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Top Investor: Big Tech Using Smart Speakers For Surveillance

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A leading tech investor has warned that companies such as Amazon and Google are using smart speakers for surveillance purposes.

In an interview with Yahoo News, John Borthwick,of Betaworks said that the information recorded by the devices and relayed back to the host companies cannot be described any other way.

“I would say that there’s two or three layers sort of problematic layers with these new smart speakers, smart earphones that are in market now,” Borthwick noted.

“And so the first is, from a consumer standpoint, user standpoint, is that these, these devices are being used for what’s — it’s hard to call it anything but surveillance,” Borthwick added.

“I personally believe that you, as a user and as somebody who likes technology, who wants to use technology, that you should have far more rights about your data usage than we have today,” Borthwick, a former Time Warner and AOL executive, also said.

Recent findings have indicated that Apple is monitoring audio via Siri, and Amazon is doing the same via Alexa.

Reports have also suggested that Google employees are listening to users’ voice commandsfor Google Assistant, with Facebook doing the same via the Messenger app.

Following the revelations all the companies have all said they have either stopped the practice or will automatically opt users out of voice sample collection.

This technology has led some people to draw comparisons to George Orwell’s 1984, and a quote from the book illustrates creepy similarities.

“The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard.”

Facebook recently announced the rollout of its new ‘Portal’ smart speakers, which it brags have a camera that can automatically follow users around the room.

Undoubtedly wary about fears the technology could be exploited to spy on its users following the company’s data abuse scandals, Facebook has even included a camera cover that can be slipped over the lens.

Security researchers have also discovered flaws in the technology that could allow unwanted eavesdroppers to hack into the devices.

Science & Tech

Media Executive Warns Big Tech Is Secretively Seizing “All The Power” Over Information

Testifies that Google and Facebook are trying to have a monopoly on news with ‘black box’ algorithms.

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Steve Watson

Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images

Newspaper executive Peter Wright has slammed big tech for secretively developing and changing algorithms for news distribution without giving the industry any indication whatsoever of what they are doing.

Wright of DMG Media, which is the parent company of The Daily Mail, was testifying before the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee Tuesday.

He accused companies like Google and Facebook of ‘monopoly behaviour’ as they seek to seize ‘all the power’ in online news and advertising.

Wright claims that the Mail’s online daily traffic from Google searches has been diminished by 50 per cent in just one year after the company changed the algorithm for news content in 2019.

“Google and Facebook in our view are market dominant companies and they behave in the way that market dominant companies do,” Wright stated, noting that it is significantly impacting journalism.

“Google and Facebook both distribute our content via algorithm. Those algorithms are what is known in the digital world as a ‘black box’ – they are secret, you have no idea how they work. But we can see and measure the results,” Wright said.

Wright also implied that the Mail’s pro Brexit stance led to it being targeted by big tech for diminished online distribution.

He noted that last June “over the space of three days, our search visibility, which is the measure of how often your content is appearing against a basket of search terms, dropped by 50 per cent, and it was particularly marked against some particular terms. One of them for instance was ‘Brexit’.”

Wright noted that after his group protested, normality eventually returned.

“But this is monopoly behaviour. You can’t do this if you’re in a business relationship with someone where there’s any semblance of equality of power,” he urged.

Wright noted that Google and Facebook are not regulated and so they are getting away with a secretive takeover of content.

“As far as the commercial relationship between news publishers and the platforms is concerned, it’s a business relationship between two partners in which one partner has all the power,” Wright declared.

He described Google as “completely dominant” in search and digital marketing, the two main avenues for distributing news content, and Facebook (which also owns instagram) as “dominant in social media”, pointing out that they make “more money out of advertising than our newspapers do.”

Despite the vast power that these companies have in such areas, Wright noted that their terms of service are completely “opaque”.

“Even the contracts that we sign to use their services are often presented to us on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. So what we’re asking for here is for regulation, and the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) are about to report on a massive piece of work they’ve been doing, to address the complete imbalance in the business relationship,” Wright asserted.

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censorship

Facebook Bans Trump Ad For Using ANTIFA Symbol

Election meddling.

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Steve Watson

Twitter Screenshot

Facebook, the arbiters of everything in the new world order, has banned a political ad by the Trump campaign because it used a symbol connected with ‘organised hate’. Yet, it turns out that symbol is one used all the time by ANTIFA.

The ad used a red triangle pointing downward, which was picked up on by The Washington Post, which linked it to Nazi-ism:

A red inverted triangle was first used in the 1930s to identify Communists, and was applied as well to Social Democrats, liberals, Freemasons and other members of opposition parties. The badge forced on Jewish political prisoners, by contrast, featured a yellow triangle overlaid by a red triangle.

In response to queries from The Washington Post, Facebook on Thursday afternoon deactivated ads that included the inverted red triangle.

Jewish Action charged that “Trump & the RNC are using it to smear millions of protestors.”

The Trump campaign responded, noting that the symbol is an emoji, and is routinely used by ANTIFA, hence the campaign’s use of it in reference to “dangerous mobs of far left groups”

A cursory search confirms that ANTIFA groups use this symbol all the time, as this NBC reporter found out:

So, ironically, Trump’s ad was banned by Facebook because Antifa’s imagery is hateful.

Facebook is coming under increasing scrutiny, with calls for it to be held accountable as a publisher. The company has all manner of secretive ‘woke’ policies that are leading to increased censorship and directly impacting Americans’ right to freedom of speech.

Facebook’s secret ‘diversity board’ is the latest example:

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71 Percent Of Americans Reject Privacy Killing Contact Tracing Apps

Europeans also say no to government monitoring.

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Steve Watson

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Almost three quarters of Americans say they will not submit their privacy to contact tracing apps, with Europeans also rejecting the notion outright because they do not trust government to keep their information safe and refrain from misusing it.

A study from Avira reveals that the vast majority of Americans are against contact tracing apps, with 71 percent saying they will not download them, and 75% believing their digital privacy is at risk from the technology.

Image: Avira

The poll found that only 14 percent believe the government would protect their data effectively.

When asked if they would trust big tech more than the government, 32 percent said they would feel safe giving Apple or Google their data.

The study also noted that those working in Government and Healthcare are the least-likely to download the technology, with 84% of people from these sectors saying they will not use the apps.

Image: Avira

Travis Witteveen, CEO of Avira commented “We believe these survey results send a clear signal to both app creators and the government. COVID contact tracing apps could fail before they launch if developers don’t communicate to the public how they plan to protect people’s privacy.”

Meanwhile, in Germany people are also rejecting the contact tracing technology owing to privacy concerns.

The amount of people willing to use the apps has fallen to 42 percent, according to polling data from Forschungsgruppe Wahlen.

Statista notes that the latest data indicates a 6 percentage point drop since April:

Image: Statista

In Norway, the technology has been completely abandoned after it was deemed to be too invasive.

Amnesty International has warned that contact tracing apps like Norway’s are “most alarming mass surveillance tools”. The organisation’s assessment did not include the US contact tracing app.

In the UK, despite touting it for months, the government has (predictably) failed to roll out its contact tracing app because of bureaucracy.

Cybersecurity experts also analysed the source code of the app and found no less than seven major flaws.

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