The following 5 articles present a study guide for parents. The last article has references for health studies. Everyone should remove smart meter from your home, avoid wireless technologies, and be very careful with cell phone usage. Please consider the material below. – Ray Songtree
Watchdog Discovers Toy Dolls Are Recording Your Conversations and Uploading them to Police
by Claire Bernish Dec 11, 2016
When giving gifts this holiday season, be strongly advised certain toys will upload your child’s unique voice and personal information — to the same military and law enforcement database which helps authorities identify criminals.
Indeed, these toys — which could record any conversation occurring nearby, and also fish for specific information from unwitting children — constitute the latest in surveillance by home appliances and gadgets known collectively as the Internet of Things. And this insidious, extraneous spying has several watchdog groups sounding alarm bells in a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission.
Genesis Toys’ My Friend Cayla doll and i-Que robot — Internet-connected toys using voice recognition technology to interact with children — can answer questions by converting speech to text and retrieving information from Google, Wikipedia, and Weather Underground, CNN reports.
But what has the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, and the Consumers Union on edge is that the “toys subject young children to ongoing surveillance,” in violation of privacy and consumer protection laws — and, worse, the nature of the company Genesis Toys employs for that purpose.
“Nuance Communications,” the aforementioned groups state in a complaint to the FTC, “represents itself as a leader in voice technology, including speech recognition software and voice biometric solutions that allow a search of the company’s 60 million enrolled voiceprints for a voice match from recorded conversations to be performed within minutes. Nuance markets its technology to private and public entities and delivers its voice biometric technology to military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies.”
“Both Genesis Toys and Nuance Communications unfairly and deceptively collect, use, and disclose audio files of children’s voices without providing adequate notice or obtaining verified parental consent,” the complaint continues.
Cayla and i-Que have slightly differing companion applications, but Genesis collects users’ IP addresses and both require downloading and connection to the user’s mobile device via Bluetooth technology. As the complaint explains:
“The companion application for My Friend Cayla requests permission to access the hardware, storage, microphone, Wi-Fi connections, and Bluetooth on users’ devices, but fails to disclose to the user the significance of obtaining this permission. The i-Que companion application also requests access to the device camera, which is not necessary to the toy’s functions and is not explained or justified.”
That Richard Mack, Nuance vice president of corporate marketing and communications, reassured the public the uploaded information is not sold or used for advertising or marketing purposes should be of little comfort to consumers wary of the perfidious surveillance state. Even so, Cayla comes equipped with pro-Disney marketing propaganda in references to Disney movies and Disney theme parks — the doll says her favorite movie is Disney’s The Little Mermaid, for example — which children cannot distinguish as advertising.
Perhaps most notably, not to mention nefariously, CNN reports, “The Cayla doll also has a mobile phone app that asks children to provide personal information, like their name and their parents’ names, their favorite TV show, their favorite meal, where they go to school, their favorite toy and where they live.”
EPIC and the other watchdogs have requested an investigation into Genesis Toys and Nuance Communications by the FTC and to have Cayla and i-Que pulled from store shelves.
“The FTC should issue a recall on the dolls and halt further sales pending the resolution of the privacy and safety risks identified in the complaint,” asserted Claire Gartland, director of EPIC’s Consumer Privacy Project. “This is already happening in the European Union, where Dutch stores have pulled the toys from their shelves.”
EPIC also notes this complaint is one facet of a concerted effort to ban such privacy-invasive and surveillance-laden toys from the marketplace. Last year, Senator Edward Markey and Rep. Joe Barton were joined by Rep. Mark Kirk and Sen. Bobby Rush in introducing the Do Not Track Kids Act of 2015 (H.R. 2734) to update existing children’s online privacy law to include greater protections for kids.
Markey penned letters to Genesis and Nuance demanding immediate compliance with strictures delineated in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
The Internet of Things has long been a cause for concern for privacy advocates and delight for surveillance hawks, as predictions the surveillance state will be willingly welcomed into people’s homes through the convenience of interconnectedness prove true time and again.
However, while it might be one thing for hapless adults to dismissively toss privacy concerns to the wayside, to have the voiceprints and information of children as young as three-years-old uploaded and likely stored by a company with military and law enforcement ties is a whole other animal.
‘Smart’ Adult Sex Toy Spied On Users
According to the lawsuit, manufacturer Standard Innovation, “fails to notify or warn customers that We-Connect monitors and records, in real time, how they use the device. Nor does defendant disclose that it transmits the collected private usage information to its servers in Canada.”
The “Internet of Things” (IoT) and Smart Grid technologies will together be aggressively integrated into the developed world’s socioeconomic fabric with little-if-any public or governmental oversight. This is the overall opinion of a new report by the Federal Trade Commission, which has announced a series of “recommendations” to major utility companies and transnational corporations heavily invested in the IoT and Smart Grid, suggesting that such technologies should be rolled out almost entirely on the basis of “free market” principles so as not to stifle “innovation.”
As with the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, the FTC functions to provide the semblance of democratic governance and studied concern as it allows corporate monied interests and prerogatives to run roughshod over the body politic.
The IoT refers to all digital electronic and RFID-chipped devices wirelessly connected to the internet. The number of such items has increased dramatically since the early 2000s. In 2003 an estimated 500 million gadgets were connected, or about one for every twelve people on earth. By 2015 the number has grown 50 fold to an estimated 25 billion, or 3.5 units per person. By 2020 the IoT is expected to double the number of physical items it encompasses to 50 billion, or roughly 7 per individual.
The IoT is developing in tandem with the “Smart Grid,” comprised of tens of millions of wireless transceivers (a combination cellular transmitter and receiver) more commonly known as “smart meters.” Unlike conventional wireless routers, smart meters are regarded as such because they are equipped to capture, store, and transmit an abundance of data on home energy usage with a degree of precision scarcely imagined by utility customers. On the contrary, energy consumers are typically appeased with persuasive promotional materials from their power company explaining how smart meter technology allows patrons to better monitor and control their energy usage.
Almost two decades ago media sociologist Rick Crawford defined Smart Grid technology as “real time residential power line surveillance” (RRPLS). These practices exhibited all the characteristics of eavesdropping and more. “Whereas primitive forms of power monitoring merely sampled one data point per month by checking the cumulative reading on the residential power meter,” Crawford explains, modern forms of RRPLS permit nearly continued digital sampling. This allows watchers to develop a fine-grained profile of the occupants’ electrical appliance usage. The computerized RRPLS device may be placed on-site with the occupants’ knowledge and assent, or it may be hidden outside and surreptitiously attached to the power line feeding into the residence.
This device records a log of both resistive power levels and reactive loads as a function of time. The RRPLS device can extract characteristic appliance “signatures” from the raw data. For example, existing [1990s] RRPLS devices can identify whenever the sheets are thrown back from a water bed by detecting the duty cycles of the water bed heater. RRPLS can infer that two people shared a shower by noting an unusually heavy load on the electric water heater and that two uses of the hair dryer followed.
A majority of utility companies are reluctant to acknowledge the profoundly advanced capabilities of these mechanisms that have now been effectively mandated for residential and business clients. Along these lines, when confronted with questions on whether the devices are able to gather usage data with such exactitude, company representatives are apparently compelled to feign ignorance or demur.
Yet the features Crawford describes and their assimilation with the IoT are indeed a part of General Electric’s I-210+C smart meter, among the most widely-deployed models in the US. This meter is equipped with not one, not two, but three transceivers, the I-210+C’s promotional brochure explains.
One of the set’s transceivers uses ZigBee Pro protocols, “one of several wireless communication standards in the works to link up appliances, light bulbs, security systems, thermostats and other equipment in home and enterprises.” With most every new appliance now required to be IoT-equipped, not only will consumer habits be increasingly monitored through energy usage, but over the longer term lifestyle and thus behavior will be transformed through power rationing, first in the form of “tiered usage,” and eventually in a less accommodating way through the remote control of “smart” appliances during peak hours.
Information gathered from the combined IoT and Smart Grid will also be of immense value to marketers that up to now have basically been excluded from the domestic sphere. As an affiliate of WPP Pic., the world’s biggest ad agency put it, the data harvested by smart meters “opens the door to the home. Consumers are leaving a digital footprint that opens the door to their online habits and to their shopping habits and their location, and the last thing that is understood is the home, because at the moment when you shut the door, that’s it.”
As the FTC’s 2015 report makes clear, this is the sort of retail (permissible) criminality hastened by the merging of Smart Grid and IoT technologies also provides an immense facility for wholesale criminals to scan and monitor various households’ activities as potential targets for robbery, or worse.
The FTC, utility companies and smart meter manufacturers alike still defer to the Federal Communications Commission as confirmation of the alleged safety of Smart Grid and smart meter deployment. This is the case even though the FCC is not chartered to oversee public health and, basing its regulatory procedure on severely outdated science, maintains that microwave radiation is not a threat to public health so long as no individual’s skin or flesh have risen in temperature.
Yet in the home and workplace the profusion of wireless technologies such as ZigBee will compound the already significant collective radiation load of WiFi, cellular telephony, and the smart meter’s routine transmissions. The short term physiological impact will likely include weakened immunity, fatigue, and insomnia that can hasten terminal illnesses.
Perhaps the greatest irony is how the Internet of Things, the Smart Grid and their attendant “Smart Home” are sold under the guise of convenience, personal autonomy, even knowledge production and wisdom. “The more data that is created,” Cisco gushes, “the more knowledge and wisdom people can obtain. IoT dramatically increases the amount of data available for us to process. This, coupled with the Internet’s ability to communicate this data, will enable people to advance even further.”
In light of the grave privacy and health-related concerns posed by this techno tsunami, the members of a sane society might seriously ask themselves exactly where they are advancing, or being compelled to advance to.
 Federal Trade Commission, Internet of Things: Privacy and Security in a Connected World, Washington DC, January 2015. Accessible at http://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/federal-trade-commission-staff-report-november-2013-workshop-entitled-internet-things-privacy/150127iotrpt.pdf
 Dave Evans, “The Internet of Things: How the Next Evolution of the Internet is Changing Everything, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group, April 2011, 3. Accessible at http://www.cisco.com/web/about/ac79/docs/innov/IoT_IBSG_0411FINAL.pdf
 Rick Crawford, “Computer Assisted Crises,” in George Gerbner, Hamid Mowlana and Herbert I. Schiller (eds.) Invisible Crises: What Conglomerate Control of Media Means for American and the World, Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1996, 47-81.
 “I-210+C with Silver Spring Networks Micro-AP” [Brochure], General Electric, Atlanta Georgia. Accessible at http://www.gedigitalenergy.com/app/Resources.aspx?prod=i210_family&type=1
 Stephen Lawson, “ZigBee 3.0 Promises One Smart Home Standard for Many Uses,” pcworld.com, November 16, 2014.
 One of the United States’ largest utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric, has already introduced tiered pricing to curb energy usage in summer months during “high demand” times of the day. http://www.pge.com/en/myhome/saveenergymoney/plans/smartrate/index.page
 Louise Downing, “WPP Unit, Onzo Study Harvesting Smart-Meter Data,” Bloomberg.com, May 11, 2014.
 Sue Kovach, “The Hidden Dangers of Cellphone Radiation,” Life Extension Magazine, August 2007; James F. Tracy, “Looming Health Crisis: Wireless Technology and the Toxification of America,” GlobalResearch.ca, July 8, 2012.
 Evans, 6.