Are Smart Home Devices INVADING OUR PRIVACY?

Updated: Nov 27, 2019

We embrace technology, incorporate it into our day to day and enjoy all the advantages it offers. We adapt our house to make it more comfortable and seemingly safer, but do you know how to manage privacy in your Smart Home? If not, we show you how to do it. Because in the era of the Digital Home, are there reasons to be scared? Today may be the first time you ask yourself this question, so if you want to know the truth, read on.

Should I worry about my privacy?

James Clapper, head of intelligence agencies in the United States, was clear from the outset, ensuring that you should not only worry about your privacy but that it will be useless to try to maintain it. But the truth is that it is not quite like that.

In the future, intelligence services could use the Internet of Things to identify, monitor, track location and set targets for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials.

With the arrival of the latest technologies and the explosion that exists in connected devices, it is clear that the risk is greater. But not because they are more insecure, on the contrary, only who is interested in obtaining information will have more ways to achieve it.

Despite this, it is not something that should sow fear or foster privacy paranoia. Because many debates will remain regarding the issue and we must see what each government decides. But above all, because right now there is a greater risk to our privacy and we are ourselves.

Anyway, returning to the topic of connected devices and user privacy, there are three main concerns around it.

  1. Afraid they can see us.

  2. Fear of being heard.

  3. Afraid they know when we are home or not.

Afraid to be observed

The fear of being seen is due to the proliferation of the cameras inside the home. Not only those that integrate computers or mobile devices. Also, and mainly, to those carried by televisions or cameras designed for home surveillance or monitoring.

It is an understandable concern to think that they may be watching us without knowing it but these types of connected devices (televisions and cameras) are no less safe than your mobile or computer.

Even so, many television manufacturers have realized this and offer solutions that can be to cover the camera or remove it easily when we are not going to use it.

Anyway, in surveillance cameras mainly, if you configure the product well and set a security key you will not have problems. Forget that with a simple search you will find your IP and see what happens at home. But I insist, as long as you have configured the device well.

Regarding data transfer, even if they have access to your local network, they are secure with military-level encryption systems. So little can be done with them, even with the use of supercomputers.

Afraid to be heard

Being afraid that they can hear everything you speak is a case similar to that of the cameras. Manufacturers know this and establish strong security measures so that only you have access to this data.

Moreover, in many devices, you can usually configure what time will be recorded or not and those recordings are only stored for a set time, then they are deleted. There are even options for the most distrustful who save that data on an integrated SD card. So nothing leaves home to external servers.

Afraid they know where we are

Finally, the fear of tracking or locating is usually another issue that most worries. But I will ask you a question, do you use social networks?

I often encounter users who fear they can know when they are home or not. That is why they do not use certain devices. I usually answer that they look well at what they do with their phones and what they publish on social networks.

Because normally we are the ones who give all this information for free and without being aware. For example, just having activated the location option for Twitter.

Internet and garbage container

Perhaps, a few years ago, you heard a story that told how a US company was able to obtain important information from a neighborhood of neighbors, simply by analyzing its garbage bag.

In this study or experiment, it was learned through waste what eating habits they had, what brands were favorites, hygiene, etc. Nowadays, to take similar action, you don't have to go to the garbage can for the garbage can, just look at how a user interacts on the internet.

Our particular garbage cans are nowadays in each of the devices we use. That is why it is important to know the terms of use of each product and service in terms of privacy. Knowing this there will be no problems as we will have accepted these conditions or not.

Anyway, to clarify the issue a bit, one of the questions that generate more fear is what companies do with our data or why they tell us they will go to their own servers or third-party servers.

The new options that you can enjoy such as virtual assistants, commands to control voice TV, recommendation systems, videoconferences and much more. They make you transmit information to external servers every day.

In most cases, the servers belong to the company that offers the service or technology. In others, they are from a third company with which they are associated to offer a better experience. For example, Samsung smart TVs turn to Nuance - a company specializing in voice recognition.

The reason why the data goes to an external server is none other than being able to analyze it in a more agile and precise way. Because we still do not have enough power to have such an advanced system locally capable of offering us related content according to our requests.

Nor able to answer any question we ask, such as the weather in Kuala Lumpur. They are actions that require data updating, growing and using advanced AI systems.

That's why it connects to external servers. But they are not the only ones when you upload a photo to any social network you do it to an external server that could run the same risk like any other. And surely you do not consider anything, because you think that having your account as private is enough.

Well, in the same digital home. If you have configured everything properly you will not have any problem. And if you still think it's still dangerous then directly disconnect from the internet or use only a secure browser with incognito mode.

No social networks, no profiles, no connected devices ... Come on, if you isolate yourself on a mountain in Norway it is easier and faster if you want to remain anonymous.

Now it seems that we are more aware of the possible danger but we have been providing data for a long time. Even analogically, chatting with a friend while we had coffee at the corner bar.

Therefore, my opinion is that the Digital Home does not pose a greater risk to privacy than it already existed before. That is why I will continue to use and enjoy all the advantages that connected homes and technology offer me.


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