CBA Record January-February 2020

LPMT BITS & BYTES BY ANNE HAAG Big Brother in a Pretty Package S mart devices are everywhere you look. The Internet of Things – “the interconnection via the internet of


Member Benefit! Focus on your billable hours knowing you will never miss an important call with Amata’s professional call answering programs. Call 877- 262-8204 and mention promo code CBA01 for exclusive pric- ing. Ultimately, these devices will likely remain popular. They offer added day-to- day convenience for users with the novelty factor of seeming “high-tech.” Therefore, it’s up to users to know what exactly they are capable of, and what data they are col- lecting. Unfortunately, these devices have proven easy to hack. OneTennessee family’s device was hacked and used by an unknown man to watch the family’s daughters in their bedroom. The devices feature voice com- munication capability as well, and the man actually spoke to the children through the device. Other families’ devices have been hacked, revealing intimate or compromis- ing video footage that has then been held for ransom. Amazon has partnered with over 600 police departments across the country to gain access to the security footage being gathered by these devices located outside of people’s homes. These police departments have encouraged residents to purchase the devices, which police can then request access to without warrants or judicial oversight. The rates for classified ads are $2.50 per word for CBA members and $3.50 per word for nonmem- bers. Checks payable toThe Chicago Bar Associa- tion must accompany all ads. Mail to: Classified Ads, c/o CBARecord, 321 South Plymouth Court, Chicago, IL 60604-3997.

its interaction with you. These recordings are stored on Amazon’s servers. If you don’t specifically opt out of this practice in the privacy settings, they are also then listened to by Amazon employees, transcribed, and fed back into the system to make Alexa smarter. This means that real human ears have access to your interactions with the device. A handful of incidents indicate that this process is not as foolproof as Amazon might have you believe. Take, for instance, an anecdote about a Portland couple who were having a discussion in their home one evening in 2018. Their Alexa mistook some word in their conversation for a wake word, so it started recording their conversation. It also made at least five subsequent verbal cue misunderstandings that resulted in the couple’s recorded conversation being sent to several contacts in their contact list. They only realized this when one recipient called and told them to unplug the device immediately. A man in North Carolina experienced a similar situation. His Alexa misunderstood several words in an unrelated conversation that was then recorded and sent to his insurance agent. If you choose to have an Alexa in your home, that’s one thing. Giving one access to your clients’ data via your practice man- agement system, however, is another matter entirely. Be wary of these integrations, and of having a device that is constantly listen- ing anywhere near an environment in which you might be dealing with confidential information. The rise in popularity of these virtual home assistant devices has gone hand in hand with another insidious IoT device: the Amazon Ring. The Amazon Ring is a smart home security surveillance device, marketed as a tool to enhance home safety.

computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data – has been one of the largest tech developments of the past decade. These devices went from novel to mainstream in the blink of an eye, so much so that home refrigerators, televisions, thermostats, lights, and security systems are potentially all inter- net-connected, data-harvesting machines. These devices have the Jetsons’ glossy appeal of being novel and fun, right up until something goes wrong and awareness sinks in of how much information they control. Smart thermostats and lights have been weaponized in contentious divorces by an abusive party to make the party remaining in the home feel like they’re losing their grip on reality when the thermostat gets set to 95 degrees overnight. Such cases are often exacerbated by a lack of knowledge by both parties of how the devices actually work. Most prevalent of all, though, might be the virtual home assistant devices such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home. These devices in particular have become so common that several prominent legal practice management platforms launched integrations with them in the past few years. If you’ve used Alexa in an office environ- ment to deal with any kind of client data, there are some stories you should be aware of before you speak another word to it. Amazon Alexa essentially lies dormant in a home or office, waiting to hear a “wake” word. Yes, this means that technically speak- ing, Alexa is always listening. Upon hearing that wake word, the device begins recording

Anne Haag is the CBA’s Law Practice Management Advisor.


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