CES, the self-described “global stage for innovation,” gives manufacturers an annual opportunity to show off shiny new tech, whether it’s fridges you open with your voice, AI-powered robot vacuums, or $3,000 smartphone-operated doggie doors. Some of it could be life-changing stuff. But many products never see actual release, those that do often fall short—and far too many of them are insecure, unrepairable, and destined for the landfill.
Every year CES encourages manufacturers to out-“innovate” one another by honoring “outstanding design and engineering in consumer technology products” with its Innovation Awards … and boy do they innovate. While the press does their best to raise their eyebrows and ask whether anyone will really buy these things, there’s never enough time to dig into what these “innovations” really mean for people or the planet.
That’s why the Right to Repair coalition teamed up to create the first-ever “Worst in Show Awards.” We think consumers should know which attention-seeking products were designed to be repaired, and which are destined to become hard-to-dispose waste, especially in a year when so many OEM service centers were closed and repair options were limited. We’ll also, with the help of our friends, draw attention to the least secure, least privacy-conscious, and straight-up least useful products introduced this week under the pretense of endless “innovation” (read: consumption).
The coalition gave six award categories for the Worst in Show Awards:
Repairability: A failure of repairability isn’t just a bummer for fixers, it means this product is sure to waste its resources mouldering away in a landfill.
Privacy: This award goes to the device most likely to leak your home security footage, baby photos, or just get you some alarmingly too-targeted ads.
Security: Voted most likely to be a zombie in a botnet, or to infect the rest of your Internet of Things, keep clear of this Trojan tech.
Environmental Impact: No matter how novel or well-designed, some products cost the planet and its people too much, luckily we’ve got just the badge of shame.
Community Choice: Sometimes there’s no perfect category and we just need an outlet for the collective groan we let out at a miserable product, here’s to you, voters!
Overall Worst in Show: This product is just an egregious hodge-podge of bad decisions and should not see the light of day.
To help out, the coalition, headed by Repair.org, organized an expert panel of guest judges for each award category, including:
- Repairability (Kyle Wiens, CEO and cofounder, iFixit)
- Privacy (Cindy Cohn, Executive Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation)
- Security (Paul Roberts, founder, securepairs)
- Environmental Impact (Nathan Proctor, National Campaign Director, USPIRG)
- Community Choice (Selected by our community on Twitter, presented by Cory Doctorow, Special Advisor, Electronic Frontier Foundation)
- Overall Worst in Show (Cory Doctorow, Special Advisor, Electronic Frontier Foundation).
Our panel of judges will be announcing their winners on Friday, January 15 @ 9am PST during a livestream on the iFixit Youtube channel. They’ll discuss the main factors driving their decisions and answer any questions you might have. You can tune in here, where the video will be archived.
Senior Director, Campaign for the Right to Repair, PIRG
Nathan leads U.S. PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign, working to pass legislation that will prevent companies from blocking consumers’ ability to fix their own electronics. Nathan lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.