Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 CES Smart Home Raises Privacy Concerns

The smart home is all the rage at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show.  Everything from refrigerators to washers to ovens are being showcased that feature the ability to let the owner know what is going on with a simple text message.  Imagine texting the fridge to find out what you need on your next shopping trip, because that day is coming—fast.

Consumers worried about communicating with all those appliances and the headaches that can be created need not worry, according to the LA Times, Samsung has an app for phones and tablets to simplify user interface into one sleek location.  The connected home is probably just a few years away, and maybe even closer for folks looking to upgrade appliances in the near future.

However, one issue that is creeping up, according to BBC, is that of what information gets collected by these appliances and the potential privacy intrusions that could exist.  Hey, before you get concerned about the bad guys hacking into your fridge to lay claim to those last few eggs or near expired milk, take a minute to think how valuable knowing what is in your fridge would be to, say, an advertiser.

Not just the food stuff you buy, but how often you do the dishes, what settings you use on the laundry, and more provides information to the manufacturer of the appliance.  The manufacturer then decides to make a few extra dollars by selling advertising space that could actually be texted from the appliance or sent directly to that tablet or phone.  Before you know it you are receiving virtual coupons, which seems harmless enough, but using those coupons provides the store you make the purchase with information.

All that information could be used to sell things to you.  Granted, it is not a worst case scenario, and if you could save a few bucks what’s the big deal?  Maybe nothing, and maybe something down the road hidden from view right now.  The smart home might be coming quickly, but who knows what is going to happen with all of that data.

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