The Big Tradeoff With Home Automation Is Loss of Privacy

I admit to being on the fence where home automation is concerned. I appreciate the convenience and energy efficiency home automation offers, yet I am also aware of the big tradeoff: a further loss of privacy. Privacy is already at a premium in a world run by the internet. Do I really need to trade away what little privacy I have left just to have a smart home?

My conundrum is very real. I also suspect that I am not the only one who feels this way. I suppose the real question at this point is how much privacy truly remains. Perhaps the little bit of privacy I feel I might genuinely retain is just a mirage. Maybe my life is an open book to Big Tech, and its surrogates, and I don’t even know it.

New Technologies, Less Privacy

As someone who has been following home security and home automation for more than a decade, I have watched both industries evolve and ultimately converge. I have observed that with every new technology comes less privacy. I have also noticed that people are willing to give up privacy in order to gain convenience. Is that right or wrong? Each consumer gets to decide for himself.

That said, a Parks Associates survey released in early February 2024 shows increasing demand for home automation services offered by pay TV providers. Approximately 46% of 8,000 surveyed pay TV subscribers described the possibility of obtaining home automation services through their TV providers as “appealing or very appealing.”

What does this have to do with privacy? Everything. Pay TV services already have a tremendous amount of information on their customers. They know where their customers live and what they watch on TV. They likely know how much money their customers make and, based on their TV preferences, their world views. They have bank information, credit card information, etc. Adding home automation services to the menu only gives them access to more data.

It’s All About Convenience

Reading into the Parks Associates survey leads me to believe that people are interested in home automation through their Pay TV providers due largely to the convenience factor. The more services they can consolidate under one provider, the more convenient things are in terms of payments, customer service, and the like.

This really should not be surprising given the fact that one of the motivations behind home automation is added convenience. Think about it. Install a home automation system from Vivint Smart Home and you can control multiple devices through your phone or a central hub. Throw in voice control and you can turn your lights on and off merely by speaking. How convenient is that?

Home automation offers the opportunity to program a smart thermostat. If it is a top-of-the-line thermostat, the device can artificially learn your routine and then self-adjust programming. Home automation offers the opportunity to install keyless smart locks that can be unlocked from anywhere. Once again, the convenience factor is undeniable.

A Difficult Choice for Many

I find myself among a shrinking group of people who find it difficult to make a decision about home automation. I am a technology buff. I see the benefits technology brings to daily life. But I am also passionate about maintaining privacy and security. If there is a fine line to walk between home automation and privacy, I haven’t found it.

Perhaps someday I will be able to see a path forward with home automation, a path that doesn’t raise significant privacy concerns. Until then, I have no other choice but to be cautious.

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