back to article Sure, encrypt your email – while your shiny IoT toothbrush spies on you

The increasingly noisy debate over encryption is nothing to worry about, eggheads at Harvard have announced today: it's your toothbrush you need to worry about. In a 37-page paper titled Don't Panic: Making Progress on the 'Going Dark' Debate [PDF], a team from the Berkman Center has summarized discussions between themselves, …

  1. Steven Roper
    Big Brother


    must be either spinning in his grave like an ultracentrifuge or laughing his arse off.

    If I could go back in time and tell him, "in the future it won't just be telescreens spying on you, every single home device from your toaster oven to your toothbrush, will be reporting on your every action, so write about that in your novel 1984," he'd have laughed at me and said, "Are you serious, sir? Putting nonsense like that in my book would make people think it was merely a comedic joke!"

    Too bloody bad it isn't.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Orwell

      Bad as all the1984 spying is, things are actually worse, because its nothing compared to all the doors being left open for criminals right now.

      Paper doors put there by merchants, banks, credit-score-outfits, governments, local authorities, municipalities etc, all of whom are supposed to be looking out for us... the paying consumer....

      My little lady got hit... A bank whose a/c she closed years ago gave out 3 credit cards for 10 grand in her name. She was able to fight her corner, but only after essential backing from the regulator, which wasn't easy, as you have to convince them first!

      Meantime, nothing brings back her old credit score, and it sure as hell doesn't bring back the 150 hours of queuing, phoning, emailing and pavement and paper work she had to endure...

      1. MacroRodent Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Orwell

        "1984" is trotted out so often I wonder how many people have actually read it. Surveillance was only a part of the horror. Worse was that suspected "thoughtcrime" meant you were eventually taken to the "Ministry of Love" (that is, the torture and brainwashing center), where you were taught that 2+2=5 if The Party says so. I don' t see that happening in Western countries.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Orwell

          You haven't been keeping up with the Presidential campaigns, have you? Or all the arguing at the Flat Earth Society? It's happening, and the worst part is that people are completely blind to that revelation. They're spoon-fed lies, told it's the truth, and believe it with such absolute conviction that they will argue with everyone else about it until Doomsday.

        2. Steven Roper

          Re: Orwell

          "Worse was that suspected "thoughtcrime"... I don' t see that happening in Western countries."

          You don't? Replace the word "thoughtcrime" with "political incorrectness" and "Ministry of Love" with "life ruination at the hands of rampaging social-media SJW lynch mobs" and try again.

        3. hplasm
          Big Brother

          Re: Orwell

          " I don' t see that happening in Western countries."


        4. Peter Depledge
          Big Brother

          Re: Orwell

          One of the main themes in 1984 is that we are in a continuous state of war. This is used as the reasoning behind the spying, monitoring and the use of the memory hole in creating the history to show who and why we are at war.

          Any of this sound familiar? There was a brief lull in war when the cold war ended, but now with The War Against Terrorism we're back in a state of Total War. All this added security is to fight TWAT and if you disagree with it, you are either a terrorist, or you need to be educated by Big Brother.

          See 2+2=5

          Victory gin all-round

        5. nijam

          Re: Orwell

          ... I don' t see that happening in Western countries.

          Who told you not to see it?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Orwell

      Pretty soon with such coverage, the spooks will be able to tell you if Orwell is spinning or not...

  2. Mark 65


    I view the IoT as an intelligence test based upon what you think the best possible outcome is of connecting shit like your fridge and TV with microphone to the internet is. If the answer is "convenience" then you'll get what you deserve.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IoT - "you'll get what you deserve"

      Its easy to say that when you're not responsible for other people, the kind that unlike you and me, simply don't get it!! Think.... Kids / Wife / Parents / Sisters / Brothers / Parents etc...

      Its also easy to forget that many shops have stopped selling TV's that aren't smart! Sure, don't connect it, but what if your neighbor's kid does when you're out one day, and you don't discover it for six months!

      I have the thankless job of being the 'bad guy' in my house for pointing out that Flash is bad, Java is bad, PDF's are bad, and Javascript is bad sometimes too... So use the Linux box when surfing, not the windows crap-heap...

      The way IoT is being forced upon us, it will be like smart TV's are now, there won't be any god damn other choice!

      We are sleep walking to a privacy holocaust and can't do anything about it, short of unplugging and moving to the forest, which is not very practical when you have a family to consider!

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: IoT - "you'll get what you deserve"

        "Its also easy to forget that many shops have stopped selling TV's that aren't smart! Sure, don't connect it, but what if your neighbor's kid does when you're out one day, and you don't discover it for six months!"

        Or worse, it comes with Whispernet, OTA, or Powerline communication capabilities that you can't kill without killing the TV AND voiding the warranty (and you can't even Faraday-cage a Powerline network)? I bet pretty soon chatback will become a standard, essential feature of all electric appliances in the future such that trying to kill the feature kills the device cold.

        And as for moving to the forest, there's the matter of the satellites...

        1. Steven Roper

          @ Charles 9

          What man can make, man can break. There's always a way mate!

          If connecting via WiFi is a problem, you can just build this sweet little WiFi jammer with about $20 worth of parts from Maplins or Jaycar. Bear in mind that if you want WiFi for some devices and not others, it's not a huge issue to reduce the output power of each jammer and tweak the size of the antenna to confine the jamming to the immediate proximity of the device (such as a smart TV) you don't want connecting.

          As to dealing with Powerline networking, our good mate Elon Musk has unwittingly come up with a brilliant solution to that; just make sure your IoT devices are plugged into the battery-driven circuit instead of directly into the mains.

          Even though the Tesla system is connected to the mains as backup, the DC-AC conversion process and capacitance of the battery should wipe out any signal being carried over the powerlines!

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: @ Charles 9

            TVs are useless without stuff to watch. They can just carry the signals through that, leaving you with a Take It Or Leave It. You either accept the TV signals that carry the info with them or you're left with an expensive dead weight. Plus that TV should start acting unpredictably without the ability to phone home.

            After all, man usually cannot break a one-way mechanism without setting it off.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IoT - "you'll get what you deserve"

        There is a choice. You don't need a TV. If they don't provide the product, don't get it. You will be better off in the long run. There should be PC monitors left for the foreseeable future. You do have a point with everyone else and their purchase choices though. It will be hard to keep others from bringing in IOTs into the house!

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: IoT - "you'll get what you deserve"

          Going without a TV can be considered much like going without electricity: you could, but man is it gonna suck, especially as other forms of information gathering become no-mans'-lands (like the Internet) or fall by the wayside (like the newspaper).

  3. Christian Berger

    The problem is that cloud services are allowed for such things

    I mean particularly with IPv6 all of those problems could be solved easily at home. If you want to look into the fridge while you are out, just press a button on it, it'll display its IPv6 address and a one time authentification token on its display (perhaps as a QR code). You snap it with your phone, decode the QR code and use your browser to access it. No cloud service necessary to spy on you. Since it's IPv6 you can have your public IPv6 address there and it'll just work.

    However in any case, the main problem is that such solutions require a minimum amount of effort and competence. Current systems are catered to people who have no idea of what they are doing.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: The problem is that cloud services ... IPv6

      With IPv6?

      IP4 vs IP6 makes no difference! Actually unless you are expert, the IPv6 is worse!

    2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

      Re: The problem is that cloud services are allowed for such things

      No cloud service necessary to spy on you.

      What? And how, pray, are we going to make any money out of you? You must have a cloud service that you have to subscribe to so we can charge you to see the contents of your fridge while you stand in your kitchen with your iPad.

      Come on. That's the future. If you can do it without us forcing a service down your neck, what's the point of Internet companies?

      No cloud service necessary, indeed. Fuck off!!

    3. Mystic Megabyte

      Re: The problem is that cloud services are allowed for such things

      Unless your fridge is setting it's clock from the internet.

    4. Wayland Sothcott 1 Bronze badge

      Re: The problem is that cloud services are allowed for such things

      If I want to see what's in the fridge I open the door and look inside. Most have a high tech light operating by SCADA bus that detects the opening of the door. Obviously it could be susceptible to STUXNET virus.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: The problem is that cloud services are allowed for such things

        So what if you're in the supermarket trying to recall if you have milk in the fridge or not? It'd be too much effort to go home just to check (if you go home, you might as well not come back), and your memory really isn't that swift. An app like that could save some serious time and money, particularly if you're in an edge case like you just got off the late shift and you're trying to get a quick gallon before the store closes.

        PS. Since milk is perishable, it may not be wise to just get it anyway since you may not get through it before it sours.

  4. Dr_N Silver badge

    Connected Toothbrush

    [Dripping Sarcasm]

    Oooh! WOoT!

    [/Dripping Sarcasm]

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    By "it isn't in tech companies best interests to provide it"

    They mean it isn't in Google's best interests to provide it. You can't data mine people's Gmail if it is end to end encrypted.

    Apple could easily provide end to end encryption for emails between Apple devices, but if I use a address on my iPhone and someone sends me an encrypted email from theirs, sure I can read it fine from my iPhone but would present rather a problem if I tried to use the GMail web interface instead. Even if it supported decrypting I'd need to provide Google my key which rather defeats the point of encryption when the biggest snoop on the planet has my key!

    With Google permanently against such encryption and being one of the largest email players they have been and will effectively remain a roadblock to this. They knew what they were doing when they bribed everyone to use their service with a free gigabyte of storage, back when Microsoft was busy thinking they could monetize email storage.

  6. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    The IoT vision always makes me shudder slightly

    I for one do not relish the idea of a future with a load of chatty doors, self-satisfied fridges, and a nutrimatic machine making me a cup filled with a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

    Alternatively, we end up with a computer that tells me:

    "I am sorry, Dave, I can't do that for you"


    And my name isn't even Dave

    1. John G Imrie

      Re: The IoT vision always makes me shudder slightly

      I think you aught to know that I'm feeling very depressed.

      But don't worry as today is Mandatory Fun Day, the computer is your friend.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: The IoT vision always makes me shudder slightly

      Time to throw the nutrimatic cup.

  7. Bota

    "S.M.A.R.T" Devices






  8. Bota

    The other interesting thing I was thinking about is from a movie called "THX 1138", I believe that mixed with 1982 is what we have to look forward to, if you haven't seen it you should check it out I'm just wondering how long it will take before there are "therapy" apps where we can talk all about ourselves to the little shiny iThing.

  9. Wayland Sothcott 1 Bronze badge

    Connected telly

    There is a reason you would connect your telly, it's to get more TV programmes.

    Why would you want to "Turn on your hot water whilst talking to your daughter."?

    1. Oengus

      Re: Connected telly

      Why connect the Telly?

      You will have a device that is connected (PC, Tablet, phone). Use that to retrieve the material and display it on the "dumb" telly without any need to connect it. That way the telly doesn't have to "phone home" and give personal information to yet another "big data" aggregator so your data can be matched with other data sources.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Connected telly

        And if you DON'T? What if the TV is all you have?

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