Privacy Is Just the Beginning of the Debate Over Tech
Controversial ‘smart locks’ show the way that surveillance tech begins with the poor, before spreading to the rest of us
In a weird case of who knew we had to fight for that particular right, last month a judge ordered that landlords in New York were required to “provide physical keys to any tenants who didn’t want to use the Latch smart locks installed on the building last September.” This legal ruling came after residents of an apartment building in Manhattan banded together and successfully sued to prevent their landlord from replacing the physical locks in the lobby with smart locks.
The Latch, and similar keyless locks opened using smartphones, are increasingly common features of apartment buildings across the U.S. In their opposition to this forced upgrading, tenants listed myriad reasons why the smart lock did not actually offer the enhanced convenience and security their landlord claimed it did. These issues ranged from some of the older residents not owning smartphones to larger concerns around the landlord being able to monitor and harass tenants. “I said I don’t want to be tracked, and the landlord laughed,” a 72-year-old resident of the building told CNET.
We are all aware that smart technologies — data-driven, internet-connected, automated — are rife with privacy issues. There are countless examples, and the list grows every day. Smart locks bring to life many of the worst fears of privacy advocates. Such fears-turned-reality include the collection of personal data, which is then used to (secretly) create detailed profiles about our identity, preferences, behaviors, and routines. In addition to fueling an economy built on personalized targeting, with this level of tracking comes a near-total loss of the “obscurity” that shields us from the disciplinary gaze of governments, corporations, and bosses.
When we accept a framing that is friendly to the surveillance-industrial complex, then we end up fighting on their turf, by their rules.
It’s not surprising that our skepticism of smart things tends to start with privacy. The problem, however, is that it…