Critics raise transparency fears over plan to turn all smart home devices into ‘mesh network’
Amazon customers have one week to opt out of a plan that would turn every Echo speaker and Ring security camera in the US into a shared wireless network, as part of the company’s plan to fix connection problems for its smart home devices.
The proposal, called Amazon Sidewalk, involves the company’s devices being used as a springboard to build city-wide “mesh networks” that help simplify the process of setting up new devices, keep them online even if they’re out of range of home wifi, and extend the range of tracking devices such as those made by Tile.Continue reading...
One in 10 US police departments can now access videos from millions of privately owned home security cameras without a warrant
In a 2020 letter to management, Max Eliaser, an Amazon software engineer, said Ring is “simply not compatible with a free society”. We should take his claim seriously.
Ring video doorbells, Amazon’s signature home security product, pose a serious threat to a free and democratic society. Not only is Ring’s surveillance network spreading rapidly, it is extending the reach of law enforcement into private property and expanding the surveillance of everyday life. What’s more, once Ring users agree to release video content to law enforcement, there is no way to revoke access and few limitations on how that content can be used, stored, and with whom it can be shared.
Related: How Amazon became a pandemic giant – and why that could be a threat to us all
Lauren Bridges is a PhD candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of PennsylvaniaContinue reading...
Novel motorised smart screen tracks your movements to keep facing you for media and video calls
Amazon’s latest top-of-the-range Alexa smart display has a trick up its sleeve like no other: it can follow you around a room.
The third-generation Echo Show 10 costs £239.99 and is Amazon’s largest smart display, sitting above the smaller £100 Echo Show 8 with an 8in screen and £80 Echo Show 5 with a 5.5in screen.
Alexa and Skype are available in the UK for video calling, but Zoom is only available in the US.
The display will stop if it hits something, and it wobbles a little when you are typing using the on-screen keyboard.
The screen would often point slightly off to the left of my body, but this didn’t happen as much for others in my household.
It had issues setting and displaying background pictures from my Amazon Photos library, which the company said was related to a configuration problem with my particular account, but could not fix in the review period.
Pros: Alexa, good screen, novel motorised display, automatic pan and zoom for good video calling, good sound, Netflix, security camera function, attractive design contains recycled materials.
Cons: expensive, camera can’t handle...
Second-gen Nest Hub avoids the user needing to wear a bracelet or headband and acts as smart alarm
Google’s latest Nest Hub smart display tracks sleep with miniaturised radar without the user having to wear a bracelet or headband.
The revamped 7in Google Assistant smart display is being repositioned as a smart alarm clock and health-monitoring device for the bedroom.
Related: Google Home Hub review: the smart display to buyContinue reading...
We just wanted the money to pay to have the circuit board repaired
I am having the most absurd argument with E.ON after the power firm’s smart meter installation wrecked our five-year-old gas boiler and it then refused to pay for the repairs.
It started when we moved our gas and electricity supply to E.ON in April. Our new tariff required us to get a smart meter for each and so in August E.ON’s contractor, Morrison Utility Services, arrived to install them. But when it turned the electricity supply back on after installation, our previously working boiler would not restart.Continue reading...
According to a UN study published last year, smart assistants with female voices are often programmed with contrite and demure responses to verbal abuse or harassment, entrenching harmful gender biases. In the second of two episodes, Alex Hern takes a look at the sexualisation of female AI and robots, what this means for how we treat them, and asks how we can give them a feminist rebootContinue reading...
From Rosie the Robot in the 1960s animated sitcom The Jetsons to Siri and Alexa today, technologies that perform the roles of housekeeper and secretary are often presented as female. What does the gendering of these machines say about our expectations of who should be doing this kind of work? In the first of two episodes exploring the world of fembots and female AI assistants, the Guardian’s UK technology editor, Alex Hern, examines whether smart assistants are reinforcing harmful gender stereotypesContinue reading...