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Activate this 'Bracelet of Silence,' and Alexa Can't Eavesdrop

Published by Slashdot on Sat, 15 Feb 2020


Ben Zhao and his wife, Heather Zheng, computer science professors at the University of Chicago, designed what they are calling a "bracelet of silence" that will jam the Echo or any other microphones in the vicinity from listening in on the wearer's conversations. The New York Times reports: The bracelet is like an anti-smartwatch, both in its cyberpunk aesthetic and in its purpose of defeating technology. A large, somewhat ungainly white cuff with spiky transducers, the bracelet has 24 speakers that emit ultrasonic signals when the wearer turns it on. The sound is imperceptible to most ears, with the possible exception of young people and dogs, but nearby microphones will detect the high-frequency sound instead of other noises. "It's so easy to record these days," Mr. Lopes said. "This is a useful defense. When you have something private to say, you can activate it in real time. When they play back the recording, the sound is going to be gone." During a phone interview, Mr. Lopes turned on the bracelet, resulting in static-like white noise for the listener on the other end. At this point, the bracelet is just a prototype. The researchers say that they could manufacture it for as little as $20, and that a handful of investors have asked them about commercializing it. "The 'bracelet of silence' is not the first device invented by researchers to stuff up digital assistants' ears," the report notes. "In 2018, two designers created Project Alias, an appendage that can be placed over a smart speaker to deafen it. But Ms. Zheng argues that a jammer should be portable to protect people as they move through different environments, given that you don't always know where a microphone is lurking." "Other precursors to the bracelet include a 'jammer coat' designed by an Austrian architecture firm in 2014 to block radio waves that could collect information from a person's phone or credit cards," reports The New York Times. "In 2012, the artist Adam Harvey created silver-plated stealth wear garments that masked people's heat signature to protect them from the eyes of drones, as well as a line of makeup and hairstyles, called CV Dazzle, to thwart facial recognition cameras."Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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