Here Are Five Reasons Consumers Won’t Buy Your Smart Home Device

This blog was originally posted on the Hill + Knowlton Strategies website.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Hl3QN85Gk5yd72A0J5GBI-kZ9DeAyDBAHOEFcMaTu5pXWXBpxdN16bgst-RwRs7O_2Nl3p3OGmi_Tv62ecEZ1cgEriJyW-SSJTG7IgA2IEZsIvzhKVGR4TtZiqBZE0qKNwGc-lBH
The Aware Home

In 2000, a group of researchers at Georgia Tech launched a project they called “The Aware Home.” The collective of computer scientists and engineers built a three-story experimental home with the intent of producing an environment that was “capable of knowing information about itself and the whereabouts and activities of its inhabitants.” The team installed a vast network of “context aware sensors” throughout the house and on wearable computers worn by the home’s occupants. The hope was to establish an entirely new domain of knowledge — one that would create efficiencies in home management, improve health and well-being, and provide support for groups like the elderly.

Continue reading

Why Employee Surveillance Is Not Okay

File:An analysis of horsemanship - teaching the whole art of riding, in the manege, military, hunting, racing, and travelling system - together with the method of breaking horses, for every purpose to (18165467302).jpg

Writing for Aeon last week, Martin Parker, a professor of organization studies at the University of Bristol in the UK, relayed the origins of the word “management”, explaining:

“It is derived from the Italian mano, meaning hand, and it’s expansion into maneggiare, the activity of handling and training a horse carried out in a maneggio – a riding school. From this form of manual control, the word has expanded into a general activity of training and handling people. It is a word that originates with ideas of control, of a docile or wilful creature that must be subordinated to the instructions of the master.”

Though we might prefer to believe that its meaning has evolved since then to convey something more respectful and collaborative, it is still the case that workplace leaders and managers have mastery over their staff. Promotions, opportunities, hirings and firings — all life-altering events — are subject to their authority. 

It is a mighty responsibility, and abuse of managerial power can have devastating consequences. 

Continue reading

Trying on wearables

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

MannGlas_and_GoogleGlass1_crop.jpg

The dramatic failures of Google Glass and Snapchat Spectacles demonstrated the countless challenges faced by wearable technologies. Beyond the ubiquitous activity trackers and smartwatches, wearable consumer products have yet to yield a mass-market success. Though the idea of wearable tech and human-technology synergy still gets marketers excited, product designers have yet to hit upon a breakout device that will prove as popular and indispensable as blue jeans. Still, the allure of developing such a product remains irresistible.

Continue reading

Designing for Bad Intentions: Wearables and Cyber Risks

YouTheData.com is delighted to feature a guest post by John Gray, the co-founder of MentionMapp Analytics. John is a media researcher and entrepreneur exploring how issues like the spread of misinformation, and the exploitation of personal privacy are eroding trust in our social institutions and discourse. He’s written numerous case studies and has co-authored “The Ecosystem of Fake: Bots, Information and Distorted Realities.” 

Wearable.jpg

It’s the bad people with bad intent that’s causing the problem, not technology” – Shane Luke, Sr. Director of Digital Innovation, Nike

We exude data, like the sweat that streams off our skin. It’s the norm. Just as another new normal is the news of the latest PR tour by data breach apologists full like empty promises of we’ll do better”. Like the soles of an ultra-marathoners shoes, the cliched technocratic mind-set of “moving fast, breaking things” and “asking for forgiveness rather than permission”, is beginning to wear thin.

We accept the devices in our pockets, and on our wrists, feet, and even our faces are communicating data. Yet the data they produce becomes a target for bad-actors. As technology weaves deeper into what we wear, there’s more to our fashion statements than meets the eye.

Continue reading

Why Can’t We #DeleteFacebook?: 4 Reasons We’re Reluctant

Facebook Addiction

The Cambridge Analytica scandal is still reverberating in the media, garnering almost as much daily coverage as when the story broke in The New York Times on March 17. Facebook’s mishandling of user data has catalyzed a collective public reaction of disgust and indignation, and perhaps the most prominent public manifestation of this is the #DeleteFacebook movement. This vocal campaign is urging us to do exactly what it says: To vote with our feet. To boycott. To not just deactivate our Facebook accounts, but to eliminate them entirely. Continue reading

Ready To Be “Deepfaked”? 3 Reasons You Should Be Concerned About The Internet’s Creepiest Data Heist

fake

Fraudsters typically line their pockets by forging our signatures, cloning our credit cards, and stealing our personal identities. Yet, we’d like to think that folks who know us personally – our family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances – would catch these counterfeiters out if they brazenly claimed to be us in public. After all, seeing is believing isn’t it? If you don’t look like me, you’re not me. If you do look like me, the chances are that you are me. Right?

Well…maybe. And this could soon become the subject of some confusion.

But how?

Well, imagine if stealing your identity could include stealing your image. And if scammers could then use that image to put words in your mouth and – in some cases – fake your very actions. This isn’t just some outlandish thought experiment, but a foreseeable hazard if we fail to prepare for a surge in the production of “deepfakes”.  Continue reading

In the future, we could solve all crime. But at what cost?

It’s difficult to read, or even talk about technology at the moment without that word “ethics” creeping in. How will AI products affect users down-the-line? Can algorithmic decisions factor in the good of society? How might we reduce the number of fatal road collisions? What tools can we employ to prevent or solve all crime?

surveillance

Now, let’s just make it clear from the off: these are all entirely honorable motives, and their proponents should be lauded. But sometimes even the drive toward an admiral aim – the prevention bad consequences – can ignore critical tensions that have been vexing thinkers for years.

Even if we agree that the consequences of an act are of real import, there are still other human values that can – and should – compete with them when we’re assimilating the best course of action. Continue reading

If you aren’t paying, are your kids the product?

There’s a phrase – from where I don’t know – which says: “If you aren’t paying, you’re the product.”  Never has this felt truer than in the context of social media. Particularly Facebook, with its fan-pages and features, games and gizmos, plus never-ending updates and improvements. Who is paying for this, if not you…and what are they getting in return? The answer is actually quite straightforward.

children

Continue reading

Facebook wants you naked…and it’s for your own good

revenge porn

***UPDATE: Contrary to yesterday’s reporting, the BBC has now corrected its article on Facebook’s new “revenge porn” AI to include this rather critical detail:

“Humans rather than algorithms will view the naked images voluntarily sent to Facebook in a scheme being trialled in Australia to combat revenge porn. The BBC understands that members of Facebook’s community operations team will look at the images in order to make a “fingerprint” of them to prevent them being uploaded again.”

So now young victims will have the choice of mass humiliation, or faceless scrutiny… Continue reading

10 real-world ethical concerns for virtual reality

virtual reality.jpeg

There are lots of emerging ideas about how virtual reality (VR) can be used for the betterment of society – whether it be inspiring social change, or training surgeons for delicate medical procedures.

Nevertheless, as with all new technologies, we should also be alive to any potential ethical concerns that could re-emerge as social problems further down the line. Here I list just a few issues that should undoubtedly be considered before we brazenly forge ahead in optimism.

1.   Vulnerability

When we think of virtual reality, we automatically conjure images of clunky headsets covering the eyes – and often the ears – of users in order to create a fully immersive experience. There are also VR gloves, and a growing range of other accessories and attachments. Though the resultant feel might be hyper-realistic, we should also be concerned for people using these in the home – especially alone. Having limited access to sense data leaves users vulnerable to accidents, home invasions, and any other misfortunes that can come of being totally distracted.

2.   Social isolation

There’s a lot of debate around whether VR is socially isolating. On the one hand, the whole experience takes place within a single user’s field-of-vision, which obviously excludes others from physically participating alongside them. On the other hand, developers like Facebook have been busy inventing communal meeting places like Spaces, which help VR users meet and interact in a virtual social environment. Though – as argued –  the latter could be helpfully utilized by the introverted and lonely (e.g. seniors), there’s also a danger that it could become the lazy and dismissive way of dealing with these issues. At the other end of the spectrum, forums like Spaces may also end-up “detaching” users by leading them to neglect their real-world social connections. Whatever the case, studies show that real face-to-face interactions are a very important factor in maintaining good mental health. Substituting them with VR would be ill-advised.

3.   Desensitization

It is a well-acknowledged danger that being thoroughly and regularly immersed in a virtual reality environment may lead some users to become desensitized in the real-world – particularly if the VR is one in which the user experiences or perpetrates extreme levels of violence. Desensitization means that the user may be unaffected (or less affected) by acts of violence, and could fail to show empathy as a result. Some say that this symptom is already reported amongst gamers who choose to play first person shooters or roleplay games with a high degree of immersion.

4.   Overestimation of abilities

Akin to desensitization, is the problem of users overestimating their ability to perform virtual feats just as well in the real-world. This is especially applicable to children and young people who could take it that their expertise in tightrope walking, parkour, or car driving will transfer seamlessly over to non-virtual environments…

5.   Psychiatric

There could also be more profound and dangerous psychological effects on some users (although clearly there are currently a lot of unknowns). Experts in neuroscience and the human mind have spoken of “depersonalization”, which can result in a user believing their own body is an avatar. There is also a pertinent worry that VR might be swift to expose psychiatric vulnerabilities in some users, and spark psychotic episodes. Needless to say, we must identify the psychological risks and symptoms ahead of market saturation, if that is an inevitability

6.   Unpalatable fantasies

If there’s any industry getting excited about virtual reality, it’s the porn industry (predicted to be the third largest VR sector by 2025, after gaming and NFL-related content). The website Pornhub is already reporting that views of VR content are up 225% since it debuted in 2016. This obviously isn’t an ethical problem in and of itself, but it does become problematic if/when “unpalatable” fantasies become immersive. We have to ask: should there be limitations on uber realistic representations of aggressive, borderline-pedophilic, or other more perverse types of VR erotica? Or outside of the realm of porn, to what extent is it okay to make a game out of the events of 9/11, as is the case with the 08.46 simulator?

7.   Torture/virtual criminality

There’s been some suggestion that VR headsets could be employed by the military as a kind of “ethical” alternative to regular interrogatory torture. Whether this is truth or rumor, it nevertheless establishes a critical need to understand the status of pain, damage, violence, and trauma inflicted by other users in a virtual environment – be it physical or psychological. At what point does virtual behavior constitute a real-world criminal act?

8.   Manipulation

Attempts at corporate manipulation via flashy advertising tricks are not new, but up until now they’ve been 2-dimensional. As such, they’ve had to work hard compete with our distracted focus. Phones ringing, babies crying, traffic, conversations, music, noisy neighbors, interesting reads, and all the rest. With VR, commercial advertisers essentially have access to our entire surrounding environment (which some hold has the power to control our behavior). This ramps up revenue for developers, who now have (literally) whole new worlds of blank space upon which they can sell advertising. Commentators are already warning that this could lead to new and clever tactics involving product placement, brand integration and subliminal advertising.

9.   Appropriate roaming and recreation

One of the most exciting selling points of VR is that it can let us roam the earth from the comfort of our own homes. This is obviously a laudable, liberating experience for those who are unable to travel. As with augmented reality, however, we probably need to have conversations about where it is appropriate to roam and/or recreate as a virtual experience. Is it fine for me to wander through a recreation of my favorite celebrity’s apartment (I can imagine many fans would adore the idea!)? Or peep through windows of homes and businesses in any given city street? The answers to some of these questions may seem obvious to us, but we cannot assume that the ethical parameters of this capability are clear to all who may use or develop.

10.   Privacy and data

Last, but not least, the more we “merge” into a virtual world, the more of ourselves we are likely to give away. This might mean more and greater privacy worries. German researchers have raised the concern that if our online avatars mirror our real-world movements and gestures, these “motor intentions” and the “kinetic fingerprints” of our unique movement signatures can be tracked, read, and exploited by predatory entities. Again, it’s clear that there needs to be an open and consultative dialogue with regards to what is collectable, and what should be off-limits in terms of our virtual activities.

This list is not exhaustive, and some of these concerns will be proven groundless in good time. Regardless, as non-technicians and future users, we are right to demand full and clear explanations as to how these tripwires will be averted or mitigated by VR companies.