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That new phone, TV may be spying on you

“I always feel like somebody’s watching me
And I have no privacy…
When I come home at night, I bolt the door real tight
People call me on the phone, I’m trying to avoid
But can the people on TV see me, or am I just paranoid?”

Picture it: You’re lying in bed watching TV, and somebody is watching you – from your TV!

But you don’t know it.

Yep. You just might be under observation by anonymous eyes if you own a high-end “smart” TV with Internet connectivity, cameras, microphones and apps. Josh Yavor, a security engineer, explained how hackers anywhere in the world can gain access to control your TV’s camera function by writing in extra code. And it can be done so you’ll never even know the camera is running behind the web page you’re looking at.

A “smart TV” is essentially a computer with a web browser and devices that are running Linux, which acts as the windowing system. Same goes for your home security camera, lights, heating control systems, door and window locks. Hackables.

Some smart TVs are manufactured by Samsung, which was made aware of the flaw and fixed it. But as security researchers warn, hackers will always be looking for ways to break into the system. It’s what they do.

And let’s not overlook the ubiquitous Google. The Internet giant has launched a competitor to Apple TV called Chromecast. The $35 device lets you control your TV screen from your smart phone or tablet, including iPhones and iPads. According to a report in Forbes, it sold out almost immediately. Hacking reports in three … two…

Even the former House Speaker wears Google Glass and tweets about it. Is anyone anonymous anymore?

Turning the tables, here’s a bird’s eye view of Google’s new Los Angeles campus, including a giant pair of binoculars. Tell me, who’s watching who?

“I don’t know anymore, Are the neighbors watching me?
Well is the mailman watching me?
And I don’t feel safe anymore, oh what a mess!
I wonder who’s watching me now – the IRS?”

Today the NSA. Tomorrow “the IRS?”

Addressing the Black Hat cybersecurity convention in Las Vegas last week, National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander assured hackers the NSA is not collecting everything.

“What we’re doing is for foreign intelligence purposes, to go after counterterrorism, counter-proliferation, cyber attacks,” he said. “And it’s focused. And if you think about netflow and the amount of information, you couldn’t afford – or don’t want to – collect everything.”

A day after the NSA head’s remarks, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was given temporary asylum in Russia, prompting this tweet from Democrats on the House Foreign Relations Committee: “Edward Snowden, enjoy the #Russian winter and the borscht!”

Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald who broke the Snowden story reacted, tweeting: “Who knew the senior Dems on this Committee were 5 years old?”

The Twittersphere was achirp at Snowden’s departure from Moscow’s airport, prompting one twit to tweet: “Hey, does anyone know if Snowden has left the Moscow airport? I’m not really sure what with the 500 tweets about it so far.”

One observer whose editorial link was retweeted by many observed, “Moscow has blown a giant raspberry at President Obama.”

Speaking of Russia, there must be an epidemic of stolen cell phones in Moscow. So much that authorities are equipping Moscow’s subway stations with devices that read passengers’ mobile phone data. To help locate stolen mobile phones, of course. Maybe they could use a Tile (more on that later in this column).

Moscow Metro Police Chief Andrei Mokhov said the devices have a range of about five meters and can read the SIM card. And though it is illegal to track a person without permission from the authorities, Mokhov says there’s no law against tracking the property of a company, such as a SIM card.

“Izvestia” reported that “according to experts, the devices can be used more widely to follow all passengers without exception.” Of course.

It’s a boy!

More than two million mentions of the British royal birth on Twitter, with well-wishers hashtagging the arrival ( #RoyalBaby,#RoyalBabyBoy and #RoyalBabyWatch) announced by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their first-born. The Royals’ Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) turned to Twitter to tell the world of the latest addition to the House of Windsor.


Here’s a device I’m tempted to use. Tile is brand new and costs under $20. A stamp-sized electronic device, it can help you recover lost or stolen items. The futuristic version of “Clap On, Clap Off,” the patron-saint finder of lost things, Tile will be available this coming winter.

Facebook pushing immigration reform

What do social media and immigration reform have to do with each another? Ask Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.


Earlier in this column, I noted that Google has released its own “smart TV” device. But that’s not all. From the headline at the Drudge Report, “MERCEDES-BENZ Integrating GOOGLE Glass Into Cars…” to Forbes’ report that Google recently announced it has activated 900 million Android devices and has 750 million users on its Chrome browser; from Google Glass to Chromecast, Google is inserting itself into our everyday lives.

Quoting Forbes: “Even more important are the thousands of experiments Google runs.
The massive breadth of Google services allows it to collect information on just about every human activity you can think of, from how we surf the Web to how we travel through a city and now, how we watch TV. It can then use the data to build simulations that help it determine how consumers are likely to act in the future, which allows Google to create better and better products.”

Yep: “Sometimes it feels like … somebody’s watching me … and I have no privacy.”

* Lyrics from eLyrics.net. The “Somebody’s Watching Me” lyrics by Michael Jackson are copyrighted, and eLyrics.net is featuring all Michael Jackson songs for non-commercial use only.