Friend or Foe? Technology in Our Everyday Lives: Smart Homes

Innovations in camera technologies are wildly popular these days for convenience and amusement. For example, wired internet-of-things homes may use baby monitors and security systems with cameras that can be accessed remotely. Even pet cameras are increasingly popular because the products offer a pet’s view of the world while home without you. But despite the novelty and usefulness of connected cameras, these devices can also threaten personal privacy. "As the number of connected gadgets around your home increases, so do your chances of getting hacked.”

To this point, everything from home security cameras to webcams can be compromised. “After all, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and former FBI Director James Comey both put tape over their computer’s camera when not in use, so perhaps you should, too.”

Frightening reports of hackers spying on sleeping children through baby monitors and eerily watching families through home security cameras abound. Even your pet cam may be vulnerable to criminals. Why? “The big reason is that they want to listen in on and view things happening in your home. Criminals could use this information for identity theft, extortion, blackmail, and any other of a number of scams that require access to private information.” By example, security alarm company, ADT, chose to settle multi-state class actions that alleged hacking vulnerability in its products.

In an effort to protect consumers, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) increasingly pressures manufacturers through lawsuits to build more antipiracy protections into their camera products. “We’re trying to convey to companies that security needs to be top of mind. They need to make sure they have reasonable security in place to protect personal information,” says FTC Chairwoman, Edith Ramirez.

In the wake of increased cyberattacks, legal issues of privacy and product liability become urgent and the blame game begins. How much responsibility for hacking should be placed on consumers for not updating security software on their devices? How much responsibility should companies shoulder? Experts recommend, at a minimum, that consumers keep their devices' security software up to date and ensure that default factory passwords are reset. Moreover, corporations are advised to do timely maintenance of software and data security solutions and regular updates to privacy disclosure statements: these may not create an impenetrable shield against liability but they can aid in mitigating and reducing risk. In the end, striking a balance that protects consumers without stifling industry innovation should be the intended goal.

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