Bracelet of Silence to Mute your Smart Speakers!
It is a call of the time to have a silence device which can breakany conversation to record. Remember the iconic series The Wire, where the mobsters would increase the sound of the car stereo or didn’t talk shop in the car at all owing to the fear of being taped, somebody wearing a wire or authorities snooping on them?
Fast forward to the 21st Century, and we don’t even have this luxury.
One moment you are talking about taking up an online course, and there you have an ad on Instagram, showing what digital marketing course you could choose.
I grew up with the understanding that the world I lived in was one where people enjoyed a sort of freedom to communicate with each other in privacy, without it being monitored, without it being measured or analysed or sort of judged by these shadowy figures or systems, any time they mention anything that travels across public lines. I don’t see myself as a hero because what I’m doing is self-interested:
I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.” One moment you are talking about taking up an online course, and there you have an ad on Instagram, showing what digital marketing course you could choose.Edward Snowden, American whistle blower
But we all know how privacy is an oxymoron in today’s times.
A device to Jam Smart Speakers – with Technology
We have invited Alexa, Siri and Echo right into our bedrooms. Our smartphones are listening to our conversations. We are living in a Black Mirror-Esquenear-future dystopian society where privacy is a myth.The state of surveillance is now a domesticated affair all over the world. Amazon and Google have sold hundreds of their flagship security cameras recording everything, from a knock on the door to the nanny of babies and your dog’s activities in your absence.
While we are trying to make our lives convenient with technology at the risk of being constantly under the scanner, it is the technology that comes to our rescue. It become helpful in uncertain times where we need a silence device to break any call recordings.
Introducing “The Bracelet of Silence”
The Bracelet of Silence – What is this silence device?
Three computer programmers, Zhao, Zheng, and Pedro Lope at the University of Chicago have developed a wearable microphone jammer that is a bracelet. It is a plug-n-play device that can be turned on when you want to have a personal conversation. Like any other jammer, it scrambles the ultrasonic sensors on a microphone, disabling them to hear or record anything. It works within the radius of a few feet.
With the movement of the hand, you can practically enhance its scope of operation and remove any blind-spot caused by any hidden sensor. It is so efficient that it prevents the in-built microphone of your smartphone’s camera – so it is like watching a silent movie even if you are on camera.
What Silence Device is Doing?
And it is not just eavesdropping that concerns the adopters of smart speakers.
Several research and studies have found out that these speakers can be hacked and the users can be phished. This security flaw leaves the unsuspecting users out in the woods, fending for themselves and grasping in air for their security. Since both Google and Amazon allow third-party developers to create apps on the platform, it leaves a sizeable gap in stonewalling the devices. On the other hand, since Apple HomePod is designed to work with its in-house apps, it is a Fort Knox of devices and considerably safe until it allows third-party apps to its walled garden.
This wrist wearable has twenty-four speakers, which use ultrasonic signals to detect hidden or visible microphones. These signals are identified as high frequencies and ultimately, drowned as static noise.
The bracelet can be activated anytime you want, and you can enjoy a private conversation at length without the worry of any device eavesdropping on you. In the test runs, it shows the recorded voice as white static noise.
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Its a Wearable Technology to Jam Speakers
This cyberpunk (the connecting link between art and wearable technology usually depicting near-future urban surroundings) privacy armouris chunky and not precisely a visual delight.
While smart speakers are turned on by specific commands, such as ‘Alexa,’ ‘Hey, Siri’ or ‘Okay, Google,’ there have been instances that many conversations that were recorded by these devices. The quality auditors have found hearing clips capturing intimate conversations, sex and even drug deals, albeit unintentionally.
Daniel Dubois and David Choffnes, two Northeastern University researchers, had the users of smart speakers play 120 hours of television to find out what activates their devices. And the finding was startling but not surprising. The devices were activated and recorded several times upon hearing the cue words similar to their command. According to the researchers, the machines don’t listen to you when you don’t want them to. However, they can mistake non-wake phrases with their cue commands, and as a user, you can’t be too careful!
Even Rick Osterloh, Head of Hardware, Google told BBC in an interview that having cameras or smart speakers at home could mean a breach of privacy for guests. He went on to say thatpeople should also reveal their presence – while it is something that the devices themselves should do.
The Generation of Privacy Armours
The Bracelet of Silence has several predecessors to give credit for this idea. In 2018, Project Alias was created to “mute” the smart speakers. An Austrian architecture firm designed a Jammer Coat that prevented radio waves trying to steal information from credit cards or phones.
In 2012, a silver-plated range of stealth wear apparels was created by an artist Adam Harvey, which could prevent people from drones by blocking their heat maps.
CV Dazzle is a range of makeup and hairstyles that prevent facial recognition! Scott Urban’s privacy protection glasses (Reflectacles) reflect security camera’s infrared light, blurring the processed image in return.
According to this Medium article, the bracelet’s technology is its Achilles heel. Ironically, there is a privacy concern for other people when the device is turned on in a public domain? Since the bracelet emits ultrasonic sound and results in white noise, it can be dangerous for people depending on cochlear implants, hearing aids or even pacemakers? The ultrasonic signals maybe imperceptible to many of us, but dogs and kids can listen to them. So, it will also confuse the dogs, young kids or especially bats that use echolocation to navigate through.
What’s next for the Bracelet of Silence?
The bracelet is in a prototype phase and is a work in progress. The device to stuff up your smart speakers’ ear is not up for commercial production as of now. However, it doesn’t cost much, so the chances are bright; we may see it soon up for grabs. The researchers have estimated $20 to manufacture it, and they are waiting for investors for the funding.
What’s next for us?
It is time that we realise that privacy shouldn’t be sacrificed under the garb of convenience or for the sake of the advancement of technology. If you demand privacy, you are not an outlier or a loony (as Mr Urban had put it while launching Reflectacles). Let’s face it. The system has always been flawed, and the onus has always been on the users. You aren’t expected to let your guard down. If you are using voice assistants and speakers, it is recommended that you remain careful while using third-party apps. Delete the apps that you won’t use again or are rarely using. As the concerns regarding the bracelet or any such wearable that interfere in a public domain are rising, it is the users’ responsibility to tread carefully and make an informed decision. And certainly tackling the woes of smart devices is not another wearable. We could end up creating a world of technology- leading to nowhere, at the cost of our personal lives. Our privacy needs a long-term solution for maintenance and not a band-aid treatment.