Scout - Become Transparent Before We See Through You
Our homes are increasingly inhabited by smart objects. They make our life easier, but in exchange, they are constantly communicating with their makers and with other companies about data they collect in our home.
A Samsung smart TV sends user data to about 700 different recipients every 15 minutes. An internet-connected HP printer sends the filename and username for each document in un-encrypted form. A Philips connected toothbrush monitors and shares your brushing habits, frequency and even technique with the company. Surely the terms and conditions explain the specifics of data capture for these devices, but by the time we placed our Echo Show on our bedside table or our daughter unwrapped her new Hello Barbie connected doll, we've already forgotten about their implications.
With connected devices, we're constantly required to give away privacy in exchange for convenience. And as these connected devices become part of our routine home life, we completely forget about their lack of privacy-sensitive behaviours.
Scout is our solution to bring back trust in the smart home. A router-like device to monitor what connected devices are doing with their data in real-time. And to follow any odd behaviour with a legal request for an explanation.
All of your devices connect directly to Scout, much like a router. Every time they "talk" to another computer somewhere else in the world, send or requesting data, Scout visualizes it on its display, showing what device was communicating, the destination of the communication and if the communication was encrypted or not.
And if something doesn't look right: a device is communicating with too many different destinations, or the data it transmits is not secure; you can at any moment request to the manufacturer information about what data is collected by pressing a button on the device, a request that has legal obligations in Europe due to recent GDPR privacy laws.
We think that connected devices are making our lives better. But that we should be able to trust a place as intimate as our home. With Scout, you can enjoy the benefits of the smart home while always being in control of what data goes out from your home.
Data shows us that personalisation works.
The ways and means to personalise are getting stronger. But at what cost?
Data collection, facial recognition, mood sensors and mind readers.
Companies are using these methods and in turn pushing the limits of data privacy.
Our prediction is, brands which don't offer transparency will soon be exposed and held to account by consumers. And, rather than a luxury, brand transparency will be standard.
To show how close that day is, we looked at the world of consumer electronics – particularly smart home devices.
Here manufacturers sell personal data to third parties. They decode our most private routines and preferences for profit.
Manufacturers like Samsung, whose Smart TV sent user data to about 700 different recipients every 15 minutes.
Or the HP printer which transmits the filename and username of every document in un-encrypted form.
These are not isolated cases. Nor are these obscure gadgets. Everyday products like lightbulbs are now made with internet connectivity.
At the moment, if we want the comfort of smart devices we have no choice but to bite the bullet and accept unilaterally the privacy-sensitive user terms of the main connected products manufacturers.
We asked ourselves how we shift the power back to the people? We asked ourselves how we shift the power back to the people? How could we take steps towards coveillance?
Then we made Scout.
Scout is a router-like device which allows consumers to monitor what connected devices are doing with their data in real-time. And to follow any odd behavior with a legal request for an explanation. With Scout, we wanted to use a different approach. To allow connected devices to come inside our homes, but to keep them under close watch.
What would you do if through Scout you realized that your connected toothbrush was sharing your brushing habits? Does the convenience of tracking your oral hygiene techniques outweigh the cost of being monitored by, for instance, dental insurance companies?
Scout applies the same technology brands use to deceive consumers to move us closer to a culture of transparency. Not as a proof of concept. Or to create conflict. But to show that the tide is turning.
We are enthusiastic about the benefits that connected devices bring to the home space, but we're concerned about privacy. And Scout is our way to promote a culture of transparency in a field where it's still obstinately absent.