According to consumer rights and privacy advocates, CES presented not only innovations that could improve our lives, but also proposals that were invasive or could cause future harm to its users, society, or the planet.
In the third edition of the competition in which no technology company wants to appear, the winners were presented in the “Worst of the Show”, which is the result of examining the products and prototypes that were revealed during the CES 2024 exhibition, which was held last week in Las Vegas. Vegas. .
“From hackable lawnmowers to $300 headphones that will fail within two years, these are the products that compromise our security, encourage overconsumption, and normalize privacy violations.“, said a group of consumer and privacy advocates who served as judges for the awards. The contest has no affiliation with CES or the trade group organizing the show.
Choices were made based on how bad a particular product was, the impact it could have if widely adopted, and whether it was significantly worse than previous versions with similar technology. Judges represent groups such as Consumer Reports, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and iFixtitdefends consumers' right to repair their devices.
Dangerous car technology
Automotive technology is a big focus at CES every year. Two bricks were awarded to the automaker BMW, one of which relates to a partnership with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant.
Using an artificial intelligence (AI) model like the one used in ChatGPT, Amazon says Alexa's “car expert” will be able to provide “quick instructions and answers about car functions in a more human and conversational way, and even act on their requirements.” On behalf of.” Asking Alexa — from the car — to unlock the front door or turn off the light on the porch sounds convenient. But what if the command came from a violent ex?
“We have seen an increase in the number of horrific stories in which people, usually women, trying to escape abusive domestic situations end up using their cars as a means of being followed and abused,” said Cindy Cohen, one of the jurors. Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“Alexa and BMW, honestly All the car companies racing to turn our cars into tracking devices should make sure victims can turn this offCohen stated.
For his part, BMW Group spokesman, Jay Hanson, said that the company designed and provided the voice assistant with privacy in mind, and that customers have the choice to use it or not. “BMW and Amazon share a strong commitment to maintaining customers’ trust and protecting their privacy, including giving them control over their data,” he said in an email received last Thursday.
BMW is also showing off augmented reality glasses designed by Xreal that are supposed to overlay useful information and virtual objects you'll see in front of you while driving.
Another jury called it a “recipe for distracted driving” that could also pave the way for a future of vision-obstructing advertising. But Hanson said the augmented reality experience shown off at CES was a showcase of “potential use cases” that could help or entertain people, but reducing driver distraction remains a core tenet of what BMW offers customers.
Defective hearing aids
German audio electronics manufacturer Sennheiser has introduced the fourth generation of its long-lasting True Wireless Momentum headphones.
But iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens says so The latest $300 headphones are considered “brand betrayal” because they are so disposablewith three separate batteries that will likely fail after a few years and cannot be easily replaced.
“Start selling batteries and posting repair instructions,” he wrote. “Then make it easy to replace the battery.” Sennheiser did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Who wants more food ads?
Nathan Proctor, national campaign director for US PIRG, a consumer advocacy group, singled out Instacart's new “smart” shopping cart video ads as the “worst of the shows.”
General Mills, Del Monte Foods and Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream are among the companies that will advertise on carts during an upcoming trial period at stores in the western U.S. owned by Good Food Holdings. The cart, equipped with cameras and sensors, has a screen that will share real-time recommendations based on what customers put in the cart, such as advertising ice cream if a customer buys cones.
“Use historical purchasing behavior to promote junk foods you've purchased before“Supermarkets are crowded and browsing the promotions is exhausting, and I question the rationality of anyone who thinks we should make it worse,” Proctor wrote. Instacart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Vacuum cleaner or spy?
The “Worst in Show” award in cybersecurity went to Chinese robot vacuum cleaner manufacturer Ecovacs. Robotic vacuum cleaners aren't new, but Paul Roberts of Secure Repairs says they are The new X2 Combo combines all the elements of intrusive home monitoring: Cameras, microphones, LiDAR, voice recognition, and computer vision that can recognize objects, with no guarantee that their images or unencrypted video streams can't be hacked.
In the environmental impact category, the award went to one of several internet-connected devices unveiled at CES 2024. Revolution Cooking's $1,800 “microwave” combines a microwave and a convection oven. However, according to Shanika Whitehurst of Consumer ReportsThese newer devices usually have a short lifespan and encourage people to get rid of the simpler devices they already have.
“Adding electronics to perfectly functioning devices dramatically increases their environmental impact, requiring enormous amounts of resources and energy,” he wrote.
Revolution Cooking and Ecovacs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Social media evangelist. Student. Reader. Troublemaker. Typical introvert.”