Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in your Home?

Technology in and of itself isn’t the challenge, the challenge is how we as a society deal with it. This is the sort of thing that will likely take legislatures many years (after “privacy” has been eliminated) to sort out.

I highly encourage reading the whole thing – John Paul Titlow writes in Smart Homes: Our Next Digital Privacy Nightmare:

Every time we connect another one of our household appliances to the Internet, we’re going to be generating another set of data about our lives and storing it some company’s servers. That data can be incredibly useful to us, but it creates yet another digital trail of personal details that could become vulnerable to court subpoenas, law enforcement requests (with or without a warrant) or hackers. …

Of course, this has been the case for quite some time, but in the age of the smart home, a stolen or hacked phone isn’t just a repository of personal information: it’s a remote control for your entire house. If you’ve signed up for the remote surveillance service, it also contains live video feeds from every room in the house.

In-Home Video Surveillance: Fair Game For Authorities?

The video monitoring feature alone raises some serious questions about privacy, hackers aside. These videos are living on Comcast’s servers. If the police suspect me of being a drug lord and they ask Comcast for access for a live video feed into my house, will they comply? Would the police need a warrant?
As is often the case with digital privacy issues, there’s no clear legal precedent to draw from. Courts and legislative bodies tend to move considerably more slowly than the pace of technological innovation, so we end up with awkward grey areas like this.

We’ve gone from buyers asking whether a house has septic or public sewer, to asking if hard-wired internet access is available, to – is this home a smart home?

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  1. RobE March 18, 2013 at 21:03

    Cats out of the bag, the future is in smart homes and unfortunately all the troubles that come with it. Users not changing default passwords, cloud data providers being hacked and spilling data. Hackers directly accessing a smart home for blackmail or other nefarious reasons. The more wealthy/famous a person is the more of a target the person will be.

  2. Jeannine @ Small & Chic Home March 19, 2013 at 08:44

    It’d be interesting to see how many of us who work with social media are creeped out by this stuff. I think many of us realize how much the definition of privacy has changed over the years and aren’t as excited as the average consumer about the concept of a smart home.

    1. Jim Duncan March 20, 2013 at 12:53

      That’s a great point. I use social media every day and recognize how truly limited my privacy is – much of it by choice (twitter, facebook, google, foursquare, etc. location) and also that my cell phone tracks every single thing I do.


      I’d like to think of my home as being more private and secure … or at least know how my privacy is limited.

      I read last year that a washing machine (I think) was internet enabled (without disclosing to purchasers) such that it would report when it needed service. That’s a bit creepy for me.

  3. stifeler March 20, 2013 at 12:37

    so dont sell drugs and nobody will need to watch you

    1. Jim Duncan March 20, 2013 at 12:54

      That kind of misses the point of expecting privacy. You’re saying that so long as I don’t do anything wrong, I should be ok with being watched all the time?

      1. stifeler March 20, 2013 at 13:13

        True i would like privacy at all times

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