The Rise of CreepTech
This article was originally published on my Substack, Trend Mill.
In simpler times, we never had to consider a loved one’s privacy when gift buying.
But as technology has continued its often-thoughtless advance, many companies and the products they create have failed to deliver adequate data and privacy protection. Now, the tech gifts we buy each other are turning our homes into data mining facilities. What was once an innocent speaker now listens to your mother’s conversations. That cute AI Robot you buy your children to hone their emotional regulation and self-confidence also records and shares these conversations with Google and OpenAI. The exercise bike you get for your partner — if the gesture doesn’t backfire spectacularly — will help them stay in shape while collecting and selling their data without permission.
The egregious practices of these companies are made worse by their attempts to bury the leaky privacy policies they poorly enforce. It’s rare to see a company publish documentation on best practices for privacy when using it; it’s rarer still that a company makes it easy to find this data. For most, it’s intentionally hidden in fine print and spread across multiple pages and sites — if it exists at all.
Super creepy products
Mozilla’s *privacy not included is a holiday shopping guide that puts users’ privacy at the forefront. It’s one of the best things about the holiday season because it names and shames the biggest offenders (my favorite). Unfortunately, it’s a tool that will become increasingly important by the year as consumers realize they must fight for data protection. As lead researcher Jen Caltrider summarised, “While gadgets may be getting smarter, they are also getting creepier and way more prone to security lapses and data leaks — even among leading companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook.”
The guide uses a Creep-O-Meter to rate products from Not Creepy to Super Creepy. While a handful of products handle privacy well (or at least meet Mozilla’s minimum requirements), an increasing number don’t.