Video: The Modern Smart Home is Inconvenient and It’s Spying on You

A few months back Gizmodo reporter Kashmir Hill installed a home automation system in her apartment. With the aid of a specially build router based on a Raspberry Pi, she carefully monitored it’s outbound traffic over several weeks because, in her words, she wanted to know “whether it would betray me”.

Unsurprisingly she found multiple devices constantly phoning home although with most of the data she admitted “I don’t know ultimately where it was shared”.

While many businesses in the UK are less than enthusicastic about the work involved in implementing the new EU GDPR legislation, many Americans are eying our new privacy laws with an amount of cautious envy.

On top of the security and privacy concerns Hill also felt that contemporary smart home systems were also less than convenient…

“Things didn’t work, the smart coffee was horrible, Alexa didn’t understand us and my take-away was that the privacy trade-off was not worth it.”

She was quick to discover the pitfalls of the modern budget smart home setup…

I had to download 14 different apps to my phone to control everything, which meant creating an account for each one of those apps. (Yes, my coffeemaker has a log-in and a very long terms of service agreement.)

…and ultimately figured out the number one problem with this whole thing is…

The fantasy of the smart home is that it will save us time and effort, but the friction involved in getting various devices from different companies to work together meant that many things took longer to do.

If you consider yourself a techie it’s unlikely any of this will surprise you. So do you care if your TV is phoning home or that Philips know what time you brush your teeth? Is this scaremongering for the uninformed, or genuine cause for concern? Let us know what you think in the comments below.  :

1 Comment on "Video: The Modern Smart Home is Inconvenient and It’s Spying on You"

  1. There are two separate issues here, the privacy aspect and the friction of having to set up multiple accounts.

    These are, as I see it, the two main problems that face the world of Home Automation in 2018.

    We HA enthusiasts and techies aren’t bothered by the second problem. Many of us use a single system to tie everything together, and we are no strangers to setting up online accounts. We see it as the price you pay for getting a service from a provider, although we understand it can be annoying.

    But as for the privacy? Wow. We are sleepwalking into a storm.

    A international profiling, cyber-criminal, data-sold-to-smalltime-burglars storm. I won’t even mention the news today about Russia…

    I use Alexa and Google Home currently, and the most important things they do for me are setting room scenes (through my home automation system) and playing random songs when friends come over.

    For a while before Alexa and Google Home came onto the scene, I experimented with a home-network voice recognition system, just for setting lighting scenes and playing music presets etc. Based on Windows 7 voice recognition, and powered by 4 microphones installed around the room, it was hit-and-miss. Alexa changed all that. Previously I was getting 30% accuracy, and now it’s 85% with Alexa. I focus on the 15% failure, but that cements my point; the Echo was an excellent invention and still provides fabulous value for money in HA.

    But at what cost to our privacy?

    I think the world of Home Automation is crying out for systems that work within your own home network by default, and can be linked to web services if you choose.

    The only way for me will be DIY – I’m sorry this won’t have any mass appeal whatsoever, but it will give me a sense of gladness that I can still do clever things in my home and not potentially send my recorded conversations – which is utterly Orwellian when you think about it – to the Russian government.

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