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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Public spaces are under constant surveillance from AI cameras, cellphone towers and advertisers that can follow people from home to work and back again.

But life inside the home, too, is increasingly transparent to watchful outsiders, the result of mushrooming internet-connected devices that consumers are setting up in their dens and bedrooms.

What's happening: Internet-connected devices can pick up your voice, interests, habits, TV preferences, meals, times home and away, and all sorts of other sensitive data. The gadgets send all this back to the tech companies where they were made.

The big picture: Constant surveillance at home is not yet a reality — but it's the direction we're moving in, says Jay Stanley, senior policy counsel at the ACLU.

  • Three main groups are peering into the home: tech companies, hackers and the government.
  • Companies receive data from "smart" things inside your home; hackers try to intercept it; governments can get it straight from the tech firms with a subpoena.
  • And most of this watching is enabled by the watched — residents who bring AI assistants, connected thermostats, video doorbells, "smart" appliances and even Wi-Fi lightbulbs into their own homes.

There are still "dumb" alternatives to nearly every internet-connected thing. You can still buy a toaster that does not have Alexa in it, or a lightbulb that's switched on with, well, a switch.

  • But year by year, the trade-off is becoming more dramatic. Keeping internet-connected tech out of your home will leave you increasingly far behind the convenience curve.
  • In some cases, it's not even up to you. Apartments are starting to come with connected devices preinstalled — to the horror of some privacy-conscious residents.

The massive spread of these devices introduce "enormous potential for abuse, for discrimination, and for shifts in power away from the individual and toward companies and agencies," says Stanley.

But people are increasingly OK being watched, as long as they get something out of it. According to an Axios/Survey Monkey poll, 70% of people are comfortable living with "smart home" devices.

What to watch: The home is still a sanctuary under the law — but the lines around it have become blurry.

  • "Technology can't change the fact that our homes are a key safe haven for our right to privacy, but it does make us vulnerable in new ways," says Jake Laperruque, a senior counsel at the Project on Government Oversight.
  • Police need a warrant to search your home — but they can ask Amazon to hand over recordings from your kitchen-counter Echo without even telling you.
  • But in recent rulings, the Supreme Court has placed new limits on digital snooping without a warrant.

Go deeper

DOJ investigating city of Phoenix and Phoenix police department

Phoenix Police confront demonstrators in 2017. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

The Department of Justice announced in a press conference Thursday it is opening a "pattern or practice" investigation into the city of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department.

Driving the news: The Justice Department's probe comes after the Biden administration reversed a Trump policy of not investigating police departments. It looks into several possible violations exhibited by the city's police department:

Scoop: Dem fundraising platform ActBlue boots Cuomo

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The Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue has removed a donation page that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's campaign committee used to solicit contributions, the company confirmed to Axios.

Driving the news: ActBlue is the lifeblood of grassroots Democratic fundraising. Its decision to cut off Cuomo following damning allegations of sexual harassment and assault deals a body blow to what's left of his political future.

Civil rights leaders plan a day of voting rights marches

Martin Luther King III and Rev. Al Sharpton. Photo: Cheriss May/Getty Images

Civil rights leaders from Washington to Phoenix are planning marches on Aug. 28 to push Congress to pass new protections around voting rights.

Why it matters: A landmark voting rights proposal remains stalled in the U.S. Senate, as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and other moderates block efforts at filibuster reforms to advance a bill held up by Republicans.