Security vs. convenience — who wins?

I’ve discussed this topic with many of my clients, especially those who complain about remembering or keeping track of passwords — the trade-off between security and convenience for consumer products and services.

We recognize this trade-off everyday with different keys for physical locks and passwords for different digital services. Password managers can help with “one password to rule them all.” And some envision a future where biometrics just require your presence to gain access. How convenient.

Mobile devices pose a particular challenge for manufacturers. Consumers expect ease of use and convenience. Yet, these are complex devices, real computers, subject to the same security risks as traditional desktop and notebook PCs. As designers craft a more personal and natural way to interact with these devices (through gesture, voice, etc.), concerns about safety and security remain.

Elsewhere I’ve discussed the issue of privacy posed by increasingly convenient digital services, whether mobile or not. We’re faced with trusting butler-like personal digital assistants with all types of personal information so that things go smoothly — like a fine-tuned relationship where small facial expressions substitute for verbal sentences, actions are anticipated, and events always remembered. And we trust that our butlers communicate discreetly with others as they do jobs for us.

Generally I’ve felt that Apple balances security and convenience well. And that Microsoft keeps up to date with security patches. National news about security breaches keeps everyone alert. I tell my clients that none of these companies’ products and services are perfect, however.

So, I found this The Verge “In iOS 9, Apple is still trading security for convenience” article about Apple’s mobile devices interesting.

Siri is integrated deeper, pulling more data from more sources and making many recommendations before you’ve even asked for them. But this week, security researchers discovered a downside to Siri’s new intelligence. iOS 9 lets users access Siri from the lock screen, and if you work that access right, you can use it as a way to add contacts or even access the camera roll.

As with Microsoft’s Cortana, privacy or security concerns with Siri can easily be addressed by disabling features. But where’s the convenience in that, eh?