‘And the winner is…’ CES ‘Worst in Show 2023’ recipients

Tech watchdog leaders announce CES’ worst products for sustainability, privacy, and security.

Withings | Public Domain

LAS VEGAS — The votes are in, the judges have made their picks, and the “winners” have been announced. The third annual “Worst in Show” awards highlighted products at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) that invade our privacy, trash the planet and frankly, shouldn’t exist. Every CES boasts exciting new products, but not all the “innovations” on display improve our lives. Many fads which might be all the rage for manufacturers leave us mostly enraged.

Right to Repair and tech watchdog leaders PIRG, JerryRigEverything, iFixit, Repair.org, EFF, Consumer Reports, and SecuRepairs awarded badges of shame for the worst in privacy, security, environmental impact, repairability and a new category to honor the truly useless: the “Who asked for this?” award.

Here are this year’s “winners:”

Privacy

Withings U-Scan pee-reading smart toilet add-on

One question everyone should ask themselves when using a new product that is talking to the cloud: is the company selling to you, or is the company selling you? Cindy Cohn
Executive Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation

This intimate toilet sensor claims to help manage your nutrition and report if you’re about to ovulate. But having this information stored on the cloud is a privacy disaster. “Have these people not heard of the Supreme Court and the decision in Dobbs this year? This is beyond clueless,” shared Cindy Cohn.

Environmental Impact

Displace Window TV

We've taken the resources to make the batteries and you still need a plug to charge them up. The real question is: Why? The design is portable but what if you forget to charge them? Shanika Whitehurst
Associate Director of Product Sustainability, Research and Testing, Consumer Reports

Why look at the great outdoors when you can look at a screen in front of the great outdoors? Plus, why switch to disposable lithium-ion batteries powered by rare-earth metals when you could plug into the wall?

Repairability

Ember Mug 2+

Why do we have to embed batteries into everything? It's ridiculous. JerryRigEverything had to open his with a hacksaw to try to replace the battery. Kyle Weins
CEO and Co-Founder, iFixit

“How much would you spend on a coffee mug? $10? $20? How about $200? This smart mug may keep your coffee slightly warmer but without a replaceable battery, it’s a disposable, easy to lose, expensive piece of tech that doesn’t improve on a tried-and-true ceramic mug.”

Security 

Roku Smart TVs

Roku, like so many companies at CES, is very hungry for customer data, but shows few outward signs of being what you would call a cyber mature firm. Paul Roberts
Founder, SecuRepairs

“Issues like vulnerability disclosure, vulnerability patching, hardware-based risk, and other cyber threats, Roku has very little to say about those in any of its products. And that leads one to believe that those aren’t issues that it’s paying a lot of attention to.”

Who Asked for This?

Neutrogena SkinScanner gummy printer

Who, upon surveying the supplement market thought to themselves, 'this needs to be more of a racket'? Nathan Proctor
Senior Right to Repair Campaign Director, U.S. PIRG

“The impact of health supplements are unregulated and notoriously sketchy. Therefore, it is a special kind of achievement for the SkinStacks, to make a product so ridiculous it stands out in a marketplace so notoriously scammy.” 

Community Choice

JBL Tour Pro 2

For this category, we conducted a poll on Twitter so consumers across the internet could vote on eight different products and choose a “winner.”

“I think they were picked by the community because of how unrepairable they might be. Not only are there batteries and magnets in both the earbuds and the case, but the kicker is the 1.5-inch touchscreen on the side.”

It’s one more thing that breaks, adds cost, and people already have watches and phones that do the exact same thing. Zack Nelson
YouTuber, JerryRigEverything

Overall Worst in Show – selected by Gay Gordon-Byrne

Withings U-Scan pee-reading smart toilet add-on

This intimate toilet sensor stores its data in the cloud, raising serious privacy concerns for our judges and winning the overall Worst in Show for 2023.

I certainly don't want my health information out on the internet, which is why so many of these things are just bad ideas that don't need to be executed because they have profound privacy consequences. Gay Gordon-Byrne
Executive Director, Repair.org

Insecure, invasive, disposable, and dumb new tech products are the worst. Fortunately, we also saw signs of progress at CES. Gone are the days where companies could debut new devices without worrying about their privacy and environmental impacts. More companies are taking seriously their mandate to improve people’s lives, which means the pressure we’ve been applying has been working.

Tech companies can do better and they know it. Why else would they be prioritizing sustainability announcements? Goodyear shared its tire made with 90% sustainable materials. More devices offered replaceable batteries and reusable components.

There’s a long road of improvement ahead which requires us to keep up the pressure, but more tech companies are realizing they can improve and help people’s lives with their innovations. That’s worth celebrating. Until then, we’ll make sure Americans know what’s Worst in Show.

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Authors

Lucas Gutterman

Director, Designed to Last Campaign, PIRG

Lucas leads PIRG’s Designed to Last campaign, fighting against planned obsolescence and e-waste and winning concrete policy changes that extend electronic consumer product lifespans, hold manufacturers accountable for forcing upgrades or disposal, and advance paradigm-busting conversations around electronic products. He got his start as a PIRG student volunteer and organizing director where he helped register thousands of voters and win zero waste campaigns to stop plastic pollution. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his partner, where he enjoys perfecting his espresso recipe.

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