Digital Spies in Your Home (Not Mine)

The Internet of Things is a buzz phrase for digital monitoring.

I am a fan of the IoT with respect to commercial enterprises such as airplane maintenance. But I will not let IoT consumer products into my home.

The problem should be obvious. If I can monitor what my appliances are doing, so can the government. If I can tell them what to do, the government can hear my voice.

This is not a fantasy. It’s here. The details are here. There is more evidence than you have time to read. Read some of it, especially this: CIA Chief: We’ll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher.

More and more personal and household devices are connecting to the internet, from your television to your car navigation systems to your light switches. CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them.

Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” — that is, wired devices — at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,” Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”

All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.

“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus said, “the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.”

Petraeus allowed that these household spy devices “change our notions of secrecy” and prompt a rethink of “our notions of identity and secrecy.” All of which is true — if convenient for a CIA director.

I have no doubt that government agencies are going to use any access that citizens give them to invade their homes. This is free information as far as the government is concerned. They can collect it almost free of charge. They can store it on a permanent basis. They never know when they will use it, but if they want to use it, they will be able to.

As far as the CIA is concerned, it is going to find itself drowning in data. Computers can monitor our informational digits, but bureaucrats have to make decisions about the value of this information to their agencies. The more data they have to survey, the more paralyzed these agencies are going to become. The quality of the data will keep getting better, and the quality of the bureaucrats will keep getting lower. Competent people are not going to spend their lives digging around in the muck of digital data.

The federal government’s bureaucrats have an innate desire to play God. One of the attributes of God is omniscience. Every time anyone pursues this goal, he winds up paralyzed. Yet this is basic to most federal government agencies. They feel compelled to gather more data. They don’t know what to do with this information. They don’t know how to analyze it. They don’t know how to take action in terms of it. All they know is that they want more of it. The Internet of Things is going to give them massive quantities of data.

I think it is far more likely that companies are going to use the data to track how we use our household appliances. They are going to get huge amounts of data, and out of this data will emerge patterns of behavior. These patterns are going to be worth billions of dollars. Digital data really is the new oil. If we give our data away to these companies, they are going to put it to profitable use.

I have no need to control my appliances by voice command. I have no need to monitor them. I am not going to pay for the privilege of having government agencies and private companies invade my home and record my activities. I suggest you adopt the same attitude.


By Gary North
Source: Gary North

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