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Smart homes spy on you, here’s how to spy back

(TECHNOLOGY) Wow surprise, smart homes spy on you constantly. Here’s why it matters, and how to spy back.

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We’ve long talked about the risks and rewards of technology, especially IoT devices in the home. For every cool gadget, there’s a chance your information will get hacked or tracked.

Last year, Congress thought it would be fun to give Internet Service Providers (ISPs) power to spy on customer internet usage data and sell it. Which means your ISP can see all the data from your smart devices and profit from selling you out to third parties.

Some folks at Gizmodo decided to conduct an experiment to see how much data can be tracked from smart homes.

Back in December, Gizmodo senior reporter Kashmir Hill set up just about every smart device imaginable in her apartment including an Amazon Echo, smart TV, smart lights, toothbrushes, baby monitor, and even a mattress.

Hill’s colleague Surya Mattu, Gizmodo data reporter, configured a router to track the device’s network activity and give the duo the same view as Hill’s ISP.

They found that since the router’s installation in early December 2017, there was not a single day without activity from the router.

At least once a day, at least one of the smart devices sent data packets to the ISP, manufacturer, or third parties. If Hill told the living room to turn on the lights, Phillips got alerted. If the family watched something on Hulu, the smart TV sent information to data brokers.

Every action could be (and in most cases was) tracked and recorded, creating a vast data set about Hill’s daily routines and schedules.

Routine tracking may seem mundane since right now most of the data isn’t being used, just monitored and recorded. However, this data may have more impact in the future.

We already have car insurance companies that offer discounts for safe driving if you use their driving monitors. Cybersecurity expert David Choffnes points out we’re not too far from a world where smart toothbrushes may connect to dental insurance rates and discounts. We’ve explored how smart watches and even browser history could impact your health insurance rates and insurability. Right now it’s all theoretical, but the bones are there to create a tech-inspired Frankenstein.

Plus, it’s inherently creepy to think that an ISP could deduce your family’s schedule based on use of smart devices.

So how can you spy back to see what kind of data is being reported?

Well, for starters you’ll need to have some computer knowledge. Or a pal who is willing to help you out in your endeavor to be a smart home spy.

For the Gizmodo experiment, Mattu built a customized router using a Raspberry Pi 3, which is a tiny computer you can custom program. If you want to replicate their test, these run around $35 for a single board.

Fortunately, the Raspberry Pi 3 comes with built in wifi hardware so it should be fairly easy to configure it as a router if you already know how to use one.

Once connected to the internet and set up as a wifi router, you’ll add the script to monitor network traffic. For this part, you need an understanding of Git and Github.

Next, set up a server so you can store traffic. Mattu and Hill used Amazon Web Services, but you can use your own server if you want. They also crafted a front-end interface to analyze the data.

Note the times when you connect and use the devices for easier analysis. If you want more details about setting up your very own smart home data traffic monitoring router, check out their article.

Some of the information collected from the devices may seem trivial. After all, what does it really matter if Philips knows what time you get up in the morning? Hill noted the data being sent is “basic, boring, information, but revealing information about how we live our life.”

This data could start to matter if companies and ISPs use your information control how you use their devices and how products are sold to you.

TV watching data is already being sold to data brokers. It’s just a matter of time before your sleep score from a smart mattress gets reported to your health insurance to determine coverage or something equally Big Brother-like.

Smart homes are predicted to be a $27 billion market by 2021, with an unprecedented number of new devices in our homes. Before rushing out to get the latest smart device, make sure you’re fully aware of what data you may be inadvertently sharing with companies.

Check out different products’ privacy policies before buying to make sure you’re cool with what information the device will be sending. And if you don’t want your ISP to know how often you make lattes, maybe opt for a coffee maker that isn’t wifi-enabled.

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Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Real Estate Technology

Secret list of reasons why your Facebook ad will be rejected

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Save your marketing team time with this secret list of Facebook ad rejection reasons.

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facebook ad rejection

You read the rules, spent time optimizing target audience, double checked all the visual elements, and your Facebook ad is finally ready to go to market. You’re expecting the latest email from Facebook to be about billing details, and instead receive the dreaded (albeit common) rejection letter.

You’re left wondering how your your content have possibly violated the Community Standards. Turns out text like “Meet other seniors” or “Depression getting you down?” violates a “personal attributes” rule.

Directly addressing the user with terms like “you” or implications about identity like age, race, and gender aren’t permitted. So you remove that, only to find your ad rejected from the ad auction once again. There are hundreds of reasons the site can reject your ad.

You can quite literally spend hours pouring over Facebook’s Advertising policies, but we have a shortcut – Jane Manchun Wong put has together the most extensive list we’ve ever seen (click to enlarge).

facebook ad rejection reasons

Understandably, illegal content is rejected. You won’t find ads for drugs or counterfeiting services. Likewise, anything even kind of sexual or potentially offensive (like someone flipping the middle finger) violates the standards. No ads for mail order brides or anything the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would regulate either.

Okay, so obviously you can’t advertise illegal things on the mainstream internet. Especially not when Facebook is asking users to respond to surveys about if the company is good for the world.

However, there’s some grey area once you move past obviously unacceptable content. QR codes, a popular ad novelty, are a reason for rejection. Likewise, if your ad features a picture of Mark Zuckerberg, it’ll get slapped down.

Feel like mentioning the spy cameras? Nope. Have an ad about lasers? Nah. Animals? DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. Oddly enough, Instagram references aren’t allowed either even though Facebook owns the company.

Although Facebook is trying to uphold their values about safety, voice, and equity, enforcement of these principles is often flawed.

Bra and underwear retailers struggle to get their ads approved even if the content is not sexual in nature. An ad by Harper Wilde, an online bra startup, featuring a plain bra on a colored background was rejected on the grounds that the link leads to a site featuring adult content.

Since Facebook rejects anything focused on a single body part or that is too zoomed in, exposed bodies on an underwear site certainly violate the terms. While Facebook is attempting to hold up a moral code of not offending users, implementation isn’t consistent.

Although Facebook technically has a link to appeal disapproved ads, users report the link is either broken, or returns an auto-generated response with no way to follow up with a person.

We can certainly appreciate that Facebook now bans the obnoxious “before-after” gifs of someone’s belly fat disappearing to the backdrop of a tape measure, and rejects blatantly offensive material.

facebook ad acceptable

Attempting to provide higher quality content that doesn’t shame or offend users is a noble goal.

But when everyday products can’t be advertised, and robots are enforcing grey area, it’s time for a better appeals process. At least now you know what not to include in your next Facebook ad, even if it is legit.

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Real Estate Technology

If your task lists are based on your email inbox, meet Moodo

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) Moodo is helping people by removing the need to organize their organizers with the invention of their own task manager.

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There are plenty of devices and platforms out there that ensure productivity. However, using all of them at the same time will do just the opposite. That is why one company, Moodo, has found a solution.

They have developed a way to create task lists and schedule events all by starting with email.

Moodo was founded by Grant Watters and Jay Meistrich after they realized just how much time they wasted “organizing their organizational systems.” Even they recognized how many devices and separate tools they were using to keep up with their daily to-do lists.

Ultimately, it made them less productive as more time was spent task switching, tracking down content and translating it to team members than performing the tasks themselves. This led them to create Moodo, an application that deciphers tasks lists directly from your inbox.

Anyone can begin making outlines through Moodo. First, you start with your inbox. Users can sort, prioritize and organize emails based on their content. The tool allows users to make various outlines, where emails are dragged, dropped and saved as tasks.

Outlines can be viewed all together, or can be zoomed in and searched for specific content.

Additionally, users can match up their to-do lists with their calendars. Tasks can easily be placed into calendars to correspond with your schedule. It is a way to ensure that no tasks are overlooked or forgotten because they reside in more than one place.

Moodo is not only a great way to boost individual productivity, but also work ethic among a group. Multiple members on a team can view and edit task lists and calendars in real-time. Everyone can use their individual devices to collaborate. Moodo also works offline. Changes to any content will be synced once you go online again.

The company can ensure users’ privacy because none of the content passes through servers, instead it is stored on Google Drive. People can start using Moodo for free. It is also currently available on all devices.

So why not put your email to good use? With Moodo, everything works better when it works together.

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Real Estate Technology

Your home or office needs this $20 smart camera

(TECHNOLOGY) Whether for your office, home, home office, or listing, this $20 smart cam is a great secret weapon!

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Home security cameras are becoming standard equipment in many homes and offices these days, but some of the more popular ones still come with a hefty price tag. That’s where the Wyze Cam comes to the rescue. This simply designed device hit the market for $19.99 in 2017, and now the company offers an upgraded option for $29.99. (You can still buy the lower-cost version.)

Does this relatively cheap security camera hold up to pricier security options like Nest, Ring, and Amazon’s Cloud Cam? Tech experts seem to think so. Cnet appreciated features such as timelapse, the ability to turn off alerts, and its built-in carbon monoxide and smoke alarms. TechCrunch gave a thumbs up to its easy installation, software, and video quality.

So, if you’re a real estate agent, should you consider installing these affordable security tools in properties you’re trying to sell, especially empty homes that could be easy targets for vandals and burglars? The simple answer is yes: Wyze Cams are a low-cost way to protect these properties when no one is around. The longer answer is yes, but make sure you’re following the law in your state.

In Texas, for example, the so-called “one-party rule” requires at least one party to consent to recording conversations. In the case of a home listing, the person most likely consenting would be the seller. However in many states, including Texas, if the seller is not participating in the conversation being recorded, they cannot record the audio, only video. And they cannot install cameras in areas where the potential buyers would expect privacy, like the bathroom.

To protect yourself, buyers, and sellers, NAR advises that listing agents ask sellers if they’re using any kind of cameras or other surveillance equipment. If so, they should tell the buyer’s agent or include a notice in the listing so everyone is aware before entering the home. If you want to take it a step further, you can require sellers to inform you of any surveillance equipment in the home as part of their contracts.

A good rule of thumb if you’re a buyer’s agent: Assume you and your clients are being recorded anytime you tour a home. Some buyer’s agents are even directing clients to keep any opinions — good or bad — to themselves until safely out of any cameras’ reach so sellers don’t get the upper hand in negotiations (just make sure it’s done legally).

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