Your phone and TV track you — and political campaigns listen in… NEST SPY: GOOGLE says built-in microphone was ‘never supposed to be secret’

Your phone and TV are tracking you, and political campaigns are listening in

It was a crowded primary field and Tony Evers, running for governor, was eager to win the support of officials gathered at a Wisconsin state Democratic party meeting, so the candidate did all the usual things: he read the room, he shook hands, he networked.

Then he put an electronic fence around everyone there.

The digital fence enabled Evers’ team to push ads onto the iPhones and Androids of all those attending the meeting. Not only that, but because the technology pulled the unique identification numbers off the phones, a data broker could use the digital signatures to follow the devices home. Once there, the campaign could use so-called cross-device tracking technology to find associated laptops, desktops and other devices to push even more ads.

Welcome to the new frontier of campaign tech — a loosely regulated world in which simply downloading a weather app or game, connecting to Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or powering up a home router can allow a data broker to monitor your movements with ease, then compile the location information and sell it to a political candidate who can use it to surround you with messages.

“We can put a pin on a building, and if you are in that building, we are going to get you,” said Democratic strategist Dane Strother, who advised Evers. And they can get you even if you aren’t in the building anymore, but were simply there at some point in the last six months.

Google says the built-in microphone it never told Nest users about was ‘never supposed to be a secret’

  • In early February, Google announced that Assistant would work with its home security and alarm system, Nest Secure.
  • The problem: Users didn’t know a microphone existed on their Nest security devices to begin with.
  • On Tuesday, a Google representative told Business Insider the company had made an “error.”
  • “The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs,” the person said. “That was an error on our part.”

In early February, Google announced that its home security and alarm system Nest Secure would be getting an update. Users, the company said, could now enable its virtual-assistant technology, Google Assistant.

The problem: Nest users didn’t know a microphone existed on their security device to begin with.

The existence of a microphone on the Nest Guard, which is the alarm, keypad, and motion-sensor component in the Nest Secure offering, was never disclosed in any of the product material for the device.

On Tuesday, a Google representative told Business Insider the company had made an “error.”

“The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs,” the person said. “That was an error on our part.”

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