One month ago, a wide swath of the US population – most of which is a card-carrying member of the Amazon Prime collective – freaked out when news spread that Alexa-enabled gadgets would utter an unprovoked “bone-chillingly creepy” cackle or “sinister laugh.”
Shortly after, Amazon confirmed that Alexa was indeed laughing out of the blue, and promptly fixed whatever glitch was plaguing the matrix at the time.
Yet while bizarre and sinister, the incidents were largely innocuous.
That however was not the case with the latest bug uncovered in Amazon’s Echo which allowed hackers to listen in to the speaker, a privilege which until recently, most speculated was only granted to Amazon… and the NSA of course
According to The Telegraph, researchers had found way to make the the Echo Speakers continue listening long after they should have been switched off. Amazon countered that this would not allow the recordings to be passed to hackers, but would have stayed with Amazon itself.
The way the Amazon Echo speakers work is they listen for the word “Alexa” before completing a command, like “Alexa, read tell me today’s news”. Any interaction with Alexa is recorded to improve the service, but once the command is finished, Alexa stops recording. At least on paper, because security researchers from Checkmarx developed an Alexa Skill that would keep Alexa listening long after it should have switched itself off and automatically transcribe what it hears for an attacker.
When an Alexa skill completes its task it is supposed to stop listening. However, sometimes Alexa doesn’t hear a command correctly, which will lead the Echo to ask for the user to repeat it. This “re-prompt” feature could be exploited, the researchers found, and be programmed to carry on listening, while muting Alexa’s responses.
“For the Echo… listening is key,” Checkmarx said. “However, with this device’s rise in popularity, one of today’s biggest fears in connection to such devices is privacy. Especially when it comes to a user’s fear of being unknowingly recorded.”
Facebook Fired Pro-Trump & Anti Hillary Founder of Oculus
Every so often, Silicon Valley’s virtue-signaling, shadowbanning, anti-conservative media titans appear in Congress or devise a quick PR campaign to show to the world just how truly impartial they are with zero liberal bias. And every single time it backfires as their true ideological face quickly emerges from behind a fake, hypocritical mask.
Take the case of former Facebook executive, Oculus co-founder and virtual-reality wunderkind Palmer Luckey, who was a rising star of Silicon Valley when, at the height of the 2016 presidential contest, he donated a modest $10,000 to an anti-Hillary Clinton group. His donation sparked a backlash from his colleagues, which then led to him being put on leave, and six months later he was fired.
What is odd about Luckey’s termination, is that when testifying before Congress about data privacy earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg denied, or rather lied that the departure had anything to do with politics. In fact, neither Facebook nor Mr. Luckey ever said why he left the social-media giant.
Until now: according to a report from the WSJ, Luckey told people the reason for his termination from that bastion of apolitical impartiality Facebook, was his support for Donald Trump and the furor that his political beliefs sparked within his employer, and Silicon Valley, some of those people say.
Google & China Have A Program Linking Phone Numbers To Searches
A prototype of Google’s censored search engine for China links users’ searches to their personal phone numbers, “thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people’s queries,” reports The Intercept.
The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, revolves around the Android platform and is designed to remove content deemed by government officials to be sensitive or offensive – such as information about protests, free speech, political dissidents, democracy and human rights violations.
Sources familiar with the project said that prototypes of the search engine linked the search app on a user’s Android smartphone with their phone number. This means individual people’s searches could be easily tracked – and any user seeking out information banned by the government could potentially be at risk of interrogation or detention if security agencies were to obtain the search records from Google.
the search platform also appeared to have been tailored to replace weather and air pollution data with information provided directly by an unnamed source in Beijing. The Chinese government has a record of manipulating details about pollution in the country’s cities. One Google source said the company had built a system, integrated as part of Dragonfly, that was “essentially hardcoded to force their [Chinese-provided] data.” -The Intercept
“This is very problematic from a privacy point of view, because it would allow far more detailed tracking and profiling of people’s behavior,” says Human Rights Watch senior internet research Cynthia Wong. “Linking searches to a phone number would make it much harder for people to avoid the kind of overreaching government surveillance that is pervasive in China.”
Human rights groups have slammed Dragonfly, insisting that it could result in Google “directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations.”
“Legal Remedies” Coming For Tech Censorship?
Rep. Devin Nunes said he is looking at possible legal action against Twitter over the “shadow banning” fiasco that temporarily decreased the visibility he and other Republicans had on the social media platform.
Last week, Vice News reported that Nunes, along with several other conservative Republican figures, were harder to find on Twitter as their accounts did not show up on the auto-populated drop-down search box.
“It sure looks to me like they are censoring people and they ought to stop it. We are looking at any legal remedies to go through,” Nunes, R-Calif., said at the end of a Sunday morning interview on Fox News.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nunes’ comments follow a tweet by President Trump saying “We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once!”
Those GOP individuals who were effected by the “shadow banning” debacle didn’t completely disappear from Twitter — their profiles did appear when a full search was conducted — but they did express ire at what they said could be a politically charged maneuver to make it less convenient for users to find them. These GOP figures — Nunes, along with Reps. Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, and Mark Meadows, as well as Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel — felt the impact along with controversial right-wing figures, including Jason Kessler, the organizer of last year’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.