10 Nightmare Scenarios From the Internet of Things


The Conversation, a la Francis Ford Coppola

Is he looking at you? © Timothy Fadek/Corbis
Is he looking at you? © Timothy Fadek/Corbis

"Look, can we talk somewhere private? It's important."

You look around the crowded city restaurant, remembering a time when there was no better place for anonymity, no surer way to guarantee that your conversation was not overheard. But then you think of the smart watch that is listening for your voice commands and the smart table that awaits your order and watches for your payment. Your eyes stray to the man across the room looking vaguely in your direction, wearing the latest Google Glass equivalent, and you are reminded of the sheer quantity of recording devices with which we surround ourselves every day.

On the train, you make small talk about two artists who created a listening device that could be screwed into any light socket and would tweet overheard conversations. Your companion mentions a former NSA director whose private conversation with a reporter on a train was live-tweeted by a nearby passenger. You both glance nervously around the train car [sources: Greenberg; Hill; Ingraham].

Walking back to your apartment, you are suddenly conscious of the many hackable monitoring devices there -- your Webcam, your gaming headset, the always-on Kinect in your living room. Sighing, you duck into a park and find a bench near a loud fountain. It's the best I can do, you think, as you snap a quick Instagram and check in with Foursquare.