AN OXFORD professor claims that we are letting more and more of our personal data to be exploited – and that DOORBELLS are spying on us.
Professor Carissa Veliz has cautioned that our cars, televisions, computers, and phones are all tracking our data without our knowledge.
She has noted that data collecting begins the moment you wake up, informing smartphone manufacturers, app developers, and your mobile phone company of your whereabouts and who you are with.
The lecturer at the University of Oxford’s Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence argues that people “unwittingly” give away personal information every day.
Cars may record the areas you visit, the speed at which you drive, the music you listen to, and even the weight of the driver on the seat.
According to her, the NHS can even contribute private medical data to commercial organizations without consent.
Writing for the Mail on Sunday she said:
“If you wear a smart watch it will have recorded your every movement in bed – including, of course, any sexual activity. Share a picture or record your thoughts on Facebook, or type a search into Google, and that information is tracked and stored.
“Perhaps you’ve run out of sugar and you decide to ask your neighbour if she has some spare.
“Standing outside her door, you notice there’s a new smart doorbell, which records images of those who come near. It’s anybody’s guess where the footage is going to end up and what it will be used for.
“You turn on your smart TV. It is probably identifying everything you watch and sending the data to the manufacturer, third parties, or both.
“If you had time to read the privacy policies of the objects you buy, you would also have noticed that your TV picks up and records your spoken words and reserves the right to transmit them to other organisations.
“Intelligence agencies such as MI5 and the CIA can make your TV look as though it is off while they record you. Your digital assistant Alexa may be listening too.”
Genetic information is also available to anyone willing to pay for it if you’ve completed a DNA testing kit for health reasons or to trace your ancestry.
Companies like Ancestry can analyze, sell, and communicate your genetic information, which may have long-term consequences for your family.
Prof Veliz warns that grandchildren might be “denied opportunities” based on your genetic data, if it indicates “a susceptibility to life-limiting disease or a negative personality trait.”
She also adds that governments now have more knowledge about their citizenry than ever before, with intelligence services keeping more data on everyone.
During the coronavirus lockdowns, tech behemoths like Facebook and Google acquired more data than ever before.
For the past year, schools and businesses have relied on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Classroom.
She notes that Facebook can collect basic information about a visitor’s IP address, location, and other websites to which they have access that also have the site’s “like” buttons.
As well as this Prof Veliz explains that the real identities of sex workers can be linked to their clients, or breach medical confidentiality by linking togeter a psychiatrists patients.
“These patients probably had the psychiatrist’s details in their phone’s contact book – and that alone was enough for Facebook’s algorithms to make the link.
“The site has suggested a harasser connect with his (previously anonymous) victim, a husband to his wife’s lover, and a victim to the man who broke into her car.
“Facebook has probably used facial recognition on your photos – without securing proper consent from you – to develop lucrative new technology.
“It has certainly filed patents that describe systems to recognise shoppers’ faces in stores and match them to their social networking profiles.
“These are just some of the latest disasters. Everything seems to indicate that Facebook’s violations of our right to privacy are not about to stop.
“It’s no wonder that a British parliamentary report has suggested that Facebook has behaved like a ‘digital gangster’ in the past few years.”
Google has also used data collected to create even more products to track data, such as Chrome, Maps, Pixel and Nest.
She also raises concerns that when, later this year, patient information from GP practices is centralized in an NHS database it may get donated without your consent.
This would mean that a company could link your data to your Google account, or social media, and get rid of privacy.
To keep yourself safe online, Prof Veliz advises: “Never click on the ‘accept cookies’ button on a website, choose devices that don’t connect to the internet if you can, and use strong passwords.
“To those who question whether online privacy matters, I ask them for their password to their email account.
“The ground rules that we set now will determine the privacy landscape of the next few decades.
“It is critical that we get things right. We owe it to ourselves and to our children.”