Surveillance Tech in 2020: Cool or Creepy?

Kanchi Vasavada

By : Kanchi Vasavada

Surveillance Tech in 2020: Cool or Creepy?1

Remember when Facebook launched Portal and everyone refused to let it in the house? Amazon and Google didn’t receive that same hostility or even caution. Echo devices and Google Home devices were readily invited into homes. “Alexa” and “Hey Google” became household names, memes, and a culture-defining phenomenon. Amazon is a bit more popular though and laxer with security. 

So these guys bought Ring a few years ago. That’s not even the reason why I’m choosing to talk about it today. I’m talking about it because this week, at Amazon’s Fall hardware event, they took a Ring camera and gave it wings. Or more appropriately, propellors. 

It can fly a chosen path and in Away Mode it works with your Ring Alarm system so if it hears an intruder in your house, it’ll just fly around to check on the situation. Not at all creepy, and definitely raises a question of self-surveillance and agency. 

It also makes a drone-like sound. This is supposed to be a good thing because that’s how you know it’s recording you. So a camera flies around your house and makes noise. Cool. Well, cooler than how stationary cameras are always recording and we forget about it anyway. 

There are plenty of questions to be asked. And there aren’t enough answers for them yet. But some of the stuff from sci-fi movies that I wanted to experience is suddenly looking like really bad ideas now. Movies have clearly defined bad guys and good guys. And the good guys either have better tech or know exactly how to sabotage the evil people’s tech. 

In real life, it is slightly more difficult to sabotage tech from giant companies. And their intentions are never portrayed as evil either. 

Surveillance is a tricky place in tech. At some point in history, cameras were only watching you in large public places like airports. Then they came into malls which quickly moved into buildings, parks, and are now in our homes. Smarter cameras not only watch us, they know exactly who they are watching. 

It’s convenient when it’s announcing that my sister is at the door, but it’s still a little weird to know a camera can fly inside the home. It puts a curious new spin on drones, which are made popular by cool aerial shots. But made unpopular by aerial shots. Oh and Ring has a history of working with the police. Make what you will of that. 

The Always Home Cam comes out next year so we have a few months before we see how it gets adopted by people. With all the privacy issues from last year, people now know which company dealt with it better so the acceptance of this device might just depend heavily on that. After all, whether it’s a mic that’s always hearing or a camera that flies around, we know to be cautious now. 

It was a packed event because Amazon doesn’t shy away from launching too many products together. And if all products don’t win, some always do. After all, “Ok, Google” is a mouthful compared to the first person call-out to Alexa. 

Before you begin investing in smart home gadgets, surveillance, or otherwise, you want to ask where the data is going, what control you have on it, and what ecosystem you want to adopt. It really is as big a decision as a house remodel choices.

What do you think of surveillance tech? Let’s talk privacy for a change @biztechcs

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