Deactivation buttons; Technology giants’ solution for privacy

Deactivation buttons; Technology giants’ solution for privacy

Deactivation buttons; Technology giants’ solution for privacy

Google last week unveiled its new device in the field of smart homes. Nest Hub Max is a smart screen that is also equipped with a camera and speaker. This device has a feature called Kill Switch, which we see in very few devices today. By using this key, the user physically disconnects the device’s camera and microphone. As a result, Google will have the ability to hear or see events only at the time of the user’s decision and desire.

The button that Google will use in its device is similar to normal electric buttons, with a slightly more modern design; A button that serves as a physical means to easily disable the device’s sensors. It seems that technology companies are looking for a way to increase their confidence amid various incidents of user information disclosure and privacy violations.

The giants of the technology world such as Google, /a> and Apple try to show their attention to users’ concerns with a simple and physical feature. Unlike software features that force the user to dig through various settings to find the desired feature, hardware buttons are much easier to use. In fact, the user’s path becomes simpler to prevent information from being viewed by the manufacturer. Physical keys give users a tangible experience of not being monitored by companies.

New hardware keys cannot be considered a great solution for today’s smart devices, because using the keys somehow renders the device useless. Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia and chief information officer of blockchain service Everipedia, believes that hardware buttons still have a long way to go. He says that such capabilities, especially in mobile phones (as the most important privacy-sensitive tools) are still not very useful.

Despite all the problems, more and more companies are turning to designing hardware switches to turn off the sensors. Of course, currently most of the programs are carried out in the market of devices related to smart homes.

Google has a key to turn off the camera and microphone in its Nest Hub Max device. All other devices of this company in the smart home family (except Nest security cameras) do not have a camera, and the said button only disables the microphone. According to Google, security issues are the reason for not placing the sensor deactivation button in Nest cameras, but users can also disable audio and video recording in the cameras through the relevant application. Amazon also says its family of smart home devices, including the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show, all have mute buttons to turn off the microphone.

Hardware deactivation buttons are an easy solution to cut off access to sensors

The trend of using deactivation buttons in smart devices has been extended to laptops since 2018. For example, HP included a button to disable the webcam on its new Specter laptop . Apple also announced that in the latest versions of MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, when the laptop is closed, the camera and microphone are cut off. Of course, this feature is different from the disable button, because the user cannot turn off the camera and microphone while the laptop is open. It was established in 2014. Purism sells two types of Linux laptops that have two different buttons. One of the buttons disables the camera and microphone, and the other cuts off the power to WiFi . In the fall of this year, this company will introduce its smartphone, which, in addition to buttons similar to laptops, will also have a button to completely disconnect the antenna. An approach that finally brings disable buttons to smartphones.

Purism’s main goal of installing disable buttons on smart devices is to provide the last line of defense to users who are concerned about their security in the digital world; Security against hackers and malware, especially Trojans equipped with remote control; Also, Trojans that give the hacker access to the camera and microphone without the victim’s knowledge.

Deactivation buttons were first installed in smart devices to prevent hackers from exploiting them, but today they are considered the main features, especially in smart home devices. Laptops and smartphones have mandatory presence for a worthy reason.

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because Recent events surrounding the disclosure of users’ personal information and privacy violations by companies such as Google and Amazon, etc., which led to numerous lawsuits, have made users more aware of the data collected by companies. Of course, many people still don’t know that, for example, Facebook categorizes their interests and uses them to display advertisements. Finally, users’ awareness is on the path of growth, and companies should adopt approaches towards it.

Increasing people’s awareness is one of the reasons why privacy has become the focus of recent campaigns by companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Google. did Google previously did not emphasize that the company’s smart home devices have a disable button. In the recent unveiling of Nest Hub Max, there was a serious focus on this feature, which may indicate a change in public relations policies of the search engine giant.

Google announced in 2019 that users can turn on the hidden microphone in the Google Nest Guard device; A microphone about which information was not published before. Users were shocked by the new news and did not imagine that there is a hidden microphone in the device. However, Google announced in a statement that it never decided to hide the microphone and that it was a mistake on the part of the company to hide it from users.

For the first time, the Purism company has a sensor deactivation button. used

Bloomberg reported in April that Amazon employees are listening to everything users say with Alexa . Additionally, CNET reported that if you delete conversations from your Amazon account, the company still retains their text. Amazon later claimed that the recording and retention of conversations was a software bug. In 2017, a New York Times report claimed that a gaming app was using the device’s microphone to detect what TV programs users were watching. In addition to all the reports and news, the personal experiences of many users also show that their words are used to display online ads.

Adding an opt-out button is a convenient approach by companies that care about the above crises. is showing. Finally, instead of asking users to find complicated privacy settings (similar to the way Android users opt out of Google Assistant go to the microphone), turning off the sensors will be as easy as pressing a button.

If you try to activate the camera and microphone sensors with any tool other than the mute button, you must break the laws of physics.

Deactivation button on Nest Hub Max with buttons on other Google devices Hmm is different; Of course, the company claims that they are also hardware buttons to disable the sensor. Yudal says that in the new design, the button has been implemented in a way that it looks more like normal buttons and that users can find it and understand its function more easily. attract?

When the deactivation button on the Nest Hub Max is pressed, an orange light will appear next to the camera, indicating that it is inactive. The speaker of the device also tells the user with a message that the microphone and camera have been disabled. In addition, signs are shown to the user on the screen and in the camera and microphone icons. Yodal says that all the facilities were designed with the aim that the user can clearly understand the function of the button and whether the sensors are active or inactive. The button is designed so simply that the user understands its use without the need for further explanation. Kyle Rankin, director of security at Purism, says of the design:

Disconnecting power is considered high-level security, and it’s also very easy. All people can easily understand the on and off buttons.

Ultimately, using the disable button disrupts many functions of the devices. For this reason, many users do not use the buttons even in important times in terms of privacy. They cite forgetting to turn it back on and it being easier to keep the sensors on as reasons for doing so. As a result, it can be claimed that despite the simplicity and practicality of deactivation buttons to block privacy-sensitive inputs, they cannot be considered practical solutions. In fact, we still need a lot of time to understand whether or not users will welcome the mentioned buttons.

Sanger believes that any user who cares about having a disable button on smart devices should not bring a device equipped with a microphone or camera into their home in the first place. In his view, even with the buttons, you’ll eventually have the ears and eyes of the manufacturing companies at home. He goes on to say:

Three main areas should be the subject of concern for individuals and organizations: hacking, organizational misuse of information such as extracting and selling information from data analysis, and internal hacking or intrusion into systems by Employees.

Finally we come to the issue of trust. Finally, users have to trust the manufacturing companies about the proper functioning of these deactivation buttons. To build trust in this section, Purism publishes photos of the inside of its products that show the connection of the buttons with the hardware parts of the device. However, the doubt of users is a natural phenomenon. Rankin says about this:

All people have been exploited by technology companies for a long time. For this reason, everyone looks at technologies from a position of doubt.

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