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133: “The House that Spied on Me” w/Kashmir Hill & Surya Mattu

March 14, 2018

Our homes have always been sacred and private spaces until they became “smart”. What data is produced by our smart devices and how is it used? Is sacrificing our privacy worth all the tracking and data gathering? Is the data innocuous or is Big Brother really watching our every move? On this episode, the writers of the brilliant Gizmodo story, “The House that Spied on Me” are here to discuss the experience of having over 15 smart devices in the home and what it taught them about data, the accountability of data companies, and whether or not smart devices actually improve our lives.


Usually the modern contract is that we trade privacy for convenience, but living in the smart home I felt like I was trading privacy and convenience. -Kashmir Hill

3 Things We Learned

Data can be used to incentivize, but it can also be used to penalize us

Data broker companies are like insurance companies. They are trying to minimize risk and maximize profits. The more data they have on you, the more structures they can set up for rewarding you or incentivizing you. However, that means they can also penalize you for not doing something.

Smart devices aren’t as regulated as we’d hope they are

The fallacy in the surveillance conversation is that we think things are more regulated than they actually are. If we consider the fact that very few people actually know what the data is and how it is being used, we realize that there isn’t enough oversight on companies that handle all this personal information.

Net neutrality has moved backwards because of the money that’s now in data

You would think that our advancements in technology and the internet would mean we would uphold net neutrality as the gold standard, but the opposite is happening. This is because in the past, big companies didn’t know how to make money off the internet. Now they do.


We’ve been taught to believe that our homes being tracked makes our lives more convenient and easy, but it’s a huge tradeoff if we consider the amount of privacy we give up in the process. This smart home experiment shows us that these devices aren't providing the benefits a smartphone would-- so maybe sacrificing all this data isn't worth the information we’re getting. This is all information that can be used to study us behaviorally and teach us more about ourselves, but it can also be monetized and sold to big corporations. This tells us that the consideration to bring smart devices into our homes is one we have to take very seriously.


Guest Bio

Kashmir Hill is a senior reporter for the Special Projects Desk, which produces investigative work across all of Gizmodo Media Group's web sites. She writes about privacy and technology. Follow her on Twitter @kashhill

Surya Mattu is the data reporter at the Special Projects Desk which produces investigative work across all of Gizmodo Media Group's web sites. Follow him on Twitter @suryamattu

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