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The Internet of Things - and why I decided to build my own home theater PC


When I did my own home theater PC, a bunch of my friends (who own and love their "smart" TVs) thought I was being unduly Luddite and paranoid. My argument that you can't really know who is gathering information - or what information is being gathered - or for what purpose(s) - was most often countered by them saying: "Look...just because the capability is there doesn't mean anybody is actually doing any of that."

Well...looks like I wasn't so wrong after all...

This from TechDirt (full article here):

Samsung's Smart TVs Are Collecting And Storing Your Private Conversations
from the I-hear-the-secrets-that-you-keep/when-you-talk-by-the-TV dept

Guess who's eavesdropping on you now? It's not some nefarious government agency (although, rest assured, there has been no downturn in surveillance). Nope, it's that smart TV you paid good money for and invited into your home.

The "now" is misleading. Smart TVs have been doing this ever since manufacturers decided customers preferred to order their electronics around orally, rather than using the remote they can never find. And that's just the "eavesdropping" part. Most smart TVs are harvesting plenty of data on top of that, including viewing habits, search terms, browsing history… pretty much anything that makes a TV "smart" is collected and transmitted not just to the manufacturer, but to plenty of unknown third parties. Usually, this information is used to send "relevant ads" to TV owners, as if the several hundred dollars spent on the device wasn't enough of a revenue stream.
--- End quote ---

I have an HTPC myself and while I'm a huge advocate of privacy that wasn't the main reason I went that direction. Even though these smart devices can play a plethora of file formats and access a smorgasbord of streaming services something always gets left out. Either there's a hot new streaming service that just got released (or an obscure one that has material you wish to watch) or you've got some files in a file format that doesn't quite mesh with your 'smart' purchase.

With a 'smart' device you are at the mercy of the manufacturer of that device to come out with a firmware upgrade that will offer the fix to what you are wanting to watch. With an HTPC it's a simple upgrade of software and you're back in business. Throw on a firewall with granular control and you'll never be surprised about what your HTPC has sent out over the internet.

As I keep telling people, you shouldn't trust any server you don't have root access to and control yourself. Or that has closed source software running it. Or runnning on it for tha matter.;D


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