Would you trust a smart assistant in your home?

Trends in consumer tech point increasingly towards a future where our homes are inhabited by an ecosystem of interconnected ‘internet of things’ devices, ostensibly controlled via a smart assistant which we can address via voice—Google Assistant, Alexa, Bixby, etc. But not everyone is thrilled with the idea of inviting a listening AI into their house.

There are many reasons you might want a smart home system. Aside from the sheer joy of feeling like a futuristic wizard controlling appliances with the sound of your voice, they can do wonders when it comes to saving time and energy in your day to day life. We’ve been experimenting with various smart home systems including Amazon Echo and Google Home, and even the initially skeptical editors have found themselves warming to the system. Nonetheless, a few naysayers remain, and that’s largely because of privacy concerns.

We all know that the companies offering us all these shiny goodies want more than just our cash—they want our sweet, sweet data. And they can be incredibly subtle about it, as the OnePlus spying controversy proved. The AI-enabled smart assistants can be fantastically effective at responding to your needs, but in order to do that, they have to get to know you. Intimately. And, well, all that personal information has to go somewhere. 

amazon echo plus
You talk, Echo listens / © Amazon

AI companies are investigating privacy issues as well as other ethical concerns, but in the meantime continue to push out products. All the while the general public still needs to learn a lot about artificial intelligence. The potential for corporations to gather data on us through smart home tech still puts off those of us who don’t feel there are adequate protection. Sure, you can secure your home against hackers, but the manufacturer is a different story. Additional devices, like Google’s Clip camera that autonomously takes pictures of your life, is a level of surreptitious surveillance we’re not quite comfortable with. 

Even when smart home tech isn’t meant to compromise our security, it can still go wrong, as one unlucky user found when he discovered his Home Mini had been listening to everything he said 24/7. Even those of us who are enthusiastic about smart home tech are worried about how this early tech can go wrong. Even if the results can be quite amusing.

So far most of the editorial office like smart home, but there are still a few doubters, who have good reasons to be skeptical. Let us know what you think!


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