Will consumers submit to in-home spying in return for personalization?
As marketers, the more we know about consumers, the better we can personalize offers and make them more relevant. But there can be negative consequences.
According to David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times, if adopted, California bill AB 1116 would require that manufacturers of smart TVs notify consumers that they are monitoring their conversations and may potentially transmit them elsewhere.
State Assemblyman Mike Gatto was appalled in reading a Samsung smart TV manual that mentioned how conversations near the television could be monitored, recorded, and even shared. He found the prospect reminiscent of "1984" in that even bedroom conversations could be monitored and shared with unknown parties.
Although the Samsung manual has since been modified, the California bill would require that TV manufacturers and related third parties be forbidden from using or selling stored conversations for advertising purposes and allows manufacturers to reject law enforcement efforts to monitor conversations using the features.
Samsung responded by saying that these features can be turned off by the consumer and that "protecting consumers’ privacy is one of our top priorities." A prior AP article indicated that a corrected Samsung manual indicates the company’s smart TVs do not record or store conversations but only record voice commands if a user clicks a button and talks into a remote or microphone.
Mr. Lazarus says that any smart home appliance is potentially a window into your private life. The convenience factor of your refrigerator texting you when you are out of milk is cool, but at what price? In the AP story, Jim Dempsey, director of U Cal Berkley’s Center for Law and Technology, says information collected could also be used to make psychological assessments of customers for insurance or customer relations purposes.
Consumer advocate Clark Howard, back in February, noted that LG smart TVs have spied on consumers since 2013. They added a firmware update allowing consumers to turn off the feature, but it’s unclear if it really gets turned off. In a February piece in Forbes, Dave Lewis says it is unclear which third parties get information that Samsung collects but guesses it will be advertisers and marketers. He says Samsung Smart TVs can recognize faces, meaning they can listen and record conversations, and associate the conversations with individuals.
Perhaps the scariest part is that smart devices are getting smarter at an exponential rate, while humans aren’t. Perhaps "bad guys" will figure out a way to intercept information that smart devices, apps and software collect and share to use against us.
- When your TV can spy on you – Los Angeles
- Is Your TV Spying on You? – Forbes
- Your Smart TV Could be Spying on You – Clark Howard
- Are Shoppers Ready for Facial Recognition Close-Ups? – RetailWire
- Correction: Spying TVs-California story – Associated Press
Will government intervention be needed to stop tech manufacturers from building devices that monitor our activities with the potential of disseminating our personal proclivities to unknown parties? Will the comfort consumers have sharing personal data browsing online eventually extend to IoT-driven devices?