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đź›° Haunted Homes, Haunted Cars - Internet of People Observatory #15

February 28 · Issue #15 · View online
The VUCA Observatory
glad you could make it.
In this issue: First-amendment rights for Alexa, UBER’s hell of a week
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Consumer IoT
If you invite a microphone into your home, you might want to consider the consequences. After we spoke about the German network regulator ordering connected dolls destroyed, this week comes another privacy disaster. A US company producing teddy bears that are connected to the net to help kids stay in touch with parents that might be away forgot to protect their database. No password requirements. No firewall. Nothing. It just sat there, publicly accessible from the net. 800k customers are affected, and, as Motherboard estimates, about 2m recordings have leaked. The level of ineptitude is staggering, but given the technical skills of many firms that are suddenly faced with having to incorporate connectivity into their products, many more of these cases are sadly to be expected.
Also, remember the murder case that made the news in December, which involved a warrant to the Echo recordings of the suspect? Amazon has filed motion to dismiss the warrant on First Amendment concerns. The legal argument is fascinating, covers precedents as varied as the Lewinski trial and Meth Labs, and asserts free speech protections for the Alexa service itself. This case is very important to Amazon’s voice activated service. If the court decides that those voice recordings can easily be handed over, that’s a PR disaster, as well as another privacy disaster.
And if this wasn’t enough, you now have to worry about who’s got access to your connected products when you buy or rent a new apartment, as apparently, people forget to reset things. You’re being haunted by the folks who used to live in your place, if you will.
When UBER started using self-driving cars for its regular service in San Francisco last year, it didn’t obtain the necessary license which would have compelled it to share data on disengagements, amongst others. UBER, in it’s laissez-faire attitude towards regulation, decided it didn’t need to comply, as there would be human operators aboard. It didn’t take long for video footage of an UBER car barrelling through a red light to emerge. UBER issued a non-denial denial, arguing it was a human’s fault, but, as emerged this week, it wasn’t. And that’s just one part of the saga that unfurled for UBER over the last week. Waymo, née Google’s Self-Driving Car project, filed suit against UBER for theft of intellectual property, that Otto’s founder is said to have taken with him when departing to found the self-driving trucking firm – which itself flouted Nevada requirements for self-driving tests – subsequently acquired by UBER.
The approach to self-piloted vehicles pursued by actual car manufacturers looks more reasonable by the day. This is heavily regulated territory, after all, and “Move fast and break things” not only risks lives here, but will get the regulators up in arms. Nevermind that, to bring self-driving vehicles to the market, you have to have people trust them. UBER did everything it can to destroy that trust. So it’s not surprising that there’s talk about Silicon Valley already having lost the battle for self-driving car dominance.
Lastly, it’s not homes that can be haunted by previous owners, as discussed above, but cars, too. The increasing incorporation of smart phones into a cars functionality, coupled with poor attention to security on part of the manufacturers, leads to weird situations like not being able to revoke previous owners’ access to your car.
The clash of traditional industries and software is far from resolved, indeed, and if this week is any guidance, we better buckle up.
Research and Policy
Lot’s of interesting research reports this week. The Encryption primer is useful reading, not only for policymakers. The blockchain report by the EPRS sounds a bit fawning on a first cursory look, but this is EU research, so good to keep an eye on it. And the stuff coming out of OII lately is just mindboggling.
The Strange, Weird, and Interesting
End note
It’s a quick one this week, hope you don’t mind.
See you next week!
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