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The Commercialization of Privacy

Tom Fishburne
© Tom Fishburne

I have to admit that I purchased a Nest thermostat a few months ago, before there was any hint that Google was about to purchase them. I didn’t get the smoke alarm option.

This comic might seem to have little to do with politics, but it is about privacy — a topic that is on everyone’s minds. Has the NSA already hacked into the Nest thermostat, so it knows when you’re home? What’s next? A microphone to eavesdrop on what you’re saying in your own home? That may sound paranoid, but an increasing number of things in your home are connected to the internet — not just my thermostat, but my TV, my telephone, not to mention all my computers (which have full video cameras, not just microphones).

So who should I be more worried about with this kind of information, the government, or companies like Google?

One way or another, I’m thinking that privacy is doomed.

UPDATE: In a vaguely related story, banking giant HSBC has started refusing to let people access their own money unless they can give a good reason why they want it. In some cases, they have asked for proof.



  1. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Great topic, and very complex in light of the NSA issue.

    The 1st concern people seem to have, which personally I believe is unfounded, is the health risk. Mind you these are the same people talking on a cell phone while heating up soup in a microwave while surfing the web next to their wireless router, but I digress. There is no correlation yet between wireless technology and increased healt risk. At this time and I’ll end it there.

    Another group of people that does include myself have other concerns more realted to privacy and control of my own environment. By that I mean I do not want the government to know when I’m home by measuring the amount of power I use at different times. I also do not want them to cycle me down or punish me for using more then the prescribed, by a yet to be enacted gov’t standards chart, alotment of energy. They have begun this in my state and we are told it is mandatory to participate. They say it is necessary to better regulate the grid to reduce power outages in peak times and that they can and will cycle availability during peak times. Now if I am home sick or as is a truth that my 86 year old mother in law who lives with us is at home and they throttle down or shut down my AC units that will be a problem.
    In my wild Orwellian thoughts I see this as a way say like the gov’t of my neighboring state in NJ could use it to punish me for not towing the party line. There are just too many what ifs for my liking. Does the gov’t need to be inside my personal residence? Should they have that much control over my personal life? I think these are the real questions that need to be discussed.
    The top link is a PBS piece that doesn’t take sides.
    The bottom link is completely against smart meters.

    Friday, January 24, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink
  2. westomoon wrote:

    I’m with the Sarge — even worse than surveillance is the potential for outside control of one’s private spaces and activities. If something is internet connected, it’s hackable.

    It’s currently fashionable (and realistic) to worry about the government playing Big Brother. But it’s also worth worrying about corporations and individuals — employees of, say, Google or On-Star being insufficiently vetted and being able to mess with one’s private environment, e.g.. Maybe it’s a girl thing, but I read about some of the current on-line harassment and stalking, and think what it would be like if one of those types could control their victim’s smart house, or car, or medical records…

    Friday, January 24, 2014 at 10:03 am | Permalink
  3. ebdoug wrote:

    I have a neighbor who is an engineering specialist. The whole house is off grid. They are still on the Internet and do have back up propane for heat. Solar, wind power, wood, pellets, geothermal? I’m not sure about that. I love the idea of them being beyond reach of anything being regulated. just imagine you had your own electricity. In this bitter weather we are having you could heat the whole house until your power sources run down.
    As far as big brother, my hope is to put in cameras to watch me as I age, tied into my son’s computer in Virginia. Home invasion? If he was watching, he could call for help. Elder abuse? he could be aware of it. Staying in my own home. Modern technology has its pluses also.

    Friday, January 24, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

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