This is a really fascinating, and an extremely detailed account from Kashmir hill journaling her experiment of wiring her house to spy on her.
Why? Why would I do this? For convenience? Perhaps. It was appealing to imagine living like the Beast in the Disney movie, with animated objects around my home taking care of my every need and occasionally serenading me (…) But that wasn’t my primary motivation. The reason I smartened up my house was to find out whether it would betray me.
Of course, Kashmir’s being extremely daring (which she is known to be) to open her (and her family’s) life up to be monitored and analysed to such levels. And of course, there are some key findings, some already known (but still appalling), some new. Here are my few key observations.
- Smart devices are still terrible to setup and keep up. It’s a technology of future, no doubt. But future is still not here.
- There is still a big void for a single hub that talks to all smart devices. It is a broken bridge with silos all over the place.
- Majority of the makers of appliances are still dependent on external, barely known solution providers for adding smarts. Dado Labs? Seriously?
- None of the smart home devices follow any principles around handling the privacy and security of the data they engulf. Rather, no such standard principles are even debated over and agreed upon.
- Smart home devices tend to ping their original homes, the servers, dial in and report on duty very frequently. Typically, for no good reason.
An exaggerated version of this was seen in the Echo and Echo Dot, which were in constant communication with Amazon’s servers, sending a request every couple of minutes to http://spectrum.s3.amazonaws.com/kindle-wifi/wifistub-echo.html. Even without the “Alexa” wake word, and even when the microphone is turned off, the Echo is frequently checking in with Amazon, confirming it is online and looking for updates.
Finally, your router remains the prominent data collector for your online presence. Your ISP, the prominent data aggregator. And neither are really too keen to protect your data online.
I guess everyone agrees that smart homes are dumb, and there are enough evidences of that pouring in every day. Problem is they are capable of knowing so much about you. And, at times, sending it out there in open without protecting it in any way — lending them a lot of power.
Dumb and powerful, now there’s the super villain from any sane person’s nightmare.