'Smart' television watches you

  • 31 October 2014
A boy stands in front of a television screen. Image copyright Thinkstock

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

"The FBI will not have to bug your living room; you will do it yourself."

So says Michael Price of Salon.com, the nervous new owner of a "smart" TV - a web-connected telly that recognises his face, listens to his voice, and could send that information (and more, including emails he receives) to a third party.

"Got that? Don't say personal or sensitive stuff in front of the TV," writes Price.

"I do not doubt that this data is important to providing customised content and convenience, but it is also incredibly personal, constitutionally protected information that should not be for sale to advertisers and should require a warrant for law enforcement to access."

The Daily Mail reports British IT consultant Jason Huntley found his LG smart TV had sent his children's names, unencrypted, over the internet "because he had watched a family video on his set".

Price explains current laws offer very little privacy protection to the "third party records", including data stored in the cloud (although one federal court of appeals has found this rule unconstitutional with respect to email).

Speaking about web-based "smart" devices, retired General David Petraeus, former head of the CIA, said in 2012 that "Items of interest will be located, identified, monitor, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers and energy harvester." That means, Price argues, as the "Internet of Things" matures, household appliances - even your socks - may be wired to interact online.

Of course, it is possible to disable data collection, but that immobilises many of the high-tech functions.

"This leaves consumers with an unacceptable choice between keeping up with technology and retaining their personal privacy… We should not have to channel surf worried that the TV is recording our behaviour for the benefit of advertisers and police. Companies need to become more mindful of consumer privacy when deciding whether to collect personal data."

Russia

A Chinese partner in cyber-security - Russia and China see eye-to-eye on their increased role in cyber-security, according to Elena Chernenko, Vladislav Novyii and Ivan Safronov in Russia's Kommersant. Both countries support the "internationalisation" of internet management, which includes the sovereign right of a government to control internet sites in "its own national segment" (the US does not recognize the existence of national segments).

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Beijing next month, where he is expected to sign a bilateral agreement on cyber-security. This follows several collaborative deals between China and Russia in information technology and communications. In May, the Russian state telecom company signed a $60m (£37.5m) contract with Chinese company Huawei to build an underwater communication line in the Russian Far East.

Meanwhile, they say, any US-China partnership is mired in disagreement over US accusations of Chinese industrial and government cyber-espionage

Japan

An out-of-date economic playbook - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged a number of "third-arrow" reforms to bring about Japan's resurgence, but Bloomberg's William Pesek says these would have been appropriate 10 to 15 years ago - more modern measures are necessary.

Today Japan should provide more support for a start-up boom, the end of Amakudari - "the equivalent of the revolving door that shifts Wall Street bankers into top Washington jobs and back" - and more flexible immigration policies.

Pesek also says a forward-thinking energy policy, reducing trade barriers and greater gender equality in public-sector leadership roles are necessary if Japan is finally going to turn things around.

Libya

Little progress three years after Muammar Gaddafi - The past several months have been a turbulent period of violence, resulting in a divisive political situation, according to Gianluca Eramo of the Libya Herald. The author says in addition to local fighting, neighbouring countries and regional powers are manoeuvring and steering among Libyan militias to gain access, power and control.

"The international community must urgently develop a concrete political strategy to support the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people for security, dignity and democracy," said Eramo.

Political discourse that focuses on shared, open and fair transitional justice mechanisms can shift attention from the current tendency to look outside the country for political backing and support, says Eramo. "It can therefore also help reduce the risk of external actors fuelling cycles of violence."

Zimbabwe

Little help on Ebola from within - Almost 40 years after Ebola was first identified, Africa does not have the capacity to play a pivotal role in fighting the virus, argues Brian Sedze of the Standard. The continent, he says, has not invested in research, believing some overseas country would do the research instead.

"The continent seems to be completely outraged at the international community for what they believe is a lethargic reaction to efforts at containing the Ebola epidemic," Sedze adds. "There are also murmurs of disapproval that the US provided 3,900 soldiers to help in the fight of Ebola instead of medical personnel."

The question, he asks, is how many doctors and nurses did Africa itself provide for this effort. The lack of personnel might be explained by the ever present dependency syndrome.

"While the world was doing all this for us, Africa was busy spending millions sponsoring tribal conflicts, billions of dollars on corruption, funding lavish lifestyles of its corrupt leaders, siphoning billions of dollars to tax havens and sponsoring warped priorities that only encourage political expedience at the cost of lives of its citizens," he concludes

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Israeli columnists react to an unnamed senior US official insulting Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in an Atlantic magazine article earlier this week.

"This is just the latest in a series of vindictive acts by the Obama administration because Israel has dared to reject its diktats... Netanyahu should be commended for withstanding the unreasonable pressure from Obama and Kerry, avoiding outright confrontations and in so doing, retaining the support of American public opinion and Congress." - Isi Leibler in Yisrael Hayom.

"The latest attack signals the policy the United States will adopt toward Netanyahu's government following the upcoming congressional elections and in the two years left for Obama at the White House. The tight security and intelligence cooperation will continue, but the diplomatic protection at the UN and international forums will not be immediate and granted." - Barak Ravid in Ha'aretz.‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at) bbc.co.uk.

Related Topics