UK MPs to Probe 'Sinister Side' of Smart Devices

© AP Photo / Jeff ChiuThis March 2, 2016 photo shows an Echo Dot in San Francisco.
This March 2, 2016 photo shows an Echo Dot in San Francisco.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.05.2022
Global governments have been raising concerns over trends by tech companies to harvest private data, while sometimes failing to prevent its misuse by third parties.
British lawmakers from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee are planning to review smart devices’ impact on user privacy rights, cybersecurity and even different groups of the society.
Committee Chair Julian Knight said that while devices such as smart speakers and virtual assistants, like Apple's Siri, may make one's life more convenient, their use may also have unforeseen negative consequences that need to be probed.
"The innocent little box sitting inconspicuously in the corner of the room would seem to offer the ultimate in convenience […] With such a smart set-up connected to the outside world, however, there is always the danger it will have a more sinister side, with users potentially sacrificing privacy, put at risk of cyber-crime, or left open to uncovering harmful content online", Knight said.
The MP went on to say that the committee will study both the "risks and rewards" of existing technology used at home and beyond as it continues to increase in popularity. He stressed that existing British laws must be checked to be adequate in light of the latest advances and "a rapidly changing future".
The Tory politician specified that the risk assessment will include concerns over hacking of devices monitoring and controlling various parts of people's homes, such as smart light bulbs or thermostats and any potential negative impact of new technologies on youth, the elderly and people with disabilities.
Finally, the MP suggested investigating ways to incentivise companies to manufacture smart devices and products that are "safe, secure, environmentally and user-friendly and human rights-compliant".
The parliamentary probe comes as big tech companies face increased scrutiny over their hoarding of private user data, which is reportedly not always properly managed and could be misused by the third party companies.
In one such case, British firm Cambridge Analytica used harvested personal data of Facebook users to better target potential voters in the 2016 US presidential election. The company analysed the big data to determine which users will be more susceptible to certain election ads. The investigation into improper data harvesting eventually led Cambridge Analytica to close operations amid allegations of misconduct.
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