Smart home devices and sex in the digital age

After months of confinement, I am going out again. Venturing into dimly lit bars with internet strangers. One evening, I meet someone interesting. They’re funny, and I do my best to flirt despite my lack of practice. The tension mounts and I decide to go home with them. Clothes come off, things heat up, and then they start talking. No, those aren’t swear words, they don’t even speak to me. They talk to Google.

Smart home devices are notoriously privacy invasive, so as a digital rights activist, it’s a major hurdle for a partner to catch me with one while I’m bare ass. Personally, I would never let such a device live in my bedroom. But now, coming home to write about it like some sort of techie Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn’t help but wonder: what’s the etiquette around sex and smart home devices? Is it reasonable to expect a potential partner to let you know before the clothes come off that Alexa will join the party?

Absolutely. Disclosure that your home contains devices that can watch, listen to, or record guests should be part of the norm. This is especially important when considering the sensitive nature of the bedroom and the information that could be collected, used and shared – potentially all without someone’s consent or even knowledge. These devices normalize surveillance by tempting us with convenience and then blending into the background, quietly observing the most mundane and intimate parts of our lives. But we need to resist this cultural shift, and that means having conversations about the role we’re glad technology plays on our hot dates and beyond.

Smart home devices collect immense amounts of data; some harmless and some incredibly invasive. Depending on the company, device type, and where you live, this information may be sold to data brokers, shared with law enforcement, or it can simply be added to the masses of information previously harvested, used to resell things to you later. Sexy, right?


Many also have terrible digital security, which makes them (and any other devices they’re connected to) vulnerable to intrusion. Without protections like encryption, it is possible that someone is hacking and listen or watch what is happening in your home. Not only is it a mood killer, but it’s also potentially dangerous. Frankly, I didn’t sign up for this kind of threesome.

Except privacy and security risks, smart devices should also prompt us to consider the boundaries between us and the technological intermediaries. You probably wouldn’t release a high-tech sex toy with creepy data collection practices without getting someone’s consent first, and the same should go for other more subtle smart home devices.

You can do whatever you want to minimize your own digital footprint, but right now the choice might not be yours. Facebook may still collect information about you even if you decide not to have an account.

Likewise, there’s not much you can do to control what information is collected about you from devices running in the home of friends, family, or that person’s Tinder, especially if you don’t even know it’s happening. product. Here’s a word of advice: don’t be like Zuckerberg, especially in the bedroom.

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