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OpinionColumnistsMike Vogel

Are devices spying on every breath we take?

You’ve been warned.

Amazon Echo, Google Home and other state-of-the-art devices

Amazon Echo, Google Home and other state-of-the-art devices can deliver everything from your favorite song to a weather report. They also can listen to everything that goes on in your home. Photo Credit: Harman Kardon

“Every breath you take, every move you make,

every bond you break,

every step you take,

I’ll be watching you.”

When Sting wrote this song in 1983, many thought he was describing an ex-lover who had turned into a creepy stalker. In 2018, are we inviting creepy electronic stalkers into our homes, schools, bedrooms and bathrooms?

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, many of the hottest new gadgets regrettably included invasion-of-privacy aspects. From car monitors that detect where someone’s going, to brain-wave technology to see how much attention your child pays in school, the latest tech devices seem more than a bit ominous.

Depending on your views on parenting, such trackers might be useful or over the line. But do we really want technology that enables not only family members, but also quite possibly strangers and hackers, to know exactly where we are and what we’re doing — or thinking?

Is government Big Brother (or mom and dad, or a sleazy hacker) monitoring your every move? You might have an artificial intelligence device that activates on your verbal command — but it sometimes doesn’t wait.

Amazon Echo, Google Home and other state-of-the-art devices can deliver everything from your favorite song to a weather report. They also can listen to everything that goes on in your home. Amazon’s Echo Spot “smart alarm” comes with a camera, and would likely sit on a night table next to your bed. Now add one malicious hacker. Hello, you’re a porn star!

Sure, it’s amazing that apps on our smartphones can measure exactly how many steps we’ve taken and our exact location. But those giddy to get the latest technology rarely stop to consider the loss-of-privacy issue. While the advantages of these devices are clear, manufacturers often downplay the invasive downside.

Sometimes privacy violations are more subtle. A device called Buoy tracks water use in your home to detect leaks and save you money on bills. Sounds good, huh? But it can be quite specific. How long are you in the shower? How many times do you flush the toilet? How long do you wash your hands after you use it? You don’t? Come out with your hands up!

You’ve been warned.

Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.

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