The Bugs in Our Homes

by agoodnow

We have been on a slippery slope for quite some time as it relates to our reliance on technology.  The past ten years have brought us exponential reliance on our devices.  This isn’t breaking news.  Tech has made our lives easier in terms of not having to think for ourselves or search all that terribly hard for data or who won the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest in 1995 or why is the sky blue or what to do when it looks like your toe is about to fall off or how to run a marathon.  Boom.  You type in the question and there is an answer.  Not always the correct answer, but an answer.  These days it is incumbent upon all of us to vet information we find (most certainly before sharing it).  That’s a whole different post – for now, back to ease of information…

For such a long time it was typing in these questions.  We have now graduated to asking our devices what the capital city of Nigeria is or how many Oscars Tom Cruise has won.  And we are also asking for things –  Can you have a pizza delivered?  Can you schedule my car’s oil change?  Can you show me the way to San Jose?

Which is all so very convenient.  And I will admit that I avoided getting an iPhone until one was given to me.  I avoided GPS until it was in a rental car I drove.  I never activated my Siri on my iPhone (still haven’t).  Which means maybe I am a little behind on the technology, but it also means that I am letting other people go through the bugs of it all.  The first time I heard of Alexa – the listening device that one can have installed in their home – my first thought was “This is trouble.  Why would anyone want a device in their home that can actively monitor what you are doing?”  Maybe I have seen Ocean’s 11 too many times, but I’m sure there are people out there who can hack into an Alexa account with relative ease and listen to anything they want.  Mind you, I doubt there is anything overly interested going on in the vast majority of households, but what happens when a few words are strung together that Alexa interprets to mean something unintended by the user?

Here is a link to a CNN story about this very situation:

The conversation that Alexa recorded AND SENT TO THIS PERSON’S CO-WORKER was about hardwood floors, but here is my question to pose –

What if their conversation that was recorded without their knowledge or willing consent was about conceiving a child?  Infertility?  An argument about money?  About one of them being transgender? About a dark family situation?  About having broken the law?  About bowel movements?  About disliking a job or a co-worker?

What are the consequences associated with any one of those conversations becoming public.  Imagine if the co-worker was social media happy (and a bad person) and decided to post the recorded conversation on their FB account?

Are we willing to risk this potential invasion of privacy for the sake of asking what the weather is going to be?  Is it worth it?  Do you want to have to unplug a device before or during any potentially serious conversation you want to have in the (supposed) privacy of your own home?

At what point do we have enough?

Do we call it quits when chips start being implanted?  Or is bugging our homes far enough?

Full disclosure – I have been in a couple of homes that have an Alexa. The owners say nothing but good things about the device and have been happy with them.   (I chose not to have any private conversations inside of those homes.  Just in case.)