Grant / January 2020

Smart Home Surveillance of Domestic Employees


This research aims at developing a more comprehensive understanding of how the expanding use of smart home devices affects the privacy of individuals who did not choose to deploy them–and may not even be aware of them–with a focus on the privacy of in-home employees, in particular a case study of nannies. We will conduct studies with both nannies themselves and parents who employ nannies, to identify within each group common experiences, expectations, and attitudes about the privacy ramifications of domestic surveillance, and potential points of intervention. Findings from the studies will support guidelines and recommendations for developers of smart-home devices and for policymakers, as well as public-education materials for domestic workers themselves and those who employ them.

The proposed project is part of a larger effort to understand the privacy of non-primary users of Internet of Things devices (as targets of the data collection and simply as bystanders) and to increase non-primary users’ awareness and control of data collection and sharing, e.g., via interventions in product design. In particular, we seek to investigate how the growth of the IoT is experienced differently in different communities and populations, particularly whether and how effects on privacy vary by socio-economic status. By focusing on in-home employees, for whom the issues are especially pronounced, we hope to shed light on the interplay between socio-economic power differentials and people’s ability to make choices about their privacy.

Research Findings and Presentations