Evil Barbie. Bad TV. Everything is Listening.

Barbie received a lot of good publicity lately over her new body types. Another addition to the Barbie family is the Hello Barbie doll. Think of it as Siri in a Barbie. The doll listens and responds to your child. The problem is that Barbie, when on, is always listening and sending everything your child says to some cloud based server over Wi-Fi and the internet which makes all the things your child says vulnerable to hacking. You can read about some of the vulnerabilities here.

And then there is that smart TV sitting not so benignly in your living room or bedroom. In the interest of making TVs, and other devices, easier to use, voice control is increasing being built in. Like Barbie, the TV is always listening to you, and by listening, I mean it is recording your every word and sending it across the internet for processing. Additionally, more TVs are coming with built-in cameras. Furthermore, your TV can be hacked.

Here’s an article about Samsung TVs and how to disable the voice control. For TVs with a camera, a piece of tape is a great low-cost solution.

And speaking of devices listening to everything, you may have seen some articles about Amazon’s Echo, a small device that acts like a personal assistant. As with Barbie and the TVs, these devices are always listening in some capacity, unless you explicitly turn them off. One side-effect is that the devices are also listening to each other. If your radio is on, for instance, the Echo does not know that it is not you speaking. Read about the real-life consequences of that here, it’s kind of funny in a what-else-could-go-wrong way.


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