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Episode 72 - Digital Dangers with Cabot Howell – Is Anything Private Anymore?

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Did you know that many devices today have virtual assistants that are constantly listening to you? Did you know that your private conversations are not only being used to drive marketing but also could one day be used against you in Court? We interviewed expert Cabot Howell about what privacies we may be voluntarily giving up without even knowing about it.
Leh Meriwether:[Music]. Todd, Alexa told me that you are still not staying away from Krispy Kreme, even though you said at the beginning of the yearyou were giving up Krispy Kreme.
Todd Orston:Alexa ... I can't trust that woman. I, uh-
Leh Meriwether:Not only that, but she actually ordered some for you on the firm card.
Todd Orston:I like her. I'm liking her more and more.
Cabot Howell:Does she have a sister?
Todd Orston:My belly.
Leh Meriwether:Siri!
Cabot Howell:I guess they're distant cousins.
Leh Meriwether:Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether and Tharp.And you're listening to Meriwether and Tharp radio on the new Talk 106.7. Here you will learn about divorce, family law, tips onhow to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis, and from time to time, even tips on how to take your marriage tothe next level.
Leh Meriwether:If you want to learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at Well, as promised, today we'rediving into the ways that we give up our private information voluntarily and not even know it. And so, I called the title today, "IsAnything Private Anymore?" And uh, I joked with Todd about Alexa, but as we're gonna learn today, these devices like Siri andAlexa and Google ... They are taking our private conversations and making them public in many ways.
Leh Meriwether:And so, of course, Todd and I are not the experts in this area. So we had Cabot Howell from Digital Agent come back on the show justso we didn't make fools of ourselves.
Todd Orston:That's gonna happen anyway, so.
Leh Meriwether:Yeah. Cabot is currently the vice president of Digital Agent. Digital Agent, among other things, provides data storage and security servicesto a wide variety of businesses. Cabot himself brings with him 20 plus years of experience in the field of IT support. Cabot takesa proactive approach to IT management by anticipating what customers need before they need it. He's versed in each customer'sexisting infrastructure, and gives direction on the most efficient and cost effective ways to reach their business goals.
Leh Meriwether:He is the chief technology officer for Digital Agents' IT customers, including our law firm.
Leh Meriwether:Well Cabot, thanks so much for coming back on the show.
Cabot Howell:Thank you Leh, I appreciate coming back and the opportunity to share some of the ways we can compute safely in this world.
Leh Meriwether:Yeah. I'm glad we didn't scare you away last time.
Todd Orston:So, Cabot, let me ask you this. It used to be that the only thing in terms of your secrets and things that you said in your house, the onlything you really had to be concerned about was a well trained parrot that might be able to repeat what you were saying. But, itsounds like more and more with all the new technologies that are coming out, we are literally filling our homes with open doors,with pathways for information to unknowingly be transmitted and stolen by people.
Cabot Howell:Yes. And it's increasing with the IOT, the internet of things. Nearly all devices as they're coming out now, the new devices, have a virtualassistant built into it. So that leaves just about every device ... Your smoke detector, your thermostat ... Everything that was ... Acoffee pot. Your toaster. Everything that's gonna have internet of things is going to tell you, is going to record, everything you do.[crosstalk 00:03:45].
Todd Orston:Yeah, you were talking about at the recent-
Cabot Howell:Consumer Electronic Show.
Todd Orston:That's right. And how it's like everything, nowadays, is coming out where it has that technology built in so more and more and more,you're gonna be literally in a home where you might have 10, 15, 20 devices or things like refrigerators and stoves, that all havethat technology built in.
Cabot Howell:Yeah. It's estimated that within two years, there will be over 50 billion devices with IOT capability that have the virtual assistance in it,that is keeping track of you. The idea is convenience. You're wanting to see how much milk you have in the refrigerator. Youwant it to warn you that you only have a quart left. Now, that's great, that's convenient, but now you're letting everyone elseknow that you only have a quart of milk.
Cabot Howell:That may not be a problem. But then you've got five different milk producers that are inundating you with calls, with ads, with everythingelse. Because they've assigned an affiliation with the company that built that IOT device in your refrigerator. So, now you're beinginundated with milk ads. I want to choose when I want to buy or when I wanna be marketed to. So, that's the funny side of it,or the annoying side. But again, with divorce attorneys, we've got another side to it. We've got a scary side to it.
Leh Meriwether:Yeah. You sent me a list of just some of them. So we've got the Amazon Echo or Alexa, Google Home, Apple Siri, Moto Voice-
Cabot Howell:Which is my choice.
Leh Meriwether:Moto Voice is your choice?
Cabot Howell:I like that on my phone, yes.
Leh Meriwether:Oh, okay. Google Assistant Now, Microsoft Cortana ... I forgot about Cortana. Samsung Bixby, S Voice, and Clova.
Cabot Howell:A lot of devices out there that are listening to you.
Leh Meriwether:Wow. I didn't even know about those other ones.
Cabot Howell:That's just a small sampling. There are many, many devices out there that are being proprietarily developed through all these IOT, internetof things, IOT.
Leh Meriwether:So, you know, I understand that one of the problems with Amazon is that somehow, you could be coming home one day and there's abox sitting on your porch and you're like, "I don't remember ordering anything." But, Alexa does. So, I understand that there wassome issues last year with it just randomly ordering things to people's houses. Or, not randomly, but basically after Alexa listenedto the children it started ordering things.
Cabot Howell:Yeah. There is no password or protectant, unless you password and protect every purchase. Again, these are just security and privacysettings everyone needs to have and view. But, you can make it so that anyone comes in your house, wants to order somecookies or a dollhouse as was done in the news program back last year in California. The news anchor said, "Alexa, order adollhouse." Isn't that cute? All of a sudden there was 10,000 dollhouses ordered.
Leh Meriwether:Oh, so all the devices-
Cabot Howell:All the devices heard the news anchor.
Todd Orston:Yeah, there was a ... My understanding of the article and the story was that someone on TV or whatever it was, said something like,"Alexa, order something." And basically, thousands of Alexas then started ordering them and Amazon had to come out and say,"Don't worry. Everybody that got one of these ordered, we're not gonna charge you. We're gonna reverse the purchases." But,again, that just goes right to the heart of the issue which is, these devices are always listening. And while in a perfect world,they're not doing anything nefarious, right? They're not doing anything improper. But, a lot of what we're talking about is howthose very tools can be used to gather information that we don't want to share and that can be used against us.
Leh Meriwether:Yeah, and I know we're gonna continue talking about Alexa, but you had told me about an interesting situation involving the devices.Now these have been in our cars for a while now, but the On Star type things ... That there's actually been cases where thoseOn Stars were used against people in criminal cases. Can you tell us about that one?
Cabot Howell:Well, the reason it was allowed is because it was determined that there was no spying going on. No one from the On Star company orATX technologies, nobody was actually actively listening. What had happened ... The accident initiated the recording. And so, whatwas done during this murder was recorded through the On Star, and it was admitted into court because they said that the FBI orthe On Star did not initiate that call. So, it was the passenger that initiated the call. So that's how it got through the courts isyes, but it's always listening. This is, we're talking 20 years ago. So, this is nothing new.
Cabot Howell:But now, instead of just On Star, just as Todd said earlier, just those one or two or the parrot sitting by, now it is so many deviceseverywhere, listening all the time.
Todd Orston:So the lesson there is, before you commit any felonies, get out of the car. Is that ... Maybe I'm missing the point.
Cabot Howell:Well, that's one ... I'm glad you're [inaudible 00:08:46] at least one thing from what I'm trying to relate to you.
Todd Orston:As always, it's the wrong thing, but whatever.
Leh Meriwether:I think you had mentioned another situation where I guess the person was driving a car that didn't realize On Star was in there,accidentally turned on the On Star emergency service, then turned it off but the On Star person followed protocol and contactedit back or contacted 911 because they thought maybe there was an accident, and wound up catching the people in a drug deal.
Cabot Howell:Right, because the person had bought the car from someone else who had the On Star activated. So, the activation was still in place. Theydidn't know that. Their argument was, "I didn't do it. I didn't pay for On Star." But, it was still an active subscription.
Leh Meriwether:And, look. These are rare circumstances. But, the point that we are making ... We're not talking, really ... This show is not about OnStar, it's not about, you know, don't sell drugs and have On Star in the car, it may result in prosecution. It's that, these devicesare always on, always listening. And On Star actually has to be turned on, but thing like Alexa ... And I'm not just picking onAlexa, but these types of devices.
Todd Orston:The virtual assistants.
Leh Meriwether:They are always listening, that's the big concern now. I mean, that's what I've been reading about, and that it's constantly listening.That's really where my concern lies.
Cabot Howell:Right, that's what we need to delve into in this next segment, is the security implications associated with these virtual assistants.
Leh Meriwether:And so, and I understand that the virtual assistant can't understand context. And so, there could be a situation where you're at home ormaybe the kids say ... You know, they're playing around, they're playing with the Nerf guns, and the brother shoots the otherbrother and the other one says, "That's it! I'm gonna kill you!" And he starts firing. Well, Alexa's recording this, and may notrealize that this is two kids having fun. And I know there's situations where there's like a 911 ... It can call 911 in certainsituations. And it might take something out of context and contact the police. So, [music] these are something we need to be,again, as we like to make people aware, we like to make them aware of what's going on, so you don't wanna miss what'scoming up next, 'cause we're gonna dive into this even deeper.
Leh Meriwether:Welcome back, I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orson. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether and Tharp, andyou're listening to Meriwether and Tharp radio on the new Talk 106.7. If you wanna learn more about us, you can always call orvisit us online at
Leh Meriwether:Well, this show ... We're actually diving into all these conveniences that we have like Alexa and Siri and those type of things. And Iknow we keep focusing on those, only just because there's so much advertising about it. But, what we're going into is how thesedevices are actually causing us to give away our private information without even thinking about it. So, we wanted to makepeople aware of what could happen with these devices in your house if you're trying to have a very confidential conversationwith someone and that sort of thing.
Leh Meriwether:At the end of the last segment, I had talked about context. So, you know, that the problems of context, that these weren't from me,this was from you Cabot. You had sent me an email about this. Can you explain a little about the context problem of artificialintelligence?
Cabot Howell:Well, the artificial intelligence, it doesn't know the context of what you're speaking. You made a joke earlier about two kids playing andone of them shoots the other one in the eye with a soft pellet, and the other one screams, "I'm gonna kill you!" All of asudden, Siri or Alexa has a recording that somebody's gonna kill somebody. Well, that's two seven year olds playing. They didn'treally mean it and they didn't know the gravity of the word, "kill". They just heard it and they just blurted it out. So the contextis important, and that's what we're missing here, is that context.
Cabot Howell:So, what we're doing is ... As well as, a spouse is talking to a relative or talking about their case. Terminology may come out that was notintended. It was jut, "Oh, I would just like to punch him in the face." Well, they're not really wanting to punch them in the face,it was just an expression they said. But then, that terminology can be used, again, with a pattern of other activity, can beskewed by a lawyer.
Cabot Howell:I know that's unheard of much, but in a certain view, it can be looked at as negative. When it was all it was, was a joke or an expressionfor the moment. And the problem is that ... What we wanna take away from this is that these devices are always listening.
Leh Meriwether:And from what I understand some of them retain the information.
Cabot Howell:Right. Siri even lets you know that it retains ... With the recording, with the device ID for six months, it continues to hold onto thatrecording for a year and a half. So, for a long time ... And they say it's because they want to improve the dictation, improve thevoice recognition, and so it's going through their number crunching to help with that area. But, regardless of what the purpose is,are you comfortable with every recording or every conversation you have being retained by a company and its affiliates for a yearand a half.
Leh Meriwether:So are you saying when I use Siri, that she's actually ... Like if I say, "Hey Siri, will you do this?" Does it actually keep that information?
Cabot Howell:For a year and a half.
Leh Meriwether:Wow.
Cabot Howell:And, Siri's affiliates, Apple's affiliates.
Leh Meriwether:I shouldn't have said, "Hey Siri, get Todd in trouble."
Todd Orston:In my house, that's Alexa.
Cabot Howell:The Siri license agreement reads as this, "By using Siri, our dictation, you agree and consent to Apple's and its subsidiaries' and agents'transmission, collection, maintenance, processing and use of information, including your voice input user data to provide andimprove Siri dictation and dictation functionality in other Apple products and services." What that says in legal speak is, you justgave them all rights to everything you say.
Leh Meriwether:Wow. So, maybe we should ... Can we subpoena the information, I wonder?
Cabot Howell:Well there have been ... The FBI have asked to subpoena things from Amazon Echo and Apple. They've asked, and they have beenrejected, but what to take away from this is, they know that everything has been recorded. So if the FBI and the HomelandSecurity, if they know it's been recorded, well us old country boys here in Atlanta probably know it as well.
Leh Meriwether:Yeah. So what is this ... People have been talking about voice data and how it's being used to collect from us. Can you talk about thevoice data and how the AI's using that for ... It's sharing it with other companies?
Cabot Howell:The main thing is, someone wants to get some money. That's what it's all about, right? Is improving money.
Leh Meriwether:Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Cabot Howell:And how they use this ... One of the primary reasons that I am adverse to this, is for marketing. They wanna know what you buy, whatyou're planning on buying. If you talk about a conversation. Let's say, talk about insect repellent. You're just talking about it withyour wife. Next thing you know, you're on the computer, and you have Ace exterminating coming up. You have all thesemanufacturers marketing attempts at you.
Cabot Howell:As I said earlier, I'd rather choose when I wanna be marketed to as opposed to, every time I drive somewhere, it pops up on my phone,"Hey, Arby's is here," just because I went to Arby's twice. And all of a sudden, "Hey, Arby's is here," is popping up on my phone.I'm looking for directions and it has a pop up of Arby's.
Leh Meriwether:Yep.
Cabot Howell:Of course, I've turned all that off on my phone, but this is why it's important to look at your security and your privacy settings on alldevices, your Siri, your Alexa ... Every device you have, look at the privacy and security settings.
Leh Meriwether:So there's things that you can do? You can uncheck things so it's not pulling that data out and sharing it with others.
Cabot Howell:That's correct. But unfortunately, at this juncture, not the voice that is recorded. And the agreement, as I just read, Siri says, "We wantthis, and if you're gonna use this, you're gonna give it to us."
Leh Meriwether:Okay. You know, and it's interesting you say that because just this last Sunday ... And we have an Amazon Echo in our kitchen. We hadpulled out a pot, and there happened to be a brown recluse in the pot. And that was the first time I'd ever seen a spider inthe house, let alone a brown recluse, something very dangerous. And so, the kids and I were talking about as we were flushingthe spider down, but we were talking about it in front of Alexa. And an hour later, my wife got on the computer to look upsomething, and sure enough, on the web page she was on, there was an ad on how you treat a brown recluse bite and what todo about it. And so, it even showed up when she went into Facebook. It even showed up in her Facebook feed, about, "Oh,look at this .... " It was an ad, but it was talking about what someone had to do to overcome a really bad brown recluse bite.
Leh Meriwether:So clearly, Amazon Echo pulled our voice data, our conversation, and then used that for advertising purposes. It's kinda spooky.
Cabot Howell:Yeah. Again, being unduly influenced is what I'm adverse to here. But yes, as you've seen, there's always somebody listening. I'll say itagain, the walls have ears.
Leh Meriwether:Yes. Wow. Well, let's keep going into some of these different things. And, actually, this is a really important point. Actually, I don'twanna move off this for a second. And I think people need to think about this.
Leh Meriwether:So let's say you're in a situation, a rough situation with your spouse. And you have one of these devices like an Amazon Echo. Andeverything's connected in your house, usually. The computer is all connected on the WiFi, and a lot of times companies arelooking at, I think it's your IP address, when they're looking for the advertising. And they're tracking every bit of data. And let'ssay you're at home, and you're talking on the phone to someone about, should you get a divorce? And, you know, maybe youdon't want to, but you're trying to understand what your options are. And then all of a sudden, the husband comes home. Let'ssay it was the wife at home. The husband gets home and gets on the computer, and he starts doing some work on thecomputer, and all of a sudden, ads start popping up for divorce.
Leh Meriwether:And he's like, "What is going on? Why are divorce ads showing up on my computer?" So, in some ways ... And you know, many timesthat could cause a big fight that night that could lead to a divorce. Whereas otherwise, you know, maybe they could've savedtheir marriage. So in some ways, this Alexa and Siri and these virtual assistants, I don't wanna pick on them, but these virtualassistants can set people up for failure. So I think it's important for people that are listening ... If they have a confidentialconversation they're trying to have and maybe they're trying to get advice from someone, unplug the devices that are listening, orgo somewhere else.
Cabot Howell:Right, what you're talking about is you're contemplating, you're hashing out a thought. And you're hoping, you're trying to do this privatelyor with one other person. And that is important for all of us is to hash out a thought process. It doesn't mean you're gonna godown one particular path, it's just you're thinking about your options. And sometimes, thinking of a real option will get youthinking a little more clearly and you back away from that.
Cabot Howell:And you're absolutely right, Leh. So, the idea was the expected privacy. That is important here. Your expected level of privacy. And all of asudden, you have no privacy. That's what the problem is today.
Leh Meriwether:And so that's what one of the big takeaways, at least for this segment, is. When you are thinking that you have a private conversation,before you start that conversation, look around the room and see which devices are recording you. If it's your phone, then put iton airplane mode. I would guess that would block ... Because Siri only works connected to the internet.
Cabot Howell:Right.
Leh Meriwether:So put it on airplane mode or turn it off. And then turn off ... I guess you could turn off Siri too. If you turn off Siri, she's notlistening.
Cabot Howell:Correct. And understand, what you're doing is, you've installed a bunch of microphones in your house.
Leh Meriwether:Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Cabot Howell:Now it's your responsibility to shut them off if you want a private conversation.
Leh Meriwether:Right.
Cabot Howell:Realize what you're putting in your house. And realize what you're putting in your private areas. That's what we need to understand. Andlast week, we talked about even a speaker could be a microphone.
Leh Meriwether:Yeah.
Cabot Howell:So we need to be aware of what we're putting in our house, and using it appropriately for our convenience, but let's not use it for ourdetriment.
Todd Orston:Because that stuff's all interconnected, and you don't want your spouse to be online and see ads for what you may have been talkingabout.
Cabot Howell:Right.
Leh Meriwether:And, I could-
Todd Orston:I'm almost afraid to talk right now. I'm just-
Leh Meriwether:I know, you've been so quiet.
Todd Orston:I don't know who's listening.
Cabot Howell:You're having to think about what you say before you say it.
Todd Orston:Absolutely.
Cabot Howell:That's unusual, Todd.
Todd Orston:It's very unusual, I know.
Cabot Howell:It usually comes out, then you think about it.
Todd Orston:Now you sound like my wife.
Leh Meriwether:I think you even mentioned the other day that IBM has banned the use of Siri for its employees.
Cabot Howell:Yes, that was some years back.
Leh Meriwether:Wow.
Cabot Howell:Yeah. This is nothing new. They realized the importance of it, and so none of their employees are allowed to use Siri while on campus.
Leh Meriwether:[Music]. Hey, up next, we're going to continue to break down the different areas where someone may be listening that you really haveno idea. You don't wanna miss it.
Leh Meriwether:You know, Todd, I probably should, before we keep going on this fascinating subject ... I think it's important that we just take a quickpause. I don't want people to think that advertising is bad. And I know it may have come across that way, and that's why wewanted to pause for just one minute maybe, or two minutes, just to say, look. I think, in some respects, I think it's kinda coolthat I may be talking with Stephanie, my wife Stephanie, about buying a certain thing, and then getting on the computer andthere's ads already pulled up about some products I may have never even known about.
Leh Meriwether:Something similar to that happened to me when I was looking for a way to connect the boat bumper ... I'm refinishing an older boatand I wanted a way to quickly remove the boat bumper from it, and there actually was a product I had never seen before thatpopped up. So, I really love that aspect of it. So I wanna make it clear that the purpose of this to make people aware that ifyou're trying to have a ... You may be inadvertently giving away a very private conversation 'cause all these devices are listening,so if you need to have that private conversation or share some confidential information, that you've got to be aware of that andmaybe unplug Amazon Alexa or Google or Siri, disconnect it. 'Cause they're listening.
Leh Meriwether:And not only that ... What is the danger of having Siri on your iPhone ... Let's say you're in the middle of a divorce and you've got Siri.Does Siri create a backdoor for your spouse to sort of try to get into your phone?
Cabot Howell:Yeah, that's actually what it is. It's a ... Some people call it a flaw or a vulnerability. Yes. If it is locked and you have Siri enabled, thereare simple methods, very simple methods published on the internet about how to bypass that. It takes about three or fourseconds. And so, you're talking about your spouse that is away from their phone for a moment, they're going through a difficulty,and the other spouse goes to the phone and can unlock it and see everything that's happening: calendar, text messages, phonecalls, everything is there.
Cabot Howell:So we need to be aware. These virtual assistants are wonderful for convenience. As we said last week, what these shows are about isawareness. Bringing you aware of how vulnerable you are, given the convenience you have.
Cabot Howell:It's mighty convenient to have your house door unlocked. Everyone can get in and out. But there is a balance there between risk, securityand convenience. So do you leave your door unlocked? Or do you lock it. Siris, Alexas and these things. Do we have them on allthe time? Or only when we need it? That's what we've gotta balance risk and convenience with.
Leh Meriwether:So, wow. Taking notes here.
Todd Orston:That's why I'm quiet. I'm just. I keep texting my wife and telling her to shut down all the electronics. I just made three offers on a logcabin up in the mountains.
Cabot Howell:And we've gotten Todd a little scared right now. And I hope the audience is not scared. But again, what we're doing is showing you howwonderfully things are conveniently, and for the marketing aspects. But we need to be aware of how they're used, and use themwhen we wanna use them, not when they wanna use us.
Leh Meriwether:So let's talk about ... You'd mentioned before you came on the air, a new thing called Google Aloe. It's a next generation virtual system,artificial intelligent virtual assistant. So, in this situation, it's actually reading our texts? Is that right? So we're not talking aboutvoice at this point.
Cabot Howell:Right. Well, it's reading pretty much everything going through your phone.
Leh Meriwether:Okay.
Cabot Howell:For instance, if you wanna ask a friend out tonight, "Let's go eat Chinese or Mexican food tonight." It will pop in the middle of that, andall of a sudden offer you these restaurants of where you're going. Let's say, let's go eat late tonight, downtown and go getChinese. Within moments, I have ads for the Chinese restaurants about where I told you we were gonna go.
Leh Meriwether:Oh wow.
Cabot Howell:How does it know where we're going?
Leh Meriwether:Without reading the text.
Cabot Howell:It's listening to me. It is listening to me all the time. Somebody might send you a cute picture of a baby. It will pop up automatically,"Aw, cute!" Or, "Aw, isn't that sweet?" So all you have to do it hit send and it'll send it. So it knows that you got a picture of acute little baby. No one told it. So here we go, we're getting closer to the contextual artificial intelligence that we talked about inthe first segment.
Leh Meriwether:Yeah.
Cabot Howell:We're getting closer to it, and that's what this is. Now another important thing that we wanna take away ... It's marquis feature: it'salways listening.
Leh Meriwether:Yeah. And I think, you know, going back to the Amazon Alexa ... And part of this is making people aware so that someone can't use itto get information you don't wanna necessarily turn over. So I guess like, an ex spouse could come in your house and askAmazon Alexa what you've been ordering recently. Because Amazon can actually, the Echo Dot can tell you some recent orders,right?
Cabot Howell:Right. We talk about orders and that being on your list. You're in contention for custody and someone says an off color joke, maybe, inyour house. It may have some sexual content. Alexa or whatever, just ordered that for you. Now it's on your credit card, now it'sshowing in your statement. And you know how, us lawyers know how you can use that to show a pattern of activity, a patternof behavior.
Leh Meriwether:Right.
Cabot Howell:Now all it was, was a joke that somebody else said, not even your client. Someone else said a joke. Because remember, these devices donot distinguish between voice. So the ramifications of when you are in litigation, these are again the things we're talking about.Not fear mongering here, we're not trying to strike fear, just trying to give awareness.
Todd Orston:Yeah. Jokes aside, I've got something like this in my house and I'm not planning on getting rid of it. But, I am going to be more intelligentabout how I use it and basically how I let it run and operate in my house. Because, it really is eye opening when you thinkabout the fact that everything you're doing and saying is getting recorded in some way, and information is being used. And again,not for bad purposes, but just the fact that you now know, I now know that it's being taken, it's being used.
Todd Orston:It does make me think, as technology continues to grow and advance, what other ways will that information be used? Will it get to a pointwhere I have to say enough is enough, or that it can be used to hurt me in some way? So, it really is enlightening to learnabout how these devices are monitoring your moves in places like your own home?
Cabot Howell:And you're talking about the present tense. As we were talking about earlier, Siri keeps it for a year and a half. So you have no problemtoday, Todd. No problem today. But what if you're in litigation a year from now, and the laws have changed to where they can ...the FBI and the Homeland Security or whoever can get that information.
Cabot Howell:Right now, Apple puts up a fight and Amazon puts up a fight. But for how long will they fight? And to under what conditions? And thatinformation is not what you [inaudible 00:29:33] today. And all of a sudden you say today you're going to begin changing yourlife. Well that's great, but the last year and a half ... We've got your recordings from the last year and a half.
Leh Meriwether:Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well another things your devices give up, so it might not be necessarily inside your home, but again, patternbehaviors, let's say someone is suspecting another ... Being in a relationship, they shouldn't be. Well, your location could betracked through cell phone towers. So there is now a lot of ... In some situations, we have subpoena'd cell phone towerinformation to find out where someone was at a certain point in time. And all that information is perfectly legal, because youhave no expectation of privacy out in ... You might think you have an expectation of privacy. No one should know where I'mdriving to. That should be my private decision to go visit my paramour.
Leh Meriwether:But, if you have a cell phone in your car, you've given a third party ... Let's say you use AT&T or something like that, or any of the cellphone providers. They're tracking your phone, your pinging on the cell phone if you're calling-
Cabot Howell:And their affiliates.
Leh Meriwether:And their affiliates, yeah. And so, there is no privacy if that phone's in the car. And, I think the case [inaudible 00:30:52] it's called theThird Party Doctrine, and that's because a third party has the information, not you, and you've shared it with a third party, soyou've given away your privacy rights there. Or not privacy, but your expectation of privacy.
Leh Meriwether:Now I will say that there are ... Our phones have the tracking in them too, like family sharing and some software that can bedownloaded to the phone to track where you're going and all that stuff. We talked about it a little bit last week. But, I do knowthat ... And this is a positive sign ... People may be worried that, "Well okay, so if I have a family sharing app or Find MyiPhone ... " I keep using iPhone references just because I have an iPhone, I'm more familiar with it. And so someone could argue,"Well, you've given up your right to privacy of where you are because your husband can look at where you are on his phone."
Leh Meriwether:But I had a TPO case where the husband was tracking everywhere she went, and he would basically cross examine her every time shecame home, and the judge granted a PPO on the basis of stalking. So even though she had this ... The software was on herphone that was giving up her location. The way he was using that data, the court took it as stalking and granted a stalking orderand then he was ordered to deactivate any ability that he may have to track where she's going. So, there's a positive there.
Cabot Howell:It backfired on him, in other words.
Leh Meriwether:It did backfire on him. He thought, "Oh, this is legal. I'm not doing anything wrong." Because I think that was his testimony, "I didn't doanything wrong. She agreed to it." And the court's like, "That's not how you're using it." You know, "You're not using it to makesure she's safe, you're using it to track her every move and that's the whole concept of stalking." And he had done other thingstoo, but that one part was a major part of the court's decision. [Music].
Leh Meriwether:So, but up next, we're gonna talk about other ways that digital data is collected by our smart phones, and what other privacies we maybe giving up, just so we're aware of it.
Leh Meriwether:Welcome back everyone, I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orson. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether andTharp. And you're listening to Meriwether and Tharp radio on the new Talk 106.7. If you wanna learn more about us, you canalways call or visit us online at
Leh Meriwether:Well, this whole, actually, almost the last two weeks, this show and the last week, we have been talking about some of the digitaldangers that lurk out there and some of the privacies we've been giving up unknowingly because of all these great convenienceswe have. And we've been also talking about ways that people might hack into your systems, whether it's your phone, your tablet,your computer. And from all different places.
Leh Meriwether:But let's wrap all this up together. Let's spend the last part of this show talking about the things that people could do to givethemselves protection from inadvertently giving away data or from people that are trying to get their data, whether it be ahacker or an angry spouse.
Leh Meriwether:So Cabot, let's break it down. Let's talk about what sort of WiFi protections should people be doing to protect themselves?
Cabot Howell:Alright Leh, now you're going into free consulting territory that I normally charge 200 dollars an hour for. But because it's you and Todd, Ithink we can bypass the charge.
Todd Orston:199 an hour?
Cabot Howell:[crosstalk 00:34:45]. Well, WiFi protection ... Again, this is all about being aware and just safe computing, folks. WiFi protection ... Don'tkeep your WiFi on. Turn it on only when you're gonna use it. As well as, don't let it auto connect. You choose when it's gonnaconnect and what router you're gonna connect to. Do not access websites that contain sensitive information while ... Banking, youmight do that, while on the public WiFi. If you're gonna use public WiFi and you're going to have sensitive information ... Or Irecommend doing this at all times, use a VPN app. There's some called Norton WiFi Privacy, Nord VPN, Express VPN. There's aton of them out there. And what they do is they give you a secure, encrypted connection to their server.
Cabot Howell:So all of your data, even though you may be snooped, even though you may be redirected, even though you're on a malicious hotspot,this encrypted data makes you safe. So that's one of the most important things I could tell you to do, is get a private VPNapplication for your laptop or for your device.
Leh Meriwether:And VPN stands for virtual private-
Cabot Howell:Virtual Private Network.
Leh Meriwether:Okay.
Cabot Howell:Again, as the term indicates, it is a private network. And virtual means you are somewhere else, you're at the Starbucks or McDonalds orwherever, so you're not in that office, but you have your own private little network. And that private network is encapsulateddata encrypted ... A tunnel encrypted to that server. So, again, you're safe and whoever has your data cannot decipher it, cannotun-encrypt it.
Cabot Howell:We want to make sure that we always go to https sites, not the http. That's the little green bar or that little lock on your browser. Alwayswant to make sure that that is in place. Especially if you're going to transmit any kind of data: passwords, usernames orpasswords.
Cabot Howell:Always keep your antivirus and your updates on your device.
Cabot Howell:That's what I would say for WiFi protection anyway.
Leh Meriwether:Okay, and I was trying to take notes too fast. Did you mention turn off sharing? I know you mentioned it last week but I just wantedto-
Cabot Howell:Thanks for reminding me. Yeah, turn off sharing on your computer. A lot of times, like if you have a Windows computer and you bring upand you attach to a WiFi, maybe a public WiFi, you are prompted to what kind of network this is. You have three profiles thatnormally pop up. A private network, home, a work network and the other one is public network. By selecting public network asyour attached to this Starbucks WiFi, what that does is it turns off all the sharing on your computer. Another layer of safety rightthere.
Leh Meriwether:Right. Alright, so let's talk about device protection. So, what things out there can we do to protect our devices?
Cabot Howell:Again, the important thing with that would be some type of application that incorporates all the layers of protection. Kaspersky, Norton,McAfee, Malwarebytes, Bitdefender, VASS, [inaudible 00:37:46], Trend Micro ... All of these are companies that build devices orbuild application to protect you on your device. They allow you to wipe the device if it's lost or stolen. It has many anti fishingor fishing sites you get sent through text messages. I'll often get this on the phones. I get a text message that has a link in it. Idon't know where it came from, don't know anything about it. But, out of curiosity, I've clicked them before. [inaudible 00:38:11]and it's to a bad site. Something is trying to load something on my computer or on my phone. So, these anti fishing, anti virusapplications on your phone are helpful, and again, handling many layers.
Cabot Howell:They also support wearable devices, it's that little Bluetooth device that goes across there. It can lock certain applications with a passcode.They also ... One thing that's important with this device protection ... And you see this often with your bank account. It's calledtwo factor authentication. Okay? That is a technology in which, again, a third device, not only a username and a password but athird device, is used to authenticate. So you've seen this in a bank when you try to login with a username and password, andthen it sends you a text message or an email message and it has some numbers in there. And you have to plug the numbers into go forward if you're resetting your password.
Cabot Howell:This is a two factor authentication. It's important to use in all aspects. So whenever that's available, you want to sign up for two factorauthentication. I have it on my Google account.
Leh Meriwether:I have it on everything, including our Apple TV account. I will say, while it's kind of annoying, it's also nice to ... Nobody can get accessto any of my devices to charge anything without my authority because I get a text message or a popup on my phone. So, it'svery effective.
Cabot Howell:Well that's what I would say for your phone protection is mainly, you really need to invest in an application that can carry all of these,take care of all of these 10 or 11 vulnerabilities that you will have in your everyday use. There's nothing necessarily vulnerableabout the operating system, nothing vulnerable about the device electronically. The problem is what is sent to you and then youaccidentally click on. So, you're almost protecting yourself from yourself in a way. Todd used the word ignorance a moment agobut tried to be delicate about it. There's nothing shameful about not knowing something. And until we know it, we don't know.
Leh Meriwether:Shame on you, Todd.
Todd Orston:I've got broad shoulders, I'll take that blame too. But I'm ignorant, I don't even know that.
Cabot Howell:No shame in admitting what you don't know, it's a shame if you don't try to find the answer.
Todd Orston:But you know, it's funny. People will call and ask for advice all the time. And sometimes, people call and they're embarrassed. And I'll sayto them all the times, "It would be weird if you did know about divorce law." So, but the same thing. Look, I wasn't bornyesterday, but ... I guess what I'm trying to say is, I've been around computers a long time. I started with my Commodore 64.You know? So I'm dating myself a little bit here. But the point is, I'm not one of those people who is anti computing. I mean, Iknow enough to be dangerous, but what's amazing is that as we've dug into this information, I'm only scratching the surface. Myknowledge and my familiarity and my comfort level with computing and the risks that are posed by using or misusing computersand other devices ... It's amazing.
Todd Orston:And I made a joke about a log cabin. Obviously I'm not moving to the mountains and moving away from electronics, but it is definitelygoing to change the way that I manage electronics, especially in my home and other areas that I need privacy and want thatlevel of privacy.
Leh Meriwether:So I would think, going along the awareness, you would probably want to probably take a few seconds to check your Google accountand your social media accounts to see what the privacy settings are on those too.
Cabot Howell:Right, and often too, because that changed. It becomes more granular as time goes on. They improve and separate some permissions. Itcan be just a simple permission, "Don't let anybody see my pictures." Okay, then they make it more simple, excuse me, moregranular. "Don't let anybody see my pictures, but my friends." They keep adding another security layer or dividing it out, might bemore granular to hone in on what you wanna protect and not protect.
Cabot Howell:So I say, check your security settings and check them often.
Leh Meriwether:Yeah. And Cabot, there's a few more things we wanna go over but I mean, we're out of time unfortunately. But hey, do you mind if Itake these bullet points that you've given me and to turn it into ... I know you normally charge for this, but turn it intosomething that we can give away to our listeners for free on our website.
Cabot Howell:Yes, 'cause safe computing helps all of us. The fewer net bots, the fewer compromised computers out there, it makes it better for all ofus. So no, I have no problem sharing about how to protect yourself.
Leh Meriwether:Alright. So if you go to our website, ... This show's gonna be up there, you just go to the search bar and typein, "podcasts" and you'll see a link to all the podcasts. You'll see the most recent podcast and you'll see this one. And what we'lldo is, the show will be called, "How Secure is my Information?" And look it up, and I'll have a PDF on there with some of thesebullet points, including in there some additional computer protections you can take as well as how to stay off the air when itcomes to these smart devices like Siri and Amazon Echo and Google. So I'll take those things. So definitely, you wanna check thatout.
Leh Meriwether:Cabot, quickly, how can people find you online in case they need your services?
Cabot Howell:We're easy. At Our office is right across from the New Braves stadium, at Sun Trust, so come on out and see us.
Leh Meriwether:That's nice. Alright, hey everyone, thanks so much for listening, I hope you took away from today that we're not against computers orthese lovely virtual assistants that make our lives easier, but we want you to be aware of all the potential dangers out there. Ifyou think you may be doing something that's confidential or private, that you could be being recorded at that time. So just bemore intentional with what you're doing, and take a little time to make sure you're not giving away some important data thatyou may need to keep private.
Leh Meriwether:[Music]. If you want to read more about us or find more information about us, check us out online,
Speaker 4:This audio program does not establish an attorney, client relationship with Meriwether and Tharp.