The first rule about the fight club is that we don’t talk about the fight club.
Maybe the “Worst in Show” awards from the Consumer Electronics Show must have such a rule. The Worst in Show awards are based on consumer reviews and privacy watchdogs and can do great damage to the reputation of big companies that unfortunately receive these awards.
The group consisting of technology repair tool seller iFixit and digital rights advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation among others released the “worst” list with CES on Thursday. This list highlights the tech that according to this group created the largest privacy and safety concerns.
“From easily hackable lawn mowers to $300 earbuds that will fail in two years, these are products that jeopardize our safety, encourage wasteful overconsumption, and normalize privacy violations,” Gay Gordon-Byrne, the executive director of Repair.org, said in the announcement video.
Unfortunately for BMW, it is deemed the biggest loser in the Worst list by getting not one but two entries in the list, the only company to do so.
“We have seen an increasing number of horrific stories where people, generally women, who are trying to escape abusive domestic situations end up having their cars serve as tracking and abuse vectors,” Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said.
Additionally, BMW also got an award for its augmented reality glasses. Cory Doctorow of the EFF said it would be a “recipe for distracted driving”.
As expected, BMW group defended its products via an email to the Associated Press. “BMW and Amazon share a strong commitment to maintaining customers’ trust and protecting their privacy, including giving them control over their data,” spokesperson Jay Hanson wrote in the email. He also added that minimizing driver distraction was a key ideal for their company.
One of the worst awards given to BMW was involved with their partnership with Amazon’s voice assistance Alexa. Amazon says an Alexa “car expert” will be able to provide “quick instructions and answers about vehicle functions in a much more human, conversation-like manner, and even act on your behalf.”
Having Alexa turn on the car and the heater seems convenient but what if it was voiced by a violent partner or ex. This puts, women mostly, in a position of loss in terms of abusive relationships and trying to escape them. The spokesperson for the Worst Award show stated that, “Alexa and BMW — and frankly all of the car companies who are racing to turn our cars into tracking devices — need to ensure that victims can turn this off.”
Other such contributors in the Worst Awards were the Gernam audio-electronics maker Senheiser which showcased its fourth generation of the Momentum True Wireless ear headphones. Btu the iFixit CEO stated that the $300 earbuds are a “betrayal of the brand” owing to their easy disposability with three separate batteries that will likely fail in a few years.