My parents just got a new TV, and for this year's super bowl I thought I'd check it out.
The sports fan that I am, I'd throw my arms in the air every time my team did something cool. When I did this, a menu would pop up on the screen.
Apparently, they bought a "smart" TV that uses a camera to detect visitor motion - raising your hand launches a menu that allows quick channel switching or swapping cable for NetFlix.
I thought it was pretty cool ... until I realized it meant a camera was watching me the entire time I was watching the super bowl.
It Gets Creepier
Another time, my brother wanted to show off the voice recognition of the machine. He walked in the room and just announced "TV on!"
To my surprise, it turned on.
He can also change the channel just by speaking.
Is This Secure?
If you know me, you know how much I care about network security; as a result, I run a fairly secure network in my home. We have a couple of smart TVs wired to the network, my work machines, smart phones, eBook readers. When I stopped to think about just how wired my house has become, it actually caught me off guard.
Setting up network connectivity has become so common in new device "unboxing" that we don't even realize we've connected until later.
Despite my work on network security, the occasional threat crops up. Someone borrowing a computer in the other room clicks a link and I'm inundated by trojan horse notifications as the web app they just installed starts broadcasting an open backdoor's whereabouts online.
This past week a friend fell for a "speed up your computer" scam that infested their computer - on a trusted network - with hundreds of viral trojan horse programs. Had we not caught it early, the infection could have easily spread to my laptop - my Kindle - my phone - my iPod ...
My network is fairly secure and, despite our best efforts, there are still holes all over the place. How easy would it be for one of these holes to let someone control my TV? My webcam?
This week I took a stand on this site to support online privacy and fight against government data surveillance. I care very much about not just my privacy, but yours, too. Being paranoid about potential security threats helps keep my home secure - so while this question might come across as overly tin-foil-hat: have you considered your new TV might be spying on you?
If you care as much about this issue as I do, you should contact your legislators today.