Technology is bringing us to places we never thought possible. It has paved the way for new methods of treating illnesses and diseases, it has provided us with a literal world of new information and it has helped us explore the unknown in capacities we never could have dreamed about.
Technology has served as the pencil and paper on which mankind has written its history, and without its progress, we’d probably still be chasing fire.
Of course, for every yin, there’s a yang. Technology has also been used to do some pretty creepy, crazy and even immoral things. It has been used to send explosive missiles into hospitals filled with women and children, conduct digital guerrilla warfare, and influence the international political machine.
The point I’m trying to make is: for as awesome and innovative technology is, there’s also a lot of creepy and downright terrifying shit we’ve managed to use it for.
Boston Dynamics’ Horrifying Robots
You may not recognize these folks by name, but if you’ve owned a computer with an internet connection any time in the last three years, you’ve seen their inventions. Horrifyingly agile four-legged robots that can be kicked, punched, wrestled, etc., but still not go down or lose their composure. In fact, these days, the folks at Boston Dynamics even have rolling robots that can travel at nearly 15 mph, jump over objects and pick themselves up if they’ve been knocked over.
Oh, and it’s all owned by Google. And they’ve previously developed robots designed for the U.S. military.
Has it technically been used for any shady shit yet? No. But, I mean, come awn guys. Crazy tinfoil hat talk aside, what the hell is the point of this, if not to, at the very least, assist with automating the human work force and potentially plunging the world into labor-based economic crisis? Worst case is probably enslaving us by force—but who knows.
Samsung’s Snitching Smart TVs
The exact verbiage was as follows: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”
Analysts and tech nerds tried to absolve Samsung of its sins by saying that they were using people’s voice commands to improve the TV’s performance, but if there’s one thing I’ve recently learned about our government’s willingness to allow corporations to sell out our private information to market research groups or each other, it’s that they will take anything they can and try to sell it for a profit.
Don’t ever look at your TV the same again, because it’s probably looking back at you.
Eavesdropping Amazon Echo and Google Home
Speaking of eavesdropping, with the home assistant boom in full swing (Google Home and Amazon Echo were two of the highest-selling gift items this past holiday season), many were shocked to learn that the year’s two most popular home assistants were actually veritable snitching machines.
As it turns out, when users give voice commands to these machines, they aren’t just actively listening and trying to pick up on trigger phrases or “wake words” to carry out commands, they’re actually recording said commands and storing them somewhere (Google/Amazon servers, most likely).
That raises several obvious ethical questions like:
- When are they listening?
- When are they recording?
- Who can access the recordings?
- Who can listen in?
Those questions became prevalent back in January after law enforcement officers in Arkansas contacted Amazon about potentially providing key information from an Amazon Echo that may or may not have been recording during a murder.
It’s heavy stuff. As of the writing of this story, a warrant has been issued to obtain the information from the Echo, but local prosecutors have said they’re not trying to enforce it, and even so, Amazon has pretty firmly told them to go kick rocks.
Nevertheless, this predicament should raise the concerns of everyone who purchases one of these devices to help make managing home life easier, but may wind up having their tech used against them in court.
DoubleAgent Malware Turns Your Windows Antivirus Against You
As a computer owner, you do everything you can to keep your rig from falling victim to hacking and viruses. You invest in the fancy antivirus software, download it, run it, and live under the presumption that you’re now the owner of an impenetrable digital fortress.
What if I told you there was a program out there that was capable of infiltrating all your fancy antivirus software, injecting malicious code into it, and then essentially turning it into the very malware you paid for it to stop.
Pretty heavy shit, no?
Well, that’s actually exactly what DoubleAgent does. It’s an attack mechanism that will take Windows antivirus software and transform it into harmful malware that locks up and takes control of your PC.
The scariest thing about it is that DoubleAgent is just one of many pieces of software that can do such things. Why? I guess some people just like to watch the world burn.
Hackers/Governments Spying Through Smartphones
We first heard about it during some of Edward Snowden’s preliminary government file leaks and interview sessions, but in recent history, we’ve learned that it’s all true—the government can spy on you using your smartphone. They can even use it as an active microphone recording system, all without physically touching your phone.
Government agencies and hackers use programs like StealthGenie, which is a piece of spyware that literally grants complete strangers full access to your phone, including the ability to identify your geolocation, listen to and record conversations, intercept messages and photos, etc.
It’s probably one of the most annoying damn things on the planet knowing that these stupid smartphones—the thing we credit for bringing so much progress and change to our lives—could be making us susceptible to some of the most egregious privacy violations the world has ever seen.
Your Internet Service Provider Selling All Your Browsing History
By far the freshest and most horrifying development in the race to completely ruin peoples’ lives with their own technology, Congress just voted (and passed!) legislation that would essentially bar internet privacy for, well, ever.
The House and Senate voted last week to repeal broadband privacy regulations that were hard-fought victories for the Obama Administration. Critics of the bill have said it “undermines fundamental privacy for every Internet user,” and well, they ain’t wrong.
Essentially, the legislation gives people’s internet service providers like (like Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner) the right to collect and sell customer browsing history to third parties (or whoever the fuck they want, really).
Not only will they be able to put together detailed consumer and individual marketing reports based on users’ specific histories, but they can also deploy real-time widgets and tools that’ll track the web traffic for literally every internet user in the U.S.
The sole purpose for the legislation—like, actually—is to appease advertising companies and media conglomerates who froth at the mouth for access to previously anonymous personal user data. And from the looks of it, they’re not just going to stop there.
In other technology news, check out Samsung’s new 4K 360-degree camera.
Correction, April 11, 2017: This article incorrectly stated that Lexus had launched a service called “Lane Valet”. Further research indicates that this product is not in development.