My Hopes for CES 2018: Taking Privacy Seriously

Posted on Posted in News

Every year, thousands of tech enthusiasts attend CES to discuss technology and new consumer devices. Folks show up to see the fanciest new TVs, computers, and smart home products. Some of those products will turn out to be ground-breaking and exciting. Most of them will turn out to be shiny but ultimately not very useful. If feels like for the last several years, most smart-home gadgets have fallen into the second category: see last year’s $100 smart toaster.

CES 2018

CES 2018 is in Las Vegas this week, however, and the hope is that this year perhaps we will have come down from last year’s “everything-must-be-IoT” theme and come up with some devices that offer a bit more practicality when it comes to smart-home devices. In particular, this year’s CES comes on the heel’s of last year’s huge security breaches (e.g., Equifax) and the still warm announcement that every Intel processor from the last 20 years potentially had a serious hardware flaw that needs to be patched in order to prevent leaking your personal data. Assuming that consumers haven’t become immune to these security concerns, another generation of devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant — both devices hoovering up consumer information in the pursuit of their own improvement and some sweet marketing avenues — might not be what consumers are looking for this year.

Granted, consumers — in the aggregate at least — are notorious for not actually caring about security breaches or their own privacy. Individuals continue to discuss the importance of privacy and security, but when it comes to paying with their wallet, it’s yet to be proven that those same consumers care all that much about the issues.

While the devices on the floor at CES are likely to be more of the same, it might be worth keeping an eye on some of the presentations to see if the presenters are pitching gimmicky IoT devices or if there is some substance to the discussion that lets consumers know that manufacturers have some plan for how the next generation of devices can offer to move technology forward while addressing some of the privacy concerns that have crept up since this time last year.

If you’re looking for interesting presenters, Intel will be the very first keynote speaker on Monday morning. In light of the Spectre and Meltdown revelations last week, this presentation will need to address these privacy concerns or otherwise risk appearing completely tone-deaf. Tuesday will include a presentation from Ford motor company, which has the opportunity to be somewhat interesting in light of their repeated announcements regarding their interest in pushing the pile forward with regards to self-driving car technology.

Later in the week, Verizon and Comcast have presentations scheduled where folks can determine in what manner those companies intend the screw the average consumer over the next twelve months. I find it ironic that the two ISP executives perhaps have the grainiest head-shots on the CES website – probably trying to avoid running over their data caps. All joking aside (it’s not really joking), I would expect the big ISP keynote’s to be only be interesting if you lean masochistic have no better way to torture yourself during a midweek afternoon.