You’ve seen the headlines, right? Ever since the launch of popular smart home products and there growth as a major consumer trend in recent years, people have reported fears of eavesdropping, hacking, and so much more.
Don’t get us wrong; the risk of hacking is a very real thing–especially for consumers. Yet, this particular threat to a consumer’s information security isn’t the leading factor of "fear" associated with smart devices.
When Google launched their flagship smart speaker, Google Home, and Amazon Alexa was similarly released not too long ago, concerns over privacy rights sparked major outrage in several spaces. From privacy advocates to far-right conspiracy theorists, claims that smart speakers can be used as a tool for "big brother" to spy on the masses gained a lot of traction.
This theory only surmounted and propagated fear surrounding these products because of how they work. Smart speakers, for this case, must "passively" listen to a room and its surroundings in order to comprehend and service commands. This passive listening structure allows for these devices to automatically recognize a user’s voice while they dispense commands. Other than that, the devices would require a button to be pressed in order to operate. However, the listening interfaces on smart speakers are built to create the elements of ease and seamlessness with product use.
For some, this doesn’t matter though. Implementing tech like Alexa or Google Home into your private living space adds a lot of anxiety and concerns to on-the-fence consumers. Though I may be defending Google and Amazon (and all of the other Smart Home tech manufacturers) here, the concerns of consumers should be (and rightfully are) heeded.
"For most of us, our homes are private spaces where we sleep, spend time with our families and relax," writes Amit Jay Shah for the Hirola blog. "Adding technology into the mix can feel intrusive on many levels, whether that’s simply because there’s a new device in the home learning from our habits, a voice like Amazon’s Alexa piping us when you weren’t expecting it, or a concern about data and privacy."
Shah’s remarks are purely accurate observations. The only thing that differentiates from his sentiment is that consumers need to keep in mind that companies are producing products for consumers. Amid all of the concerns with smart thermostats, DIY-security systems, smart speakers, and smart lightbulbs (the list goes on), the sentiment that fails to be recognized is that the companies who develop and manufacture these products are keeping in mind security risks.
Take Amazon as another example. With every instance of controversy associated with consumer information security and the risks of a so-called "rogue" technology, Amazon has taken a stance of responsibility. Remember the creepy laughs that some Amazon Echo Dot speakers chirped without a user command? Well, Amazon openly produced work-around tutorials on how to disable those laughs.
Though that may be one instance, we need to be honest with ourselves too. Are these companies really working to destroy our civil liberties and privacy rights? Some argue, "yes." Others, like the author of this report, say "no." It’s overblown hype to believe that consumer tech is the "spearhead" to a grander conspiracy to control the population of the country en masse.
Just remember a few numbers. 39 million Americans own a smart speaker. Millions more have installed smart home devices into their homes. And, the market is just growing.