Google Android Listening to our Conversations – Emergency Services in the Northeast [As Heard on WGAN]

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Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors.

Airing date: 08/30/2017

Google Android Listening to our Conversations – Emergency Services in the Northeast


Ken Altshuler: We’re pleased to welcome in from our tech guru, Craig Peterson. Good morning Craig. How are you?

Craig Peterson: Hey, good morning. Doing well.

Ken: So Craig, obviously the big news this week has been hurricane Harvey. Can you tell us a little bit about technology and how it’s kind of been involved in this hurricane, this tragedy?

Craig: Yeah. There’s a, we’re talking about a tragedy. There’s a whole lot going on down there. We’ve long have had ham radio operators who get involved with emergency responses and I have an advanced class ham license myself and I’ve been involved with helping out in emergencies for many decades. By the way, happy birthday Ken.

Ken: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Craig On top of it all. But for a long, long time I used to help out out in the Los Angeles LA County Sheriff’s office and we would do communications when there were fires out there, mudslides, and things. And then, of course, I moved. And then I ended up in Ohio. In Ohio it was tornadoes and kind of nasty weather. So we would be with EMS and we would be with the fire department and police and allow them all to cross communicating and be able to carry not only voice, but eventually data as well. We can tie all of these emergency operation centers together. And then of course the Northeast. And up here we have different problems and most tend to be related to snow-type weather emergencies. It’s been a while since we had any sort of really, really nasty weather, with a hurricane blowing through. But they do happen. And hams have been able to stay on the air even when power goes out. Because remember, of course, when there’s a nasty thing like Harvey, not only are you losing power but you’re losing your cell service, your regular phone service, and everything else.

So today, the technology has advanced. You and I have smart devices and they’re really kind of cool to be able to use. They’re fun. Facebook introduced a few years ago a new feature that when there is an emergency you can go on to Facebook. You can check up on your friends. They can report their status. Now they are using Facebook as well to be able to gather teams of people together. And of course for Maine, we have some teams going down to help out with Harvey. But we got to remember, bottom line, when there is a major emergency, you’re on your own for a number of days. Maybe a week even. That means you’ve got to have the food. You’ve got to have the water. And you’ve got to have communications abilities. And one of the things that you should pay attention to is the radio. Being able to listen. You know I listen on TuneIn Radio all of the time to be able to hear the show in the morning and to be able to keep up-to-date. But that’s probably not going to be available in a really bad emergency which can happen up here in Maine as well. You know what’s happening right now in the Gulf of Mexico, of course, is not as likely. You know we’re not going to get 50 inches of rain up here but we can have emergencies. So make sure you have your smart phone available and charged up. But also have a radio, an AM radio, FM radio, to be able to listen in to get the direction you need. To know about evacuation. To know about where the shelters are. And I’m a Red Cross trained shelter manager and I’ve managed shelters before. Any emergencies including up here in the Northeast during some snow emergencies where people lose power and there’s no more heat in the house.

So there’s a lot you can do with tech as was on the newscast this morning. You can text to 90999 the word Red Cross, actually almost any word, and that that’ll do a $10 donation to help out because cash is keen. But tech is something we’re dependent more and more on. It’s something that is helping out. It’s not a panacea. And we’ve got to be careful up here too because we do have those disasters that tend to knock us off the air.

Ken: We’re talking to Craig Peterson. He joins us every Wednesday at 7:38. Social media in particular, I mean, how much did, you know we talked about people calling a 911 2nd. Was social media heavily used in Texas, both to contact police officers and to exchange with family members whether they were safe or not, was that kind of a critical part of this?

Craig: Yeah, it has been very critical. There are thousands of people who have gone on social media down in the area. People that were able to get on asking for help. You’ve probably seen the pictures we had of one elderly home for a people who were disabled who were older. They had I think it was 16 occupants of this home. And the picture which was posted on social media was all of these people sitting in chairs in water up to their chest. And they were saying hey, listen. Help out. Here’s the name of the place. I think was one of the daughters of a resident of this home who was a couple of states away. Help out. Help these people. And sure enough it spread on social media. People found out about it and those occupants of that home were rescued. Social media, Facebook and Twitter, and others are also being used by the emergency services. The first responders to coordinate the rescues of people. To let people know where to go where the shelters are, how to get food, how to get water. So it has been very, very valuable Ken, for people to be able to get on and keep in touch with their family. Get aid when it’s needed. And to find out what, you know, what they can do, where they should go, and who they can help. This is going to go on for a very long time too you know. It’s going to drop out of the news cycle pretty soon, but it’s going to be months and months of need for volunteers in the area. That we were talking about tens of thousands of homes destroyed. The cleanup that needs to happen. There are people who need to be helped down there. Keep an eye on social media. Find those groups, and the sites even, that are trying to coordinate so that in a few weeks from now maybe you can even go down there and spend some time volunteering. But do searches on Facebook. You will find a ton of great stuff that you can do to help out right away.

Eric Lusk: Craig I think it is terrific people are able to stay in touch with their relatives and friends who are in a neighborhood such as Houston or some other place that is in the midst of a natural disaster, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it increases the number of people available to go help folks who have gotten rained-in or are sitting in their armchair in water up to their chest. I wonder if with all the technology, we wind up creating something of a false sense of security. Maybe the real message that needs to be gotten out here, one way or the other, is if you think that you are in the crosshairs of 50 inches of rain or 30 inches of rain, maybe you need to go spend a long weekend with Ken’s family in Oklahoma and just get out of dodge?

Craig: Eric, right?

Eric: Yes.

Craig: That’s a really big deal. NASA launched the satellite last November. And this new satellite changed the whole business of weather prediction. They used to have a weather picture that was downloaded every hour from the satellite so they could see these hurricanes, so they could track them. And when they downloaded that weather picture it was already a picture that was two hours old. That’s how old our satellite technology was. What we have now, as of last November up there, is a satellite that is watching the gulf and providing minute by minute, real-time, live video of what’s happening with these storms. We had no reason for to have people sitting around. We had the governor telling people to leave. Plus we had the mayor saying don’t leave because the roadways weren’t up to date. We didn’t have the evacuation plans in place. We should’ve had. He was worried about more people dying on the highway that might die because of the storm. But you know, Eric, it’s a fantastic point here. We knew in advance. We knew exactly where it was going to hit. We knew how much rain was going to hit. People still stayed there. Maybe we can use social media in the future to help coordinate these evacuations. To help make sure people are going on the different roads. You know I use Waze all of the time because it allows me to go around car accidents and road jams and other problems on the road in real time. Why don’t we have some sort of an app like Waze? Or even using something like Waze or one of these other mapping programs to be able to get people out quickly, efficiently, without harm because death on the roadways is a major problem in these things. Use that type of tech, social media or otherwise, to get people out so that we don’t have the mayor of the fourth-largest city in the nation saying stay at home. Don’t go anywhere. Because that’s just stupid. I agree with you.

Ken: We’re talking to Craig Peterson, our tech guru, who joins us Wednesdays at 7:38. Before I let you go Craig, in your recap, by the way, you can go to Valuable information.

Eric: There’s some good topics that he has got in front of us.

Ken: Scary topics. I was going to talk to you about Sonos because I actually have a Sonos. But Google recording through our mobile and monitoring our conversations? How is that happening?

Craig: Yeah. Isn’t that something? If you have an android device and you’ve used Google assistant, you know all you have to do is say okay Google in order to be able to get Google on that device to wake up, ask it a question, or do something for you. The problem is when you say okay Google, it starts recording for 10 or 20 seconds. It uploads it to Google. It is transcribed automatically. It’s stored forever. Okay. So that’s problem number one. Problem number two is that android hardware isn’t so good at recognizing okay Google. In fact, you could say something like ‘okay go for it’ and your android device will start recording and sending all of that data up to the cloud, up to Google, and they will store it indefinitely. So we’ve got to be really careful. Google has been monitoring conversations that you did not expect it to monitor because of that hardware fault. Because the local hardware just doesn’t realize that you’re not trying to wake it up, you’re just having a conversation with someone. Or maybe you’re doing something else and that. But yeah. They have been kinda caught now with their pants down because so many of these conversations we’re having are going up to the clouds. They’re being analyzed by Google. They’re being stored forever. And no matter how personal that conversation, a lot of things you said are probably up there stored in Google’s cloud.

Eric: So Craig, I have an android. I would prefer not to be recorded. What do I need to do or not do to avoid that?

Craig: Well first of all Google assistant is what you want to have a look at and basically turn it off. The other thing that everyone should do is you go into your Google account online. Click on your activity controls, that’s on the left-hand side of the page. Go up under app activity, it’s called web and app activity. It will show you everything it’s been recording about you. Everything Google is storing. What they’re doing to keep tabs on you. You can delete stuff in there. You can turn things off. So go into your android device’s Google assistant. Make sure you double check your settings. Go into your Google account on the web into activity control. See what they’re monitoring. You can delete things that are already there. And you can also do some restrictions as to what Google is going to record on you. And of course you can always turn off your device. Whether it’s a Google android device. Whether it’s Siri iOS. Whether it’s an Amazon Echo. All of these things have microphones in them and have the ability to listen and send that data to the cloud where who knows what gets done with it, Eric.

Ken: Craig Peterson, tech guru, joins us every Wednesday at 7:38. Http:// Thanks Craig. Thanks for the birthday wishes. Have a great weekend. We’ll talk to you next week.

Eric: Thanks Craig.

Craig: Take care gentlemen. Bye-bye.