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Understanding Smart Device Implications

Kashmir Hill's Talk on Smart Homes is Experiment-Based

— August 1, 2018 — Keynote Trends
Kashmir Hill's talk on smart homes is done in partnership with her colleague from Gizmodo Media Group, Surya Mattu. During it, the speakers deliver astonishing results and observations from an experiment, involving the usage of connected devices. Hill is a technology journalist with a strong interest in privacy and security, while Mattu is an investigative journalist and an engineer who aided her in conducting the aforementioned experiment.

Surveys by NPR and Edison Research indicate that one in six American adults is the owner of a smart speaker. Being 'smart' generally means that the piece of tech has the capability of connecting to the Internet, has data storage and can communicate with its user. To test the degree of privacy invasion, Kathrine Hill installs 18 Internet-connected devices in her home. The objective of this experiment was to determine the amount of data and the frequency of communication that gets circulated back to the manufacturer.

The experiment ran for two months and during that time, Surya Mattu was monitoring the home's digital emissions and communication rates with a special rooter — a device that was much "like a security guard [that] compulsively logged all the network packets as they entered and left [the premises of the house]."

The talk on smart homes called attention to some incredibly alarming results, mostly of things that consumers are not informed about or directly aware of at all times — from Amazon Echo who contacted its servers every three minutes to a sex toy that send data of your orgasms to its manufacturer for marketing research.

Kathrine Hill and Surya Mattu's experiment revealed that even though the consumer owns the product, the company owns their data, often with a lack of transparency.