Follow the Eyeballs: the Home Invasion Edition
Posted at 7:48h, 23 Jan 2018 in Advice by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

Today, just a simple heads up/note to self: in case you missed it, Facebook is making a major change to the News Feed that will show you more content from friends and family and less from publishers. CEO Mark Zuckerberg says that, as a result, he expects that people will spend less time on Facebook. And that’s what a CEO wants, after all, right? After years of focusing on increasing the number or eyeballs and user engagement by adding feature after feature and basically minting money, suddenly, Zuck has pivoted and expects that you’ll spend less time on his platform. Nothing to see here, what, eh?

We well know that Facebook is all about eyeballs and recently announced that they’re developing ‘Portal’ gadget which will let it put microphones and cameras in people’s homes. “Rather than positioning the product as a “smart assistant,” Facebook insists that the mission behind Portal is unlike that of other competing tech. True to its mission — “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” — Facebook created Portal to reintroduce the positive effects of communication back into our lives (and our homes),” Inc reports.

Where goeth one, there goeth all.

Amazon started it with Alexa/Echo, and then there’s Google Home/Nest. Intelligent Personal Assistants. Why be limited to something so mundane as a computer and you’re already being tracked everywhere on mobile. The tech cartel is coming full circle and is tracking you literally where you live. Portal may contend to be about bringing family and people closer together: they’re also installing a 15” screen and microphones around your home for the ultimate in invasion of privacy.

According to reports, one logs on to the device via facial recognition or voice control.

“Maybe even more surprising than the gadget itself is Mark Zuckerberg’s take on it. The Facebook CEO reportedly doesn’t care if the Portal makes a profit. He just wants the device to alter user behavior and “creat[e] a new telephone-like experience for the home,” Inc notes.

Yes, about that altering behavior business. Facebook has a long history of manipulating people and emotions, and it wasn’t all that long ago that its founding president, Sean Parker, warned how social networks purposely hook and potentially hurt our brains.

Also coming in the not-too-distant future from Facebook: a brain-computer interface.

When has Facebook ever been in the business of losing money?

If money was the least of their concerns, they certainly wouldn’t have collected 99% of every advertising dollar spent on the platform, leaving their media/content providers with the remainder.

Trust us, it’s still about eyeballs, but this time, it’s about what they may be watching and listening to. We can only imagine what they’re going to do with all of that data they’ll be collecting with Portal et al. To refresh your memory, according to The Federalist, “Facebook claims to ‘build community’ and ‘bring the world closer together.’ Its actual mission is maximal monetization by exploiting users through monopolistic surveillance… Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind.”

In light of the recent revelations about Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, thanks to security flaws that have resided in Intel chips for some ten years, unnoticed, the question is: at this stage in tech and given the overwhelming number of hacks that have come to light over the years, why are we still so lax – and seemingly unconcerned – about security? In the case of the Intel chip, the vulnerabilities affect both computers and mobile devices, including phones, and they are not easy fixes.

Did we mention that flaws went undetected for a decade? Given how connected devices are becoming ubiquitous, we do wonder why these articles touting connected devices never mention the potential dangers that hackers may pose, especially with devices that are watching and listening in on our most private moments, 24/7, what to speak of autonomous vehicles, including GM models which are expected to roll out in 2019, sans steering wheels or pedals? The risk that viruses and ‘security flaws’/back doors pose increases exponentially.

Tech footing the bill

But wait! There’s more! The NSA’s voice-recognition system raises hard questions for Echo and Google Home Are Amazon and Google doing enough to keep spies out? Says The Verge,The NSA has always had broad access to US phone infrastructure, something driven home by the early Snowden documents, but the last few years have seen an explosion of voice assistants like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, each of which floods more voice audio into the cloud where it could be vulnerable to NSA interception. Is home assistant data a target for the NSA’s voice scanning program? And if so, are Google and Amazon doing enough to protect users?”

Since tech companies seemingly have no little or no regard for privacy/protection or the potential dangers that their lax approach to security may create, while we certain can’t stop ‘progress’ or prevent companies from releasing new and ever more invasive products, it’s time to hold these companies accountable, especially in devices that consumers actually pay for, such as Facebook’s coming Portal, and the many Amazon and Google devices out there in the wild. This time, if people are hacked and potentially put in danger thanks to these devices that reside or will be residing in our homes in the near future, their creators need to be liable for damages, real and punitive. It seems that might be what it takes for them to finally take security breaches seriously. Zuck himself said that with Portal, it’s not about making a profit. In that case, high time that he stand by his products and put his money where his mouth is. Onward and forward.