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Category Archives: E-Commerce

When Speakers Are All Ears

When Speakers Are All Ears – Understanding when smart speakers mistakenly record conversations. Daniel J. Dubois (Northeastern University), Roman Kolcun (Imperial College London), Anna Maria Mandalari (Imperial College London), Muhammad Talha Paracha (Northeastern University), David Choffnes (Northeastern University), Hamed Haddadi (Imperial College London) Last updated: 02/14/2020

Summary – Voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, OK Google, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana are becoming increasingly pervasive in our homes, offices, and public spaces. While convenient, these systems also raise important privacy concerns—namely, what exactly are these systems recording from their surroundings, and does that include sensitive and personal conversations that were never meant to be shared with companies or their contractors? These aren’t just hypothetical concerns from paranoid users: there have been a slew of recent reports about devices constantly recording audio and cloud providers outsourcing to contractors transcription of audio recordings of private and intimate interactions.  Anyone who has used voice assistants knows that they accidentally wake up and record when the “wake word” isn’t spoken—for example, “Seriously” sounds like the wake word “Siri” and often causes Apple’s Siri-enabled devices to start listening. There are many other anecdotal reports of everyday words in normal conversation being mistaken for wake words.  For the past six months, our team has been conducting research to go beyond anecdotes through the use of repeatable, controlled experiments that shed light on what causes voice assistants to mistakenly wake up and record.  Below, we provide a brief summary of our approach, findings so far, and their implications. This is ongoing research, and we will update this page as we learn more…”

Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues February 22, 2020

Via LLRX – Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues February 22, 2020 – Privacy and security issues impact every aspect of our lives – home, work, travel, education, health and medical records – to name but a few. On a weekly basis Pete Weiss highlights articles and information that focus on the… Continue Reading

Use Amazon, Uber or Walmart.com? You’ve probably signed away your right to sue them

CNN Business: “Tucked into the sign-up process for many popular e-commerce sites and apps are dense terms-of-service agreements that legal experts say are changing the nature of consumer transactions, creating a veil of secrecy around how these companies function. The small print in these documents requires all signatories to agree to binding arbitration and to… Continue Reading

Ring and Nest helped normalize American surveillance

Washington Post – a nation of voyeurs – For all the worries about hacking, owners of Internet-connected cameras say they love watching people silently from afar — often their own family members. Amazon’s Ring, Google’s Nest and other Internet-connected cameras — some selling for as little as $59 — have given Americans the tools they… Continue Reading

Why Amazon knows so much about you

BBC News article includes extensive history, narrative, graphics, photos and insight into how and why Amazon collects massive amounts of data Amazon on users through multiple channels of e-commerce and devices – by Leo Kelion – “You might call me an Amazon super-user. I’ve been a customer since 1999, and rely on it for everything from… Continue Reading

Use these 11 critical iPhone privacy and security settings right now

Fast Company – iOS offers more tools than ever to defend yourself against hackers, nosy sites, and other intruders. Here’s why they matter and how to benefit from them. “If one object you own encapsulates who you are, how you think, and what you do, it’s your smartphone. Our phones not only contain our contacts… Continue Reading

Activate This ‘Bracelet of Silence,’ and Alexa Can’t Eavesdrop

The New York Times – “…Mr. Zhao and Ms. Zheng are computer science professors at the University of Chicago, and …with the help of an assistant professor, Pedro Lopes, they designed a piece of digital armor: a “bracelet of silence” that will jam the Echo or any other microphones in the vicinity from listening in… Continue Reading

Local Bookstores Have A New Weapon In The Fight With Amazon

Fortune: “In the book industry, Amazon is Goliath, the giant who overshadows everyone else. But there’s a new David on the scene, Bookshop.org. It doesn’t expect to topple the giant, but it has launched a weapon that could make Amazon’s shadow a little smaller, and help local bookstores fight back. Bookshop.org, a website that went… Continue Reading

How Big Companies Spy on Your Emails

Motherboard: “Multiple confidential documents obtained by Motherboard show the sort of companies that want to buy data derived from scraping the contents of your email inbox…A dataset obtained by Motherboard shows what some of the information pulled from free email app users’ inboxes looks like. A spreadsheet containing data from Rakuten’s Slice, an app that… Continue Reading

FTC to Examine Past Acquisitions by Large Technology Companies

FTC News Release: “The Federal Trade Commission issued Special Orders to five large technology firms, requiring them to provide information about prior acquisitions not reported to the antitrust agencies under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act. The orders require Alphabet Inc. (including Google), Amazon.com, Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook, Inc., and Microsoft Corp. to provide information and documents… Continue Reading