For all the talk of how business has changed, so much is the same, right? Entrepreneurs will give elevator pitches. Startups will probably meet with investors. Or maybe you're looking for a job and will have to interview with the company.

Nothing different? On the contrary, there are really big differences thanks to a digital world. Forget chatting to someone through videoconferencing or placing orders on the web or going through social media to see a person's background. The digital in this case takes place in the office. It's how smart devices are found everywhere and, frequently, they record all that can be said or done.

The topic came up unexpectedly when the BBC asked Rick Osterloh, Google's senior vice president of devices and services, whether someone with smart devices in their home should warn guests of that fact.

Does the owner of a home need to disclose to a guest? I would and do when someone enters into my home, and it's probably something that the products themselves should try to indicate.

Granted, being recorded has been a possibility for many decades. But never before has it been so easy, pervasive, and even beyond the control of the people who use the technology. Smart speakers are reportedly problematic when it comes to privacy--for example, Amazon's Alexa monitoring a couple's private conversation and sending a copy to someone they knew.

Amazon blamed the situation on a freak series of events. A trigger word, accidentally said, began the process and the inopportune mention of a person caused the transmission of the recording.

How many millions of these devices, or Google speakers, or smartphones, or who-knows-what-else-is-out-there are listening? That's assuming a situation in which the recording is accidental, or the result of processes only dimly understood by most of the people using this technology.

Then there is also the possibility of someone deliberately recording--whether audio or video--for some unrevealed reason. Maybe to embarrass or hurt someone, to get proof of a point in a legal dispute, or something else.

Now comes the complication of overlaying business atop this. A person might reveal commercially sensitive information in a setting that is supposed to be private and confidential. The information could be about business plans or a new product development. Maybe you're an entrepreneur pitching an idea that you don't want readily copied and shared. Or you might be discussing salary parameters in a job interview.

There could easily be legal implications if the conversation is in a state that requires all parties to know they are being recorded. Or a person doing the recording has signed a nondisclosure but hasn't taken care to ensure that access to the recording, or even its very existence, is in accordance with the document.

Maybe a competitor gets a recording and decides to underhandedly turn it into a so-called deep fake to hamper you by making you look as though you're doing or saying something you aren't.

If you read the BBC article, you'll see that the line of questioning caught Osterloh by surprise. As it might anyone in the tech industry, which doggedly moves ahead in pursuit of new products and concepts far faster than people in it can contemplate the implications of everything they do.

Everyone else is left trying to work around or fix what was just done. If you have a smart device in the office, maybe you now need to warn people that there is a chance they can be recorded, even if you have no intention of doing so. Or perhaps you need to ask every time you walk into a meeting of any sort whether anyone is making a recording. Because, when the device can be in someone's pocket or a bag, being at your own location is no guarantee of privacy.

It may sound paranoid, but how long ago would it have sounded crazy for anyone to ask if a tech device might record an intimate moment and accidentally email it to someone else?

Published on: Oct 17, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.