Three Surprising Ways Your Smartphone Can Be Used to Spy On You
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I don't feel lucky. No Luck Today Close, But Free B2 Wireless Speaker. My initial thought is that you can pick up one of the many smart speakers that come with a mute feature, either via an app or using a hardware switch on the speaker itself. I like the latter option myself, because the microphone is always guaranteed to be off; who knows if some software update or app reinstallation will accidentally enable that which you want muted. As for the specifics on muting, Google spells out the process here , and Amazon here —to name two of the more popular companies with smart speakers.
Turn off the microphone on a smart speaker, and it will be unable to hear anything you say—nor will what you say end up in the cloud, accidentally or otherwise. Neither have a built-in microphone, but both allow you to connect your own speakers and stream music via Alexa Cast.
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Moving away from Amazon and Google devices, you can also pick up a smart speaker with streaming capabilities—like the Sonos One —and not set up the Alexa component. Tapping a button on top of the speaker will disable its microphone. You could also buy a portable Bluetooth speaker and take it with you wherever you go—or something a bit more permanent and retro that you plug into the wall wherever you want to rock.
Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. This decision was superseded only in , by Katz v.
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This was long after Congress had passed an act carefully restricting wiretaps, in Newer technologies eventually permitted the telephone company to encode and multiplex many telephone calls on the same physical wire. It requires communication companies to provide a way for law enforcement to place a wiretap even on newer communication technologies. The law explicitly exempted information services, such as email. This legal differentiation between communications technologies and information services means companies are obliged to help the government listen in on your phone calls with a warrant but are not obliged to help it read your email messages at least on account of this specific law.
Some have since wanted to further broaden this law , and doubtless the Apple FBI dispute brings this issue to the forefront again. Law enforcement will presumably push for greater surveillance powers, and civil liberty advocates will resist.
But note that surveillance is not just of known bad actors, but also of suspected bad actors. History teaches us that lists of suspects can sometimes be drawn way too broadly.
You may remember the McCarthy era and J. Even today, there are attempts by the British Government Communications Headquarters to monitor everyone who visited the Wikileaks website, even just to browse. Wiretap laws, such as CALEA, apply to explicit communication actions taken by someone, such as actually making a phone call. Wiretaps do not track your movements in the house, they do not listen to your conversations when you are not on the phone, they do not videotape you in your bathroom — but these are all actions our various devices are now capable of performing.
With the proliferation of devices in our lives, it is certainly possible to use them for surveillance purposes. But there will also be a huge price to pay in terms of privacy and possibly wrongful arrests. Finally, this may feel futuristic, but I assure you it is not.
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The FBI was already using a cellphone microphone to eavesdrop on organized crime as long as a decade ago. Commercial interests are not too far behind in doing much the same , with the purpose of targeting a better sales pitch. Our omnipresent networked devices raise big questions that we should openly debate.
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