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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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smart homes

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

Using text message marketing? This class action lawsuit may change your mind

(MARKETING NEWS) A new class action lawsuit may have your team reconsidering whether or not text message marketing is worth the risk.

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text messaging

Imagine sitting on the sofa with your family and your phone vibrates. It’s a text message! You’re expecting your brother to let you know if he’ll make it to dinner tomorrow.

But it’s a text from a real estate brokerage, loudly proclaiming an “OPEN HOUSE THIS WEEKEND” in all caps, with a link to the listing.

How did they get your number? Why are they yelling at you? Why doesn’t the link have a brokerage name in the URL? Why would I click that link? Why am I being bothered during family time? Why, why, why?

Most people would block the number and move on, or text “stop,” in hopes that the future barrage of unsolicited texts would stop. We all get them from every direction, nearly every day now.

But not Floridian Steve Grossberg, who took a screenshot of a text message from a Coldwell Banker agent, and hired an attorney. A class action lawsuit has since been filed in the Southern District of Florida, and a court date is set for this Friday, April 12, for Judge Federico A. Moreno to review the case.

The lawsuit claims the text messages were sent without written permission from the recipients (required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) since 2012), causing the Defendants “injuries, including invasion of their privacy, aggravation, annoyance, intrusion on seclusion, trespass, and conversion.”

Class action status is being sought for this case – Grossberg’s attorneys claim individual cases for all those impacted would overwhelm the court system and be too financially cumbersome for potential individual plaintiffs.

They’re seeking up to $1,500 in damages for each violation, which they say exceeds the $5,000,000 threshold for federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). The “Class” would include anyone in the past four years that have texted by Coldwell Banker or anyone on their behalf, using automated equipment (or an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS)). Interestingly, in the “Class” description, the attorneys don’t include permission status at all, just “anyone” that has been auto-texted by the brokerage.

Court documents outline in detail the technologies used that allegedly violate federal statues, and Grossberg isn’t just suing the local agent or brokerage, but the international company, Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, claiming the text messages sent violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The lawsuit does not outline in such detail, the chain of permission that was or was not given.

Real estate professionals that hire a marketing firm or a tech startup that promises to modernize their marketing, have an expectation that their money is being spent on something that is in compliance with all laws, be they local, state, or federal. Especially if that is what the company being hired specializes in.

Laying it at the feet of the end user (brokerages) is unfair, and it is curious that no service provider is named as the Defendant. Perhaps Coldwell Banker’s pockets seem deeper.

Additionally, the topic of permission is convoluted, as website visitors will often fill out their information when viewing homes, and the IDX provider will use that contact information to send even more information, thus written permission to contact.

Lumping the above activity in with telemarketing spam would be inaccurate. If a brokerage bought a list of phone numbers to cold text without consumers’ permission, that would, however be illegal.

Regardless, in the text message showcased in the lawsuit, the URL provided (ishomenow.com) forwards to listingstoleads.com – Listings-to-Leads (L2L) which says it is a “leading inbound marketing platform with a lead generation system.”

It appears to us that the lead generation company is the originator of the text message, not a specific Coldwell Banker agent or broker.

This Friday will determine next steps in this case, but for now, it is worth investigating your own text message marketing efforts (whether done yourself or through a third party) to make sure proper permissions have been obtained, and that all use is within current federal guidelines, because a potential $1,500 per text message sent in violation of the law would hurt any brokerage.

Be sure to read the lawsuit in its entirety as it outlines the specific behaviors in question, and review this potentially helpful compliance checklist in the meantime.

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Real Estate Technology

The app for pros that rely on their network for sales

(TECH NEWS) When you network frequently as part of your sales strategies, connections can get confused and become impersonal. This app intends on fixing that.

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Part of any successful professional’s life is networking in person, be it within your network, or among consumers. But keeping everyone straight takes a lot of brain power and skill.

You can never have too many apps when it comes to networking. Which is why I’m thrilled that with the arrival of Hippo, we have a meaningful entry in the field.

Like its distant cousin “personal finance and budgeting,” there are more apps out there than I have fingers and toes. Yet Hippo is attempting to do what dozens of other networking apps are trying to do as well: Get and keep your attention.

That said, it appears that Hippo is trying to tap into your vein of nostalgia by letting you know that networking is akin to happiness. In other words, the more people you know, the happier you are – their premise is supported by a giant TED talk on their website’s landing page.

The Hippo app lets you personalize your entries: names, ages, descriptions, personal notes, special dates.

For anyone involved in sales, Hippo could offer one hell of an advantage.

For those of us used writing things down about the people you meet, Hippo makes your conversations instantly searchable. Hippo can find notes using any obscure keyword you can remember. The search is brilliant.

The app promotes the idea of the “Farley file,” wherein Franklin D. Roosevelt’s campaign manager, James Farley kept notes of every single person they came across, including personal details that could be accessed by Roosevelt days, weeks, or even months later to improve the personal touch of any conversation. This was not the standard method at the time and many believe it changed how politicians were expected to communicate.

Hippo is just waiting to be downloaded.

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Real Estate Technology

Partners in Grind is an accountability match-making site

Partners in Grind is a website that strives to help you find an accountability partner – something that could really help with inspiring productivity.

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accountability

We all have that friend who serves as our “partner in crime,” the one they go on crazy adventures with and have great stories to tell as a result. For me, all of my friends fall into this classification; but I digress…

While these relationships are fun for “every once in a while” behavior, not everyday needs to be an adventure. But, it is difficult to find the day-to-day friends that encourage good, even productive, behavior.

This is now possible with Partners in Grind which strives to help you find an accountability partner – something that could really help with inspiring productivity.

Speaking from experience, it can be extremely difficult to find self-discipline and motivate yourself to work; especially when working in a freelance role. However, when you have someone else in the know of your work, you are likely to try harder.

According to the company, “Partners in Grind is match-making tool for accountability partners to promote proper habit building. Habits are everything – our daily habits dictate the quality of our lives.

Research shows social accountability is critical during the formation of habits, but finding someone to kick ass with can be HARD.

“Partners In Grind will handpick an accountability buddy based on the specific Success-Habit you want to add to your life. Build new habits like Working Out, Eating Healthy, Meditating, Reading, and Mastering Your Mornings with an accountability partner. As an added bonus, every week you receive a mini present in your inbox of pro-tips and inspirational clips specific to that habit.”

This free service works with the ideas of science, support, and challenge. With science, studies show the significance of social accountability. Having the support of someone on your team to contact at anytime for motivation is priceless; and this leads to challenge because playful competition is likely to transpire.

To find your “Partner in Grind,” you can fill out a sign-up form, which leads to personalized guidance, then receive challenges and tips. And, if you are your partner are incompatible, you have to option to be re-matched.

Stay in touch with your partner through text, Skype, or email. Being able to share with someone else the completion of a project is incentive enough.

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