UK data agency plays down privacy risks of connected tech, as demand for Amazon Alexa and Google Nest show consumer trust
The UK’s data watchdog has played down potential privacy concerns linked to connected technology, arguing that strong demand for devices like the Amazon Alexa and Google Nest suggest British consumers are not that worried.
MPs from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) yesterday quizzed the Information Commissioner’s Office, as well as Amazon and Google execs, about the risks posed by connected tech devices such as smart toys, doorbells and speakers.
Asked whether tech companies suffer from an inherent lack of trust from consumers, John Edwards, Information Commissioner, said: “People are flocking to these devices. They are installing them in their homes.”
Edwards conceded, however, said he was unsure “whether this enthusiasm for these devices is based on an ignorance of the data issues that they represent or, conversely, whether it is based on an expectation amongst consumers that organisations like mine are there to watch their back”.
When questioned, Edwards said he had smart devices in his own home.
Leila Rouhi, vice-president of trust and privacy at Amazon Alexa, suggested that some user concerns about data collection are overblown.
She reassured the panel that, while Amazon’s smart speaker Alexa was built to be intuitive and proactive to the customer, there is a “common misconception that Alexa is always listening”.
The blue indicator was designed to show the user when Alexa is listening and they can always go into privacy settings to see what has been recorded and delete if they wish.
David Kleidermacher, vice-president of Made-by-Google security and privacy, said the market is “evolving towards greater control of privacy preferences”.
He advocated for the need for increased transparency from Big Tech firms and stressed the importance of innovating within the field of privacy technology.