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Is your TV watching you?

A response to the May issue editorial:

As an electronic engineer with vast experience gathered through many, many years I know, that in technology, especially in electronics - if one really wants something to achieve - there are no obstacles one cannot remove.

Having video camera (of quite impressive quality nowadays) installed in notebook, next to PC monitor or in TV-set we expose ourselves to real danger. The world is full of crazy people doing things we cannot even understand why - for instance preparing complex viruses infecting our computers through the Internet. For people of that kind, usually well educated and experienced - this is the real challenge - to design and implement a kind of smart aplet which, totally invisible for all users, can turn OFF the camera operation indicator and turn ON camera itself thus transmitting to outside ALL details from our home. The next steps are easy to imagine - illegally recorded content can be used in many ways including the worst case - blackmailing. Similar applications can also ease the heavy life of burglars knowing then exactly when our house is empty.

Of course, to stop it is enough to cover the camera's "eye" with piece of cloth or thick paper, but who will do it, except those, who, in general opinion, will exaggerate the problem.

Most modern digital equipment is always "on" - i.e. connected even in standby mode to the mains. Turning it on or off is not a matter of physical contact (switch) but an activation/deactivation through electronic circuitry controlled by software. Hence there is no problem with remote control over our home appliances - this is officially presented line for a future - fridges, heaters, lighting systems operated through the net. Security depends here on password, the fragile strength of which we perfectly know.

Of course such situation will create another opportunity for those, who will produce special means of security, preserving our privacy. For special money of course.

Maybe I really exaggerate, maybe I am too cautious, but I personally do not want to have mikes and cameras either hidden or more or less exposed in any electronic gear at my home. Our technology develops so fast, that it is not possible to evaluate all possible results (including effect on society, health, economy, politics and so on) the new solution or system may introduce. There is no time, nor appropriate knowledge (methodics) to do that. The time designers have is only enough to create something new, less expensive, providing more profits. That's all we can do and we do now.

I am really afraid that the solutions mentioned in the article are not the first but very apparent signs that something goes out of our control. A kind of technological Golem...

Who was able, thinking about the net, that some kids will die being for many days not able to "unweld" themselves from the web?

Who could forecast all social changes (both good and bad) the cinema, radio, television and eventually web will bring?

Also cameras and mikes located everywhere (CCTV-on-streets systems are also more and more popular example) will definitely change us. Towards which direction - we don't know.

Greg Morkowski