Published on May 17th, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise0
The Hardware Trend Google and Apple are Throwing Their Weight Behind
With the rise of virtual assistants in the home, security is becoming an important issue for consumers. Katharine Schwab at Fast Company has a report about a simple yet logical option for users of products like Google Nest Hub Max: a kill switch. No digging deep into Settings to find that little digital switch. This is a physical switch on the hardware that can be turned on and off. Not only does it provide this option but it also gives the user some peace of mind. That’s a UX victory.
Photo Sources: Toltek/iStock, Google
Last week, Google announced a new smart home device: a smart display that features a 10-inch screen, camera, and speaker. The speaker has a privacy feature that relatively few electronics do these days–a hardware kill switch, which physically disconnects both the device’s camera and its microphone so there’s no way that Google can listen in on your conversations. Unless, of course, you want it to.
This hardware switch, which looks like an elegant version of your average light switch, is part of a growing trend of providing users with a physical way to disable a product’s sensors. Amid a steady series of data breaches and privacy scandals, tech companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon are attempting to address users’ concerns through this simple feature. Unlike software settings, which users have to dig through to prevent companies from collecting reams of personal data like them, the hardware kill switch is a simple, tactile way to give people the assurance that corporations can’t listen in on your private life.
Kill switches aren’t a perfect solution to the problems of privacy in 2019–for starters, because they, by definition, make devices unusable. And as Larry Sanger, the cofounder of Wikipedia and the chief information officer of the blockchain-based wiki Everipedia, pointed in a recent blog post, kill switches are still far from commonplace, particularly in mobile phones where it may be most important.