The Surveillance Is Coming From Inside the (Smart) House

A designer works with victims of domestic abuse to make all those fancy speakers and thermostats safer.

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About the Show

If Then is a show about technology, society, and power. Each week, the hosts take you on a lively tour of the tech news that actually matters, from fake news in your Facebook feed to the algorithms that want your job to the Uber drivers who want a job with benefits. With news-making interviews of key tech-industry figures, fascinating academics, and top tech journalists, we explore not only how the technology that’s shaping our world works, but the ideas, ideologies, incentives, and biases that underlie it.

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Episode Notes

Host Shannon Palus talks to Roxanne Leitão, a U.K.-based designer researching ways to make smart home gear safer for victims of domestic abuse. They discuss the ways that smart thermostats can be used to gaslight victims, the security measures that can help everyone in a home have agency, and the reason why smart home tech that’s hard to understand is all the more dangerous. They also touch on Leitão’s other research in designing gig economy platforms that reduce the potential for bias against workers. Afterward, Aaron Mak joins Palus for Don’t Close My Tabs.

Podcast production by Justin D. Wright.

Stories discussed on the show:

When Smart Homes Become Smart Prisons,” by Roxanne Leitão

Anticipating Smart Home Security and Privacy Threats With Survivors of Intimate Partner Abuse,” by Roxanne Leitão

Don’t Close My Tabs:

Shannon’s Tab: “Cashing In on Climate Change” by Slate Staff

Aaron’s Tab: “The Viral Selfie App ImageNet Roulette Seemed Fun—Until It Called Me a Racist Slur,” by Julia Carrie Wong

If you have a question or comment, you can email us at ifthen@slate.com.

If Then is presented by Slate and Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, New America, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our weekly newsletter.