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Sonos Holds Software Updates Hostage If You Don’t Sign New Privacy Agreement

Sonos, the current popular brand of smart speaker that people don’t [yet] talk to, really wants its customers to agree to the company’s new privacy policy; so much so, that failing to acknowledge the new rules can turn your Sonos speakers into very expensive shelf decorations when they eventually “cease to function.”

Too smart for their own good

Yes, that’s the problem with “smart” devices. They depend on cloud-based software, which means that when the company that operates its software goes out of business or decides to make the device obsolete, certain features or the whole device will no longer work.

In the case of the Sonos privacy update, the devices will keep working, but gradually lose functionality over time as new software updates come along.

ZDNet pointed out this catch for customers who decide not to accept the company’s new privacy policy. The real problem is that the devices will have a different privacy policy going forward than they did when they were purchased.

Experts on privacy are not huge fans of this development.

“We’re going to see this more and more where core services for things that people paid for are going to be conditioned on accepting ever-evolving privacy policies and terms of use,” Joe Jerome, a policy analyst at the Center for Democracy & Technology, told ZDNet. “That’s not going to be fair unless companies start providing users with meaningful choices and ensure that basic functionality continues if users say no to new terms.”

Sonos hasn’t specified what functionality might no longer work in the future if customers don’t accept the new privacy policy.

What’s in that policy?

The new privacy policy is important to the operation of speakers since it lets customers integrate their speakers and devices like an Amazon Echo or Google Home that are an interface to a virtual assistant.

In a blog post addressed to its customers, Sonos tried to explain that the privacy changes are to support future features, some of which may not even exist.

“The most important thing for you to know is that Sonos does not keep recordings of your voice data,” the policy states. “It goes to the voice assistant service (for example Amazon) that you’ve activated on your Sonos system.”

It does, however, also share information about your WiFi network, the devices that you use with the Sonos system, the names of rooms on your system, and your logins for integrated services.

“When information is shared, it will be with a product or service you have requested or authorized,” Sonos explains. “We’ve included this information in past versions, but in the current version we’re much more specific and clear about what information we are collecting and sharing with these partners.”

It’s possible to opt out of some, but not all, of these options for sharing your information.