The Atlantic has an excellent story “All the ways your wi-fi router is watching you”.

Wi-fi is basically a little radar. It sends and receives radio waves, just like the transmitter in the phone, and just like a military aircraft radar. The frequencies and amplitudes vary, but the core is a tiny little crystal, resonating with tones.

It has long been known that Wi-Fi can identify people and furniture within a house, map out patterns of motion over time, determine how many people are in the area and also distinguish children from adults and pets. The capabilities are advancing very rapidly.

From The Atlantic:

…computer-science researchers at Northwestern Polytechnical University in China posted a paper to an online archive of scientific research, detailing a system that can accurately identify humans as they walk through a door nine times out of ten.

The system must first be trained: It has to learn individuals’ body shapes so that it can identify them later. After memorizing body shapes, the system, which the researchers named FreeSense, watches for people walking across its line of sight. If it’s told that the next passerby will be one of two people, the system can correctly identify which it is 95 percent of the time. If it’s choosing between six people, it identifies the right one 89 percent of the time…

FreeSense mirrored another wi-fi-based identification system that a group of researchers from Australia and the UK presented at a conference earlier this year. Their system, Wi-Fi ID, focused on gait as a way to identify people from among a small group. It achieved 93 percent accuracy when choosing among two people, and 77 percent when choosing from among six. Eventually, the researchers wrote, the system could become accurate enough that it could sound an alarm if an unrecognized intruder entered…

A pair of MIT researchers wrote in 2013 that they could use a router to detect the number of humans in a room and identify some basic arm gestures, even through a wall. They could tell how many people were in a room from behind a solid wooden door, a 6-inch hollow wall supported by steel beams, or an 8-inch concrete wall—and detect messages drawn in the air from a distance of five meters (but still in another room) with 100 percent accuracy...[they] went on to develop systems that can distinguish between different people standing behind walls, and remotely monitor breathing and heart rates with 99 percent accuracy…

A system called “WiKey” presented at a conference last year could tell what keys a user was pressing on a keyboard by monitoring minute finger movements. Once trained, WiKey could recognize a sentence as it was typed with 93.5 percent accuracy—all using nothing but a commercially available router and some custom code created by the researchers.

And a group of researchers led by a Berkeley Ph.D. student presented technology at a 2014 conference that could “hear” what people were saying by analyzing the distortions and reflections in wi-fi signals created by their moving mouths. The system could determine which words from a list of lip-readable vocabulary were being said with 91 percent accuracy when one person was speaking, and 74 percent accuracy when three people were speaking at the same time.


It’s scary, and in fact The Atlantic do not get even close to listing all the ways you can be passively spied on in your home via electronic devices.

The X-Box Kinect can see through walls and your clothes, whether or not the lights or TV are turned on.

Samsung have admitted your TV listens to every word you say and sends it back to databases at  headquarters. They are just one of many devices in your home listening to you.

Your Nest thermostat has voice recognition and is listening to everything in the house and passing the keywords along to advertisers.

Your Smart Meter can tell what TV shows you are watching.

The latest season of Ray Donovan shows you what life is like for those on the other side of the screen that sits between you and the Artilects.

As Sun Microsystsems CEO Scott McNealy warned us in 1999 “You have zero privacy anyway – get over it”.

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