InCar_TechTouchscreen-300x200Old sci-fi movies warned us that robots might one day take over the world. Based on recent news reports, our cars and televisions could beat them to it.

Two topical, though controversial, stories indicate so much. One involves televisions that can see and hear their viewers. The other addresses how wireless technologies in vehicles can compromise a driver’s security and privacy.

Let’s look at the TV story first, aired on the Today show and several other outlets. According to the reports, the voice-recognizing Samsung smart TV is embedded with microphones (one in the TV and one in the remote control) that collect interactive voice commands. According to the company’s privacy policy, some personal conversations could also be captured.

“Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”

That statement generated a media buzz, so Samsung clarified the warning on its blog, stating its TVs collect voice commands only when the user makes specific search requests by hitting the activation button. The company has also made clear it does not sell the data.

The second story, about smart cars, stems from a report by Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey. He sent inquiries to 20 automakers to learn what they are doing to protect their technology, and data, from potential hackers.

“Cybersecurity experts have long warned that cars’ electronic systems might be vulnerable to hackers, especially as auto-makers started building wireless connections to the outside world into vehicles,” a Washington Post story states.

Granted, this is not a loyalty marketing issue, but the course it takes can certainly benefit from loyalty marketing best practices. To me, it is simply a matter of greater transparency, education and choice.

If consumers want TVs that can hear their conversations and cars that gather their driving histories, they certainly have the right to possess them. The onus is on organizations that take advantage of these technologies to educate their evolving consumers about how the technology works, what information is gathered and used, and how it can deliver on customer expectations.

The makers of consumer goods should not be browbeaten into stopping technological progress and developing products to meet consumer demands. Rather, they’d benefit from advocating for greater education, awareness and promotion of emerging technologies as well as their implications (positive and negative) to the marketplace.

Whether the smarts are built into TVs, cars or robots, the guidelines should be the same.