Did you know that over 66.4 million Americans have a smart speaker in their home? This technology is revolutionizing the way we go about our daily lives, and it’s designed to make our lives easier by collecting data about our habits and optimizing our home technology to adapt.
But companies are using this data in more ways than one. Our smart devices are tracking our movements and habits for us, and for advertisers. If you have smart technology in your home, everything from your bedtime habits to your media preferences is fair game.
Most home tech manufacturers won’t release how the data is collected or shared. If you’ve ever talked about something in your home only to see an ad the next day on your social media, it could be a striking coincidence–or your voice could have been recorded by a smart device.
Data privacy is a hot topic and there are plenty of pros and cons surrounding smart technology. If you’re curious about the data your devices are likely collecting, and how (and if) you can control it, read on!
What data are my smart devices mining?
Below are some possible examples of data that is being mined for profit by your device manufacturers:
Smart speakers: You can listen to your smart speaker, and your smart speaker can listen to you. This is why you like it, after all. You can ask Alexa what the weather is like outside and immediately get a response. But once that “wake word” is activated, your smart speaker is listening to you and tracking your conversations. Your Amazon Echo and Google Home will collect your data without permission and collect your data to your identity. Further, it stores your data indefinitely. The Apple HomePod collects your data but it doesn’t connect it to your identity.
Smart Television: Smart TVs allow us to access our favorite apps, watch tv commercial-free, and even stream straight from our television! So what type of data can your smart TV track? For one, it knows how much time you spend watching TV, and it knows what you’re watching and streaming.
Smart Lights: You can save energy and feel safer in your home with smart lights. This technology allows you to turn your lights off and on from anywhere, so on your drive home from work you can put the porch lights on, and when you’re out of town you can check that all your lights are off. So what data is your smart lights collecting? It tracks when the lights are turned off and on and can then infer when you wake up, what time you go to bed, when you leave for the day and when you return.
Smart thermostats: Your smart thermostat can collect data on when people are moving in your house and about your home’s climate. This data can reveal to advertisers what times you are likely to be home, awake, and asleep.
Smart refrigerators: If you have a smart fridge, chances are it is collecting data on the food items inside them and how often they are consumed. It can use this data to infer your diet, how often you cook, and which foods you purchase most often at the grocery store.
Smart Home Devices: Pros and Cons
All this talk about data mining begs the question: why are we letting these smart devices in our home at all? Yet despite some privacy concerns, there are many benefits to smart technology. Below we’ll discuss the pros and cons.
Safety: This one is a double-edged sword for consumers. Smart home technology allows you to improve safety at home with products such as smart lights, smart locks, smart doorbells, and more. Yet, these safety features also put our homes at risk for hackers.
Efficiency: You can maximize efficiency, which saves you money on your electric bill and is also great for the planet. Smart thermostats and smart lighting are two great examples of smart technology that reduces energy waste.
Convenience: Did you know that you can auto-populate your grocery list using a smart fridge? Smart technology is here to make our lives easier and trim lower level tasks from our daily lives. It also gives us remote home access, and voice command lets you research information and complete tasks more efficiently than ever. The convenience these devices provide is perhaps the main reason why many of us are so quick to dismiss data concerns.
Invasion of privacy: One of the biggest drawbacks to smart technology is the data collection. Your data is no longer just yours, and you have very little control or access to how this data is being used. You and your family’s habits are being sold to advertisers for profits.
Commoditization of home life: What does your home mean to you? Smart home technology may cause us to reevaluate what we think of our sacred place. If you are yearning for comfort and privacy, you might not find it with a smart speaker nearby.
Can I Protect My Data and Privacy?
There are steps you can take to alleviate some privacy and safety concerns. If your home does experience a break-in due to security risks from smart home technology, make sure you’ve protected yourself ahead of time with home insurance.
Read the fine print: Reduce your risks by reading the fine print of each device and doing your research. Some outdoor devices are easier to hack than indoor devices such as a smart fridge.
Unplug your devices: When you aren’t using your smart device, turn it off! This will save you money on your electric bill while also reducing your chances of being hacked.
Secure your router: To make your router harder to track, you should rename it to something obscure.
Disable data collection: Some of your devices allow you to disable snooping features. For example, you should be able to opt out of your Smart TV snooping.
Delete voice commands: You can clear out recordings on some of your devices, and should do so periodically.
Regularly install updates: Update your systems regularly to make sure you have the device manufacturer’s latest version up and running to reduce security risks.
Enable password protection: Your passwords are essential to your privacy. Always create a unique username and password when setting up a device.
Buy from companies you trust: Some companies are better about data protection than others. Do your research and buy from companies whose ethics align with your own.
Check out our visual below to discover more about smart home technology and how you can protect yourself!
Submitted by Guest Author: Karlyn is a writer who specializes in the wellness and insurance spaces. She believes the best ingredients for success are passion and purpose.