We are all aware that AI has been pervasively deployed in the generation of assistive technology from Amazon, Google and others. Until now they have been, relatively, low-tech and simple (including their lack of security).
However, that is about to change. In anticipation of the upcoming holiday season, the major players, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are all upping the game. One might say that AI 2.0 is about to be released.
These next-generation devices go from listen and reply to becoming smart display devices, adding video to them.
Amazon unveiled Echo Show, and Google is releasing the Home Hub, Pixel 3, Pixel Stand and Pixel Slate. Facebook rolled out Portal and Portal+ devices for Facebook Messenger video chat and Alexa with tablet-sized, rotating screens. It also is connected to Newsy.
Google Home Hub, is connected to a number of apps that help you with everything from cooking to smart home management to ride sharing. It too, comes with a smart screen.
The Amazon offering of Echo Show offers new video visuals and the ability to be a hands-free video calling center. It also has the ability to integrate with smart homes.
However, what all of these devices still have in common are security issues. Adjacent to all of these evolutionary devices is the specter of compromise. Recall that Facebook recently exposed 50 million accounts, with 30 million of them having data stolen. In a similar scenario, Google+ was pulled one day before its debut because a security hole was discovered in the software.
Do not think Amazon escapes the security scrutiny. The fact that the Echo has been criticized for the way it captures data and uses it for any number of purposes has been going on for some time now. And, tangentially, one of Amazon’s more underhanded actions was the recent discovery of an algorithm, in its hiring and recruitment processes, that penalized applications with “women” in them for years. Not a security issue but certainly an unconscionable course.
However, back to privacy issues. While the knowledge of this is growing, it is not as significant as it should be. Recently, a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey noted that only 10 percent of nonusers do not own smart speakers due to privacy concerns. In other words, 90 percent of non-users either have no clue about potential security issues, or do not care. That is a disturbing metric. To support that, such assistant adoption has grown steadily. Moreover, analysts do not see that abating.
These device manufacturers, as well as the app developers linked to them do not seem to show much of a penchant to up security or protect private data. Most of what they do is damage control. All Facebook did was to limit initial use cases for Portal, keeping out much of its knowledge of one’s social life. That is why Portal did not debut with facial recognition software, as had initially been expected.
The big challenge for these segments is trust. I will grant that it is difficult for them to be all that they can be while maintaining security and privacy. Security is the easier of the two. Privacy is more challenging because the users want private and personal data to be available to varying degrees, depending upon personal preferences. In addition, the majority of users cannot be expected to understand how to manage their privacy until it becomes a function that they can understand in very simple terms.
This is a complex wheelhouse that requires a great deal of understanding, by both the user and the provider, regardless of whether it is an app or a device. Add to that the impending Internet of Everything/Everyone (IoX) and it gets even murkier.
In the end, part of it will fall on the user, part on the provider. In any event, personal and private data needs to be, fundamentally, protected and unavailable unless the user, specifically, allows access to it. Storing it anywhere but with the user is not cool. That is the pivotal issue that the vendors need to focus on.