The evil version of @JDRoberts’ utopian scenario, where manufacturers start collecting unreasonable amounts of data so they can mine it even more.
The basic idea is that every time you ask your Amazon / Google hub to do something, they do it, but that information is also stored somewhere in the cloud. It’s not hard to imagine that they could even be polling your entire smart home and sending that information back regardless of whether you asked them to turn the lights on or off.
The implications are that now someone somewhere can use that data to infer what’s going on inside your house. What time do you get up, do you walk around the house at night, when is your house occupied and what times you watch TV, etc.
I’m sure that even if there’s nothing particularly evil about this, it creates some concerns about whether or not this should be opt-in by default.
That’s not my utopian vision: my utopian vision is all local except where absolutely necessary , which is why I use apple’s HomeKit. But that doesn’t protect my echo requests.
But what’s going on here is a lot simpler than what people are supposing. Now that both these companies have voice assistants with visual displays, they want the visual display that says the light is on to be an accurate status.
Right now, if you sometimes turn the light on by voice, sometimes turn it on with a switch on the wall, sometimes turn it on with an automation from a different system, the status can get out of sync.
The problem, as is noted in the article once you know that you’re looking at it from that perspective, is that Google and Amazon keep their status information in the cloud, which means they want to keep a lot of other stuff in the cloud.
Siri doesn’t work that way with HomeKit. Everything is kept locally except the voice request themselves which are anonymized before they are sent and are not kept in the cloud afterwards. Of course there is some stuff in iCloud, but that has explicit privacy guards around it, unlike the status information that Amazon and Google are asking for.
So I understand why they’re asking for it. I’m not happy about it. I’m not 100% sure what to do about it.
By the way, there are other mostly local home automation systems, of course, but they are all going to have the same issue if they also have echo integration. So, yes, it’s a real issue.
This is the #1 reason why I will NEVER use any cloud-connected cameras inside my home. Never.
I dropped SmartThings because support was terrible but also because of these concerns. My hub was generating a steady 2-3kbps of traffic, even when things were quiet around the house. I could not understand why so much data trasnfer was needed when nobody was home.
I have dropped use of all Google services because of their continued exploitation of privacy, including them working around Apples own privacy protections. Once in a while, I will visit YouTube, but thats it. I do use Alexa for other uses, but for smart home purposes, I’ve only with about a half dozen convenience devices connected.
Now that Amazon has bought up Eero, I may be dumping that system soon too.
Yet it’s inevitable. Unless you are self-employed and hoarding gold and accepting only cash payments and paying cash for everything, your life is being tracked. Traffic cams, red-light cams, speed cams, surveillance cams everywhere in both public and private domains. Your cell phone is tracked from cell to cell to cell, all your calls and texts and emails are tracked. Your smart tv tracks what you view, your cable box likewise. Your web visits are tracked.
What I figured out: I don’t care anymore. I’m not seeking to overthrow the world order and I’m not a criminal. And at least here in this nation, laws around personal liberty are tilting in favor of it more and more over time. Govt is not using this tech to crack down on gays or blacks or women or (insert fave group here).
So what if Samsung wants to know what time I go to bed?
I’ll tell them and you and anyone else: I go to bed at bed time
Choice is good. I’m not saying you need to allow them to track you.
I’m saying that on balance, it serves me. What, I’m not going to roll with the convenience of “Alexa, put mayo on the shopping list” and having it show up in my and my wife’s Todoist within two seconds? I’m gonna revert to paper lists and the inconvenience of those, because I don’t want govt or Amazon to know I bought lettuce yesterday?