It surprises me that people who wouldn’t dream of telling a stranger their bank balance will bare their lives to “smart” appliances. I don’t trust them the slightest amount.
Think about what they can do, what they need to know to do it, and where that data goes. Who sees it? With whom do they share it? Bad enough your browser wants to spy on everything you look at and what you click on.
I shudder when someone uses Alexa, Echo or Siri. You know it’s tracking what you request to compile another dossier on you. What you don’t know is what else it’s doing. Consider who makes it and how that company operates. I, for one, am not comfortable with a device that can record and transmit everything that happens around it.
I would love one of those robot vacuums but the price is too high, and I’m not only talking about dollars. Back in the day, I believe they operated something like bumper cars, changing direction randomly when they bumped into something. The newer ones map out your house. Where does that map go? Is it a saleable item?
What about smart thermostats, the kind you command with your phone? Good way to track your habits and normal at-home and away hours. And it’s so unnecessary. Old thermostats, working on an analogue system, did a good enough job of adjusting the temperature up or down at scheduled times. Why add risk through unneeded complexity? And don’t even get me started on smart locks.
With all the information available electronically from various sources, including things people stupidly share on Facebook — “We’re having a great time in Florida” — criminals wouldn’t even have to break a sweat to break into your house and head directly to your valuables. Perhaps the only reason it hasn’t happened to you yet is that they have so many victims to choose from.
The first thing I do with a new computer is turn off the camera, microphone and location apps. I may be over-cautious, but I want them under my control, not someone else’s. Not that this works 100%. If I, with my supposedly secured computer, want to search for something on Google Maps, my neighbourhood is instantly displayed. Many websites have background apps checking my location via my IP address. There is no way to prevent it without using a VPN. And how can one know which of those is trustworthy?
I use a land line in preference to a cell phone. I have a cell but I only turn it on when I need to use it, which is roughly once a month for five minutes. The only reason I have one at all is for emergencies when I’m on the road, and that’s only because public phone boxes have become extinct. I take as many privacy precautions with it as I can, but you can’t convince me someone isn’t tracking everywhere I go and everything I do if it’s turned on.
Am I a Luddite or technophobe? Absolutely not. I love the things we can do with our electronic toys. They have completely revolutionized our ways of finding and using information. It’s so much quicker (usually) and more convenient to find something on the internet than to travel to a library to look it up. If there were an apocalypse, the only thing I would miss more than my computer is my gas fire.
But I’m talking here about normal information, not personal information about me or others. That should absolutely not be available to anyone without specific and unarguable consent. If I look up diabetes symptoms because something piqued my interest, I don’t need or want to be besieged with ads for blood sugar trackers or a cheap insulin.
I am not a commodity. Nor are you. But until we crack down on spy devices and techniques, apps and the ad agencies they derive income from will treat us that way.
That’s why I strongly believe smart appliances are a stupid choice.