The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), however, wants to extend the exemption to include another hot segment in the consumer electronics market: smart AI speakers. That would means that owners of devices like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod would be free to hack into these devices to see what makes them tick without fear of retribution.
"The right to discover defects and the right to change your device configuration form a foundation on which solutions to the pernicious problems of our vital, ubiquitous, badly secured gadgets can be built," writes the EFF.
Currently, these devices are running on proprietary operating systems and run apps that are vetted by each respective hardware manufacturer. However, the EFF says that researchers (and consumers) should have the right to dig into underlying code to make sure that the devices are "working as intended to make sure they're not sneaking around behind your back" without fear of legal repercussions.
The EFF argues that bypassing the bootloader on a device or disabling/activating hardware features should be allowed for anyone that rightfully owns a device like an Echo Dot or Google Home Max, for example.
"We don't have all the answers about how to make smart speakers better, or more secure, but we are one hundred percent certain that banning people from finding out what's wrong with their smart speakers and punishing anyone who tries to improve them isn't helping," the EFF continues.
Given that these devices are "always listening", are placed all over our homes (kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms), and can sometimes have cameras attached (like the Echo Show), perhaps a little bit of "discovery" is warranted for this relatively new product category that we put a lot of faith in with regards to privacy. After all, the release of the Google Home Mini showed the potential for abuse with these devices.