Smart Devices :Is Intelligence A Tradeoff For Privacy?

Smart devices are already flooding the market that monitor your activities and make intelligent decisions on your behalf like tracking your sugar or blood pressure and informing your family and/or doctor in case it falls below a critical level. This may sound like a useful and helpful application but it also brings with itself some security concerns. What if this data falls into the wrong hands? While someone might not be so interested in knowing your blood sugar levels, the device also tracks your location which you certainly would not want to share with unknown people.

SmartDevices-Intelligence Vs Privacy Tradeoff

SmartDevices-Intelligence Vs Privacy Tradeoff

Recently, Samsung and LG were criticized over the way their smart TV sets gathered information about viewing habits by recording conversations and sending across the net for analysis. This led the manufacturers to clarify when such sets ‘listen’ to what people say and rather than listening all the time, the voice activation feature works only when people press a button on a remote control and speak into a microphone. So is privacy loss “intrinsic” to such gadgets and can they be trusted?

These devices don’t have the processing power to do much speech recognition on their own. They record your voice, and then ship it off to a third party for analysis.That third party provides the speech recognition servers for LG, Siri,Samsung and others. Every question or command you speak into Siri is shipped off for processing, then stored for up to 24 months. Imagine what a bit of data mining on those servers might reveal. To be cautious, IBM has banned Siri from their networks.

The truth is that there is in fact some privacy loss when you share information with any smart device. You need to be wary of what you say in the presence of the device just like you would with a person. It’s like having a kid around the house. There are some things you would not want to discuss in the child’s presence and you can also not be too sure that the child does not repeat what he hears in front of others. So what do you do? You teach the child to ‘mind their own business’ and ‘not talk to strangers’. Similarly, we must make the smart devices intelligent enough to know what information to gather, when to listen, when not to and how to relay the information. Most of these details are mentioned in the privacy policy of the devices which a user needs to assent to before launching the application but the problem is that people by their nature are too lazy or they don’t have the time to figure out how many clicks or how many screens they have to go through to switch these settings off.

New technologies warrant novel means of data capture and protection that safeguard user’s data privacy. Cyber security experts are working on new standards and laws to share responsibility of data protection with the manufacturers and users. Also, we must accept as users that some data and privacy loss is inevitable when we want a device to gather data and make decisions on our behalf so rather than resisting with paranoia and mistrust, good parenting demands that we trust the smart applications and allow them the space and time to evolve into a more intelligent form. Till then we will have to bother reading the fine prints or trust the technology with our precious data.

Let me know in the comments below your thoughts , i would be happy to discuss!  

Posted in Blog, Emerging Technologies
  • There is a trade off that occurs.. One doesn’t have a choice if want to leverage the comfort that technology brings in but to compromise the privacy as more the technology knows about one more intelligently it can serve that person.. Also, its an individual choice whether to opt that technology or not. What provider should ensure is that user data is always in safe hands and never compromised and shouldn’t breach the terms accepted between the provider and the user.

  • Harsh Mathur

    By the analogy of having a kid around, kids learn by making mistakes. Can we afford to have a smart device make such mistakes? As a consumer I would definitely not care for my smart device to grow more intelligent by compromising on my data 🙁

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