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Complex online harms and the smart home: A scoping review

Olabode, Shola; Owens, Rebecca; Zhang, Viana Nijia; Copilah-Ali, Jehana; Kolomeets, Maxim; Wu, Han; Malviya, Shrikant; Markeviciute, Karolina; Spiliotopoulos, Tasos; Neesham, Cristina; Shi, Lei; Chambers, Deborah

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Shola Olabode

Rebecca Owens

Viana Nijia Zhang

Jehana Copilah-Ali

Maxim Kolomeets

Han Wu

Tasos Spiliotopoulos

Cristina Neesham

Lei Shi

Deborah Chambers


Technological advances in the smart home have created new opportunities for supporting digital citizens’ well-being and facilitating their empowerment but have enabled new types of complex online harms to develop. Recent statistics have indicated that ‘smart’ technology ownership increases yearly, driven by lower costs and increased accessibility. Research on smart homes has also grown, focusing on technology perspectives at the expense of a user-centric approach sensitive to the smart home’s harms, risks, and vulnerabilities.

This scoping review addresses the information gap by underscoring the scope of literature that exists regarding complex online harms, vulnerabilities, and risks associated with smart home technologies and citizens’ agency. The goal is to understand the state of knowledge, gaps in the literature, and areas for future study. The importance and originality of this paper lie in its interdisciplinary review and approach. It is hoped that this research will contribute to a deeper understanding of complex online harms in the smart home.

Three online databases were utilised to identify papers published between 2017 and 2022, from which we selected 235 publications written in English that addressed harms, risks, vulnerabilities, and agency in the smart home context. This allowed us to map contemporary literature to reveal significant gaps in our understanding of the complex online harms affecting smart home users and identify opportunities for further research.

This review identified emerging themes of ‘risks’, ‘vulnerabilities’, and ‘harms’ in that order of frequency within the literature on smart homes. The usage of terms is skewed towards computing science and information security, which comprised the majority of the literature at 54.6%. Human–computer interaction papers contributed 24.4%, while social sciences accounted for 16.2%.

Risks, harms and vulnerabilities within smart home ecosystems and IoTs are ongoing issues with complexities that necessitate research. Privacy, security, and well-being are key themes that embody the scope of complex harms affecting smart home devices in the broad literature. This review establishes disciplinary research gaps, especially in user-centred perspectives, due to a heavy technology focus in the existing literature. Therefore, further research is needed to address emergent risks, harms and vulnerabilities of smart home devices and understand how user agency and autonomy can complement the design, interface, and socio-technical aspects of smart home systems.


Olabode, S., Owens, R., Zhang, V. N., Copilah-Ali, J., Kolomeets, M., Wu, H., …Chambers, D. (2023). Complex online harms and the smart home: A scoping review. Future Generation Computer Systems, 149, 664-678.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 14, 2023
Online Publication Date Aug 18, 2023
Publication Date 2023-12
Deposit Date Jan 16, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jan 16, 2024
Journal Future Generation Computer Systems
Print ISSN 0167-739X
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 149
Pages 664-678
Public URL


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