The pitfalls of self-surveillance; alarm fatigue, hacking vulnerabilities, and invasion of personal privacy.

Alarm fatigue occurs when one is exposed to a large number of frequent alerts and consequently becomes desensitized to them. You simply start ignoring them because most are meaningless. Ring is pushing the scenario of catching porch pirates when the reality is for most people that you’re just as likely to catch the people form Publishers Clearing House with your big check as you are to see someone swiping your packages. For the home, camera’s with motion detection and recording are excellent tools for seeing what happened, but lousy at tracking what’s happening. The price paid for all the meaningless alarms and notifications comes in the form of stress, anxiety, and alarm fatigue.

Hacking vulnerabilities come with all connected devices. The more you have the greater the surface area of your network for hackers to find and exploit a weakness, and your network is only as secure as its weakest device. Manufacturers of smart cameras are reluctant to bake good security into their offerings because it’s expensive, adds to cost of development, increases the time to market, and it adds complexity for the end user. Consumers generally only care about the camera features and its price.  All smart home devices are computers and all computers are susceptible to being hacked, for smart home devices it’s more a question of when.

Invasion of personal privacy is a problem with most all smart home devices. Each device you add to your network asks that you accept the manufacturers terms and conditions for usage, and buried in the plethora of legalese we give the manufacturer permission to monitor how we use the product and to share that information with 3rd parties.  That’s the deal; but the inequity lies in the fact that you may only use and given device a few hours per week, but it effectively uses you 24 hours per day. Every device with a microphone, camera or sensor can monitor you in your home and share what it can.

I love the utility and convenience that smart home devices can offer, but I also want to limit their ability to pepper me with notifications, reduce the likelihood of getting hacked and used to do harm to my family or others, and limit their ability to monitor what goes on in my home. Here are my recommendations for everyone:

  • Employ the best network security you can afford (and understand well enough to configure correctly)
  • Don’t put cameras in bedrooms (duh… why does that need to be said?)
  • Practice good password hygiene (get a password manager)
  • Get a highly visible sign that announces you have cameras recording (this is probably just a white lie since your neighbor across the street probably has a Ring doorbell camera pointed at your house)

Keep connected devices disconnected when you’re not using them by unplugging your WiFi router, or automagically with Off Hours.

By: Bernie Crump, MobileM2M

Posted: December 17, 2019

Updated: December 20, 2019

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