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Security Bits — 22 December 2023

Feedback & Followups

  • Push Notification Law Enforcement Requests: shortly after we recorded the previous instalment Apple updated their process for law enforcement to request push notification metadata from Apple, now lining their process up with Google’s to also require a search warrant, and hence, approval by a judge —…
    • Related Suggested Reading: Apple’s full process for US Law Enforcement listing all the different types of data that can be requested —… (PDF)
  • Beeper Mini: The Beeper Mini saga seems to have run its course, with the cat-and-mouse game appearing to have ended with Beeper throwing in the proverbial towel:

Deep Dive — ‘Active Listening’ Ads?

News broke this week that Cox Media Group was selling an ad product they claimed was based on Active Listening, where customers could buy ads based on random conversations overheard by smart devices in people’s homes. The ad copy was truly terrifying, giving examples of the kind of conversation that would feed this service:

“The car lease ends in a month—we need a plan.”

“A mini van would be perfect for us.”

“Do I see mold on the ceiling?”

“We need to get serious about planning for retirement.”

“This AC is on it’s [sic] last leg!”

“We need a better mortgage rate.”

Once 404 media broke the story the page vanished from Cox Media Group’s site, and it now seems unclear how real this product was. It may have been a lot more aspirational than real. The claim that smart TVs were listening in on conversations is plausible, but given how modern smart phones show indicators when the mic is active (for precisely this kind of thing!), it seems unlikely they really recording people that way.

I (Bart) think the most concrete take-away from this story is probably that it’s best to avoid smart TVs and to use a trustworthy box like an Apple TV to an Amazon Fire stick to add smarts to your TV, and never to let your TV anywhere near an internet connection!


❗ Action Alerts

Worthy Warnings

Notable News

Palate Cleansers


When the textual description of a link is part of the link it is the title of the page being linked to, when the text describing a link is not part of the link it is a description written by Bart.

Emoji Meaning
A link to audio content, probably a podcast.
A call to action.
flag The story is particularly relevant to people living in a specific country, or, the organisation the story is about is affiliated with the government of a specific country.
A link to graphical content, probably a chart, graph, or diagram.
A story that has been over-hyped in the media, or, “no need to light your hair on fire”
A link to an article behind a paywall.
A pinned story, i.e. one to keep an eye on that’s likely to develop into something significant in the future.
A tip of the hat to thank a member of the community for bringing the story to our attention.

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