Through the GRC Lens: August

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Privacy concerns around smart home speakers, the tech industry’s continuing woes, and corporate activism on significant issues — last month’s top headlines in the GRC space point to a growing range of governance and risk challenges

The Problem with Smart Home Speakers

The latest trend of using smart speakers such as Google Home and Amazon Echo can expose users to hackers who target unsecured devices to listen in on private conversations. The Telegraph reported in August that a doctored Echo speaker can be used to gain access to other Echo devices, offering criminals the opportunity to not only spy on conversations, but also take over the device.

Privacy concerns around always-listening digital assistants have persisted. And as more and more devices are connected to the internet—some with little, if any security—the problem is bound to grow. In an interview with TechRepublic, Caleb Barlow, IBM Security Vice President said that there were more connected devices than people on the planet, and that we have to shift our thinking now about how we manage the security of iOT devices. It remains to be seen how the tech giants address these privacy and security concerns as they seek to innovate in their product offerings.

The Tech Industry’s Continuing Woes

With the increasing influence of social media and technology in people’s lives, the tech industry is confronted with another challenge: to come to terms with the unintended consequences of its creations. The United Nations (UN) recently warned Facebook that it could be dragged into war crime trials for its role in future human rights violations. In the recent past, Facebook and its WhatsApp messenger service have come under fire in regions like India and Sri Lanka for their role in the spread of fake news that have led to violence and deaths.

As tech giants try to stay neutral in an increasingly political world, they are also facing questions for their role in influencing the US elections. Google was even accused of a bias against conservatives.

Rising Corporate Activism

August saw Shopify ban the sales of certain guns on its site with its CEO writing that “neutrality is not a possibility”. Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that employees at Google protested against secret work on a censored search engine for China.

These incidents of corporate activism are not isolated — we earlier saw Google’s employees protest against the tech giant’s artificial intelligence (AI) military contract, and social media platforms banning the infamous internet conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, for hate speech against minorities.

More Ahead

In a highly polarized world, the tech industry is confronted with multiple challenges. Under the intense scrutiny of lawmakers and consumers, it is now being forced to re-look at its principles and take measures that, above all, help gain the trust of consumers and lawmakers.

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