Idaho Dispatch

Your Local Media Ally

Op-Ed: Spy Balloons & Robo Vacs

By • February 23, 2023

“I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said, ‘I want to be let alone!’ There is all the difference.” ― Greta Garbo

On February 02, Americans were treated to the spectacle of a giant balloon floating over Montana wilderness that would go on to traverse the entire length of the United States. Of Chinese origin, this giant balloon was loaded with what appeared to be potential reconnaissance or communications equipment. Depending on what side of the political aisle observers were on, there was one of two responses from the public: First, shoot it down. We don’t appreciate foreign adversaries using espionage tools or potential weapons overhead. Second, Biden did the right thing by ensuring it was over open waters before dispatching it. It’s normal; they flew over during the Trump Administration as well.

For myself, I fall squarely into the shoot-it-down camp. There is something intrusive about a foreign object the width of several school buses entering my personal space that demands a decisive response. Given the sparse population of Montana, it seemed the appropriate time to dispatch it while above remote territory with the least risk to bystanders below. The concern wasn’t so much that China was gathering intelligence from above as some other potential for a weaponized payload like explosives, bioweapons, or an electromagnetic pulse device. The Chinese have no shortage of satellites or technology required to spy on Americans. Most Americans have willingly adopted Chinese manufactured and even branded surveillance technology into their homes, myself included.

I consider myself an early technology adopter. I was an alpha tester of Amazon’s first Echo home speaker device. An entire global library of music on-demand? Yes, please! What would follow is a connected home of lights, switches, thermostats, sprinkler controllers, alarm systems, cameras, etc. The convenient control over one’s home that technology allows is fantastic. But it has come at a cost.

During my foray into writing, one of the first articles I penned concerned the Faustian Bargain we enter into when we trade privacy for convenience. The crux of this dilemma is that the parties we enter into these agreements with have ulterior motives. Take social media, for example. We traded free personal connections online for a seat at our daily table. Technology corporations perform massive data mining campaigns to paint a picture of your entire life. They know who you are, your family and friends, your interests and hobbies, your jobs and colleagues, and your daily habits from sun up to sun up. They’re even listening while you sleep.

Once these corporations were firmly entrenched in our lives, they began to apply social pressure to engineer society in their twisted mold. From campaigns regarding topics such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, to election interference like that of the Center for Tech and Civic Life, to silencing political dissent by censorship or steering press coverage in manners favorable to themselves, big tech utilized the monetized data that they controlled against those they’d taken it from.

A common retort when debating the merits of privacy is, “I have nothing to hide.” It’s good that skeptics have nothing to hide because they’ve given up any possible place to hide. I started my blog,, to explore withdrawing consent from a system and society that had abused it. A part of that process was taking back control over my personal information, including what parts of my life I allow the rest of the world into.

A few years ago, I installed a Firewalla on my home network. A Firewalla is an inexpensive home firewall device that is easy to set up and has a minimal footprint on my home network performance without ongoing subscription costs. It allowed me to secure my home network from outside threats and showed me what was happening with devices inside my home network. What I learned raised some serious red flags.

At some point, my wife purchased a Shark Robotic vacuum on clearance. Excitedly, she set it up on our home network, and it mapped out its cleaning path. Unfortunately, the Firewalla began to set off alarms at odd times, suggesting that the Shark Vacuum was uploading a data feed to Shenzhen, China. Regardless of how innocuous this could be, I found no reason why any home appliance needed to send data it collects in my home to servers in China. I took the Shark vacuum off our network, and we got rid of it. We exchanged it for a different model with no data connection that works only on light detection and ranging, or lidar, to determine its path.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently published an article demonstrating how one woman’s Roomba vacuum took pictures of her sitting on the toilet, which was posted online. Sometimes what seems innocuous is quite dangerous. For this reason, I took a deeper look at what devices on my home network were uploading data to the internet. I found that the most egregious offenders were smart televisions and speakers. We turned off the wifi for the televisions and utilized separate devices for streaming. In the case of the smart speakers, the simple solution was to disable the hardware microphone buttons on top. While inconvenient, it completely stopped the data uploads until we wanted to utilize the speakers.

The smartphone is the elephant in the room on intelligent devices and privacy intrusion. Most of us have them, and most of us make exceptions for smartphones to maintain communications with family and friends. Though there are solutions to increase privacy, such as choosing a privacy-oriented device like a de-googled phone or installing privacy-focused software, your privacy only goes so far as the vendors whose apps and services you utilize. I will soon get rid of my Samsung phone because they consistently solicit me to accept changes to their privacy terms of service and install their adware to earn money for globalist charities.

When adversarial nations fly unidentified objects over our borders, we’re paralyzed by the threat. Meanwhile, most of us whitewash the daily micro-intrusions we accept at a much more frequent pace. At issue is not the absence or the presence of personal indiscretions. At issue is the incremental nature of our daily concessions until we’re left with no privacy at all.

This Op-Ed was submitted by Brian Parsons and originally published on Op-Eds do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of those at the Idaho Dispatch.

Amazon Outlet

Tags: Cell Phone, Chinese Spy Balloon, Data Mining, Intrusion, Privacy, Privacy Policy, Roomba, Smartphone, Technology

5 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Spy Balloons & Robo Vacs

  1. I don’t often rant. I’m 70 and know that ranting doesn’t always work, even for 2 year olds! Husband and I made it through the pandemic, so did our adult kids. But….here comes the rant. Has anyone noticed that our 2020 high-school grads were abandoned? Colleges closed, jobs were non existent or intermittent, they all caught covid, then were forced to be vaccinated with trial drugs if they wanted to work maybe 20 hours a week.If they did move out of parent homes they were forced to live with roommates in order to afford rent. They all got covid again. They received no unemployment and no stimulus funding. If they were able to attend classes on line. It was the rare few that had consistent and dedicated educators and services. If we want a better outcome the next time catastrophe rolls around, we need to inspire.nurture, teach and create accountability in the forgotten 2020 graduates ! Did I mention most have had covid 3 times?
    Whew, I really needed to get that off my chest!

  2. Excellent article on the dangers of too much tech. The people who have welcomed complete intrusion because they have nothing to hide probably wouldn’t have that same opinion if their personal info and pics of them on the toilet were plastered all over the internet. EVERYONE has something to hide. Not that it’s illegal or disgraceful, but it’s theirs. Would you like your love letters from 20 years ago viewable by everyone with an internet connection? I don’t want my personal information posted anywhere or available to anyone else unless I give my consent.

    I like your workarounds, well-done. I am leaving my Smartphone in the living room at night. I don’t want it anywhere near me. I am considering going back to a flip phone and a landline.

  3. What should be required by law is an opt-in action on the part of the consumer: the service can’t collect information without it. And part of that must be a detailed description of what the user allows their data to be used for.

    Until these consumer privacy laws exist and are enforced, I won’t be getting any of these “home automation devices” from Alexa to Roomba to Fitbit. Sorry, but if you want to profit from my personal information you not only need my permission but to pay me for the privilege.

  4. It all boils down to this, who do the politician thieves you all keep reelecting serve. Special interests, contractors foreign nations employee unions or you?
    Answer: Not you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *