated tracking technologies, from face recognition software to “Stingray” devices that can locate suspects by sniffing out their cellular phone signals. Are these tools a vital weapon against criminals and terrorists — or a threat to privacy and freedom? How should these tracking technologies be regulated by the Fourth Amendment and federal law? Can we reconcile the secrecy that spying demands with the transparency that democratic accountability requires?

This inaugural Cato Institute Surveillance Conference will explore these questions, guided by a diverse array of experts: top journalists and privacy advocates; lawyers and technologists; intelligence officials … and those who’ve been targets of surveillance. And for the more practically minded, a special Crypto Reception, following the Conference, will teach attendees how to use privacy-enhancing technologies to secure their own communications.

More videos are available at the Cato Institute. Though in separate videos, the entire conference is available to view online or download.

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