Is Smart Home Tech Invading Privacy?

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Where do we draw the line when it comes to how personal we want our smart home technology to get?

Amazon announced last week that it has partnered with Capital One to add a new feature to its Echo device’s skills: voice-controlled access to your banking and credit card accounts. This new banking assistance feature is simple enable through the Alexa app, the standard way all skills are accessed and enabled. From there, you’ll use your log in information to connect your account with your Echo. Then, just like that, you can use your voice to command information about your connected accounts, such as recent purchases, balances, and due dates.

My first thought about this was the obvious though: is this secure? Do I really want anyone visits me being able to access my banking information, so long as they know what an Echo is and how to command it? If you are a parent, do you want your kids to be able to have your banking information read out loud to them at will? What if you recently made a large purchase that is supposed to be a gift, like an engagement ring, and your girlfriend accesses your statement information and puts two-and-two together? There is a rumor going around that you can actually set up a password that has to be spoken before information will be reported, but that still adds little security. The use of smart home tech, in my opinion, shouldn’t include personal information that can’t be accessed at any time, in front of anyone. This new feature is only convenient if you are alone, or in the presence of someone you can share the information with. Some things just don’t need to be voice activated and operated through a speaker.

The voice technology on the Echo is still far from perfect, too. While the chances are slight, theoretically the echo could be triggered to read your account information when you don’t intend it to. This isn’t completely farfetched, as recently news coverage of the Echo, which inadvertently used the standard wake word, trigger some customer’s Echos and resulted in changing their thermostat settings.

This partnership also adds yet another way for hackers to access your private banking information. I recommend that you do your own research about the security of Amazon products, and Echo skills, before you connect your Echo and your bank accounts.

The other argument is that this is a cool and quick way to access banking information, and make a payment, without the hassle of opening a website or app, logging in, then selecting the right menu item. Also, if you are holding a high available funds balance and want to impress a girl, you can have Alexa recite your balance while your crush is around. I’d like to see how you come up with a reason that you just have to check your bank right then and there, but just because it seems stupid doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

What do you think? Have we crossed a personal line with this new smart home feature?

Photo by: Owen Moore