CES 2024: They present the “worst-case scenario” for wallets, privacy and the environment

According to consumer and privacy advocates, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) technology fair not only presented innovations that could improve our lives, but also presented proposals that were invasive or that could harm the future of its users, society, or the planet. Could cause harm.

In the third edition of the competition, in which no technology company would want to participate, the winners of “The Worst of the Fair” were presented, an examination of the products and prototypes unveiled during CES 2024, held last week in Las Was the product. Vegas. ,

,From hackable lawnmowers to $300 headphones that will fail in two years, these are the products that threaten our security, encourage excessive consumption, and normalize privacy violations.“, said the group of consumer and privacy advocates who served as the jury for the awards. The contest has no affiliation with CES or the trade group that organizes the exhibition.

Selection was made based on how bad a particular product is, what impact it might have if widely adopted, and whether it is significantly worse than previous versions with similar technology. Judges represent groups such as Consumer Reports, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and iFixit.Advocates for the right of consumers to repair their appliances.

dangerous automotive technology

Automotive technology is a big focus annually at CES. And two “bricks” were provided to automaker BMW, one of them related to a partnership with Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa.

With the same artificial intelligence (AI) model used for ChatGPT, Amazon says an Alexa “car expert” will be able to provide quick instructions and answers about vehicle functions in a more human and conversational way, and here So much so that he can even work on them. It sounds convenient to ask Alexa – from the car – to unlock the front door or turn off the lights on the balcony. But what if the command is being issued by a violent ex-partner?

Cindy Cohn, one of the jury members, said, “We have seen an increase in the number of horror stories in which people, usually women, who are trying to escape abusive domestic situations, find their cars as vehicles for tracking and abuse. I use.” Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“Alexa and BMW, and obviously All the car companies racing to turn our cars into tracking devices need to make sure victims can turn it offCohn said.

On its part, BMW Group spokesperson Jay Hansen said the company has designed and delivered the voice assistant with privacy in mind and customers have the option to use it or not. “BMW and Amazon share a strong commitment to maintaining customer trust and protecting their privacy, including giving them control over their data,” he said in an email received last Thursday.

BMW is also showing off augmented reality glasses designed by Xreal that are supposed to overlay useful information and virtual objects that you’ll see in front of you while driving.

Another juror called it a “recipe for distracted driving,” which could also lead to future vision-impairing advertising. But Hanson said the augmented reality experience demonstrated at CES was a demonstration of “potential use cases” that could help or entertain people, but driver distraction remains a key tenet of what BMW offers customers. .

faulty hearing aids

German audio electronics manufacturer Sennheiser introduces the fourth generation of its long-running true wireless Momentum headphones.

But iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens says this The Latest $300 Headphones Are a “Brand Betrayal” Because They’re Highly DisposableWith three separate batteries that will likely fail after a few years and not be easily replaced.

“Start by selling batteries and posting repair instructions,” he wrote. “Then work on making it easier to replace the battery.” Sennheiser did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Who wants more food advertising?

Nathan Proctor, national campaign director for US PIRG, a consumer advocacy group, chose Instacart’s new “smart” shopping cart video ads as his “worst show”.

General Mills, Del Monte Foods and Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream are among the companies that will advertise on the carts during an upcoming pilot in stores in the western United States owned by Good Food Holdings. Equipped with cameras and sensors, the cart has a screen that will share real-time recommendations based on what customers put in the cart, such as advertising ice cream if a customer buys a cone.

,Use historical purchasing behavior to boost junk food you’ve purchased beforeProctor wrote. “Supermarkets are overcrowded and browsing promotions is tiring, and I question the sanity of anyone who thinks we should make it worse.” Instacart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vacuum cleaner or spy?

The “worst performer” in cybersecurity went to Chinese robotic vacuum cleaner maker Ecovacs. Robotic vacuum cleaners are nothing new, but Paul Roberts of Secure Repairs says The new X2 Combo combines all the elements for home intrusion monitoring: Cameras, microphones, LiDAR, sound recognition and computer vision that can recognize objects, without any guarantee that their images or unencrypted video streams cannot be compromised.

short term goods

In the environmental impact category, the “award” was given to one of several internet-connected devices unveiled at CES 2024. Revolution Cooking’s “Macrowave,” priced at $1,800, combines a microwave with a convection oven. However, according to Shanika Whitehurst of Consumer ReportsThese modern devices usually have a short lifespan and encourage people to throw away the simple devices they already have.

“Adding electronics to fully functional devices dramatically increases their environmental impact, requiring large amounts of resources and energy,” they wrote.

Revolution Cooking and Ecovacs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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