Many consumers openly talk about the first time an advertisement seemed too specific. Perhaps after a casual conversation, suddenly ads started appearing for whatever was discussed. These incidents often make people wonder if their devices are always listening and collecting data about personal lives to advertise more accurately.
And while most major smart home devices and smartphones explicitly state they are not always listening, many consumers express a lack of concern. The Safety.com research team conducted a survey of 1,091 U.S. residents, asking them if they cared whether their smart home devices were always listening.
- 66.7% of people responded that they don’t care whether their home devices are always listening.
- Women are more concerned about their smart devices listening than men by a margin of over 7%.
- Millennials and Gen Z age brackets are far less concerned about smart devices listening to them all the time than people in the Baby Boomer age bracket. Gen X is evenly spread.
- Regionality played a small part in respondents’ beliefs. People located in more tech-dominant cities and areas are less concerned about smart devices listening than people in less tech-dominant cities and areas by approximately 6-10% depending on the location.
Thoughts That Make Their Way to a Search Engine
Whether it be the smart speaker in our kitchen, the smart camera on our doorbell, or the smartphone we keep in our pockets, technology capable of tracking every move has integrated into our daily lives.
Most manufacturers of these devices argue that it isn’t always recording and that they don’t always need to be on in order to collect the data necessary to function properly. Many misconceptions spread when these devices first launched, but most peoples’ fears have been proven to be unnecessary — at least on the surface.
But what is interesting is how so few people are concerned about whether these devices are recording them in the first place. Americans continue downloading apps, for example, and consenting to terms and services without reading them.
In fact, skipping these tasks seems far more intuitive than trying to understand hard-to-read privacy data policies — as explained in a New York Times editorial piece about tech and privacy. General sentiment falls along the lines of if someone isn’t guilty of anything, then what difference does it make if they’re being listened to?
Boundaries, Privacy or Convenience
While many privacy experts and legal scholars struggle with this mindset, it does tend to be prevalent among average Americans and the sentiment seems to be spreading as more people adapt to convenience in exchange for privacy. This is especially true about smartphones. While many people might reject the notion of putting a smart speaker in their house, it is hard to find someone unwilling to carry a smartphone with them wherever they go.
According to a study conducted by Smartbot, there are over 90 million smart speakers in the U.S. alone or about one-third of the U.S. adult population. This trend is exponentially increasing, now with homes having multiple devices, including in their homes and in their vehicles.
Similarly, there are an estimated 290 million smartphones or about 80% of total market penetration. This makes the U.S. the third-highest on a list of countries by smartphone adoption. It seems likely that with more mass adoption, privacy concerns will continue to take a back seat to the convenience factor of having a smart device available at almost all times.
- A representative survey was conducted on 1,091 U.S. residents.
- The survey was conducted December 8th through December 12th, 2020
- Equal distribution of age demographics between 18-64 years of age (self-reported).
- 51.9% of respondents female, 48.1% male.