Privacy, please: the latest gadgets want a better overview of life


LAS VEGAS – The latest gadgets want even greater access to your life.

This week's CES Tech Show in Las Vegas has been a showcase for cameras capable of streaming the flow of life into the living room, a bathroom mirror that captures your face to offer beauty tips and a gizmo that follows the heartbeat of an unborn child.

These features can be useful – or at least fun – but they all open the door for businesses and their associates to take a look at your privacy. Just this week, The Intercept announced that Ring, a security camera company owned by Amazon, allowed employees to access video footage from customers.

You will need to determine if the gadgets are useful enough to deprive you of your privacy. First, you need to be sure that the companies that make these devices protect your information and do not do more than they say with data. Even if a company has the confidentiality of its data in mind, problems can arise: hackers can introduce and access sensitive data. Or an ex could retain access to a video stream long after a breakup.

"It's not as if all these technologies were intrinsically bad," says Franziska Roesner, a professor at the University of Washington, who conducts research on computer security and privacy.

But she said the industry was still trying to find the right balance between providing useful services and protecting people's privacy.

The video streams of Amazon

As with other security cameras, Ring can be mounted in front of the front door or inside the house to give you an overview, via an app, of those present. But according to Intercept, the Amazon-owned company also allowed some high-level engineers in the US to display video feeds from customers, while others from the Ukrainian office could view and download any video file.

In a statement, Ring said that some Amazon employees had access to videos shared publicly through the company's Neighbors app, which aims to create a network of security cameras in an area. Ring also says that employees get additional videos from users who consent to such sharing.

At CES, Ring has announced a video doorbell connected to the Internet that is perfect for peepholes for apartment residents or students who can not install one next to their doors. Although Apparently, Ring does not yet use facial recognition, the records show that Amazon has recently filed a patent application for a facial recognition system incorporating home security cameras.

Livestream show

It's one thing to place cameras in our own homes, but wants us to install them also in other people's homes.

Alarm & Wellcam is aimed at goalies to watch from afar and is primarily designed for the registration of elderly parents. Someone who lives elsewhere can use a smartphone to "take a look" at any time, says Steve Chazin, vice president of products.

The idea of ​​placing a camera in someone's living room can seem disgusting.

Wellcam says that the video is not recorded until someone activates it from a phone and the video is deleted as soon as the stream stops. Chazin says that such cameras "are becoming more and more acceptable because their relatives want to know that those who are interested in them are safe."

Just be sure to trust who you give access to. You can not turn off the camera unless you unplug it or cover it with an object.

Bathroom cameras

The French company CareOS has introduced a smart mirror that allows you to try different hairstyles. Facial recognition allows the mirror camera to know which person is in a home, while augmented reality technology superimposes your real image on an animation on your appearance.

CareOS expects hotels and lounges to purchase the $ 20,000 Artemis Mirror, which makes the protection of personal data more important.

"We know we do not want the whole world to know what's going on in the bathroom," said co-founder Chloe Szulzinger.

The mirror does not need the Internet to work, she says. Even if it is connected, all the data is stored on a local network. The company has announced that it will respect the stricter European rules on confidentiality, which came into effect in May, regardless of the customer's place of residence. Customers may choose to share their information with CareOS, but only after explicitly agreeing to their use.

Body data

Meanwhile, some gadgets collect intimate information.

Yo Sperm sells an iPhone accessory that tests and monitors the quality of sperm. To protect confidentiality, the company recommends users to put their phone in airplane mode when they use the test. The company says that the data remains on the phone, in the application, although there is a button to share details with a doctor.

Owlet, meanwhile, plans to sell a portable device that rests on a pregnant belly and follows the heartbeat. The company's privacy policy states that personal data is collected. And you can choose to share heartbeat information with researchers who study stillbirths.

While such data may be useful, Fatemeh Khatibloo, a Forrester analyst, warns that these devices are not regulated or regulated by US privacy law. She warned that companies could potentially sell data to insurance companies who might discover, for example, that a person was drinking caffeine during pregnancy, which could avoid health risks and therefore premiums. .