“The risks I am most interested in are the risks to the people in the home these gadgets are embedded in, especially because those risks are not evenly experienced. I’m talking about the risk of one person in the home using smart home gadgets to monitor or control the activities of others in the home for harm,” she said.
“Sadly, these risks are far more likely to eventuate than the other more-frequently reported risks.”
And there are potentially huge benefits from smart locks for those who have a genuine need.
“One of the greatest benefits I see is in their use for people with mobility issues,” Dr Kennedy said.
“Much like home intercom systems can be used to screen and admit people into the home, smart locks could enable more autonomy over when to give others access to the home. These small instances of control are important.”
The other thing I forgot when thinking about the risks of smart locks is that it’s much easier to physically pick a lock than hack one, and the tools are far more readily available.
Just because the risk from stranger interference isn’t as high as domestic abuse, doesn’t mean smart home devices are risk free. They can still be hacked, and you need to consider whether it’s worth the risk.
While you rely on big companies to close any security holes in their software, you need to hold up your end of the bargain: make sure you keep the software on your devices updated, have a good passcode on your phone in case it gets stolen, use a secure Wi-Fi router, and change the password on that router from the default to something difficult to guess. Anything can be hacked, given enough determination and resources, but the harder you make it the less appealing it is.
You also need to consider that smart devices like smart locks can run out of battery, while physical keys cannot. If you’re the kind of person who always plugs their phone in when they get the first battery warning, then you’re fine.
While I still have some doubts about that lock, and certainly wouldn’t want a smart camera inside my home, it’s actually not so bad. I went into this story assuming I would come out of it wanting to burn all my smart devices, but instead I just want to dismantle the patriarchy and maybe get a smart lock with mains power.
Alice is a freelance journalist, producer and presenter.