Benner on Tech: Can Smart Homes Be Safe?

Katie Benner is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about technology, innovation, and the cult and culture of Silicon Valley. She lives in San Francisco.
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People are Talking About…

When will the reality of our porous digital infrastructure put the brakes on the Internet of Things, that future world wherein our appliances, cars, cameras and health-care devices constantly monitor us and feed data into the cloud?

We've been led to believe that consumers will embrace this stuff. But the reality of our online lives would make any reasonable person think twice about sharing more data than necessary.

The Internet of Things

This month alone has been awash in bad news. The Anthem hack -- hot on the heels of the recent Sony and JPMorgan breaches -- was an ugly reminder that so much of our information already exists online for the taking. This week’s smaller but somewhat embarrassing hacks of Anthony Noto’s Twitter account, Delta's Facebook page, Newsweek’s Twitter account and Forbes' website showed us how it easy it is for strangers to vandalize online identities.

So why would we want to feed more and more data about ourselves into the Internet via our televisions, security cameras, baby monitors, refrigerators, cars and thermostats, devices that can be breached and controlled to spy on us rather than keep us safe?

These devices are billed as things everyone will eventually use because they make life more efficient and more informative, but there’s no real reason why we can’t live without this stuff for now. Some columnists question whether safety can ever be an Internet of Things feature and wonder whether our devices should be dumber until security standards are hammered out. These are the right questions to ask before we embrace connected lives. Otherwise we’re probably making the world more efficient and informative for the hackers lurking around the Internet, too. 

** In related news, the Obama administration is creating an agency to combat the threat of cyber-attacks, the Washington Post reports.

** And when Jeb Bush published a massive e-mail trove in the name of transparency, he accidentally forgot to scrub sensitive personal information from the data dump. 

Ventureland

AppDirect, a marketplace for software-as-a-service apps, raised $50 million from investors including Mithril and KKR’s Henry Kravis, reports VentureBeat.

Flipboard launched a website that lets users read articles and create their own curated online magazine, basically mirroring what users can do on the app.

Pentaho, a data-analytics startup, was acquired by Hitachi, Bloomberg reports.

Sigfox, a French networking startup, is thinking about a U.S. initial public offering in the wake of its latest funding round, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The League is a dating app that I've been trying to avoid mentioning because the idea is so obnoxious. But Business Insider notes that this elitist version of Tinder now has a 75,000 person wait list and has raised $2.1 million in venture backing,

People and Personnel Moves

Elisa Steele is now CEO of Jive Software, Re/code reports. She’s been interim chief for three months and was previously Skype’s chief marketing officer.

Udi Manber left Google for the National Institutes of Health, reports the Wall Street Journal, which notes that he was best known for his work with search.

Companies

Apple…

I couldn’t bear to write a column with Apple as the lead yet again, even though one could reasonably argue that company’s historic $710 billion market cap is reason to revisit all the ways that the company is on top of the world. CEO Tim Cook spoke yesterday at the Goldman Sachs Internet conference. Little new was said (the transcript is here), but there were a couple of surprises, including the fact that the company will build a massive solar farm in California to power its buildings. Elsewhere, 9to5Mac says that the company is swearing third-party accessory makers to secrecy about future Apple devices.

Google…

The company dropped $900 million on SpaceX’s recent $1 billion funding round, according to VentureBeat. And in earthbound news, the Daily Mail says that the company has unveiled a smaller version of its robot dog.

IBM…

The company’s Watson project is expanding to Japan to learn about the country’s language and culture, the New York Times reports.

Microsoft…

The company is giving away 100 gigabytes of OneDrive cloud storage to customers who sign up for the Bing Rewards search engine program, reports the Verge.

Media Files

Sling TV will include the AMC network in its basic $20-per-month package,” reports Re/code.

Target is shutting down its online streaming service Target Ticket (remember Target Ticket?), according to the Wrap.

News and Notes

Republicans are attacking the FCC’s net neutrality plan, Ars Technica reports.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.