A fridge too far?

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

The Associated Press is continuing its tradition of celebrating people who are making a difference in an effort to “save the planet” through noble acts of sacrifice. One such person is Josh Spodek of Manhattan. After taking recycling and composting to the extreme, Spodek determined that he still wasn’t doing enough. So now he has permanently unplugged his refrigerator, which was apparently using too much electricity and contributing to the climate crisis. He started out by unplugging it for three months during the winter, but now he has shifted his shopping and eating habits to allow him to live entirely without refrigeration.

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There are those for whom recycling and composting are not nearly enough, who have reduced their annual waste to almost zero, ditched their clothes dryer or given up flying, and are ready to take the next step in exploring the frontiers of sustainable living.

For Manhattanite Josh Spodek, that has meant going without a refrigerator, which he identified as the biggest source of electrical use in his Greenwich Village apartment.

Spodek began by deciding to go packaging-free, and one small step led to another. Now, he is living virtually grid-free in a city that in many ways is the epitome of grids.

It’s hard for me to ignore the likelihood that there is more going on here than just another liberal who is trying to eliminate his carbon footprint. This is someone who has fully bought into the idea that humans don’t “deserve” the benefits of technology and that we all need to live in pods and eat bugs. We’ve seen similar campaigns being mounted against air conditioning (except in public shelters) and the use of private automobiles.

Of course, there are vast differences between the people buying into the hype and changing their lifestyles and the overlords making these demands. Climate warriors like John Kerry are no doubt applauding Mr. Spodek’s sacrifices while he and the rest of his elite friends are flying their private jets to Davos for a week of weird flute music and overpriced hookers. And the vast majority of the legacy media continues to approvingly report on all of this as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. Sadly, they increasingly correct about this as the “new normal” continues to evolve.

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Returning to the main subject of the story, it’s possible that Josh Spodek is actually on the right track, if unintentionally. There may be a very good reason to unplug your refrigerator that has nothing to do with carbon footprints or climate change. Congress is currently working on a bill that would warn consumers about refrigerators (and other appliances) that may be spying on them.

A bipartisan group of senators and representatives reintroduced the Informing Consumers about Smart Devices Act in both chambers of Congress on Wednesday, seeking to protect consumers from unwittingly being recorded from home smart devices that one may not think have such components, like refrigerators and air conditioners.

The bill—introduced in the Senate by Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and incoming Ranking Member Ted Cruz, R-Texas—would require the Federal Trade Commission to develop reasonable disclosure guidelines for products that unexpectedly have audio or video recording components—such as microphones or cameras. Such devices could include refrigerators, dishwashers and toasters, as well as washers and dryers.

These types of devices have been with us for a while and they have always held the potential for abuse or even accidental privacy issues. The so-called “smart refrigerators have cameras built into them that allow the appliance to monitor when you are running low on any given product and even order refills on the web. They can do this because they are hooked up to the Internet of Things, a parallel online universe that is inhabited by machines rather than people. And if the cameras in your refrigerator can take pictures of your food, they can take pictures of other things as well.

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People have been learning these lessons the hard way already. There are many more types of home appliances hooked up to the Internet of Things than just refrigerators. One woman’s Roomba vacuum cleaner took a picture of her on the toilet with her pants down and it somehow wound up on the web. Smart TVs have been spying on their owners so frequently that tech gurus have begun publishing “how-to” guides to help people avoid such surveillance. Even some new coffeemakers have cameras in them for no apparent reason.

Welcome to the 21st century. All of this embedded technology was pawned off on us with a promise that it would make modern life easier and more convenient. Now pause and ask yourself what would happen if the government decided to force a back door into that system. Oh, wait… you don’t need to imagine what would happen because they’re already doing it.

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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024
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