On the subject of the Internet of Things, I am frequently asked by media what we can do to defend ourselves vs. being watched, listened to, and otherwise monitored wherever we go. It’s a good question, and it keeps getting better with time.
Sensors are being added to everything: Doors, locks, furniture, cars, refrigerators, scales—you name it. And those sensors’ data are increasingly being collected, centralized, and made available on the Internet. The problem isn’t critical right now, but in two years it’ll be considerable, and in five it’ll be serious.
So I had an idea around one way the risk will be managed: our personal assistants will monitor the monitors.
In our homes we’ll soon be enrolling our IoT devices into a unified ecosystem like Apple or Microsoft or Google. And every device we enroll will have capabilities. Capabilities will include what type of input it can capture, which direction it’s facing, and how much range or coverage it has. This information will be entered into the ecosystem so that Siri (or whatever assistant you use) can always be aware of it.
So as your IoT presence grows in your home, Siri will keep track of the various devices that have eyes and ears, where they are, and who can view, monitor, or control them. And when you’re out and about, Siri will be continuously reading the daemons present in your surrounding environment, and letting you know where you can be monitored in what way.
Here are a couple of use cases:
- You’re at home and your daughter decides to have a slumber party, and they’re going to be spending the night in the living room making forts and such. So it’s like seven 16-year-old girls in one room for the entire night talking to each other. Siri finds this out and reminds you:
Excuse me, sir, just reminding you that the living room is under voice and video surveillance with four people having live and review access. Would you like to hear who has access, or temporarily stop the monitoring?
So you say yes, and it disables the video capture on the main cameras, the television, the refrigerator, and the audio capture in five other places as well.
Here’s another one:
- You’re walking through a crowded city and end up in a city park, hanging with some buddies on a park bench. You’re friend starts cussing about how his boss is a complete idiot, how he’s trying to get him fired, and on and on. Siri hears all the cussing and says:
Excuse me, sir, just a reminder that the city is sending a public feed of audio and video from your two o’clock around 40 feet away, and to your rear around 100 feet away. You may be in capture distance and might want to be careful.
This is spooky stuff, to be sure. For one, Siri is listening and saying things like this. But it’s also scary because she needs to be listening to protect you.
That’s not the point. The pee is going into that pool, and it’s not coming out. The question is how we’re going to deal.
And I think this is one of the ways we will: our personal assistants are going to be scanning our surroundings for us, letting us know when we’re being monitored or recorded, keeping us up to date, and even advising us if something is happening that she’s worried might harm us if seen.
/me Shudders excitedly.