Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, for all their popularity, are becoming too smart in the smart home sector, developers say.
Google Assistant, Alexa becoming too "home smart," smart home developers say
The two AIs (artificial intelligence assistants) are growing in their access to customer data. There was a time when companies traded customer data back and forth between their products. When a person says, "Google Assistant, turn on my lamp," the smart lamp would give the signal before Google Assistant would turn it on. The same for Amazon Alexa.
Now, though, thanks to a 2019 update, Google and Amazon require continuous status-change updates for smart products. For example, Google now receives customer data regarding every action, such as turning lights on and off. Every little change throughout the day is sent to Google and Amazon.
The new 2019 requirement provides information to Google and Amazon that no other home automation companies possess. Essentially, these companies know when customers leave their homes, when they return, when they take a shower, when they go to bed in the evening, when they wake up, and so on. It's as though Google and Amazon could plan out every hour of a customer's day just based on user data from AI and smart home devices.
This has smart home developers uncomfortable.
Technology and privacy: drawing the line and tech giant accountability
The issue, as always, concerns customer data and privacy. Customers want their data guarded carefully and don't want exposure to third parties who have no business using it. With continuous status updates, Google and Amazon have made customer data that much easier to obtain in a hack or data breach. And the thing that motivates Google and Amazon is customer data, at the expense of its protection. Google and Amazon care far more about customer data than they do about privacy, according to smart home developers.
And yet, these tech giants are accountable for what they do with customer data. They don't just get to mine it without accountability. Any company that has access to consumer data must show what they do with it and how much of it they obtain. Placing checks on tech companies prevents their future corruption and mobile attacks on customers. Google and Amazon have a treasure trove of data and they should guard it as carefully as they guard their company secrets.
Smart home developers want to ensure their products and services are safe to use. Privacy is a huge selling point in home automation. Customers want to know their products and services have protection, and they will spend lots of money for that protection. Google and Amazon's data-mining habits could ruin the smart home market for everyone.
Giving the key(s): the need for greater consumer awareness
With Google and Amazon gleaning every bit of customer data possible, customers themselves must be aware of the situation. They can't just buy products and services and use them without the slighest thought or concern. Smart home products and services are programmable and thus, hackable. They come with the same privacy risks as computers. So with that said, customers can't just entrust all their personal data to data-mining companies without being aware of what said companies are doing with their data.
Smart home developers want customers to understand that, though there's little proof Google and Amazon are misusing and abusing access to customer data, there is a reason for concern. The sheer amount of unfettered access they have to customer data is tantamount to the valet who holds the keys to a driver's car, home, work office, church, and even bank box in his hands. The valet may have all the honest intentions in the world, but drivers who hand over all their keys are putting their lives at risk, even without meaning to.
Perhaps the driver should only hand the car key to the valet instead of the entire keychain — but, in a world where tech giants Google and Amazon are doing the driving, perhaps only the entire keychain will do.