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“Get Your Hand Out My Pocket!!!”: Companies Procurement And The Use Of Your Information/Data

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New technology is so exciting, with all the great commercials, telling you about how to work its products and their different uses. I seem like every week companies are coming out with something, that you’ve got to have. The only issue is for me, being a conspiracy theories is “what’s the catch?” Today “the catch” is information storage or data, and how companies are getting your datas through their new personal assistant products. The problem is that, makers of personal assistant companies, hide the procurement tool in these produces, in the most unusually strangest, and smallest places, like with these voice commanded products, that is, in the reception of information or the artificial intelligence.

The companies I’m referring to, is the highest grossing companies, which are Google, Apple, Hp, and Now Amazon, they are in the business of search for any and all your information. Google has two area’s: its informational drop boxes in their searches took and their google home. All the other are through their personal assistant product, such as: Google, Cortana, Siri, and soon to be a big player, Alexia: they are in a race to become the biggest procurement of information organization on earth. So they can sell all your information and idiosyncrasies to the highest bidder, right from under your noses. Here’s a brief explanation of the three biggest company personal assistant products:
1. Siri:

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This VPA has been developed and implemented by Apple primarily for all of the iPhone devices. It has also recently been deployed on the Apple TV and Apple Watch as well. It can engage the end user in meaningful conversations with regards to helping the end user decide upon what the next course of action should be. Its greatest strength is that through its Artificial Intelligence algorithms, it can understand human language at a deep level. Its main drawback is that it cannot interoperate with other mobile apps on the iPhone. The replacement for Siri is known as “Viv,” and it is purported that it will be able to answer very complex questions which are posed to it by the end user.

2. Google Now:

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This VPA has been designed specifically for the Android Operating System and is meant to work primarily on the Samsung wireless devices. It is deemed to be more sophisticated than Siri regarding the robustness of the mathematical algorithms which are used. For example, it can harvest through your EMail inbox and your Web Browsing history to help the end user in more complex situations. It also keeps detail about your personal information and data, and to a certain degree, it can even communicate with other mobile apps which also reside on the Samsung wireless devices. In this regard, its higher level of sophistication is also deemed to be its greatest disadvantage, as many end users have complained that it violates their privacy rights.
2. Microsoft Cortana:

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This VPA has been created not only for the Windows 10 Operating System but also for the Windows Mobile devices as well. However, interestingly enough, it can also to a certain degree even function on the iOS and Android Operating Systems as well. Cortana has been designed more to interact with the personal life of the end user, by setting up reminders and other types of calendar appointments, as well as answering general kinds of questions. Its greatest strengths are that it can interoperate quite effectively with other Windows-based mobile apps, and can even function with Skype as well. However, its greatest weakness is that it is much less sophisticated that Siri or Google Now, and in fact, is the least used feature on the Windows 10 Operating System.

Most of us learn about these product from the commercials saying, “that they are here to assist and make your life easier.” By using peripherals bluetooth capable wireless product like: bulb, plugs, speakers,televisions, roomba (robot vacuum-cleaner, and an assortment of other things. These assistance can make your life simpler and also tell you: the weather, the score of sports, keep you up with your schedule, turn channels, record movies, pick songs, and sooth you when can’t sleep. However these products is worse than “a nosy neighbor” and “a stoker,” it’s “all in your business” and “it’s keeping tabs on you.” Because they are always listening:

Always Listening:

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Americans have grown inured to the idea that their computers are always tracking them. Search for a kitchen faucet online and faucet ads seem to appear on every Website you visit for days.
But could there come a day when talking about buying a faucet in the kitchen could be overheard by your TV in the living room, changing the types of commercials that show up when you’re watching your favorite program the next night?
That’s the type of scenario the group would like to get ahead of, while the list of voice control devices is still short. Today, the most widely-deployed are Apple’s Siri, Google’s OK, Amazon’s Echo and Fire TV, and some Samsung Smart TVs.
They represent “an enormous sea change to our relationship with the computer. And this is where privacy comes into the mix,” said Kelly Fitzsimmons, co-founder of Custom Realty Services, a virtual reality production company and also a part of the working group.
The aim isn’t to shut voice control down but to nudge it in the right directions. “We don’t want to kill the innovation cycle, but I care about whether my TV is listening to me,” said Joyce Brocaglia of Alta Associates, an executive cybersecurity search firm that helped launch the group.(www.usatoday.com)
Problems You Might Encounter
Whilst it is yet to have happened, or to have been allowed by any of the big tech companies, lawyers or the police could potentially subpoena sensitive information. This is, of course, if law enforcement gets their way.
If they do, they’ll have the key to a huge amount of information, Apple, Amazon and Google being amongst a growing list of companies that keeps an archive of commands.
The problem, however, goes beyond the mere use of digital assistants. As the use of integrated devices and smart homes increases, more and more devices will have the ability to store potentially sensitive information. A Smart TV, for example could easily have the capability of storing recorded information. Whilst this would seemingly be primed towards targeted ads, there is again the possibility that sensitive information could be stored unbeknownst to its users.

But The Companies Will Use The Phrase “It Keeps You Safe” OK, But At What Price?

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The obvious advice is easy to uphold, and is one that most people will already be practicing. Don’t say sensitive information, like passwords or credit cards details, out loud. It’s likely to become increasingly difficult to know who (or what’s) listening within your own home.
Meanwhile, whilst operating systems such as iOS do let you manage data collection by changing privacy settings, the only option the Amazon Echo gives you is to unplug the device when not in use. It’s important, therefore, to look at your privacy settings, whatever the device.
So aside from telling us tomorrow’s weather, where the best restaurants are, and the occasional bad joke, digital assistants do pose some real risks to our cybersecurity.
Whilst the technology undoubtedly makes us more seamlessly connected to our tech devices, in turn making our lives easier, it’s important to always take into account the issue of privacy; an issue that tech is increasingly making more tenuous within our own homes, for better or for worse.(www.pandasecurity.com)

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Despite the advantages that a Virtual Personal Assistant brings to an end user, or even for a business or a corporation, there are serious Security issues that are associated with them. Although the advent of a VPA is not a totally new concept, its huge demand and growth into the Smartphone is still being embraced.
This means that the assessing the security risks and threats which are posed to the different VPA applications are still being ascertained, and its magnitude of impact is still being quantified.
One of the first Security issues that comes to mind is that of privacy. For example, as we communicate with either Siri or Cortana, the dialogue can be still be considered as one sided.
This simply means that it is the end user who is engaging in most of the dialogue, and it is the Virtual Personal Assistant who is merely responding with the needed answers to the queries which are being asked of it.
However, it is very important to keep in mind at this point that it is not the mobile app upon which the VPA resides on which is answering to you -rather your conversations and queries are being transmitted back to the corporate headquarters of either Apple, Google, or Microsoft. In turn, it is the servers there which are feeding the answers back to the mobile app which is communicating with you.
So, the question remains is how secure these lines of communications between the mobile app and the transmissions sent back to the corporate headquarters and vice versa are? True, these companies may merely state that the lines of communications are indeed secure, but are they really?
Up to this point, there have been no known studies which have been conducted to examine the depth of Security of these particular lines of communications.
It is quite possible that they are totally unencrypted, and as a result, they could be a prime target for an Eavesdropping Attack by a Cyber attacker. It is also equally important to note that these servers may not necessarily reside exclusively here in the United States, where there is some legal protection afforded to citizens of wiretapping by the Federal Government or any other private third party.
These servers are very likely housed in those countries (given the fact that Google, Microsoft, and Apple are all multinational companies) where these protective mechanisms are not in place.
So, for example, although you might be having a conversation with Siri or Cortana here in the United States, there is a good chance that those conversations are then being transmitted back to the servers which reside in a country like Russia or China. As a result, there is a much higher probability that your conversations could very well be wiretapped, and being listed into.
Because of this, a virtual audit trail of your conversations is literally being built, in a manner similar to that of enabling cookies on your Web browser. To make Security matters even more complex, the conversations that you are having with either Siri or Cortana are actually being recorded and stored.
Apple has a retention policy of at least 18 months, the timeframe for Microsoft and Google have not yet been disclosed to the public. As a result, these stored conversations could be “prey” for the Cyber attacker.(infosecinstitute.com)

In Conclusion:

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Digital personal assistants in concept are fun, they have many uses and can help you with day to day chores to small things like turning on a light or changing the channels. However they are also termed as “Intelligent Virtual Assistants” because they actually use some sort of Artificial Intelligence (AI) embedded deep within them to create a robust, timely, and equally important, an accurate response to the end user’s particular query.
To be truly effective to the end user, these Virtual Personal Assistants try to get to “know” you as much as possible. To do this, they need to learn more about your particular habits and try to extrapolate and predict future queries.
In this regard, the use of Machine Learning as well as Neural Network technology has also been embedded into these mobile app packages.
It is widely expected that the demand for and the growth of Virtual Personal Assistants will only proliferate into the future (the exact trends and predictions for VPAs will be examined in a future article).
Part of the reason for this explosion are the heavy investments which are being made into them from the leading IT vendors, to bring their customers. a true, all-encompassing life experience when it comes to using the VPA for just about any task related matter at hand.
Despite the many advantages that a VPA brings to the table, there are also inherent Security risks associated with them as well, as it was reviewed in the last part of this article. These include unsecured lines of communications and the recording of conversations by the Vendor who developed the VPA. Which will leave the owner always always feeling compromised and in some cases spied on. Remember no matter what the advantages to new technology:Question Everything!!!

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