Sunday, December 17, 2017

This Xmas be prepared for the Internet of Toys (IoToY) that collect data on your kids

This Xmas no doubt many children will be given toys that are connected to the Internet. Many of the toys not only connect to the Internet but collect data about your children.

The Internet of Toys (IoToY)
The acronym IoToY should be a good companion for the already ubiquitous IoT the Internet of Things that is used to refer to all those things that are connected to the Internet.
Among those toys connected to the Internet are Mattel's Hello Barbie. The doll is able to carry on a simple conversation with a child and can remember the owner's likes and dislikes.
Toy Talk
A company called Toy Talk provides both the voice recognition software and processing for all the data it receives both for Hello Barbie and the DreamHouse Companion apps. Its privacy policy is explained here.
The data that users of Hello Barbie provide stays on Toy Talks servers and the company can access it whenever it pleases. It can share the information with third parties as well, including vendors who help maintain the technology.
Many people may not be bothered that Toy Talk collects this information. Some may even think that it is a good idea since it could help improve the product.
Others however may be concerned about the lack of privacy when a child talks to the toy. There also may be concern that the information on Toy Talks' servers may be hacked.
Once the data is out there on the Internet, it can be spread far and wide
Opting out of data collection
In many cases it may be difficult if not impossible to opt out of data collection by websites. A recent article about a pregnant woman who tried to keep her pregnancy secret from data collectors covers some of the problems.
There are a number of add-ons to browsers that can help stop some data collection or use. One is optout.aboutads. Another deals with Google Analytics.
Parental permission required for toy companies to start collecting data
Fortunately parental permission is required for companies to collect data from these connected toys, usually through an accompanying smartphone app.
Parents should read carefully the privacy policies of the company to see what data the company keeps, whether they share it and where it is stored.
Why are so many IoToYs not adequately secured?
Mainly it is just a matter of the amount of money required to hire a qualified team to do the necessary work.
The company CloudPets included in its line of products internet connected teddy bears. It stored user credentials in a database that was not even secured by a password or behind a firewall. It was discovered by security researchers rather than hackers fortunately.
The parent company of Cloud Pets is in financial difficulties with share prices at about a half cent each. The company did not even reply to comments on their security problem by researchers.
If makers of IoToYs spend considerable money on making their toys secure they may price themselves out of a market where other makers with less security features in their toys are able to sell much cheaper because their cost is much lower.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Coinbase was for a brief time the number one app at the iPhone store

(December 9)The huge spikes in the value of bitcoin that has gone from well under a thousand dollars a coin at the beginning of the year to a recent high on Friday of over $17,000 have spurred a great deal of interest in bitcoin trading and in Coinbase.

What is Coinbase?
Coinbase is a digital asset broker based in San Francisco, California. They broker a number of different cryptocurrencies including the one with the largest capitalization Bitcoin, and the second biggest Etherium, plus Litecoin and a number of others. They operate in 32 countries changing cryptocurrencies to various fiat currencies and also perform bitcoin transactions and storage in 190 countries.
The company was founded back in 2011 by Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam.
The CEO of Coinbase is Brian Armstong. He has just made it onto the Recode 100 list just as his company became the most download app for iPhones. The app is available for android phones and can be used with computer browsers as well.
Coinbase has its own website here.
Coinbase CEO urges users of his exchange to invest responsibly
Brian Armstrong, Coinbase CEO, warns users:“We also wanted to remind customers of some of the risks associated with trading digital currency. Digital currencies are volatile and the prices can go up and down.”
High volume disrupts Coinbase service
Yesterday was a rough day for Coinbase as it was so deluged with orders that it could not keep up. Many users found the app unavailable for considerable periods of time. They were unable to even check their balances let alone do trades. This happened at the same time as the app became the most downloaded app in the iPhone app store.
Armstrong claims that the recent dramatic rally has strained the Coinbase infrastructure but he hopes to scale the system to meet the demand rapidly. Armstrong says the company has increased its ability to handle traffic at peak times by 40 times.
It has also scaled up its support team over 600 percent and added features such as phone support.
Nevertheless Armstrong still warned users about gaps in service during high volume or volatility: “Despite the sizable and ongoing increases in our technical infrastructure and engineering staff, we wanted to remind customers that access to Coinbase services may become degraded or unavailable during times of significant volatility or volume. This could result in the inability to buy or sell for periods of time.”
As I write this on Saturday evening bitcoin is trading at 13,428 down thousands from its recent high of over $17,000 but the price is so volatile it could easily recover over the week end. I have appended an interview with the right-wing TV and radio host Glenn Beck and the founder of Litecoin, Charlie Lee.

Previously published in Digital Journal

This Xmas be prepared for the Internet of Toys (IoToY) that collect data on your kids

This Xmas no doubt many children will be given toys that are connected to the Internet. Many of the toys not only connect to the Internet b...