Balancing Power Dynamics in Smart Homes: Nannies' Perspectives on How Cameras Reflect and Affect Relationships


Julia Bernd, International Computer Science Institute; Ruba Abu-Salma, King’s College London; Junghyun Choy and Alisa Frik, International Computer Science Institute


Smart home cameras raise privacy concerns in part because they frequently collect data not only about the primary users who deployed them but also other parties -- who may be targets of intentional surveillance or incidental bystanders. Domestic employees working in smart homes must navigate a complex situation that blends privacy and social norms for homes, workplaces, and caregiving.

This paper presents findings from 25 semi-structured interviews with domestic childcare workers in the U.S. about smart home cameras, focusing on how privacy considerations interact with the dynamics of their employer-employee relationships. We show how participants’ views on camera data collection, and their desire and ability to set conditions on data use and sharing, were affected by power differentials and norms about who should control information flows in a given context. Participants’ attitudes about employers’ cameras often hinged on how employers used the data; whether participants viewed camera use as likely to reinforce negative tendencies in the employer-employee relationship; and how camera use and disclosure might reflect existing relationship tendencies.

We also suggest technical and social interventions to mitigate the adverse effects of power imbalances on domestic employees’ privacy and individual agency.

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@inproceedings {281280,
author = {Julia Bernd and Ruba Abu-Salma and Junghyun Choy and Alisa Frik},
title = {Balancing Power Dynamics in Smart Homes: Nannies{\textquoteright} Perspectives on How Cameras Reflect and Affect Relationships},
booktitle = {Eighteenth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS 2022)},
year = {2022},
isbn = {978-1-939133-30-4},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {687--706},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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