Monday, April 10, 2017

Speech #4: The Internet of Things

[Toastmaster Project 4: How to Say It.  Objectives: Select good words.  Use rhetorical devices.  Eliminate jargon and unnecessary words.]

Mr Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters, esteemed guests.


Do you recognize this thing in my hand?. Its an ordinary light bulb, right? Maybe. But it might also be an Internet enabled light bulb with wifi. Smart bulbs convenient and cheap. I can use this device call out “ Alexa turn on the light in the bedroom.” The bulb costs only a few dollars. I can have an Alexa voice device in every room, on my phone and in my car and in my office. What's not to like about that?

Suppose I told you about a web site that lists 80000 video cameras that people put in their homes but never set a password. Burglars can spy on them 24x7. They watch you dress. They know where you hide your jewelry. They know when you're not home. OK, there's a few things not to like.

The Internet of Things IOT: Light bulbs, speakers, a child's doll, thermostats, video cameras, refrigerators, fitbit bracelets, insulin pumps, our cars and countless more. The IOT threatens our privacy and security.

Guess who uses them against us. Big corporations, big crooks, and big government.

Big corporations. Suppose I am in the bathroom and that I just opened the last roll of toilet paper. It is super convenient for me to be able to say “ALEXA reorder toilet paper” Amazon knows what brand of paper I like, how to get paid from my account, and how to ship it to me. No law prevents Amazon from selling all that data to other big companies.

Big crooks recently hijacked more than 100000 DVRs digital video recorders, and video cameras in peoples homes. and turned them into weapons to attack our country's infrastructure. Somebody go tell Donald Trump.

Big government. Texas subpoenaed Alexa sound recordings from the home of a drug dealer. The cops reasoned that while the dealer's wife is reordering toilet paper, there might also be other conversations heard in the background where the drug guys incriminate themselves. The government doesn't need search warrants any more, we have bugged our own homes.

Ladies, lets see if this story creeps you out. Joe Blow walks down the street wearing Google glasses 2.0. He sees a pretty woman. The glasses tell him, “Her name is Susan Smith. She lives in the building behind you in apartment 3C. She is not wearing a bra. She loves Margaritas. Would you like to send her a text?” All of that is possible and inexpensive using today's technology.

Whose responsibility is it to clean up this mess? Think of the hijacked DVR case. The DVR manufacturer doesn't care; he has been paid, there is no more warranty, he is not the victim. The DVR owner doesn't care, his DVR still works. He is not the victim. Retailers don't care, they are no longer selling those old DVR models anyhow. Government may care, but these DVRs come from all over the world, outside the reach of our government. We cant send jack booted thugs to break down our doors and confiscate these IOT things. How about me? Have I set the password for this bulb and updated it to the newest software release? Hell no, don't bother me with that crap.

So, who's responsible? No one.

Some people say that better security is the answer. Wrong. We could use fingerprints instead of passwords. Suppose all your devices and your accounts are secured with your fingerprint? Pretty cool huh? But that makes it attractive for a crook to cut off your finger. He gets access to all your stuff, while you are locked out because you don't have the finger any more. Security is not the answer.

We have a problem. The people and the congress are weak on preventative actions. We tend to wait until things get very bad, then we react.

What can we do when we finally do react? I'm afraid that privacy is hopelessly dead forever. The best we can hope for is transparency. We need laws to subject Big corporations, Big crooks, and Big Government to our own surveillance. We need to see what they are up to and so that we can make a stink when what they do makes us angry.

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